Los Altos Hills council ponders new restrictions on committee appointment, fixed-term memberships

In an effort to rein in town standing committees that have grown unwieldy, Los Altos Hills may soon require council appointment of associate members. The city council Thursday directed town staff to draft a committee charter resolution with language requiring appointment to serve as well as designation of fixed terms for associates.

They also agreed Mayor Michelle Wu should periodically meet with committee chairs to suss out problems and that council members Roger Spreen and Courtenay C. Corrigan should comprise an ad hoc subcommittee to continue exploring town committees’ effectiveness. A potential outcome of this evaluation, they suggested, could be the dissolution of some committees in favor of less formal groupings of residents who share a common interest.

“I don’t see the structure of all these committees as being vital to the good governance we need to do in town, and I’d like to suggest it’s time to look at that again,” Corrigan said.

From History and Education to Pathways and Open Space, there are 16 Los Altos Hills standing committees tasked with advising the council on various town-related topics. They consist of volunteer members, who are appointed by the council and serve fixed terms, and associate members, who are not appointed and who can serve indefinitely but without voting privileges.

While some of these groups struggle to attract and retain membership, others, particularly those that advise the council on potentially controversial development matters, are overburdened with participation. At times they’ve become a drain on staff time and resources, and the council has made it a priority this year to thoroughly evaluate and attempt to improve the committee structure.

Council members will review the draft resolution at a future meeting.

New pathways planned

With Corrigan dissenting, the council voted 4-1 to amend the town’s master path plan to include a trail access location near the west end of Laura Court as well as four new pathway segments: from Story Hill Lane to Page Mill Road; on Northcrest Lane from Olive Tree Lane to Stonebrook Drive; from Dianne Drive to East Sunset Drive; and between Zappettini Court, Central Drive and Westwind Community Barn.
Public comment on the agenda item included protests from residents who said the paths would cut through or come uncomfortably close to their property.

Maciej Kieturakis decried the Story Hill Lane Path’s proximity to his driveway, located on the 12000 block of Page Mill Road.

“I am very concerned about it,” he said. “This will be very disruptive to our life, and I am going to insist that this path is not going to be there, and I will do everything in my power to actually just oppose this.”

Other residents argued in support of the future paths by stating they are important as emergency access and safe walking routes. The Story Hill Lane Path, for example, is expected to facilitate easier access to Foothills Park in Palo Alto.

“At present, there’s no continuous way to navigate as a pedestrian on Page Mill, and many parts of Page Mill have no shoulder for a car, let alone for a pedestrian to walk,” said Robert Elson, a member of the Pathways Committee. “So, yes, I would say it’s dangerous.”

Designation of paths on the town’s master path plan only indicates a potential for a new path; the path may never actually get built, said principal planner Steve Padovan as he summarized comments made by residents at a prior Planning Commission meeting.

$100K to fund sculpture

The council on Thursday approved a Public Art Committee proposal to commission “Hills Helix,” a sculpture by San Jose artist Roger White Stoller, for placement at town hall – likely in front of the History House. The stainless-steel sculpture, expected to stand between 10 and 12 feet tall, will be in a conic shape featuring iconography relevant to Los Altos Hills. The helical form is meant to represent “growth” and “innovation” with a lace-like element invoking an oak tree.

The purchase was made possible by a $100,000 donation Hills resident and artist Karen Druker made to the town in January. Once a contract is signed with Stoller, “Hills Helix” should be ready for installation within 12 to 14 months.

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