Members of the Los Altos City Council appear willing to work with developer Los Altos Community Investments (LACI) in its quest to build a three-story office building and convert a portion of a First Street parking plaza into a park with underground parking.
We wholeheartedly endorse both projects.
There is a public benefit factor for the office building, which would enable LACI to build three stories and up to 45 feet high – 15 feet higher than the current city building height limitation.
The public benefit reasoning isn’t as obvious as, say, a residential project that includes affordable housing units. But the 60,000-square-foot building would house law firms, venture capitalists and others that would bring additional business (lunchtime eateries that benefit are an obvious example). It would also address what many perceive as a lack of office space downtown – office space that brings people to town and puts feet on the street. As for the park, we see no reason why a steady funding stream couldn’t be established wherein the developer would pay for park maintenance and security for the underground parking. The aboveground spaces taken for the park would be replaced, one for one, underground.
As far as bulk concerns, the preliminary building plan allows for each floor to be farther set back from the street, eliminating a boxy appearance. As the developer reasoned, a two-story structure would be bulkier and offer less than the 20-foot setback being proposed. The “two-story” Safeway across the street is an example of how height doesn’t mean less bulk.
We acknowledge concerns such as impact on downtown neighbors and approving a project during an ongoing downtown visioning process that determines how future development should proceed. However, this is a golden opportunity for the city. We agree with suggestions made at the Jan. 10 council meeting that both the plan and the projects could proceed simultaneously.
Further, these projects are more in line with what should be part of a proper visioning plan – more green space, greater pedestrian access and, with a park and special events, more reason to visit downtown.
If we’re planning for the future, let’s support projects reflective of it.