Here are our thoughts on the most impactful stories for Los Altos and Los Altos Hills in 2008.
â€¢Â The economy. Obviously the biggest ongoing story of the year from a worldwide, national and local perspective. The recently recognized recession was felt everywhere, hurting stock options and 401Ks, and causing concern for even the most well-off local residents. In October, the stock market and high-tech stocks took a major tumble, as reflected by our own Town Crier Stock Index.
â€¢Â Green, green. It seemed everywhere we looked, we saw community leaders and residents thinking about conserving energy and resources. The emergence of grassroots group Cool Los Altos, later changed to GreenTown Los Altos, pushed local leaders to approve taking an inventory of municipal greenhouse gas emissions and ban bottled water from the council chambers. Reducing one's "carbon footprint" became a popular phrase, and Councilman David Casas offered to undergo such a reduction starting with his own household.
â€¢Â Change in the trash business. Speaking of green, Los Altos Hills leaders made a major move when they discontinued a 30-year relationship with Los Altos Garbage Company in favor of Green Waste Recovery Services. The town's research showed that Green Waste was more efficient, less costly and, yes, greener, with less waste going to landfill. Los Altos is currently evaluating its own trash contract.
â€¢Â ATM woes. One of the biggest crime stories of the year – in terms of the number of people impacted – was a rash of ATM thefts traced to an Arco station and Bank of America in Los Altos that involved approximately 60 residents. Thieves used technology to copy card ID numbers and access accounts.
â€¢Â Downtown plans, improvements on upswing. City leaders and developers were working on new projects in 2008, including a new office and retail building at Main Street and San Antonio Road; an office building to replace Bank of the West on Third Street; and another office building on First Street. Recognizing that more than 40,000 vehicles pass through Los Altos on San Antonio Road each day, city crews painted street poles, planted trees and repaired irrigation systems in the medians; crosswalks with flashing lights for pedestrian safety were installed and downtown landscaping improved dramatically. City leaders moved forward with plans to revamp the city's aging civic and community center.
â€¢Â Los Altos Hills reopened its neighborhood school. The Los Altos School District opened the new Gardner Bullis School in August, at the Fremont Road site where the district had closed Bullis-Purissima School in 2003. In the process, the district healed some hurt resulting from the initial closing.
â€¢Â Good news for day workers. Led by an advisory committee comprising several Los Altos leaders, the Day Worker Center of Mountain View secured new property on Escuela Avenue, setting sights on establishing a new, permanent center for the agency.
â€¢Â Sewer rate increases. Years of deferred maintenance came back to haunt Los Altos city leaders and residents, forcing the city to raise sewer rates. This year, some saw their rates more than double, spurring appeals to city hall. In addition, the California Water Service Company received approval on a rate increase of its own.
â€¢Â Not in my backyard. A 140-foot-tall monopole, used for emergency communications, arose this year at the south end of the Los Altos police station, drawing ire from surrounding neighbors who felt taken by surprise. City officials said they gave ample notice.