Yes on C: Supporters Weigh In
October 17, 2018
If you walk around your neighborhood, chances are you’ve seen signs saying: “Preserve Los Altos Character…Yes on C.” With City Council elections approaching, Measure C is one of the most heavily debated petitions on the ballot.
Measure C supporters maintain their quality of life and interests are tied to these lands. They believe residents should be able to approve the council members’ decisions to apply significant changes to public land.
Measure C was added to the ballot through a citizen petition led by Jim Jolly, a Los Altos Hills resident. He wants voter approval for the sale of plots of land to support commercial activities or to build new residences.
Some Los Altos residents say that developmental pressures have already begun threatening the public spaces of Los Altos. Tech giants like Facebook and Google have started to build housing for their expanding empires in Menlo Park and Mountain View, respectively.
“The pressure to just build more houses for more employees is intense and doesn’t seem to be diminishing,” Jolly said.
Residents in favor of Measure C believe that the City Council will likely make changes to their public spaces because of the modernization happening around Los Altos. These residents want to ensure the council makes the right decisions with their land, which they claim is already scarce compared to Mountain View and other cities.
The main issue that opponents have with Measure C is that it requires a public vote on every lease. However, advocates say the plan is not intended to cover anything other than a change aiming to privatize Los Altos’ land through sale and long-term lease. This means that a simple lease renewal isn’t covered.
Opponents also claim that Measure C is costly. Supporters, however, point out that none of the leased public lands in Los Altos would have required a public vote, even if Measure C was enacted ten years ago. They are mostly worried that with developmental pressures, the City Council will change public land without their approval.
The current concern among supporters of the initiative is the City Council’s plan to build a new parking lot in downtown Los Altos. Residents such as Chris Croudace, who has lived in Los Altos for 23 years, are against this.
“The City Council feels that the residents are in favor of [a new parking lot],” Croudace said. “They keep saying that the residents want us to build on the parking lot. I personally don’t think that’s true. But whether it is or not, at least let people vote on it.”
He believes oversized buildings will cripple Los Altos’s primarily residential community. While some residents see the absence of street lights and sidewalks negatively, Croudace sees them as a way to emphasize the small-town feature of Los Altos. He likes that Los Altos does not have large businesses and industries and wants to preserve that aspect.
Former mayor Ron Packard has similar thoughts. Packard has opposed the Sorensen Project, a proposal to build a three-story office building on 40 Main Street, for years. In 2012, council members including Packard rejected the Sorensen design plan because the building would ruin the “village character” of Los Altos. Packard continues to argue for downtown preservation after his time on the Council, advocating for Measure C.
“The whole issue revolves around money,” an anonymous resident said. “People against the measure are developers who want to exploit Los Altos. That’s why you can see many signs against Measure C next to the bank and other establishments down San Antonio.”
Some residents don’t want to see all their public land used for development. Croudace uses the analogy selling houses to prove that Measure C is imperative.
“What would happen if you wanted to sell your house, but you wanted to still live in it, and you gave the real estate agent that you hired the ability to sell it but you didn’t give them the ability to require your approval of the sale?” Croudace said.
He fears that just as the real estate agent would sell his house without him knowing and evict him, the failure of Measure C would do the same to residents by robbing them of their public property.
Overall, advocates aim to preserve the village character of Los Altos. Residents supporting Measure C claim they value the community that Los Altos has kept over the years and do not want to lose it to social and economic pressures.
“All we’re asking for is control over our public land,” Croudace said. “When you get rid of it, it’s gone forever.”