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Los Altos council still mulling possible changes to Hillview center design plans

Hillview Community Center
Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
The city of Los Altos spent nearly two years finalizing the design for a new community center to replace the current one, above. However, at the new council’s retreat, council members debated whether the project’s cost justifies its benefits.

With a new mayor and council member expressing reservations, the Los Altos City Council may push for changes to already approved plans to rebuild Hillview Community Center.

Mayor Lynette Lee Eng and Councilwoman Anita Enander raised concerns at the council’s Jan. 27 retreat about the design and process of the project, set for construction beginning in the summer.

Lee Eng questioned whether the city was getting enough “bang for our buck.” The $34.7 million project on 4.46 acres at 97 Hillview Ave. totals 24,500 square feet – 5,862 net square feet less than current civic center facilities. Councilwoman Jan Pepper also voiced concerns.

“I don’t want to start all over again,” Pepper said, but she added: “I want to make sure it’s built so it can be expanded in the future. If we needed more room, (make it) structurally designed so we can put a second story on it.”

Lee Eng said the center, as currently designed, “won’t be able to grow with our community – it’s just way too small.”

“We have neighboring communities building facilities that are getting twice as much square footage for a fraction of the cost we’re paying,” she said. “We need to look at expandability. … If we plan to add an extension – how would we do that?”

“What I’m concerned about – we never saw a true mapping of our existing use to our new use,” Enander said. “I don’t believe anybody can truly say with confidence how much of our existing programs we can actually do with our new facility – and how tight it is in terms of any future growth. What I do think is important is whether the design is really, by design, unduly expensive so that we can’t easily expand it and we are paying top dollar for design, where it’s the design we’re paying for instead of usable space.”

Design tweaks

City Manager Chris Jordan reminded council members that the current design arose from an extensive two-year process that included a citizens’ task force and approximately 50 public meetings.

Reached last week, Jordan said: “Minor design tweaks could be accomplished expeditiously and probably only delay the project by a few months. A more significant redesign could require a new CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) review and additional hearings before the Planning Commission and city council. This process would add a minimum of nine to 12 months to the project timeline.”

Jordan said to date, the city has spent $1.976 million on the design.

Councilwoman Neysa Fligor, elected in November with Enander, cautioned against revisiting the project design.

“It’s been through the previous council, we can’t go back,” she said. “Nothing will be perfect. We’ve been through that process.”

“I’m sure it will be a place that we’ll all be proud of and love using,” Pepper said last week. “(But) I want to make sure that we are planning ahead for future expansion.”

In addition to allowing for a second story, Pepper suggested changing the vehicle drop-off design in front of the center.

“I think people will want to be able to turn around at the front but the current design doesn’t allow for that,” she said.

She also wants the building “to be as green as possible,” including solar panels to provide much of its own energy usage, and electric vehicle charging ports.

“At the retreat, I heard three council members in support of one swimming pool at the civic center campus, and I want to make sure we can accommodate a pool in how we have the buildings placed on the campus,” Pepper said.

Jordan said the council plans to further discuss the status of the community center project during a March 12 study session.

Mountain View center

The city of Mountain View has scheduled a Feb. 23 grand opening for its newly renovated community center at 201 S. Rengstorff Ave. The facility includes a new social hall, four multipurpose/conference rooms, two dance and fitness rooms, and the city’s preschool program. To RSVP, visit mountainview.gov/reservations.

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