LASD targets Kohls site instead of Old Mill site for 10th school

Kohl’s Mountain View
Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
The Los Altos School District plans to acquire land on the eastern side of San Antonio Shopping Center in Mountain View, where Kohl’s Department store sits, to use as a 10th school site.

A letter Los Altos School District Superintendent Jeff Baier sent to Mountain View city staff Friday revealed that the district has changed course in its attempts to buy land for a 10th school site.  Baier revealed plans to acquire Federal Realty’s land on the eastern side of San Antonio Shopping Center, where Kohl’s Department store sits, instead of continuing to pursue the so-called Old Mill site at California Avenue and San Antonio Road. 

Persky recalled, despite 'no' from local voters

Graphic courtesy of Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters
The blue in the graphic, showing “no” votes for the recall of Judge Aaron Persky, includes much of Los Altos and Los Altos Hills.

Although only 90 percent of ballots had been counted by early this week, decisive margins have already decided nearly every race from the June 5 primary. The recall of Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky exceeded predictions from polls in the lead-up to the election, with a total of 61 percent of voters countywide voting to remove him from the bench.

But a closer examination of precinct results shows a deeply divided local area at the heart of Persky’s courtroom presence. Much of Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Palo Alto voted “no” – in some areas, by a significant majority. Even precincts on and adjacent to Stanford University’s campus voted “no.” But across much of the rest of the county, remoteness from Persky’s Palo Alto courthouse – and from many of the local campaigners – seemed to correlate with a “yes” vote.

Miramonte path project sparks residential debate

Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Rosalie and Virgil Davis walk Morgan along Miramonte Avenue last week. Acceptable right-of-way use has become a hot topic.

While a more technical discussion of the Miramonte Avenue Path Project was scheduled to continue at this week’s Los Altos City Council meeting, the topic has cued an emotional discourse among residents polarized about altering the busy thoroughfare.

LAH leaders, residents surprised by 'richest' ranking

La Vida Real mansion
Courtesy of DeLeon Realty
Los Altos Hills’ current real estate sales inventory includes this 20,982-square-foot La Vida Real manse on 8 acres recently listed at $55 million.

Take that, Atherton.

A new survey of U.S. Census data ranks Los Altos Hills as the “richest” town in California, making it also the most affluent town in the country.

MV police arrest woman accused of multiple crimes; victims sought

The Mountain View Police Department seeks anyone who may have fallen victim to a woman who accused multiple men of domestic violence, a police spokeswoman said last week.

Sunmee Kim, 44, was arrested by detectives in Palo Alto June 7 after an investigation revealed that she had allegedly accused men of violence, had them arrested and burglarized their homes.

Sorensen project debate continues after concerns over design

Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Newly installed story poles show the dimensions of a proposed three-story office building at 40 Main St. in downtown Los Altos.

After studying revised plans of the building at its regular meeting Thursday, the Los Altos Planning Commission voted to continue its review of Ted and Jerry Sorensen’s long-awaited three-story office building at 40 Main St. before giving a recommendation to the city council.

The commission voted 4-2 to grant the continuance, with Phoebe Bressack and Anita Enander dissenting and Sally Meadows absent.

Bressack said the project should not be brought back to a future meeting because she had seen essentially the same design for the building over and over, with little change to meet the city’s guidelines for conforming to the “village” feel of downtown.

Bressack and Enander agreed that they did not see the proposed design as a “gateway building,” which is what the Sorensen brothers and their architect Bill Maston called it.

The modified plans include a pedestrian paseo connecting one of the downtown parking plazas to Main Street and reduced square footage in lieu of exceptions to building requirements, Maston explained while giving a visual presentation of his plans.

The Sorensens appeared in front of the commission to propose the development in June 2017, at which time it was decided that the public benefits of a paseo and repaving the nearby Parking Plaza 10 were not sufficient to justify granting the project height, parking and rear-yard setback variances, Community Development Director Jon Biggs reminded the commission.

The design for the 38-foot-tall office building features 16,619 square feet of space and includes a tower element reaching 45 feet high.

The current square footage requires 26 parking spaces in total, according to the environmental impact report conducted for the project. The Sorensens were hoping they could forgo the environmental report and offer no on-site parking. The Planning Commission recently made parking recommendations to the city council, so the sentiment echoed among commissioners was that they would decide how parking would be handled based on the council’s response to their suggestions.

The Sorensens’ original option of modifying Parking Plaza 10 to add more parking stalls, an olive branch extended to the city to get in its good graces in exchange for more flexible building requirements, was not included in the revised plans.

Multiple residents showed up to voice their support for the project, stating that they believed it would be a solid addition to the downtown area.

Former Planning Commissioner Mike Abrams said he supported the plan and had voiced that when the project first appeared before the commission seven years ago. With the city focusing on working vitality into its Downtown Vision project, Abrams added, there was an opportunity for convergence on spaces like office buildings or even more complex developer projects.

Neighbors object

Doctors who work at 4 Main St., the building next door to the proposed office complex; residents who live on nearby View Street; and Enchanté Boutique Hotel owner Abigail Ahrens publicly stated their objections to the Sorensens’ proposal.

Psychologists like Benjamin Pratt of the Pratt Institute at 4 Main said their office buildings would become irrelevant or less attractive if a building that blocked their windows and sunlight – which especially helps trauma patients – were constructed. They, along with View Street locals, said the lack of parking in Plaza 10 and the surrounding area is already a pervasive problem.

Ahrens noted her distaste of rumored comparisons of the exceptions made for her Main Street hotel in exchange for the public benefits of tax revenue and an outdoor plaza with the Sorensen project.

She said property developers – the Sorensens included – have blamed the city year after year for inconsistencies in building requirements, “thinking someone may feel bad for them.” Commissioner Ronit Bodner disagreed, pointing out that “schizophrenic” changes in height, setback and other requirements negatively impacted the Sorensens’ project specifically, and she found that unfair.

The Sorensens reduced the building’s square footage from the 17,248 square feet proposed last year. Ted Sorensen said that while many commissioners contended that their proposal prioritized maximum space over cohesive design on Main Street, he disagreed, noting that they had scaled back their plans for a 21,000-square-foot building first submitted in 2011.

While reviewing the project, the commission discussed a required use permit, design review approval and an “exception for public benefit request” that is permitted when deemed appropriate through the city’s Urban Design Plan. Commissioners will revisit the same issues, as well as the environmental impact report, after Maston consults with the Sorensens and returns with a modified plan.

As far as a timetable for the return to the Planning Commission, Maston said he did not have a prediction, but he is working to return as soon as possible. He told commissioners that the more specifics they give, the faster he could return with sketches.

Bressack directed Maston to refer to the downtown design guidelines, which include images of suggested features and color schemes.

“We do not design it for them,” she said.

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