BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
Daily Post Staff Writer
Los Altos City Council voted unanimously last night (Aug. 28) to move forward with a nonbinding “vision” plan that would transform downtown by putting a theater, hotel, office projects and a parking structure on the city-owned downtown parking plazas.
The Downtown Vision Plan was the culmination of about three years of work by RRM Design Group, including dozens of community meetings. The consultants didn’t analyze the economics of the Downtown Vision and said their plan is intended as a “guiding policy” rather than a specific work plan.
Enacting any of the specific components of the plan, such as building a pedestrian bridge over San Antonio Road, installing Ping Pong tables on a teen-oriented plaza or opening a beer garden, would have to come forward on a project-by-project basis.
Fourteen residents spoke largely in favor of the plan.
“I want to see it … take the next step. Have an ongoing relationship with RRM,” said Los Altos native Curtis Powell, 66. “Be proactive and start really doing these things.”
Spillover parking in neighborhoods
Some residents of nearby View Street raised concerns that wiping out parking lots would send overflow parking to nearby residential neighborhoods.
One resident of View Street pointed out that replacing the hundreds of parking spaces would cost tens of millions of dollars.
The consultants have proposed building a 775-space parking structure to offset the loss of downtown parking.
“These are very narrow streets with no sidewalks,” said View Street resident Jenny Doyas, a 47-year-old mother of three school-age kids who ride their bikes.
Mayor Jean Mordo exclaimed, “Yay!” to applause after the unanimous vote. He also questioned why opponents of the plan had concerns about it.
‘Nothing’s going to happen for five years’
“I don’t understand why people are afraid — ‘My God, we are committing to something.’ It took us three years to get just a vision which is not even enforceable,” Mordo said. “What’s scary about it? Nothing’s going to happen for five years, and nothing much is going to happen for 10 years, even if we adopt it enthusiastically.”
Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins proposed the language of the motion, which was to adopt the plan as a “guiding document that we can all aspire to.”
Bruins also suggested the city look into public-private partnerships to fund some of the plan’s ideas.
A citizens initiative on the Nov. 6 ballot could threaten the ideas in the plan that involve leasing out the parking plazas. The initiative would require a vote before council sells or leases any city-owned land, including the downtown parking lots.