City Council

Los Altos City Council Minutes Jan. 10 – the LAP version

Los Altos Planning Commission Scope is All Large Projects
Los Altos Planning Commission Scope is All Large Projects
Written by lalahpolitico

Item 8: Zoning code “cleanup

Carports, Accessory Buildings, Multi-Family Parking, Small Corner Lot Setbacks

Language changes were introduced January 10 and will be adopted January 24 unless someone has objections. Watch out you multi-family developers and owners of small corner lots.

Changes to zoning for carports, accessory structures, and extra visitor parking for multi-family developments were introduced as written.  Council asked to have the language about driveway setbacks for garages on small corner lots raised from between 10 and 18 feet to 20 feet.   Staff estimates there are 35 to 40 such lots in the city.  In response to council questions, the city staff said the city did not give notice to these property owners of this prospective change.

The Orange-University, Tyndall-Cuesta, and Dell-Los Altos Ave. neighborhoods are affected.

All these code changes will be adopted by Council on the January 24, 2012 meeting unless someone mounts an effective objection.  You can see the language here.  If you care, object to the City Council in writing AND show up to speak on January 24, 7 pm, City Council Chambers.


Item 9: Revising Planning, Traffic and Bicycle&Pedestrian Commissions

Over the Coming Months the Direction is for…
Planning’s Scope to be Commercial
A&S to be Single Family Homes
Traffic Undecided

Reorg Planning Commission

Reorg Planning Commission

Council agreed that the Board of Adjustments, which handles variance applications, should be eliminated.  Council agreed that the Architectural and Site (A&S) Review Committee should have its role restricted to residential plans only.  The Planning Commission should have its charter changed to handle all phases of commercial and multifamily developments including initial design review. A major impetus for these revisions is the desire of staff to reduce the total number of committees, each of which requires a liaison and absorbs staff time.

Council directed staff to continue to study how Traffic and BPAC would interface with Planning.  There had been criticism of lack of communication. There was sentiment that BPAC wanted to continue to report to Traffic.  Councilmember Fishpaw pointed out that responsibility for Parking planning was ambiguous. He suggested that including Parking planning in the scope of Traffic was common through the Bay Area.

Council clarified with the city attorney that per the city code both the Planning Commission and the Architectural & Site Review Committee (A&S) have authority to make final decisions.  However these can be appealed to City Council.

Staff said any changes to the structure of these committees would take months to implement. Code would have to be rewritten and the public would have to be given the opportunity to comment. Therefore, a number of large projects already in the queue  (such as the El Camino Garden Center project) will be interacting with the current Commission structure.
Council member Packard suggested that the reconfigured A&S committee (residential only) could hire part-time consulting architects, rather than recruit one architect as a permanent member.

What does it mean?

 This is a tilt toward making it bit easier for developers to establish large projects around town.  Council is removing slow-growth A&S Review people (passionate home-owning amateurs) from the large project development process, giving  this process exclusively to the Planning Commission.

This is a tilt toward making it a bit easier for developers to establish large projects around town.

Council should be expected to reappoint the Planning Commission incumbent, the intelligent conservative Jonathan Baer, whose first term is expiring, but who has not termed out. So de facto there are no slots open on this Commission.

Residents/Developers planning a 2-story remodel or new 2-story home project should expect  “business as usual” to run the gauntlet of citizen amateur “taste” perhaps even less informed by the influence of a professional architect than in the past few years.


Item 10:  $50K for Library Parking Changes 

Library- busy entrance and San Antonio entrance

Library- busy entrance and San Antonio entrance

Paul Bozeman of the City Staff said the impetus for the proposed project is safety concerns at the driveway on San Antonio.  Cars in the first 3 spaces across from the entrance back up and even make a 3-point turn, all of which cause traffic wanting entry to the driveway to backup on San Antonio.  To the staff’s knowledge there have been no reported accidents.

The project will fill in the first three spaces with curb and landscaping, create 3 new  spaces further down the driveway, all southside spaces along the access driveway will be repainted from 60 degrees to 45 degrees., a crosswalk will be added, one more parking lot light will be added.

Council member Megan Satterlee asked if the 3 new spaces that would be located behind the existing 3 head-in spaces (those for 2 minute drop off parking ) might not cause collisions when people backed up inattentively.  Staff though this unlikely.

Councilman Megan Satterlee pointed out this library parking project is unfunded.

She said she could not support funding this project ahead of any 2011-2012 projects the city has already prioritized as funded.  The next report on the status of funded projects and the status of city budget is expected in about a month.

Councilman Casas asked if bike safety had been considered in the plan.  It had not, so he asked Susan Ambiel, Chair of the Bicycle & Pedestrian Committee (BAPC) (who happened to be at the meeting to speak on Item 9) if BAPC would review the proposal.  It was agreed that the item could be put on the January 18 BAPC agenda, and that the advice could be reported back at the Council’s January 24 regular meeting.


Item 11: Storm Sewer Pollution Abatement 

Partial ban of Plastic Bags and Styrofoam Take-out is Certain by July 2014

It turned that this was a Staff Informational item. In order too comply with a new requirement from the San Francisco Water Quality Board, the city had to file a report by February 1 outlining measures it would be taking to effect a 40% reduction in pollution of the storm sewers.  No actual measurements of waste will be occurring.  Rather there are formulas that each city must use to calculate and then decide what measures (from a menu of measures) to take to implement the 40% reduction by 2014.

Staff informed council that there was no way to reach the 40% goal without banning plastic bags and polystyrene take-out by 2014. It turned out the ban would only have to be applied to the six large groceries in the city, not to smaller businesses.

…residents…all spoke in favor of faster and broader adoption of the bans

Los Altos residents Chris Keller, John Reed, and Maddy McBirney, all spoke in favor of faster and broader adoption of the bans.  Council member Satterlee stated she did not want our merchants to be put at disadvantage by early adoption vis-à-vis Cupertino and Mountain View, and asked staff to determine if and when these cities are implementing bans.

Staff said that with future council direction they would research such moves, but that promises for a ban being put in place before 2014 and another ban covering more than just the large grocery stores should not be put into this plan for the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board.  The Council action was to Accept the information report from staff.

David Casas reminded all present that he had previously brought up discussion of these policies. At that time the majority was for using “carrots, rather than the stick.”  He informed staff about a San Jose EIR that could be applied to any and all of Santa Clara county’s cities including Los Altos.

What does it mean?

A stick will be applied to the big Los Altos groceries. Our merchants will not be required to be any greener  any sooner than our neighboring merchants go green.


See the 3 short video clips of the public commenters on Item 11.

See the  full Agenda Packet in a single file or all items.


About the author


Norma Schroder is an economics & market researcher by trade and ardent independent journalist, photographer and videographer by avocation. Enthralled by the growth of the tech industry over the decades, she became fascinated with the business of local politics only in the past couple of years.