California mandates universal masking in schools, diverging from CDC guidance

STORY BY GIL RUBINSTEIN

Students in California will have to wear masks until at least early November, the California Department of Public Health said on July 12.

The CDPH’s policy diverges from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation made three days prior, which said that vaccinated students and teachers don’t need to wear masks at school.

The universal masking policy, however, means that schools won’t need to enforce mandatory physical distancing, vaccinated and unvaccinated students will be treated the same and quarantine requirements will be more lax — which wouldn’t have been possible under the CDC’s recommendation.

The new quarantine requirement allows students who were wearing masks during a close contact case to continue attending school, as long as they are asymptomatic, follow mask requirements, get tested twice a week during the ten days following an exposure and continue to wear a mask in other community settings.

The new state guidance takes into account a variety of considerations, including stigma surrounding different mask wearing policies, difficulties in tracking vaccination status and uncertainty surrounding the highly transmissible Delta variant.

According to the CDPH, differential mask policies can lead to “potential stigma, bullying [and] isolation of vaccinated or unvaccinated students, depending on the culture and attitudes in the school or surrounding community.”

The only exception to the masking policy is that students who live together — regardless of vaccination status — will not have to wear masks around one another at school.

The CDPH will continually reassess its policy, and by November 1, 2021, will determine whether to update mask requirements or recommendations.

Local non-profit Mentor Tutor Connection continues to serve Mountain View and Los Altos students through pandemic

STORY BY GIL RUBINSTEIN AND RODRIGO SEPULVEDA SAGASETA, PHOTO COURTESY MENTOR TUTOR CONNECTION

A wedding or baby shower guest list typically includes parents, neighbors and long-time friends. For some former Mentor Tutor Connection students, their mentors — thanks to their patience, kindness and advice — also make the guest list.

Mentor Tutor Connection is a nonprofit that seeks to “enhance academic and life skills for students” by offering tutoring for kindergarten through eighth grade students in Los Altos and Mountain View school districts and one-on-one mentoring for students in the Mountain View–Los Altos Union High School District. 

Tutors either work one-on-one with students in math and language arts in their classrooms, or, through the Reading Fellows program, a more individualized program where they meet with students many times throughout six weeks to help them with their reading ability.

The organization’s mentors work for years to build personal relationships with high school students, many of whom are first generation college bound students.

“The mentoring program pairs a caring adult from the community, an adult who is non-judgemental, who will be there for the student,” said Carol Olson, executive director at Mentor Tutor Connection. “Our mentor program is focused on whatever the student needs or wants.”

Mentors are usually brought in by other people in the organization, but can be just about any experienced adult with a little extra time, a desire to help others and a lot of patience. Mentors go through a careful training and preparation process before being matched with the right student 

Once paired, mentors help their students with school work, time management, college applications and generally are able to guide and share their experience with students.

“Over time, the students trust [the mentors] more and more, open up more and more, and eventually you’re having this huge impact on them because you show up,” said Sally Chaves, president of Mentor Tutor Connection. “You didn’t raise [the student], but they’re just a special person that becomes like family.”

While at first glance it might seem that the organization only serves students, the mentors also benefit mostly by virtue of them being around students, and being able to give back to the community. 

“It’s nice to know I’m helping [my student],” mentor Leslie Micetich said. “She just wants to talk to someone else beside her family. Me too.” 

Micetich has been a mentor since April 2020. Despite having endured the pandemic with her mentee, she still found ways to support her student. She mailed a birthday card, made fudge on a video call and even set up a meeting with a special education teacher, which is her student’s dream job. 

Not all transitions to the pandemic were smooth, as some mentors struggled to figure out how to meet with their mentees online, and everyone was facing some hard times. 

“[The teen’s] lives were turned upside down, they’re feeling isolated, they’re often hit by economic hardships, or they have to take care of their younger siblings who are in class,” Olson said. “They are struggling [to] engage with school, whether it’s tech or having a private place, there are pretty significant stressors.”

It is only now that vaccinations are occurring and restrictions have been lifted in California that mentors will once again be able to meet with and support their students properly. 

“I find it very rewarding,” Jeff Purnell, a mentor said. “[I get to] use my privilege to help others who haven’t had nearly as much privilege as I have had.”

To contact Mentor Tutor Connections, click here.

Local activist group Justice Vanguard to host Juneteenth celebration in Los Altos

STORY BY GIL RUBINSTEIN, PHOTO COURTESY MARIE GODDERIS

Local activist group Justice Vanguard is set to host a Juneteenth celebration at Lincoln Park in Los Altos from 1–5 p.m. on June 19, with the goal of raising $10,000 to fund the group’s initiatives. 

Juneteenth celebrates the day that the last slaves in the United States were liberated in Galveston, Texas in 1865 over two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Since 1866, communities have celebrated the day through food and art, and municipalities — including Santa Clara County — across America are increasingly recognizing the day as an official holiday. 

This event is the second annual Juneteenth celebration Justice Vanguard has hosted, with the goal of education through conversation being at the front of mind for the organizers.

“We are stoked,” Justice Vanguard founder Kenan Moos said. “The goal of Justice Vanguard has always been education through conversation. We want to learn, and we want to have fun.”

The celebration will host a variety of local Black businesses, including food trucks, an African jeweler, a pastry shop and a cocktail bar, among others. There will also be opportunities to hear slam poetry and speeches about Juneteenth, and to visit Justice Vanguard’s education booth to learn more about the history of the holiday.

Events such as the upcoming Juneteenth celebration are a part of Justice Vanguard’s push to involve the community and raise awareness in local initiatives. Moos pointed to the push for ethnic studies curriculum and the discussion of replacing the school resource officer on Los Altos High School’s campus as examples of issues that require community support.

“The point of this is really to explain what this holiday is, and give a little bit of history,” Moos said. “Let’s have [the community] celebrate and uplift Black people and Black culture, but also be excited to do it. We are not here to be depressed, but to celebrate freedom.”

At the event, Justice Vanguard will hold auctions and collect donations to fund their operational costs, as well as the further the group’s efforts to implement ethnic studies curriculum and the creation of a “Blackalaureate” scholarship fund to help local Black students pay for college expenses.

“Come out and join us,” Moos said. “This is not just for Los Altos, it is for whoever wants to come, from whatever city, whatever community, whatever group, whatever race, ethnicity, come and join us.”

Los Altos City Council passes resolution acknowledging activist Moos did not threaten Councilwoman Lee Eng

STORY AND PHOTO BY GIL RUBINSTEIN

The Los Altos City Council on Tuesday voted 3–2 in favor of a resolution acknowledging that local activist Kenan Moos did not, among other things, physically threaten Councilwoman Lynette Lee Eng or her family.

The resolution, brought forward by Mayor Neysa Fligor and Councilman Jonathan Weinberg, follows six months of contention between Lee Eng and Moos and essentially lends credence to arguments that Moos and his supporters have made in the months of tension, although the resolution states that it is not meant to take sides or punish any individual or group.

Lee Eng and Councilwoman Anita Enander dissented in the vote.

The months-long saga first started when Lee Eng abstained from a police reform vote in November 2020, after which she claimed to have received messages calling her racist from the social justice group Justice Vanguard, which Moos founded.

“Your name will be all over the papers,” Moos wrote to Lee Eng. “We know there are racists that supported you. You are trying to delay this. It has nothing to do with budget and you know this. You lied to me in our discussions that you were going to support racial matters. You said you were the only one in favor and it looks like you are the only one against them.”

“I voted the way I did, I am representing my concerns due to the lack of information,” Lee Eng said at the November meeting after reading the texts. “That said, I just want to protect myself and protect my family.”

After the meeting, Moos sent a message clarifying his position.

“I just want to be clear,” Moos wrote. “This is no way a threat of any kind. This is me expressing my disappointment.”

Since then, Moos’s supporters have accused Lee Eng of falsely and racistly insinuating that Moos, who is Black, threatened her and her family; Moos has even asserted that Lee Eng has painted a target on his back, and put him at risk of abuse from police officers, and his supporters have called for Lee Eng’s apology and resignation at almost every council meeting.

At one point, Lee Eng and Moos had agreed to participate in a mediation, although that was ultimately terminated by the mediator.

In this latest development, the council’s resolution seeks to bring closure to the matter by creating a timeline of events, acknowledging the content of the text messages sent by Moos to Lee Eng during that meeting — which were not read into the record prior — as well as an acknowledgement that Lee Eng read those messages, which violated official procedure although she said she was waiting for news of a sick family member.

It also contains an acknowledgement of a public perception that Lee Eng felt threatened by said messages. 

“This resolution does not ask anyone to apologize or resign, and it is not defending anyone or any group’s actions or statements,” said Fligor at Tuesday’s meeting. “It does not seek to discipline, punish or embarrass anyone or take sides.”

After Fligor and Weinberg both made statements, the council heard nearly 100 oral and written public comments about the resolution. 

Among those who gave comments were members of Moos’s family, pastors from the Los Altos United Methodist Church, members of Justice Vanguard and members of the group Every Black Life Matters. Moos described Every Black Life Matters as “right wing extremists.”

The abnormally lengthy public comment was in part attributable to articles published in the Daily Mail and Fox News about the conflict between Lee Eng and Moos, claiming Lee Eng was the latest victim of cancel culture.

Moos said that neither news organization reached out to him for comment; the Daily Mail article said that Moos did not respond to a request for comment, while the Fox News article did not indicate that the organization made an attempt to contact Moos.

Beyond engendering the epic public comment saga, the national media attention also brought malicious threats to Moos, which the Post independently verified were sent to Moos through Justice Vanguard’s website. 

Some of the threats include “Hey big mouth, where do you live? Remember, Black Lives Splatter!”; “You’re a snowflake b*tch Kenan, see u around.”; “Coming to see you to take care of your stupidity. You’re a thug!”

After Moos shared the messages during the public comment portion of the meeting, Lee Eng made it clear that she did not condone the threats.

“I do want to make it clear that if anyone is being threatened or intimidated, that is unacceptable,” Lee Eng said at the meeting. “I do not condone this kind of conduct. We should all stand in opposition to threats of all kind.” 

Since the November 24 meeting, Lee Eng has remained largely silent, and attributed this both to her own cultural behaviors and a stroke she had suffered prior to running for council in 2016.

“If everyone could be a little bit more courteous with me it would be a big help,” Lee Eng said at the Tuesday meeting. “Being Asian, I did not speak out, which is normal in my culture. When I didn’t vote with the majority I was chastised. Were other members? No. The only difference I can see is that I am an Asian female minority. I am surprised that [Mayor Fligor], who says she stands against racism only stands against racism against [her] own race.”

“I agree with you 100%, we have had different lived experiences,” Fligor said in response. “I dispute any notion that I care only about one race. I will stand by you if you feel like you are being threatened, so I am not going to give some speech, because I think deep down you know that I care.”

During the meeting, Lee Eng expressed interest in participating in a second mediation facilitated by Every Black Life Matters. Moos told the Post he was not interested.

“I’m tired. I’m ready to move on,” Moos said. “For me, the resolution is the end. There are bigger issues that we need to get to. I would like this to be left in the past.”

Lee Eng did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Sunday, May 30: This article has been updated to include additional quotes that better reflect the interactions at the Tuesday council meeting.

Monday, May 31: This wording in the article has been updated to more accurately reflect the circumstances of the failed mediation between Moos and Lee Eng.

Los Altos to draft ordinance mandating safe storage of personally owned firearms

STORY BY GIL RUBINSTEIN, PHOTO BY ALLISON HUANG

The City of Los Altos is set to draft an ordinance mandating lock boxes and trigger locks for all personally owned firearms, following a resolution made by Councilman Jonathan Weinberg at last week’s city council meeting. The exact timeline for the ordinance is unclear.

Under current law, an individual commits the crime of criminal storage of a firearm in the third degree if the individual leaves a firearm in a location where they “reasonably should know” that a child is likely to gain access to the firearm.

However, if an individual keeps their firearm in a “location that a reasonable person would believe to be secure,” the law does not apply to their situation.

Weinberg made the argument that the current state law is too vague as it does not define safe storage.

“The law does not define what ‘safe storage’ means when it mandates guns be stored safely,” Weinberg said at last week’s meeting. “This has led to deaths where a parent believed a gun may be safe in a closet or on top of a refrigerator, but in fact it was not safe.”

Weinberg’s resolution to draft an ordinance encouraged city staff to base the ordinance off of a similar model from Santa Clara County — which applies only to unincorporated territories. 

Under that model, residents are mandated to keep their firearms in a Department of Justice approved lockbox or trigger lock — a device that fits over the trigger of a firearm to prevent it from being shot — and would pay a $500 fine for a first-time offense, and a $1000 fine for a second time offense. 

However, it may ultimately be to the discretion of an officer who observes the violation whether to charge a fine or simply issue a warning.

“The goal is not to make money or make people hurt in the wallet,” Weinberg said in an interview. “The goal is to encourage people to use trigger locks and use them safely. I would be happy if officers used their discretion to only issue a warning, if that is what it takes for someone to comply with the ordinance.”

During the council meeting, Mayor Neysa Fligor pointed out questions that arose surrounding enforcement of the potential ordinance.

“This is a law that would not be enforced through aggressive police activity, it would be enforced through code enforcement,” Weinberg said. “More than anything else the ordinance establishes that this is the policy in the city, and the vast majority of people do their best to follow the law. Maybe that is enough to motivate them.”

While the majority of the council supported Weinberg’s resolution to draft a motion, Councilwoman Anita Enander was the sole dissenter, citing a lack of “applicable” arguments and a low number of local incidents of gun violence.

“I do not believe that in Los Altos we would be doing anything useful by passing this ordinance, beyond the responsibility that our citizens already take,” Enander said at the council meeting. “I do admire Councilmember Weinberg’s arguments but many of them I find not applicable. I do not believe that this ordinance will change tragedy and suicide in Los Altos one bit.”

Police Chief Andy Galea was also present at the meeting, and was unable to point to any recent case of a juvenile accessing a firearm in the last twelve years. He did, however, mention multiple cases of accidental discharge — which usually occurred while an individual was cleaning their firearm.

“A friend of mine had a teenager who tried to commit suicide with a bottle of pills,” Weinberg said. “If that teenager had had access to a gun, they would probably be dead. The teenager decided to live, but a gun would not have given that teenager an opportunity to change their mind.”

Los Altos Councilwoman Lee Eng denies falsely accusing activist Kenan Moos for first time publicly

STORY BY GIL RUBINSTEIN, PHOTO BY ALLISON HUANG

Amid persistent calls for her resignation and a failed attempt at mediation, Los Altos Councilwoman Lynette Lee Eng at a council meeting on April 27 denied allegations that she falsely claimed Los Altos activist Kenan Moos threatened her, addressing the allegations directly for the first time since the incident took place.

Lee Eng’s alleged false accusations came after she abstained from a police reform vote in November 2020. Following the vote, she claimed that she had received messages calling her racist from the social justice group Justice Vanguard, which Moos founded.

“I’m getting information or comments from members of Vanguard calling me racist now,” Lee Eng said after the vote. “I don’t appreciate it. I would like to state that I did it because I lacked information, and there were other reasons why I took the position that I have.”

“I voted the way I did, I am representing my concerns due to the lack of information,” she added. “That said, I just want to protect myself and protect my family.”

In the weeks following the incident, it became clear that the only messages sent were from Moos, expressing his disappointment.

“Your name will be all over the papers,” Moos wrote to Lee Eng in the November text. “We know there are racists that supported you. You are trying to delay this. It has nothing to do with budget and you know this. You lied to me in our discussions that you were going to support racial matters. You said you were the only one in favor and it looks like you are the only one against them.” 

After Lee Eng publicly accused members of Justice Vanguard, Moos sent a message clarifying his position.

“I just want to be clear,” Moos wrote. “This is no way a threat of any kind. This is me expressing my disappointment.”

Many members of the public and council interpreted Lee Eng’s statement in the November meeting to mean that she felt threatened — Lee Eng denied that she implied that.

“I wanted to explain my vote in order to protect myself and my family after receiving text messages saying that my supporters were racist and promising that my name would be all over the papers,” Lee Eng said at this week’s council meeting. “I am the only female Asian ever elected to serve on the Los Altos City Council. Kenan Moos, his family and his supporters exploited the false narrative that I said he threatened me and that I considered texts he sent to me as threats because he is a young Black man. That is absolutely false.”

Moments after Lee Eng initially accused Moos of threatening her in November, the council immediately condemned it, and have not commented on the accusation or the threat itself since. 

Mayor Neysa Fligor ended that silence in a prepared statement at this week’s meeting, apologizing for the hurt the council may have done, and acknowledging that she thought Lee Eng implied a threat was made.

“Although she did not use the word threat, when we all heard her saying that she wanted to make a statement [in case] anything happened to her family, I [took it to mean] something very serious and scary was written in that text message,” Fligor said.

Fligor, echoed by councilmembers Jonathan Weinberg and Sally Meadows, expressed that she did not view the text messages as threatening.

“I did not see anything in the message that would make me believe that something would happen to Councilmember Lee Eng and her family,” Fligor said.

During the public comment section of the meeting, residents who empathized with Moos, as well as his family members spoke out against Lee Eng.

“All you are doing is denying. Denying, denying, denying, that is not what a great leader does, you can’t keep denying, you can’t keep escaping the truth,” said Kevin Moos, father of Kenan Moos after Lee Eng delivered her statement. “You waited five months, let everyone think [Kenan] sent threatening messages. For five months. You are cold hearted, you are a horrible example as a leader.”

Journalist, author, citizen scientist; Mary Ellen Hannibal to deliver talk at Los Altos History Museum

STORY BY GIL RUBINSTEIN, PHOTOS COURTESY MARY ELLEN HANNIBAL

When picking up a book titled “Evidence of Evolution,” one would hardly expect that the same author also wrote “Good Parenting Through Your Divorce.” But as a freelance author, and later a citizen scientist, Mary Ellen Hannibal just took the jobs she could get.

“When you’re a freelance writer, you kind of have to take all the jobs,” Hannibal said. “And so I wrote all kinds of things.” 

Hannibal began her career writing for various Bay Area nonprofits, creating newsletters, articles and books. While writing newsletters for the San Francisco Botanical Garden in the early 2000s, Hannibal discovered a love for botany, and all things science.

“I grew to really love the subject [at the Botanical Garden], and learning about the different plants, understanding their origins, and really learning about science,” Hannibal said. “Because science has its beginnings, in many ways, in botanical research.”

After spending nearly a decade with the Botanical Garden, Hannibal wrote her first scientific book. Published in 2009, Hannibal wrote “Evidence of Evolution” while she was researching for a separate project for the San Francisco Botanical Garden at the California Academy of Sciences in 2007.

Hannibal at the Pillar Point tide pools (courtesy Mary Ellen Hannibal)

“As I was researching this book about how life begins, [scientists at the academy] were telling me that we were in an extinction crisis, and that life was ending prematurely for a lot of species,” Hannibal said. “I thought, ‘Oh my god, what’s happening?’ I need to find out, I need to tell the story.”

After learning about the so-called “sixth extinction,” Hannibal knew that she needed to dig deep and speak out.

So in 2012, Hannibal published “The Spine of the Continent: The Race to Save America’s Last Best Wilderness.” This book focused on the emergence of conservation biology, a relatively new discipline focusing on the confluence of how nature works and how humanity can protect it.

“Even Yosemite or Yellowstone, they were only protected because they were beautiful,” Hannibal said. “At the time nobody was really understanding that we need to have healthy interactions going on in nature, even if it’s not in our own backyards, in order to create a living biosphere for all lifeforms.”

During her research for “Spine of the Continent,” Hannibal first got exposed to the world of citizen science, when she noticed that a common factor among many successful scientific research projects is the involvement of the general public collaborating with professional scientists, hence the name “citizen” science.

One of the first times Hannibal observed citizen science in action was with a group tracking jaguar movements through Arizona and Mexico. The jaguar, being an endangered species, was entitled to a protected habitat space provided by the government. 

“You have to provide critical habitat so those species have a place to live, but where should that be?” Hannibal said. “In Arizona, there are many mountain ranges that have appropriate habitat, so which one should we choose? So we asked, well, where do the jaguars want to go?”

The answer was found through a network of citizen scientists, who learned how to track jaguar prints, and were able to provide data to show where a critical habitat should be located. 

Similarly, citizen scientists all across the United States are contributing animal movement data to ongoing projects to find appropriate locations for highway overpasses and underpasses.

“In order to understand where the animals want to go, we need a lot of data,” Hannibal said. “And really the only way to get that data is to have help from a lot of people. So that’s where citizen science comes in.”

Just a decade or two ago, decentralized data collection required citizen scientists to do extensive research and independently collect and corroborate data. But today, with the advent of digital tools, anyone can be a citizen scientist by just snapping a photo with a cell phone.

“Before, you would have gone out to the field with a little GPS machine and a camera and you [wrote] down where you saw something,” Hannibal said. “Now you just take a picture with your phone and upload it and people can confirm what is in the photo and now it is available to be used by scientists everywhere.”

The largest app that is used for citizen science today is called iNaturalist. The app allows users to upload a photo, at which point software will identify its contents and after it is confirmed by other users, that data point can be used in national biological studies.

“Academic science has tended to be very much old white men, very exclusive and dismissive,” Hannibal said. “But that is really changing. Science today matters less on one individual genius coming up with a great idea, and much more on collaboration.”

Hannibal will be delivering a virtual talk at the Los Altos History Museum on Thursday, April 22 about the history of citizen science and its impact on monarch butterflies, as well as climate change. Register for the free event here.

More drama: Mediation between Los Altos Councilwoman Lee Eng and activist Kenan Moos terminated

STORY BY GIL RUBINSTEIN, PHOTO BY EMILY MCNALLY

Following five months of controversy surrounding comments made by Los Altos Councilwoman Lynette Lee Eng about activist Kenan Moos, an attempt at mediation — something which many hoped would bring peace to the issue — was terminated by the mediator, whose identity is currently confidential.

At a council meeting in November, Lee Eng falsely accused Moos of threatening her family, following a vote on police reform measures

Since then, Moos has called for Lee Eng’s resignation, and his calls have been joined by dozens of other Los Altos residents at recent council meetings.

“The city was informed yesterday that the agreed upon mediator had terminated the process,” said Mayor Neysa Fligor at a city council meeting this week. “The reason for termination was not disclosed to the city. Although we are very disappointed in this particular process, we are still hopeful that both parties can resolve this matter.”

Moos said that his relationship with Lee Eng was amicable prior to that November meeting. Lee Eng even claimed to have attended a Black Lives Matter march organized by Moos last June, but he said he has no recollection of meeting her there.

“This is not the first time someone has criminalized me,”  Moos said in an interview. “All the stuff I do has been diminished because she applies the label of a ‘scary black man.’ I literally have to humanize myself to others now.”

Although the events that occurred during mediation are confidential, it is unusual for a mediation between two parties to be terminated. If a mediation is terminated by a mediator, it is often due to a perception that one party involved is not there in good faith, or that the mediation can not be productive.

“One person has been very open on speaking this whole time, and has stood on the policy of conversation, and that’s me,” Moos said. “I have said let’s talk. It’s been five months, and not a single word has been said. I’m not saying who necessarily ended it, because technically it was ended by the mediator. But there are few reasons mediation gets terminated. Just look at everything that’s happened.”

During nearly all public comments calling on Lee Eng to apologize or resign over the past five months, many have accused her of failing to look up at her computer screen on Zoom — something which they say shows that she’s not listening.

“It has proven to be a very difficult year for him, and this has made it even more so,” said Toni Moos, mother of Kenan Moos, failing to hold back tears during the meeting. “Lynette, please look at the camera. It is time to apologize for making my son a target, for allowing the hatred that he is encountering. Look up Lynette! Please!”

Lee Eng did not reply to multiple requests for comment.

Los Altos aims to build 2000 affordable housing units by 2031

STORY BY GIL RUBINSTEIN, PHOTO BY EMILY MCNALLY

Los Altos is aiming to build 2000 affordable housing units by 2031, in accordance with new state housing requirements and legislation.

In the state of California, each municipality is given a regional housing needs allocation (RHNA) number, which sets out affordable housing requirements. The housing element, which is sent to the state, indicates where and how land will be zoned for affordable housing.

RHNA requirements are given to most cities by the state every eight years, with this cycle finishing in 2023, at which point they will receive a new number. Some cities — including Los Altos — sometimes receive unfeasible housing numbers, so they appeal the numbers, hoping to receive a finalized set of more feasible ones from the state.

Municipalities are required to send the state a housing element at the end of each cycle, indicating how they plan to implement the RHNA numbers they receive. 

“What we are looking at now is the housing element that is due in January 2023,” said Los Altos Councilwoman Sally Meadows. “Los Altos is viewed as somewhat rural, but to deliver the numbers we need, we will build 2000 affordable units between 2023 through 2031.”

Those 2000 affordable units will likely take the form of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) — an additional unit on a lot that already has a main structure — and duplexes. Although ADUs can often cost upwards of $2,500 a month to rent, they qualify as “moderate” below market rate (BMR) housing. 

Furthermore, building a BMR unit can sometimes cost developers the same or more than a market rate unit, due to high construction and real estate costs, according to Meadows, making it even less likely for developers to construct affordable units.

One of the largest hurdles to affordable housing in Los Altos is the limited quantity of bare land, along with current municipal restrictions on the number of structures that can be put onto a single lot.

Senate Bill 9, which was introduced earlier this month, looks to address this issue by forcing  cities to accept proposed developments for two units on a single family lot, assuming other requirements are met — something which was previously left to the discretion of local municipalities.

Those requirements include, but are not limited to, not requiring demolition of an existing structure and the development not being classified as a historic landmark. 

While it is unclear how Los Altos will be able to facilitate the construction of those units — especially considering the high costs and limited quantity of bare land in the city — lot subdivision and ADU construction seem to be the most likely avenue for increased housing, which will be made easier by SB-9.

“There is an argument that SB-9 doesn’t specify that these units have to be BMR, and that’s true,” Meadows said. “What the state is looking for is not just to create affordable housing, but simply to create housing.”

‘Light at the end of this tunnel’: Gov. Newsom unveils plan to fully reopen state in mid-June

STORY BY TOMOKI CHIEN AND GIL RUBINSTEIN

Governor Gavin Newsom yesterday unveiled a plan to fully reopen the state on June 15, given that the vaccine supply is sufficient to accommodate the 16-and-up age bracket and hospitalization rates are “stable and low.”

“With more than 20 million vaccines administered across the state, it is time to turn the page on our tier system and begin looking to fully reopen California’s economy,” Newsom said. “We can now begin planning for our lives post-pandemic. We will need to remain vigilant, and continue the practices that got us here — wearing masks and getting vaccinated — but the light at the end of this tunnel has never been brighter.”

All businesses will be able to return to usual operations following “common sense” risk reduction measures such as masking requirements, as well as testing and vaccination requirements in certain settings — specifically in large-scale indoor events.

State guidance also mandates that schools offer full-time in-person instruction at that point, subject to unspecified health guidelines.

Vaccine eligibility is set to expand to the 16-and-up age bracket on April 15,even as local counties continue to struggle with sporadic and low vaccine supply.

“The state, in partnership with local government, health care providers and community-based organizations, will continue its extensive efforts to get eligible Californians vaccinated,” a press release from Newsom’s office reads. “Equity continues to be the focus of our vaccine efforts, especially as we prepare to fully reopen.”