Photo By: Courtesy of City of San Bruno
The city of San Bruno’s new big-picture civic planning process could inspire Los Altos to follow suit – or at least that’s what some members of Los Altos Forward believe.
During an event last week organized by Los Altos Forward – the grassroots, nonprofit organization that promotes ways to increase downtown vibrancy – a group of local residents, including two former city mayors and three city councilmembers from Los Altos and Los Altos Hills, joined Los Altos Forward member Kim Cranston for a presentation on how San Bruno engaged stakeholders to create a roadmap for future development and growth in the city.
“Hopefully Los Altos will do something like (San Bruno’s plan) to engage the community in the visioning and planning process,” said Cranston, a downtown property owner and activist. “We can learn best practices from other communities to gather some DNA from those examples to figure out what is best for Los Altos.”
Aaron Aknin, former planner for the city of San Bruno, shared insight into how the city initiated its comprehensive general plan. In addition to securing an Environmental Impact Report and $500,000 from the city council for plans, the project leaders organized a steering committee and coordinated numerous workshops and design charettes to include residents in the process.
“As people saw that we were responding to their concerns, their buy-in increased,” Aknin noted.
Although building a critical mass of support for the city’s development plans was key, Aknin emphasized the importance of synchronization with economic reality. He said his team didn’t want to generate something that was never going to be built – a fear that stifles many stakeholders from investing in planning projects. As components of the overall plan, the San Bruno team developed design guidelines and zoning and transportation maps.
Cranston said the goal of the Los Altos Forward meeting was to prompt dialogue on how a community-driven plan could benefit Los Altos.
“If you don’t have an overall plan, you don’t know where you’re going,” he said. “Otherwise, we’re taking the Sarah Winchester approach to development … one block at a time, one room at a time.”