Los Altos Hills council picks park project, shores up pathway fees

Kyle McKinney” width=
Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Los Altos/Los Altos Hills Little League player Kyle McKinney tells Los Altos Hills City Council members why they shouldn’t allow the redevelopment of the P2 field at Purissima Park Thursday.

A mild tug-of-war over state grant money for parks creation and rehabilitation ended Thursday night with Los Altos Hills City Council members voting unanimously to approve a proposal for a new community building replacing the Purissima Park snack shack. 

The creation of a community park, a competing project championed by the Parks and Recreation Committee, is not dead, however, as Councilwoman Courtenay C. Corrigan’s motion included the formation of a subcommittee to evaluate that proposal.

In June 2018, California voters approved Proposition 68, the Parks, Environment and Water Bond. It provides approximately $4 billion in general obligation bonds for “shovel-ready” state and local park projects. Communities are allocated a minimum of $200,000 based on population size, and they must match 20% of the funds. Los Altos Hills officials should know the exact amount of their town’s allocation by the end of this month.

Purissima Park proposal” width=
Courtesy of Scott Vanderlip
A conceptual drawing shows the Parks & Recreation Committee’s hopes for the future development of Purissima Park.

The project as approved includes the purchase of a 1,500-square-foot, energy-efficient, prefabricated unit featuring concessions and room for events at a cost of approximately $110,000. The remaining money will cover the installation and cost of demolishing the 450-square-foot Los Altos/Los Altos Hills Little League snack shack, which was built in 1972 and contains unreinforced masonry, electrical hazards and two nonoperational restrooms.

Parks and Recreation Committee members lobbied Thursday night to use the grant money for the creation of a community park on one of the four existing Purissima Park baseball fields, possibly P2, where the 13- and 14-year-old baseball juniors and the Pinewood School baseball team play. The committee’s vision includes a soccer field, a picnic area, a 900-square-foot classroom with a kitchen, a nature play area, a community garden and paved and gravel walking paths.

“Prop. 68 has given us an amazing opportunity to think about the use of really our only existing park in this town and ways to benefit the community and have a space to bring families together,” said Nina Sutaria, committee chairwoman.

Residents sent more than 50 emails to the city council prior to the meeting, most if not all of which supported the committee’s vision. But a contingent from the Little League community attended the council meeting and argued for the preservation of P2, also known as Stan Troedson Field in honor of a league founding father.

Hills resident Cliff Olson’s sons played Little League at the park approximately 15 years ago.

“It was not named Stan Troedson Field because he wrote a check – it’s not Oracle Field,” Olson said. “It was named Stan Troedson Field because he had a dream, and his dream was Little League, and he built the field, he built the league and he made it work. I think that is an example for the Parks and Rec Committee at this point. I believe they have a dream as well. I’m hesitant that their dream gets built by tearing somebody else’s down.”

Pathway fee changes

The council also approved text changes to the General Plan related to the fee structure and expansion process for the pathway system, the town’s continually expanding but piecemeal network of roadside and off-road trails. Residents are required to pay fees toward the construction of pathways when they develop their own property in ways that could potentially lead to more pathway users.

“We really don’t have a compliant fee system by which we could withstand a challenge to how we charge, what we charge, how we use it, how it’s administered,” said Mayor Roger Spreen.

Among the changes adopted by the council is language specifying new pathways development impact fees: $10,943 for new residences and $3,826 for new accessory dwelling units and the construction of additions or barns totaling 900 square feet or more. The council deferred amending policy 1.1, which describes required pathway access for all residents, to a subcommittee to review whether indirect access via vehicular right-of-way is sufficient.

Waste collection subsidy

Grumblings about the town’s new contract with GreenWaste Recovery led to a unanimous council decision to provide a subsidy for town customers who live on properties only accessible by small-body trucks.

The passage of state Senate Bill 1383 made it illegal for haulers to combine trash with mixed compostables, but residents are allowed to do so themselves. GreenWaste instituted a program wherein customers serviced by small-body trucks could swap two of their 96-gallon green yard-trimming bins for a single 96-gallon gray bin containing both trash and compostables like yard trimmings. But some residents insisted their properties generate too much green waste for one bin to cut it.

“What we thought might be reasonable is to meet those residents halfway for this year and provide a 50% subsidy on those second gray carts if they need them,” said Carl Cahill, city manager.

The town allocated $100,000, which it will pay to GreenWaste to temporarily reduce the price of the second container from $70 to $35. Council members expect the subsidy could help reduce the number of unsightly garbage bins clustered at common collection points by residents of private roads who don’t want to pay added fees and thus drag their green bins down to the road.

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