Last updateWed, 20 Sep 2017 9am


Voters will change the face of the Los Altos City Council

Los Altos residents have a chance to reshape the makeup of the Los Altos City Council Nov. 6, with six candidates – including one incumbent – vying for three of the council’s five seats. To better inform readers of each candidate’s position on some of the issues facing Los Altos, the Town Crier asked each of them the same five questions. Following, in alphabetical order, are their responses.


Jon Baer

What motivates you to run for a seat on the Los Altos City Council?

Our family moved to Los Altos 15 years ago because it is a wonderful place to live and raise a family. As a community volunteer for more than 10 years, I’ve worked effectively with the city staff, council and Los Altos community to help effect changes while respecting the values and sensibilities that make Los Altos special. My vision is to allow our city to grow and prosper while maintaining a family-friendly, community-oriented, small-town feeling.

What personal or professional characteristics and accomplishments make you qualified to serve on the city council?

Current Los Altos Planning and Transportation Commissioner; five-plus years on the Planning Commission, elected chairman twice; four years on the Neighborhood Traffic Advisory Task Force; participated in developing the Civic Center Master Plan, revising downtown zoning and creating downtown design guidelines. As a successful entrepreneur and adviser to international startups, I offer strong business and financial acumen. My commitment: to be thoughtful, to listen, to inform stakeholders, to find solutions that reflect community values.

What are the greatest challenges facing Los Altos?

Creating a more robust and vibrant downtown that meets the needs of Los Altos residents and provides more choices in restaurants and retail stores while maintaining its charm and character.

Solving the school facilities issue – our community is being torn apart, and we need to develop a long-term plan for educating our growing student population.

Developing better processes to let everyone know about changes being considered by the city. Getting early community input will ensure that decisions reflect community needs and values, not just the best engineering solution.

Continuing to focus on fiscal responsibility, pedestrian/bicyclist safety and the needs of seniors.

How would you address these challenges?

Downtown: Be proactive about attracting new businesses. Fix the little things so that we are known as a great place to do business. Identify developers whose projects fit Los Altos’ sensibilities and encourage them to work in our town.

Schools: Understand space requirements in terms of land, then develop a comprehensive list of potential sites within the Los Altos School District, both publicly owned land as well as privately owned parcels.

Community input: Enhance the city’s website so that individuals can sign up for notifications on specific items of interest. Work with neighborhood groups to disseminate information relevant to those residents.

List three goals you would like to accomplish if elected to the city council.

• Increase downtown vibrancy while maintaining the village charm and character. I’ll make sure that the city works with developers who share our values and entice new businesses of interest to residents.

• Make sure Los Altos contains budgets, expenditures and pension costs to remain in the black.

• Great neighborhood schools are important to Los Altos, and addressing the school facilities issue is an urgent community problem that needs the attention of the school board and city council.

For more information, visit www.jonbaer.org.

Jeannie Bruins

What motivates you to run for a seat on the Los Altos City Council?

I love living in Los Altos. I enjoy being part of a community that values neighborhood schools and parks, has business districts nestled into our neighborhoods and tree-lined streets. I appreciate the small-town ambience and want to preserve and strengthen all that is good about Los Altos while evolving to meet the broader needs of our community – a community center for all ages and a vibrant downtown – in a thoughtful, well-designed way.

What personal or professional characteristics and accomplishments make you qualified to serve on the city council?

I will bring experience, leadership and integrity. The experience I bring spans the high-tech industry, nonprofits and local government. I’ve managed worldwide teams responsible for developing processes and tools to more effectively and efficiently deliver customer services. I’ve managed tight budgets and timelines. I have successfully applied my leadership skills working with nonprofits, providing focus to achieve critical success factors. I do my homework, welcome diverse viewpoints, enjoy collaboration and operate with integrity.

What are the greatest challenges facing Los Altos?

It depends on who you ask.

Downtown vibrancy: Some in our community are clamoring for a downtown that is the kind of place they want to spend time in, bustling with energy. Others prefer its quiet, more demure character.

Community center: Some view the master plan as the right plan but the wrong time. Others think it is the wrong plan, grander than needed, lacking integration with downtown, missing key services.

Schools: We need to work together to protect one of our greatest assets, our schools.

Fiscal management: Sound financial decisions, balanced budget, pension reform.

How would you address these challenges?

A common denominator for the challenges being voiced is the feeling of disconnect between members of the council and our residents. Residents want a meaningful way to engage. I would: (1) open up channels of communication – leveraging what are now informal neighborhood associations, expanding our public noticing and going beyond the required minimum; (2) schedule public forums where healthy exchange of information, ideas and opinions can take place; and (3) make use of charettes in project planning. We can and should be more inclusive, bringing in multiple viewpoints, representing all age groups and working together to address key issues and opportunities.

List three goals you would like to accomplish if elected to the city council.

• Develop a community engagement plan that includes immediate and longer-term solutions, includes all stakeholder groups and goes beyond the minimum requirement of posting public notices.

• Develop a downtown master plan that defines our needs and desires, is strategic and forward looking, respects our values and heritage, provides context and understanding, promotes dialogue and includes the community center.

• Develop a neighborhood-focused approach to transportation issues – considerate of all modes of transportation and including affected neighborhoods and school communities.

For more information, visit www.jeanniebruins.org.

Anabel Pelham


What motivates you to run for a seat on the Los Altos City Council?

I want to help guide Los Altos to be the world-class, destination, model town it can be. Los Altos faces many important, complex and time-sensitive issues. We need to stand on our heritage and step up our game. We can create a sense of place and foster environmental stewardship. I have earned the skills, knowledge and values to help guide us to a forward-looking town for all generations. I’m ready to work!

What personal or professional characteristics and accomplishments make you qualified to serve on the city council?

I have 30 years of leadership experience and a record of successes in organizing values-driven goals/objectives and accomplishing outcomes with everyone at the table. I have been a department head/programs director, major grants and contracts manager and president of both a state and national organization. I am a Senior Commissioner, led the Age-Friendly Cities Initiative and am published in the field. I bring a global perspective, I listen and I can make the council a priority.

What are the greatest challenges facing Los Altos?

Our greatest challenges are socioeconomic and
political. I believe Los Altos is at a crossroads in terms of problematic economic vitality and diminished civic engagement. I see important and complex gaps between what we are and what we could be as a more beautiful, lively, green and people-friendly community. It’s time to energetically join together to adapt to changing environments and apply best practices to our planning, policies and future. We need to renew a sense of hope and welcome citizen participation in civic life. I wish to leverage our collective intellect and creative dynamism to rediscover Los Altos.

How would you address these challenges?

Our town’s challenges will change, as will the local/global environment. I wish to work with a new council to bring a steady hand, an evidence-based approach and an inclusive style to the problem-solving process. First and foremost, I wish to reach out and leverage the intellect and neighborhood organizations we already retain. We urgently need a shared vision and master plan for the central downtown core and civic center – including safe crossings at Foothill Expressway and San Antonio Road. I wish to organize three public/private partnerships for a world-class community center, a fixed-route mini shuttle and WiFi for Los Altos.

List three goals you would like to accomplish if elected to the city council.

• Growing a renewed sense of hope and re-energized civic engagement among all our citizens in our town’s future.

• Using models for “consensus decision making” for an inclusive, efficient, effective and timely development of a communitywide master plan focusing on the downtown core and civic center.

• Creating a process that encourages and supports public/private partnerships for a variety of community projects, including the civic center, a mini bus and WiFi for Los Altos.

For more information, visit www.anabelpelham.org.

Jan Pepper

What motivates you to run for a seat on the Los Altos City Council?

I am running to bring a fresh perspective to the council and expand the council skill set, which will lead to better decision-making. I have loved living here for 27 years, and my two children received excellent educations in our public schools. I am eager to work with the significant community talent and apply my leadership knowledge in business, engineering and good government to create a future that builds and respects our community values.

What personal or professional characteristics and accomplishments make you qualified to serve on the city council?

I bring leadership skills in good government and 30 years of business management experience.

As past president of our League of Women Voters, I promote transparency, integrity and consensus-building in government. Starting and leading three successful renewable energy companies, I know how to innovate creative solutions, manage tight budgets, ask hard questions and make good decisions. Working at Silicon Valley Power provides direct experience in how the city council can work with city staff effectively.

What are the greatest challenges facing Los Altos?

• Resolving the Los Altos School District/Bullis Charter School issue. Although the purview of the Los Altos School District, the entire community is affected, as excellent schools keep property values high and are the reason many choose to live in Los Altos.

• Determining next steps with the civic center. Residents do not have the appetite to fund the proposed civic center plan, but existing facilities at Hillview Community Center need attention.

• Increasing commercial-area vibrancy, in particular the downtown area.

• Keeping streets safe for cars, bicycles and pedestrians.

How would you address these challenges?

• The city council should work cooperatively with all stakeholders to reach a positive solution, including Mountain View, Palo Alto and Los Altos Hills, some of whose residents live in the Los Altos School District.

• Develop a vision/master plan/implementation roadmap for the downtown triangle and the civic center combined that integrates the existing urban design plan, Downtown Design Guidelines, general plan, zoning districts and the soon-to-be-completed parking study. Actively involve residents to validate the plan.

• Work cooperatively with residents and property owners to attract appropriate retail businesses.

• Actively involve residents in neighborhood traffic solutions and implement the bicycle transportation plan.

List three goals you would like to accomplish if elected to the city council.

• Represent the city as a stakeholder in the Los Altos School District/Bullis Charter School dispute to facilitate a timely and positive solution.

• Schedule regular neighborhood discussion sessions throughout the city with council and city staff. Using social media, inform and involve residents early to allow for timely public input to create positive solutions.

• Develop and implement a roadmap for an integrated downtown triangle and civic center plan that increases vibrancy and green building practices.

For more information, visit www.pepperforcouncil.com.

Megan Satterlee (incumbent)

What motivates you to run for a seat on the Los Altos City Council?

In my first term, the council adopted a number of plans, including the Bicycle Transportation, Collector Street Traffic Calming and Parks. In my second term, I would like to guide their timely implementation, including gathering community input on each project and prioritizing between the projects in different plans in a way that works within our resource constraints.

I also want to make sure pension reform is continued in the upcoming union negotiations.

What personal or professional characteristics and accomplishments make you qualified to serve on the city council?

Civic experience: Los Altos mayor, 2008-2009; Los Altos city councilmember, 2007-present; Los Altos Planning Commissioner, 2006-2007; Architecture and Site Review Committee chairwoman, 2007; Board of Adjustments member, 2006-2007; Sunnyvale Planning Commissioner, 1998-2003.

Career/education: Hewlett-Packard Co., 1996-present; M.B.A. and J.D., UCLA; B.A., Stanford University.

Community: Community Health Awareness Council board member; North County Library Authority
member; Stevens Creek Trail Joint Cities Working Team member.

What are the greatest challenges facing Los Altos?

Los Altos faces escalating costs related to aging infrastructure and state regulation. At the same time, in part due to the growing population in the region, our need for infrastructure improvement has grown. All of this puts pressure on our Capital Improvement Budget, currently financed only through a budget surplus. We must find a way to live within our means and make meaningful progress on projects.

We have a community in conflict over Bullis Charter School and school facilities.

We also have a community divided over the desirability of changes in our downtown.

How would you address these challenges?

I will continue to pursue pension reform, seek to maximize the use of available grants and work to make Capital Improvement Projects a budgeted item so that there is no dependency on a surplus to fund maintenance. I will review a 10-year property-tax revenue projection.

I will work with the Los Altos School District to ensure full community participation in a dialogue about what to do to address facilities for Bullis Charter School as well as accommodate any projected enrollment growth.

First Street construction should be done in 2014. I will re-engage the community in a dialogue about the changes in downtown and possible next steps.

List three goals you would like to accomplish if re-elected to the city council.

• Ensure solid fiscal planning by adopting balanced budgets, continuing pension reform and completing a 10-year property-tax revenue study.

• Continue infrastructure modifications that reduce speeds without diverting traffic and add pedestrian and bicycle facilities, making passage safer for cars, bikes and pedestrians.

• Complete the Parking Management Study and adopt policies as appropriate following a public engagement. Parking should support the retail and restaurant mix we desire as a community.

For more information, visit www.megansatterlee.com.

Jerry Sorensen

What motivates you to run for a seat on the Los Altos City Council?

The opportunity to implement effective solutions to our challenges. As a citizen, I have either identified or developed cost-effective solutions for downtown economic vibrancy, parking management and supply, traffic at our major signalized intersections and the looming issue of pension reform. The next big issue is working with our school district to find an additional school site.

What personal or professional characteristics and accomplishments make you qualified to serve on the city council?

The solutions I have developed to long-term Los Altos problems. This includes downtown economic and social vibrancy, parking and traffic, which have been the primary concerns for 40 years. My professional experience in land use, development and management consulting is the exact experience required to address the school site issue as well as every one of our downtown issues, pension reform and alternative service delivery methods.

What are the greatest challenges facing Los Altos?

On the expense side of the ledger, pension reform. I recognized this as the single most important issue facing every California jurisdiction 10 years ago. Three cities have filed bankruptcy, others will follow. San Jose has let go 2,000 employees and needs to terminate 2,000 more. We can solve this issue, but it requires immediate attention. Our cost of services is escalating at an alarming rate but can be stabilized through public-private partnerships. On the income side of the ledger, our downtown. We need to develop zoning supported by the community that will allow our downtown to flourish.

How would you address these challenges?

Through the development of public-private partnerships. There are cities we can model that have used this management philosophy to reduce cost of services by 40 percent, and improve service levels by 50 percent, while immediately ending increased pension liabilities.

For downtown, we need to use the charette process to engage the entire community to understand the benefits, alternatives and tradeoffs required to have a vibrant downtown and then master plan and zone to that result.

List three goals you would like to accomplish if elected to the city council.

• A workable master plan for our downtown and civic center based on community engagement.

• A positive working relationship with our school districts that leads to a solution for our campus needs.

• Public-private partnerships for the delivery of services. Reducing costs and future pension obligations.

For more information, visit www.sorensen4council.org.


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