City Council Planning

Los Altos Parking Committee — Mordo rebuttal of FOLA

Los Altos Parking Committee, a Downtown Neighbors Spat. Left to right, Jerry Sorensen, Jean Mordo, Ron Packard
Los Altos Parking Committee, a Downtown Neighbors Spat. Left to right, Jerry Sorensen, Jean Mordo, Ron Packard
Written by lalahpolitico

Councilperson Jean Mordo calls FOLA’s letter to City Council about possible Brown Act violations at the Los Altos Parking Committee  venomous “insinuations that the work of the City-wide Parking Committee is a secret conspiracy to allow certain developers to proceed with their projects rather than a sincere effort to improve the parking issues of Los Altos.” Councilperson Mordo wishes to rebut those “insinuations.” I am giving him space to do so by presenting selected parts of the information he sent me.

Mordo wants to show voters and residents evidence that the he was very compliant with the Brown Act during the conduct of the City-wide Los Altos Parking Committee deliberations. Also he wants to explain that the subcommittees of the City-wide Parking Committee were open to the public and their membership was not jiggered or secret.  He also wants us to know that former Councilperson Ron Packard stated at the April 1, 2015 meeting of the City-wide Parking Committee, that no matter how many transparency hoops Mordo jumped through, it would be nearly impossible for Mordo’s Committee to not to be accused of secret deals. Lalahpolitico: How prophetic.

Here is some of Mordo’s evidence. Both sides in this spat are offering items/facts which support their case. Things may be out of context. Let the city staff and lawyers figure out if there is or is not a smoking gun. 

See the timeline at 12:30 for Ron Packard’s prophecy.

Mordo’s Evidence

At the April 1, 2015 City-wide Parking Committee meeting, Ron Packard seemed to suggest that no matter how many Brown Act hoops Mordo jumped through, some people will later cry about a “secret deal.” See 12:30 time mark. 2015 Parking Committee meeting – April 1, part two

Jean, You know as well as I do that you can go through a process and notify the public, tell them, hold all these public meetings, and once it [a code change proposal] goes up, they say we didn’t know.  And then there are people in this community, [who] for their own purposes, will want to say that there is a secret deal, there is preferential treatment.” – Ron Packard, former City Councilperson, Owner of 10 Main.

On the video of April 15, 2015, Lalahpolitico heard Mordo address members of the public in the back of the room and off camera. He  offered to email them the handouts for each upcoming meeting. He asked City Manager Marcia Sommers to please collect names and emails of the public then present.  [Lalahpolitico: Very Brown Act sensitive to send handouts in advance of the meetings.]


Open Formation of Subcommittees

In addition Mordo invited the public then there to join the forming of the subcommittees.

“[You] Members of the public, who are not members of the Los Altos Parking Committee, can join any of those ad hoc task forces…[which we began forming at this meeting]” – Jean Mordo


One of the subcommittees was apparently suggested by a member of the public, Abigail Ahrens [owner/operator of the Enchante Hotel, 1 Main]

“Would you consider a small committee to look at parking space size because one of the things I noticed during construction of the hotel is we got an awful lot of   [construction crew] vehicles [8 or 9]  able to park parallel in the space of  of 4 front facing stalls.”  – Abigail Ahrens

Mordo asked Ahrens to participate in the subcommittee she suggested. [She may have nodded yes off camera.] Although Ted Sorensen [owner of 40 Main Street] was also there, he did NOT volunteer to join the parking stall size subcommittee. Instead he asked about how the method of assigning stall credits of the Original Parking District [Main and State] members would be calculated. Mordo explained that was covered by the Parking-in-Lieu Program subcommittee.

Lalahpolitico:  I think the point here is that the Sorensens did not at this juncture insert themselves into the stall size subcommittee which eventually came up with the “alarming” Plaza restriping recommendation.  [Did they join it later?]  Plaza restriping is an idea that the Sorensens brought to the fore in 2012.  By the way, Mr. Mordo says he does not support the restriping recommendation.

Mr. Mordo, addressing the public audience on April 15, 2015, state, ”if anyone here has any specific ideas on any of this stuff, they can contact the person who publishes  the draft Minutes… [or] who is in charge of which[ever] committee [or] subcommittee, and if you have any ideas on any of those topics please feel free, email them or meet with them or whatever.”


Situation Analysis

As I wrote in last week’s post about the Los Altos Parking Committee, in my opinion the Friends of Los Altos (FOLA) group made the Brown Act violations accusation because they wanted to “nip in the bud” some of the downtown parking recommendations they may find troubling — I suspect the most troublesome recommendation is Plaza Restriping and Stall Size Reduction.  If approved as part of City Plaza maintenance operations, the increase in parking supply, coupled with a new Parking-in-lieu program,  could perhaps allow Ron Packard’s next door neighbor — Sorensens’ at 40 Main Street, — to move forward on redevelopment. A redevelopment by the Sorensens would  block the Packard’s building southern views. See this post.

But Lalah thinks that some City of Los Altos residents, taxpayers, and voters — not only FOLA —  may also find a number of the recommendations from a developer-leaning ad hoc Los Altos Parking Committee troubling, including especially  the restriping gambit. And now that I’ve heard from Councilmember Jean Mordo, I’ve learned that he too is opposed to restriping. Perhaps FOLA was especially worried about Mordo’s position/vote on striping?  Just asking.

In the previous post I observed that FOLA apparently did not want to wait for the tried and true process of having citizen committee recommendations reviewed by 1) Planning and Traffic Commission, 2) Staff,  and 3) City Council.  This process over 2 to 3 months usually calls out and blocks citizen committee ideas that are too …  controversial. See my post on the citizens’ Los Altos Downtown Buildings Committee.

A City-led visioning in 2014 invited 4 architectural teams to rethink the Downtown Civic Center... Here Main street goes directly into the Library driveway...

A City-led visioning in 2014 invited 4 architectural teams to rethink the Downtown Civic Center… Here Main street goes directly into the Library driveway?…the Park area is emphasized…

1. End the Delay in Finishing Los Altos Parking Committee Reports

Can FOLA find a way to back off? City Staff is spending time sorting through their long, detailed letter rather than working on reviewing the Committee reports. Why not let the reports of the current City-wide Parking Committee go through the usual PTC, Staff, and Council Review as was planned?  Each government entity can add their objections or acceptance of each aspect of the Parking Committee findings and report. But Council should just study and comment, not yet vote and codify.

2. Establish Opposition Review of Reports

Rather than hiring outside consultants  to review the Parking Committee report  as suggested by FOLA, let’s just have “opposition” review. One way would be to just let the current resident-leaning Los Altos Downtown Buildings Committee group members have a go at the Los Altos Parking Committee Reports and recommendations.  Similarly, let the developer-leaning Parking Committee group members have a go at the Downtown Buildings Committee report. New group members could be ok too.

Yes, I know the the residents on the Downtown Buildings Committee may be feeling they’ve given enough public service and are not interested in this new mission impossible.  Yes, I know the charge of the City-wide Los Altos Parking Committee was parking city-wide, even though it seems 95% of the pages are relevant only to downtown.  The “opposition” reports should be be considered by PTC, Staff and City Council alongside the original Committee reports. The opposition reports should be part of the public record.  They can inform future “visioning.”

Fred Kent, guru of "Placemaking," leads a 2014 Hillview Community Center

Fred Kent, guru of “Placemaking,” leads a 2014 Los Altos Forward sponsored visioning…at Hillview Community Center.

3. Await City Led Visioning

Council could receive all reports, but not move to any action or codification. There seems to be broad support for another round of City-led Los Altos “visioning.”  The developer crowd is for it, the Los Altos School Board is for it, many of the No on N folks are for it (, the are for it.  This time the scope of the presumably City-lead visioning will be broadened from the Community Center to include — Hillview Park,  the entire Civic Center, and the entire downtown triangle, [and perhaps all City lands and all Los Altos School District lands.]  Charrettes, Surveys, “deliberative polling” and other outreach methods may be tried to increase participation.

Ideally “people’s” preferences for locating — pools, parks, community center, theatre, police, city hall, library, sports fields, recreation department, senior center, pre-schools, public schools, private preschools, etc. — will be prioritized. Ideally, price tags in terms of money, structure of finance and risk  (bond vs. public private partnership vs. assessment districts ), and time to completion will be truthfully and fairly revealed.

Ideally, we can discuss and perhaps agree who are winners and losers under various options. Is one person’s loss less severe or less important than another person’s loss? Why? There will be value judgments made. Will there be a consensus?  If not, will City Council, as representatives of the “silent majority,” make a decision anyway?

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.

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