City considers buying open space district’s offices

The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District's offices are at 330 Distel Circle in Los Altos. Google photo.
The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District's offices are at 330 Distel Circle in Los Altos. Google photo.

BY SARA TABIN
Daily Post Staff Writer

The city of Los Altos wants to buy Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District’s office at 330 Distel Circle. The district is looking to sell the property to help pay for their new $60 million office on El Camino.

City Council will discuss the potential purchase at a closed meeting next Tuesday (Jan. 14).

Assistant City Manager Jon Maginot said he couldn’t provide any more information about the meeting.

It is possible that the city wants to buy the land to build housing, since it is rather far from city hall to be used as city office space. The property is next to 5150 El Camino where the council last month approved a 196-unit housing project, including 28 affordable units.

Housing

Councilwoman Jan Pepper is working with the developers to try and get another 56 units of affordable housing.

Midpen purchased a new building at 5050 El Camino for $31.5 million in February 2019. The board of directors budgeted $27.4 million to renovate the new building.

Midpen spokeswoman Leigh Ann Gessner said the district is trying to offset the costs of the new building by selling the old office.

Gessner said Midpen is following the protocol from the California’s Surplus Land Act, which dictates land sales for local agencies.

They notified public agencies and affordable housing organizations that the property was up for sale in November, as the protocol specifies. Those agencies have a 60-day window, which ends Jan. 24, to send Midpen a letter of intent if they want to buy the property.

Only two agencies are interested

So far only Los Altos and the Santa Clara Methodist Retirement Foundation, which provides affordable housing to low-income seniors, have sent in letters.

Gessner said they will negotiate with the interested parties for 90 days starting on Jan. 24. Depending on how the negotiations go, Midpen will either enter into a contract or put the land up for sale on the public market.

Gessner said that when the property sells, the contract will have to be approved by the Midpen board of directors at a public meeting.
She said Midpen is planning to move into its new office during spring 2022.

She said the building currently at 5050 El Camino is divided into multiple small office buildings, which isn’t suitable for a single public agency. She said the building also doesn’t have disability accessibility or a public meeting space.

Midpen’s architect, the Berkeley firm Noll and Tam, is still creating design plans for the renovated building. Construction won’t start for at least another year.

Midpen’s home for 29 years

Gessner said Midpen has been at 330 Distel Circle for 29 years. Over the past few years they have had to rent additional office space at a cost of $437,000 per year because they have too many employees for the building.

She said Midpen has doubled the amount of land they are managing, increased trails five-fold and created more public programs.

“We have outgrown the current building,” she said.

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