City Council Opinion

For a “Charming” Downtown – Vote Jon Baer Los Altos City Council

Written by lalahpolitico

Jon Baer, City Council Candidate, is our Anti-Vibrancy hero, working diligently for years to save the City of Los Altos from a thriving downtown


SATIRE: For a “Charming” Downtown – Vote Jon Baer Los Altos City Council – Wink, Wink

By Anonymous

Winking emoticon Because I want a charming downtown pretty much the way it is now … or even better … the way I remember it when I was ten-years-old, I’m voting for Jon Baer.

Dear neighbor, please don’t be confused when Jon starts talking about “Downtown Vibrancy.” I don’t know why, but he has adopted this phrase. It’s a sly euphemism, introduced by “meanie greenies” for giving increased consideration to the needs and desires of two set of stakeholders – 1) downtown property owners, merchants and developers, and 2) residents who crave a higher density, bustling, entertaining, mixed commercial-residential town – over the needs and desires of another set of stakeholders – 3) residential property owners like me who live close to the periphery of downtown. It’s hardly an unanimous opinion among us, but we tend to favor NO increase in housing density, office density, traffic, parking, signage, hours of operation, commuters, or crime … etc. Let me keep my sleepy little town. Los Altos for Los Altans (OK, you people in the hills can come visit, too.)

Downtown Vibrancy is a sly euphemism, introduced by “meanie greenies”

Because Jon is one of these stakeholders himself, living in a historic home at the periphery of downtown, he is a perfect representative of my point of view. I’m happy to report that even Los Altans who don’t live right on top of downtown often share this viewpoint. By Jon’s reckoning, some 78% of Los Altans (or at least of those willing to answer phone surveys) want downtown to stay the same – “charming one- and two-story.” If they want more dining choices, later hours, and a more stimulating experience, they’ll go to Mountain View or Palo Alto. I say, “Let’s absolutely not have that urbanity here.”

If Jon believes the majority opinion is so large, why has Jon bothered to make up a silly but joyful “theory of vibrancy?” He is going around saying, “we really can have it all”– cutesy little buildings, no increase in traffic and signs – yet also a more “vibrant” dining, socializing, and shopping experience. All he has done by using the “V” code word – a code word that stands for massive buildings, more parking, more traffic, more blinking lights – is confusing the majority of voters like me who really do want to vote for him – Jon – the hero who is going to block moves towards “vibrancy.”

He takes credit for “helping to add 252,000 square feet of development to town.” But don’t worry, he didn’t approve or vote for anything like that. In fact, he sought to block almost all of it …what there is of it …

And he is actually blaming himself for all the horrible development that has been going on downtown since 2008. He takes credit for “helping to add 252,000 square feet of development to town.” But don’t worry, he didn’t approve or vote for anything like that. In fact, he sought to block almost all of it.

Jon’s Voting Record –

Jon Limits 45 Feet On First Street – Jon was on Downtown Committee III back in 2008. Sentiment was for rezoning all of First Street for 45-feet, but Jon blocked that, arguing he was saving the popular mom-and-pop Ace Hardware store. Staff – Walgren and city manager Doug Schmidt – came back with rezoning the North end, and then the South end – but excluding First Street between Draegers and Safeway. Those recommendations were ultimately implemented by City Council. Thank you Jon for saving at least some of First Street from 45 feet.

In 2008 Jon Baer opposed an office building for 1 Main. He approved this 3 story 38 foot 19 unit hotel – the city’s only real experiment form-based zoning. The hotel is supposed to break ground soon.

Jon Blocks Office at 1 Main Gateway in 2008 – Jon was on the Planning Commission back in 2008 and voted against Jeff Warmoth’s proposed office building for 1 Main Street (this is where the tiny 3-story hotel will soon be erected). Mr. Warmoth’s financing soon unraveled.

Baer opposed these 20 housing units on First Street

Jon Votes Against 20 unit Lennar First Street Housing – After the financing unraveled in 2008, Mr. Warmoth sold the First Street Adobe Animal Hospital property to Lennar Homes which today is almost done erecting 20 units of multi-tenant housing there. Jon voted against that project.

Jon Baer Opposed the Tan Office Building on Third Street

Jon Votes Against 240 3rd Office – Mr. Warner sold 240 3rd street to Tan Properties, which is all but done erecting an office building there. Jon voted against that project.

Baer opposed these housing units on First street. Project about to break ground.

Jon Speaks Against Randy Lamb’s 45 unit Housing Project – Jon was absent for the Planning Commission meeting which approved Randy Lambs’ 45 unit housing project on North First. But Jon did show up at City Council to speak against it as a “private citizen.”

Jon blames himself for 252,000 square feet that add vibrancy (congestion, noise and light) downtown. There isn’t that much, it isn’t even downtown, and he supported hardly any of it. The real math.

There isn’t much new footage downtown Period. Jon Opposed new Downtown Housing.

There’s only about 28,000 square feet of net new retail downtown,  a mere 6,000 if you exclude Safeway. Jon Baer opposed all 70 new housing units downtown. Because of the lovely sprawl of the Packard Foundation Building, there’s about 19,000 square feet less office space.  Density is way down. Hurrah!


Real Math – Look at Office and Retail Downtown—

400 Main – Morris – 18,400 new office, 6,300 net new retail = net new 24,700
160 First – Safeway = net new 22,500
1 Main (formerly 45 Main) – the hotel, is not office not retail = 0
240 Third – 13,775 net new office = 13,775
343 Second (Packard Foundation) – decrease = -19,250 of office (It covers only 34% of the lot; 200% was the target)
Summary: net new office = 13,478 net new retail 24,600

Real Math – Look at Housing Downtown – He Opposed …
396 First Street adds 20 units – Jon opposed
100 First Street adds 48 units – Jon opposed

Real Math – Outside of Downtown – not near his home – not part of downtown vibrancy – He approved …
960 San Antonio – 46 housing units and 1200 retail – Jon approved
4710 El Camino – 205 housing units and 17, 800 of finished retail – Jon approved

Jon Baer’s Joyful Vibrancy Theory

Jon Baer says, “Things are not gloom and doom downtown. [sic] [Ed: Oh yeah? We are still building only 3 projects a decade.] Look at those 252,000 square feet of projects built or being built. [Ed: fallacious statistic]. Things are changing. The Planning Commission, with me on it, and the Council have approved adding all these projects downtown mostly outside of the core. All these extra office workers at the periphery are going to the core to visit the restaurants and shops downtown EVENTUALLY [emphasis added] making those establishments more profitable. Merchant incomes will rise [Ed: eventually]. Property Owner rents will rise [Ed: eventually]. Better shops and restaurants will move in. All the residents of Los Altos, the Hills, etc. can enjoy the new mix. Hallelujah! “

Baer’s indirect zoning changes – only to the outer downtown ring –
will sustain meaningful change for the core
… but soooooo slooowwwly … taking 100 years

This theory posits that indirect zoning change – to the outer downtown ring – will sustain meaningful change for the core. Well yes, there will be change, but soooooo slooowwwly, we might not notice for 100 years. That’s EXACTLY what I want, so I’m voting for Jon.

Jerry Sorensen’s Real Vibrancy Theory

Jerry Sorensen says, “If you, in your lifetime, want to see gradual change – say over 15 to 30 years – to the downtown core, start now with DIRECT zoning change on State and Main. That incentivizes property owners to actually invest in rebuilding the aging buildings on Main and Street. [Ed: where not forbidden by the Historical Resource Inventory.] Increasing height limits, even by several stories, will not result in an immediate build out at those stories. These parcels in the core are very small, owned by many different owners. Decision-making is very decentralized. Even with incentives, lots of owners won’t respond quickly. Change will still take lots of time. Just it won’t be never.”

Sorensen’s proposed direct zoning change on State and Main incentivizes property owners to actually invest in rebuilding the aging buildings…Change will still take lots of time – 15 to 30 years to notice – Just it won’t be never

This Sorensen theory gets things moving way too fast for me. I want my children and my children’s children to have a small town in 2040 like the one I have now. There will always be plenty of retailers doing it for a hobby who don’t need to make a real living. Oh, and I wish Google and Apple would move their headquarters to Arkansas and take all those employees there, and stop buying up property around here at more than it’s worth.

Jon’s Near-term Plan to Neuter First Street Zoning

Thankfully there is a total chill on new development proposals downtown right now. This was orchestrated by Jon’s key campaign supporters – council members Val Carpenter and Ron Packard – rolling back zoning and developer incentives just recently. Jon promises that once the awful projects on First Street are completed – those two he didn’t vote for – the public can come and bellyache and help him roll back the zoning there. I urge you to be sure to add your voice to the howls, and make sure those 68 luxury housing units on First are the last ones we’ll have to stomach.


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 several years.