City Council Parks & Rec

Hillview Task Force Preps for City Council Sept 26

The Task Force remain split on where to site the new building. City Council will give feedback Sept. 26
Written by lalahpolitico

On Sept. 11 the Hillview Task Force reached consensus on an allocation of 15,000 square feet of  interior space for the new community center project. However, the group of volunteers remains split between two different building site locations. Opinions differ as to — the two sites’  connection to downtown, connection to the rest of the civic center/library, pedestrian friendliness, neighbor politics, and the importance of staying within budget. One site requires moving the soccer field at a cost of $2M.

The Hillview Task Force will take its non-final, non-binding “recommendations” to a City Council study session 5-7pm, Sept. 26.

During the study session, the Hillview Task Force hopes to explore Council’s willingness to increase the project budget to pay for “extras.”  After the study session, the Hillview Task Force will discuss Council’s feedback  at a separate meeting after 7 pm…in order to finalize a site choice.  The Tam & Noll architect needs a site decision that night in order to remain on schedule and to start to prepare detailed designs and drawings. At some point in the future, drawings of the building exterior may be presented to the public through an online survey.


Space Allocation – Tying small loose ends

At its Sept. 11 meeting, the Hillview Task Force had concurred about major interior space tradeoffs/decisions — size of the social/banquet hall, dedicated space for seniors, specialized space for tots, etc.  But there were a couple of loose ends.  Red arrows indicate Tam & Noll/ Recreation Dept. small tweaks to the prior unfinished allocation.

Figure: Space Allocation Recommendation – by the numbers

Hillview Community Center Task Force space allocation for Sept.26

The Hillview Task Force left a couple of loose ends at the prior meeting. The architect and Dir. of Recreation finalized the allocation with a small cafe and a game room which everyone hopes will to attract teens.  Red arrows indicate Tam & Noll/ Recreation Dept. tweaks to the space “recommendation”.

As was discussed at length in this prior post, the guiding principle of the space allocation by the Hillview Task Force was to maximize flexible space. There is a total of 15,000 sq feet of interior space, which is almost exactly equivalent to the amount of space the Recreation department “programs” at Hillview now.  The Seniors have exactly the same dedicated space as they have now  ~2000. Besides the dedicated space in the new community center, seniors  will continue to have access to several flex space rooms there from 9am to 3pm.  So there is no reduction of  “City Programming” at the new Hillview. But yes, current tenants are NOT being accommodated within the confines of this project. Some are being accommodated in other ways.

Figure: Key features of Interior Space plan

The 20,000 gross sq foot building will have 15,000 useable net space.


Site Preferences Still Split – Site 4 vs. Site 5

The architect will soon need a final decision from the City on where the new building is going to be sited before… they can start making all the detailed design decisions and all the drawings and elevations.  At the Sept. 18 meeting, the Hillview Task Force was able agree that Site Options 3 and 4 — both roughly in front of the baseball diamond —  were too similar, but they could not agree on Site 4 ( by baseball diamond)  vs. 5 (on current soccer field).

Figure: Site 4 – adjoin baseball diamond, History Museum

Hillview Task Force Site 4 option

Red line…Site plan 4 provides a “visual connection” to downtown and a physical “adjacency” to the civic center. It is within spitting distance of the $25K budget set by City Council


The Hillview Task Force’s plan is to elicit City Council feedback on the two sites during the Study Session  5-7pm  Sept. 26…and then all meet immediately afterwards that same night to discuss and  DECIDE/VOTE ON ONE site option 4 or 5.

Figure: Site 5 – occupy soccer field

Hillview Task Force Option 5

Site 5 is on the current soccer field. That will be moved to where old Hillview will be demolished — for an estimated $2million over budget. The building has no visual connection to downtown.  However, it has different adjacency to the civic center and library, an adjacency that  about half of the task force members  prefer.

Tam & Noll definitely preferred Site 4, not site 5.  Let’s  remember that site 4 is one of the designs in their original Request for Proposal packet.  Let’s remember that City Council explicitly confined the project to exclude the soccer field area. Tam & Noll have pointed out numerous times to the Hillview Task Force that site 5 is smaller that site 4 — leaving less room for development of “outdoor” rooms and limiting future expansion they claim.

Figure : Budget comparison 4 vs. 5
site work costs…soccer field

This is the Tam & Noll estimated budget for Site plans 4 vs. 5.[ Note site option 3 is grayed out because it was rejected during the Hillview task force meeting as being too similar to 4]

The big difference between 4 vs. 5  is the ~$2 million to move the soccer field. By assumption, the T&N cost estimator has held the cost of the 20,000 sq foot building constant at $14,646,672. Another key variable is sitework cost – that means how much of the site ” is touched” …such as needing to rebuild part of a parking lot. In site option 4 – 30 parking space may need to be replaced. In site option 5 – the entire parking lot can be left as it. Both plans are assumed to demolish old Hillview in its entirety. For plan 5, it must demolish all of old Hillview in order to replace the soccer field. For plan 4, a couple of parts of old Hillview could potentially be left in place — however rehabilitating them would be a new, separate project with a separate budget.

Differences in Site work 4 vs. 5

Figure 4 sitework

Hillview Site plan 4 - site work possibilities

On the left…For site 4, it might be the case that replacing the 30 parking spots is not required…reducing sitework costs. On the right… It also might be the case that some of the old Hillview buildings could be left untouched…reducing sitework costs.


Figure 5 sitework

On the left…For site option 5, the soccer field must be moved at a cost of $2M.  On the right for Site 5… there is no need to touch the parking lot. Plus a part of the old soccer site could be left without new landscaping…perhaps a a buffer to the office building parking lot. These reduce sitework costs.


T & N Site Rating Analysis

Clearly T&N architects prefers Site 4.  About half of the Hillview Task Force disagreed with their rating scoring.

Figure: T&N site rating on 13 “Issues”

Hillview Task Force Site Rating Scheme

Clearly T&N thinks Site 4 is a whole lot better than 5. [Option 3 is whited out by me because it was rejected during the meeting].


About half the Hillview Task Force force agrees with T&N that Option 4 is the best… and the other half does not.  The other half argue that  “Issue” (1)  Site Option 5’s  closer physical adjacency of the new community center building to the library is the most important and most desirable thing in a site.  They are not impressed with “Issue” (3)  the “visual connection to downtown” of 4. They think that people will actually more readily walk from the new Community Center to downtown from site 5 than from site 4.

The architect counters with the point that San Antonio is a huge, huge barrier to downtown pedestrians….no matter which site plan is chosen. The other half also disagree on “Issue” (2) –that site 4 will draw the fewest objections from neighbors.  Lalahpolitico: basically the other half all point admiringly to Palo Alto’s Mitchell Park library/community center/cafe on Middlefield.  Yes, it is a very successful mini building complex…set alone on 36 acres – count em – of Mitchell Park. [If you haven’t seen it, maybe you should.]

Image: Pedestrian routes to downtown…
now and possible site 4 vs. site 5

Hillview Community Center Planning - site selection pedestrian route to downtown los altos

Pink is some likely pedestrian routes to downtown from Site 5 on the soccer field. Yellow is a likely existing pedestrian routes to downtown from Site 4. Red is an additional pedestrian route from Site 4 to downtown…a partially paved route that could be improved for a few bucks..and a route that takes the walker by some nice, quiet views along the Heritage Orchard. Google satellite map with Lalahpolitco overlays.

What does Lalahpolitico think? – 4

I agree with T&N and lean towards the option 4 site.

ON ISSUE 2 – “relation to the other parts of the civic center” –  it is a very short, fairly safe walk from the existing library main entrance to site 4, along an existing sidewalk, past the History Museum on towards the new community center building which would be adjacent to the baseball diamond. See yellow route in the image above.

On issue 6 – ” pedestrian circulation. –  As was just explained, the existing sidewalks  to walk from the library entrance to site 4  are already developed and people are used to using them.

If the new building were put on site 5, many, many more pedestrians would be crossing across the main roadway at the library entrance to walk under the oak…to the new building on the soccer field/ site 5.  See pink in image above. This will be a new pedestrian pattern, and I’m not sure it is a good one.

ON ISSUE 3 – “connection to downtown.”

Having even a peek-a-boo view of the new building from San Antonio seems like a plus for option 4.  On site 5, the “gem” of a building will be totally hidden from San Antonio passers-by.

BACK TO ISSUE 6 – “pedestrian circulation” …this time… to downtown – from site 5 on the soccer field… there is no way I would personally would want to walk down to Hillview Ave and then cross San Antonio using only the flashing crosswalk that is there now and then winding up  in a parking plaza!  And for a large group of pedestrians using the flashing crossing there….the vehicular traffic will get snarled. It could keep flashing for a very long time. Road rage. Or else a new signal light perhaps. [See pink in image above.  See  “Flashing.”] On the other hand, instead of using the flashing cross walk, I might walk along east side of San Antonio to use the crosswalks at Edith and San Antonio.   However, walking on noisy San Antonio is not my idea of a pleasant stroll. This is hardly the easy way to walk downtown from the civic center.

Instead I would rather take the easier way….  walk downtown from site 4 by walking around the charming History Museum and gardens and then strolling on the wide sidewalk on the north side of the library…all along the Heritage Orchard. Then I will find my self at the 5 way intersection at Edith-Main-San Antonio.  At least is is signalized, timed and safe.  Does it have street light? I dunno. [See yellow or red routes in image above.]

Site 4 could have an even safer pedestrian route to the crossing at San Antonio by putting in some kind of non-muddy sidewalk on the north side of the History Museum…see red route in image above.

Hillview Task Force admires Mitchell Park

Shown is Palo Alto City Community rooms around a courtyard DIRECTLY behind the City’s new Mitchell Library building. There is a gate {not shown} to the courtyard and the rooms that is apparently LOCKED after hours. The library and this courtyard were a single project where the primary purpose was to build a new library.

Site 4 + a New Library = “Mitchell”

The Community Center is not the only project that will occur on the civic center. Lalahpolitico: I think there is likely to be voter support for a bond to pay for a new main library where it stands now.  Perhaps not till 2020 or thru a special election. It will probably by two story. It could expand its foot print a bit:  1) put in underground parking, 2) get closer to the San Antonio.  The entrance to the undergound parking could be as planned in the 2008 Civic Center Master Plan — where Edith runs into San Antonio.  It will be a bit tricky for the parking ramps to stay away from the heritage part of the orchard.  It is my understanding that the trees along San Antonio are not in the heritage area, so this entrance/exit scheme is still possible?

Clearly in the near future the City of Los Altos could do what Palo Alto did recently at Mitchell Park. —  Add several flexible rooms to a new library project perhaps including one or more that cater to seniors and/or teens?

During a future new library project ” connection to the new Hillview community center” at site option 4 could be enhanced substantially.

There is only one meeting room at the existing Los Altos main library…a building which the City owns and “leases” to SCCL, the library operator. Clearly the City of Los Altos could do what Palo Alto did at Mitchell Park. —  namely add several flexible rooms to a new library project …perhaps including one or more rooms that caters to seniors/teens?

During a future new library project ” connection to the new Hillview community center” at site option 4 could be enhanced substantially. The existing roadway could be transformed into a pedestrian mall if there is underground parking.

Hillview Task Force

This is an interior view of the Mitchell library building. It has spaces for different demographics…and a flexible classroom or two.

The Hillview Task Force’s Big Ask $$$

The Hillview Task Force will be expecting to have a conversation about possible budget expansions beyond the $25K.  Does Council prefer site option 5…that’s an extra $2M to move the soccer field.  Or would they rather spend that on a list of other things…more square feet of space,  more functions (add an exercise equipment room), more upscale materials, higher LEED certification than silver, resurfaced parking lots etc.

Maybe the Council will agree to ALL OF THE ABOVE EXTRAS. The rumor is that there is actually $30 K in City reserves available, so a $5K ask is not impossible.  We’ll see.

Image: From Children’s Corner website

Children’s Corner Proposal to Pay for Space

City Manager Chris Jordan, Director of Recreation Manny Hernandez, and Hillview Taskforce member Dennis Young have all found that the childcare program’s financial proposal to pay for space is worthy of consideration by City Council.  [The Hillview Task Force is not charged with having an opinion on this]. Before the Sept. 26 Council Study Session, the Financial Commission will have sent their feedback in writing to the Council.

The general terms: The non-profit is asking for 3,000 sq ft. of interior space (4,000 gross) plus 3,500 exterior space from 8am to 3pm…”adjacent” to the new community center building.  They will put in $600,000  up front. Then there will be a 20 year lease — they will pay $17,500 a month for 20 years.  That will accumulate to ~$4.2 million in monthly payments over the 20 years. [Lalahpolitico:  This seems to be a fixed payment; the implicit fixed interest rate was not stated. ] After 20 years, the City still owns the extra building or the extra space, whatever the case may be.

Lalahpolitico Analysis:  It seems that the non-profit is paying for ALL the extra construction for 4,000 sq. feet.  But I’m not sure they are paying any land rent.  Maybe that is fine, if the City Council “finds” the organization is providing an important service of benefit to the community.  They have been a tenant at Hillview for 40 years providing childcare to the larger community. I expect City Council will greenlight the City Manager continuing to take steps to work out a contract. What is not at all clear is whether that could occur soon enough for the Children’s Corner space to be folded into this T&N project somehow. The proposal could still hit snags as it moves forward. We’ll see.


T&N Slides of the Sept. 11 Task Force meeting on the City web site.

Draft Report for Sept. 26 Council Study Session

Future Steps:

As of Sept. 27, Tam & Noll architects want to begin to develop a detail design for the future community center building which will house the chosen room sizes/uses … on the chosen site. By Sept. 27 the Task Force, City staff, and City Council will have made these two foundational choices.  In October and November…the Task Force will weigh on on one-story vs. two story approaches and other high level choices.  There could be an opportunity during November for the public to make comments  on a proposed exterior design of the building …via a City online survey and via other formal and informal methods. The Task Force disbands in December.

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 several years.