Thursday, July 3, 2008

Where should we go from here?

From: Elayne Dauber (elayne at

What Town activities do you value most? What new activities should the Town undertake?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Undergrounding utilities

Duffy Price (duffy555 at, a member of the Underground Utility Committee, writes:

The original exploratory committee was initiated in 2000, when Bob Fenwick was elected to the city council on a platform of undergrounding utilities to eliminate overhead ugly telephone poles and wires. However, after 4 years of doing the much needed exploratory work, efforts were abandoned due to the cost (estimated to be $50 million dollars). Then in 2002 when Dean Warshawsky was elected, and another all volunteer committee was appointed by the city council, the Underground Utilities project was vigorously renewed resulting in 2007 of a demonstration pilot project utilizing PG&E 20A Funding. (The costs for the undergrounding are recovered through electric rates after the project is completed.) Two areas of civic use & beauty - Purissima Road Little League Fields and the Altamont Road area of Byrne Preserve -- will be completed by late summer of 2008.

The primary objective of the pilot project is to determine exact costs so that individual homeowners who wish to pursue their own undergrounding project can form assessment districts.

There is no doubt that this is a significant achievement for this city council under the leadership of Council member Dean Warshawsky and his committee.

Now, the residents can begin the hard task of forming assessment districts. The example has been provided and now "rest of the story" can begin!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Where did the pathway system come from?

From: Les Earnest (les at

The Los Altos Hills pathway system has been under development for over 14,000 years, as discussed in an article that can be accessed by clicking on the title line above. The Town was incorporated in 1956 by its residents in order to preserve the rural atmosphere including the pathway system. Many residents kept horses then and there were few fences or gates in Town, other than those around corrals, but a lot of orchards and open space. Horses were also boarded at various stables around Town but over time, as land values rose, nearly all of these were converted to residential developments.

The Town founders retained the off-road pathway system in part to compensate for a peculiarity of their road system, which has few through roads and many cul-de-sacs. Thus someone who would like to walk around the block for exercise might face a hike of six miles or more. Off-road paths connecting neighborhoods that are geographically close but distant by road routes are thus brought closer for walkers and equestrians.

Construction of the 280 Freeway through town in the mid-1960s disrupted a number of pathway links. Some paths were created parallel to the freeway to partly compensate and to provide a way to get to an underpass, but traversing a path next to a noisy freeway is not a very rewarding recreational experience.

The emergence in the 1970s of Silicon Valley as a world leader in technology produced an increasing number of people who valued the Town’s rural atmosphere and could afford the rapidly increasing cost of acquiring a home there. Increasingly large houses were built, often with fences and gates to provide “security”. This gentrification process brought in a number of people who had no experience with the benefits of a pathway system.

The Antipathetics

By the late 1990s, some political opportunists had figured out that the pathway system could be used as a politically divisive issue and undertook a campaign to effectively dismantle the pathway system. They nearly succeeded until a Town uprising in 2002 put them out of office.

However the same people continue to stir that pot. They talk about “back yard pathways” [1] even though there are none in town -- paths go along property boundaries, not through backyards. They allege that paths threaten “the safety of your family and your pets” [1] whereas paths actually enhance safety in at least two ways.
1. Former County Sheriff Bob Wilson (who earlier provided police services in Los Altos Hills) has stated that paths are a deterrent to crime inasmuch as they provide additional viewpoints from which suspicious activities can be seen by neighbors walking through.
2. Off-road paths provide emergency escape routes if road access is blocked by fire, flood or fallen objects from an earthquake.
Happily, Los Altos Hills has the lowest crime rate of all cities in Santa Clara County except Monte Sereno and the County is one of the safest in the U.S.

The Future

Today there are eight particularly scenic paths in town, going along creeks or through forested areas, and another is currently under construction. There are several more places where very scenic paths could be built.

Strangely, there is an existing pathway system climbing the ridge south of Moody Road that is particularly beautiful but that has not been opened to the public even though the Town has pathway easements there. This tree-shrouded trail system was constructed about 60 years ago as part of the Adobe Creek Lodge development. It is still in pretty good shape and provides gorgeous views of San Francisco Bay and the peninsular mountains. Access to these paths, which were widely used in earlier times, has been blocked so far by the anti-path forces even though it could provide an additional route to Windmill Meadows in the Open Space Preserve at the top of the ridge.

Thus political and practical issues continue to shape the development of the Town’s pathway system. The increasing cost of gasoline is likely to encourage more walking and bicycling, which will generally benefit public health. Most urban areas have replaced their paths with roads, parking lots and buildings while retaining a few paths in parks but Los Altos Hills and some nearby communities have managed to retain their pathway systems as links to their neighbors and to their past. Will the pathway system still be here a thousand years from now? For the benefit of our successors and descendants I certainly hope so.


[1] Toni Casey, Los Altos Hills Civic Association newsletter, June 15, 2008.