Preliminary architectural drawings for the Los Altos Hills Town Hall expansion have been released, and the plans show a modest increase in floor area and staff space.
City Manager Carl Cahill said the renderings reflect the comments, ideas and concerns presented at past Los Altos Hills City Council and Planning Commission meetings.
“We think the architect has come up with a really clever packaging, clever design,” he said. “And we think it’s responsive to the council’s direction, which was to minimize alterations to the parking area and to keep (the addition) out of the setbacks. It achieves our objectives, which is a little more staff space and a little more public meeting space.”
The drawings, created by Duxbury McIntosh Architects of Los Gatos, show a 1,957-square-foot addition replacing the current 880-square-foot Parks and Recreation building on the south side of the 2.72-acre town hall complex. The addition contains a 529-square-foot “flex space,” a 252-square-foot break room with a kitchenette, three staff offices, a print and copy center, two restrooms (including one with a shower), a reception area and storage. Unlike the existing Parks and Recreation facility, the new one would connect to the main town hall building through an interior door.
“Once it’s built, you won’t even know it’s an addition to town hall, the way they designed it. … The idea is to minimize any additional encroachment into the neighbors so that it maintains the exact same setbacks,” said Steve Padovan, interim planning director. “All we’re doing is filling in the space between the two buildings, basically.”
The plans also call for constructing a fire truck turnaround with adjacent disabled parking in front of the Parks and Recreation Department and for enclosing the patio behind the council chambers to create a 322-square-foot conference room.
They do not address moving or altering the Heritage House, a 1,034-square-foot, circa-1908 cottage on the north side of the complex, and that structure would stay where it is – at least for now, Cahill said. The house currently provides storage for town historical documents and emergency operations equipment. In the future, it’s possible the city could purchase a mobile emergency operations trailer to contain the equipment.
Padovan explained the merits of a mobile emergency operations center.
“It has its own generators and things like that,” he said. “Clearly, you could move it to wherever you need to go, or if there’s an earthquake, it’s not connected to any physical electronic grid or anything, so your ability to function is increased if there’s a disaster and such.”
Public input ‘ignored’?
Parks and Recreation Committee member Scott Vanderlip expressed disappointment after reviewing the plans last week. At past council and commission meetings, Vanderlip and other committee members have stated that the current town hall facilities don’t adequately meet the growing needs of the community, and they want additional square footage to host meetings, classes and events.
Vanderlip described the proposed 529-square-foot flex space as “basically a small classroom” and said it’s smaller than what currently exists for residents within the Parks and Recreation building, where the Parks and Recreation Committee hosts its monthly meetings.
“The process should have started with a community visioning process and multiple architects offering conceptual space planning ideas before we hired just one architect to create just a remodel set of drawings of the existing space,” Vanderlip wrote in an email to the Town Crier. “This design is entirely staff driven, and committee and public input and ideas were completely ignored.”
Lahcommunitycenter.org, a website Vanderlip created, proposes a “Plan B” with between eight and 10 new workstations for staff members on the south side of the complex and, on the north side, an approximately 3,000-square-foot community hall, an 1,800-square-foot multipurpose room, an emergency operations center, a certified kitchen, classrooms and more.
Vanderlip believes the town will outgrow the addition by the time it’s built; Cahill said it’s intended to serve the town for at least two decades.
“Ultimately, it’s not meant to be a community center, but it certainly provides more meeting space for the public and can accommodate classroom-size events,” Cahill said. “So I think it certainly meets the objectives of the city council.”
The Planning Commission is expected to review the project in September and, depending on the outcome of that meeting, the council could review it in October. If the project is approved, construction wouldn’t begin until 2020 at the earliest.
Constructing the addition as shown on the latest renderings would likely cost approximately $1.5 million, Cahill estimated.