City Council

Rein in Los Altos Downtown Development Developer Incentives Oct. 22

mansard, flat and slope roof measurements…with HVAC

On the agenda for the Oct. 22 7 pm meeting of the Los Altos City Council is the likely final reading of changes to ordinances governing developer incentives.  The Downtown Committee IV has moderated the bite of the language originally proposed by Val Carpenter and Ron Packard some months ago – language intended to keep downtown “charming and looking pretty much the way it is now.”

Here is the Complete Meeting Packet in a single large pdf file.

What’s changed for Los Altos downtown development developer incentives?

You can see that it grants “minor” exceptions in height and parking requirements for “significant” public benefits. That doesn’t seem too bad on the face of it?! It also changes the way commercial roof heights are measured with the intention of favoring slant roof designs over flat roof ones. That doesn’t seem too bad on the face of it?!

Lalahpolitico added some labels, lines and arrows to better understand the diagram that comes from the Downtown Committee IV. The staff report does say the 1 Main Street hotel is 38 feet under the new measurement and 30 feet under the old one. So does that mean we won’t seen any more 3 story Mansard roof projects in core?  Why is a mansard the only one measured by a “deck line?” I guess the important difference between the 1 Main Hotel mansard, is that it has habitable space under the roof rather than HVAC.  Only HVAC is to be allowed in the future. So with these changes, Val and Ron are getting what they intended – a limit to 2 interior stories in the core.

 

But we agree with city council candidate Jerry Sorensen, “Development incentives should not be subjective, as this makes them inherently political.

LALAHPOLITICO COMMENT: But we agree with city council candidate Jerry Sorensen, “Development incentives should not be subjective, as this makes them inherently political. A specific and objective formula should be developed so that every one can play by the same rules, and the downtown can receive funds for needed improvements.  A specific plan that identifies development goals and infrastructure improvements will be the best strategy.”

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Excerpt from the Staff Report – Quote…

“Staff reviewed how this new height measurement would affect recently approved buildings and determined:

 For sloped-roof buildings, such as the One Main Street hotel, it does not benefit nor harm the structure’s height determination. The building would measure 38 feet to its highest point per the new definition, or 30 feet to the midpoint of the roof per the current definition.

 For flat roof buildings, measuring to the plate versus measuring to the top of the roof deck would be a relatively significant height benefit. This measurement would be more in keeping with the City’s current definition, which is to measure a flat roof building to its interior ceiling.

Since measuring a building’s height to its plate is a more technical determination – it must be done via a series of building cross-sections versus off an elevation – staff does not see a benefit to changing this definition. In fact, for a flat roof building it is contrary to the direction given by Council. It also continues to benefit flat roof buildings over sloped roof structures. Therefore, it is recommended that sloped roof buildings continue to be measured to the midpoint of the roof surface, per the updated definition below and flat roof buildings be measured to the top of the roof deck.”

for a flat roof – the reference is the Ceiling Roof Deck
for a mansard roof – the reference is the Deck Line
for a gable, hip, gambrel – the reference is the Plate and Ridge 

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ORDINANCE NO. 2012-388 AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF LOS ALTOS AMENDING THE LOS ALTOS MUNICIPALC CODE PERTAINING TO THE PUBLIC BENEFIT FINDINGS CONTAINED IN SECTION 14.48.180 – EXCEPTIONS FOR PUBLIC BENEFIT IN THE COMMERCIAL RETAIL SALES DISTRICT; THE HEIGHT MEASUREMENT DEFINITION FOR COMMERCIAL AND MULTIPLEFAMILY STRUCTURES CONTAINED IN SECTION 14.66.230 HEIGHT LIMITATIONS – MEASUREMENT; AND ADOPTING A DEFINITION OF A BUILDING “PARAPET” IN CHAPTER 14.02 – DEFINITIONS SECTION 1.

 

AMENDMENT OF CODE: Amend the public benefit findings contained in section 14.48.180 – Exceptions for Public Benefit per the following: To implement the Downtown Design Plan, minor exceptions from the provisions of this chapter may be granted in the context of the project’s benefit relative to its location. Since these are not required by law, they are to be allowed at the complete discretion of the city, provided the following findings are made:

1. The benefits to the downtown will be significant;
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 a public benefit 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 exceptions may include, but are not limited to, setbacks, height of structure, height of the first floor, on-site parking, and other zoning regulations. “Height of structure” shall only apply to building height exceptions that support the project’s architectural integrity.

C. For the purposes of this section, significant public benefits identified in the Downtown Design Plan, include, but are not limited to, projects that accomplish the following:

1. Provide for additional public parking, beyond minimum code requirement project needs.
2. Provide additional public outdoor plazas and gathering and eating spaces, visible from the public, to enhance the ambiance of the downtown.
3. Create prominent, recognizable, entry points into the downtown area.
4. Preserve the historic character of downtown by renovating existing historic buildings.
5. Create strong pedestrian linkages to the Civic Center and residential areas adjacent to downtown.
6. Develop pedestrian walkways or “paseo” passage ways where they are needed, to better link rear parking plazas to the businesses along State and Main Streets.

 

SECTION 2. AMENDMENT OF CODE: Amend the height measurement definition for commercial and multiple-family structures contained in section 14.66.230 Height Limitations –

Measurement per the following: 14.66.230 –

Height limitations—Measurement. The vertical dimension shall be measured from the average elevation of the finished lot grade at the front, rear, or side of the building, whichever has the greater height, to the highest point of the ceiling roof deck of the top story in the case of a flat roof or; to the deck line of a mansard  roof;

and to the average height between the plate and ridge of a gable, hip, or gambrel roof.; provided, however, in. A mansard roof is defined as any roof element with a slope of 60 degrees or greater.

SECTION 3. AMENDMENT OF CODE: Adopt a definition of what a building “parapet” is in chapter 14.02 – Definitions per the following: “Parapet” means a wall or roof structure projecting up from the roof to define a roof line and/or to screen mechanical equipment. Roof elements with a 60 degree slope or greater may be considered parapets. Parapets may not be used to provide additional usable floor space for dwelling, commercial use, or storage of any type. Parapets shall be integral to the architectural design of the building.

 

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.