New Los Altos City Council addresses old divisions at swearing-in ceremony

Melissa Hartman/Town Crier
Supporters cheer and wave signs at the swearing-in ceremony of Los Altos’ new mayor, Lynette Lee Eng, pictured at right with Santa Clara County Supervisor Mike Wasserman.

The two new members of the Los Altos City Council took their seats on the dais Dec. 4, and the council promptly elected Lynette Eng mayor and Jan Pepper vice mayor.

LA construction site burglaries spike

Photo by Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
In a two-week period in November, police received 10 reports of burglaries at Los Altos construction sites, according to police Sgt. Brian Jeffrey. A city ordinance specifies permitted construction hours, so police urge residents to keep watch and call police if they observe suspicious activity.

Los Altos Police Department detectives are investigating 10 construction-site burglaries that occurred Nov. 13-27, confirming a spike in such crimes.

Sgt. Brian Jeffrey said the police department is working with neighboring law enforcement agencies “in an effort to collaborate on identifying related crimes and developing crime patterns” for the burglaries.

Minimum-wage increases set for LA, MV

Mountain View will raise its minimum wage to $15.65 per hour Jan. 1, while Los Altos will increase its minimum wage to $15.

Both cities have ordinances that mandate incremental hikes over a period of years. Mountain View’s, adopted in 2014, raised wages from $10.30 per hour to $15 effective Jan. 1 of this year. Its ordinance stipulates further increases based on Consumer Price Index inflation adjustments, which accounts for the 2019 increase.

MV resident arrested for mail-carrier attack

Mountain View police officers arrested a 69-year-old resident Dec. 1 after he allegedly attacked a female postal worker over what police believe stemmed from an argument over how the man’s mail was being delivered.

Mountain View Police spokeswoman Katie Nelson said officers responded at 1:20 p.m. to a home on the 700 block of San Lucas Avenue after receiving a call reporting an assault. When officers arrived, the 45-year-old victim said the resident, identified as Denzil Burkhead, squeezed her throat and pushed her to the ground.

Prosecutor warns of scams targeting seniors

An 81-year-old Morgan Hill man who thought he had won $2 million in a Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes instead lost more than $50,000 to scammers last month. Although the perpetrators likely live overseas and could not be identified or prosecuted, quick action by family members and local law enforcement officials eventually led to the retrieval of the funds.

Most victims are not so lucky, warned Deputy District Attorney Cherie Bourlard. She spoke to the Town Crier last week and shared tips for keeping finances secure.

In wake of scandal, Planning Commission aims to move forward

Photos by Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Owners of Area 151 Arcade plan to relocate their business to 127 First St., above. The new space, which will undergo construction before the move, features two floors and an outdoor patio.

Los Altos Planning Commissioner Doo Ho Lee addressed the elephant in the room – the absence of Chairman Alexander Samek – at Thursday’s meeting by briefly stating that all commissioners were present but Samek and Sally Meadows. Just like that, commissioners moved on to approving their minutes.

Samek made national headlines Nov. 30 when he was arrested in Palo Alto on charges of driving under the influence and refusing a chemical test, and driving with a 0.08 or higher blood alcohol level.

According to CHP spokesman Art Montiel, Samek was allegedly asleep at the wheel of his Tesla while traveling just above the speed limit southbound on Highway 101 at 3:37 a.m. in Redwood City. CHP officers positioned their patrol cars around the Tesla and brought it to a stop, finding Samek “unresponsive” until they rapped on his car’s window.

CHP officers believe but could not officially confirm that Samek turned on his Model S Tesla’s Autopilot system, enabling him to travel at approximately 70 mph on the freeway while asleep.

Samek was in custody at the Maguire Correctional Facility until approximately 2 p.m. Nov. 30, posting bail of $15,000. He is scheduled to appear in San Mateo Superior Court 9 a.m. Jan. 4, said the San Mateo District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman.

Samek serves on the Planning Commission “at the discretion of the council,” said city spokeswoman Erica Ray. When contacted by the Town Crier, all members of the Los Altos City Council declined to comment. There is no language in the commission application or handbook that addresses members’ actions outside of civic involvement.

Commission OKs arcade relocation

The Planning Commission Dec. 6 approved a use permit for Area 151 Arcade, a Los Altos Community Investments property, allowing the kid-oriented business to move from 359 State St. to the two-story, 6,677-square-foot site at 127 First St.

Peter Fraser, former part-time employee turned Area 151 manager, presented the relocation proposal to the commission, attributing the request to the “high demand from customers.” The new site features additional room for a large karaoke area and virtual-reality gaming equipment, Fraser said.

Along with six letters of support and one letter of opposition submitted to the city, Fraser’s hands overflowed with notes from children and parents who frequent Area 151 who are excited by the prospect of the new site’s proposed outdoor patio and expanded footprint.

One parent begged the commission via letter to grant Area 151’s permit “for the sanity of adults,” which elicited a chuckle from the commissioners.

Based on findings such as the prior success of the business (expansion after six-plus years of downtown popularity) and the staff-to-parking-stall ratio (six stalls to an average of one to three employees), the commission recommended approving the permit.

Commissioners offered Fraser and LACI associates Robert Hindman, Taylor Robinson and Victoria Brown their overwhelming support. Commissioner Kimberly Mosley, a mom of young kids, said her family frequents Area 151.

“What I find interesting is the irony of having the arcade with the outdoor space,” Mosley said. “It’s fabulous, and it’s not what you would expect.”

Commissioner Phoebe Bressack noted that when her kids were younger, “when dinosaurs roamed the Earth,” they used to hang out in the Safeway parking lot and at Baskin-Robbins.

“This is a much better, bigger space,” she said.

As far as design is concerned, the biggest modification to the new site will be expansion of the underground parking garage to create a better experience for patrons, Robinson said. Artificial turf and gates similar to the property next door, Momentum Cycling Studio at 129 First St., will be installed to promote low water consumption and create an area for parents with smaller children to play while their siblings are inside the arcade.

Area 151 opened in 2012 at 151 First St. before moving to 359 State, where the business will remain open until construction is complete at 127 First. The change of address will mean a change of name, but the new name and opening date have yet to be determined.

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