GreenTown said, “Let’s Talk Traffic,” and March 14, we did just that and more in our continuing series of Traffic Talks. Arnold Ambiel kicked off the meeting by describing the new developments in Mountain View along San Antonio and El Camino. He told us that Mountain View and the Silicon Valley have been adding more jobs than housing for many years. In fact the ratio has averaged 6:1 for many years. Now developers are adding housing – 330 units are already completed in Phase 1 of San Antonio Center and 583 more are under construction at 400 San Antonio Rd. Up to 1200 are allowed. Phase 1 also has 400,000 sf of office space completed.
What does this mean to Los Altos? A lot of traffic from the new housing will be going to jobs in Mountain View or Palo Alto, so maybe not much. The jury is still out on the impact of the new office space on our traffic. The new school site will also have an impact. A 10th Site Advisory Task Force to advise on the new site has recently been formed. About 25% of the students living in Mountain View attend 7 different Los Altos School District schools, and Mountain View students attend the two MVLA high schools, contributing to Los Altos traffic throughout the city.
Aruna Bodduna of the City of Los Altos spoke next. She gave us an update on our North Los Altos roads and clarified the 3 categories of roads we have; arterials like San Antonio and El Camino with up to 38,000 vehicles per day, collector streets like Los Altos Ave. and Almond Ave. with up to 9,000 vpd and local streets which carry up to 800 vpd. She also updated us on current projects at two intersection crossings aimed at making it safer for kids to get to school on Portola Ave. – one at Los Altos Ave. and the other at San Antonio Rd.
Next up, Zach Dahl with City of Los Altos Planning. He gave us the background on the zoning requirements and an update on projects along the El Camino Real that are underway, planned or likely to be coming soon. The density bonus law has kicked in on some projects. Developers can add affordable housing units and in return they can build a bigger project with more units. There are still parking and height requirements that must be met. When asked about the impact on traffic by these new developments, he said they are not individually evaluated, but explained that they fit with the city’s general plan, and the heavy traffic in Los Altos is from “through commuters,” not from local housing. During the discussion it was pointed out that more local housing should reduce traffic. Another point made by several in the audience was the need for regional planning. For example, development on San Antonio Rd between Foothill Expressway and HW101 is controlled by 3 different cities.
Finally Agent Brooks of LAPD spoke. He is a motorcycle officer in the traffic division and his focus is on education and enforcement. He reminded us that the speed limit on San Antonio is 35 mph, but he can often write tickets for speeds above 50 mph especially during the early morning commute hours into Los Altos that begin at 5:30 am. He stated that school traffic is really bad, but it is over in 30-45 minutes and worse in the morning than during the afternoon. On El Monte radar cannot be used (see LATC Apr 5 2017), but traffic speeds can be enforced in the short Almond School Zone and the speeds are high there. The Police Department’s radar trailers do help as they are a speeding deterrent as drivers slow down as soon as they see them. He also commented that some of the previous traffic calming methods have not worked well such as those installed on North Clark Ave. He also stated his personal opinion that keeping commuter traffic moving through town is best for everyone… delays lead to other problems such as using local street to get around bottle necks. He see more traffic violations where the Safe Routes To School routes cross busy arterial and collector streets.
The session ended with audience Q&A.
What’s going on with the Foothill Expressway improvements at El Monte and San Antonio? Still in the works according to Aruna. It needs to have the Measure B funding resolved but could start this summer.
Are there any development impact fees to fund traffic projects? Yes, says Dahl. There is also a park-in-lieu fee.
What does the future look like with Waymo and driverless cars? Brooks says the department has had talks with Waymo. He also gave one of their cars a ticket for going 25 in a 15 mph school zone. The ticket went to the “driver,” also known as the pilot.
That glimpse into the future was pretty much the end of the meeting. We got a lot of good information, but it was tempered with the realization that traffic is still a work in progress.