Los Altos preparing for fall community center opening

Construction on the new Los Altos Community Center is scheduled to wrap as soon as June 10, but the new facilities won’t be open to the public until the fall, city council members learned last week.

Donna Legge, the city’s recreation and community services director, told the council April 13 that staff members would be moving in to the 24,500-square-foot facility and undergoing training over the summer in preparation for public, in-person use. The X-factor in the plans, she indicated, is when and to what extent COVID-related public health restrictions would be lifted.

“We wanted to make sure that the (biggest) number of people could participate whether it’s virtual or in person at the time,” Legge said of the decision to open in the fall. “It’s after everybody’s back in school, it’s when most of the people are done with their vacations ... and by that time, we will have moved in.”

The council accepted a phased-in parks and recreation department plan for in-person community center and citywide recreation programs. The plan includes continued virtual programs in the transition.

Aiding the department’s efforts is recent installation of a new software program that makes it easier for residents to sign up for classes and easier for staff to process payments.

Recreation director Jamie Chew said the plan includes remote and in-person outdoor classes for summer, acceptance of facility reservations beginning in August, citywide in-person programming beginning in fall and in-person special events beginning in October.

Housing element update

The council accepted an annual progress report on the city’s housing element. The report, to be sent to the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), shows how many new housing units have been generated over the past year. The city is nearing the end of one eight-year cycle for housing unit targets and will begin a new cycle in 2023. Los Altos is set to receive a new target from HCD for its Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) this summer and will need to submit its housing plan for the new cycle by January 2023.

According to the report presented by community development director Jon Biggs and planning services manager Guido Persicone, new units recorded last year include a 26-unit project on First Street and 62 accessory dwelling units approved by the planning department.

One major revelation during the discussion was the department’s realization that HCD was no longer allowing the counting of single-family-home teardowns and rebuilds as net new units – a fact that may force city planners to revise housing counts going back years.

Campbell Planning Commissioner Adam Buchbinder offered written and oral correspondence to the council, alleging the city has misreported and had yet to update its past numbers.

“Before we turn in revised reports for prior years, I want to do some checking to confirm this,” Biggs said following the council meeting. “I don’t have a number yet, but this would most likely only apply to the above-moderate-income housing units in our RHNA count.”

Goals/objectives discussed

After lengthy discussion and some tweaking, council members adopted five-year strategic goals for 2021 and 2021-2023 objectives.

Among the two-year objectives: support efforts to keep the community safe, including support of efforts on the vaccine rollout; support economic recovery; review measures put in place resulting from the city’s public safety task force; complete recruitment of the city’s next city manager; review the council’s code of conduct and its relationship with city commissions; and continue to create a culture of “diversity, equity and access.”

Among the top five-year goals were: creation of housing; supporting a land-use mix and density reflecting “values of the community,” including seeking to protect and increase its green space; fiscal sustainability; traffic; maintaining and improving city facilities and infrastructure; environmental sustainability; improving community engagement; and continuing to navigate through the challenges posed by COVID-19.

Flag lot plan approved

The council approved a conditional-use permit to create a flag lot for two new houses on a large lot at 1074 Riverside Drive.

The action reapportions two underlying lots on a nearly 30,000-square-foot property; an interior lot would be 10,756 square feet, the flag lot would total 16,982 square feet. With Hale Creek flowing through the back of the property, the approvals include setbacks to accommodate 2007 water protection guidelines and a Letter of Map Amendment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency because the property is in a flood zone.

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