Highlights of this City Council Meeting which you won’t find in the City of Los Altos City Council Recap include the tail end of the Mission Trails Extended Contract discussion in the Study Session which stole time from the Regular Meeting. Most Council Members “could live with” extending the contract by 10 years. There will be a hefty rate increase 9% each of the first 3 years and then more modest increases in the following years. But Mission Trail reports it’s losing $1Million per year due to the major changes in the market for recyclables. No decision was made at this meeting. Staff was tasked with going back to Mission Trails to see if/how rates could be mitigated. The good news is (is it still good news?) that Los Altos is achieving in the mid to high 70 percentile of recycled garbage.
At the beginning of the Regular Meeting, there was a presentation by a Human Resources consulting firm, Shaw HR Consulting, about the process involved in dealing with complaints filed by multiple City Council Members. Council Member Jeanie Bruins complained about the City Council Chambers. Two other complaints came form Council Members after the meetings were moved to the LAYC building . They complained about the negative health effects the LAYC building had on their health. They asked to move back to the City Council Chambers and 3 Council members gave Chris Jordan direction to move the meetings back to the City Council Chambers but the meetings have continued to be held in the LAYC building. The consultant advised that she will meet with all the people involved and with a 3rd party attorney who regularly works with the consulting firm in order to find a “reasonable accommodation” for the affected City Council Members. The LAYC building does not have air conditioning and it’s quite stifling without fans or the huge rented indoor AC units that showed up for the first time at this meeting. The City Council Chambers just recently underwent a nearly $1 Million renovation complete with a new very expensive HVAC system. Mayor Lee Eng asked the consultant what was being done to investigate and find out what “agent” in the City Council Chambers is causing the alleged problem. The Mayor expressed concern that if the new HVAC is not providing clean air to the Chambers the city needs to address the problem while the HVAC system may still be under warranty. The consultant advised that air quality measurements were, in fact, being taken at LAYC during the meeting and that City Council Chambers would also be tested. Three residents asked to speak on this issue. One resident complained that the meetings held in LAYC are not simulcast which is a real problem for residents who want to know what’s going on at Council Meetings but are unable to attend in person. She also pointed out that the quality of the video recording at the LAYC building is inferior to that recorded at the City Council Chambers. Consider as well that the Los Altos Council Norms require the following: “8.2 Broadcasting of City Council Meetings. All regular Council meetings and study sessions shall be scheduled in the Community Meeting Chambers to allow for web streaming and simulcast on the City’s Government Access Channel, unless the number of participants exceeds room capacity. The final decision shall be the responsibility of the Mayor. All Council meetings held in the Community Meeting Chambers shall be video-recorded.” Another resident told the Council that an important purpose of the City Council Meetings is for the Council to conduct its business before its constituents so that residents can be fully informed about what is being done in their names. She advised that LAYC is a completely unacceptable venue for City Council meetings. Without fans or AC units, the room is uncomfortably hot. With the fans or AC units on, the audience can’t hear anything that’s being said unless the person speaking speaks loudly and directly into the microphone which very often doesn’t happen. She asked that the citizens of Los Altos be provided “reasonable accommodation” to attend City Council Meetings. Hopefully the far more modern and well-equipped City Council Chambers can be the site of future City Council Meetings with reasonable accommodations provided for the affected City Council Member. But just so you know - there has been talk of renovating the LACY building so that City Staff can take over the City Council Chambers. Renovating LAYC would be a multi-million dollar project - straight on the heels of another multi-million dollar project - the Community Center. Wouldn’t finding out what, if anything, is wrong with the City Council Chambers from an ADA perspective and then fixing it be the fiscally responsible to do? Here’s the link to the consultant’s PowerPoint presentation. Here’s an article about this topic entitled “Residents Wary of disability issue” in the August 28, 2019 edition of the Palo Alto Daily.
The Mayor of Cupertino spoke to all of us about the lobbyist their city has hired to keep them apprised of all the housing bills currently pending, their constantly changing status and all the new bills that are coming. He advised that we can expect hundreds of new bills next year and that the only way they manage to stay on top of them is through the services of Townsend, a PR firm who serves as their lobbyist and also serves a number of small cities throughout California. The annual cost to Cupertino of this lobbyist is $76,000. No action was taken by our City Council at this meeting.
Ordinance No 2019-462: Commercial Retail Sales (CRS) District amendments was passed with two small amendments - adding veterinarian clinics to the list of Office-administrative services that are permitted uses in the CRS District, except when located in a ground floor building space that fronts directly onto Main Street or State Street; and converting cocktail lounges into a permitted use. By passing this ordinance, the City Council acknowledged the changing nature of retail sales and opened up downtown to a number of service-based businesses. A number of business owners, building owners and the Chamber of Commerce spoke in favor of the CRS District amendments. All hope the amendments will be a positive step forward in implementing the Downtown Vision Plan, move the city’s downtown buildings closer to full occupancy which will create more foot traffic which benefits all merchants.