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Los Altos Hills leaders ponder parks potential

Purissima Park baseball” width=
Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Brian McDermott coaches baseball practice at Purissima Park in Los Altos Hills. Members of the Parks and Recreation Committee proposed using state grant money to turn part of the baseball-centric park into a more generalized venue, but the city council selected a snack shack update instead. Now a council subcommittee is exploring additional ways to improve the town’s recreational offerings.

Los Altos Hills City Council members at this month’s meeting could hear an update on a master parks plan meant to explore the possibility of establishing new recreation venues in town.

A subcommittee comprising councilwomen Courtenay C. Corrigan and Kavita Tankha invited City Manager Carl Cahill, Community Services Supervisor Sarah Robustelli and Planning Commission Chairman/local historian Jitze Couperus last week to join a preliminary discussion about the project.

The group will likely convene during the first week of December, Corrigan said.

“We’re hoping to schedule a meeting with the five of us – Sarah, Carl, Jitze, Kavita and myself – and have a preliminary discussion before we invite anyone else to the table, about lands that are available, what use is appropriate on that land or what use is not appropriate,” she said.

The subcommittee got its start earlier this year when town officials learned of state grant money available for “shovel-ready” park projects. Under Proposition 68, the Parks, Environment and Water Bond, which voters approved in 2018, California communities are eligible for at least $200,000 as long as they match 20% of what’s allocated.

Members of the town’s Parks and Recreation Committee envisioned the money as a way to turn a Purissima Park baseball field into a more generalized venue featuring everything from a stage to a jump-house area and a community garden, but the Los Altos/Los Altos Hills Little League objected, instead advocating for the replacement of the outdated snack shack on-site.

Influenced by constraints placed on the grant money, which is meant for the rehabilitation of existing infrastructure and the improvement of access to the outdoors, and concern about meeting application deadlines, council members decided at their September meeting to proceed with the snack shack update.

For approximately $110,000, the town can purchase a 1,500-square-foot prefabricated unit for concessions and event space, with the remaining money used to fund the installation and demolition of the existing, 450-square-foot building.

The California Office of Grants and Local Services is expected to announce the allocation of funds this winter.

With the grant money “detangled” from the larger topic of general town recreation use, the subcommittee can now take its time considering sites in addition to Purissima Park, including Westwind Community Barn and town hall, Corrigan said.

“We’re proceeding but proceeding carefully; we don’t want to rush like we’ve got to do it all tomorrow,” she said.

Community support

There’s certainly community support for the project, according to Nina Sutaria. Sutaria is the town’s Parks and Recreation Committee chairwoman, but she limited comments to the Town Crier last week to those of a local parent exploring the possibility of expanding opportunities for play for her children. She cited the approximately 50 emails residents sent to the council expressing excitement about the Purissima Park revamp concept and the overwhelming response she’s seen to posts made to her Los Altos Hills parents Facebook group.

“If you raise your kids in Los Altos Hills, you realize there aren’t that many places where you can take them, so you end up going to Shoup Park or other places in south Palo Alto or Los Altos,” Sutaria said. “There’s not a centralized space, outdoor or indoor, really, other than (Westwind Community Barn).”

Sutaria, like other parents of young children she knows, dreams of amenities like a community swimming pool and a track for teaching tykes how to ride bikes.

“I think there’s a misconception among some older people in town that there just aren’t families here,” she said. “There was a period during which maybe there were fewer families, but there’s kind of a resurgence happening.”

 

Note: The Los Altos Hills City Council meeting has been rescheduled for Nov. 20, a Wednesday, to accommodate council members’ schedules. There are two council meetings scheduled next month: Dec. 4 and Dec. 19. The agendas, when available, will be published at losaltoshills.ca.gov.

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