Members of the Downtown Development Committee (DDC) postponed presenting an Environmental Impact Report for the Downtown Opportunity Study to the Los Altos City Council, opting first to review current guidelines and amend them if necessary.
"Even if it takes a bit longer, let’s get it right," said Ron Labetich, president of Ron Labetich Company Inc., real estate broker and DDC member.
The DDC Oct. 6 directed Los Altos city staff to present an overview of the previous committee's work on the guidelines for the Downtown Opportunity Study at the DDC's Oct. 20 meeting.
"We need to know what our current guidelines are and what the previous committee accomplished before we can proceed," said Val Carpenter, Los Altos City Councilwoman and chairwoman of the DDC.
"Let's postpone the EIR until staff can provide us with the information and an overview of the process," said Bill Maston, architect and DDC member.
The EIR process – which takes from six to eight months – involves preparing the scope of work, sending out requests to firms and awarding a contract to a firm, according to James Walgren, Los Altos assistant city manager and director of planning, building and engineering. The firm will then conduct a field analysis and prepare a draft EIR, which requires a 45-day review period, Walgren said.
The current DDC – previously known as Downtown Zoning Committee III – was first appointed by the Los Altos City Council in early 2008 as Downtown Zoning Committee I, which later became committee II.
The DDC – comprising Los Altos councilmembers, business and property owners, community members and city staff – is exploring ways to attract more customers downtown and increase parking spaces, without diminishing its village character.
To that end, members of the public raised the possibility of more high-density commercial and residential development downtown.
"There's a lot of positive feedback from the community about density," said Forrest Linebarger, Land Use Committee chairman for GreenTown Los Altos and CEO of VOX Design Group, a sustainable architecture firm in Mountain View.
Linebarger introduced GreenTown's vision for downtown at a forum Sept. 22; it calls for three- and four-story mixed-use buildings on Main Street, dedicated bike lanes, outdoor eating areas and a central park.
Faced with a downtown retail vacancy rate at nearly 6 percent, a low and stagnant sales-tax revenue and competitive, low rents, the committee should "get something going as fast as possible," said Kim Cranston, property owner. The DDC should not limit building sizes to two stories but look at possibly allowing three- and four-story development, Cranston said.
The DDC's current charter is to review zoning regulations for the downtown commercial district, develop the commercial design guidelines and explore ways to increase downtown parking. However, the DDC has submitted a recommendation to the city council to amend its charter to include a review of the existing zoning along First Street and to propose recommendations, if any, for zoning amendments that would facilitate mixed-use development inclusive of housing along First Street.