Editorial: Council needs to build back trust

We would like to think Los Altos City Council members Anita Enander and Lynette Lee Eng learned a valuable lesson at the Feb. 9 council meeting: Do not go rogue and ignore the will of the council majority. As part of a legislative body, there are norms to follow.

Mayor Neysa Fligor and council members Jonathan Weinberg and Sally Meadows voted at their previous meeting Jan. 26 not to discuss research from the Embarcadero Institute, a nonprofit group whose analysis they found questionable. But Enander and Lee Eng proceeded to present the findings of the institute anyway. They did so without consulting fellow members or city staff beforehand, and they did so under an agenda item calling for response to Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) numbers.

Fligor, Weinberg and Meadows immediately noticed that the gathered data for Enander’s presentation was from the Palo Alto-based institute they had rejected. They were outraged and did not mince words in the public forum about feeling “ambushed,” as Fligor put it. Weinberg noted a loss of trust and said “a lot of damage has been done.”

We know all five council members care deeply about their community. They want it protected from potential negative impacts. The city, dominated by single-family homes and pretty much built out, faces a major challenge with RHNA numbers, state-mandated targets imposed on cities for generating additional housing units. Los Altos expects its target to increase from 477 new units by 2023 to nearly 2,000 by 2031 – on its surface a virtually impossible task without severely altering the city’s land-use plan.

After initially being scolded by council members, Enander called for Los Altos to band together with other cities and appeal the target numbers – a good plan that should have been the lead of her presentation, not a rundown of Embarcadero Institute data.

Enander and Lee Eng have been given an opportunity to start over and offer a proper RHNA presentation, and they hopefully will begin to build back the trust that was lost. We presume they now understand that “no” means “no.”

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