On Oct. 10 Los Altos City Council voted 4 to 1 to enter into a 20-year lease agreement with Childrens Corner at the soon-to-be-built new Hillview Center….IF the preschool/daycare non-profit can raise their upfront rent prepayment from $600,000 to more like $1.2M.
The video extract below captures about 10 minutes of the Oct. 10 City Council member discussion — the pros and cons of keeping the private preschool as a tenant at the new Hillview Community Center. You will see that TEXT ANNOTATIONS on the video were added by LosAltosPolitico to make it easier to follow the context of the council discussion.
The Oct. 10 Los Altos City Council meeting was packed with supporters of Childrens Corner … almost all wearing green t-shirts. During public comment, many spoke of how Children’s Corner was “part of the fabric of Los Altos.” After all the public speakers had their say, Councilmember Mordo observed that “4 people have shown up to oppose the Childrens Corner rent agreement, while 100 are here in support.”
Let’s recall that at Sept 26 Hillview Project study session meeting, the Los Altos City Council unanimously directed city staff to boost the Hillview project budget from $25M to $34M. article here. The council wanted to add all of the “extras” suggested by the architect Tam&Noll. This extra spend…. has caused the City Finance Director — on Oct. 10 — to recommend against ponying up another $1 to $2 M of City reserves on building space for the Childrens Corner. He feels that dropping reserves from $35M to $3M is uncomfortable. The proposed lease agreement provides a favorable rate of return, but the City finance director did not want to FURTHER draw down the City Reserve by the extra $2-3 M, given that the Council already drew it down by $9M on Sept. 26 with “extras” on the Hillview project.
City Land not for private entities? Meh.
On Oct. 10, the Council members discussion seemed to completely reject…by omission… the notion put forward by some members of the public that… “City land should never be leased to private tenants.”
Need an RFP for Transparency? Meh.
At the beginning of the council discussion… Council members Pepper and Lee-Eng advocated for “transparency” and for launching a RFP process so that other possible daycare providers could come forward and make a different/better proposal. However Council members Bruins and Prochow were persuasive in rebuffing that idea, arguing that if the City could not amicably work out a continuation with an existing 40-year long tenant..that would make the City a callous landlord. Why give a 40 year tenant the boot? “The City should behave better than the average landlord,” said Council member Prochow.
Put Daycare in a old Hillview wing? No way.
Besides wanting to consider other daycare providers as tenants, Council member Lee-Eng wanted to consider housing Children’s Corner in one of the old sections of Hillview. [Even as the new Hillview is constructed…it is possible to leave either the front or the back …old wing intact]. Mordo shot down that gambit saying that the old wings were just too decrepit. No other council member expressed support for keeping old wings around.
Affirmative Action for Los Altans? Yeah… kind of…
Councilmember Pepper wanted to insure that the Childrens Corner preschool/daycare at the new Hillview building would benefit mainly residents of Los Altos. She was not at all dogmatic about would be the right rules… “75% City of Los Altos residents or employees?”
A representative from the Childrens Corner pointed out that all the City sponsored recreations classes and programs do NOT favor Los Altans, but do take all comers. She suggested that the wait list for admission could give preference to Los Altans.[Lalahpolitco: Our Rec Dept. does charge about 5% more for people who do not have a Los Altos or Los Altos Hill addresss. Note this is a just an mail address and therefore includes county residents who have a Los Altos or Los Altos Hills address even though they live in unincorporated Santa Clara County. Another approach is that of Mountain View Rec. Dept. It allows MV address persons to sign up for programs….one week early. Only after a week, is enrollment opened to all. We could do that here in Los Altos perhaps? ]
The vote on Oct. 10 was 4 to 1 to proceed with having City Manager pursue a negotiation of a revised Children’s Corner lease agreement, with Lee-Eng opposed.
Excerpt: Original Proposal A vs. B
Can Childrens Corner pony up more upfront? Yes
In the original 20-year lease agreement proposal, the Childrens Corner non-profit was willing to put upfront a rent prepayment in cash of either $600,000 or $1,000,000. So if they have to now go to more like $1,200,000 they probably can manage that from their undisclosed reserves….without a fundraising campaign. Lalahpolitico: But doing a fundraising campaign might be a real “community fabric” builder…even if it doesn’t net $200,000.
Vote 4 to 1 in favor– Lee-Eng… Nay
Lynette Lee Eng advocated incorporation of more study/ research / fact finding… before moving forward by 1) asking for a RFP process and 2) by asking for consideration of the using an old wing of Hillview for Children’s Corner 3) asking for how the City of Mountain View deals with its preschool/childcare tenants. It is a fact that the Children’s Corner preschool had earlier floated the idea of being housing in an old wing…if that was what it would take to stay at the Civic Center…
On Nov. 8, Council will slip Capital Projects
In the future, at a Nov. 8 council meeting, the City Finance Director will present the annual Capital Spending plan. The Council will decide which City projects might be delayed…or alternatively instruct staff to look at borrowing a bit. There are several $2 M to $5 M projects on the horizon…a police building upgrade, remodel of city hall, change to LAYC, etc. This extra cash reserves for Childrens Corner may mean some other projects are slipped a bit in the capital spending timeline.