The Los Altos City Council’s inclination last week to move forward with a proposal for the First Street Green was not only the right move – it was the only appropriate move to make.
Developer Los Altos Community Investments is proposing a half-acre park/plaza on a city-owned parking lot across from Safeway on First Street. A memorandum of understanding allows exclusive negotiations between LACI and the city to create a permanent green space, complete with natural grass, tables and umbrellas, and a staging area for occasional performances. LACI is picking up the tab for the park’s construction.
It’s a park/plaza worth pursuing, especially when the developer is offering underground parking that would accompany a separate, neighboring office building. By moving 67 above-ground spaces for the park, the city would gain 40 new public spaces, for a total of 107 public stalls in the underground structure. Although the office building is a separate proposal not addressed at last week’s session, it is linked to the park by this promise of parking compensation. The developers also are promising 7,400 square feet of easement – space that could be added to the park if the office building also receives the OK.
Construction and legal details are always complicated when it comes to public-private partnerships, which this is. The work ahead will be challenging, but nothing would ever be built if an easy process was a condition for approval.
The June 27 council study session on the topic drew a large crowd of people, most in support of moving the park proposal forward. While there was no formal plan up for approval, the meeting objective was to at least give LACI officials a signal to continue toward their goal. Mayor Mary Prochnow indicated that four of the five councilmembers – including herself – were willing to move the project along.
Opponents are concerned about a loss and lack of parking during the construction period, estimated to last two or more years. Another legitimate concern is the extended disruption of nearby businesses. We’re confident, however, that the city and LACI can successfully mitigate these issues. Arrangements for public parking in private lots and scheduling construction during off-business hours are just two mitigation plans that could be considered.
Again, these are details that can and will be worked out, with focus on the big picture: a legitimate downtown park for all to enjoy.