Planning

Los Altos Downtown Morris Project – Hits Bump at A&S

Morris and his current architect presented a revised plan for 400 Main Street
Written by lalahpolitico

Morris and his current architect presented a revised plan for 400 Main Street

Here is the architect’s presentation from the A&S Commission May 16, 2012

The Los Altos Downtown Morris Project, 400 Main St., was stalled at the A&S Commission on May 16. Morris and the architect presented their 2 building, 2-story plan for this gateway entrance to Los Altos from Foothill Expressway. (Here is the .pdf of the plan. Morris Plans 4-17-12)

 

The main façade is along First Street.  The building interior is flexible and can accommodate up  to 8 small independent retailers or could be configured  for larger chains.  The plans show a “blank canvas” façade that is designed to be branded by each retailer with their own signage, awning and so on.

Along Main street there are no entrances to stores. Rather there is a 6 to 8 foot wall close to Foothill that masks a parking garage, then some display windows, and finally a 22 foot wide area set back in front of the tower and building entrance which stands at the corner of First and Main. Main street descends about 5.5 ft. between Foothill and First.

No entrances on Main Street itself

 

View from the corner sports bar at First and Main

The building shares a First Street driveway with Safeway next door and does repeat a number of stylings of the new Safeway – the arch, some of the colors.

 

Los Altos Village Association and The Los Altos Chamber of Commerce were enthusiastic supporters of the plan

Public speakers were mainly pleased with the looks, but were disappointed that the Main Street side had no entrances and was not vibrant or connected to Lincoln Park or the rest of Main Street.  Some criticized the small interior plaza between the two buildings of the plan as “for diners” and not really big enough or placed well enough to be useful to the public.  Some wished that extra underground parking were provided.

 

Discussion at A&S suggest this concept drawing is problematical

The spokespeople for Los Altos Village Association and The Los Altos Chamber of Commerce were enthusiastic supporters of the plan.

 

Commissioner Discussion:

 

Malika Junaid congratulated Morris on bringing in a project totally within code and for not needing any developer incentives.  She praised that it implemented the First Street Streetscape plan, and that the project had been coordinated with Safeway to share a driveway.

 

But both Jeannie Bruins and Ken Lorrell were taken aback that the plan did not in their opinion fulfill the site plan requirements of the City-Morris agreement.   It seems that the document with the site plan drawing was only circulated to the commissioners and some of the public at 7am the day of the meeting.  Bruins said she did not see in the Morris proposal, the generous plazas, the cafes which were in the original site plan.   She thought there should be a very wide sidewalk all along the Main Street side of the project.   Both Lorrell and Bruins said  that not adding more public amenities would be a missed opportunity.  They urged Morris to set up an informal study session with either A&S or the whole Planning Commission to discuss the site layout issue.

Jeannie Bruins and Ken Lorrell were taken aback that the plan did not in their opinion fulfill the site plan requirements of the City-Morris agreement

Commissioners of the Architectural and Site Review Commission, May 16, 2012

Commissioners of the Architectural and Site Review Commission, May 16, 2012

 

Lorell l said the site plan could be rearranged for more open space, more courtyard more plaza.  Not only was the parcel publically owned, it was also a key property, an entryway to Los Altos.  “We are going to be looking at it for 50 to 100 years. It has to be more than OK.”  But he softened his remarks, “ Just because it didn’t hit the mark on the first go round, it doesn’t that it was a total failure, it just means we need to think about it some more.  I recommend a study session on this project.  Perhaps we need some 3-d renderings or a model made.”

 

After some hemming and hawing between the commisioners, David Kornfeld and the Morris team,  it was agreed to set up a study session with the whole Planning Commission.  The architect said it would not take long to prepare for the study session if she could just bring the rough sketches of site ideas that had been rejected internally. The commissioners assured her that was good enough preparation for a study session.

 

NEXT STEPS:

 

Because of the reorganization initiated by Ron Packard some months ago, both the A&S and Planning Commission are on their last legs, The A&S commissioners asked David Kornfeld about timing of the switchover to the new organization.  He said he thought it would be at the earliest in late June, but probably in July. Nobody seemed to know if they had been reappointed or were really “fired.”

it was agreed to set up a study session with the whole Planning Commission on June 7

All parties agreed to set up a study session with the current Planning Commission on June 7. It will be held for about 1 hour before the regularly schedule Planning Commission meeting of June 7.  The agenda is to talk through the site plan and then move into some details on architectural considerations.

 

BOTTOM LINE ON TIMING OF FURTHER PUBLIC INPUT:

UPDATE May 19:  It emerged the next day at the Planning Commission Meeting of May 17, that a study session with the Morris team would be scheduled for June 7, because Planning must have a regular meeting that day anyway.  By law, PC will be hearing and voting on the Payday Lender moratorium extension on June 7.  The thought was that the study session with the Morrris team would be either before or after the 7pm regular meeting. There is no voting at a study session. It is unclear whether or not there is public comment.   On May 22, the City Council will make the appointments to the new Planning and Transportation Committee. It is our understanding that those go into effect 30 days later…June 21(?)  Thus, at the June 7 meeting, the PC will be comprised of its current members, not the new roster.   We wonder if maybe the Morris team will choose to delay its study session till after June 21?

ORIGINAL: After the informal input from the study session, the ball would be in Morris’s court.  He can take whatever time he needs to prepare a revised formal presentation for the next public meeting.  That could be July. By then the A&S Commission may have morphed into a RESIDENTIAL ONLY Design Review Commission.  So in July, as a commercial project,  400 Main would go before the new Planning & Transportation Committee.

 

Morris at the podium

LALAHPOLITICO:

 

I wonder who is making the appointments to the new P&T Commission?

 

I wonder how Morris knew to make his project  a 2-story,  to fully park it, not to ask for development incentives, and be seen cooperating with a neighboring project.? Morris said he had been working with staff and seemed surprised that after jumping through those hoops, A&S did not give him a clear “pass” at this meeting.

 

COMING SOON:  We have some home videos of the Morris presentation and the speakers. If the audio is decent enough we’ll post it to Youtube or Vimeo.

 

About the author

lalahpolitico

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 only became fascinated with business of local politics only in the past couple of years.

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