Editorial: What's the plan for Halsey House?

Note: This editorial has been updated to correct factual errors.

A healthy community fosters a forward-thinking approach while recognizing and appreciating its history. Los Altos is such a community.

The Downtown Vision project that is set to wrap up this year stands to establish an exciting blueprint for a vibrant city center in the decades ahead. On the history side, Los Altos boasts a state-of-the-art museum that is the envy of surrounding communities.

However, one blemish on the city’s historical focus concerns Halsey House, located in the Redwood Grove preserve. The 1920s-era, 3,400-square-foot building is one of 22 historical landmarks in Los Altos. The building has been dormant for nearly a decade after the city shuttered it in 2008, citing “health and safety code concerns.” The city faces a dilemma regarding Halsey House: Pay or fund- raise for a significant amount of money (possibly $3.2 million) to restore/rebuild the structure, or demolish it.

Ardent historians, such as members of Friends of Redwood Grove, don’t want to lose Halsey House. They’ve raised $25,000 for a study of potential uses and resultant costs.

The problem at this stage is that there is no designated plan for reuse and no real funding commitment. Certainly, having a strong plan in hand could inspire donors.

On a split 3-2 vote, the Los Altos City Council Jan. 23 directed staff to take “temporary measures” to protect Halsey House and instructed the Historical Commission to work with city staff to submit a grant application to the Santa Clara County Historical Heritage Commission for reconstruction funds.

The city’s commitment to rebuilding Hillview Community Center means funds for reconstruction likely won’t come from the city. The best bet lies in a specific plan and private fundraising.

Although saving Halsey House is an admirable effort, let’s look at reality. A decade has gone by with no progress. How many more years will the building be withering away while the city and supporters mull Band-Aid fixes?

A timeline and deadline must be set for developing a plan for preserving Halsey House – say, another three years. If there’s still no progress, it should be demolished. Redwood tree seedlings would be an appropriate substitute in this beloved Los Altos preserve.

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The Town Crier welcomes letters to the editor on current events pertinent to Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View. Write to us at 138 Main St., Los Altos 94022, Attn: Editor, or email editor Bruce Barton at bruceb@latc.com. Because editorial space is limited, please confine letters to no more than 200 words. Include a phone number for verification purposes. Anonymous letters will not be printed.

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