Last night June 27, 2017, Los Altos City Council held a Study Session to conduct a “progress review” of the Exclusive Negotiation Agreement (ENA) for the LACI First Street Green. About 70 people made 1 minute public comments to Council.
Lalahpolitico estimates only 5 to 10 people were opposed, or wary, or cautious about the LACI First Street Green proposal. The rest were enthusiastically PRO. Of the PRO contingent, about a dozen were pre-teens or teens. I’ve never, ever seen so many youngsters show up for local city politics before. Wow.
The Council took no action, but 4 of 5 council members were satisfied that progress was on schedule. Only Lynette Eng want to slow down and deliberate more about the LACI First Street Green. Once Staff has digested LACI’s full planning packet submittal and reports back about its findings about the LACI First Street Green at an upcoming regular City Council Meeting, then Council may officially vote to continue with the ENA.
Council Discussion Highlights
Jeannie Bruins wants staff to contact “every” merchant downtown to assess the impact on their cash flow and viability. Perhaps some merchants need temporary locations away from the construction of the LACI First Street Green. The City should help somehow with mitigation of the economic impact on merchants. [The owner of a hair salon had commented ruefully that he expected he would go out of business because of the two years of construction of the LACI First Street Green]. …. Bruins suggested that the Green’s sound stage be moved away from the alley and the Condos on Second Street to reduce the noise pollution. Similarly, she said she hoped the Green would not be “over-programmed.” She preferred the idea of small groups of people meeting up, coming together organically – essentially entertaining themselves. Lalahpolitico: That would be quieter too.
Bruins wants the developer and the City to figure out how to mitigate the temporary loss of 62 parking spaces during two years of construction of the LACI First Street Freen. And she urged staff to talk directly to Safeway [to insure they do not stop providing over 100 public parking spaces].
Lalahpolitico: Former Mayor King Lear has explained in writing to City Council and to City Staff… the risk of the existing City/Safeway shared parking agreement…
LEAR STATES THE PROBLEM:
“The proposed LACI project would remove 67 public parking spaces for about two years. This would trigger the lower cost Opt Out clause in the City/Safeway Shared Parking Agreement. Until 7/19/2019 the Opt Out cost is $2.38M, without cause, or $500K with cause if more than 22 local public parking spaces are lost for more than 180 days. Safeway wanted this clause because they are very sensitive to the impact of a loss in public parking in the immediate area of their store. The risk is high that 125 public/shared parking spaces [at Safeway] would be lost.
People offer their “guess” that Safeway would not opt out for $500K. But “guessing” is not how you manage risk. Losing these 125 public spaces as a result of approving the LACI project would be a source of embarrassment for all City officials.
Require the applicant [LACI] to limit the reduced public parking for less than 180 days, even though the project may take several years to complete. This can be done. If this schedule requirement is not met, and if Safeway executes the termination for cause, then LACI shall compensate the City for the difference between the Opt Out fee without cause and lower fee with cause. This would be $1.88M. “
Download King Lear’s full proposal for moving ALL 102 Plaza 7 spaces underground…and locating a theater next to the Green.
Jan Pepper agreed with a Bruins suggestion that the Council probably needed some education about how public – private – partnerships work. It is Council’s duty to make sure the City gets a “good deal.” She expressed optimism that the Council and Staff and City lawyers…could successfully craft the details of a complex set of legal contracts. Pepper summed up with a rousing pep talk, “We can DO it. Yes we can.”
Mayor Mary Prochnow made us laugh when she said the Green’s public toilets — especially including their maintenance — was the best part of the Anne Wojicki gift of the First Street Green. Prochow reminisced
that thirty years ago she had tried to get the City to create some public toilets downtown. This idea was nixed by the then City Manager who said the City would “never be able to afford the toilet maintenance.” Prochow also spoke warmly about Anne Wojicki. Paraphrasing …”She’s not a crafty developer, she’s a donor. Also she lives nearby and has a child in our public schools. She is one of us. We should be delighted by her gift to the community.”
The Developer Team…tidbits
They have engaged with over 900 people about their project.
They don’t want to take title to any City land. They don’t need any City land to build and fully park the office building. However, to do the LACI First Street Green project, some easements are needed.
The Private-Public-Partnership will be between 3 entities – the City, LACI LLC, and the New Venture Fund (NVF) – a philanthropic organization where the Anne Wojicki’s LACI First Street Green gift is a “project.” A pot of money is already sitting at NVF to pay for the First State Green — any funds not spent on construction can be rolled into an endowment to finance various types of maintenance and activity programming.
If Los Altos rejects the gift of the First Street Green and underground parking, NVP will seek another use for the Wojicki charitable funds. Several public commenters speculated that NVF would do a project with City of Mountain View instead.