City Council

Passerelle Downtown Green could morph into Government Green

Summertime Green 2017 would be a $75,000 park on 20,000 feet of the central parking plaza
Written by lalahpolitico

UPDATE March 1, 2017. From the City Clerk Note this morning: Council “Approved the return of the Downtown Green from approximately July 10th through August 31st on either Third Street between State Street and Plaza South, or on State Street between Main Street and Fourth Street; and approved of expenditure of up to $25,000 of City funds.” So it looks like Council gave the nod to having the City pay towards the smaller, cheaper Plan C..a return of the 2,300 sq. ft. 2016 “Third Street Green” but apparently in a slightly different location.  So no loss of 81 parking spots of Plaza 6. I did not watch the meeting so I don’t have further details.

 

Feb. 28, 2017 –Passerelle’s summertime State Street/Third Street Green could morph into Government Green. The popular donor-supported downtown pop-up parklette — which has appeared downtown most recent summers — may become much larger and government-supported, aka City of Los Altos tax-payer supported. The City of Los Altos is contemplating taking over the vast majority of the cost and work of installing/tearing down the synthetic turf and programming a 2017 Downtown Green.

See Item 7: 2017 Downtown Green at Plaza 6 on the Feb. 28 City Council Agenda, 7 pm.

“As part of the City’s new Summer Fun series of programming, the 2017 Downtown Green would feature approximately 20,000 SF of synthetic turf, with chairs, tables and shade umbrellas, open to the public. [The Citibank – Costume Bank parking plaza would be the location – and ideally the Green would run from July 1st to August 31st.] The Green will host daily activities and special events targeted at multiple interests and age groups. The event will highlight local businesses and give local retailers the opportunity to sponsor and present events and activities on the green, potentially giving a lift to an otherwise slow season in downtown Los Altos.”


Passerelle Third Street Green

The small 2,300 foot Third Street green in Summer of 2016 (?)

 


During prior years’ Greens, the City has limited its involvement to sometimes doing routine maintenance of the temporary greens and sometimes programming the events of the greens. Total out-of-pocket direct City costs seem to have been limited to $5,000 in 2016. For 2017, Parerrelle/LosAltosCommunityInvesment, wants to limits its involvement to $25,000 contribution as a lead sponsor.

The City would have to pick up direct costs of $75,000 for the 2017 Downtown Green park set-up and tear down. Also there will be indirect costs of recreation department staff creating classes and events for this “new Summer Fun” programming. However the event planning consultant which produced the prior downtown Greens – namely Giant Creative – will augment the City staff programming. 81 parking spots would be lost for the duration of the pop up Downtown Green.


The Passerelle State Street Green was large at around 6,000 feet. It disrupted Street parking, but not a loss, because Safeway was under construction. First Street was closed. Everything was already disrupted. The City apparently paid nothing.


Lalahpolitico: 10X the space of the 2016 Green!?!?!

A 20,000 square foot park proposal for the Downtown Green when the 2016 Green was only 2,300 seems like a bold Plan A indeed. Well, not to worry…the City also suggests less costly, scaled-back plans B, C, D.

Plan B: How about a run of 30 days August 1 to August 31 instead of 60 days? Plan C: Or how about just doing it on the 2,300 sq feet back on Third street again for 30 days. Plan D: Discontinue the pop-up park concept in Downtown.   After all, some neighbors do complain about the occasional noise and traffic impacts.  [Lalahpolitico: Do you think the City is gaming us….making a really BIG ask, just to make us heave a sigh of relief when they quickly settle for cheap and easy Plan C? … the good old 2,300 sq ft. Third Street Green? Perhaps.]

Passarelle’s very first pop up green was a small one behind Petes. As Lalahpolitico recalls it…imperfectly.. it popped up only for a couple of weekends. It was very, very temporary. The City paid nothing.


Lalahpolitico: Go Fund me.com

Frankly Lalahpolitico hates to see activities that were instigated and supported by the private sector become permanent subsidies of City of Los Altos government, aka the public sector.

Let’s recall that downtown’s pretty, potted annuals were the idea of the Los Altos Village Association [merchants/property owners] and those members used to pay for it each year. Now us residential tax-payers foot the bill. Let’s recall that the History Museum’s Executive Director was originally an employee of that non-profit funded by some serious history enthusiasts. Now resident tax-payers pay for that entire six-figure salary position and its public sector pension perk. [ March 2 – Fact checking this: a reader wrote saying he believes the City support is just $65K and the position is not a City position. ] The Public Art Commission outdoor sculpture program used to be 100% privately funded by the artists involved – that arrangement seems to be changing. [March 2 – Fact checking this: a reader says for several years now, each artist has been receiving a one time stipend of $2,500 for art on loan.] The Senior Commission and Community Senior Centers were originally established with the idea that activity fees would cover costs – now there is more talk of the desirability of subsidies here and there. [March 2 – another reader points out that the History Museum and Bus Barn/Los Altos Stage Company enjoy a City subsidy by being rent-free.]

Lalahpolitico is not so sure that letting various local groups fund their hobby, career, social club, age group or business idea at the expense of us property tax-paying neighbors is a good thing.

2017 Preferred Park Proposal looks way too ambitious and costly.  The City would pay the Lion’s share, aka $75K while LACI/Passerelle would sponsor it to the tune of $25K.


Show me the Breakeven Sales Tax Money in July/August

The City report about the proposed 2017 Downtown Green asserts that summer is a slow season for downtown businesses; that seems like a plausible fact. But please explain to me if the EXTRA SALES TAXES collected downtown in July and August 2017 will exceed the $75,000 in direct City costs? Will there be park event fees paid by attendees that cover costs? Frankly I doubt it. Especially because AUGUST is the month when virtually all our families are out of town, on a trip…and then return to the frenzy of back-to-school the last week in AUGUST. You just won’t get their attention or money. Back to school shopping downtown? Hmmm, I don’t think so.

BTW, Lalahpolitico has asked the City to publish a sales tax City revenue report for the downtown triangle vs. the Rest of Los Altos. [By year at minimum and by month would be nice.] Property tax revenue with the same breakout could also be illuminating.

Los Altos area families are often out of town all of August right up to the first day of school… It’s really dead, dead, dead around town.


Where and When a downtown Park might make Sense

Alhough Lalahpolitico feels the City should give up on a 2017 pop-up Downtown Green, PERMANENT parks downtown might make some sense. The LACI proposal for converting half the lot across from Safeway (Plaza 7)  to a permanent Green might work – the existing parking would go underground there. [Many residents want to see the extent of developer concessions LACI might want for its new building next to the permanent Green before acknowledging the park as an adequate community benefit.]

Also the old Greentown Los Altos concept of a permanent park on the two skinny plazas between State Street and Main still resonates with Lalahpolitico. [The first image in this post is an architect’s rendering of this concept. This concept is for a park behind Citibank, the Costume Bank, LindenTree, Pete’s coffee, Skips Pizza. A parking structure might have to be built somewhere downtown…how about in the south part of the triangle next to the Packard Foundation? Keep it away from residential condos.]

And if ever, ever, ever there were to be  construction of a new Hillview Community Center, a tear down there might create the need for temporary venue for some summer recreation programming in the downtown triangle. In the mean time lets not waste City funds buying or renting(?) very temporary synthetic turf, tents and umbrellas that have inadequate cost recovery.

And of course, for summer 2017, if additional private co-sponsors besides LACI are found for a downtown pop-up park…sponsors who will cover virtually all the expense…that is probably viable. The City could green light that. But save that $75,000 of City funds to pay for new buildings on the civic center and rehabilitation of our other long-lived infrastructure.

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 only became fascinated with business of local politics only in the past couple of years.

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