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"Green" office project clears latest hurdle

The color green made a triumphant return to the Los Altos council chambers Thursday as the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission voted to recommend the approval of the First Street Green’s commercial design review application to the Planning and Transportation Commission.

Representatives of Los Altos Community Investments and the development firm Sares Regis Group were decked out in the color – some head to toe – to show their support for the project.

The proposed First Street Green, backed by LACI, includes a three-story office building, a public plaza and underground parking. LACI is offering the city the use of the community room, public parking and public rest- rooms in exchange for a variance that allows it to construct an office building that exceeds the city’s height limit.

Thursday’s meeting enabled BPAC members to weigh in on the plans as they relate to pedestrian and cyclist access. Overall, they seemed pleased, with Commissioner Randy Kriegh calling them “nitpicky in a good way.”

“I’m very impressed with the project and all the things that have gone into it,” he said.

In the end, BPAC members submitted five comments about the plans with their motion to recommend application approval. Their suggestions included adding lighting for pedestrians accessing the garage or plaza at night, ensuring there are safe exits from all parts of the parking structure, limiting alleyway use, increasing visibility of crosswalks and adding more bike parking.

“I think anytime you come to the BPAC with a project, you’re going to hear (a request for) additional bike parking,” Commissioner Jim Fenton said with a chuckle. “Yes, we’d like additional bike parking, but we’re glad the project adheres to the VTA (Valley Transportation Authority) guidelines.”

As Fenton said, bike parking and other programs that serve cyclists were a large part of the discussion. Commissioners suggested everything from e-bike parking to the creation of a bike-share program.

First Street Green architect Joni Janecki, who played a role in designing the Packard Foundation headquarters on Second Street, said a public bike-sharing program could be incorporated in their plans.

“It’s definitely a trend we’ve seen to be very successful,” she said.

The First Street Green project heads to the Parks and Recreation Commission 7 p.m. today for discussion of the public plaza. A date has yet to be determined for Planning and Transportation Commission review, but city staff estimated it to be sometime in October.

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