Joint Meeting with the Civic Center Advisory Committee
The Mayor has called a Special Meeting (Joint Meeting) with the CCAC to coincide with their next meeting on November 7, 2016. The CCAC will meet first to cover a few detail items at 4:30 pm (regular meeting time) and then the Joint Meeting will begin at approximately 5:30 pm. The architects/consultants will be there along with staff to go through the big picture issues with the project as well as the sustainability features and detail.
Joint Meeting with the Fire Board
The Joint Meeting of the Fire Board is scheduled for Tuesday, December 13 from 5 pm to 7 pm. The Mayor and I will be meeting with Board President Silano and Fire Chief Schapelhouman on November 14 at 4:30 pm.
Atherton Generator @ Admin/PD
In mid-October I released the City Manager’s Monthly Blog that included information provided to the City Council back in September regarding staff efforts to address the Admin/PD Power Back-Up Generator. In an email from Peter Carpenter on October 20, 2016 that he had copied to John Orr from the San Jose Mercury News, he noted at the bottom “...This is a Town that doesn’t even have an legal emergency generator for its Police Department and yet it wants to spend almost as much money as a new Police Department emergency generator would cost to do a study of something over which it has no control…” Not long after this email was released, I received a phone call from John Orr interested in what Mr. Carpenter was talking about with respect to the generator. I provided John some background information and referred him to Steve Tyler and Joe Wade for additional detail believing that there really wasn’t much to the story since the Town was clearly addressing the issue and the rationale for not purchasing a $100k generator was that we needed to ensure that it was forward-compatible with the new civic center before doing so. John released a story on October 26 regarding the Town’s generator. That story was in turn picked up by KPIX on October 27 for their 6 o’clock News Round-up.
That in-turn prompted a telephone interview with a reporter and various staff press contacts throughout the afternoon as well as follow-up social media postings to clarify for the public that the issue making the news is not an immediate threat to public safety and 9-1-1 services for the Town.
“...A recent news story on KPIX noted that the Town's Emergency Services Generator for the Police Department is "not up to code" and does not run with an automatic switchover. A few points of clarification to the story, the generator sits outside of the Town's Administrative Building. The Town has two generators for use during emergencies - one, a newer generator, powered by natural gas is outside the Town's Public Works Building and Emergency Operations Center; the second, a 20 year old generator, powered by diesel is outside of the Town's Administration/Police Department building.
Both are in good operating condition. The issue with the Admin/PD building is directly related to the Town's aging facilities. The generator was compliant when installed, but with time, has not kept pace with the changing laws on air quality and ventilation. It sits adjacent to the window area for the Town's Dispatch Center and vents to the roof area of the police building where there are other vents that go back into the building. When in operation, the diesel fumes make their way into the halls and offices of the police department. Those sensitive to diesel fumes can end up with headaches and nausea when exposed for long periods of time. The generator is tested on a monthly basis.
The Town is well aware of the issue and has been attempting to take steps to seal the ventilation areas, tune-up the generator, and get it registered with the Air Quality Management District for continuous operation when needed. In the interim, the Town has taken the generator out of its automatic cutover mode. The Town's dispatch/9-1-1 services are on UPS backups that provide plenty of time for personnel to step out and flip the cutover switch to the generator. The UPS systems are designed for this function as the generator takes a few seconds to come online even with automatic cutover.
With the planning for the new Civic Center, the new Emergency Generator will be in the secure Police Parking Lot outside the facility. The Town does not want to purchase a new generator at this time given the temporal possibility of the new building. We do not yet know what the size, location, and connectivity requirements of a new generator would be to power the entire facility and do not want to spend $100k or more on something that is not forward compatible.”
Staff posted and released similar information to the community via News Flash/Civic Send.
National Register of Historic Places - Carriage House & Water Tower
The Park Foundation was successful in submitting the registration request for the Carriage House and Water Tower as historic places on the National Register of Historic Places. Linked here is the response from the National Register - National Register of Historic Places.
Grand Boulevard Task Force Follow-Up
Drone Ordinance - DRAFT
On December 7, 2016 staff will bring introduction of the Town’s DRAFT Drone Ordinance to the Agenda. Linked here is a copy of the DRAFT Ordinance being proposed. There may be small modifications made in relation to public safety exceptions under the ordinance, primarily to accommodate the existing drone program with Menlo Park Fire Protection District. Drones are prohibited in HPP except in the North Meadow - as long as there are no scheduled events occurring. Commercial uses are allowed only via permit. The ordinance outlines these issues with specificity.
Fire Services Fiscal Review
Public Records Act Request - Lindenwood Homes Emergency District No. 2
On October 26 the Town received a Public Records Act request from a resident requesting the “…total amount of property taxes and parcel taxes that the Town collects from residences in Neighborhood 2 and the description and cost of each specific service provided by the Town to the residences in Neighborhood 2.” Neighborhood 2 is generally defined as central Lindenwood. Theresa, Robert and Judi are gathering up data in response to the Request as a formal request, but I jumped in and sent an advance email to the requestor as italicized below. The spreadsheet I am speaking of has already been shared with the Council separately and once we get the map of TRAs it will be placed, together with the Map on the Town’s Local Municipal Services page as informational.
“...Theresa copied me on this Public Records Act (PRA) request and I see from below that she, together with Judi and Robert, are working on gathering any documents pursuant to your request. They will continue to do so since the request was a formal PRA request. However, I wanted to jump in and send you the information I had available that might work toward an answer to your queries.
First, unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the Town will be able to provide a direct and detailed answer to your query since, the Town, like many general service public agencies simply does not provide services on a parcel by parcel level/subscription service basis. That said, we’ll do our best to get you whatever data we do have and provide you with connections to other resources that might be out there that will get you close. To get to the detailed answers - specifically cost, the Town would likely have to engage a consultant to analyze the data and the specific geographic area and make the appropriate statistical calculations and correlations. If you would like to fund such an endeavor, we would certainly participate to the maximum extent possible. Absent that study, I am happy to work with you to drill down the available data as much as possible to get you the answers you are seeking. The revenue side is easier to get to.
Shortcomings - the Town does not have a list of parcels and each's respective Tax Rate Area (TRA); nor does the Town aggregate and maintain property tax data - that’s the County. The proper request for that data request would likely be them. That’s a challenge for us on a number of fronts as we try to get to your data request. To get that data, we’d have to go to the County Tax Collector (website) and enter each parcel and determine exactly which Tax Rate Area it references. This is a publicly accessible database accessible here:
Since we do not have distributed GIS, I pulled up my hard-copy Atherton map and marked out the area bounded by Area 2 on your Emergency District Map. I counted up 177 parcels. I hope that that matches with your knowledge of the area. I then went to the County Assessor’s website (linked above) and found data (x) at 1 Larch Drive for representative purposes.
For 1 Larch Drive, for example, it shows an APN# 061-072-040, Tax Rate Area 01-001. The General Tax for that address for Tax Year 2016 is $3,901.45 (before exemptions). Exemptions reduce the base tax amount to $2,889.24. The Town’s tax rate (pre-ERAF adjustment) for that TRA is 10.55973% of the 1% General Assessment based on Assessed Valuation. So, after exemptions, for 1 Larch Drive, the Town would receive $305.10 a year in property taxes. After ERAF, the Town would receive about 88% of that total or $268.49 per year based on assessed valuation.
You can also drill down and get the detailed breakdown by agency beyond the basic 1% property tax. These include agencies such as the Mid-Peninsula Open Space Debt Service, Menlo Park City Elementary Bond Measure, Sequoia High Bond Issue, etc. Beyond this, there are special tax amounts - this includes the Atherton Special Tax. For this parcel, the basic tax was $750. This parcel is representative of the size of most of the 177 parcels in Area 2 (except about 1-2 parcels - they are much larger). For 77 Flood Circle - the Atherton Parcel Tax is $960; and 149 Hawthorne Drive - not accessible by address in the County system. 149 Hawthorne looks to be about the same representative size as 77 Flood Circle so that tax is likely about the same. With that, the total Parcel Tax estimate for Area 2 might be close to $133,170 ($750 X 175 parcels 2 parcels X $960). For the entire Town, the revenue from the Atherton Parcel Tax is $1,860,000.
Putting the two together, for 1 Larch Drive, the Town receives approximately $1,018.49 per year based on assessed valuation.
However, because we do not have each property’s TRA, we would still have to go to the County Assessor to gather up what the respective income is per parcel. It’s a record we simply do not have. That said - we’re working on it. This weekend, I spent some considerable time doing some data entry. I took the TRA assessed value information for FY 2015/16 - provided recently by the Fire District via consultant MuniServices and married it up to the Town’s data from our property tax consultant, HdL. HdL provides some detail level information, but generalized (it’s available here on the Town’s website as part of the November 2015 Audit/Finance Committee Meeting): http://ca-atherton.civicplus.com/DocumentCenter/View/2565. I also married it up with the TRA data for each respective taxing agency. That’s also on the Town’s website at: http://www.ci.atherton.ca.us/documentcenter/view/2046. Attached is what I put together - PDF and Excel version. We can now use it as a tool for helping predict/validate property tax revenue based on overall assessed valuation projections. I’m also having our limited GIS consultant connect with the County and obtain a list of each parcel by TRA so that we can put together that visual map of Town by parcel. The data on my attached spreadsheet is more helpful to Atherton residents if they can marry it up with their specific parcel.
It’s a lot of data entry so there might be a digit or two somewhere in error in there but the totals are very close across the bottom. I will be putting the spreadsheet up on the Town’s website once I finish validating my data entry and we put together that GIS map I mentioned above. The data is not as relevant to a property owner if they cannot, without considerable effort, identify what their specific TRA is and do their calculations. As you can tell from the spreadsheet, most of Atherton is concentrated within 5 or 6 specific TRAs given where the bulk of the Net Assessed Value (NAV) is distributed. There will also need to be an explanatory disclaimer when released since the totals for the agencies is "all in" - i.e. includes ERAF before it gets taken, reduced, and then rebated back. This impacts agencies such as the Town, the Fire District, the Library, the County, etc. Their totals are high by the total ERAF. For example, Atherton’s number of $9 million is high by about $2.1 million from secured receipts BUT, the Town received $1,070,000 back in ERAF at the end of the Fiscal Year, so the real revenue is approximately $7.9 million.
We’re getting there. We gathering up as much data as possible from each of the agencies that tax our residents. We’ll be putting all of that data together on the Town’s website to help residents understand the complexities of the way property-related taxes work. The Town is intimately involved in the County Library tax distribution model and has begun a “Town and Gown” process to meet with the various school boards that provide services to our residents. The goal is to identify sharing opportunities (financial and otherwise). As you can see from the spreadsheet Sequoia High is the one district that taxes all tax rate areas in Atherton. We’re approaching the District(s) to ask them to pay a share of the cost of the Town’s School Resource Officer dedicated specifically to Atherton schools - we’ve been asking for a while, but more data is helpful. The Town is involved in the Mosquito Abatement District as well by appointing an Atherton resident to serve on the Board of Directors.
Anyway, my apologies for the long email but I hope the above is useful. We’ll be gathering up what data we do have and getting back to your formal PRA. Let me know if I can help put it all together in some way that would be helpful. Your query is exactly what we hope to get to for Atherton residents so that they can ask the simple questions of “What am I paying and what am I getting for it?" without having to go off to 10 different agencies with 10 different processes, and 10 different levels of frustration.
I would be happy to meet with you one-on-one if you’d like to go through any of the above or the other issue(s) that we’ve been discussing over the last few months."