In a rare move, Los Altos City Council members have elected to reconsider their Oct. 26 approval of a new massive carport and parking lot expansion by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation at its downtown headquarters.
The council had voted 3-2 in favor of the plan for the 374 Second St. property, but Councilmember Jonathan Weinberg, who voted “yes,” requested the reconsideration.
“The first time we’re doing this, at least in recent history,” said Mayor Neysa Fligor at the Nov. 9 council meeting.
In a city staff memo, City Attorney Jolie Houston said the council could take the action based on “new evidence or facts not presented previously with regard to the item, or a claim of error in applying the facts.” Weinberg said he based his call for reconsideration on his belief that “facts and circumstances” regarding protected trees to be removed from the property “did not find their way into the staff report and, therefore, into the record.”
The reconsideration request received a second vote from Vice Mayor Anita Enander, needed for placement on last week’s agenda. The action needed three votes to be agendized for the Nov. 30 council meeting. Councilwoman Lynette Lee Eng, who with Enander voted against the plan Oct. 26, joined with Weinberg to revisit the matter. Fligor and Councilmember Sally Meadows voted against the reconsideration.
Opponents criticized the Packard plan, which would increase parking spaces from 58 to 86, for removal of 22 trees and lack of adequate landscaping. A large carport with solar panels on the roof covered 32 of those spaces. The proposal also would increase electrical-vehicle charging stations from five to 41. The site, which combines five parcels into one under the plan, is across from the Packard headquarters at 343 Second St.
Civic center protections
The council approved the first reading of an ordinance Nov. 9 aimed at protecting the 18-acre civic center site from any future land sale or transfer of title without first seeking voter approval.
Council members debated which specific civic center elements to include under the ordinance restrictions. Enander asked why the youth center and green spaces, such as Hillview Soccer Field, weren’t specified in the draft presented by staff. Lee Eng asked why Neutra House wasn’t identified.
“We tried to find a mix of uses that show how unique this property is to the city,” City Manager Gabriel Engeland said of drafting the resolution.
The final council directive, with Fligor, Lee Eng and Enander in favor, specified each of these elements.
Following advice from Houston and Engeland, the council also removed from the ordinance the restriction banning subdivision of the property. Although subdivision usually precedes a property sale, Houston said restricting subdivision “could be a hindrance if we wanted to carve out parcels for ourselves.”
Meadows, who with Weinberg voted against the ordinance, didn’t think it was necessary.
“I don’t think the scenario for selling our prime civic center property is realistic,” she said.
She pointed to the irony of an ordinance requiring voter approval before the sale of property following voters’ rejection in 2018 of Measure C, which required the same thing.
But Enander noted a previous council made a promise in the wake of Measure C to protect the civic center property and that the current council was making good on that promise.