Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Development Concerns About First Street in Los Altos

Downtown Los Altos is at the forefront of major changes to build more offices, retail space, and residential units.  The area with the biggest developments in the near future is First Street.  The entire street was rezoned to allow residential, better retail, and more office space.  However, a recent article in the Los Altos Town Crier brings to light concerns about traffic congestion.

Personally, I'm with most people who feel that having a little traffic congestion is a sign of success.  It's rare that you can't find a spot unless there's a major event.  The loss of so many downtown businesses has made traffic and parking nearly non-existant.  The concerns about major traffic congestion on First Street and Main Street are based in the idea that downtown Los Altos should be a "sleepy little town".  Unfortunately, for the businesses to thrive, we need more people and that often, but not necessarily, means more cars.

Adding 48 condos on First Street will help downtown a little but it won't be enough to drive real growth.  It's a start.  Another 150-200 on top of that would create real critical mass and those residents would be foot traffic, not car traffic.  That's probably why the traffic study didn't show an appreciable increase even with all the new construction.  The question now is, where to add those living units.  The new zoning regulations approved in 2009 will allow for residential units above retail on Main Street.  That would be a huge step in the right direction but those residential units will mostly generate foot traffic.  The homeowners may have cars but with jobs and services right down town, the frequency of car traffic will probably be very low.

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