The Los Altos Planning and Transportation Commission (PTC) took the following actions at its Feb. 20 meeting.
4940 El Camino renovations recommended for approval
The PTC unanimously recommended approval for the expansion and renovation of the building that currently houses The Boardwalk restaurant.
The project, which would add 3,679 square feet to the mixed-use office and commercial structure at 4940 El Camino Real, now heads to the Los Altos City Council for final approval at a date to be determined.
The additional space in project plans includes approximately 2,700 square feet of first- and second-floor office space and a 915-square-foot addition to the building front, which faces El Camino Real.
Prior to her vote in favor of recommendation, Commissioner Phoebe Bressack commended the building’s owner, RKT Group LLC, for bringing forward a “really good design.”
The original review in December resulted in a continuation to enable commissioners to gather additional information from the building’s ownership group, including a sample board that would showcase the exterior materials selected as part of the 1960s-era building’s renovation, and more complete details on landscaping and signage.
Included in its vote recommending approval, the PTC suggested additional changes prior to its presentation to the council, such as exploring the possibility of adding a mural or other treatment to liven up the look of the building’s south side, which currently comprises windowless cement panels.
“The idea would be to break up this mass, which (now) looks more like a parking garage or a storage space,” Commissioner Malika Junaid said.
RKT Group’s Vish Agarwal updated the commission on his ongoing negotiations for a new lease for The Boardwalk, which has called the building home since 1975. Agarwal told the PTC that he last discussed a lease extension two weeks ago but noted that the restaurant’s ownership group appeared to be exploring other options. He added that RKT Group remains “fully flexible” about the possibility of striking a deal to keep the restaurant at its current location.
Commission requests parking discussion
The PTC seeks a discussion with the city council on parking – specifically, the need for more of it in the downtown triangle now and in the future.
The commission listed downtown parking or the apparent lack thereof as a topic of discussion with the council in March. The council extended an open invitation to all city commissions for a joint meeting Tuesday or March 18, according to a city staff report. The council listed the exploration of downtown parking options as a 2014 priority during its annual December retreat.
The commission’s interest in the issue resulted from an open discussion during its Feb. 20 meeting on the Downtown Parking Management Plan. Several commissioners expressed a desire for more progress in augmenting the downtown parking supply for current and future needs with the addition of a parking structure.
“I can speak for the entire commission in that we all know we need a (parking) garage,” said Bressack, who added that the parking management plan, approved by the council in September, focused largely on punitive measures such as recommendations to institute escalating parking fines for repeat offenders. “There’s never been a debate on this dais about that issue.”
She called the proposal to restripe the downtown parking plazas to gain additional spaces akin to “moving deck chairs around on the Titanic.” Per the management plan, restriping all nine downtown plazas could increase the parking supply by 75 standard, 9-foot-wide spaces, but at a cost of approximately $8 million – $111,000 per space. Conversely, the plan noted that construction of a 276-space parking structure – which it recommended over restriping – could likely result in a per-space cost of $38,000.
“I don’t think that restriping, in my opinion, is worth the money, because the yield is so low,” Bressack said.
Data collected as part of the parking management plan concluded that downtown parking reaches 88 percent capacity at its peak – above the commonly accepted 85 percent threshold used by parking consultants. The plan outlined that peak capacity in future years could reach as high as 93 percent under some scenarios.
PTC Chairman Jerry Moison – who owns several commercial properties in downtown Los Altos and throughout the state – added that a parking structure would likely increase the value of smaller stores located on Main and State streets. He specifically pointed to Parking Plaza 7, located across the street from the incoming First Street Safeway, as a logical location for a new parking garage.
He referred to his firsthand experience in seeing the negative effects a lack of parking can have on local businesses.
“I’m telling you now that if you want not to attract retail in this city, just don’t do anything with parking,” Moison said. “All of the parking studies that I’ve seen say that we need parking now – and I support it.”
– Diego Abeloos