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Los Altos Hills council green-lights town hall addition

Steve Padovan” width=
Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Los Altos Hills principal planner Steve Padovan, left, explains town remodel plans to residents Carol Gottlieb, from left, Allan Epstein and Kjell Karlsson at the Nov. 20 council meeting.

The Los Altos Hills City Council last week approved a town hall expansion that will ultimately add 1,512 square feet to the Fremont Road complex’s interior footprint.

The council voted 4-0, with Councilwoman Michelle Wu abstaining due to her home’s proximity to town hall.

“It seems like we’ve kind of scaled it back; it seems appropriate,” Councilwoman Courtenay C. Corrigan said at the specially scheduled Nov. 20 meeting. “I’m disappointed that we don’t have more rec space being factored in here, but given what we’re working with and what the cost may be, I understand how we arrived at this place.”

The cost could total as much as $3.45 million: between $350,000 and $400,000 to enclose the patio behind the council chambers and create a 435-square-foot meeting space; between $1.75 million and $2.75 million to demolish the existing 880-square-foot Parks and Recreation Department building and replace it with a 1,957-square-foot addition attached to the main town hall structure; and approximately $300,000 for grading improvements to the addition and the driveway turnaround beside it.

Next steps

Next steps involve preparing construction drawings and offering the project out to bid, according to City Manager Carl Cahill. He doesn’t foresee awarding the contract or starting demolition until the town’s next fiscal year, which begins July 1. In the meantime, the Planning Commission will review staff proposals for lighting and vegetation screening; construction of the addition necessitates the removal of two redwood trees, and a landscape architect has suggested planting eight evergreen trees of medium height to help obscure the building from neighboring homes.

The addition also will mean a new layout of staff space, and Corrigan inquired about measures to ensure safety in the event of an external threat. Principal planner Steve Padovan directed her attention to conceptual plans for the addition showing rear doors that require a key and only open from the inside, as similar, existing ones do. But such features don’t address the lack of barriers between staff offices and cubicles to the lobby.

“There is no card key to enter town hall,” Padovan said. “So there are some situations where an employee could potentially not be protected by that extra security, but we already have that situation now.”

Complaints about lack of space for recreational classes, staff offices and meetings within the 12,592-square-foot town hall complex led the city council in early 2018 to begin exploring the idea of an expansion, but concerns from neighbors who feared more room would attract disruptive events influenced planning commissioners and city council members against maxing out the remaining 3,728 square feet of floor area allowed for the 2.72-acre site. No members of the public expressed support or opposition to the addition at the Nov. 20 meeting.

Mayor Roger Spreen praised the project but lamented its size.

“I wish it were more, but I understand why it’s here, and the fact that it has everyone satisfied with it is enough to make this worthwhile,” he said. “I thank everyone for the time and effort that’s been put into doing this, so I’m excited about it.”

There are two Los Altos Hills City Council meetings scheduled for December; the special Dec. 4 meeting is slated to begin at 6:30 p.m., and the Dec. 19 meeting, a largely ceremonial affair at which Wu will assume the mayorship, is set for 6 p.m. For more information, visit losaltoshills.ca.gov.

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