Letters to the Editor - week of Oct. 31

Note: This online version includes additional letters that were not included in the print edition due to lack of space.

LA acting in ‘bad faith’ on ADU ordinances

I read with interest Jerry Clements’ “Other Voices” column in the Oct. 17 Town Crier (“The double-talk ordinances”). I am in support of his article and would like to share additional information on the subject.

I’ve been a resident of Los Altos for over 25 years. I am an engineer by training and read the new state law on accessory dwelling units (ADUs). The state law does not impose on cities the requirement this city has claimed to justify the changes they passed regulating ADUs and accessory structures.

No other city in this state – not Palo Alto and not Mountain View, for instance – changed their ordinances as Los Altos did. If the state indeed required those changes, would not all cities in this state be required to comply with those changes by now? 

I and other residents brought this to the attention of the Los Altos City Council July 10. We filed a complaint and provided evidence of city staff, the mayor and the city attorney misleading, fabricating and lying to the council and residents to justify the changes. We demanded an independent investigation and public discussion.

The council and city have failed to respond to our complaint. We believe this is a very serious matter, one demonstrating bad faith, misconduct and conspiracy by staff, abetted by the mayor and city attorney, and continue to demand an independent investigation and public discussion.

Paul Boetius

Los Altos

Measure C: No chaos, no costs

In response to Autumn Looijen’s letter, when Measure C is read as a whole, it only applies to actions that would “alter the public character” with “significant changes” that “effectively privatize” the city’s land (“Measure C could affect community center cafe,” Oct. 17).

After I explained that during the recent televised debate, the No on C team admitted that it was “very unlikely” that lease renewals for the fire station and libraries would require voter approval.

Voter approval for the cafe at the community center is less likely. The city will have built a facility with a cafe. The operating agreement will not “alter” the public character nor be a significant change to the land, since the city will have already done that itself.

Measure C will not negatively impact property-tax revenues any more than would the city disapproving a private eight-story development on one of the parking plazas. There would be a loss of an increase in property taxes, not a loss of current taxes.

During my nine years on the Los Altos City Council, there was not one action the council took that would have required voter approval if Measure C had been in effect at that time. No chaos, no costs.

Ron Packard

Former Los Altos mayor

Let voters decide on sale of public lands

Naysayers of Measure C make theoretical claims, but none of them has done the math showing what little we would have spent (if any) over the last 20 years had Measure C been in place during that time.

The reality is that leases to entities that provide public services, i.e., library, fire, etc., would not require a vote of the citizens because these are public uses. Leases to private entities are so few in our city that the actual cost of putting those leases to a vote is small over time. What is not negligible is the cost of losing public lands.

It only takes three votes of the council to sell off land. Once our public lands are sold, they are gone forever.

There is nothing about Measure C that hamstrings the city council from developing our lands – unless they want to sell or lease city land. The biggest hurdle to doing development is acquiring land! So why do we need developers to do something great? We probably don’t!

But let the people decide if our valuable land assets should be sold off. Vote “yes” on Measure C.

Robert Burdick and Bill Fredlund

Los Altos

Measure C would have expensive side effect

Imagine the possibility of a bustling cafe at our new community center: people enjoying each other’s company after taking a class there or attending a story-time event at the nearby library.

Now imagine our city having to pay $50,000 to $500,000 to put a measure on the ballot asking Los Altos residents to vote on whether to allow a lease for the new cafe – more than we would get back in rent from the cafe vendor! Does that make sense?

Well, that’s what would happen if Measure C passes, because new leases on parcels of city-owned land of more than 7,500 feet and longer than 180 days would require expensive voter approval, not to mention possible delays for an election.

This doesn’t make sense to me. If you agree, join me in voting “no” on Measure C.

Natalie Elefant

Los Altos

Measure C won’t result in better decisions

Measure C requires that any new lease or change to an existing lease of city property over 7,500 square feet go to a vote of the people, rather than the city council.

A vote of the people will cost between $50,000 and $500,000 for each issue put on the ballot. Is that how you want your tax dollars spent?

Will all Los Altos voters carefully read through and evaluate every 30-plus-page lease agreement before making a decision on how to vote?

As council members, that’s what you elected us to do: spend the hours needed to carefully read all information related to any city transaction, ask detailed questions of city staff, listen to community input and make an informed decision. Will you as a voter do this: carefully read long leases, ask the city staff detailed questions and make a fully informed decision on how to vote?

If people in Los Altos really want to do this, then we should have hundreds of people running for city council, but we don’t.

Will we get better or different decisions if every lease is brought before the people? I don’t think so.

Preserve representative government. Please vote “no” on Measure C.

Jan Pepper

Los Altos City Councilwoman

Voters should reject ‘convoluted’ Measure C

I pride myself in being an informed voter. I had heard that Measure C was simple and straightforward about saving our parks. So when I opened my Voter Information Guide to read about Measure C, I was surprised and disappointed to find that the full text of Measure C was seven (yes, seven!) pages long. And it was so confusing and convoluted that I actually gave up trying to read the whole thing, which makes me wonder how it will actually be implemented if it passes.

That’s why I’m voting “no” on C. If you also can’t get through the twists and turns of the full text of Measure C, please join me in voting “no” on C.

Bill Hackenberger

Los Altos

Building on plazas a ‘developer’s dream’

Opponents of Measure C have made unsupported claims about the cost to preserve our city open spaces from developers.

Instead consider the cost of allowing just three council members to make sweetheart deals with developers. Building offices on the downtown parking plazas is a developer’s dream, and a resident’s nightmare.

Vote “yes” on Measure C to protect city lands and parking plazas.

Peter van der Linden

Los Altos

LA council once offered parkland for school

The lead editorial in your Oct. 10 issue states, “… check the record: Los Altos has never sold parkland in its 66-year history” – but not for the lack of trying to deny us our precious few parks.

How quickly we forget that in 2014 members of the city council, in all seriousness, offered up Mc- Kenzie Park and Rosita Park to the Los Altos School District for consideration as possible sites for a new school. It took a great deal of effort on the part of Los Altos residents to help stop this from happening. In years gone by, several schools in Los Altos were closed and the land sold off because they were no longer needed in the then-foreseeable future. If there was a Measure C in effect back then that would have gotten the residents more involved and caused them to vote, perhaps there might not have been the need to suggest turning our parks into schools in more recent times.

Small wonder that many sensible residents will vote for Measure C in spite of the Town Crier’s advocation for the reverse.

Henry More

Los Altos

Personal attacks could dissuade service

I was saddened and distressed by the email from the group Friends of Los Altos Oct. 16 regarding the upcoming Los Altos City Council election.

Saddened that divisions are being stoked in Los Altos in a similar manner as they are in the national elections. Distressed that a resident (Mayor Jean Mordo) who has served in city government has been so personally attacked.

This is neither friendly nor fair and could dissuade other residents from serving in our local government.

Nomi Trapnell

Los Altos

Measure C, initiator mislead residents

In the Oct. 24 Town Crier, the Committee for Yes on C placed an ad stating, “The FPPC rejected the outlandish and false claims against Measure C without even opening an investigation.”

The full story is that after the complaint was filed, Jim Jolly, who initiated Measure C, amended his California Fair Political Practices Commission filing to include $5,666 in expenses which he did not initially disclose. Based on the amended filing, the FPPC closed the complaint.

Would Jolly have come clean if the complaint had not been filed? What is Jolly trying to hide? Or perhaps he is every bit as sloppy with his record-keeping as he is with writing ballot measures, given how poorly constructed Measure C is.

Similar to their ad, Measure C has been trying to mislead Los Altos residents since it was drafted.

Vote “no!” on Measure C.

Bill Sheppard

Los Altos

Measure C: Protesting at what cost?

I work in high-tech in San Francisco and live at home in Los Altos to avoid high rents. I could sit on the sidelines and let older generations sort out this debate around Measure C – but I cannot sit silently.

I have heard some people say they intend to vote “yes” on Measure C as a “protest vote.”

I can understand protesting – I have protested plenty. But what is the “protest” behind Measure C? It strikes me as a real, long-lasting cost to future generations of Los Altos if Measure C passes.

If because of Measure C … city monies are diverted to pay for special elections instead of funding safe routes to schools and services for families …

If because of Measure C … local public schools find their tax support eroding …

If because of Measure C … Los Altos can never create places where future generations can hang out – at a community center cafe, a new library or a downtown dining hub …

That I protest!

I think we know Measure C is not about preserving parks in Los Altos. The parks aren’t under threat.

What is under threat is the mothballing of “community” when we refer to the “Los Altos community” for at least my generation.

If you are one of the voters thinking about casting a “protest vote,” I respectfully submit that you think about what is really worth preserving in Los Altos – and I hope your answer is to vote “no” on C.

Libby Abrams

Los Altos

Measure C won’t prevent development downtown

Measure C is on the ballot in Los Altos. It purports to ensure that the city does not sell off its highly prized parks.

The city has purchased land for public parks over the years, but it has never sold or leased that land to private entities. The city has shared some land with the school district to benefit all residents but never sold any.

The city has snatched land for parks from the clutches of developers (Redwood Grove and Heritage Oaks Park) when a bond election to buy them failed, and purchased the Hillview playing field from developers, but has never sold any parkland.

Supporters of Measure C say the recent Downtown Vision project induces the city to build on many of the parking plazas. It does not. It suggests uses for those properties that may or may not ever be actuated. Measure C will not prevent development on private property downtown.

We trust future city councils to follow the precedent of past councils to make decisions that benefit all residents and to follow the Los Altos tradition of extensive resident input. Vote “no” on C.

Roy and Penny Lave

Los Altos

Whom Do You Trust?

Opponents of Measure C say we should trust our elected representatives to do the right thing when it comes to our parks, open spaces, public and institutional land.

Which of our elected city councils should we trust?

The council that spent over $1 million to put Measure A on the ballot, which asked us to support a $65 million bond, when research showed residents would not support more than $20 million?  

The council that voted to spend $37.4 million for a community center when the financial commission and the director of finance recommended $20 - $25 million?

The councils who never noticed that our General Plan does not  designate the sports fields and playground on the civic center property as park land?

The current council that has proposed an ordinance to protect parks and open spaces, but not public land?

The council that might be elected in the future and could overturn that ordinance?

Better to trust yourself and your vote when it comes to protecting our land. Vote Yes on Measure C.

Mei Huang

Los Altos


Prop 5 good for Los Altos

Proposition 5 is good for Los Altos. It could generate over $10 million in new taxes per year.  Proposition 5 allows Seniors (55-plus) to purchase a new residence in the state of California and not face a tax penalty. Currently, many retired seniors in Los Altos cannot afford to move to a new location because their new taxes may be tens of thousands of dollars higher per year. Proposition 5 allows seniors to take their lower tax base to their new home so they can afford to move. The people who buy the house pay  taxes based on their purchase price which maybe $20,000 or more in property taxes. Currently about 33 percent of our 30,000 Los Altos residents,  or 10,000 residents, are 55 or older. If 1 or 2 percent of seniors were able to move each year due to Proposition 5 over the next five years it could mean 500 or more homes may be transferred as a result. If each home transfer resulted in $20,000 in additional taxes per year, it would mean in five years over $10 million per year would be generated in tax revenue. Vote yes on proposition 5 – it’s good for Los Altos.

Karen Parker

Los Altos


The Trees of Los Altos

When you open the Los Altos website and click-on "About Los Altos," the first thing you read is "tree-lined streets and a small village atmosphere characterize Los Altos."  

Up until a few years ago, if you walked into the building and planning department at City Hall, at the counter you'd find a copy of Ann Coomb's "The Trees of Los Altos." But it's no longer there. 

When I bought my home in Los Altos years ago, six huge black acacias graced the set-back of the pie-shaped lot. The setting was so park-like, it drew local tradesmen who'd enjoy their lunch in the shade beneath the heavy limbs. 

That a canopy of trees shade the streets of Los Altos is no accident. In the 1950s, the city encouraged homeowners to plant trees in the city right-of-way, and in return, the city maintained them. But then, in 2003, a different city council passed an ordinance which abruptly ended that partnership that had served Los Altos so well. That city council simply decided that maintaining the street trees that made Los Altos seem like a park was no longer important. 

Then about 10 years ago, yet another city council promoted a "Downtown Development Opportunity Study." The study envisioned transforming the tree-lined parking plazas of our "small village atmosphere" into multistory office buildings. Or perhaps a parking structure.  

History tells us we can not depend on the city council to remember that "tree-lined streets and a small village atmosphere characterize Los Altos." Times change. City councils change. These are some of the reasons I'll vote yes on Measure C.

Lou Cartalano

Los Altos


Voters should reject 'convoluted’ Measure C

I pride myself in being an informed voter. I had heard that Measure C was simple and straightforward about saving our parks. So when I opened my Voter Information Guide to read about Measure C, I was surprised and disappointed to find that the full text of Measure C was seven (yes, seven!) pages long. And it was so confusing and convoluted that I actually gave up trying to read the whole thing, which makes me wonder how it will actually be implemented if it passes.

That's why I’m voting “no” on C. If you also can’t get through the twists and turns of the full text of Measure C, please join me in voting “no” on C.

Bill Hackenberger

Los Altos


Replacing trees, plazas won’t revitalize LA

With all the talk of revitalization in Los Altos, we seem to be ignoring the elephant in the room.

We have seen business after business close because rents increased beyond viability – going back to the Los Altos Coffee Shop that had customers lined up around the corner for breakfast (and when owner Brian Whitlock moved out of the downtown triangle, he was quoted in the Town Crier as saying, “There is only so much one can charge for a hamburger”) to the most recent Voyageur du Temps closing.

Shops in Los Altos are financially required to carry products no one wants at prices no one wants to pay.

Replacing our tree-lined plazas with office buildings and parking garages will not “revitalize” these businesses. It will bring more congestion and traffic – especially when these cars drive in to work and out to shop where there is more value per dollar spent. And the charm that draws people to the unique experience of Los Altos will be lost forever. There’s got to be a better way.

“Yes” on Measure C may be the first step toward a better way.

Jan Truitt

Los Altos

Submit a Letter to the Editor

The Town Crier welcomes letters to the editor on current events pertinent to Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View. Write to us at 138 Main St., Los Altos 94022, Attn: Editor, or email editor Bruce Barton at bruceb@latc.com. Because editorial space is limited, please confine letters to no more than 200 words. Include a phone number for verification purposes. Anonymous letters will not be printed.

You can also have your say right here at losaltosonline.com – scroll to the bottom of any story to add a comment. 

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