The 'no' votes have it in fractious Measure C race

Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Attendees of the No on Measure C election party mingle inside 359 State St., an empty downtown Los Altos shop previously home to Los Altos Research Center.

When the dust settled from phone calling, door knocking and campaign sign posting, the “no” votes outweighed the “yeses,” as one of Los Altos’ most controversial initiatives in years was heading to defeat in the Nov. 6 election.

Measure C, which would have required any land-use change to city-owned property larger than 7,500 square feet to go before voters, was losing by 363 votes as of Monday morning. Tallies compiled by the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters reported 4,206 votes against the measure (52.25 percent) versus 3,843 in favor (47.75 percent).

Pro-Measure C backers were not ready last week to acknowledge defeat.

“There seem to be many votes not counted, so we don’t know what to think,” said Yes on Measure C spokeswoman Nancy Phillips.

Those who worked to defeat Measure C also were hesitant to declare victory.

“While all of the ballots are not counted, it looks as though the voters understood some of the downsides of Measure C,” said Robin Abrams with the “No on C” steering committee. “Regardless of the outcome we need to work together to make the town better.”

Measure C, in its early stages called the Protect Our Parks and City-Owned Lands Initiative, proposed to exert direct control by residents over any lease, sale or rezoning of city-owned property – even those deemed “public and institutional,” which had legal pundits wondering whether the initiative impacted land owned by churches.

The questions surrounding its impact inspired the No on C campaign’s “Costly, Confusing” slogan. No on C backers also pointed out that special elections required by the measure could end up costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Measure C proponents, however, said the initiative was a smart, proactive attempt to prevent significant land-use changes at the hands of a three-person city council majority. Residents would have a say if, for example, the council wanted to repurpose one or more of its parking plazas for building development with underground parking – one of several scenarios outlined in the Downtown Vision plan the council signed off on in August. Although conceptual and serving as a guideline, some residents saw the plan as a threat to the small-town atmosphere of downtown, still often referred to as “The Village.”

The measure played favorably to voters in the southern parts of Los Altos, according to precinct results, while most precincts in the northern parts of town voted against it.

Measure D passes

The high-profile debate over Measure C overshadowed the other measure on the Nov. 6 ballot. Measure D, which proposed to raise the transient occupancy tax from 11 percent to 14 percent, was passing early Monday with 4,502 votes in favor (57.99 percent) and 3,262 against (42.01 percent).

City projections show the 3 percent hike, paid by tourists and visitors at the city’s hotels, would generate an additional $700,000 in revenues for the city annually. Prior to Measure D passing, the city was bringing in $2.7 million annually with its transient occupancy tax.

Los Altos City Attorney Chris Diaz said the transient occupancy tax would be imposed on occupants of a room or hotel space for dwelling, lodging or sleeping purposes for a period of 30 consecutive days or less.

Los Altos has three hotels within its borders: the Enchanté Boutique Hotel at Main Street and San Antonio Road downtown, and the Residence Inn and Courtyard Inn by Marriott, both along El Camino Real.

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