From the Los Altos Town Crier:

RRM Design poised for $300K city vision project

Los Altos city staff recommended that the city council award RRM Design Group of San Luis Obispo the contract to consult with the city on its downtown visioning process.

The contract – capped at $300,000 – was up for discussion at Tuesday’s council meeting, after the Town Crier’s press deadline.

City staff selected RRM after reviewing eight bids to consult on the visioning process that began in late February. Councilmembers stated at a Feb. 23 meeting that their goals were to develop at least three scenarios representing different levels of development in downtown Los Altos and to engage the community in the process.

RRM’s proposal includes a collaboration with M-Group to solicit community feedback and with Land Econ Group for economics consulting. RRM officials said M-Group conducted “extensive outreach effort” for a similar project in downtown San Mateo.

In documents sent to the city, RRM representatives defined the group as “devoted to community-based planning that engages the public in a meaningful way and produces a vision that all embrace.”

Familiar with city staff

Debbie Rudd, leader of the RRM team, worked on the firm’s vision and strategic plan for Pismo Beach in 2015, along with similar projects in Calabasas and Ojai.

“We are excited about the opportunity to work with the city of Los Altos on the upcoming downtown visioning project,” Rudd told the Town Crier. “This is exactly the type of project our team has a passion for.”

Jon Biggs, Los Altos’ community development director, held the same position in Pismo Beach when the Central Coast city contracted with RRM.

“I worked with their team to come up with that specific plan,” he said. “One of the really good things about that project is that Pismo Beach … had made a number of attempts to develop a plan (over the years). They would start a process and would never get those results reviewed, approved, and adopted.”

According to Biggs, RRM Design brought everyone together and included simple actionable items such as improved trash receptacles and wayfinding throughout Pismo Beach.

“We were able to start moving forward on some of that … right away,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean it will be full speed ahead once the ink is dry on the contract.

“We have really high expectations for community involvement and we look forward to hearing from as many citizens as possible,” Biggs said.

High praise

Jeff Winklepleck, the current community development director for Pismo Beach, was effusive in praising RRM Design Group.

“My experience with them is that they know what they’re doing,” he said. “We did a public meeting with them on their design guidelines and they did a great job. They did some private interviews with key stakeholders, and we got some good information on that.”

Winklepleck said that when he has had requests for proposals, other firms occasionally would withdraw from the bid process after they learned they would have to compete with RRM.

Ben Fine, Pismo Beach’s director of public works, said “there were no issues” with RRM. He noted that there are sometimes power struggles with consultants, but that was not the case with RRM.

“They definitely got it from the get-go,” he said.

If the Los Altos City Council approves the contract, RRM hopes to begin work soon. In a section of the proposal labeled “Our Understanding,” RRM officials laid out what they understood Los Altos to be requesting.

“The City is now ready to embark on a post-recession visioning effort to determine the appropriate direction for the heart of the Los Altos community,” the proposal stated.

The proposal offered a timeline that would begin with a kickoff meeting and tour. RRM representatives would then start collecting data and developing a community outreach strategy. They estimate an 11-month downtown visioning process.

Published: 14 September 2016Written by Asher Kohn – Staff Writer/asherk@latc.com