Fresh off the Oct. 2 grand opening of the new Los Altos Community Center, Mayor Neysa Fligor last week expressed support for building a new theater downtown.
Speaking before an Oct. 6 meeting of the Los Altos Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Committee, Fligor noted the formation earlier this year of the resident-driven New Theater Working Group, which is researching options and will report back to the council. A presentation is set for the Oct. 26 Los Altos City Council meeting.
“I think a theater would provide so many benefits to the entire community,” Fligor told the chamber’s Zoom group, adding that the theater concept was part of the council-approved Downtown Vision plan in 2018. “For me, it’s a win-win – a theater for our kids, a theater for our seniors – a theater for everyone to use and enjoy.”
Supporters have said a new theater would attract more business to downtown restaurants and would minimally impact parking, because productions would be held in the evenings after retail stores are closed.
Vicki Reeder, leader of the theater group, said the group is looking at plans for a 12,000-square-foot, 175-seat theater that would cost approximately $15 million. Two downtown plaza sites have been discussed over the years – one next to Los Altos Grill facing San Antonio Road, the other in the plaza behind the Los Altos post office on Main Street.
Supporters stressed, however, that no plans are concrete, and they are still soliciting community feedback.
Although inspired by the success of the community center – a 24,500-square-foot facility built for $38.3 million – backers of a new theater voiced hope that their needs won’t be unfulfilled for decades, as was the case with the community center.
“These things take years, unfortunately, and it takes many meetings,” Fligor said.
The new community center discussions spanned more than 30 meetings.
Claudia Coleman, who led a citizens’ task force for the community center, emphasized the need for “incremental, baby steps,” not only for the theater, but for the Downtown Vision plan as a whole – a plan that laid out opportunities for downtown improvements but that has not been acted on in the three-plus years since its approval.
“If you don’t take steps along the way, nothing ever happens,” she said.
The ideal next step for the new theater, Reeder added, is for the council to accept her group’s findings and proceed with a feasibility study for the facility.
“We just can’t wait 40 years for our next building,” she said.
Among other topics of conversation at last week’s chamber meeting:
• Fligor shared that a Santa Clara County-led all-affordable housing project at 330 Distel Circle continues to move forward. In response to concerns over a lack of parking, she said developer EAH Housing has upped the number of parking stalls to equal the 90 units currently proposed for the project.
• The city has hired a consultant and is moving ahead with a “community engagement” plan to educate residents about Los Altos’ new housing element. As part of the general plan, the element outlines housing needs and how they can be achieved. The state has mandated that the city create conditions for nearly 2,000 new units by 2031. Los Altos must finalize its housing element by January 2023.
“It’s so important that we’re sending the right message so they understand why we’re doing this and why we should be doing this,” Fligor said of informing residents about the process.
• Asked about a city-owned parcel at 999 Fremont Ave. in the Loyola Corners district, Fligor said there are currently “no specific plans for that parcel. … Right now, the current plan is to maintain it.”
• Fligor said the city is working with the town of Los Altos Hills on a joint Veterans Day celebration at Veterans Community Plaza in downtown Los Altos. Veterans Day is Nov. 11.