City Council

Los Altos City Council July 24 – Downtown 3-story an Endangered Species

The Enchante Hotel may be the last 3-story to be built in the Los Altos Downtown Core
Written by lalahpolitico

The Enchante Hotel may be the last 3-story to be built in the Los Altos Downtown Core

Ban on Developer Incentives Could be Eased

The roll back of downtown Los Altos zoning originally proposed by council members Val Carpenter and Ron Packard is poised to be put through a more extensive “community” review “process.”  The original language — which called for a ban on the use of developer incentives — was rejected unanimously by the Planning Commission on June 21. This could have been a final action, but Val Carpenter is bringing it back to Los Altos City Council July 24 as discussion agenda item 18.

the original language — which called for a ban on the use of developer incentives — was rejected unanimously by the Planning Commission on June 21

 

Downtown Zoning Committee Could be Revived

In addition to discussion of the zoning change proposal at the council meeting, a Downtown Zoning Committee could be reformed (agenda item 19).  Here is its proposed scope.  It will consider what development incentives can be allowed in all the Downtown districts.  For the CRS and CRS/OAD zones, it will work out the details of how to measure height.

The following people are proposed as members of the Downtown Zoning Committee IV:

  • Val Carpenter* (Chair, Mayor, and former Los Altos Planning Commissioner)
  • Megan Satterlee (Vice Chair, Councilmember, and former Los Altos Planning Commissioner)
  • Marcia Somers (City Manager)
  • James Walgren* (Assistant City Manager, Los Altos Community Development Director)
  • Abby Ahrens* (Downtown property owner)
  • Jon Baer* (Los Altos Planning & Transportation Commissioner, City Council candidate)
  • Lou Becker* (former Los Altos Mayor and Vice Chair, Downtown Zoning III/Development
  • Committee)
  • Phoebe Bressack* (Los Altos Planning & Transportation Commission Chair, Architect)
  • Dan Brunello* (Downtown business owner, Chamber of Commerce representative)
  • Ted Kokernak* (Real estate agent for regional/national retailers & shopping centers)
  • Ron Labetich* (Local commercial real estate broker, brokered  the City’s Morris Project)
  • Bart Nelson* (Downtown business and property owner)
  • Taylor Robinson (Downtown property owner, Passarelle Investments)
  • TBD, a community member selected by Carpenter and Satterlee
    (* Downtown Zoning III/Development Committee member)

Former Downtown Zoning III members not returning:

  • Bill Maston – local architect, vocal critic of the City’s Morris Project at First and Main
  • Doug Schmitz – retired former Los Altos City Manager
 LALAHPOLITICO  COMMENT : It it looks like a loyalty test… Bill Maston has apparently been too naughty.

 

Proposed New Ordinance Language

The City staff has been meeting with downtown groups. It determined that building height is a minor issue, but that the loss of the public benefits a city gets from granting developer incentives was a major issue. In response to Planning Commission and downtown groups, staff is proposing — via markups — this alternative language:

proposed revised language from staff  does seem to allow the developer incentive of  “flexibility” for height, but none for parking

A.  To implement the downtown design plan, minor exceptions from the provisions of this chapter may be granted. Since these are not required by law, they are to be allowed sparingly, if at all, and at the complete discretion of the city, provided the following findings are made:

1.   The benefits to the downtown will be significant and not speculative;

2.   The benefits to the city derived from granting the exception is an appropriate mitigation when considered against the cost to the developer;

3.   The project and mitigation will result in public benefits to the downtown; and

4.   The resultant project and mitigation are consistent with the General Plan and promote or accomplish objectives of the downtown design plan.

B.  For the purposes of this chapter, such minor exceptions may include, but are not limited to, setbacks, height of structure, height of the first floor, and other zoning regulations.  “Height of structure” shall only apply to minor building height exceptions in order to achieve a high quality project, and shall not include exceptions solely intended to achieve additional building stories.   Such exceptions shall not include modifications of the height of the structure, height of the first floor, or on-site parking requirements, which instead may be granted if qualified under standard variance procedures.

Some Context: Code Flexibility, yes, Effectively 2-story, yes

The proposed language does seem to allow “flexibility” of height, but none for parking.  But the the flexibility  in height seems to exclude height flexibly that  can “achieve additional building stories.”

Val Carpenter and Ron Packard have stated directly and pointedly during prior city council meetings that they want downtown on Main and State to remain a two-story scene.  They have stated they don’t care what the language of the zoning code is, just that the effective result be a two-story limit.

Packard and Carpenter have stated they don’t care what the language of the zoning code is, just that the effective result be a two-story limit

Jerry Sorensen has presented research to the Los Altos Forward community group, that shows that with a 2 story limit in place, zero rebuilding will occur on Main and State . He argues, it’s economically impossible. He collected rents, retail revenues from comparable cities and has a model that forecasts– rents,  business revenues, units, population, tax receipts –for various height limits from  2 to six. ( A video of his recent community presentation is here.)

Sorensen says with a 2 story limit in place, zero rebuilding will occur on Main and State

Where can you see a 3-story in the downtown core?  There is a decades old three story at State and First, right across from Safeway. In the future you may see a 3-story hotel at Main and San Antonio.

Citizen Resources:

These downtown agenda items are the last ones of the July 24 7pm Los Altos City Council meeting.
Each is a .pdf file you can download for yourself or forward to a friend.

18. Downtown Ordinance Amendments

19. Downtown Zoning Committee Phase IV

Here is the link to the City’s website for the July 24 City Council Agenda. The agenda includes links to view, but not download, staff reports on each item.

 

A beauty salon and second hand shop are key retail tenants ... across from Safeway downtown

 

 

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

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