I was looking over my goals when I first ran for Los Altos City Council in 2012 and again in 2016. What did I recognize as problems, and where did I want to focus my energy? And what has been accomplished since then? I will touch on seven areas.
1. Open and good government. We’ve accomplished a lot here. In 2014, another council member and I sponsored, and the council passed, the Open Government Ordinance. This increases transparency by having city council agendas posted eight days before the meeting, including publishing the agenda in the Town Crier the week before the meeting. We now require story poles when a large commercial or multifamily project is proposed, giving residents a visual of the size and mass of proposed projects. All meetings of the Los Altos City Council and Planning Commission are required to be videotaped.
2. Improved community engagement. When I first ran for office, it was clear that improved communication between the city and residents was needed. We’re starting to make some good progress. Last fall we started a pilot program of neighborhood meetings, where city staff and a council member meet with people living in a particular neighborhood to update them on what’s going on in their neighborhood, answer any questions and provide a means for a neighborhood to get together. Let’s turn this pilot into a full program that serves all the neighborhoods in the city.
3. New community center. Construction is underway! What an accomplishment! This has been a real team and community effort, and I’m looking forward to seeing this new community center completed by this time next year!
4. Downtown Vision. Some progress is underway. We completed this vision in August 2018. The key recommendations to enhance downtown vitality were to:
• Permit fitness and personal service uses downtown (which we did a few months ago).
• Change the parking requirements (which we’re still struggling with).
• Move forward with a new downtown theater (which I personally hope we can make some real progress on this coming year).
• Enhance outdoor dining experiences (stay tuned).
5. Affordable housing. A real challenge as property values continue to soar. We have made a small amount of progress by increasing the amount of affordable units a housing developer must provide, but we need to make so much more progress in this area. We need to very significantly increase the number of affordable units that are included in any new development, and we need to make this happen now. This will be a huge focus of mine this coming year.
6. Environmental sustainability. Big gains made, big gains still need to be made. We adopted a Climate Action Plan in 2013 and are in sore need of updating this in the coming year. We made big progress in cleaning up our electricity supply by forming and joining Silicon Valley Clean Energy. We are in the process of adopting building codes to reduce the use of natural gas in new buildings and install electric-vehicle charging stations in new buildings.
7. Safety. When I first joined the council, Los Altos PREPARES was just starting out with support from Los Altos Community Foundation. I’m so happy to say that this is now completely integrated into our city operations with a dedicated emergency preparedness coordinator on staff. Numerous Block Action Teams have formed and can receive grants for their neighborhood actions. Can we have a goal to have a Block Action Team and Neighborhood Watch team cover the entire city by the end of 2020?
Thank you to the city staff for their good work and dedication to our city. Thank you to the residents of Los Altos for electing me in 2012 and 2016 to serve as your city council member. It is for you that I serve and you who I always consider as we are faced with difficult decisions here as council members.
I look forward to hearing your ideas and concerns for this next year. My door is open.
Jan Pepper is mayor of Los Altos.