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Los Altos residents voice concerns at last neighborhood meeting


Melissa Hartman/Town Crier
Residents attend Thursday’s Neighborhood Community Engagement Meeting.

Los Altos residents took city officials up on an offer to answer questions and listen to their concerns about ongoing changes at a Neighborhood Community Engagement Meeting last week.

City staff and representatives of the police department and other local agencies scheduled five meetings, divided by geographic zone, in the three-month-long pilot program, with Los Altos City Councilwoman Anita Enander hosting the final one Thursday at Almond School.

After Los Altos emergency preparedness coordinator Ann Hepenstal, Police Capt. Scott McCrossin, engineering services director Jim Sandoval and Cal Water district manager Ron Richardson updated residents about the work of their respective organizations, a few residents asked Enander for her take on a variety of controversial topics.

Enander fielded questions about the upcoming review of the city’s building codes and the impact of pending housing-density legislation like the state’s Senate Bill 50 on the primarily single-family-home city of Los Altos. Addressing SB 50, Enander said the bill, set to return to legislators this month after a delay, is still “the SB 50 we all hated.”

Safety

Hepenstal recommended several courses of action that would both enable residents to help prevent crime in their neighborhoods and promote social interaction and bonding.

She encouraged the approximately 40 attendees to register for Alert SCC, Santa Clara County’s emergency alert system, and the Los Altos Police Department’s alerts via Nixle, the city-specific service that warns residents about emergencies and informs them of special events.

McCrossin provided prevention tips for property-related crimes, the most consistent category in Los Altos. He also spotlighted programs available to residents, including complimentary home security inspections, outlined on the police department’s website.

Engineering and maintenance

Sandoval highlighted construction projects that will affect residents in coming months.

A PG&E gas line is set to be replaced along parts of El Monte Avenue and Covington Road beginning this week, a project kick-started after the agency was found at fault for the San Bruno pipeline explosion in 2010.

In addition, Sandoval said, Almond Avenue is scheduled to be resurfaced from San Antonio Road to El Monte Avenue in 2020 after it received what amounts to a C+ on the city’s street standard rating. Sandoval did not provide an exact timetable for the project, noting that more streets need repair than the city has designated money for.

Sandoval concluded his presentation by touching on the Los Altos Community Center overhaul, in the foundation-laying stage through this month, and the Foothill Expressway improvement project, a county-led effort to expand the stretch from El Monte to San Antonio from four to six lanes, prompting road closures from March to November.

Development

No one from the city’s Planning Department attended the meeting to discuss mixed-use and housing developments in the pipeline. Trevor Marsden, the Los Altos management fellow responsible for organizing the engagement meetings, pinch-hit, moving through projects such as the five four-story complexes on First Street under consideration or approved by city officials, Los Altos Community Investments’ food court and office complex at 170 State St., the mixed-use project at 343 Main St. and the largest affordable-housing complex in the city’s history at 5150 El Camino Real.

In total, the projects discussed will provide the city with approximately 40 below-market-rate housing units. If the city can find $50 million through a grant and replace an investor in the 5150 El Camino Real project, there’s potential for turning the planned 28 affordable units into 84 affordable units, bringing the total below-market-rate units for the projects detailed at the engagement meeting to nearly 100.

Keeping the water flowing

Richardson gave an overview of work done since major water-main breaks erupted behind Los Altos High School, dating back to 2009. Much of Cal Water’s work in Los Altos following the incidents has focused on replacing mains to avoid such problems in the future, he said.

In 2019, Cal Water completed the first of two phases of installing transmission mains in Los Altos to upgrade the city’s water infrastructure. The company plans to give Los Altos a reprieve this year as residents deal with the impact of widening Foothill Expressway and other projects.

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