Seeking truth about First Street Green
In the Aug. 16 Town Crier, I read a quote from Los Altos Community Investments representative Kelly Snider in the article “First Street Green project heads to city commissions”: “Eighty-seven percent of voters and residents in Los Altos thought a new community gathering area downtown was a good idea.”
I find this questionable. I looked at the current survey the city of Los Altos is doing online now concerning the current temporary Downtown Green and found that when asked, “Would you like to see more public gathering space in downtown Los Altos?” 57 percent responded, “No, I think downtown is just fine the way it is.”
In response to another question, 85 percent said they would not support the Downtown Green returning next year.
Some of the reasons residents stated for disliking the Green is that it smells like dog pee and there is trash from overflowing bins. Other residents said it is too small and makes driving in the area difficult.
In our tech-savvy community, who do we believe?
Do I believe the business owners, who say it is hurting their businesses? Do I listen to them when they say their customers’ feedback tells them that 83 percent of their customers do not like the Green?
There are 19,833 registered voters in Los Altos. LACI claims that 17,254 voters, or 87 percent, think a permanent First Street Green is a good idea. LACI proposes donating $25 million to this failed idea to con us out of our tree-lined parking lot on First Street. I did not get to vote. Did you?
LACI project would be good deal for city
When you look at the merchant turnover and the vacant storefronts, it is pretty clear that downtown Los Altos is not healthy financially. The status quo is unsustainable.
We can all wish it wasn’t so and that we could freeze the Village back in the 1970s or ’80s. But the same technology in Silicon Valley that created the ability to shop on your phone is making it harder and harder to be a local merchant in a small, somewhat remote, shopping district. Change and, with it, development, are going to happen.
While I can see why some are unhappy about what has happened on First Street, it has happened. More to the point, the property that has been acquired by Los Altos Community Investments on First Street is either vacant, below code or operating at little or no profitability.
If these assembled properties were sold to a developer, that developer would have the right to build a two-story, 90,000-plus-square-foot office building that would come out to the sidewalk. Sure, the city could horse them around in design review for a while and otherwise try to obstruct a project through bureaucratic delay, but eventually the building would be constructed consistent with existing zoning.
The choice in front of the city is not to prevent development of this property. That is going to happen. The choice is whether it would be smarter to trade the 90,000-plus square feet that add nothing to the character of the city for what is being offered: a significantly smaller building, with greater setback and greater terracing, and additional public parking, while still obtaining a fresh supply of needed Class A office space to enhance midday, midweek demand from the local merchants – and a town square to act as a focal point for our long-suffering Village.
It seems like a lot of benefit for the city, and we should not wait for LACI to lose patience and move on.