BY SARA TABIN
Daily Post Staff Writer
A dispute over Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins’ asthma has cost Los Altos $50,000 and spurred the city manager to override a council majority vote.
Bruins has been complaining since January that the city hall chambers where council meetings are typically held is triggering her asthma.
Meetings have been moved to the Los Altos Youth Center to accommodate Bruins, but residents have said the new location is too hot and noisy. The center also does not have adequate equipment to stream meetings on TV, hindering the ability of homebound residents to watch the meetings.
“I’m asking that we have reasonable accommodations,” said Freddie Wheeler at Tuesday’s meeting. “We are the citizens of this city and these meetings should be accessible to us.”
Four of the five councilwomen voted to move the meetings back to City Hall at a study session on June 25, but they are still being held at the youth center.
City Manager Chris Jordan did not respond to requests for comment about why the meetings haven’t been moved back.
Jordan hired an outside expert on disability accommodations, Rachel Shaw of HR Shaw, to determine what reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act would look like for an elected official. That service has cost $40,000 so far, and another $10,000 has gone to air quality testing, according to Los Altos Mayor Lynette Lee Eng.
Jordan has yet to respond to requests to see the contract between the city and HR Shaw.
Lee Eng has another solution she thinks the city should be exploring. Los Altos spent $750,000 on a new heat, air, ventilation and cooling system in the old council chambers before Bruins began complaining.
If the air in the chambers is causing problems for Bruins, the warranty for that system should be reviewed and the company held accountable, said Lee Eng.
It’s not the first potential cause that has been suggested. City Attorney Chris Diaz asked regular meeting attendee Roberta Phillips to leave a January meeting, suggesting that the residual smell of smoke on her might have been the cause. Phillips declined to depart.