Los Altos loses another attempt to block new housing

The City of Los Altos is facing another major headache this week, following another loss in court.

Following an April court ruling allowing a project at 40 Main Street to continue, the city appealed. On September 2, a court ruled the city would have to post a $7 million bond in order to proceed with that appeal. That is more than 10 percent of the city’s annual budget. If the city lost, it would have also had to pay attorney’s fees – likely more than $10 million in total.

“In light of this huge financial risk to the City and the uncertainty and risk of losing the appeal, the City Council decided to withdraw the appeal,” the city wrote in a press release.

Instead of proceeding, the City Council voted to withdraw its appeal. The 66-foot-tall project, with 15 housing units, can now proceed.

In 2018, the project developer applied to Los Altos for approval under Senate Bill 35 – SB 35 – process, which allows some projects to get expedited approval if they meet stringent requirements. Los Altos denied the application. A YIMBY-supported group, California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund – known as CaRLA, then sued Los Altos.

CaRLA, following the most recent ruling, highlighted the continued legal dead ends cities have faced.

“With our work, cities no longer get to decide between housing or no housing. Instead, their only options are housing or consequences,” the group said in a Tweet.

What happens next?

Los Altos will hold a public meeting to issue permits to 40 Main Street, as required by the law. That hearing is set for Thursday, September 10, at 7 p.m.

Despite denying the project initially, and litigating against it, the city claims it wants to work with the developer.

“Notwithstanding the court-mandated hearing, the Council is still open and willing to discuss with the developer an alternative project.”