City Council

Los Altos Measure A — Yes, No, Maybe

Too Big? – 2012 Ballot Language was Honest

Comparing the ballot language of today’s Measure A with the ballot language survey tested in 2012, Lalah notices that back then our council was more honest about the fact that recreational facilities were being expanded from about 25,000 interior square feet  to 55,000 square feet.

Los Altos Measure A Former Mayor Val Carpenter explains how there is demand for more recreation programs.

Former Mayor Val Carpenter in 2012 explains how the City Recreation Department estimates there is plenty of demand for more recreation programs. Today’s Los Altos Measure A still assumes there is plenty of demand to keep a 2X sized community center occupied.  But what are the economics of that? What are the negative externalities for the downtown residential neighborhood of a expansion of programming at the proposed location?


[2012 ballot language]   …shall the City of Los Altos secure funds to: replace the deteriorating and INADEQUATE Hillview Recreations Center.

At least back then the ballot language signaled an expansion of the recreation programs saying the old center was INADEQUATE. The then city council agreed that recreation services could and should be expanded.

Mayor Val Carpenter at her presentation to the Los Altos Financial Commission meeting March 19, 2012, stated said the City gets 70%+ of the course fees. She explained that the City Recreation Department believes it can expand its course offerings — “demand is there.” In fact, a $2,000 survey was going to be conducted to assist with the planning for the expansion of the recreation department offerings.

[Update: April 9, 2018: Recently Lalahpolitico learned that the City takes 30 -40% of course fees, not 70%.  This is on par with what other cities do.]

She went on to say that the current thinking then was that private fundraising would be tapped to pay for the majority of the $80M to pay for all Phases after Phase I. Phase 2 was to be the $16M sports fields and pools. Phase 3 was the Library, and Phase 4 was to be the transformation of Bus Barn theatre to a Performing Arts Center. Mayor Carpenter thought fundraising efforts could be easier because with the Master Plan in place, the zoning is pre-approved.

Note that the City in 2012 was not planning to include a pool facility in a bond.

Now with Los Altos Measure A, there is no specific plan at all, just ballot language that says there will be a new community facility for activities and meetings to provided “needed” recreation (unspecified size and number of buildings in the ballot); a pool facility; and renovated fields at Hillview Park. Because of the use of semicolons in the ballot language, it isn’t even specified that the new community building(s) and pool(s) will be located within Hillview Park. Legally they probably could be located anywhere on the 18 acre civic center or perhaps at schools(?). The ballot language does seem to say the sports fields will be within Hillview Park though. But Lalahpolitico is no lawyer.

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 couple of years.

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