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Safeway Parking Gets a Tenative 'Yes,' Blach No-Stopping Zone Could Stay For Seven Years

The council preliminarily agrees to a joint parking district with Safeway and hears from residents on both sides of the Carmel Terrace no stopping zone issue.

It was a packed house at the Los Altos City Council meeting on Tuesday night, as officials tackled some complex issues with a big audience.

Here's a brief summary of some of the action. A more complete listing of council action will follow this week.

Safeway Parking Lot

The council voted 4-1 in favor of general terms for an agreement between the city and Safeway that would allow the store’s First Street parking lot to join the  downtown parking district.

Safeway officials are proposing to raze the old 22,585-square-foot building, constructed in 1967, and replace it with a 45,265-square-foot structure, with ground-level parking and a second-floor store. The company has wanted to update the property since 1998, but a main sticking point continues to be meeting parking requirements, said Safeway representative Deborah Karbo.

A stand-alone store would require five parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of retail space, but as part of the parking district, the company would only be required to provide 2.7 spaces per 1,000 square feet.

Under the proposal, Safeway would build 154 spaces, or 3.4 spaces per 1,000 square feet easily exceeding the 2.7-space minimum. Of those, 25 spaces would be for Safeway customers only; the rest would be open to anyone parking downtown. Employees would park within the Safeway lot, and not in nearby city-owned parking plazas. The company would also pay $500,000 into the district.

Traffic studies by both Safeway and the city showed that while the city’s peak hours for parking are around lunchtime, the store’s peak hours are closer to dinner, making the shared-parking plan possible.

One point of conflict, however, was the company’s insistence for a 90-minute parking limit, less than city-owned parking plazas that have a 2-hour or 3-hour limit. Councilmember Megan Satterlee said she wanted to see Safeway’s limit match the city’s 2-hour limit, but Karbo said the company would not budge.

Other council members said they were fine with the 90-minute limit.

“Are they providing a public benefit for Los Altos? I say, ‘yes’,” said Councilmember David Casas, weighing all the options.

Karbo said the company plans to bring design plans before the Planning Commission in December, and come back to the council in January. Earlier this year the company said it wanted to open the new store by the 2012 holidays.

No Stopping on Carmel Terrace Behind Blach Intermediate School

The council revisited the timeline of a controversial 1-year pilot ban on stopping and parking on Carmel Terrace, behind Blach Intermediate School. The ban has dragged out nearly a year beyond the end of the test period.

The temporary ban went into place at the end of  2009, after residents in the Carmel Terrace neighborhood complained about excess school traffic from parents dropping off and picking up students at the school's rear entrance. The problem cropped up after the city enacted traffic controls at another location in the neighborhood.

In , the council agreed to keep the ban in place until traffic calming controls could be constructed. However, those projects possibly won’t be completed until the end of 2016, seven years past the one-year pilot program.

"That concerns me,” Councilmember Val Carpenter said. She advocated speeding up the timeline of the projects, and the council consensus was to consider adding in projects during the mid-year budget review in January.

While a few residents urged the council to keep the signs in place, saying Carmel Terrace is a safer place with the controls, others decried the signs.

“With those signs in place there is a nightmare in front of the school,” said Blach teacher Karen Van De Vanter.

Los Altos Parks

A dog park and a skate park are still a priority for somewhere in the city as part of a parks master plan, council members indicated. The council told city staff to continue searching for options to create both.

Searching for dog park options has been a bit of a "quagmire" for the city, Mayor Ron Packard said, but is still worth looking into. The council told staff to consider ideas such as allowing off-leash times at established parks, as well as creating an entire park specifically for dogs.

A skate park was not discussed in detail, but the council agreed with a staff recommendation to continue looking for a location.

Council members also agreed with staff on establishing a pathway between Redwood Grove and Shoup Park.

They also asked staff to look into possibly putting time limits on parking at McKenzie and Shoup Parks.

A PDF of the parks plan options is attached.

Gary Hedden October 27, 2011 at 03:59 PM
Regarding the Safeway parking - I found the amount of effort to accommodate cars ironic when less than an hour earlier the council accepted the award from the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition honoring Los Altos as a Bicycle Friendly Community. I bike quite a bit - even to the grocery store - and in this climate, why not? It's fun and good for you. Give it a try.
Bill Sheppard October 27, 2011 at 07:19 PM
Regarding a dog park, there's a good-size area on the southern end of Heritage Oaks park which would be ideal for this, it's otherwise not being used, and has few homes immediately adjoining.
Ron Haley October 27, 2011 at 10:16 PM
Mark, It's nice to see that all those that who originally supported retaining the Covington school at the the expense of the Gardner Bullis site are now having to live with the consequences. Congestion was raised as a major issue. The LASD board did what it always does - ignored any input that didn't produce the outcome it had already decided upon.
Vijaya Raghavan October 28, 2011 at 02:16 AM
Los Altos is a dog friendly town and it would be great to have a dog park for them to run and play.

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