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San Jose Mercury News - Thursday, Sep. 19, 2002

Open space policy to be discussed


By Chuck Carroll
Mercury News
Los Altos Hills' city council will hear from the town attorney tonight on a local ballot initiative citizens are expected to propose that is aimed at preserving town-owned open space.

At the request of Mayor Bob Fenwick, Town Attorney Steven Mattas will brief the council on its options regarding open space policy at 6 tonight at Town Hall, 26379 Fremont Road. No vote is expected, said Fenwick, who helped spark the initiative when he said the town should at least consider selling the Westwind Barn property.

Mattas has been reviewing a copy of the 14-page draft, which the citizens group Open Space Los Altos Hills is expected to finish by the end of the month.

The initiative is too late to qualify for the November ballot, so the earliest it could be submitted to voters would be next year.

As written, the initiative would require a townwide vote before the town could offer for sale any of these town-owned lands: Byrne Preserve, Westwind Community Barn, Juan Prado Mesa Preserve, the O'Keefe property, Rhus Ridge, Murietta Ridge, the Little League fields on Purissima Road and Edith Park.

While the citizens group was spurred to act primarily by concern for Westwind and the adjacent Byrne Preserve, the other sites gradually were added to the proposed initiative.

The sites are being used for recreation, hiking, open space and similar uses, but a couple of them would permit very low- and low-density housing. No council member has formally proposed selling any of the properties.

The initiative would lock in all those lands' designations as open space or recreation in the town's general plan, a blueprint for development, unless voters approve a change.

According to the county registrar of voters Web site, proponents would have to collect the signatures of 15 percent of the town's voters for a special election, or 10 percent for a regular election, in order to qualify for the ballot.

The council could spare the expense of an election by adopting the initiative, or it could go ahead and submit it to a vote.

Fenwick helped spark the initiative petition with his comments on Westwind Barn.

But he doesn't seem inclined to oppose the initiative. ``I think it'll probably get on the ballot one way or another,'' he said. ``I presume we would support it'' if Mattas finds it to be in order.

The council also will give a first reading to proposed changes to the town's conflict-of-interest code.


Contact Chuck Carroll at ccarroll@sjmercury.com or (650) 688-7598

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