There are two very good reasons to vote against Measure C. Simply summed up, it’s not needed, and it could do more harm than good.
The Los Altos initiative on the Nov. 6 ballot claims to protect parks and open space from being sold to developers. It requires voter approval for any change in city-owned property, be it sale, lease or rezoning. But we’re convinced the measure’s creators’ intent isn’t necessarily saving parks, but saving parking lots – the downtown parking plazas, specifically.
The recently approved Downtown Vision plan proposes using the plazas in a variety of ways, from creating pedestrian gathering spaces to constructing workforce housing – with lost parking compensated for either by putting it underground or by restriping the plazas. The plan came about after years of griping about a lack of downtown “vibrancy.”
Measure C essentially kills implementation of the Downtown Vision plan – the “more-harm-than-good” argument. And that seems to be what Measure C proponents want.
Jim Jolly, who took the lead in getting the initiative on the ballot, opposed the city’s public-private partnership with Los Altos Community Investments (LACI) in last year’s aborted effort to build a park (ironically) on a portion of a First Street parking plaza with underground parking. The plan also included a three-story office building on LACI property, adjacent to the proposed park, bringing more employees – and business – downtown. But to quote Jolly: “There are lots of people in town who like Los Altos the way it is.”
This sums up two different schools of thought among residents. Many agree with Jolly and thus support Measure C. But we also see a less vocal, yet substantial number of residents who want downtown vibrancy and want it big-time – a city-commissioned survey of residents conducted at the end of last year revealed as much.
As for the need for parks protection, check the record: Los Altos has never sold parkland in its 66-year history. In fact, the city added three over the past 25 years: Rosita, Lincoln (recently purchased from the county) and Village parks.
Yes, the possibility was there that some boneheaded council could try to sell such land – but we’re convinced the public outcry would stifle such an effort in a big hurry. And the council’s recent general plan amendment to require voter approval for any parks or open-space land change further ensures this isn’t going to happen.
In addition, residents already have recourse – other than spending potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars on special elections that Measure C would require – by electing qualified and responsible council members.
Proponents claim Measure C’s language is straightforward; opponents contend it’s ambiguous and confusing. Both sides believe they’re right and the other guys are wrong. Our suggestion? When in doubt, just say no. We are.