As a teenager, I can claim this with great certainty—Downtown Los Altos is boring. Despite being only half a mile away from Main Street, my friends and I are much more likely to make the trek to Mountain View and take our pick of the lively restaurants lining Castro Street. Many of my peers feel the same way.
Younger residents already prefer other downtowns over our local one. Measure C would only make this problem worse by restricting the Downtown Visioning Plan, which was commissioned to increase downtown vibrancy.
Forcing a vote each time a private business wants to buy or lease public land, the implementation of Measure C would make these land transfers nearly impossible and stagnate the economic vitality of the town. Taking these transfers to a vote can take up to 2 years as the council must wait for an election year (or hold a wildly expensive special election) and secure the funds to take it to ballot. This significantly slows down economic progress and discourages new businesses from moving in.
Proponents of Measure C argue that not all leases will be required to go to vote— however, according to the actual amendment, leases that extend beyond 180 days in a single year must be voted on by residents. Private businesses, restaurants or retail stores looking to settle on public land in Los Altos Downtown would have to appeal to the general public, a time consuming and cumbersome process.
Not only does this measure hinder productivity, it wastes thousands of taxpayer dollars on simple things that can be decided by the town council. Each time lease renewals are put to ballot, it can cost taxpayers anywhere from $50,000 to $500,000. The voters voice their concerns and gain a voice in council by electing candidates they believe will support their values. By voting for Measure C, not only are voters tying the hands of their elected representatives, they are enacting a measure that wastes public funds. As a representative body of government, the people have entrusted power into the hands of City Council — Measure C takes this power away and undermines representative democracy.
Furthermore, putting lease renewals on a ballot can lead to inconveniences and unsafe consequences. The Los Altos Library, Fire Station and History Museum will eventually have to renew and renegotiate their lease. Imagine going to return or check out a book only to find out that the library is closed for a couple of days while the lease is being negotiated and then taken to a ballot. What if the Fire Station is forced to close until the lease is renegotiated and put to a vote? These untimely and potentially risky results of passing Measure C will only harm the Los Altos community.
11 former mayors, and other groups such as the Los Altos School District, the League of Women Voters of Los Altos and Mountain View and the Los Altos Chamber of Commerce have spoken out against Measure C. The fact that such influential and essential organizations have taken a stance against Measure C should be a hint to voters — it’s expensive and uneconomical.
Measure C veers away from the goals of the future. While written with good intentions, the measure fails to understand and address the negative impact it can have on the overall Los Altos community. Rather than setting up roadblocks to development, residents should embrace an evolving image of Los Altos and make it more welcoming to younger age groups and non-residents. In order to keep our downtown on track to become a lively and welcoming place, residents should get registered and vote No for Measure C.