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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Dec 11

November 2015 City Manager's Monthly Report

Posted on December 11, 2015 at 12:27 PM by grodericks grodericks

City Manager's Monthly Report - November 2015

Monthly-report.pngWelcome to the City Manager's Monthly Report Blog.

The City Manager's Monthly Report Blog is a consolidation of issues, communications, and Town activity during the prior month that have been reported to the City Council as part of their weekly email from the City Manager. Sometimes information is duplicated over the course of several emails to the City Council to ensure that it is reviewed.

As I review the information to include in the Monthly Report, to the extent possible, I remove duplicate updates in favor of the most recent; I remove information regarding events that have already occurred; and I edit information that requires update - hopefully to make it more useful. Overall, the information is generally the same as it was presented to the City Council in their weekly Council email.

The Report reads with the most recent first. As always, if you have any questions or comments regarding the Monthly Report, please feel free to contact me via email or phone.


George Rodericks
City Manager
Town of Atherton
(650) 752-0504

November 19, 2015 - City Council Report

1. Atherton Now Fundraising Meeting(s)

Last night I attended the Atherton Now fundraising meeting at 1 Tallwood Court. Event was well attended. House was spectacular. The handout I circulated to you earlier this week was distributed to those in attendance (project website). Overall the presentation and numbers were well received. Q&A on public spaces available for rental, connectivity to Holbrook-Palmer, venue space, landscaping, recruitment/retention of staff, quality of facilities (both new and existing), and emergency response operations. 

2. Neighborhood Traffic Management Plan

I reviewed the final draft of the Neighborhood Traffic Management Plan with staff yesterday. There will be a few final edits to the Plan which will then make its way to the Community Meeting on December 8. 

Following the community meeting, the Plan will then move to the Transportation Committee in January and ultimately to the City Council in February for approval. 

3. Vandalism of Town Message Board/Radar Trailer

The braking handle of the Town’s Message Board/Radar Trailer was recently vandalized. Staff is working to get it repaired. 

4. Town’s Hazard Mitigation Plan

As you may know, the San Mateo County Operational Area is required by FEMA to update the Hazard Mitigation Plan every 5 years. It is that time again. The Police Department participates in the planning process for the Multi-Jurisdictional Plan. On Thursday, Sergeant Mills attended the Multi-Jurisdictional Hazardous Mitigation Plan meeting. The annex will make its way into the Town’s Emergency Operations Plan and become a part of the Town’s General Plan. 

5. Naming Rights as part of the Civic Center Process

I am putting together a brief staff report for the December 7 Civic Center Committee meeting to allow the Committee to provide a recommendation to the City Council on naming options for the Civic Center Project. 

6. Per Capita Budget Costs

A question was posed by a resident about the per capita costs in Woodside and Portola Valley as compared to Atherton. The questions were posed in response to my recent Manager’s Reports discussing the various budgets of municipal service agencies providing services to Atherton, specifically the Fire District. 

The questions posed were: 

1 - Why do Atherton residents on average pay 3X what Portola Valley residents pay for Town services
2 - Why do Atherton residents on average pay 1.5X what Woodside residents pay for Town services
3 - Why do some Atherton residents pay more than 20X what other Atherton residents pay for the same Town services
4 - Why do residents of the Woodside Fire District on average pay over 2X what the residents of the MPFPD pay for fire services.

The assertions in the questions are incorrect. The per capita cost for Town services vary by agency but not by the amounts quoted by the resident. To address the questions (#1 & #2), I took the budgeted expenditures (non-capital improvement program expenses) for all three agencies and their populations for a straight per capita comparison with and without Police Services. 

Atherton is less expensive than both without Police Services. With Police Services, Atherton is more expensive, but our service level and demands are much higher. The answer to question #3 is essentially property value based. I did not delve into question #4 as it did not directly relate to the Town for comparative purposes. 

Atherton’s Population: 7,159
Woodside’s Population: 5,481
Portola Valley Population: 4,518

Atherton’s General Fund Budget: $11,798,069
Per Capita: $1,647
Atherton’s General Fund Budget w/o Police: $5,449,412
Per Capita: $761.20

Woodside’s General Fund Budget: $6,038,147
Per Capita: $1,203
Woodside’s General Fund Budget w/o Sheriff: $4,598,471
Per Capita: $838

Portola Valley General Fund Budget: $5,139,637
Per Capita: $1,137
Portola Valley General Fund Budget w/o Sheriff: $4,194,594
Per Capita: $928

November 13, 2015 - City Council Report

1. Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan - Community Workshop #2

On Tuesday, November 17 from 6 pm to 7:30 pm at the Pavilion we will host a community workshop intended for all interested members of the community to present the feasibility analysis of the Class I and Class II facilities identified in the Master Plan. We are seeking input on the findings and design alternatives of the facilities. 

2. SBWMA - Resignation of Executive Director

Kevin McCarthy, Executive Director of the SBWMA has resigned effective December 31, 2015. Kevin has been with the SBWMA since 2006 and was the Agency’s 1st Executive Director. The Board will be meeting in the coming weeks to identify next steps with regard to a replacement. 

3. Widening of Glenwood (Menlo Park)

It was recently reported that Menlo Park may be widening Glenwood. Staff contacted representatives from Menlo Park and learned that there will be some widening (1’ to 2’) on the westbound portion of Glenwood at the intersection of ECR. The length of the widening is approximately 200’ along Glenwood. The purpose is to accommodate a right turn lane on Glenwood to ECR. Timing is not known at this time since it is part of the required frontage improvements associated with the new hotel planned for the NE corner of Glenwood/ECR. 

4. November Environmental Programs Committee Meeting

At the last Environmental Programs Committee meeting staff reported out on the Council direction from the November 4 Study Session on the Climate Action Plan. At their November meeting, the EPC took the actions: 

- Approved the draft EPC Work Plan items as presented at the meeting and added an additional work plan item to consider a program to address transparency in home energy usage for residential properties as they become available for sale and/or at the time of new construction. 
- Hold a Special Meeting of the EPC on December 15 from 1 pm to 3 pm to further refine and create a final draft EPC Work Plan to present to the City Council at the Council’s January 6, 2016 Study Session and to Prioritize the GHG Measures in the Draft Climate Action Plan for Council consideration. 
- Appointed an Ad Hoc Subcommittee of Gardner/Joseph to work in more detail on the draft Work Plan and Prioritization.
- Authorized Chair Gardner to present the final Work Plan to the Council in January. 

Staff advised the EPC that the Council did not want any further action by the EPC on the Climate Action Plan or work in its furtherance until they have had an opportunity to review it in detail at the January Study Session. Further, that there was insufficient budget to pursue additional work until the Council authorized a budget amendment for the effort. However, the EPC elected to move ahead as noted above. 

5. Atherton Now Fundraising Meeting(s)

As the Council is aware I attended an Atherton Now fundraising meeting on November 6. Atherton Now has scheduled another fundraising meeting for November 19. I will again be making a short presentation and Q&A. 

6. RWQCB - Marsh Road Channel 

As the Council is aware, the Town has been unable to obtain approval from the required permitting agencies for the channel repair project on Marsh Road. We have reached the end of authorized review time under the Permit Streamlining Act and we have now issued a demand letter to the Regional Water Quality Control Board for their approval. The letter is linked here

7. Property Tax Reports

Linked here are Reports presented at the November 10, 2015 Audit & Finance Committee Meeting - Property Tax Review and Detailed Preliminary Property Tax Report. The information and analysis is provided to the Town via consultant, HdL. HdL specializes in analytical services to help agencies better understand and maximize revenues in the areas of sales tax and property tax. 

In FY 2011/12, the Town’s Assessed Valuation was $6,373,832,577. For FY 2015/16, that value is now $8,791,201,962. From FY 2014/15 to FY 2015/16, the net change in Assessed Valuation was $722,636,565. That is an increase of 8.96% and is above the countywide increase of 7.65%. Of the 20 cities in San Mateo County, Atherton is the 4th highest in property tax net value change in year-to-year growth. Since FY 2011/12, the Town has seen a growth of approximately 38%. 

8. C/CAG Water Committee

Linked here is a letter from C/CAG noting their new water committee. The committee will be meeting over the next year to look at water issues in the County as well as discuss the potential new water agency. 

9. Aircraft Noise

Linked here is a recent article from the Wall Street Journal on aircraft noise and routes. 

10. Menlo Park Fire District Tax Revenue Analysis

As you know, there has been numerous discussions back and forth with the Fire District to attempt to determine how much property taxes the District receives from Atherton residents. We were seeking the information as part of our Local Municipal Services webpage educating Atherton residents on the various agencies and services that touch their daily lives. We sought out similar information from the Water District, the Library, Mosquito and Vector Control, etc. 

The Fire Chief and I have had numerous email exchanges over that period of time and ultimately, we provided generalized information related to the District gleaned by staff from their budget and our own assessed valuation property tax reports (Item No. 10 above). Learning that the District receives an estimated $12.5 million in property tax revenue from Atherton residents (based on the 2014/15 assessed valuation) increasing year after year as our assessed valuation increases prompted further research into the estimated revenues from the other two District jurisdictions for comparative purposes searching for a better understanding of the District’s revenue sources. 

Linked here is a summary spreadsheet of Assessed Property Values for Atherton, Menlo Park and East Palo Alto together with an “average” of the Tax Rate Areas within each jurisdiction applied to a FY 2014/15 Assessed Valuation. The result for FY 2014/15 is that Atherton provides $12.4 million; Menlo Park - $17.6 million, and East Palo Alto - $2.2 million. This is a total District property tax revenue (average) of $32.3 million. By percentage it’s Atherton at 38.4%, Menlo Park at 54.7%, and East Palo Alto at 6.9%.  Also, staff included the amount of property tax revenues received by the represented jurisdiction. Atherton’s share is approximately $7.9 million in FY 2014/15 (less approximately $1 million in ERAF). ERAF is not deducted in the totals on the spreadsheet. 

It is important to note that the tax percentages for each distinct tax rate area were set in stone years ago. The taxing allocation was frozen based on the agency’s revenues at that time. For example, Atherton has 39 tax rate areas within its jurisdiction. The Fire District percentage ranges from 12% to 17% (of the base tax of 1%)  within those 39 distinct tax rate areas - and each tax rate area has its own distinct assessed valuation. Since we do not know the separate assessed valuation for each tax rate area within Menlo Park and East Palo Alto, staff averaged the tax rate percentages for both jurisdictions and used the known assessed value for each year to calculate a revenue to the District by agency. Menlo Park has 121 separate tax rate areas; East Palo Alto has 56; and Atherton has 39. 

November 6, 2015 - City Council Report

1. PG&E Tree Removals

PG&E recently submitted encroachment applications (tree removals) for three properties that have non-heritage trees slated for removal and replacement per signed agreements with the property owners. Based on previous inspection by the Town Arborist, these non-heritage trees do not require permitting under the Town’s ordinances - just encroachment permits. All documents have been submitted and once approved, PG&E will begin work at the locations. 

The locations are:
  • 383 Walsh Road - 3 Coast Live Oaks less than 6” diameter at breast height (DBH)
  • 375 Walsh Road - removal of acacia bushes all less than 15” DBH
  • 465 Walsh Road - removal of a hawthorne bush under 15” DBH
2. Website Monthly Report

Linked here is the October Website Report. 

3. Joe Nation’s PensionTracker Website

Joe Nation recently released his Pension Tracker website. Pension Tracker provides detailed information about the financial status of California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) and independent employer agencies in California's counties, cities, and special districts. The site contains roughly 2 million data points and relies on actuarial, budgetary, demographic, and other financial data from a number of sources, including CalPERS, 63 independent pension systems, the State Controller's Office, the State Treasurer's Office, the California Department of Finance, and the U.S. Bureau of the Census. It is an interesting gathering of data for comparative purposes. Here is a link to the website:

The website reports actuarial liability, value of assets, market liability, unfunded market liability, and discount rate for market liability. It is important to note that the market liability (unfunded liability) and the discount rate for market liability do not use CalPERS’ discount rate (7.5%). Instead, Mr. Nation has elected to use CalPERS termination discount rates (2.82% to 4.82%) when representing what agencies “owe” for liability.  

CalPERS uses these lower discount rates for termination liability because agencies are required to payoff their liability in its entirety before they exit CalPERS and the funds are removed from the larger agency pool of assets in doing so. After a plan terminates, there is no way to get more funds from the employer once terminated. CalPERS remains responsible for the liability. Once an employer has terminated its relationship with CalPERS, CalPERS is unable to “call” on that employer to make good on its obligation should it need to do so. For agencies in the pool, CalPERS has the ability to call on the employer to fulfill its obligations under the plan. Therefore, for those exiting, CalPERS imposes a higher liability as “insurance” against future liability potential.  

4. CalPERS Article - CalPensions

Linked here is an article from CalPensions on their portfolio. 

5. Local Revenue Measures - Results 2015

Linked here is a summary from the California City Finance group on the various local revenue measures around the State. 

6. Updates on Peninsula Clean Energy

On October 20, the County Board of Supervisors introduced the ordinance to implement the Community Choice program and allocated funding for Phase 2 of the three-phased implementation. On November 3, the Board adopted the CCE ordinance officially authorizing the program. The PCE website has officially launched:

The Town has received a copy of the JPA Agreement and the Ordinance. We will have the ordinance on the December 16 Agenda for introduction by the Council. Adoption scheduled for the January regular meeting. 

Linked here is a copy of the Marin Clean Energy comparison rate sheet. This question arose at the study session of how the community choice aggregation groups compared their rates to that of the incumbent utility. 

7. Amateur Radio Emergency Service Communication Network

On November 2, Ed Flint, Paul Jemeilian, Larry Sweeney, Steve Taffee, and Jim Stevens (via teleconference) met to discuss emergency communications between Atherton PD, Menlo Park Fire Protection District (and its CERT program), and South County ARES.

SCARES is interested in installing experimental mesh network transceivers at several locations within the Menlo Park Fire District as part of extending its existing mesh network. Locations discussed include but are not limited to Holbrook Palmer Park in Atherton, Bedwell Baylands Park, Atherton PD, the USAR Building on Willows Rd, and Fire Station #1 in Menlo Park.
The Fire District, Atherton PD, and Menlo Fire CERT teams expressed support for this trial provided that:
  • rooftop installations are performed by Atherton City or MPFPD employees
  • the installed mesh network equipment does not interfere with existing emergency radio equipment
  • a MOU is signed between the parties regarding the placement, installation, and operation of the mesh network equipment

Larry will immediately begin testing locations within the MPFPD to identify potential locations. Once identified, he will work with Chief Flint (Atherton PD) and Chief Stevens (MPFPD) to obtain the proper MOUs and coordinate the trial installation.

8. Rewards Program in the Bear Gulch District

In appreciation of its customers' efforts to reduce their water use during this historic drought, California Water Service (Cal Water) has announced that it will launch a three-month rewards program. Each month, this program will recognize 25 customers in Cal Water's Bear Gulch district who stay within their water budgets during that billing cycle. Reducing water use tends to be easier during the summer months, as most discretionary water use occurs outdoors when the weather is warmer. From June – September, the Bear Gulch district reduced its water use by 35.7% when compared to the same period in 2013.
To encourage customers in the Bear Gulch district to continue to conserve, 25 customers in this service area who meet or are under their water budgets that month will be drawn at random to receive $50 gift cards for the December 2015, January 2016, and February 2016 bill cycles. Customers' water consumption for each bill is the month prior to the billing date. Customers who qualify will be automatically entered into each drawing. Those meeting budgets at multiple premises can win only once per month.
The drawings are open to all Cal Water customers with a water budget, both residential and non-residential, except for Cal Water employees, household and immediate family members, suppliers, and affiliates. More information on the program and full terms and conditions are available at Details are also being sent to customers in their November bills. If you have any questions, please contact Dawn Smithson, Bear Gulch's District Manager, at 650-561-0014 or

9. Home Sharing in the New Economy

Linked here is an article on home sharing. 

10. Park Revenue and Event Logs

Linked here is the Park Revenue Log and the Park Events Log

11. Storm Readiness

Occasionally the Council are asked how prepared is the Town for a storm event and what preparations have been done in advance of any event. Below is a summary put together by Public Works and the Police Department for your use. It will be released to the public as well in various forms. 

The Town works with school districts, local universities and its residents to assure everyone is ready following the announcement of severe weather events. Winter can bring heavy rain, high winds, localized flooding and the possibility of our drainage systems overtopping capacity during the worst of conditions  Staff follows weather reports all year long, from local weather reports, County and State alerts and internet based weather information. These alerts are passed on to schools, residents and staff.

Staff begins preparing for winter during the summer months by gathering equipment necessary to keeping our water flowing and streets passable during stormy conditions. Supplies such as barricades, cones, sandbags, sand, pothole mix, signs and hand tools are restocked in the Towns Public Works Corporation Yard. Emergency equipment such as trucks, loaders, chainsaws, emergency generators and lighting are prepared for use.

Public Works staff walk the entire length of the Atherton Channel to ensure that water can flow unhindered through this important feature of the Towns drainage infrastructure. They ensure the storm drain inlets and drainage ditches are functional. The Town offers its residents sand-bags free of charge for their use during the winter. The sandbagging station is open 24/7 and is located at the gate of the Public Works corporation yard at the south end of the Caltrain station. Residents are asked to limit their usage to 20 bags unless imminent problems dictate otherwise.

Staff also readies the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) which runs during long duration power outages as a base of operations for Fire, Police, utility, and other staff. The EOC supplies communications, logistics and operations management to those working in the field. The Town also has emergency disaster supplies such as food, water and radio communications should these ever become necessary.

When high winds or heavy rain are forecast, crews are ready to remove fallen trees from the road, and to repair signs and signals. During prediction of a heavy storm event, crews may be called on to work extended shifts to be in the Town when the storm lands and remain until the threat has passed. The Town has a mutual aid partner with the County of San Mateo and works closely with our surrounding neighbors to offer assistance when called for or request assistance when necessary.

The Town has a progressive means of notifying our residents with up to date information through its system of “newsflashes” which reach a majority of homes. This information works both ways as residents can reach us with problems they may come across during their experience. 

During the aftermath of a large storm event, the Towns Police Department, Building Department and CERT team members play a role in performing evaluations of the private residences who may have been impacted during the event. 

Identified Problem Locations
  • Bellbrook Culvert – The Bellbrook culvert is being monitored monthly as well as following any significant rainfall until a permanent repair is performed. The Town awaits permits for this repair.
  • Parker/Euclid ditch – Maintenance crews cleared debris from this ditch line and will monitor following storm events.
  • The Channel crossings at Barry, Elena, Broadacres and Alameda have been known to collect debris during storm events. These will be monitored closely during and following these events.
  • El Camino Real ditch lines – ditch lines cleaned during August. Will be monitored and maintained during storm events to assist as much as possible their unimpeded flow to their destinations.
  • Marsh Road – Channel cleaned in August. Spot repairs made in August. More repairs including that to the small wall that sits under the fence along the street side of the channel will be made 10/31/2015 by MCE. The larger repair to the entirety of the channel walls from Middlefield Road to Fair Oaks awaits permits.
  • Problem area along Laburnum and Magnolia will be closely monitored especially during the first rains.
Preparations Checklist

SUPPLIES (on hand 10/15/2015)

  • 100 Type I Barricades (10/15/2015)
  • 100 28” traffic cones w/reflector (10/15/2015)
  • Road closed signs (6 ea)
  • Flooded signs        (10 ea)
  • Detour signs (10 ea)
  • Grate pullers (6 ea)
  • Shovels (10 each)
  • Pitchforks (6 each)
  • 1/2” PVC pipe 10’ lengths (4 ea)
  • 200 gal diesel tank filled


  • 2” portable trash pump*
  • 100 KW emergency generator serviced, fueled and ready (Police)
  • 40kw emergency generator serviced, fueled, serviced and ready (EOC/Public Works)
  • 2 portable generators*
  • Light Tower w/emergency power*
  • 4 pick-up trucks*
  • Cargo truck*
  • Back-hoe loader*
  • Changeable message sign


  • 10/2015 - Disaster Shed/Supplies inspected
  • 10/2015 - APADT Disaster Response Trailer inspected and generator tested monthly
  • 6/2015 – Walsh Road Evacuation Siren,  next scheduled test set for 1/2016 


  • 10/1/2015 - Atherton channel walked, obstructions removed. Weak spots repaired by 11/1/15.
  • 10/1/2015 – Atherton drains cleaned with rented drain cleaning equipment (problem drains)
  • Sand bag area filled and stocked with 2500 bags on hand 


  • Tested and functional 3/2015
12. SFPUC Water Line

A letter of request to relocate the line (based on an evaluation of recently submitted information from the SFPUC) will be issued this month. 

13. RWQCB - Marsh Road

A demand letter will be issued to the RWQCB and other approving bodies asking for either approval or denial of the Town’s application to make repairs to the Marsh Road Channel. The Town’s application has been delayed at the approving agencies in an attempt to get the Town to “redesign” the channel to a riparian channel. The Town is demanding that the agencies either approve or deny the Town’s current application so that we can either move forward or appeal. 

14. AirBnBs in Atherton

Staff will be producing an educational article on AirBnB’s for release in the Athertonian and Town website. We have approximately 3-4 operating in Atherton that we are currently investigating via Code Enforcement.