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livinginlos altos m








Spring/Summer 2012

Pop-ups popping up Unique retail shops prove efficient way to fill vacant storefronts

Clubbing in Los Altos

Not that kind. Social groups promote small-town community

A Los Altos Town Crier Publication

Page 2 | Living in Los Altos | March 28, 2012

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Living in Los Altos | March 28, 2012 | Page


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The Los Altos Town Crier

Pop-up retail rears head

Temporary and sometimes minimally stocked retail shops are filling vacant storefronts downtown. Page 12

A downtown renaissance

Los Altos’ village takes on a more upscale appearance. Page 24

Leaving Los Altos

Local travel agents unlock multigenerational educational opportunities for vacationing families. Page 33


Patti Robison


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Magazine Staff SS

138 Main St., Los Altos, CA 94022



Bruce Barton

Magazine Editor

Elliott Burr


Mary Watanabe


Refugio Garcia

Elliott Burr

Kathryn Tomaino

Eren Göknar

Copy Editors

Joan Garvin

Colleen Schick


Elliott Burr

Sales Staff

Janice Fabella

Kathy Lera

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Ad Services Director

Chris Redden

Ad Services Assistant

Leverne Cornelius

Production Staff

Janine O’Neill

Mary Watanabe

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Associate Publisher

Howard Bischoff

Upcoming 2012 Magazines Home & Garden Publishes: April 25

Los Altos Art & Wine Publishes: July 4 Circulation 16,500. Mailed directly to households in Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and select areas of Mountain View. Hundreds of subscribers receive the Town Crier in neighboring communities as well as out-of-state. The Town Crier can be purchased at newsstands in Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View and Palo Alto.

Cover photo: Kevin Paya, Skateworks’ store manager, tests the store’s new halfpipe.

WE PUT OUR CLIENTS FIRST! | LOS ALTOS 167 So. San Antonio Road 650.941.1111

Page 4 | Living in Los Altos | March 28, 2012

Photo by Elliott Burr/Town Crier © Los Altos Town Crier Company Inc., 2012. All Rights Reserved.


Clubbing in Los Altos From quilting to tennis, there’s something for everyone

Refugio garcia/special to the town crier

The Crazy Cut-Ups, from left, Mary Brown, Chris Nagao, Verlain Goss and Trish Boesel, get together to sew, then donate their work to families at Fisher House at the Palo Alto Veterans’ Administration hospital.

By Refugio Garcia Special to the Town Crier


espite living in a hub of technological innovation, many Los Altos and Los Altos Hills residents eschew – at least temporarily – their computers, iPods and smartphones to engage in hobbies and pastimes with real, breathing people. Imagine that. Instead of arranging online chats or videoconferences or ensconcing themselves on message boards or blogs to get their communal fix, they venture into the real world to experience the real deal. Whether it’s shedding a drop of blood from a pinprick while sewing, engaging with newcomers to the area, pumping up the brain with a tantalizing game of cards or working up a sweat on the courts, joining a group of likeminded residents fosters shared interests and enhances the high quality of life in Los Altos. Following is a look at a few local clubs and the enthusiasts who enjoy them.

The Crazy Cut-Ups

Singing may not be their forte, but this group of eclectic women has talent.

“‘Hey, Hey, We’re the Quilters!’ has been our theme song for quite some time now,” joked Los Altos resident Chris Nagao. Nagao and her fellow quilters, The Crazy Cut-Ups, tell a patchwork of stories that share a common thread – friendship. The Crazy Cut-Ups gather weekly at the American Legion Hall on First Street in downtown Los Altos to make works of art with patience and intricacy. They simultaneously craft another thing of great beauty – a bond stronger than that of sisters. Some of the participating quilters are, or were, married to veterans. “We began meeting at the cemetery at Rancho San Antonio in 1991 at the home of Joanne Sharkey,” said member Mary Brown, detailing the group’s 20-year history. “Her husband was the manager, so they had a house right next to the cemetery.” The group expanded over the years and now boasts 14 members. The move to downtown Los Altos brought a few more women into the fold, not to mention a little good-natured hazing. “We told (one new member) that new members had to Continued on Page 6 Living in Los Altos | March 28, 2012 | Page


clubs Continued from Page 5 bring scones – homemade scones – and she fell for it,” Brown said with a laugh. “Then we all agreed to act like they were bad,” chimed in fellow quilter Trish Boesel. Quipped Nagao, “You tried that with me, and I just brought some from the store.” Their dedication to creating elaborate quilts brings comfort to the families of veterans staying at Fisher House at the Veterans Administration hospital in Palo Alto. The house serves as a sanctuary for visiting families of injured war veterans receiving treatment at the hospital. The group has handmade and delivered 20 quilts in the past few weeks alone. The Cut-Ups collect contributions of $5 at their weekly meetings, which they have used to purchase curtains, seat cushions and a microwave, among other amenities, for Fisher House. The group also donates to the National Kidney Foundation and the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s walk for breast cancer. Combining quilting with charitable causes enables the group to choose beneficiaries for their talents and their tithes. “We made a quilt and auctioned it off for the searchand-rescue canine unit from Menlo Park that responded Continued on Page 8

Elliott Burr/town crier

Hazel Anchor of Los Altos mulls her next move in a bridge game downtown.

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ClubS Continued from Page 6 during 9/11,” Brown said. Through the fabric of friendship, the group has celebrated special times in members’ lives – and commiserated and mourned together as well. “All of us have gone through things,” said Verlain goss of her fellow Crazy Cut-Ups. “They were my support – they were my family.” Much like a patterned quilt, the Crazy Cut-Ups have stitched together a winning recipe that promotes friendship, fun and philanthropy. For more information, email Nagao at

Newcomers Club

Since the 1950s, the Newcomers Club of Los Altos and Los Altos Hills has welcomed new residents and encouraged them to become part of the community. The Newcomers group aims to “promote a warm community and friendly spirit among members through social activities,” according to its website. Activities and events include bridge, mah-jongg, hiking, exploring, knitting, tennis and dining, “It’s like hanging out with a bunch of pals in elementary school,” said Kay Barchas, the group’s president. The club, which operates as part of the Los Altos Chamber of Commerce, attracts more than 100 members.

The American Legion Los Altos Post 558 347 First Street Serving Children & Youth, Veterans and Community. Post meets at 7pm 1st Wednesday of each month For membership information call Warren Petree 650.279.1092 Hall available for rent 650.275.3539 Call Rob for availability. Page 8 | Living in Los Altos | March 28, 2012


Bridge Club members, from left, Sally Lillis, Margaret Magnee and Phyllis Bismanovsky enjoy a game.

clubs Annual dues are $20. “Most people hear about us by word-of-mouth and are people who just moved to town,” Barchas explained. However, you don’t have to be a newcomer to the area to join – some longtime local residents become members after retiring or losing a spouse. They may discover once they are alone that they never properly assimilated into the community. On the first Friday of every month, the club hosts a TGIF gathering at a member’s home, inviting people to forge friendships over appetizers and wine. “We also do dinners that are great,” Barchas said. “I can really enjoy a group like this.” The Explorers group introduces members to the wonders of the Bay Area, hosting field trips to destinations and events of interest. In February, the club ventured to the historic sandstone caves of Wente Vineyards in Livermore. “All of our activities are meticulously planned and carried out,” Barchas wrote on the website. “There’s a lot of preparatory work that goes on.” For more information, visit www.losaltosnewcomers. com.

The Bridge Club

Playing a routine game of bridge might not be the most exciting activity on the calendar, but for a dedicated group Continued on Page 10

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clubs Continued from Page 9 of local women who meet regularly in various downtown spots to duke it out at the card table, it’s plenty rousing. “Bridge itself provides stimulation for our gray matter, socialization with new friends as well as courtesy of los altos tennis club friends we might not see Los Altos Tennis Club members convene at Los Altos High School’s tennis courts as often,” said Phyllis Bisfor tournaments. The group has been swinging their rackets since 1972. manovsky. “There’s no commitment required, just the desire to play.” ity for many in our community,” said Bill Powell, presi Bismanovksy said their card games benefit their hosts, dent of the Los Altos Tennis Club. too. Founded in 1972, the club plays at public and school “In turn for having the space available to us, we pur- courts, providing opportunities for players of all levels to chase items to support the local businesses,” she said. learn and enjoy the game. For more information, email The club gives back to the community with its Tennis for Charity Program, advocating successfully for the newly opened courts at Los Altos’ Covington Park and Los Altos Tennis Club sponsoring dinners and tournaments that raise funds for For those who prefer to work up a sweat during their Relay For Life and the Community Services Agency. leisure time, Los Altos serves up a host of tennis fans. Annual membership is $25 individual, $40 couple and Most aren’t in it for hard-core competition – they play for $15 student. love of the game. For more information, visit www.losaltostennisclub. “The Los Altos Tennis Club provides fun tennis activ- com. ✯

Page 10 | Living in Los Altos | March 28, 2012

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Pop-ups could be part of growing trend Temporary downtown retail arrangements benefit merchants and landlords

By Elliott Burr

Staff Writer/


ome new business owners in downtown Los Altos discover that, at first, pitching a tent is more suitable than pouring concrete. Figuratively speaking, of course. A wave of new retailers in the downtown triangle that city officials have labeled “very different� from the typical downtown merchant have rushed in with minimal cash and at times token inventory to fill vacant storefronts. Continued on Page 16

Page 12 | Living in Los Altos | March 28, 2012

elliott burr/town crier

Jason Strubing, right, owner of pop-up shop Skateworks in downtown Los Altos, converses with a customer.

Living in Los Altos | March 28, 2012 | Page


Page 14 | Living in Los Altos | March 28, 2012

Living in Los Altos | March 28, 2012 | Page



photos by elliott burr/town crier

Jeff Selzer, above in blue jacket and below, celebrates the opening of his pop-up bike shop, 359 State, with Los Altos’ then-Mayor Ron Packard cutting the ceremonial ribbon. Continued from Page 12 Popping up around town They are called “pop-up shops,” and they could be around for mere months or maybe years – depending on how their owners and landlords see it. The two most prominent and recent examples downtown are the bike shop 359 State and Skateworks, a purveyor of skateboards and magnet for the occasional youthlaced crowd gathered outside Peet’s Coffee and Tea next door. A faltering economy can spell p-e-s-s-i-m-i-s-m for prospective tenants mulling a long-term lease. What if they don’t make it through the first year and they’re on the hook for another six? But the unique arrangements of pop-up retail, which can provide shorter contract terms and fewer tenant improvements and merchandising requirements, supply a four-way win for tenants, landlords, the community and city alike, and are a major reason it’s a growing trend in town and across the country. To boot, The Sock Shop, a spinoff of European Cobblery at the intersection of State and First streets, opened approximately seven months ago as a pop-up, although an employee said the shop would eventually be more permanent. And on the horizon is Play! Los Altos, Bumble proprietor Mary Heffernan’s Gymboree-esque venture, slated to occupy the old Linden Tree spot on State Street, according to Los Altos Economic Development Manager Kathy Kleinbaum. Page 16 | Living in Los Altos | March 28, 2012

“I’ve always thought pop-ups were a great way to fill vacancies and incubate new businesses,” said Kleinbaum, who signed on with Los Altos late last year after a stint at Oakland’s redevelopment agency. “As part of the economic downturn, people are looking for more inexpensive ways to get a foothold into starting a business.” In Los Altos, there are two types of pop-up, according to Community Development Director James Walgren: those that conform to downtown zoning laws, i.e., retail or restaurants, and those that don’t (think service-related businesses). The former can operate just as any retail store as long as it and the landlord agree, but the latter must secure a nonconforming-use permit from the city. That’s no daunting task, but it usually means the store would be operating

pop-ups only for a very short time, perhaps three months. “The zoning rules for State and Main are so strict, but maybe there’s a use (for the vacancy) that can bring visitors downtown,” Walgren said. “The provision is for a short-term temporary use permit … no more than 12 months.” Play! Los Altos’ stay will likely be temporary, as its use doesn’t comply with downtown zoning. But because it will function as a pop-up shop, it provides Heffernan with an opportunity to test the market before fully committing. Kleinbaum added that it’s much more attractive to an on-the-fence tenant “if you can get into a storefront with minimal improvements to test out a business model without investing lots of money.” A wait-and-see approach The jovial owner of 359 State, Jeff Selzer, said he didn’t choose to go pop-up because he was looking for a cheap way to start his business. But the terms offered by Passerelle Investment Co., which owns several buildings near the corner of State and First streets, didn’t hurt. With his crosstown shop Palo Alto Bicycle consistently proving a cash cow, Selzer said, it’s not as if he were a rookie entrepreneur sniffing around for a deal to get started. Passerelle’s courtship proved a “great opportunity,” and Selzer opened in November. “It was a way to explore the downtown district for a business opportunity,” he said, noting that when his lease

elliott burr/town crier

Skateworks owner Jason Strubing assembles a skateboard at his downtown Los Altos shop. expires in October, he will evaluate whether to stay. “Anytime you can do that relatively affordably, it’s a good thing to do. … It was also a great opportunity to help enliven the downtown community.” Continued on Page 18

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pop-ups Continued from Page 17 Business is a bit tepid currently, but Selzer attributes that to the poor bike-buying season right now. Apparently not everyone rides rain or shine. The view from the landlord Passerelle has been the trailblazer for pop-ups downtown. In addition to the aforementioned wheel-based ventures, the company’s slate includes the Kilgoris Project Marketplace, a collection spot for a non-profit group that benefits economic development in Kenya. It was housed for a few days late last year in the old Linden Tree locale. The investment company’s co-founder, Taylor Robinson, said the Kilgoris venture had “evoked a negative reaction” after it closed, because observers figured it had gone out of business. “Not turning into a permanent tenant is not always a sign of failure,” she noted. “Sometimes tenants deliberately commit to a short term.” Robinson noted that pop-up arrangements can lead to elimination of “dead zones” downtown as well as allowing prospective tenants time to test concepts. “Pop-ups benefit the landlord and tenant alike by allowing both to test a concept in a market prior to engaging in a long-term business commitment,” she wrote in an email to the Town Crier, adding that they make “the streets more walkable and engaging for all.”

“Pop-ups benefit the landlord and tenant alike by allowing both to test a concept in a market prior to engaging in a long-term business commitment." – Taylor Robinson, co-founder, Passerelle Investment Co. A prudent path Jason Strubing, Skateworks’ owner, said he recently signed a longer-term lease with Passerelle after starting as a pop-up shop in summer 2011. For Strubing, the thought was: Why get all wet before testing the waters? Especially in a town like Los Altos, not widely known for its skater culture. Strubing debated whether or not to set up shop, choosing the path of prudence. “I had just come out of a long-term lease and wasn’t looking to jump into anything serious,” he said. “I would’ve never come here on a long-term lease.” But after waiting for a bit and realizing that a venture like his could be successful in downtown Los Altos, Strubing decided to take root. Continued on Page 22


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Living in Los Altos | March 28, 2012 | Page


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pop-ups Continued from Page 18 “What pop-up gave us was a chance to see if the community can get behind us and support a store like ours,” he said. “It gave us enough time to adjust our product mix to tailor it to the community.” The easygoing manager said that after entering a more permanent arrangement he thought could prove fruitful, a variety of possibilities have opened up. Now he can justify making tenant improvements and expanding his inventory to an ever-growing customer base. First on his list – after physically stripping the pop-up sticker from his front window, Strubing had a 3.5-foot-by16-foot half-pipe built inside the store – introducing what Robinson said was the Peninsula’s only indoor training facility. With no skate park near town, why not make your own? Looking forward Walgren said the arrival of pop-ups in town has created a significant buzz, one he said could attract further foot traffic and catalyze a downtown revitalization. And besides, does anyone consider the view into an empty store appealing? “It’s better to have something there,” Walgren said. “Perhaps it’s bringing schoolchildren – at least it’s bringing people downtown.”

Connie Miller. . .

elliott burr/town crier

Kevin Paya, Skateworks’ store manager, tests the store’s new half-pipe. Although pop-up retail has become a “hot trend,” according to Kleinbaum, she implored city officials and landlords to uphold rigorous standards for the types of businesses that are allowed to operate in Los Altos. “You have to choose the right one,” she said. ✯

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Connie Miller with her daughter

Every city has its restaruants, shopping areas, schools, volunteers, and traditions. But, what really sets a neighborhood apart is the people who live there. Where we live, neighborhoods clearly reflect the values of their residents. Having a realtor who understands the subtle nuances of our neighborhoods is critical whether you are buying or selling in that neighborhood. Put your trust in Connie. She understands those details and can put her experience to work for you.

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a p r. c o m | A L A I N P I N E L R E A LT O R S 1 2 7 7 2 S a r a t o g a - S u n n y v a l e R o a d Page 22 | Living in Los Altos | March 28, 2012

Living in Los Altos | March 28, 2012 | Page



A downtown renaissance By Kathryn Tomaino


ome of downtown Los Altos’ public/private redevelopment is slowly emerging from its scaffolding. The David and Lucile Packard Foundation headquarters at 343 Second St. now sports a shiny copper facade. Enhanced intersections make crossing the street a safer experience. Several storefronts have been extensively remodeled or embellished. In short, the village is taking on a more luxurious appearance. The scope of the upgrades is confirmed on Third Street, where a pair of two-bedroom penthouse condominium units, currently under construction, advertise anticipated pricing at nearly $4 million each. This gives one considerable pause. Real estate has natural cycles, and three distinct stages within those cycles. There is the Development Stage, during which time property increases in value and that

What’s Up Downtown Elliott Burr/Town Crier

Condominiums on the third story of this building on Third Street will be priced at approximately $4 million each. value spreads to surrounding areas until it plateaus. Then begins the Maturity Stage, when prices tend to stabilize. The final stage, Decline, sets in when the Continued on Page 26

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downtown Continued from Page 24 structure exceeds its useful life or the neighborhood declines. Prices decrease as well. Although downtown Los Altos never experienced the final stage, it did seem to wallow in a period of somnolence. Clearly, downtown is now in the throes of the Development Stage. Realtors anticipate that downtown property and its surrounding area will increase in price until it reaches a plateau. Where on the continuum values will fall, or how far increased values will spread throughout the community, is yet to be determined. Supporting this forecast is Facebook’s initial public offering. News outlets predict that the Facebook cash-out could produce 1,000 newly minted millionaires. This prediction has raised expectations in the real estate community – expectations of both buyers and sellers. Some even attribute the current increase in prices and robust real estate market in the area to this phenomenon. As a result, housing prices may rise to unprecedented levels downtown, where more and more homebuyers seek to live. Buyers will experience some relief with the longawaited release of new housing inventory. In addition to the penthouses, 20 condominiums are under construction

Realtors anticipate that downtown property and its surrounding area will increase in price until it reaches a plateau. Where on the continuum values will fall, or how far increased values will spread throughout the community, is yet to be determined. and an additional 48 have been approved on First Street. Farther down the road on San Antonio, 46 townhouses are nearing completion at Los Altos Gardens, and more townhouses and apartments are proposed for a site on El Camino Real. “Los Altos,” Spanish for “The Heights,” refers to the adjacent foothills, but it may very well describe the area’s real estate prices going forward. Only time will tell. Kathryn Tomaino is a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker in Los Altos. ✯

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Living in Los Altos | March 28, 2012 | Page


HElpInG ouT

Intero Foundation dedicated to helping children Town Crier Report


xecutives at Intero Real Estate Services, with offices in Los Altos, pride themselves on the community service accomplished through their nearly 10-year-old foundation. In addition to realtor contributions, the Intero Foundation holds fundraisers, such as e-Waste recycling days at its Los Altos headquarters at 496 First St. In addition, it recently received a $50,000 contribution. “This is the single largest donation we’ve received to date,” said Intero spokeswoman Nisha Sharma. Executive Vice President John Thompson recently answered Town Crier questions regarding the foundation. Q: How did the Intero Foundation start? What was the philosophy behind it? A: our intention in starting a new real estate company was to offer agents and our clients a more meaningful alternative, a company that was about more than just selling a lot of homes – a company committed to making a

Page 28 | Living in Los Altos | March 28, 2012


John Thompson of Intero, in white shirt, oversees delivery of items at a recent e-Waste event, which served as a fundraiser for the real estate company’s foundation.

HELPING OUT difference in people’s lives. The Intero Foundation was just one of the ways we could accomplish this. The first event in 2002 began as a drive to buy backpacks for an organization that served families in need. We raised enough money and interest among the team that the backpacks got scrapped in favor of purchasing more than 50 bicycles, a more important need, and have them delivered in time for the parents to give them to their children for Christmas. Intero representatives felt the positive impact of this work equally or more than the recipients, and recognized this is something we should build inside our organization as an integral part of everyday business, not just something we do for the holidays. The Intero Foundation was the result. We decided to collect a donation from every agent at every home sale and donate the funds year-round. Q:  Give us an example of events the foundation is involved in. A: The foundation hosts events that are mutually beneficial to our local communities in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. Intero has offices throughout the Bay Area, the Peninsula and San Jose. The events we host help the foundation generate money for children in need while also benefiting or offering something to the communities. The Intero agents, managers and staff have generated the majority of the money to date. When the economy hit a speed bump, we looked for alternative ways to collect funds

for the children. We organized community events including local electronic recycling, dine-outs at restaurants and car shows. These offer opportunities to generate additional money for the Intero Foundation while providing a service or fun for residents in our local cities. Armadillo Willy’s (Los Altos) has scheduled a DineOut for the foundation April 4. Q: How much has been donated over the years and how many organizations have benefited? A: Since its founding, the Intero Foundation has raised more than $2 million, of which more than $1.75 million has been distributed through grants to 109 organizations. Last year alone, the foundation donated more than $275,000. Organizations such as JustREAD and JustMATH, dedicated to improving the reading, writing and math skills of local children, receive 97 percent of the money generated by the volunteer-based Intero teams. Q: What are the goals/plans for this year? A: The goals for 2012 are to raise awareness of the foundation and increase the annual grants to generate more money for children in our local communities. That will require sponsoring more community events and encouraging agents to increase their Thompson donations to the Intero Foundation. ✯

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local events

Local events in Los Altos and Los Altos Hills Town Crier Report

Los Altos Village Association Egg Hunt 10 a.m. to noon Saturday State and Second streets, downtown Los Altos The event features activities for children ages 1-10. Admission is free. Los Altos Recreation Department Egg Hunt 9:30 a.m. April 7 Hillview Soccer Field, 97 Hillview Ave. The annual Egg Hunt is open to ages up to 10. Activities include a visit from Fun E. Bunny and a Town Crier file photo Los Altos Library-sponsored performance by Ok- Horses march up State Street during a past Kiwanis Pet lin Bloodworth at 10:15 a.m. Admission is free. Parade. This year’s parade is scheduled May 19. Teen Egg Launch 10:45 a.m. April 7 Hillview Soccer Field, 97 Hillview Ave.

In homage to the days of high school science projects, the Los Altos Recreation Department has scheduled an egg launch for youth 11-17. The challenge is to build a

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local events container/contraption that protects an egg from breaking when launched from a water-balloon launcher. Register online before April 4 at For full rules and more information, visit Acterra Work Days 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. May 12 Redwood Grove, 482 University Ave. Grab your shovels and volunteer to help restore the local 5.7-acre nature preserve’s natural habitat by removing invasive, non-native plants and replacing them with native ones. All ages are welcome, but minors under 18 require a signed waiver (found online at event/2977296173/eorg) and children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult unless prior approval is obtained from supervisor Junko Bryant ( Bring a reusable water bottle. Strong shoes and long pants recommended. Supervisors provide gloves and tools. The group will meet in front of the caretaker house at the end of the driveway. Kiwanis Pet Parade 10 a.m. May 19 Downtown Los Altos A beloved community tradition since 1947, the Los Altos Kiwanis Pet Parade is a celebration that attracts thousands of spectators, parents, children, pets, wagons and bicycles. Hundreds of children and their dogs, cats,

Town Crier file photo

Participants – young and more mature – race in the annual Pathways Run/Walk in Los Altos Hills. birds, chickens – even worms – participate, along with youth groups, marching bands and dignitaries riding in vintage cars. The event is scheduled to begin at Main and First streets. For more information, call 988-9900 or visit

Los Altos Hills Ninth Annual Hoppin’ Hounds Easter Biscuit Hunt 9 a.m. April 7 Byrne Preserve, 27210 Altamont Road Owners and their dogs search for dog-healthy Easter Continued on Page 32


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local events Continued from Page 31 biscuits. A $5 donation is recommended. This on-leash event benefits the Palo Alto Animal Services shelter. Earth Day Celebration 1-4 p.m. April 22 Westwind Community Barn, 27210 Altamont Road This year’s annual Earth Day Celebration includes “Live Wild Cats,” education presentations by Leopards Etc. at 1:30 and 3 p.m. Los Altos Hills committees, school groups and local environmental organizations sponsor exhibits, and electric cars are on display. Los Altos Hills hats, lotion, seeds, wine glasses and produce will be available for purchase by cash or check. Attendees are encouraged to reduce their carbon footprint by walking, cycling or carpooling to the event and bringing a reusable water bottle. Due to the wildcat presentation, no dogs are allowed. 11th Annual Pathways Run/Walk Run with the Wind 9 a.m. May 12 for 5K/10K; 10:30 a.m. for 1-mile fun run Westwind Community Barn, 27210 Altamont Road The annual event wends through Byrne Preserve and extends into the Los Altos Hills Pathways system. Cost is $30 ($35 on race day), $20 for group registration of 10 or more. Those who pre-register receive a T-shirt. To register, volunteer or for more information, visit

Los Altos Hills Town Picnic 1-4:30 p.m. June 3 Purissima Park, 27400 Purissima Road The picnic features a variety of games, including the Velcro wall, obstacle course and jump house; musical entertainment by Touch of Class; Lionel model trains; a classic car show with Town Crier file photo more than 40 cars; Volunteers help plant native vegand pony rides and etation at Redwood Grove. other activities. Lunch, free to Los Altos Hills residents, includes choice of chicken, all-beef hot dog, chili or veggie burger. Salad, garlic bread, ice cream sundaes, soda, beer and wine will be served. Advance registration is required. For reservations, email (preferred) or call town hall at 947-2512. ✯

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Los Altos travel agents book family adventures By Eren Göknar

Special to the Town Crier


f you’ve seen the Oscar-nominated “Midnight in Paris,” perhaps you’ll remember writers F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. They toured Europe, encountering the Hemingways, Ring Lardner, even Picasso. But who was watching their daughter, Scottie? Or what about the sad story of Anderson Cooper’s mother, Gloria Vanderbilt? Her mother left her with relatives while she traveled. According to local travel agents, times have changed. For Los Altos residents accustomed to the state’s best schools, education is Continued on Page 34

Courtesy of Leslie Fambrini

Condé Nast Traveler readers have rated Personalized Travel of Los Altos’ Leslie Fambrini, above in Venice, a top cruise travel specialist for 11 years.

Living in Los Altos | March 28, 2012 | Page


travel Continued from Page 33 key, and so are educational vacations. For many local families, traveling together enhances their quality of life. “Young parents of today want to bring their children with them on vacation,” said Leslie Fambrini, owner of Los Altos’ Personalized Travel at 220 State St. “More and more, children are accompanying their parents, who are educated and sophisticated.” And, in turn, parents want to educate their children. Their destinations depend on the time of year. “It’s mostly Europe in the summer,” for the historical landmarks, Fambrini said. “It’s an opportunity to Elliott Burr/town crier take their children away to keep the Personalized Travel owner Leslie Fambrini said many Los Altos residents travel to Europe in the summer with children, to “keep the education going.” education going.” Margot Harbaugh, a 30-year partner in Los Altos’ Ligtelyn Travel at 220 Main St., No. tours ( offer off-the-beaten path itin203, agrees that Europe overshadows Hawaii as the place eraries for those who want to avoid tourist traps. families visit most. Spring break is only a week long, so many families “People want to learn about the world,” she said. travel to Costa Rica or Tahiti for “fun in the sun,” accord For the cost of airfare and hotels to Hawaii, Harbaugh ing to Fambrini. said, families can find better value in Europe during the Some families prefer the exotic. Abercrombie and summer. Rick Steves’ Europe through the Back Door Kent offers luxury family safaris to Kenya for $6,555 per

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travel person. During the day, families see exotic animals like giraffes, chimpanzees and black rhinos. A children’s activity coordinator travels along, directing age-appropriate games. Local Masai provide archery lessons and demonstrate how to cast animal tracks in plaster and make fires. That’s one geography lesson they’ll remember.

Traveling with the entire family

Multigenerational trips are increasing in popularity. “Over 30 of this one family traveled to Tahiti for a reunion last year, and I had beach towels Courtesy of Bill Boardman personalized for the children and T-shirts for the Agents at Ligtelyn Travel book vacation villas for clients, relaxing adults shipped there to greet them,” Fambrini in an infinity pool overlooking the vineyards near Barberino Val d’Elsa in the Chianti area of Italy. said. Harbaugh agrees that there’s a rise in generations traveling together, with the grandparents sometimes clients to determine their needs and wants. It’s important approaching her to organize the trip. to note whether childproof or handicapped facilities are Priscilla Repetti, Ligtelyn Travel partner, has herself necessary, and to determine which activities they want to rented several villas in Italy and France for her extended participate in. family. “You can have a cook, a daily maid, a vehicle, and find “We have many sources, from simple housing to pam- out what appeals to the children, parents and grandparpered luxury,” she said. “We don’t just book the villa, ents,” Harbaugh said. though. We want to help create the whole experience for Of course, budget is a question as well. our clients.” Continued on Page 36 Repetti’s tactic is to play “20 Questions” with new

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travel Continued from Page 35 “There is such a wide variety of choices we can offer, from gorgeous mansions filled with antiques and a private staff … to the little apartment in a farmhouse with a bed, bath and kitchenette,” Repetti said. Like many travel agents, Fambrini has long-term clients. One family started with her when the children were little, and now a son is doing an internship with the United Nations in Switzerland. She planned a trip for the entire family to meet up with him and then bike through Italy and cruise the Greek Isles. Previously they had traveled to Antarctica over Christmas vacation and even to Vietnam. “Staying active is the common thread now, especially with the children being young adults,” she said.

Tried and true Hawaii

Stacy Savides Sullivan, longtime Los Altos resident and owner of the Sweet Shop at 994 Los Altos Ave., channels proceeds from her confections back to local schools. In her day job, she works as Google’s chief culture director. For family vacations, the Sullivans return once or twice a year to their favorite place, Maui’s Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria resort. Savides Sullivan calls it “a fun family resort” where they are members. Why? “It has something for everyone – great slides, water swings, beautiful beach, food, tennis, and we’re very used to it,” Savides Sullivan said of the 780-room resort with a

spa and 11 tennis courts. “Something to be said for really looking forward to going back somewhere.” The Sullivans have also taken multigenerational trips to Europe and Greece, where she’s from originally.

Cruise safety on smaller ships

Fambrini specializes in luxury small-ship cruises. Because the ships she recommends are smaller in size, safety is paramount. “Lifeboat drills are held immediately,” she said. Condé Nast Traveler readers have voted her a top cruise travel specialist for 11 years. Fambrini’s prior work as inhouse travel agent for Royal Viking Cruise Lines gave her confidence to start her business. “I arranged the port cruises, so that experience gave me lots of exposure to places,” she said. She also knows which cabins have the best view, and offers insider tips for the Crystal, Seabourn and Regent Seven Seas cruise lines. Count on spending $800 per day per couple on these high-end boats. Since the Costa Concordia accident off the Tuscan coast of Italy in January, Fambrini said none of her cruise customers has canceled. “I think clients are sensitive to the fact that that was an anomaly, a tragedy I haven’t seen in 30 years in the deluxe end of the business,” she said. Continued on Page 38


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travel Continued from Page 36 According to, 1.5 million children are cruising annually. However, one thing to consider is that the “bigger the ship, the more challenging it can be for youth staff to find parents.”

Why use a travel agent?

Fambrini said the quality of service she offers is better than anything the average person can obtain on the Internet doing their own research. “We try to give exceptional value, even in the deluxe range,” she said. “Today, people don’t understand what a travel agent is,” said Harbaugh, whose Ligtelyn Travel, co-owned by four partners, celebrated its 50th year in 2011. “We customize every trip to your needs.” For more information on Personalized Travel, call 949-0111 or visit For more information on Ligtelyn Travel, call 9487996 or visit ✯

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