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Coronavirus concerns dominate Hills council meeting

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Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier File Photo
Los Altos Hills Town Hall.
 

Before the county’s shelter-in-place order led to more consistent home occupancy, Los Altos Hills experienced an uptick in residential burglaries compared to years past, a Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office representative told the city council Thursday (March 19). 

From January through approximately the second week in March, 16 Los Altos Hills homes were burglarized, said Captain Rich Urena of the West Valley Patrol Division, which serves the town. His office recorded 13 residential burglaries in 2019 and only eight in 2018 during the same time period.

“Certainly, that’s alarming to us,” Urena said.

But the town should probably adopt a wait-and-see approach before increasing deputy patrols now that more residents are remaining home to help stem the spread of coronavirus, councilwoman Courtenay C. Corrigan advised.

“I think we’re actually going to see a drop in some of the crime with so many people at home and stuck at home and so few people able to take joy rides over to Los Altos Hills and start robbing homes and not be very noticeable,” she said.

Corrigan, like council members Roger Spreen and George Tyson, participated in the meeting via video conferencing; town officials followed the Santa Clara County Public Health Department’s guidance and limited the meeting to 10 physically present attendees. Only Mayor Michelle Wu and Vice Mayor Kavita Tankha occupied the dais, and they sat at least 6 feet apart, per the health department’s social distancing recommendation.

Coronavirus concerns superseded the meeting’s original agenda, which originally featured discussion of topics including the town’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation and the formation of additional neighborhood watch groups. Instead, the council unanimously accepted a proclamation of local emergency, which makes it possible for the town to receive financial aid from the state or federal government in the future. Wu also delivered a prepared statement.

“Compared with our neighboring cities, we have a higher percentage of senior residents,” Wu said. “We must take extra precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Protect ourselves and our families, protect our neighbors. Knowing our community is united together to combat the virus war, I truly believe this war will make us stronger.”

Both the town and the Sheriff’s Office have fielded numerous complaints from residents reporting continued activity at residential construction projects despite the county’s order, but home building – particularly affordable home building – is considered an essential service during this uncertain time, City Manager Carl Cahill told the council. He did note, however, a decline in permit requests because contractors are having trouble securing building materials now that so many businesses have closed and the supply chain is disrupted.

The town’s Planning Department is still functioning, though in-person meetings are discontinued. Cahill advised residents to call the main town hall phone number and ask to speak with Planning Director Zachary Dahl, who will set up appointments.

“We’re working on the protocols too for (the) drop off of plans to make that a more efficient process because they’re dropping them off at the door,” Cahill said. “So we’ll have that streamlined in the next few days.”

A special city council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. April 1. The agenda is not yet finalized, but city clerk Deborah Padovan said it will likely include items originally slated for discussion March 19. And as the meeting will take place via Zoom teleconference, the council chambers will remain eerily empty.

“Thank you very much for everyone attending,” Wu said to end Thursday’s meeting, chuckling.

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