Los Altos Opinions Exchange
ISSUES: North Entry Study
A Los Altos task force assisted by the planning staff and a consultant has completed a draft plan (Sherwood Gateway Specific Plan) for the area at San Antonio Road and El Camino and Sherwood Avenue. The area extends down to the Los Altos Garden Supply property, includes the intersection with Louks Road, and includes Chester Circle. The task force included some property owners, residents, and business owners in the area along with city officials. This area, often referred to as the Sherwood triangle, contains 27.5 acres. The plan, dated August 20, 1998 has been discussed at several Planning Commission meetings and a work session and the Planning Commission recommendations have been passed on to the City Council to be discussed on the council meeting of December 15. The draft plan is available to the public in our libraries.
The goals for the task force study are to recommend how the city can help revitalize the economy of the area while preserving the neighborhood's residential character. The importance of this area is somewhat enhanced by being a primary entry (north entry) to the city of Los Altos. The city can influence future development in this area by zoning changes, by upgrading street intersections and sidewalks to fit the plan, and by an advance willingness to approve projects that fit the adopted Specific Plan. One difficulty in making any large changes in this area is the large number of owners of individual parcels including commercial uses such as restuarants and retail stores, and single-family rental and owner-occupied housing.
The draft plan assumes that the current businesses in the area are maintained or enhanced. One of the ideas was to provide more parking near Chef Chu's and Armardillo Willy's via a parking structure, perhaps with downstairs retail. Another possible addition mentioned in the draft plan is a high-end hotel on El Camino, perhaps SE of Sherwood where it intersects El Camino.
A key concern to many local residents is the potential impact on traffic due to increased density of use in the Sherwood area . The San Antonio and El Camino intersection is very busy already. This concern influences housing density discussions. The task force recommended a housing density of 7 units per acre which is approximately the density of the current residential parcels. The general plan lists a maximum density of 38 living units per acre, which might require three-story condominiums or apartments. The city planning staff was recommending 20 units per acre, if a change were to be made in the general plan to reduce density. The density in the Chester Circle development is approximately 13 per acre. The selected density could affect how this area will or will not contribute to the affordable housing goals set by the state. Density could also affect the required capacity for our schools in this area, depending on the type of housing. However, if the housing were to be for seniors, the impact on traffic and schools would be far less than for family apartments.
The Planning Commission decided to recommend keeping the 38 units per acre zoning as stated in the general plan, for the specific area now occupied by the Los Altos Garden Supply facility and grounds. This recommendation has been forwarded to the City Council for a final decision on December 15.
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