While welcoming the prospect of additional development along First Street in downtown Los Altos, planning commissioners said Thursday they are concerned about the congestion the projects might cause.
Several commissioners registered displeasure while discussing approval of the Development Agreement between the city of Los Altos and the Jeffrey A. Morris Group and the Mitigated Negative Declaration, which includes environmental and traffic studies, concerning the property at the intersection of First and Main streets. It’s not the project that disturbed them, but the limitations of the traffic study, they said.
According to a report by Assistant City Manager James Walgren, the study monitored traffic during the peak morning and evening hours to evaluate the project’s potential impact on downtown traffic and circulation and determined the proposed projects would not significantly impact any of the nearby intersections and would not lower the level of service at the intersections.
Traffic should also be analyzed during the lunch hours, commissioners said. More feet on the street during midday adds to the congestion around intersections.
Upcoming downtown developments should be taken into consideration as well, they added.
Construction of the three-story, 48-unit condominium project at 100 First St. is scheduled to begin sometime this spring, along with continuing the improvements along First. Several potential private developments are in the works, including a new Safeway on First Street and the new Packard Foundation office building on Second Street.
“This is an incompletely done traffic report,” Commissioner Kenneth Lorell said. “First Street is going to become a lot busier (with upcoming development projects) and I want to see an honest and believable traffic study. I like the project … just unhappy with the traffic study.”
“I see the level of traffic intensity now,” Commissioner Jon Baer said. “A newer Safeway (and the condominium complex) will bring in a lot more traffic. It’s hard to imagine this traffic study is true.”
The traffic analysis did incorporate the upcoming downtown projects, Walgren said.
“We need to look at the sum of the parts, not just this project,” Commissioner Jeannie Bruins said. “I’m very much concerned about the pinch point at the (First and Main) intersection.”
Commissioner Bill Bocook was also the lone voice of approval for the study, reminding other commissioners that they approved the downtown rezoning and all the development projects to revitalize the area.
“I’d like to see more gridlock, because that’s what we want,” Bocook said. “It’s probably a problem I’d like to have, because that would mean more vibrancy.”
The council approved an Option to Purchase Agreement in September with the Jeffrey A. Morris Group. The project is currently in a 90-day feasibility study phase during which the initial study and development agreement must be completed and approved.
Commissioners unanimously recommended approval of the Development Agreement. They also recommended approval of the Mitigated Negative Declaration, contingent on changes including staff members providing a traffic impact analysis, which would include 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. traffic counts and re-evaluating the impact of the 100 First St. and expanded Safeway Market projects.