Coronavirus

Webinar spotlights Los Altos COVID-19 response strategy

During Los Altos’ second webinar of the shelter-in-place era, Mayor Jan Pepper and City Manager Chris Jordan made one thing clear: While city officials care about the emotional and financial health of residents and those who work here, they will not go against the directives of Santa Clara County health officer Dr. Sara Cody. 

In the virtual town hall conference call, Pepper and Jordan both emphasized how tough sheltering in place has been but also how necessary it remains during the COVID-19 pandemic. After Jordan cited the number of cases and deaths nationally, Pepper added that cases in the county are slowing more than in other parts of the state because residents have been vigilant. Cody and her staff, who brief city leaders biweekly, believe social distancing has saved thousands of lives, Pepper said.

While city offices are largely open for business, there is no walk-up service at city hall or surrounding facilities, and summer recreation programs will only be offered virtually. Otherwise, Jordan said, building permit applications may be dropped off, the maintenance staff is back in action, building inspectors have resumed their audits and the police department is fully staffed.

According to a Town Crier records check, health order-related calls to the agency have dropped dramatically in recent weeks, from more than 80 calls at the peak to just six calls the week before the webinar.

Standing strong

Not all of the approximately 85 webinar participants were pleased with how the city is handling the pandemic.

One listener asked whether the city had any influence over the county when it comes to resuming low-risk activities or whether it was “sitting back and waiting.”

“We are actively engaged,” Pepper said with a laugh. “The mayors of all of the cities in Santa Clara County have a call now regularly … to talk about what the strategies are, the status of testing and what we can do to move things along.”

Another participant asked the city to reopen the library, alleging that the Santa Clara County Library District’s online services are insufficient given that her kids are already spending too much time online.

Pepper responded that the Los Altos main library is just one location of the district’s many that are working to keep residents safe by only operating online.

A resident questioned whether Los Altos would pass an emergency ordinance to reopen parking spots near restaurants so that they can resume serving customers.

Pepper rejected the option, noting that the county’s health experts are vested with the authority to allow public dining once again.

However, the city council is set to consider a proposal at its meeting Tuesday to close streets in the downtown area with the intention to make it pedestrian-friendly and allow restaurants to offer outside dining while seating customers at a safe distance.

The council plans to debate the proposal with possible input from city economic development coordinator Anthony Carnesecca, the Los Altos Chamber of Commerce, the Los Altos Village Association and Los Altos Property Owners Downtown.

Cities across the country are already participating in the “slow streets” fad to give those walking and bicycling more outdoor space during the pandemic. In the Bay Area, Redwood City, San Mateo, San Francisco and Oakland have implemented such closures. 

Overall, the city of Los Altos’ efforts aim to make the best of an unusual situation, Pepper said.

A postcard with city and county resources arrived in mailboxes last week.

For more information on city resources, visit bit.ly/35XScGw.

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