Downtown Los Altos: Don’t Forget the Teenagers


Graphic by Ashley Cai.

By Javin Pombra, In-Depth Editor

On a Friday night, it’s common to see barren parking lots in downtown Los Altos. Quite frankly, it’s common any night. Los Altos has made it a mission to become a family-friendly town, but a large demographic is missing from that family: teenagers.

High schoolers and middle schoolers who attend school in Los Altos often travel miles to Mountain View, Palo Alto or beyond to find coffee shops and stores more friendly to their age group. Teenagers without car access must be begrudgingly satisfied with the antique shops within walking distance from them.

As Los Altos begins to plan its visioning process for its downtown, a procedure that will create the image of downtown for years to come, it’s especially important now to be considerate of teenagers’ desires for our city.

Looking to neighboring cities, it isn’t hard to find ways to make Los Altos a bit more teen-friendly. The most important feature that we lack is places for teenagers to stay for hours, doing homework, playing cards or just talking.

For instance, take Red Rock Cafe in Mountain View. The second floor, large and spacious, is the perfect place to go to after school and do chemistry notes with friends. The Mountain View library is similarly more teen-friendly than our own, having a number of conference rooms that teenagers can use for free to do work in.

Creating places like Red Rock and modeling our library after Mountain View’s is a good start. Large green spaces and outdoor seating can also be the perfect destination for a sunny afternoon. The First Street Park Project that was proposed earlier this year, for example, would help our city become more attractive to teenagers.

New, larger coffee shops and public places would also allow for other indoor events such as open mics or movie nights. Los Altos has multiple art festivals and car shows throughout the year, all dedicated to older populations. It wouldn’t be difficult to host, say, music festivals as Palo Alto does, or to allow teenage bands to perform in green spaces.

It’s also important to be mindful of how open retail spaces are used. Los Altos is plastered with antique shops and art galleries — and more, vacancies. Why not give one of these spaces to stores that are more directed to teenagers? Adding a boba place to Los Altos or more teen-friendly retail spaces could go a long way in making the town more enjoyable for my age group.

Obviously, building multiple coffee shops and expanding the library along with adding a park is a lot to ask. But even with just a new boba place, Los Altos could be a town for antique-enthusiasts as well as boba-lovers.

The number of teenagers in Los Altos will only grow. The city has a changing population: more and more families are moving to the town, attracted by career opportunities.

The prospect of making Los Altos teen-friendly isn’t only something teenagers can benefit from. More feet on the streets of Los Altos will always be a plus: for our town revenue and the attractiveness of retail spaces in Los Altos.

Beyond just dollar signs and decimals, a teen-friendly Los Altos creates a more cohesive town culture — a town where groups of senior citizens and seniors in high schools can sit at nearby tables at a coffee shop laughing and talking for hours. The best way to make Los Altos this picturesque, family-friendly town is to make it friendly for everyone.