Construction junction: Flood of new development hits downtown Los Altos

Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Photo Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier

Construction crews at the site of the former post office on First Street excavate the property for underground parking as part of developer Randy Lamb’s condominium project.

Years from now, 2013 may well be remembered as the year of construction in downtown Los Altos.

With a handful of projects under way or set to kick off later this year in and around the downtown triangle, the presence of cranes, bulldozers and construction crews has become a part of the landscape – at least for now.

The Town Crier gathered updates on downtown’s development projects. Details follow.

First Street Safeway

Wendy Gutshall, Safeway public affairs and government relations manager, told the Town Crier that the groundbreaking for a 45,000-square-foot podium-style grocery store at 160 First St. is scheduled for March.

She added that while a closing date for the existing market has yet to be finalized, the company anticipates a two-month period to decommission and demolish the existing 45-year-old structure.

From there, she noted, construction on the new store is projected to take 10 months to complete, with a proposed completion date of March 2014.

In the meantime, the company continues to make refinements to the project.

In December, Safeway received a Planning and Transportation Commission recommendation to approve an interior ceiling height change for the store. According to a city staff report, the company specifically requested the removal of a drop ceiling to allow for “a greater architectural aesthetic, and allow for natural lighting through skylights in the roof.”

The Los Altos City Council scheduled the ceiling change final approval for Tuesday, past the Town Crier’s press deadline.

First Street streetscape

The next phase of the city’s First Street streetscape project is slated to begin May 1, according to Los Altos Assistant City Manager James Walgren.

The $1.3 million project’s Phase 1B construction calls for, among other things, sidewalk improvements stretching from the intersection of First and State streets to Shasta Street. Project work includes sidewalk widening to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, additional landscaping with centralized irrigation lines and utility undergrounding.

Walgren said sidewalk construction along the east side of First Street is scheduled for completion just before the Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival in July. Intersection work at State and First streets will begin shortly after the festival, with a targeted completion date of Oct. 1, he added.

Walgren noted that “there is some question” as to when the city can undertake the final component of the Phase 1B project – street resurfacing from the corner of State Street to Edith Avenue.

Because it hinges on the completion of construction and sidewalk work by Safeway and developer Randy Lamb’s housing project at 100 First St., the city may opt to wait on street resurfacing until 2014 to minimize disruption for merchants during the holidays, he said.

San Antonio Road streetscape

Construction crews began work on the 90-day San Antonio Road streetscape project Jan. 7.

According to Los Altos Economic Development Manager Kathy Kleinbaum, the project calls for sidewalk widening along the downtown side of the road to comply with ADA requirements, the construction of a 4-foot plant wall that will serve as screening for Parking Plaza 3 and the relandscaping of medians between First Street and West Edith Avenue, among other upgrades.

Kleinbaum noted that the project will – at times – reduce San Antonio Road to one lane each way between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. during median work.

Updates on the project are available at

Condominium complex at 396 First St.

The Lennar Homes development of 20 condominium units at the former site of Adobe Animal Hospital is nearing the finish line, according to Laura Kilgore, the company’s director of marketing for Northern California.

All told, Kilgore said the company is “hoping” to complete the project in late January or early February, though no specific opening date has been determined. Kilgore noted that the company recently released its first three homes for sale at the site.

The first units entered the market with prices ranging from $740,000 for an 804-square-foot unit with one bedroom and one bathroom to $1.19 million for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom 1,534-square-foot unit.

Condominium complex at 100 First St.

Lamb’s 48-unit condominium project kicked off in September when crews demolished the nearly 50-year-old post office at 100 First St.

Calls and emails to Lamb seeking additional information were not returned by the Town Crier’s press deadline.

Walgren, however, said he anticipates that the 14- to 16-month project won’t be completed until early 2014.

“I’d say they’re probably a year, or maybe more, out,” he said, adding that the next step for construction crews at the site involves excavation for an underground parking structure.

First and Main project

Developer Jeffrey A. Morris declined to comment about his project at the corner of First and Main streets, which calls for a pair of two-story retail and Class A office buildings connected by a second-floor span.

Walgren said that while Morris hasn’t submitted final construction drawings to the city for approval, he’s expected to do so before May.

“My expectation is they’ll be submitting shortly for plan checks and permits,” said Walgren, who added that the project is expected to take 14 to 16 months to complete.

Enchanté, Le Boutique Hôtel

According to developer Abby Ahrens, construction crews began pouring concrete to form the foundation of her 18-room hotel at 1 Main St. during the first week of January.

Framing for the $8 million project at the corner of First Street and San Antonio Road is scheduled for spring, added Ahrens, who held a groundbreaking ceremony Nov. 28.

The project is expected to take 15 months to complete.

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