City Manager's Blog

The City Manager's Blog is an online educational tool to provide general information to the community in open communication style. Periodically, the City Manager will post articles of general interest covering topics such as the Town's budget, budget process, capital projects, upcoming meetings, community issues, public safety, and general Town operations.

Articles in the blog are not designed as press releases or Town publications, rather, they are written in more of a conversational style. The Blog does not have a comments feature but readers are free to respond to the Blog and its entries view email directly to the City Manager.

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Apr 18

Update for April 16, 2020 - COVID-19

Posted on April 18, 2020 at 10:54 AM by grodericks grodericks

Message from the City Manager
(Updated 4/16/20 @ 3 pm)

The COVID-19 Shelter-in-Place (SIP) Order continues through May 4 although all or portions of it are anticipated to be extended. 

As we settle into the new daily routine under the SIP Order, I will try not to inundate your email box with static information. There have been no significant changes to the SIP Order over the last week. However, it is anticipated that there will be some tweaks to the Order over the next couple of weeks that may impact activity in the community. Town staff and members of the City Council participate at the local and regional level on various committees or subgroups working through issues that persist under COVID-19. There is a lot of effort ongoing trying to find a path out of the pandemic. Some of the working groups are addressing -  

* Preparing for a secondary natural disaster (such as an earthquake) and identifying how local agencies would respond in the midst of COVID-19;
* Identifying going forward solutions for continuing education and childcare;
* Identifying local, regional and state thresholds for lifting the Shelter-in-Place in whole or in part;
* Identifying ways to deliver resources to sheltered-in-place populations;
* Working through economic impacts and identifying recovery paths;
* Planning for solutions that would serve the underserved populations and identifying equity issues; and
* Preparing for a second or subsequent waves of COVID-19.

Our website has a brief set of Atherton-specific set of FAQs on our COVID-19 webpage to help residents address basic questions that might arise. There are links below to broader sets of information and FAQs. This News Flash will remain up to date and accessible on the Town’s main webpage. If you have a specific FAQ you would like addressed, please email me at

Some of the questions on the Town’s website are:

* What are the ways to help locally or regionally? 
* I have emergency work that I need to do, can I still get a permit?

* What services professionals can I have do work at my home?
* Why is the Town still doing landscaping work at the Park?
* Is the Order mandatory or just guidance?
* Why is the Town still working on the Town Center Project?
* Can I go for a walk? Can I go to the Park? Ride my bike?
* Can I get deliveries at home?
* Can I run my home occupation business?

We also encourage you to sign up for the San Mateo County Alert System. This is the emergency contact system for the County. The Atherton Police Department will use this system to alert areas of emergencies or potential safety concerns. When signed up, you will receive a message on the voice or text communication method that you have registered. Sign up here

During the duration of the COVID-19 Emergency, the City Council will meet each Wednesday to certify the continuing existence of a local emergency and ratify any rules, regulations and changes in operations enacted by the Director of Emergency Services (the City Manager). Links to those Agendas can be found here. Audio of the meetings and/or video of Zoom meetings (where feasible) are being posted on the Town’s Youtube Channel. The Town will continue to release information on a regular basis from various sources.  

We are also hosting a Town Hall Meeting tomorrow, Friday, April 16 at 4 pm (via Zoom). The Meeting will be facilitated by the Mayor. The Mayor will facilitate some Q&A from panelists at the beginning of the meeting (attendees will be muted during this portion of the meeting). Following the Q&A, the panel will break out into separate Zoom Break Out Rooms for Q&A from meeting attendees. The Break Out Rooms will be facilitated by the Mayor and/or a member of staff. Panelists include public safety (police and fire), Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, Dr. Linda Barman, Associate Director of Stanford Express Care Clinics, Dr. Paul Jamelian, Stanford Health Care, and Normal Fogelberg and Tom Prussing from the Atherton Disaster and Preparedness Team (ADAPT). 

George Rodericks

City Manager
Town of Atherton 

Changes to Operations and Activity under the Shelter in Place Order (updated 4/16/20)

Social DistancingChanges in operations became effective Tuesday, March 17, 2020 and will continue, at this time, through May 4, 2020. This Order is subject to extension. The full text of the County’s SIP Order is available via the following link. Residents are urged to stay informed and follow the recommended COVID-19 prevention measures and the directives from the San Mateo County Health Officer. 

- FAQ section of the County’s website for COVID-19 
- FAQ section of the County’s website on the Shelter in Place (SIP) Order 
FAQ section of Town website 

Activity must be done compliant with social distancing protocols. Social distancing requirements include maintaining at least 6-foot social distancing from other individuals, washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as frequently as possible or using hand sanitizer, covering coughs or sneezes (into the sleeve or elbow, not hands), regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces, and not shaking hands.   

Coping with Stress
Managing and Coping with Stress (updated 3/25/20)

Managing and coping with stress during the SIP Order will be important for us all as we move forward under these ever-changing conditions. San Mateo County Health offers help to support the wellbeing of those coping with the outbreak. The linked PDF on Coping with Stress During Infections Disease Outbreaks discusses ways to stress, stay informed, inform your friends and family, connect with the community, and reach out and help. 

The Town is also a partner with the Atherton Disaster and Preparedness Team (ADAPT). Each neighborhood has an ADAPT Representative that is reaching out to their respective areas to offer assistance where needed. This could be in the simple form of basic contact all the way to assisting with reaching out to friends and neighbors with needs or information. For more information on ADAPT and to find your area representative, visit the Get Ready Atherton website

Recreation and Outdoor Activity (updated 4/2/20)

With social distancing protocols in place and activities related to essential activity only, recreating outdoors is a different experience. There are less vehicles on the road. The vehicle activity is often at different times of day than usual. Driver’s may be lulled into a different driving style paying less attention or driving faster than usual. This is a dangerous combination with pedestrians on the edge of the road trying to abide by social distancing protocols and more cyclists than usual - with many being small children out at different times of day. 

For walkers, it is recommended that you wear bright colors or reflective clothing. If walking during early morning, dusk, or night, carry and use a light. Pay attention to your surroundings and others out walking as well. Always walk facing traffic, if possible. Try not to put yourself or others in a boxed-in situation that hampers your or their ability to properly abide by social distancing requirements. If you come up upon others and you are walking as a family group, try not to walk abreast of each other, walk in single file to allow others to pass safely. Pay attention to vehicles and cyclists as they will be moving faster and may not expect as many pedestrians as usual. Often, when walking and trying to observe social distancing pedestrians will take an outside path to provide that distance - that path may take them further into the roadway or in the path of a cyclist or they may be walking with the flow of traffic as opposed to the normal facing traffic. Be careful and always check before moving into the right-of-way or roadway. If you are walking on a path, such as in the Park, and you are a family group, be courteous when passing others and walk single file to accommodate social distancing. If jogging, County Health recommends a social distance between joggers of 33 feet and face coverings for all jogging or walking.

For cyclists, the best plan remains to ride in a family group or ride solo. Avoid crowded areas where there may be a lot of pedestrians out walking. Remember, these areas are now different. Pay attention to the surroundings and watch for pedestrians trying to avoid other pedestrians for social distancing. This may put them in your path. Slow down if you see this sort of activity ahead. Always watch for vehicles and remember, the people out and about will not be the normal crowd you typically experience. With respect to distancing, County Health recommends a social distance between cyclists of 66 feet and the use of face coverings.

For drivers, you have the most responsible job. Pay attention. Slow down. Watch for walkers edging out into the roadway. They may do so to create space between them and another walker. Don’t try and pass unless it is safe to do so. They may not see or hear you coming. Neighborhoods will be more crowded at all times of the day as people find new ways to recreate in their areas. If you don’t have to be out and about in a vehicle - stay home. 

Town Meetings (updated 4/16/20)

— All Town Committee Meetings have been cancelled through May 3.
— City Council and Planning Commission Meetings will continue at this time but will be virtual meetings only. The City Council will have weekly Wednesday Special Meetings to discuss the continuing local emergency.  

Events and Activities at the Park or In the Community (updated 4/16/20)

— All organized activities at the Park through May 3 are cancelled and will be rescheduled. Many events and activities into the summer have elected to cancel or postpone. 
— The Park remains OPEN for non-organized recreational activities, compliant with social distancing protocols. 
— Tennis facilities are CLOSED
— Playground, Par Course and Picnic facilities are CLOSED.

— Limited maintenance activities are ALLOWED and will continue in the Park.
— Scheduling of any new events at the Park through May 3 have been placed on hold. 
— All currently scheduled private events, training, and classes through May 3 are cancelled. The Town will assist in facilitating a cancellation or postponement without incurring a fee to do so. 
Little League has suspended their activities at the Park.
— Knox Preschool has suspended their services.
— Residential Construction activity is NOT ALLOWED unless related to an emergency situation - there are several that have been approved. To verify if a site near you has been provided limited authorization you can contact the Atherton Police Department Dispatch Center (650) 688-6500.
— Town or Utility Infrastructure Public Works Project are ALLOWED.
— No new elective Building permits will be issued until the SIP Order is lifted. 
— Construction on the Town Center Project (City Hall and Police Building) is ALLOWED to continue subject to strict guidelines. 
— Essential Governmental Services (to include the work of first responders) are exempt from the Order. For the purposes of the SIP Order, the Town has identified the work of Police, Building, Public Works (MCE, Interwest), Planning, and Administrative Staff are the Town’s employee and contractor first responders and their work in support of the continuation of Town Operations is deemed essential. Throughout this pandemic, the Town will also rely on the support and contribution from many other first responders, that include, but are not limited to fire personnel, EMS personnel, ADAPT, CERT, dispatchers, court personnel, and others. All such personnel are exempt for the purposes of the SIP Order.   

Town Operations (updated 4/2/20)

— All Town Offices are CLOSED to the public; but, Town operations are considered an essential service under the SIP Order and basic internal operations will continue. Unlike larger agencies, the Town does not have a depth of staff that would allow for full rotation of staffing should a COVID-19 quarantine need arise. Should there be a need to quarantine staff, a full shut down of services could result. As such, the Town is limiting public in-person contact to allow staff to telecommute where possible, use an A-Team/B-Team approach when at the office, and make adjustments to public contact situations when they are necessary (increased separation, phone contact, electronic interaction, outside waiting areas, etc.). 
— All field services will continue operations (police, public works, building inspection when needed and code enforcement), with the implementation of social distancing protocols and limitations. Use electronic communications to contact staff via email or phone. Phones will be forwarded to those staff telecommuting.   
Library services have CLOSED.

Local and Regional Resources (Updated 4/9/20)

History of Actions

On March 13, I issued a Proclamation of Local Emergency. The Proclamation allows the Town to take the steps necessary to protect the safety of our community and Town staff in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. These steps range from a streamlined purchasing process to secure the resources necessary to respond in a timely manner to the immediate the implementation of rules or regulations necessary to protect life or property. These rules and regulations can be ramped up or down based on resources available.

On March 18, the City Council reviewed and approved the Declaration of Local Emergency. The City Council also provided specific feedback regarding a prohibition of residential construction activity. There are additional details below. All active sites have been contacted. Some activity will be allowed to finalize for health and safety reasons. This is mostly for occupied residences where portions of the construction need to be made safe for continued access. While sites are closed for physical construction, there will be occasional activity at sites for site security, checking in on equipment (such as flood pumps), checking or adjusting weather-proofing, or the retrieval of equipment. Emergency construction is allowed to continue on a case-by-case basis as determined by the Building Official. The SIP Order does allow for continued work on Essential Infrastructure, such as Town facilities, roads, drainage, and utility work. This includes necessary maintenance of such public infrastructure. There will be activity that occurs throughout Town in these areas by various vendors and agencies. 

On March 19, the Governor issued a Statewide Shelter-in-Place Order. That order identified specific critical infrastructure that would remain operational during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During the COVID-19 Response and the State has an FAQ and details page.

On March 25, the City Council met and validated the continuing emergency and reviewed issues related to the various Rules and Regulations enacted pursuant to the Declaration of Emergency. Chief among these reviews was a review of local construction activity. The City Council reviewed some of the feedback from the Subcommittee of the Builder’s Roundtable and directed staff to continue efforts to refine the requirements that might allow projects to start up again; if and/or when the SIP Order is relaxed. 

On March 31, the County issued an update to the SIP Order. This Order extends the Shelter-in-Place through May 4 and prohibits most construction activity, consistent with the Town’s earlier determination locally. In response, the Town revised some of its Shelter-in-Place Orders below. The only significant changes to the existing Order is that the Par Course, Picnic Areas, and Playground Areas will be closed to public access. The Park itself remains open but will be monitored to ensure social distancing is maintained. Portions of the parking in the Park will also be closed. 

On April 1, the City Council met and validated the continuing emergency and approved the Rules and Regulations enacted pursuant to the Declaration of Emergency. The Council discussed the possible resumption of construction activity at the Town Center as essential infrastructure. The Council directed that staff work with SJ Amoroso to define a set of working protocols that would be used should the Council decide to allow the activity to continue in limited fashion. Those protocols would be reviewed by the City Council at their Special Meeting on April 8.

On April 8, the City Council met and validated the continuing emergency and approved the Rules and Regulations enacted pursuant to the Declaration of Emergency. The Council discussed and approved the resumption of limited construction activity at the Town Center subject to guidelines for operation. 

On April 15, the City Council met and validated the continuing emergency and approved the Rules and Regulations enacted pursuant to the Declaration of Emergency. The Council discussed and directed that staff prepare a letter to the County of San Mateo Health Officer regarding identifying ways to move forward with landscaping and gardening activities under COVID-19. The Council also directed that staff add FAQs related to landscaping at the Park versus landscaping of private property and construction activity at the Town Center.