Message from the City Manager
(Updated 5/11/20 @ 11 am)
I hope that this messages finds you well. The County, local agencies, and service providers are hard at work developing protocols and methodologies to move forward during COVID-19. The safe restoration of regular activity is sought after in every industry. It is anticipated that there will be a slow and methodical relaxation of the shelter-in-place order in ways that can be expanded and contracted as necessary to ensure the safest possible restoration of services.
On the financial front, Atherton is unlike other jurisdictions. Atherton's basic service delivery is not reliant on commercial industry, sales tax revenues, transient occupancy taxes (hotel tax), or other special taxes. Atherton's operating budget relies heavily on property tax revenues and building activity. The revenue that comes from the cycle of construction activity, permitting, property values and related activities provides the Town with nearly 88% of its operating revenues. The remaining 12% comes from franchise fees @5%, miscellaneous revenues @2.5%, sales taxes @1.8%, police revenues @1% and park events @1.3%. The COVID-19 fluctuation that will impact sales tax and park event revenues is not significant with respect to the Town's necessary operating revenues. Further, the Town's annual operating expenditure budget is routinely at least 10% below its annual operating revenue budget. This annual revenue surplus allows the Town to address capital infrastructure projects, long-term liabilities - and, weather the limited, short-term impacts of COVID-19.
The County's COVID-19 Shelter-in-Place (SIP) Order continues through May 31. Most of the guidelines remain the same with respect to business operations and sheltering-in-place as well as the use of face coverings. Beginning May 4, landscaping, gardening, and construction activity were allowed to resume. These activities are required to abide by specific protocols established by the County and amended by the Town.
Changes to Operations and Activity under the Shelter in Place Order (updated 5/11/20)
Changes in operations became effective Tuesday, March 17, 2020 and continue, at this time, through May 31, 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.
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 5/11/20)
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.
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.
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.
Walking in the Town's Park along the pathway is encouraged to occur in one-direction. Temporary signage will be posted that encourages walkers to always be walking toward Middlefield Road or toward the rail corridor. There are areas where the path narrows such that when encountering other walkers, it is difficult to observe the 6-foot social distancing requirement. Signs will be posted as you are approaching these areas, but generally they are on the areas of the path adjacent to the North Meadow and behind the Carriage House. Please use caution as you walk through these areas and pay attention to your surroundings.
Town Meetings (updated 5/11/20)
— Town Committee Meetings resumed normal meetings in May. Meetings will be held virtually in compliance with the Shelter-in-Place protocols.
— City Council and Planning Commission Meetings will continue as well but will be virtual meetings only.
Events/Activities at the Park or In the Community (updated 5/11/20)
— All organized activities at the Park through May 31 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.
— Scheduling of any new events at the Park through May 31 have been placed on hold.
— All currently scheduled private events, training, and classes through May 31 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.
— All Construction activity is ALLOWED.
— Landscaping and gardening activity is ALLOWED.
— Public Works Projects are ALLOWED.
— New Planning and Building permits will be reviewed and issued electronically and/or with Social Distancing Protocols at Town Offices.
— 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 5/11/20)
— All Town Offices are OPEN, but with limited public in-person contact. Town operations are considered an essential service under the SIP Order and basic operations 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.
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.
On April 17, the County issued an update to the County Health Order. The Order requires face coverings in certain situations.
On April 22, the City Council met and validated the continuing emergency and approved the Rules and Regulations enacted pursuant to the Declaration of Emergency.
On April 29, the City Council met and validated the continuing emergency and approved the Rules and Regulations enacted pursuant to the Declaration of Emergency. The Council also provided direction on the County of San Mateo's new Health Order, effective May 4.
On May 6, the City Council met and validated the continuing emergency and approved the Rules and Regulations enacted pursuant to the Declaration of Emergency.