An Update; an Editorial; and an Announcement

Update: Parking Committee Recommendations Steered in Right Direction

Two of the board members from Friends of Los Altos spoke at a City Council meeting in late January to advocate for a better process in considering the recommendations developed by the Downtown Parking Committee. The Council agreed. As a community we now have that better process which includes (most importantly) Staff involvement, input, and their professional judgment in ensuring that the facts, assumptions, analysis and recommendations put forth are correct. City Council directed Staff to hire whatever outside resources are necessary in order to validate any and all parts of the committee’s work, and for Staff to critically examine the entire report. Further, Staff has discretion as to what recommendations it brings to Planning and Transportation Commission for their review/recommendations.

The Council’s actions were a tacit acknowledgment that there was no City Staff involvement, or even oversight, in the original data collection and analysis by the Parking Committee. This lack of good process was further compounded by the performance (or lack thereof) of the outside consultant who was hired to review the recommendations made by the Parking Committee. That consultant not only did not review the accuracy or completeness of the data or the underlying assumptions, he simply evaluated the conclusions without the slightest questioning, verification or analysis of any of the underlying information upon which the Parking Committee’s recommendations were based. What is almost beyond belief is that the consultant didn’t even make an effort to visit the City in order to understand our community and the current parking situation.

Former Mayor and Council member Jeannie Bruins offered her perspective: “It is good to learn from other cities’ experiences. But we need to understand not only what those other communities have done, but determine if what they did is applicable to Los Altos. Our City staff needs to assess the Parking Committee recommendations and determine which ones need further data and analysis before being forwarded to the PTC, and which ones are applicable for Los Altos at this time.”

We believe that this process will ensure that the selective facts used as well as the erroneous assumptions made by the committee will not be taken at face value.

Editorial: FOLA’s “Agenda” by Jon Baer

So what is FOLA’s agenda? It’s a question that some in the community ask when I meet them since joining the Board two years ago. Since assuming the Presidency of Friends of Los Altos in December it is a question that I now get asked more often and which deserves a clear answer.
But before I give you that answer I would like to give you a bit of background on how I got involved in FOLA since it goes a long way to answering that oft asked question.

I moved to Los Altos with my family in 1997. Noting cars often driving too fast on my street and other residential streets, I joined the nascent Traffic Advisory Task Force. The goal was to provide resident input to the city so that better policies and practices could be adopted to address a growing traffic problem affecting the quality of life for residents. That group eventually became the Traffic Commission, which I chose not to join. Later I was asked by a group called Los Altos Neighborhood Network to write an article for their newsletter. As many of you recall LANN was focused on being a voice of the community in an era when there really was none. My first article started an involvement with LANN which included writing many articles as well as being on the Board for more than a decade. During that period I joined the Planning Commission where I served for 9 years and was involved with many changes in both residential and commercial zoning and the buildings that were constructed in town.

The team involved in LANN began to tire and eventually LANN merged with a newly formed group called Friends of Los Altos. I was asked to be an advisor. Two years later I was asked to join the board of the organization, joining with a former Planning Commissioner, and four former City Council members/Mayors of the town. While I knew all of those people, it didn’t necessarily mean I agreed with them on all of their prior decisions on Council. But what I did agree with them on was the continued need for an unbiased voice of the community. Yes, in the past 5 plus years a number of new groups have formed in our town-Los Altos Community Coalition, Los Altos Community Center Alliance, Los Altos Forward etc. But each one of those organizations has an agenda to achieve a specific outcome and many have overlapping core members. That isn’t a criticism, simply a fact. And therein lays the difference between FOLA and other groups.

Our agenda is not to advocate for a particular project or outcome. Ours is to provide fact based information and analysis on issues that affect our community. My contribution to FOLA over the past two years has been to help push the organization to do more, not less of that work. Do we occasionally write editorials expressing the board’s view – for sure. But even though our society is in a state of information overload, we as a community often know less, not more about what is going on. So our agenda is to help highlight to the community facts and raise good questions and issues that affect all of us.

As always FOLA, as well as me personally, appreciates your feedback, as well as your forming you own conclusions and being proactive on issues that you find important. Thank you.

Announcement: Join Santa Clara County Fire for a Community Workshop

The Santa Clara County Fire Department has served the Los Altos community for 20 years and continually strives to deliver the highest level of service possible. The Fire Department’s Strategic Plan serves as the guiding document for organizational decision-making. The #1 goal in the plan is to improve communications with residents. As a step to accomplish this goal, the Fire Department will host a Public Workshop:

Tuesday, February 28, 2017
9:30 a.m. – noon
The Garden House, 400 University Avenue, Los Altos

Participants are welcome to drop-in anytime during this 3-hour session. The Fire Department is interested in gathering your ideas and feedback about how they can better communicate with you, respond to neighborhood priorities, and provide meaningful information about their services. In addition to the workshop, County Fire’s newest fire engine will be on display – a unique “Type 6” wildland fire engine designed to access the surrounding open space areas.

For those unable to attend the workshop in-person, please consider sharing your thoughts via an online survey. Your involvement in this process is important, as it helps Santa Clara County Fire Department better serve the Los Altos community.