In 2012 City Council stopped trying to pursue its Civic Center Master Plan when a survey of voters rejected a bond proposal to finance a community center, a police station, and a city hall in the first phase. In the fall of 2013 the Council voted to pursue ONLY a new community center, because the bond survey showed support for that element. Lalahpolitico has been investigating how the Council’s path of action may affect other elements of the plan – library, theatre, police, pool.
Library – think small, think big
Apparently in the 2008- 2009 time frame the planning for Civic Center Master Plan shelved a much simpler remodeling plan. The Friends of the Library had proposed an inexpensive expansion plan for a new library wing. They had hired an architect to create a plan for adding 4,000 square feet to the existing one-story building for a cost of around $3M. The Friends would have been able to move their used book sales operations out of Hillview Community Center and become part of the library physically – their dream come true.
However, the Los Altos Library Commission, saw a way to get a greater expansion than the 4,000 square feet in the Friends’ plan for a single wing. Instead they pinned their hopes on a much larger library that was sketched in the new Civic Center Master Plan. Thus, the Los Altos Library rebuilding-remodeling effort became part of the Master Plan. Contrast that to the Los Altos History Museum. It has a relatively new building and opted out of the 2008 Master Plan entirely.
Library Past – the 1989 bond
Back in 1989 the voters of Los Altos and Los Altos Hills passed a bond to remodel and expand the library building, adding about 16,000 square feet to the existing 18,500, almost doubling the space. In planning for the bond and the construction, each of the library departments forecast their usage and square foot needs. These became a specification that was prepared as a Request For Proposal (RFP). The RFP process drew 7 or 8 competitive bids from construction contractors, and the city manager made a selection among them.
So when the 1989 library remodeling bond came before the voters, 1) there was an exterior design plan to show the voters, 2) interior floor plans suggesting how space could be used in the expanded library, 3) and a firm price tag. The $2.5M 1989 bond was passed by the voters, and the building was constructed. [ Lalahpolitico observes that having those three pieces of information clearly articulated is essential to marketing a bond in our highly educated area.]
Library Future – in the Downtown Triangle along with a Theatre?
The Phase I bond measure language for the 2009 Civic Center Master Plan failed at the survey test stage in March 2012. However, one accomplishment is that the 18 acre civic center parcel is now “zoned” for the Master Plan, but there is no money, so the plan is really a blank slate again – blank for the library, for the police station, for the city hall, for the theater, for the pool etc. The old plan had the library being rebuilt more or less on its current footprint but with a second story.
Now that the Master Plan is dead or dormant, there are alternative ideas afoot for the library building. Los Altan David Smith has advocated before City Council for locating a new library building right in the downtown triangle. He reasons it would bring many more feet on the street and to the downtown core.
Lalahpolitico: yes it could do that, but could complicate tight parking conditions perhaps? What do downtown property owners think? Would the library’s core constituencies — moms driving kids, mature adults — find it more or less convenient? The downtown triangle location has also been suggested for the Bus Barn – Los Altos Stage Company. Many unbuilt downtown project plans have been trying to get a movie theatre or stage theater downtown for almost two decades now. Still could happen though!
Mr. Smith is also enthusiastic about the idea of a city-run library such as in Mountain View or in Princeton, N.J. Jean Mordo of Los Altos Hills has elaborated on how that could work. All Santa Clara County Library staff would become employees of the City or (maybe of the North County Library Authority, aka cities of LA and LAH) rather than the County. This idea was recently evaluated by the Los Altos Community Foundation in this report. More likely, the City of Los Altos Hill might simply partner in funding a new library building, wherever it goes, whether county-run or city-run.
Police Station Future – Mid-city?
The defunct Master Plan had the new Police Station being relocated to front of San Antonio at the North corner of the civic center parcel. A new idea Council has floated is to possibly move it to mid-city, perhaps on city land near Mackenzie Park on Fremont near Springer Ave. Lalahpolitico: It would be attractive location for improving police service to South Los Altos. Also the San Antonio frontage downtown Los Altos could be used for something more commercially appealing than a police station. The new station mid-city might have labs, evidence rooms, and possibly more jail cells. However, some people suggest continuing to use Mountain View for jails and labs in order to build a more frugal station.
Pool Future – Downtown or a pair of N & S Pools?
The best part about the Master Plan zoning was that the “Splash” city pool advocates finally had a piece of city land designated for their favorite amenity. When the school District closed Covington Jr. High in1975 , a city/school partnership emerged to continue to operate the pool there for about 20 years. But it is gone now. Splash was formed to bring back a public pool to Los Altos.
Unfortunately, the City Council’s current prospective Hillview Center replacement project for $20M will probably use the Hillview parcel in way that makes the pool impossible to place on the civic center parcel. Lalahpolitico thinks that 2012 Council Candidate Jerry Sorensen’s idea to locate a pool at Blach and a second pool at Egan makes more sense. Way back in the 60’s, there apparently an intention to have pools at all the Junior Highs – Covington, Egan, Blach. Only Covington got one. [Lalahpolitico: Of course, the Egan and Blach junior high school sites are where Bullis Charter School is housed now and is likely to be housed in perpetuity. Is there room for pools? ]