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Plan for citizen-approved land sales moves forward

By Christina Bellantoni
Palo Alto Daily News Staff Writer
Friday, August 16, 2002

The Los Altos Hills City Council voted unanimously last night to tentatively accept the Planning Commission's recommendation to require a majority support from residents before selling town- owned property.

In a 4-0 vote, the council accepted the recommendation put forth last week by the commission that it take "immediate and definitive action to prevent the sale or change of use designation of any town property without the support of the majority of residents." Council members asked the City Attorney and town staff to come back with definitive options at a later meeting for possible adoption.

Residents, who for years had fought to preserve open space in town and protect properties such as the Westwind Barn and Byrne Preserve, were pleased with the vote, but are concerned that a future council could overturn it and leave residents back at square one.

"I'm glad of course we won this temporary battle, but it doesn't mean we've won the war," said Nancy Couperus, a resident working on the Open Space Initiative to protect these properties and often a vocal opponent of the City Council.

Couperus said her group will meet today with their attorney to keep working on an initiative for the 2003 ballot that would ensure the protection of properties the town said it wanted to sell in January.

Planning Commissioners Janet Vitu and Bill Kerns, both of whom are running for a council seat in the Nov. 5 election, pushed the recommendation forward for a vote last week. Vitu said last week the issue had become controversial, so she thought the council should take a closer look.

Two other council candidates, Dean Warshawsky and Breene Kerr, voiced support for the Open Space Initiative earlier this summer.

Council member Steve Finn was not at last night's meeting.

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