Here is a transcript of the Sept. 17 forum for Los Altos City Council Candidates, sponsored by Los Altos Village Association and Los Altos Chamber of Commerce. The video of this event can be found in our post here.
Karim Knight-Desmond was the moderator. The candidates are Anabel Pelham, Jon Baer, Jan Pepper, Jeannie Bruins, Jerry Sorensen and incumbent Megan Satterlee. The order of response to questions was rotated round robin.
PELHAM: Well thank you so much and good evening I’m going to turn my timer on, too. My name is Anabel Pelham, and I live in Los Altos over at the Park Regent. I’ve lived in Los Altos 12 years. Living in Los Altos was a choice for me. I had lived in San Francisco for over 20 years and when it was time to find a new home I studied the Bay Area as a social scientist because that’s what I am and I chose Los Altos. So it’s a very special community to me. I’m a professor of gerontology and a social scientist at San Francisco State University. I study aging but I study it on a macro level. I study how to build neighborhoods, how to build cities, communities, nation-states and I even study social policy and social policy in general. So I think that’s one of the unique things I can bring to Los Altos which is the mind of a social scientist. I was department chair for 25 years at San Francisco State. In that role I was responsible for budgeting, personnel, staffing, faculty, grants and contracts, strategic planning, assessments, everything. So I’m very comfortable with management and administration. I brought a variety of grants and contracts to the University and I did a lot in regard to resources coming in. In Los Altos I’m a member of the Senior Commission. I was responsible for the age-friendly city initiative that made Los Altos the first age-friendly city in California. I’m a member of LAUMC (Los Altos United Methodist Church). I took the LEED class in 2012 I’m a member of the Chamber of Commerce, of LAVA, and also the president of the National Association for Professional Gerontologists founded in Los Altos.
I was responsible for the age-friendly city initiative that made Los Altos the first age-friendly city in California
BAER 1: I am John Baer. I bring over a decade of direct relevant experience with the city. When I moved here 15 years ago I got involved in the number one problem that residents face in this town: speeding and cut-through traffic in neighborhoods. We put together the first neighborhood traffic management plan. I spent the last 5 1/2 years on the planning commission, two times as chair. We saw that we needed to make changes to our downtown to make it more robust, more relevant. We changed the zoning in our downtown on the periphery to allow increased development while maintaining the charm and character of State and Main Street. The result: 140,000 ft.² of new retail and Class A office space in downtown, 100 new units of housing, seven major projects either started or about to start in our town. By the way, I don’t own property down, that is, commercial property in downtown Los Altos. I don’t own commercial property anywhere in Los Altos, so it will never be an issue about me being conflicted nor will I ever have to recuse myself from any council discussions. I talk about the things that I’ve done, but frankly what I’ve done has been working with staff, it’s been working with members of the council, it’s been working with members of the community, and that’s really important. Is there more do? Absolutely. Do I have a long list of things I want to do and change the town? Absolutely. Thank you very much.
increased development on the periphery while maintaining the charm and character of State and Main Street
PEPPER 1: I’m Jan Pepper and first of all thank you to the chamber and to LAVA for sponsoring this forum tonight. I’m running for council to get things done. I bring a fresh perspective to the Council and will add a breadth of unique skills and experiences. Some of you here already know me. It’s great to see a lot of familiar faces here tonight. I moved to Los Altos in 1985 and I live on Bienvenue Ave. My two children graduated from the excellent public schools here and received a great education and I enjoyed many hours volunteering in their schools and in my son’s Boy Scout troop. Many of you may not know that I have two degrees from Stanford. I have a civil engineering degree and an MBA and I’m also a registered professional engineer in the state of California. I bring 30 years plus of business experience to this town and here are some of the things I’ve accomplished. I’ve been fortunate to pursue my passion, which is to create a sustainable energy future for us and for our children and grandchildren. I’m an innovator and I started and led three companies, sticking to a very tight budget. Currently I’m a manager at Silicon Valley Power and manage the $200 million bond portfolio for Santa Clara’s municipal utility so I know fiscal responsibility. Throughout my career I’ve been active in setting energy policy in California and throughout the nation and I know how to collaborate and bring diverse viewpoints together to reach innovative solutions. I know how important it is to bring everyone to the table and to make sure that everyone who has a stake is heard and is understood. And as a leader in the League of Women Voters, which is where I’ve spent a lot of my time in town, where I just stepped down as president, I promote transparency, integrity, and listening to all viewpoints. That’s what I’ve done and that’s what I’ll continue to do. So I bring two key strengths: I’m a listener. I learn when I listen to people. I will listen and I’ll only talk when I have something to add. I will take it all in and I won’t forget what you have to say. And I also have an even temper. I think I can handle the highs and lows that come with this job. So I’m looking forward to serving our town and I can’t wait to work with you to build our future.
civic engineering degree, MBA Stanford, active in alternative energy policy, a “Pepper” with an even temper
BRUINS 1: I’m Jeannie Bruins and I thank everybody for coming out tonight and choosing to be here. Let me tell you a little bit about myself. My dad was career Air Force, my mom a native of Portugal, and I’m one of six kids. One of the joys of being raised in a military family is you get to move around quite a bit and see a lot of the country. And one of the challenges is you move around a lot and see a lot of the country. To give you a perspective, from the time I entered kindergarten to the time I graduated from high school, I attended nine schools — that’s quite a few. I received my degree in computer science from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo and then I moved up here to the Bay Area. My family and I were fortunate to choose Los Altos as our home. I’m a 25 year resident and I’m delighted that I have established real roots for the first time here in this great community. I have two wonderful sons. Both are products also of our public school system here and, unlike their mother, they attended three schools: Oak, Blach, and Mountain View High before going on and getting their degrees at Northwestern and USC. And, yes, a Bruins graduated from USC. I believe my background and experience will be an asset as a member of the City Council. I spent 16 years at H.P., 15 in management with worldwide responsibilities in the customer support organization. I spent over 16 years in local nonprofit’s leadership positions from PTA, Boy Scout Troop 31, both the high school and elementary foundation, community services agencies, just to name a few. In addition, I’ve had the pleasure of working with and serving Los Altos residents first as a co-chair of the Stevens Creek Feasibility Study Task Force which was commissioned by City Council in 2006, and, most recently, as a Planning Commissioner. Thank you.
degree in computer science, HP management, local nonprofit leadership
SORENSON 1: So I’m Jerry Sorensen and I’ve grown up here. I moved to south Palo Alto in 1963. I rode my bicycle up and down the train tracks when there was no train and I snuck out of Terman Junior High to go to what is now the Sweet Shop at lunchtime. So I’ve spent my whole life here. I went to the movies on Main Street, saw the last picture show that was shown there which was of course “The Last Picture Show.” So I’ve grown up here, I’ve spent a lot of time here. I moved here in 1983, so I’ve lived here for 29 years and have three boys. Two have matriculated out of the high school system and one is a junior at Mountain View High School now. My involvement has been predominantly with the youth in our community either through the Los Altos Kiwanis Club, the Pet Parade, the Festival of Lights parade, board member of the Los Altos Little League and many other activities. I also founded the afterschool athletics program, which is routinely voted the single most popular afterschool program in the Los Altos School District. And, let me see, what else can I say? I got 40, 43 seconds, 38. From a career standpoint I spent most of my career in real estate development working for John Portman, Trammell Crow, and other developers and have done about half a billion dollars in real estate development. And I’ve also worked in management consulting in workout environments which are very difficult, tense environments where basically everyone’s mad at everybody and you have to bring all parties together to try and create the best whole. I do work very collaboratively and I look forward to participating on the City Council.
done about half a billion dollars in real estate development, consulted in workout environments, youth-activity volunteering
SATTERLEE 1: Good evening. My name is Megan Satterlee and I am seeking reelection to the Los Altos City Council. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you these past five years. I’m pleased to be here and want to thank the Chamber, LAVA, our moderator, and my fellow candidates for putting on this forum and all of you for taking your time to be here. Los Altos is a wonderful place to live and raise a family. My husband and I feel quite fortunate to be able to raise our son here, and I know many others share our feeling about the character of the city. I’m working to preserve this feeling about Los Altos. Despite the difficult economic times, I maintained balanced budgets while the same time putting a plan in place to increase our reserves to 20% in fiscal year 14. I also approved two labor contracts which included adding a second-tier pension plan and increasing employee contributions though more work is needed to be done. In downtown we invested in it, in refreshing the public right-of-way, and made zoning changes to encourage private development. As a result we are seeing refreshed storefronts, decreased vacancy rates — just two on Main Street in August — and soon we will see a new Safeway store. We have completed and planned numerous infrastructure improvements throughout the city related to pedestrian and bicycle facilities, as well as adopted long-term planning documents to reduce fees on collectors. Other accomplishments I’m proud of include hiring a new city manager, signing a new garbage contract (which has increased diversion rates to 71% ahead of goal), and a significant reduction in our capital improvement program backlog. I’m committed to using the next four years to ensure the long-term success of Los Altos as a great place to live and raise a family. The challenges remain much the same: ensure sound fiscal practices, keep our commercial districts thriving, and promote the safe use of our roads for all: drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. I’m grateful to you for giving me the chance to serve and I hope to have the opportunity to continue. I’m here tonight because I’m asking for your vote. Thank you.
I know many others share our feeling about the character of the city. I’m working to preserve this feeling about Los Altos.
DESMOND: Jon the first question to all is, “How will you seek the input of the business community on public policy matters facing our community?”
BAER 2: I’m going to do that the same way I’m going to go about getting it from the community — with a better process. The way we go about it today doesn’t work. It’s ineffective. We wind up finding out what people like after we spent a lot of time and energy developing an engineering-based solution. We need to start off understanding, number one the problem, number two we need to understand what the community values are. And once we understand those then we can seek out broad input from the community, from business owners, from downtown merchants, from residents who live in the town — all have a stake in what happens in this town
PEPPER 2: I think it’s really important to get input from all of the stakeholders in our community for whatever issue comes up. And one of the things that I would like to do with the business community is to meet with them regularly, probably on a monthly or bimonthly basis, to hear what their ideas are and to get their input. If we want our downtown to thrive, the business community needs to be involved. They’re the ones who are making the financial commitments to bringing businesses in and it’s very important that we hear them. So I’d like to reach out to them and have the whole community be there. We can do this through study sessions at, the Council, we can have extra meetings set up within the business community at regular times and, in order for a lot of people to hear what the business community has to say, I would invite the whole community to be there to participate.
BRUINS 2: Like the two answers before, I think we do need to improve what we’re doing now, and when I hear the question in terms of the business community, for me, that means not only the property owners, but it also means the retailers, the restaurant owners, etc. I think we do need to get them engaged more upfront to understand what their perspective is on what the problems are, but not only on the problems, but also on the opportunities. And one of things that I think I do bring to this is a track record now. I am a member of the part of Los Altos Forward that deals with First Friday and that has been an incredible experience for me. When you get down and you meet these merchants and you hear the ideas and such that they have, and their enthusiasm, and I think we need to embrace that. Thank you.
SORENSON 2: So I am an absolute passionate believer and supporter of the charette process, the national charette. I worked on the National Charette Institute and that’s a process that is a community-based problem-solving process. And what I’ve seen so far in the last five or six years as I’ve watched the process here, we are more of a top-down: we appoint a committee, we decide what we want to have the solution be, and we have cover, and then we have that solution emerge. From the national charette, if you do it through the charette process, it’s a bottom’s up, and you get everybody involved who has a stake in the game and everybody’s stake is valuable, and everybody has to defend their position. And what happens is, you generally end up with 80 – 85% support and consensus for the decision that’s moving forward. And those that dissent, at least they feel good about the process. So I’m very, very passionate about that.
SATTERLEE 2: Yeah, so I’m going to rely heavily on LAVA, the Chamber of Commerce, as well as Kathy Kleinbaum who’s here in the audience as our [City] staff liaison to the business community, to provide input, inviting them to the table when we have discussions, inviting them to provide their comments at Council meetings as I have been doing recently, and also directing staff to reach out directly to them. so long as [APPEARS TO BE A DROP HERE] First Street phase B project. I have commented in at least two different Council meetings that it is critical that we meet with not only LAVA, the Chamber, but also the business owners directly affected by that, to go in detail through the scheduling and get their input on what they think the pros and cons are the various schedules because they’re the businesses that are most impacted when the construction is ongoing and I think their input is critical.
PELHAM 1: I’ve had the opportunity to study and teach leadership and mediation so I would be coming from a place of respect. What that means is I would listen to the commissions that have effect on our business community, I would listen to LAVA, I would listen to the Chamber and its members, I would listen at special cafés appointments for individuals or small groups, I would listen at special town hall meetings, I would listen at study sessions and it would be around a table and not on a dais, and I would be as inclusive and respectful and is transparent as humanly possible.
DESMOND: Starting with Jan, the question is, “What is the number one business issue facing Los Altos?”
PEPPER 3: I think the number one business issues facing Los Altos is having vibrant commercial areas. We want our business owners to thrive and especially with the new development going down at, um, going up actually at San Antonio and El Camino, that could have a pretty significant effect on our downtown. So we don’t want our downtown to shrivel up and die because of that development. So I think what we need to do is really figure out what we want downtown, figure out what kinds of businesses people in this community are interested in going to, and make sure we get those in. And that’s part of reaching out to the business community, talking to them about what kind of businesses are interested in being here. And then helping them establish those businesses as quickly as possible and being supportive, having guidelines and rules that we stick to that enable them to get started and thrive.
BRUINS 3: I agree with Jan in terms of vibrancy being a key issue. And I think that is true, not only in our downtown, but in all the other smaller business districts. In addition to that, in the smaller business districts they’re really serving a community-based needs, more neighborhood focused and such. And I think they also have an issue right now in terms of traffic management and parking issues and such. And I think we need to look at those in addition. I also, for our downtown, I would take it further to say that I think we need to look into the future and determine what do we want for our downtown. You know, do we want to be a restaurant row such as Mountain View? Do we want to be a retail place? What is the balance that we need so that we can all learn how to thrive in that particular target of where we want to go.
SORENSON 3: Well, downtown vibrance is, of course, is very important. Many of you know I’ve spent a lot of time studying that. But there are some other issues that just being business friendly, and having rules that people can count on, and having a level of consistency are pretty important. Otherwise you just go someplace else to do business. So, an example of that is I know a couple of businesses — I obviously can’t name them, but they have signs that don’t comply with the new sign ordinance. But the staff said, “Well, we like them, we’ll just kind of look the other way.” At least that’s what they told me. Well, you know, OK, I like you so I’m going to let it go. I don’t like it, I’m going to stick it to you. I think you have to have an environment, you have to have a set of rules that people can live by and trust. And otherwise you have rulers rather than rules.
SATTERLEE 3: So I think with all of our commercial districts, the biggest challenge is finding the right mix of retail, restaurants, and services because there’s a synergy there. You come for one thing, you might come for other things and they can feed each other and grow each other’s businesses and help each other to thrive. One of the challenges we have in some of the smaller commercial districts is attracting that first key tenant that can then build the next tenants and we’ve seen in Loyola Corners things really moving to the services side because they haven’t been able to maintain the retail there. And you can’t really go it alone, it takes a village as they say. And here in downtown one of the challenges that we have is, as charming as our downtown is, the storefronts are smaller and that limits the mix that you can attract. And so having some larger retail spaces where we can have a greater diversity of mix I think will bring everyone up in the process.
PELHAM 3: Thank you very much. I agree. I think we need to think about vibrancy in our downtown but in all our business districts I like to start from firm foundations. I think that’s going to require a master plan that includes the civic center. I firmly believe that we can do it and we can do it in about 12 months if we put our minds to it. I think we also need predictable zoning and zoning that is, comes from place of best practice, from empiricism, from analytics rather than some other place. I think we need a proactive traffic management plan and parking and I would also like us to think about thinking of our downtown, in particular the way most of the literature suggests, and that is to make it friendly for pedestrians, cycling, public transportation, and automobiles in that order.
BAER 3: There are a lot of issues, but let’s focus on what’s key. The way you get vibrancy is feet on the street. It’s as simple as that. You need, you know, you can have the most wonderful selection of restaurants and retail establishments. If you don’t have people it doesn’t work. So what do you need to do about that? First of all, we [the planning commission] put in zoning that encourages development where you want it. We’ve done that –140,000 ft.² of new retail and Class A office. What is that going to do? It’s going to have an amazing effect on the number of feet, the vibrancy of our downtown. More office workers during the day and evening. Let’s not do things that will turn away business. Don’t put in parking meters. Let’s get rid of the things — we have some roles that are not business-friendly. Let’s take those away and make Los Altos not only a good place to live and work, but a good place for businesses to want to be here and do business in Los Altos. Thank you.
DESMOND: “What are your views on downtown parking?”
BRUINS 4: You know what? Downtown parking: I really think it’s something that we needed to be addressing in this town. It’s not a matter of whether or not we have a parking problem today or not. I think we’ve gone back and forth on that one. I think parking is an enabler and we need to come up with solutions and I think we need to get creative about the solutions and it’s time to act on them. I’ve been a staunch supporter of the plan that the city is now executing under Kathy’s leadership [sic Kathy Kleinbaum] in terms of doing this parking study so I’d like to see that proceed.
SORENSON 4: I don’t know what to do about parking — at all. [spoken facetiously] Many of you may know we [the Sorensens] did layouts for parking, there’s over $3 million in the parks reserve fund. That money should be allocated to parking [not parks]. And we should redo the plazas and add the 220 to 330 spaces. That represents 50 years of development. I don’t know, Jon, where you get 140,000 ft.² but we’ll have to go over that after the forum, because I don’t count 140,000 ft.² But 220 – 300 spaces, 330 spaces inside the existing plaza would be just fine. And that would represent 50 years of development, that’s the capacity for 50 years, the last 50 years of development. So I think you start there. We have the money, it’s in the fund, the Packard Foundation gave it to us, let’s use it for parking.
SATTERLEE 4: I believe in a data-driven approach to problems and so I am fully supportive of the parking management study that we are going forward with. It has proceeded too slowly in my opinion. I wish I had it today. I wish I had it six months ago. It has been delayed for good reasons: the downtown merchants requested that counts be done in September and again at the peak of the holiday season. That’s reasonable, that’s rational, that means I don’t get the data until January. But I think that what this data is going to tell us is how parking is being used today and where we have hotspots, what I call hotspots, high demand and where we have low demand. And that, I think, is going to enable us to craft a solution that makes sense based on what the demand for parking is. I think that the Sorensons came up with some very clever and creative ideas as to how the parking plazas might be modified. However, there is nothing free and that impacts all of the trees, and I’m over my time, so I will stop.
PELHAM 4: I’m a social scientist so I come from a place of data, what’s the data? So I would want to look at the parking management plan that’s emerging. I, too, wish it would come faster. I’m hoping that it will be a proactive plan. I support underground parking. I think it should be part of the mix. It can be part of the mix. It may not be our first choice, but it ought to be part of the mix. I’m comfortable with the idea of in-lieu [parking development fee] models. They work in other places. I think it’s something we should consider. And again, I think if we plan our downtown core for pedestrians, cycling, public transportation, and automobiles in that order, we may not feel such a pressure around parking. And the last thing I think I want to offer is, it would be a really good idea for us to really revisit our love affair with the automobile. Many people I’ve talked with want to have a shuttle.
BAER 4: There is no silver bullet to the parking issue. I’ve been on a downtown committee that looked at it, and we really need to look at a multipronged approach. Encouraging bicycle and pedestrian traffic: good start. Having a parking management plan: great start to understand where the demand is. But then we need some out-of-the-box creative thinking. Look at Draeger’s. We just approved a new Safeway. I’m willing to bet anyone in this room that within five years Draeger’s is going to redevelop. Perfect location for a public-private partnership, perfect location for underground parking. Let’s start getting ahead of the curve and thinking of solutions before developers come to us. We really need as a community to be more proactive and by doing so we’re going to come up with better solutions that work for us as a community. Thank you.
PEPPER 4: For downtown overall I think what we should do is look at all the plans that we have. We have a urban design plan that was put together in 1992, we have a general plan was put together in 2002, we have zoning that was pout together in 2009, and now we have a parking plan that’s being put together. What we need to do is integrate all of these things and come up with a specific plan for the downtown and determine whether these plans that were put together earlier still are valid. Do those represent what we want today? And then, once we look at all that together, we can integrate together what we need as far as parking, as far as bicycles, whatever. But I think we need to know exactly what we’re going to be doing with the downtown as a whole. What is that going to look like in the next 10 or 20 years? And then that will tell us what our parking needs. And we also need to envision the future. We need to be able to have parking for bikes, parking for electric vehicles. So let’s look to the future as well. Make sure we’re planning for that.
DESMOND: “If you could accomplish one thing during your term — this is with the assumption that you’re going to get there — what with that one thing be?”
SORENSON 5: A very clear community based vision for our downtown. I think would be the one. I only get one, Kamrin? Just one? OK, there you go, that’s it.
SATTERLEE 5: OK, so Kamrin wanted honesty. So the thing that is most near and dear to my heart is pension reform. I cannot lie. It is a driving force. I’m on the California League committee to try to influence the Legislature to give us better solutions. The governor signed something that may give us a few more tools in the toolkit, but we are not where we need to be. If I could do one thing it would be to make something like that happen. But, that’s not my only priority but you only want one.
PELHAM 5: Thank you. A green master plan that integrates the downtown and the Civic Center and prioritizes pedestrians, cycling, public transportation, and automobiles in that order. I think that would be a great foundation upon which to build economic vitality and social vibrancy. I think it’s possible. I would love to work on this.
BAER 5: OK, so, I want at the end of four or eight years that people don’t hate me. So how do I accomplish that? One of the major things, in going around to over 2,000 houses, what I’ve heard is people want better communication. They want more open communication, they want to know what’s coming up at meetings, they want opportunities to be heard and they want it in a way that they don’t always have to show up at meetings or they don’t have to show up at Council meetings because they missed the meeting that was at the Planning Commission or Traffic Commission or wherever it was. And we need better process. We’re going to get there, I hope. We’re going to get a new website but I think we need as communities to be more thoughtful about what we can do and how we do it. Because I have 14 seconds I’m — Jerry [Sorenson] you’re absolutely correct, I have the wrong numbers. It’s 150,805 ft.² of new retail and Class A office in downtown Los Altos, 180,605 ft.² throughout the community.
PEPPER 5: The one thing that I’d like to accomplish when I get on the council, and I think it is achievable, is to set up some, is to improve the communication throughout the community. And the way I’d like to do this is by establishing some formalized neighborhood networks. As I’ve been walking around I’ve found that there are informal neighborhood networks. There are some neighborhood watch communities, there are some Yahoo groups, there are some nextdoor.com groups. There’s a lot of different things going on where people are getting together through the community and I’d like to formalize those and have all of those neighborhoods have a representative, or at least be actively involved in following what’s going on in the community and have the city be pushing information out to all of these neighborhoods so that they know what’s going on, they know when the Council meeting is, the know when the Planning Commission is, whatever’s going on and that we use social media. You know, we’re in Silicon Valley here, lets use the tools that we have to bring more people into our community and involved in making decisions.
BRUINS 5: For me, the number one thing that I would want to accomplish is to say that we have an effective, meaningful community engagement process. To me, that’s a big foundation whether you’re talking about what we’re doing with our downtown, or whether you’re talking about replacing sewer lines in our neighborhoods. Right now we rely very heavily on one-directional communication and I would like to see us make this two-directional. You know, imagine a website where you, as a resident, could type in your address and then it shows your closest to you terms of what’s happening and farther out so you can see the sewer project, you can see the roundabout, you can see the traffic light, you can see what’s happening in downtown. If you’re a south Los Altos resident, you’d probably see them in that order. I think that is really the basis for us to figure out how to engage our community is by getting a two-directional, not one-directional, not relying on a push mechanism, but also getting out there and getting residents involved in the definition before we even launch projects.
DESMOND: “Given the recent poll results how do you see the future of the Civic Center?”
SATTERLEE 6: OK, I’m not sure the poll results are that recent, so I’m assuming you’re thinking of the older poll results. So I believe in the Civic Center master plan and here’s why. It’s a long term plan. It enables flexibility for the community. It enables the opportunity for a pool. It enables the opportunity for a theater. It doesn’t guarantee that those will ever be built, but if we do not go forward with the master plan and instead we replace Hillview, which is in desperate need of being replaced, we lose those opportunities. And so, to me, it’s really the choice of having a vision and keeping the status quo. And so the direction we’re moving in right now, Council is moving in, is to repair Hillview to extend its life for 10 years to enable, in those 10 years, to continue to have the conversation and see whether the rest of the community agrees with me that having this long-term vision is a good one or not.
PELHAM 6: While the Civic Center master plan has merit, I think that incremental change is good but what I would like to see is to make Hillview a higher priority, maybe status equal with the police station. I believe in public-private partnerships, I’ve seen it work a lot in various communities around the United States. So I would recommend then to try to work with the community to create a public-private partnership to create a model intergenerational community center at Hillview. I think we could do it, it would be an exciting process, we could involve all of our neighborhoods, our community from the south to the north and build something that we can all be proud of that I think all of our residents deserve.
BAER 6: So when the poll was done a couple of years ago, maybe it was a year ago now. I understand the community concern. It’s a lot of money. It’s a bad time. People were trying to figure out how to make their expenses that they already have. So the timing was not right for the community center. But a community center, I think, is really a real community center, not an old school that’s got bathrooms that don’t work very well and a roof that leaks. A real community center is really important for a community like this. Los Altos, what makes Los Altos special is the sense of community we have. We run around and do all sorts of funny things — the Pet Parade, the Festival of Light Parades. We hang out on street corners with traffic. Why? Because we crave community. And, so, what it is what the timing is, how we do it? Good questions, but we need a community center.
PEPPER 6: I’m assuming these are the poll results that we just had where the community — where we were going to have a vote to fund the community center and the overall feeling was that there was not enough votes to pass it. So the current economic climate is such that the community does not have the appetite to fund the community center that’s been proposed. So, doing nothing, I don’t think is a responsible option but I think a fallback position is to spend the money we need to refurbish Hillview so it’s usable for the next 5 to 10 years as we figure out what to do. Maybe not next 5 to 10 years, maybe we’ll want to do something more quickly than that. But we need to prioritize what needs to be done and we need to figure out what needs be done for the community. This is a community center. So we need to bring the police center, police department up to the 21st century, but then we need to look at also what do we need for the community, for all of the age groups in the community.
BRUINS 6: I think this one’s challenging. We have a master plan there, and, ideally we would like to forward with that master plan. However, I have to say that in my walking the community, I think there is a potential for a disconnect here and I think there’s an opportunity for some clarity. If, again, we’re referring to the survey regarding the support for a bond measure, I think we heard loud and clear that a $65 million bond was not supported by our community. But what I think is missing in that is whether or not it is because of the economic times, and we need to take it in bite-size chunks and therefore we will have support if we take it bit by bit, versus whether or not the master plan is the right master plan. I’m getting a lot of feedback from the community challenging the master plan itself. And so I don’t think the survey that was done gives us the indicator of where the support or the failure of support is. But I agree that the community center is supposed to be part of the heart of the community. It’s where people feel connected. And I think we really need to focus in on the community center part of this.
SORENSON 6: Well, I have to say I wasn’t even remotely surprised by the poll results. I’m with Jeannie on this, I don’t know almost anyone who had any support for that plan. Do we need a plan? Yeah, we need a plan and the civic center should be part of the overall downtown plan. And it should be, again, a community-based vision that includes this whole area so that we’re meeting the needs of the community. This was as a top-down plan. It was a 1960s style plan, it just didn’t work. And the community didn’t want to spend that kind of money for that. I think people are confused. It wasn’t the economics, it was the plan. At least in the community that I’m familiar with. So I never was surprised by it and I think we need to replace it with another plan. It should be a plan, but not that one.
DESMOND: “How would you describe your leadership style?”
PELHAM 7: Well I’ve had the opportunity actually to study leadership. I have taught it in graduate school. I have written curriculum on leadership. I know what leadership is and I know what it looks like. I think leadership comes from place of values and understanding who you are. Leadership, I think, is about inclusion. It’s about diversity, it’s about everyone sitting at the table, and it’s about compromise and working together, asking the right questions, getting all the stakeholders around the table figuring it out and making it work. I’m the kind of person who is even-tempered. I listen. I really enjoy working with the community. I’ve had a great deal of experience solving problems, making progress, and I hope to do that on the Council.
BAER 7: So I’ve had the opportunity in many cases to show my leadership skills. I’ve been the founder of two venture backed startup companies. I’ve chaired the Planning Commission twice through some pretty tumultuous discussions about a number of projects with lots and lots of community input — which was good. Ask lots of questions, listen really hard, lead by example.
PEPPER 7: I think a leader needs to be able to set a goal that everyone wants to go along with. So, the leader, in order to be a leader, people need to have buy-in to that goal. And so the way of my style is, I seek opinions, I try to get buy-in, and I try to build consensus. As president of the League of Women Voters, one of the processes that we use for getting consensus on issues is to listen to people carefully, understand where everyone is coming from, make sure that everyone is heard, and then develop a position that everyone feels comfortable with. And so in order to lead, people need to be able to get behind that and go forward. So I like to listen — that’s one of the things I do — and seek opinions.
BRUINS 7: In my literature the thing I’ll read you from the top of it says, “The social fabric of community is formed from a shared sense of belonging. A community is shaped from the ideas of many. Participation takes place when people feel connected.” And I would describe my leadership style as being one that helps people to feel connected, to feel like they belong, through listening, through collaborating, and being able to take advantage of the collective intelligence of our community. I think a leader is not by directive. Again, it’s by inclusion. And then you can get down to the tough decisions that need to be made after you’ve included everybody in the process.
SORENSON 7: So I concur with most of what I’ve heard, but my style is completely collaborative, I go right back to the charette process for problem-solving. It is absolutely community-based. You involve everybody, you engage the community, and you foster an environment that delivers powerful knowledge to the community. Everyone in this room is smarter about something or some things than I am, and I probably know something more than they do about other things. Collectively we can get to very, very good solutions. This has to be the most powerful intellectual community in terms of its time, its intellectual capacity, its management capacity, and its generosity in terms of the time that it will give. We should engage that and unleash that on this issues that we have in front of us.
SATTERLEE 7: So I would say my leadership style is to model the behavior that I expect from others and treat everyone the way I would like to be treated. Which means being respectful, being an empathetic listener, actually putting myself in their shoes, and trying to understand the perspective by which they’re bringing me the information. And that enables me, I think, to work with a wide variety of the community whether I agree or disagree with what they’re saying. It enables me to come up with better solutions that meet more needs. I think that the most critical job a City Council member can do is to be approachable, to demonstrate respect for diverse opinions, and to listen and hear everyone, and to hold that expectation for everyone else in the community. I think civility in the community is the way you foster great community.
DESMOND 8: “Would each candidate state if they own property within 500 feet of the Civic Center, downtown Los Altos, or any other commercial area that would cause them to have recuse themselves from voting?”
BAER 8: So my residence is within 500 feet of the small portion of commercial along San Antonio. It is not within 500 feet of the other civic center or any other property. But if you draw a radius from about where the gas station is on Whitney, that’s about, encompasses probably six properties six commercial properties along San Antonio.
PEPPER 8: I do not own any property within 500 feet of the Civic Center, downtown, or any other commercial area in the town.
BRUINS 8: I do not do as well.
SORENSON 8: Yes [… I do own commercial property downtown].
SATTERLEE 8: OK, so I live in South Los Altos and as far as I know having drawn the 500 foot radius, I’m not in 500 feet of any commercial property nor any public lands such as parks.
PELHAM 8: I haven’t measured, but I think that I may. I live in a condo at the Park Regent. So it’s possible, yes.
DESMOND 9: “How do you feel about the current status of the First and Main development: the right plan? The right developer?”[Lalahpolitico: On Sept. 25, City council approved the Jeff Morris’s 400 Main Project at First and Main by a vote of 5 to 0. The developer has made improvements to the Foothill facade to make it look less monotonous. Improved renderings of all views of the building were presented.]
PEPPER 9: I’d like to see something a little bit more creative happen at First and Main. You know, we have a lot of plans that have been put together for the town. There’s an urban design plan back in 1992 and that defined that corner as one of the gateways. And Los Altos Forward has had speakers come and talk about how that’s such an important gateway into the city, and that we really need to make sure that that is developed to make a statement about Los Altos. And so I think it could be improved. I’d like to see some drawings that show how that integrates with the rest of the city. I think we need to do that for all development downtown. We need to have drawings that show not just the building itself, but the building in its surrounding area. And as part of developing a specific plan for the downtown Civic Center area we need to define what it is that we want at those important gateways into the town.
SORENSON 9: Well, based on the last question, I have to recuse myself. I don’t think it’s a fair question to ask about the “right developer.” There’s a contract with the developer, so there’s a contract with the developer. It appears to me, which is just me, it seems like the Council wants to push this project forward and the community would like to see something much nicer there, a much greater gateway project. I’m hopeful that Megan will hear the voices of the community and will slow the process down. In 2008, that parcel was zoned three stories, and just willy-nilly in the middle of the night they downzoned it from three stories to two stories, and said, “Oh well, if we want to rezone it, we can just zone it back to three stories if we want.” Well, now’s the chance. So, you can rezone it. You downzoned it and cost the city millions of dollars in value. So you can also go the other way.
SATTERLEE 9: So this item is scheduled to come before Council, I believe on September 25th. And as not only is my practice, but is required, I am not allowed to make remarks on a decision, on something that comes before me, before I hear from all members of the public. So let me comment on the RFP instead because that was in the public and has already been decided. The desire for this property was to enable what I mentioned earlier, which was different sizes of retail establishments. So that was the driving force behind how the RFP was crafted. It was to enable a greater mix of retail and/or restaurants by having a larger footprint, something that we can’t do on the existing Main and State Streets. And so that was the objective and that’s the way the RFP was written, and hopefully the project is addressing that when it comes to us.
PELHAM 9: Thank you. Well, I agree with my colleagues I think many people are disappointed and had hoped for a better and more creative public space. Certainly more people had hoped for a property that would invite people in from all sides, all the way around. It would be a gateway property that would be attractive from every angle. I think we learned a lot by going to the community conversations that Los Altos Forward offered — I certainly did. I was impressed enough I went and interviewed some architects to ask them what might be possible and indeed a great deal could be possible. So I’m hoping we might revisit this and see if we can get the kind of gateway property we all deserve.
BAER 9: So when you have a neighbor who builds a house and you don’t like the style of the house, there’s not much you can do about it. You can go talk to the neighbor, but it’s his or her property. And, a sense, for better or worse, that’s the situation we found ourselves in at the Planning and Transportation Commission which I was part of. It’s public land but there’s a contract with minimal requirements. It isn’t public land any more. Was the contract well written? No. I’d never sell city property. I would have put in lots more requirements on the part of the developer. I would have put in a requirement for public parking. But you know what? A contract is a contract. It’s legally binding. Could the project be improved? Of course, every project can be improved. But it requires the developer to want to make those improvements.
DESMOND: “What is your opinion of term limits for the city Council? In favor? Okay to run again after an interval of time off after serving? Does it need fixing?”
BRUINS 10: OK, I have to say I am in favor of absolute term limits, after you’ve served two terms. I believe we’ve got a wonderful population in Los Altos, a lot of residents. And I think it’s time to give the next person a chance, an opportunity to contribute. So, yes, I would be in favor of limits, if it’s written right now where it allows it, I would say I’d ask Council to tighten it up.
SORENSON 10: Ditto, eight years is too many.
SATTERLEE 10: I clearly can’t say “ditto” to that! So, I believe in term limits. I think the great thing about term limits is it brings a fresh perspective and allows for continuous improvement. And I think continuous improvement is everything we as people need, we as businesses need, we as communities need, we as city governments need. And I think that having fresh perspectives allows that. I have not seen this particular existing language which says two terms and then you’re off, but, as I understand it, the ballot expressly gave the example that you could come back. [??? Some inaudible ??? the situation has not come up so how can it] …be a problem in the community. So for me it’s not a priority to spend community money to solve a problem that I’m not convinced exists, but I do support two term limits, I have no desire to serve more than two terms.
PELHAM 10: I absolutely support term limits. I think that we have a lot of really smart people in Los Altos, gifted people, people that can bring enormous capacity and collect ideas to the Council. Yes, term limits, two, that’s it.
BAER 10: I support term limits. I think one of our challenges is getting in the committee, commissions, even the City Council getting enough of our residents — really qualified people — to participate. And I would encourage all of you in the audience to get involved with our city government. It’s a great experience.
PEPPER 10: I also agree. I think there should be term limits. It’s very important to get fresh blood and fresh ideas. And clearly there are plenty of people who are interested in running for City Council (as you see the six of us here). So I would support that.
DESMOND: “The city council meets at least twice a month and considering the preparation required amounts to approximately 30 hour a week commitment, are you prepared for this commitment and how much time have you dedicated to public service in the past?”
SORENSON 11: When George Bush said we were all supposed to volunteer 1,440 hour or something like that, I called the White House, asked for some of my time back. So, I’ve put in some time volunteering, whether it’s in Scouts, or Little League, or whatever. So I think we’re all well aware of the time commitment, certainly Megan is. I won’t speak for Megan, but certainly Megan is.
SATTERLEE 11: So I am very fortunate in that I have a flexible job. I work for Hewlett-Packard where we do have the ability to manage our schedule to go to the various and sundry Council assignments that we have all over the county. I also have an incredibly supportive husband who is very involved with the raising of our two-year-old son and, in many ways, sees him more than I do because he is supportive of me being off at Council meetings and Council assignments and candidate forums and everything else. So I’m pretty sure I have the time. I think I’ve demonstrated that.
PELHAM 11: The answer to that is yes. I’m a recovering workaholic. I am a full professor with tenure so my schedule is absolutely, completely flexible. I’ve talked with my Dean, it’s no problem. I can organize my schedule any way I like, so that’s good. In terms of the past, I’m the past president of the California Council on Gerontology and Geriatrics. It’s a statewide organization. I’ve dedicated years of service to that. I’m currently the president of the National Association for Professional Gerontologists that was founded in Los Altos in 2005. And I am the current president and heavily engaged in that, as well. that leaves plenty of time, however, to serve on the council should I be elected.
BAER 11: So, I’ve got a couple of good things that make working on Council easier. I’ve got a very flexible schedule. I work with startups in Silicon Valley and around the world. But I determine my schedule and that gives me a lot of flexibility. Secondly I’ve got an incredibly supportive wife, got a daughter who’s off in college, and a son who’s in high school so, from a parenting perspective, our kids are pretty well set. I demonstrated my, not only community service, but service to the city, 10 years, moved here 15 years ago and immediately got involved with making Los Altos a better place, initially starting with traffic. And then in the last 5 1/2 years on the planning commission and it’s nowhere near the time commitment. On Council you’ve got a lot of long meetings.
PEPPER 11: Well, they always say, “If you want things to get done, ask a busy person to get those things done.” So, I do have a full-time job. I work for the Silicon Valley Power, but I have a flexible schedule there, and they’re fully supportive of my running for office here. My parents brought me up and set the example of community service. And I’ve always been involved in community service with my kids in school, with the League of Women Voters, with other trade associations in my profession. So I’m totally committed to put the time in. My children have both graduated from high school, they’ve graduated from college, they have jobs so they’re off the payroll. I was taking care of my parents a few years ago, I lost my parents a couple of years ago, so unfortunately I don’t get the pleasure of doing that anymore. But I do now have the time to serve in Los Altos.
BRUINS 11: I definitely am fortunate to have the time to serve on City Council. For the last 14 years, I have been doing nothing but community volunteering. That’s my job. It’s actually on the ballot statement. In 1998 my son had medical problems and that took me out of being a workaholic at Hewlett-Packard and gave me the opportunity to start giving back to my community, and I never went back because I’m very impassioned about this. Also, having served on planning commission, I’m well aware of the amount of time and energy you need to put into things. With the planning commission, as Jon and I both know, with your packets you’re getting a lot of homework to do. And I’m known, and I think I was well-known on the planning commission for always having done my homework. And that includes going out and talking with the community and such. So yes I am prepared to do this and I have the luxury of time to do this.
DESMOND: “What are your specific recommendations on potential zoning changes for downtown, El Camino, Loyola Corners? What is your desired outcome?
SATTERLEE 12: So we as a community have made a number of zoning changes in all those areas with the exception of Loyola Corners. I don’t think we’ve studied that recently. However, along El Camino we have made modifications to the zoning there, we’ve made modifications the zoning downtown. So my view is that we need to actually see these modifications play out. I actually was recently involved in a committee related to making modifications to the zoning and/or development incentives. And I advocated against that, those are coming back through the planning and transportation commission. The one change that I am in favor of making is to enable sloped roofs to have a more equal footing with flat roofed buildings in downtown so that we might see a greater variety of architectural styles. The only other zoning change that I believe we will need to consider relates to the parking plazas adjacent to the 170 State Street area. Passarelle is looking to do a public-private partnership in that and I believe we need to rezone that to enable it.
PELHAM 12: Thank you very much. Well, the outcomes, the two outcomes, would be any zoning that would promote economic vitality and social vibrancy that’s really important. And once again I think zoning has to be sensitive to support pedestrians and cycling with every opportunity and also a chance for public transportation. As I’ve walked around Los Altos, especially in the south, many people have asked for a little mini shuttle service, a fixed stop shuttle. That would be the one wonderful way to pull our north and south borders together and bring some more vibrancy and vitality to downtown. I think that having a public private partnership would make that possible. In terms of El Camino, there’s wonderful literature out there about how to create grand boulevards. I think anything that we could do with zoning to give us an opportunity to do that, to make our portion of El Camino a grand boulevard, I would support that. And I also think it’s really important to allow some creativity in the buildings that we do build in the downtown core, and on the perimeter as well, and use good architectural best practice.
BAER 12: So we did make some changes in downtown and along El Camino, and we’ve seen results. Seven major projects, 180,000 ft.2 already — rather remarkable. What I want next is for the community to weigh in. We’ve got the new Packard Foundation building. We’ve got 24 3rd St. We’re going to have a new Safeway. We’re going to have two new condo projects on 1st St. And what I want to hear from the community after those projects are done is, “What do you think? Is it working? Do we have more feet on the street? Do we have more restaurants?” We need to understand if it’s working. If it’s not, we need to change it. We need to change the zoning. We need to give it a chance and that applies for what’s going on both downtown and on El Camino. With regard to Loyola Corners we need a plan for Loyola Corners. It’s a business district that’s really hurting. We need to fix it.
PEPPER 12: As far as the downtown goes, I think we need to do as I said earlier is to develop a specific plan based on the plans we have and make sure that we have community input on what we wanted downtown and the Civic Center together to be. And there have been zoning changes made. I would say we need to see how those shake out and to get community input on whether what is happening is what we want. For Loyola Corners there is a proposal that’s out for Loyola Corners, and when I’ve been walking that part the community, there’s some real traffic issues down there. It’s something that we really need to focus on. And I think it’s something where we really need to get the neighborhoods together, the merchants, the property owners, to really think through what they want that neighborhood to be like, and to then move forward on that.
BRUINS 12: The question asks for recommendations for zoning changes. My recommendation is no more zoning changes. Let’s put a hold on this for the moment. I do agree with some of what my colleagues said. The problem when you keep changing the zoning is you start whipsawing, not only the applicants coming forward because they don’t know what the target is (also referred to as where are the goalposts), but you also started whipsawing, I think, our residents as well who have a hard time keeping track of what’s what and what’s moving. So I’m in favor of, we need to invest in a master planning process. Not just a plan we label the master plan, but I’m a process person and that process needs to look at all our land use, our amenities, our transportation, a lot of variables on this. We need to see what the community inputs are on the current projects as well as what we want looking forward. And we need to pull that together and then have the zoning codes support that. In business you have a vision, a strategic plan, and a tactical plan. Zoning is a tactical plan. A tactical plan needs to support the overall plan above it.
SORENSON 12: So, as a City Council person I think that I’m just one voice out of 28,000, I’m not one voice of five. What my personal vision is I’m just one more citizen. If we want a vibrant downtown, we need to make significant changes to downtown. If we want a vibrant Loyola Corners, we’re going to need to make significant changes there. I agree with what Jeannie said, and I think with what some others said. We need a plan that’s a community-based visioning process. What do we want the town to look like? Today, despite what has been said here, there’s only five parcels out of 174 parcels [being redeveloped, the other 169] left [behind] in the city, in downtown that [should be] economically viable for development. And I don’t think all except one [ of the 169] is probably going to be developed. So we need some major changes to the zoning if we want that. Now maybe the community doesn’t. And I think we just have to listen to the community.
DESMOND: [I already asked you]…what would be the one thing you would want to accomplish …during your tenure and there was a little bit of grumbling so I’m going to give you the opportunity to add to that.
PELHAM 13: I have a list and it’s going on my website soon. Under economic vitality, a master plan and a visioning process that links the Civic Center in the downtown. Safe crossings for San Antonio and Foothill. Downtown zoning that’s based on analytics and best practices. Green building developments. Proactive parking management. Car parks for bikes at Foothill crossings. I think that it would be really good if we could come up with a way to have car parks so cyclists could go to Foothill crossings and feel safe. I think we need to have a plan to revitalize Loyola Corners and I think we need a long-term plan to look at the pension process and make sure we have the resources for that, And once again I think … our downtown ought to be organized, when that master plan is developed, in terms of pedestrian friendly, bike friendly, public transportation, and automobiles in that order.
BAER 13: OK, I’m going to give you laundry list so write quickly. We need to be proactive about business, about bringing into town the things we want and not simply being reactive. We need to get rid of the dumb things we do in town, whether it’s so closing down the street so long that it hurts businesses to other things that we do that dissuade businesses from being in town. We want Los Altos to be a community, both in the downtown and our other business districts where people say, “This is a great place, not only to live but also to run a business.” I want to move us away from being an engineering-solution-driven community to one that’s based on identifying problems, finding community values, and then developing solutions that work. But guess what? Can’t do it alone. So what I need to do if I’m elected is to build consensus with fellow commissioners, build consensus in the community so that we can move forward on these solutions.
PEPPER 13: There are a number of things I’m interested in. The foremost is transparent, inclusive government. I want to make sure that we’re reaching out to all the people in the community, to all of the neighbors, and that everyone’s input is heard with respect, and that people feel comfortable coming to the Council or to any public meeting and speaking their view. And that we reach out and really encourage all of the talented, intelligent people in this community to get involved and share their ideas so that we can come up with solutions that we probably can’t even conceive of now because there’s so many ideas that we could put together. I also want us to think strategically as we think forward. It’s Los Altos’s 60th anniversary, 60th birthday and we have, I’d like to look forward to the next 60 years and to make sure that the decisions we make are the decisions that we’ll be happy with 20 – 30 years down the road. So I think it’s really important that we think forward.
BRUINS 13: As I said, the fundamental thing I really would like to change would be effective, meaningful community engagement. I think that will carry us a long way, Like the others here, vibrant business district. That includes all of our business districts. And I would like to see us maybe take a different approach to our safe, convenient, and efficient access in our streets. More of the smart street approach to this so that we can achieve the right balance between automobile, bicycle, and pedestrian. I think we need to have a thoughtful development going on, and we need to be more careful in our management of projects. For me it’s really important that we be respectful and inclusive and that we welcome the many ideas. And I would like to see us strike from our vocabulary “special interest groups.” We are all part of a special interest group, and that special interest is Los Altos. I would like to have a long-term vision and short-term action.
SORENSON 13: I thought it interesting that I heard from almost everybody here respectful, civility, inclusive, transparency. Seems like a theme. So I concur with all of that. I would like to see an integrated traffic management system. I’m with Megan 100% on pension issues. This is an issue, that it’s a freight train coming down at every municipality and I’ve known about it for ten years. And we need to deal with it. So thank you Megan for that. And the downtown — but of all those issues, transparency is absolutely key and it is what will drive a very healthy environment
SATTERLEE 13: OK, so, some specifics. I would like to complete a 10 year revenue study of property tax revenues to make sure that we understand where we’re going from a fiscal perspective and whether we’re looking at any sort of cliff related to property tax revenue. I would like to eliminate the capital improvement project backlogs, something staff’s been working on, but it requires Council to be accountable for not overburdening the process. I would like to adopt metrics that prevent us from having a backlog in the future so that when Council makes a commitment to the community to build something, it gets built rather than sitting on a list and still being there 10 years later. I would like to increase priority on our pedestrian and bicycle facilities related to safe routes to school. I want to complete the parking management study and have a parking policy and program for downtown. And I want continuous improvement and community involvement completing the web design and adding more web content as well as some of the other ideas we’ve heard from some of the other speakers tonight.
DESMOND: Okay to wrap this up I really want to thank all of the candidates for giving her time, very great concise answers. I want to thank the audience for being here and for the questions that you put forth. I want to thank you for being civil. I want to thank you all for also holding to your timeframe. I want to thank the Los Altos Chamber of Commerce and the Los Altos Village Association and we also want to thank the Los Altos Library. Thank you.