Saturday, January 21, 2012

Paving Paradise (Continued) ...

Our new "streetscape" on First Street in Los Altos.

One week after our local paper criticized our Mayor and her City Council for not meeting any of their deadlines on a downtown "streetscape" which has closed our key intersection since July 2011: Voila! The street is now open.

That's a relief anyway--though our formerly tree-lined street now has what looks like a prison wall along its edge. It does go to show how fast you can get our mayor to move if you have the nerve to criticize her.

I don't envy poor old Skip's Place. That wall is vaguely reminiscent of what is known as a "Jersey barrier" and looks more like it is designed to keep out terrorists than welcome visitors.

After outraged protests from local residents, our soviet-style council agreed to leave two mature trees along the two, new "streetscaped" blocks. Because they wanted to remove the others, the city decided they were  "diseased."  Now the last two of our old trees appear somewhat lonely, marked as they are by some sort of altar.  Anyway, it all cost $1.3M and you better like it or you are "against progress."

The main intersection that is the entrance into our little town, which formerly had mature trees on all four corners, is now a large sea of concrete and asphalt. Definitely not an improvement and along with that prison wall-planter thingee along First is neither charming, nor village-like. "Village" is the buzz word at council meetings where they endlessly discuss our "village atmosphere" before they approve another condo project.

Look! Eighteen Acres of Opportunity!

In a somewhat related story: I have been intrigued to read in their "marketing materials" that the City Council says they have "set aside funding" for our new/proposed City Hall/Community Center: and all we have to do is adopt a $61M bond so they can chop down our apricot orchard and build the rest of the concrete and asphalt stuff they want to put there.

I've learned, however, that $6M of the "funding" they have "set aside" is in Certificates of Participation. That means, in other words, the "funding" they have "set aside" will only be able to be put aside, if they borrow it. Certificates of Participation are certificates that allow you to borrow.

This is what modern government calls "funding."

So with "funding," "progress," and "streetscaping," we are developing a whole new Orwellian lexicon here in my little town. Oh, excuse me, my little "village." And honestly, it did used to look like one.

You are now entering Los Altos. Leave your dictionary and all hope of shade behind.

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Jon said...

Smaller cities want to be cool like San Francisco or Portland. Little Vancouver recently removed part of a working farm to install bike lanes, sidewalks, and instead of parking strip grass they put in cemented river rock. Millions of dollars spent to look cool when the streets themselves were barely improved.

Robin Chapman said...

Imagine how fine it would have been if they had returned that wasted money to you and your family and all the other families in Vancouver. That's the government I would vote for.

Anonymous said...

Robin, my sympathies to you and the residents of your charming community. I do not presently live in, nor have I ever resided in Los Altos, but I do have similar tales of tragedy from reckless politians in my small hometown. We, too were victimized by an empty-headed city council who took it upon themselves to "improve" the quality of life in our community by railroading a master plan through the levels of local government.The picture you have posted shows the master plan and the motto that proudly proclaims "planning for tomorrow". Really? I'm not convinced. Call me old fashioned, but what has happend to common sense and the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality? The removal of priceless trees in exchange for poorly designed hardscaping hardly qualifies as improvement.And it most certainly does not suggest planning for a better future for the residents of your lovely community. Obviously, the dim witted mayor and her equally ioncompetent members on the city council have little concern for preserving the quality of life for the constituents whom they serve. What can the residents expect next? Perhaps a rechristening of the town name to Lost Altos!

Our Vision said...

I'm glad the city of Los Altos listened to residents and kept those two heritage trees in front of Skip's Pizza--imagine how much less character the street would have had if they had removed them as planned! It brings a smile to my face every time I see the large bird nest hanging in the tree branches.

Robin Chapman said...

To Vision: I didn't mean to criticize the saving of those two trees! Thank goodness, with your help, we were able to save at least those. And to northweststateofmind--I was thinking we should start calling our city Not Los Altos, but I like your funny name better. Let's hope we can save it before it is truly Lost.

One of the things that bothers me about government now--at all levels--is that they consider doing "something" to be "progress." But sometimes, doing nothing is the right thing to do and the opposite of doing nothing is not disaster, neglect, or, as one letter in our paper said "a ghost town." One of the reasons we are wasting so much of our tax dollars is that people in government keep wanting to do things--in many cases where they are simply not needed! What would happen, I wonder, if government stopped wasting money on projects, big and small like the one in my town? Whoo. We might be solvent!

linda said...

that is the ugliest streetscape i have ever seen. i feel sorry for the fine residents of los altos!!

Robin Chapman said...

I just don't understand why they have done it. It really looked lovely before. I'll post a picture on Monday of what it looked before they made their "improvements."
The really strange thing is that nobody in town likes it, but the City Council has absolutely no interest in our opinion! It is really strange ...