Los Altos Planning Commission approves general plan amendments, cannabis ordinance

After some debate, the Los Altos Planning Commission Thursday approved staff recommendations for general plan amendments related to the sale of parks and open lands and a cannabis prohibition ordinance.

No land sales without residents’ OK

Commissioners first dealt with an amendment to the general plan that would require voter approval of any sale, lease or rezoning of parkland or “other open space.” The council initiated the amendment in response to a citizens’ initiative on the Nov. 6 ballot. Measure C would require voter approval of any new sale, lease or rezoning of city-owned property larger than 7,500 feet, extending beyond parks and open space to include the downtown parking plazas.

Sue Russell of the Los Altos-Mountain View chapter of the League of Women Voters stepped up to remind the commission of a letter her group had sent in support of the amendments.

Community Development Director Jon Biggs was asked extensively about which areas were considered residential zones in the case of amendments to Los Altos’ general plan and municipal code, including Grant Park, which has two land-use designations due to three parcels on Grant Park Lane.

Commissioner Sally Meadows said the amendments presented appeared straightforward, and the reconciliation of zones with multiple designations could be addressed when those discrepancies come up in the future.

Finding herself conflicted, Commissioner Ronit Bodner noted that while the city’s history indicated the commission didn’t have to be concerned about the sale of parkland or open space, the amendments served as an inoculation against Measure C. Bodner questioned whether any of her fellow commissioners participated in the Measure C campaign.

“If anyone is involved with Measure C or in the process of drafting it, I think they should say so,” she added.

Commissioner Anita Enander, supporter of Measure C and candidate for a seat on the city council (see her statement in the council candidates article at the top of page 5), did not admit to any involvement and agreed to approve the amendments, but she did state that she knew of proposals to use parklands or open space for other purposes.

Echoing Bodner, Commissioner Alex Samek said he took issue with micromanaging the decisions of elected officials.

“This isn’t an efficient democratic process,” he said. “But this is what council wants, so we will advise.”

Ultimately, the commission unanimously accepted a motion to approve the amendments, which will head to the city council for final approval.

Regulating cannabis

The cannabis ordinance includes language that would prohibit retailers within city limits but permit in-city delivery from retailers outside city limits, as well as ban cultivation outdoors but allow a maximum of six plants cultivated indoors per residence.

Commissioner Doo Ho Lee inquired about how the regulation process would be conducted. According to Biggs, it would be on a complaint basis, meaning a neighbor would call the Los Altos Police Department and officers would make initial contact to request compliance.

When asked by Bodner why the ordinance banned outdoor cultivation, Biggs responded that most complaints other cities have faced involve the odor produced by outdoor growth.

Samek jokingly asked if those with an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) could have 12 plants. Because ADUs are registered as separate residences, they actually could, Biggs replied.

Enander supported the ordinance’s provision approving delivery in Los Altos for those who use marijuana for medical purposes. Meadows added that it was effective even for those who use it recreationally, as it would keep them from driving under the influence.

The ordinance passed 6-1, with Bodner dissenting because she did not agree with the outdoor cultivation ban. She said residents should be able to regulate themselves and that it was too strict.

The council plans to vote on the ordinance at a future meeting.

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