Mike Mansch has spent most of his life living and working in south Los Altos. He remembers drumming up business as a shoeshine boy outside one of the businesses at Loyola Corners as far back as 1968. He has run his own business, Alotta’s Deli & Catering, at Woodland Plaza since 1985.
Benefiting from a long view of the area’s history, Mansch has seen how a lack of exposure has caused numerous businesses to close, especially after the installation of Foothill Expressway diverted drive-by traffic from Grant Road. He’d like to see the city of Los Altos erect more prominent, effective signage that better defines and attracts visitors to the area.
“I’m not saying we need an $8,000 sign,” Mansch said. “Just something with a little more prominence than a pole sign that says ‘Woodland Plaza Ahead.’”
Mansch said he doesn’t want the situation to be him versus the city. He just thinks the city could do better for Woodland Plaza than what is currently being proposed in its wayfinding program.
The area runs along the section of Grant Road parallel to Foothill Expressway, from the Woodland Branch Library to an office building just beyond Mansch’s deli. In between are a mix of offices, small retailers, service businesses and a Lucky supermarket – approximately 35 tenants in all.
Mike Herbert, co-owner of Styler’s Floor Covering on Grant, agrees that Woodland Plaza could use the help.
“We’re kind of a lost area in Los Altos,” he said.
Herbert, in business 22 years, said he receives calls every week from customers, even delivery drivers, trying to find his store.
“They hear ‘Grant Road’ and they think ‘Mountain View,’ and end up at El Camino Hospital,” Herbert said.
His business moved to the current 2057 Grant Road location approximately a year ago. Prior to that, he was in Mansch’s building at 2249 Grant.
The city should have a more prominent gateway from Cupertino heading into Los Altos, Mansch said, as it does on Fremont Avenue from Sunnyvale and on San Antonio Road from Mountain View. He’d also like to see more prominent signage on Grant, near the expressway intersection that points to where Grant angles and continues as a frontage road where Woodland Plaza is located.
City introduces signage
Assistant City Manager James Walgren said the city included new signage for Woodland Plaza as part of its recent Commercial Wayfinding Sign Program efforts.
“There are two Woodland Plaza monument ID signs on Foothill Expressway, a smaller ID sign at Homestead and a new street/address sign at the Foothill/Grant Road intersection,” Walgren wrote in an email dialogue with Mansch and members of the Los Altos City Council.
“We’ve put a lot of effort into helping him identify his district,” Walgren added last week.
But Mansch said the city signage falls short. Despite his outspokenness and willingness to get involved, he said he was not included in the wayfinding task force responsible for selecting the signage, nor was the shopping district represented.
“If you form a committee, ask for someone from here to be at the roundtable,” Mansch said.
In addition to Woodland Plaza, Phase 1 of the wayfinding proposal includes “Downtown Los Altos” signs along Interstate 280 at the El Monte Avenue exit, calls for the reduction of downtown parking directional signs that city staff deemed excessive and proposes changes to signs reducing the three-hour designation to two hours for parking in downtown plazas.
Walgren said staff would return to the city council in March with final wayfinding sign recommendations. But Mansch feels that might be too late to make the changes he thinks are needed for Woodland Plaza.
“This is not First and Main (streets) – we know that,” Mansch said. “But that doesn’t mean we don’t do the best we can (for signage).”