Displaying all posts tagged with:


Dec 11

November 2015 City Manager's Monthly Report

Posted to City Manager's Blog 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: http://www.pensiontracker.org/index.php.

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: http://www.peninsulacleanenergy.com

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 www.calwater.com/reward. 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 dsmithson@calwater.com.

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. 

Nov 02

October 2015 City Manager's Monthly Report

Posted to City Manager's Blog on November 2, 2015 at 10:20 AM by grodericks grodericks

City Manager's Monthly Report - October 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

October 30, 2015 - City Council Report

1. Park Cameras

The Park cameras are LIVE and streaming to Dispatch. The first is at the northwest corner of the Park where the gate goes into Felton Gables. The second is behind the Little League facility with a view of the restrooms. Once we work the kinks out of the system we’ll install additional cameras (approx. $2500 per) - entry/exit/parking lots.

2. Safe Routes to School

There is a Safe Routes to School Meeting setup by Menlo Park and the County specifically addressing pedestrian, traffic and cyclist issues along the Alameda in Menlo Park. We plan to attend - November 2, 7 pm. 


I attended the preliminary portion of the Wednesday October 28, 2015 MTC meeting. The Commission ultimately voted to proceed with a study of a full comprehensive merger of ABAG and MTC planning agencies. Key points from the resolution:

* MTC shall provide the remaining six months of FY 2015-16 planning funds.
* MTC and ABAG shall retain a consultant to conduct a merger study and a merger implementation plan of both agencies.
* The study will be directed by the Joint ABAG Administrative Committee and MTC Planning Committee.
* Original proposal to transfer ABAG planners to MTC is put on hold during the merger study.

There remains many issues of governance, planning tasks, and organization to define. Linked here is the Resolution proposed by the MTC

4. Bid Closing Dates - FYI

- Class III Bike Route Project - Bid Closing Date: 10/29/2015 - 2 pm
- Middlefield/Oak Grove Complete Streets Improvements (Engineering) - Bid Closing Date - 10/27/2015 - 2 pm
- ECR HAWK - Bid Closing Date - 11/10/2015 - 11 am

5. Lean on the Water Tower

Staff has had reports that the Water Tower appears to be leaning. We have engaged a surveyor to help us determine if it is leaning and if so, if it is actively leaning. If the lean is active, we will need to take steps to remedy and determine why it is doing so (subsidence, footings, water, etc.)

6. MCE Work

Since April/May we have been running short with MCE by one staffer while MCE recruits. They have been having difficulty finding an experienced employee to fill the role. While they have temporarily filled it with temporary labor, we would like a skilled employee in the role. We have communicated this directly to MCE that it is now October and they need to take immediate steps to remedy our concern. 

7. Marsh Road Repairs

On Saturday we will be making some repairs to the street top fence/wall along the Marsh Road channel. The County has asked that the Town make these repairs in advance of the pending El Nino so that as the channel fills, it does not have a “path of least resistance” to overtop. 

8. Event Garden

The Event Garden work is scheduled to start next week.

9. Library Operations Committee Meeting

On Tuesday I attended the Library Operations Committee Meeting. One of the items on the Agenda was the Atherton Conceptual Plan which, after moving through the Council is making its way through the Operational Committee to the Library Governing Board. Fully supported. Another item was the branding concepts for the Library. We reviewed three options for branding. All had coordinating colors and themes, but were very different in style (more than just a logo). The first, and most supported, was a set of 3 vertical elements noting "San Mateo County Libraries", the second was a more abstract SMCL, and the third was an abstract dandelion (I saw it more as a microphone similar to the old AT&T logo). All had pros and cons. The Committee provided feedback and now the topic heads to the Governing Board.

10. Letter of Support of Clean Energy Program

Linked here is a letter of support for the Town joining the County’s clean energy program. 

11. CalPERS Circular - Actuarial Reports

Linked here is a CalPERS Circular Letter - 10/23/15 noting that the Actuarial Reports will be delayed. 

12. Articles To Rail Committee

A member of the Rail Committee asked that the linked articles be sent to the Committee. They were distributed this week. 

13. Measure M ($10 Vehicle Registration) Revenue

Linked here is a linked letter from C/CAG noting the Town’s eligible distribution (reimbursement basis) for expenditures in FY 2014/15 for projects qualifying under Measure M ($80,000). The Town budgets for this anticipated revenue under the CIP Fund 204. The minimum distribution is $75,000. We use the funds for street sealing and storm water programs. The Town has not yet submitted the audit report for FY 2013/14. We will ensure that this occurs. 

14. Planning Commission Meeting - 10/28/15

The Planning Commission, at its October 28, 2015 meeting took the following action:
  • Approved a Special Structure Permit to allow increased sidewall height at 22 Lane Place.
  • Continued the decision to consider amendments to the Ordinance amending Atherton Municipal Code section 6.04 to modify the regulations for the keeping of chickens for the December 2, 2015 Planning Commission meeting.  The Commission provided direction to staff to make further amendments to the Ordinance regarding the allowable quantity of chickens based off of lot size, setting a minimum lot size for the keeping of chickens, revising the development standards for chickens coops/enclosures to be more restrictive then the accessory building/structure Ordinance, having chicken/coop enclosure size relative to the amount of allowable chickens, and adding additional provisions regarding health issues associated with chickens.
  • Provided direction to staff on the General Plan update process and for staff to present 1 – 3 revised General Plan Elements at time to the Planning Commission in a study session format, that staff have one community meeting during the process, and then ultimately providing one, comprehensive revised draft General Plan for Commission consideration and recommendation to the City Council. 

15. Response from Fire Chief - Inclusion in Civic Center

The Fire Chief advised that the Town’s letter from the Mayor goes before the Fire Board in November. He advised that they will be preparing a staff report. The Chief inquired as to whether the communication to which I referred to in my staff report between he and I was email or formal since he did not recall receiving a formal request on Town letterhead. I advised that the exchange was email. He advised that he has been consistent in message that while the District appreciates the offer, there is no practical strategic advantage to locating a fire station at the Civic Center location.

16. Amateur Radio Emergency Service Communication Network

I received an email from Larry Sweeney who serves on the Board for the South County Amateur Radio Emergency Service (SCARES). The group supports the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department, Fire Districts and various CERT groups in South County. Larry asked if the Town could consider allowing the group to deploy a mesh network node within the Park to facilitate their wireless connections to Menlo Park and Atherton Police Emergency Operation Centers. They would like to deploy possibly on the Carriage House or Water Tower. 

I advised that I was reluctant to consider deployment on any historic structures in the Park; but, could consider something on the Pavilion or Gilmore House. In further communication with the Chief’s (Fire and PD), if these communication networks are to be a part of the County, District, and Town’s emergency communication networks, they need to comply with all emergency deployment and communication protocols. Some of the emergency amateur networks do not choose to do so. It would be inappropriate for the Town to collaborate with a group on Town property as part of the Town’s network (i.e. providing antenna space) if they do not choose to comply with the emergency communication protocols. Determining compliance and adherence will be the first step with the SCARE’s group. 
The SCARES group will be meeting with the Police and Fire Emergency Response Teams. 

17. Helicopter Landing Requirements

Absent emergency/Town use, the Town has designated Helicopter Landing requirements (Chapter 12.28 of the AMC). We have been advised that we may receive a request for a helicopter landing in February to facilitate attendance at a local private event. 

18. Quiet Zones

A member of the Rail Committee presented a presentation on Quiet Zones to the October 6 Rail Committee Meeting. The member urged the Committee to take action to pursue a quiet zone at the Fair Oaks location at a minimum and to pursue on a the Watkins location after installing appropriate safety measures. The Committee provided such a recommendation. Staff asked the member where they had obtained their information on the establishment of quiet zones and the member advised that, in addition to personal research, they had obtained guidance and technical advice from an engineer experienced in the establishment of quiet zones. However, when staff asked to speak with the engineer in order to help staff confirm and validate the information and next steps, the member declined to provide any contact information. 

Staff is moving forward with independent confirmation and validation in order to determine next steps. Some of the information provided runs contrary to what Caltrain and others have advised. We have setup a meeting with the Committee member for November 18. The purpose of this meeting is to do some due diligence and validate information.  Specifically, we need to validate the assertion that the Town has the ability to establish a Quiet Zone independent of the Federal Rail Administration and the assertion that Fair Oaks qualifies (i.e. recent incidents and suicides do not prohibit the Town’s establishment of a quiet zone).
The Rail Committee was excited about the information and unanimously recommended the City Council begin the process of creating a Quiet Zone by filing a Notice of Intent for the Fair Oaks Crossing. However, before leading the Town forward, we need to make sure that we have the authority to do so and are heading down the right path. 

I am sure that the Council remembers the recent Caltrain Hazard Analysis Report (October 2014 for Watkins Avenue. The Report notes that in order to place quad gates at the crossing it would be conditioned upon widening the street into private property, to the west, and over the channel to the ease. The Report also advised that the CPUC stated that there is not enough space on the northeast quadrant (near Park and Storm Drain) to install the exit gate. Further, the Report advised that FRA regulations typically require at least a 10-year interval with no nearby fatalities - a situation that cannot currently be met. 

October 26, 2015 - City Council Report

1. Circus Club Special Events

As we discussed prior, I am having the Circus Club complete a single Special Event Permit for all of their activities for the 2016 year based on their calendar. Exceptional events will trigger a separate permit, but their typical events can be listed under a global permit. 

Christian Thon is working on that now. 

2. Park Events and Revenues - September 2015

3. Animal Services Report - September 2015

4. Jobs for Youth Annual Report

At the last Council meeting the Council asked Ruby Tomas for an Annual Report for the San Mateo Jobs for Youth Program. Ruby provided the linked Report (same as was handed out that evening). We will add authorization to pay the $570 to the next Council Consent Agenda. 

5. Bid Closing Dates - FYI

- Class III Bike Route Project - Bid Closing Date: 10/29/2015 - 2 pm
- Middlefield/Oak Grove Complete Streets Improvements (Engineering) - Bid Closing Date - 10/27/2015 - 2 pm
- ECR HAWK - Bid Closing Date - 11/10/2015 - 11 am

October 16, 2015 - City Council Report

1. El Camino Real/Selby Intersection Outreach

Staff is working to setup an Outreach Subcommittee Meeting (Lewis/Wiest) for the Selby Intersection Options at El Camino. Once we meet with the Subcommittee we will begin a neighborhood outreach program. We anticipate that the subcommittee meeting will be sometime in early November. 

2. Voice Recording System (911)

As the Council is aware, the 2015/16 Budget included the purchase of a new voice recording system for the Town’s 911 System. When we put the budget together in early 2015 the vendor quote (VoicePrint) did not include training and installation. The Town’s existing system is no longer supported at the end of 2015. An all-in from VoicePrint is approximately $20k.  

However, during the interim period, staff contacted several other vendors to obtain competitive costs. All recommended that the Town move to a different system architecture for future compatibility and lower ongoing monthly maintenance. Our early estimates of cost were short. Staff researched a system recently installed by Menlo Park Police Department and determined that while there is more cost upfront, the total cost of ownership and the ability of the system to transfer to the new facilities is far superior.  The cost of the new system is $27.4k. Given the critical need and timing, I authorized moving forward with the system purchase and installation (it will take several months). I will return at mid-year with a budget correction. 

3. Series Circuit Street Light Replacement Project Update

Staff continues work with PG&E and the design consultant to move this project along. Field investigation revealed that 36 lights (in 4 separate areas) require replacement. Staff expects to receive information from PG&E regarding the improvements and the circuitry design in November. 

In the interim, staff is planning to install sample lights so that the public may provide input on the proposed new lights, prior to finalizing any design and seeking Council approval. The consultant is analyzing the Town’s street light operations and will include recommendations in their report on issues related to LED conversation and other options moving forward. 

4. Caltrans - Almendral Beacon

The Town has finally secured an Encroachment Permit from Caltrans to move this project forward. The Daily Post reported that the HAWK would also include in-pavement flashers. This is incorrect. Bids are set to be opened on November 10. If they come in without error or ambiguity, we might be able to award the bid at the November 18 Council meeting, else we’ll move it to the next meeting. Staff recognizes the need to keep this project moving forward. Once bids are awarded, construction will begin as soon as the bidder’s services can be reasonably marshaled (rainy season might result in delay).

5. Marsh Road Striping and Reflectors

Striping and reflectors have been added along the Marsh Road channel. 

6. Cell Tower at Town Hall

AT&T is asking to make some improvements to the cell tower at Town Hall. We are reviewing their request in line with the CUP, Wireless Ordinance, and Civic Center Conceptual Plan. We may recommend to AT&T that they delay their improvements until such time as the details have been worked out for replacement/relocation/removal of the cell tower. We will be meeting with them over the next couple of weeks. Alternatively, we may authorize them to proceed with the improvements but given that it may be more than 10% require modification to the existing antenna and lease. 

7. Community Task Force Applications

The County is convening a Community Task Force to inform their sea level rise outreach and community engagement efforts. The application deadline is Friday, October 30. We are distributing this information via the Town’s electronic network and twitter. 

8. Climate Action Plan

The Climate Action Plan, as amended and recommended by the Environmental Programs Committee, is on the City Council Study Session for November 4. Many of the recommendations by the Committee are far-reaching and have significant implications for residents and the Town’s staff and resources. Staff is presenting the Committee’s recommendations to the Council along with staff’s recommendation on each measure. Some do not align. In the end, it is a policy call for the City Council on just how far the Town wants to move forward on each measure. If the Council wishes to lead the way in advance of State law in a particular area, additional staff, staff time, and resources will need to be added to our operational budget. 

9. Book Recommendation

The “OnTarget” Board Member - 8 Indisputable Behaviors.

10. Consideration of Donation

The Mayor, Vice Mayor, and I will be visiting with Neil Rasmussen (corner of Glenwood/Middlefield) to discuss the possible donation of historic property (not real property). The City Council (as a body) has the ability to accept or reject any proposed donation if offered.

11. Out of the Office

As the Council is aware, I will be out of the office (Hawaii) during the period of November 22 through December 5. The first week is my wedding on Oahu and the second week is the honeymoon on Maui. I will try not to check my email. 

12. Next Steps with the CCAC

Over the last couple of weeks, the Chair of the CCAC and I have had several conversations about next steps. Gordon and I will be meeting with the Chair between now and October 30 to discuss next steps for the Committee. Particular focus will be spent on key decision points for the Town as the project moves forward. 

13. Upcoming Holiday Closures

Town Hall will be closed for the following holidays:

- Veteran’s Day - November 11
- Thanksgiving Holiday - November 26 and 27
- Christmas/New Year’s - December 24 through January 1

For the Christmas and New Year’s break, there are two Town-granted holidays. For all other days, staff will either use banked leave time or leave without pay. 

14. Channel/Drainage Tour

Staff is trying to schedule a channel/drainage tour. Since this will be a “moving meeting” we will be renting a 15-passenger van for the tour. Please respond to Theresa’s meeting wizard email with your availability. This is a priority to get accomplished. We will be traveling in and out of the Town’s drainage courses and talking about storm preparations, projects, and improvements. Please be prepared and dress accordingly. 

15. Tour of Sacred Heart Schools Facilities

Participated in an excellent tour of the Homer Science and Student Life Center (LEED Platinum) and Stevens Library (Net Zero) on Tuesday. Excellent tips, feedback, and recommendations relevant to the Civic Center Project. 

16. OpenGov - Fiscal Transparency Portal and Fiscal Intelligence

On Thursday, Robert and I met with representatives from OpenGov to talk through some of their coming improvements. They are working on putting together a fiscal intelligence package that will help the Town use comparative analytics in its financial data as well as integrate other non-financial data for performance indicators. Coming soon to our website. 

October 9, 2015 - City Council Report

1. Follow-up on Cartan Field Neighborhood Meeting

Staff met with representatives from Menlo School/Menlo College (MS/MS) along with adjacent neighbors to talk through a couple of scenarios for development of Cartan Field. The meeting was very well received and the School (primary) took consecutive feedback on the proposed project. Most of the feedback revolved around several areas:

- Noise monitoring should be installed in the new development where feasible
- Neighbors would prefer tennis or parking adjacent to their rear yards rather than baseball or athletic field
- Concerned about pool noise - find a representative pool that can be seen as an example of the type of development and test it / visit it for noise
- Concerned about traffic impacts on Alejandra during heavy use periods
- Prefer landscaping to netting along rear fence lines but it’s neighbor dependent
- Eliminate the whistles from along side the back yard areas
- Provide a list of conditions of use acceptable to all - no activity on Sundays, holidays, etc. 
- Consider relocating the pool on College property
- Issues continue to arise related to controlling rental activity - needs better monitoring and enforcement

Next steps for the project are the following:

- MS/MC should take in the feedback received at the meeting
- MS should adjust the plan where feasible
- MS should update the noise and traffic analysis based on a new plan design
- MS should “rate” the noise by use (pool, field, tennis, parking, etc.)
- MS should add mitigative measures related to uses - hours, noise monitoring, enforcement, etc. 
- MS should add a list of other mitigative measures to the plan - screening, fencing, landscaping, etc.
- MS should add a visual of the pool structure
- Once complete, have a final meeting with the neighbors before submittal to the Town
- Once complete, submit the project to the Town for normal processing through planning, environmental, etc. 

2. Menlo Park Fire Protection District - Time Based Performance Standards

Following the Town, the County, and the City of Menlo Park discussing the modification of El Camino Real and Middlefield Road, the Fire District Board of Directors began a conversation around time-based performance standards for emergency response. They completed an updated Standards of Cover Assessment and recently adopted the linked Resolution No. 1818-2015 adopting time-based performance measure standards for the District. 

As mentioned prior, Alex McIntyre and I sent emails back to the Chief asking what exactly that meant for our respective agencies. I asked did it mean that the Fire District would enhance its commitment to the communities it serves through the investment in capital infrastructure improvements that go directly toward meeting or improving the time-based performance standards - such as roadway improvements, signal synchronization projects, pre-emption devices, bike lanes (to add width to a roadway), dedicated bus lanes (for bus and emergency response), and identification of and development of new station locations to enhance response? Alex McIntyre echoed the questions and further asked what authority it carried and whether there was any binding impact on the communities. 

The Chief advised that through their Standards of Cover, they evaluated the locations of all current stations and determined that, overall, they are in good to great locations. New locations were proposed and reviewed but it was determined that they would not significantly improve response times, costs were prohibitive, and adjusting deployment in areas like the Bayside of 101 made more sense. 

The Chief also advised that Atherton’s current road configuration benefits emergency response into Menlo Park, North Fair Oaks and Redwood City. However, the same cannot always be said for those communities that create a cumulative negative affect on emergency response and response times. As an example, the Chief advised that the traffic control devices in North Fair Oaks daily impede emergency response for Engine 5 that protects portions of Atherton. Further, the Chief advised that further development changes along Middlefield will impact local response times to Atherton. 

3. Inside Look at the Town’s Police Department

John Orr, Daily News Staff Writer asked for a tour of the Atherton Police Facility. A tour was provided by Lt. Wade and Jennifer Frew. Linked here is his resultant article

4. Check from Atherton Now

The Town received a check from Atherton Now to cover the donation requirement for the Schematic Design Phase. 

5. Bed Bugs at the Library

Staff received a note from Anne-Marie Despain, Director of Library Services updating the Town on the issue of bedbugs at the Library. Palo Alto City Library and Menlo Park Library recently reported bedbugs in their locations, resulting in short library closures to deal with the situation. Staff there have indicated that the discovery was minor and in the furniture (not the books). Staff are alert to the situation(s) and if found, will work with contract pest control to immediately deal with the issue. 

6. Las Lomitas School District - Detention Basin

Staff met with the District Superintendent and School Board President (who happen to be present at the time) and their Bond Projects Manager to discuss the possible storm water detention basin. The District was very receptive, especially since the ball field’s renovation is not funded through their bond program. They shared a master plan drawing showing the relocated entrance aligned with Walsh Road, for which they are planning a traffic signal. Staff suggested that they also look to underground utilities across their entrance. Staff will be meeting with them again soon to develop more detailed plans as a prelude to preparing a Memorandum of Understanding for the project. It was expressed that the Town may be interested in participating in the project. 

7. Caltrans Sustainable Transportation Planning Grant Program

Samtrans has asked that the Town consider submitting a letter of support for a grant application. The project involves El Camino Real and will facilitate the design of multimodal streetscape improvements, in partnership with Caltrans, to create a roadway that is safe and accessible for all users, is integrated with proposed sustainable development, and encourages pedestrian and transit activity and investment. The “Targeted Multimodal Improvements” project will prepare conceptual designs to improve safety in high opportunity case study segments, selected based on bicycle and pedestrian collision data. Public engagement via interactive workshops will enable Corridor communities to define their vision for healthy streets that are safe, sustainable, multimodal, and economically beneficial, while still accommodating traffic. A Final Report will detail the results of the case studies, including designs, design approval and funding guidance, and lessons learned for replication. This project will enable jurisdictions along El Camino Real, as well as other similar urban corridors, to move quickly and easily into implementing multimodal safety improvements.

8. ABAG - MTC Land Use Planners and Funding

The San Mateo City Manager’s Association met this week to discuss this issue. A subcommittee of Manager’s was formed to meet with the Executive Director of the MTC to discuss slowing down the conversation to allow member agencies to fully digest the impacts and considerations. While the Manager’s Group was not interest in taking a position because of the political and policy issues related to the conversation, it was noted that there could be serious affects to migrating land use planning into transportation planning - primarily from a governance and representative position. 

It was the general consensus that a decision of this magnitude should not be rushed and that local agencies should have a chance to be involved not only in the discussion but in the ultimate governance framework. 

9. Series Circuit Street Light Replacement Project Update

Staff continues work with PG&E and the design consultant to move this project along. Field investigation revealed that 36 lights (in 4 separate areas) require replacement. Staff expects to receive information from PG&E regarding the improvements and the circuitry design in November. 

In the interim, staff is planning to install sample lights so that the public may provide input on the proposed new lights, prior to finalizing any design and seeking Council approval. The consultant is analyzing the Town’s street light operations and will include recommendations in their report on issues related to LED conversation and other options moving forward. 

10. Neighborhood Traffic Management Plan

The consultant and staff have moved the draft Plan through the Fire District and staff with comments. Following discussion the Plan will be moved to a community meeting, then the Transportation Committee and then back to the Council. 

11. Marsh Road Channel

We will be asking the Regional Water Quality Control Board for final approval or denial on our project application and let us move through the appeal route if necessary. If you recall, there was the specific request/condition to remove the bottom of the channel and return it to a more riparian nature. That is not our project. There are options, but we need to do repairs to this channel sooner rather than later. The engineering firm walked the channel with the RWQCB representatives and noted additional areas needed for repair that had changed recently and areas where more bulging had occurred. There remains a sense of urgency. We will be getting legal counsel involved if necessary. 

Aug 12

A few FAQs....and other not so FAQs but interesting nonetheless...

Posted to City Manager's Blog on August 12, 2015 at 11:21 AM by grodericks grodericks

FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions...?

Over the years working in a single industry (25 years in local government) one accumulates a perspective on FAQs. I've seen the same FAQs from community to community in different variations. The FAQs range from the educational inquiry on the how and why of things to the specific issue on the when and where of things. While the landscape changes from one place to the next some of the same issues resonate across that change. 

Here are a few categorized below that I thought might be of interest to the more than 1200 subscribers to the City Manager's Blog. 

Governmental Relationships

Government RelationsWhat's the relationship between the Town and the local schools?

The Town has 4 Public School Districts operating in Town and 3 Private School/College (School Districts). The Public School Districts are separate legal entities from the Town. Essentially they are their own governments. The bad part about what that means is that the Town does not control their operations, the campuses, or their regulations. In fact, school districts are exempt from local regulation almost in their entirety. They are not required (under State law) to come to the Town for building permits, zoning approval, or other regulatory measure of control for any activity reasonably connected to school use and function (i.e. they do not have to comply with our General Plan). They are regulated by the State. If, however, the activity is a purely private activity on the campus, the Town can get involved. For private schools, it's different. They are required to comply with local regulations. The Town manages permits, zoning, and land use at private schools. 

The Town has a very positive relationship with our public and private schools. The Town tasks one of our patrol officers as a School Resource Officer. The Officer's task is to foster a positive relationship with the schools, faculty, and student population for better information, engagement, and resources. 

The Town has an annual School Meeting whereby members of the school faculty meet with the Town to discuss local issues such as traffic, safe routes to school, education programs, awareness programs, and other campus needs. There are many issues that get addressed every day connected to our local schools and many more that need more attention. 

We encourage our local schools, both public and private, to be good neighbors and to foster good relations with the community. We support them in these endeavors and hope that together, issues can be addressed positively and proactively. 

The Public School District receives their revenue from a variety of sources, to include local bond measures and property taxes. The Town does not contribute to the school district from our annual budget. Private schools receive their funding from a variety of sources, to include tuition, grants, and other bequests. The Town does not contribute to the private schools from our annual budget. 

What's the relationship between the Town and the Fire District?

The Town receives its fire services from the Menlo Park Fire Protection District. The District is a separate legal entity from the Town that provides services to portions of East Palo Alto, Menlo Park and all of Atherton. The District has a separately elected Board of Directors for which any Atherton resident may run. Revenue to the District comes from local property taxes. Atherton residents pay approximately 16 cents of every property tax dollar to fire services via their basic 1% property tax. Based on the assessed valuation of properties in Atherton in 2014, Atherton residents paid approximately $12.6 million toward fire services for the Town. The Town itself does not contribute via the Town's budget to the Fire District. If fire services were not provided by the Fire District, the Town would be required to provide fire services either directly or under contract with another agency (County, Menlo Park, Redwood City, or other Fire District). If the Town were not a part of the District and were required to provide fire services separately, the property taxes collected and remitted to the District would instead flow to the Town directly (although the amount may be different).

The Town has a very positive relationship with the District and the District supports many local Town activities and events. The Fire District and City Council meet jointly once a year to discuss mutual policy issues within each agency's jurisdiction. 
What's the relationship between the Town and the local water and sewer agencies?

Similar to the Fire District, the local water and sewer agencies are separate legal entities: California Water Service Company and Fair Oaks or West Bay Sanitary for sewer. Revenue to these agencies is via local property tax collections or use/connection fees.

The Town does not regulate or control the activities, rates, or capital projects of these agencies. Each have separately elected boards for which any Atherton resident may run. The Town does not contribute to the local water and sewer agencies from our local budget - other than to pay our basic water and sewer rates for our use. 

What about the Town and the Library?

Conference TableAh, this one is much more interesting. The San Mateo County Library (SMCL) is a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) that is comprised of several cities within the County, including Atherton and the County. The Board for the JPA is made up of a City Council representative from each agency and a County Supervisor. Under the JPA Agreement, services are provided to the member agencies by the County. Thinking of it as distributed services, our library is technically a County annex library serving not only Atherton, but areas around Atherton as well. In fact, the Atherton Library service area is approximately 5 square miles reaching nearly 12,000-13,000 people. 

Revenue is another story. A much longer one. Revenue to the Library dates back to the early 1900s and the addition of the library tax. The average tax rate for the San Mateo County Library is 3.2 cents for every property tax dollar collected - coming from that 1% basic property tax rate. Our library receives about $2-$2.5 million per year in revenue from property taxes (depending on local assessed valuation). However, the Library costs about $1 million per year to operate (at its current level). The Town has been saving the difference for several years now - it is this savings that is paying for the new library as part of the Town's civic center. With the new library, it is estimated that the annual operating costs will increase, but the Town will still be faced with surplus funds to save for future library projects and development. The Town is working with the Library JPA to discuss the future disposition of those funds.

As with the Fire District, the Town could exit the Library JPA and provide services independently. In doing so, those local property tax dollars would come directly to the Town (solely for Library services) instead of the County. There are pros and cons of that option and it is not a solution that the Town would enter into without significant public discussion.
Let's talk trash....what about my garbage rates? Who sets those?

Refuse services, like the Library, are provided jointly via a separate Joint Powers Authority (JPA) Agreement. RethinkWaste, also known as the South Bayside Waste Management Authority (SBWMA), is a twelve member public agency, including Atherton and the County. The governing board is an elected official from each member agency Council. The SBWMA then contracts with Recology and South Bay Recycling to complete the mission. 

Revenues are provided by rate-payers and not the local agency members. Rates are set by the local agency City Councils at a level sufficient to provide the local services (compost, waste, and recycling). Sometimes the rates are too low and the difference has to be made up by the agency or via rate increases. Sometimes the rates are too high and the agency ends up with a rate stabilization fund designed to capture the surplus and apply it to future rates. 

Over the years, Atherton has attempted to stabilize local refuse rates for our residents. The Council has adjusted the rate structure in a manner designed to recapture the basic cost while still providing a cushion to allow the ebb and flow of actual costs (based more on the market - revenue markets for sale of recyclables and/or landfill tipping fees or fuel costs) without significantly impacting local rates. Rates are set by the City Council on a semi-regular basis after collection costs are more definitive. The rates are set at a Public Hearing at a regular City Council meeting. 

Okay, so two cats walk into Town...one has a license and the other doesn't - who's in charge?

catsThat's an easy one. The Peninsula Humane Society. Since 1952, San Mateo County has contracted with the Peninsula Humane Society for animal control services (field and sheltering services). All 20 cities in the County, including Atherton, have in turn contracted with the County for these services. 

Mostly because of the State-mandated minimum service level requirements, the cost for the Town to provide the services independently is too high. Presently, the Town pays $52,000 per year for basic animal control services and another approximately $5,500 per year as part of a zero-interest payment for constructing a new County animal shelter.  

Rail / Rail Station / Caltrain

I see them working on the historic rail station, what’s happening there?

caution tapeThe Town has been very vocal with Caltrain in an effort to get them to maintain the Atherton Station in a proper manner. The Town does not own or maintain the Station. The property it sits upon and the station itself is owned, operated, and maintained by Caltrain (separate legal entity).

Over the years, the condition of the Station has deteriorated. While the station is not on the historic records, it is considered "historic" by the Town. Presently, Caltrain has hired a contractor to assess the condition of the Station and make appropriate repairs. The window frames must be specially ordered and the wood must be specially milled. Temporary repairs are being put into place while waiting for receipt of the speciality items. The Station is getting a fresh coat of paint and being generally cleaned up.

The Town's Rail Committee discusses the Station frequently at their meetings and may make separate recommendations to the City Council for consideration of its maintenance, ownership, and condition.
Are they ever bringing daily rail service back to Atherton?

caltrainThey (Caltrain) have said they would. It was a commitment given as part of the Environmental Report for Electrification. They have committed to returning basic daily service to the Town of Atherton. For some that's interpreted to mean a regular, hourly schedule throughout the entire week. For others that's interpreted to be much more vague and flexible - such as two trains (one each way) in the morning and two trains at night. Caltrain holds the cards in this game and there are pros and cons of the return of full service to the Atherton Station - train noise, the need for a set of quad gates at the Watkins crossing, parking, etc.

So, yes - they have committed to bringing daily service back to the Station - the question remains, however, when and how much. 
Is the Town suing Caltrain? 

Yes. The Town presently has an active legal action against Caltrain for the Environmental Impact Report on Electrification. Some of the issues raised are the study of alternative train technologies, quad gates at Watkins, service to and condition of the Atherton Station, and others. A legal action against an Environmental Impact Report provides the agency the opportunity to apply more environmental study and focus to issues raised in the legal action; however, it does not represent a legal action to stop the project.

The Town hopes to resolve the issues at play in the legal action in a timely manner.

Energy and Green Building/Resources

Are there ever going to be any public use electric vehicle charging stations in Town?

electric charging stationI'm so glad you asked! The Town is presently completing a grant application to consider the installation of electric vehicle charging stations at a couple of parking spots in the Park and at the Caltrain station here at the Civic Center. There are different types of charging stations that the Town can consider - basic level, quick charge, etc. There are grant opportunities out there that will assist with the installation. Beyond the stations themselves, the Town must provide electricity runs to the locations, dedicated parking spots, and a methodology for fee. 

I would like to underground utilities along my frontage, can that be done?

Wires01.jpgYes. That was the easy part. Making it happen is a bit more complicated. The Town has access to what are called Rule 20A funds. Essentially, these are funds collected by PG&E (separate legal entity regulated by the State Public Utilities Commission not the Town) from ratepayers (you). The Town accumulates these funds over time and can use them on projects in the community that are most used by the general public. This is typically interpreted to be major roadway areas or civic center areas through the Town. The Council must determine that the funds can be allocated based on one or more of the following criteria:

  • undergrounding will avoid or eliminate an unusually heavy concentration of overhead facilities;
  • the street or road or right-of-way is extensively used by the general public (heavy pedestrian or vehicular traffic)
  • the street or road or right-of-way adjoins or passes through a civic area or public recreation area of general public interest
  • the street or road or right-of-way is considered an arterial street or major collector.
That, as I said, is the easy part. PG&E allocates approximately $25,000 per year to the Town under Rule 20A. The Town has accumulated just over a $1 million. That amount will underground about 1/4-1/2 a mile of non-high-voltage utility lines. That's not much. The Town is considering use of these funds to assist in the utilities in and around the Civic Center Project (portions of Fair Oaks, Ashfield, and Maple). 

That said - yes, the utilities along your frontage can be underground via an Underground Utility Assessment District. Residents in a particular area can ban together to form such a District. Votes have to be taken by the members of the District, fees paid to complete an engineering study for the area, PG&E looped in to design an appropriate network, and then a vote by the City Council to approve the District and conduct the project. The property owners in the District are responsible for the cost to underground the utilities based on the sizes of their parcels and frontage. It is not an inexpensive undertaking. Property owners can pay the assessment upfront or pay it via their property taxes over a period of 20 years. 

If you are interested in exploring an underground district in your area, contact Gordon Siebert, Town Engineer

Is the Town participating in the County's clean energy program?

Yes we are. The County's Clean Energy Program is an exploratory program in the County exploring the feasibility of creating a San Mateo County Community Choice Aggregation Authority (CCA) for electricity. 

At this point, the feasibility study is underway and the Technical Advisory Committee (on which I and a member of the City Council sit) are reviewing feedback, public comment, and results. The Town has provided authorization for the County to use the Town's aggregated electricity information to determine feasibility. 

If at the end of the day, it is determined that the County can form an Electricity Aggregation Authority, agencies will have the opportunity to consider whether to join or not to join. If the Town joins the CCA (also known in San Mateo as Peninsula Clean Energy), residents in Atherton are automatically enrolled in the CCA and would have the opportunity to "opt out" over the initial period (State law set it up that way - opt out only not opt in). If the Town decides not to join the CCA, residents are not allowed to participate at all. 

There is no fiscal risk to the Town joining the CCA or not joining the CCA. The Town itself could join the CCA and choose to continue its electricity service from PG&E and still allow residents the choice of PG&E or other alternative energy providers. 

If you would like more information on this project, feel free to drop me an email.

Is the Town subsidizing green building implementation?

Not yet, but the Council will be considering the issue in September 2015 at their regular meeting. The State provides green building standards and guidelines. The Town is in compliance with those guidelines. However, the Council will be considering whether to subsidize the permit fee for residential solar installations. If you would like more information on green building standards and guidelines, feel free to contact our Building Official Brett Hale

Is the new Civic Center going to have a green component?

Definitely. This has been one of the hallmarks of discussion for the new Civic Center. The City Council hired WRNS Studio (the project architects) specifically because of some of their recent work in this area. 

What that looks like, how it is integrated, what the incremental costs might be, Gold, Platinum or Silver LEED certification, and other issues have not been worked out fully yet, but as the project moves along the Committee will be putting more focus in this area. 

Follow the project via the Town's Project website.


What’s the Atherton Fiber project? How do I get it? When do I get it? What if I don't want it? How much does it cost?

So many questions! Most of those details have yet to be worked out. The project is still in the early stages (at least with the Town). The Atherton Fiber Project is a private endeavor not led or driven by the Town. It is expected that Atherton Fiber will work with the Town via a Development Agreement authorizing their efforts and use of the Town's right-of-way for the project. Initial estimates put the project in motion by the end of the year. 

More detail of the project can be found via the Town's project website

Residential properties in Atherton often have security cameras that assist the Police in investigation of burglary suspects. Has the Town ever considered its own security cameras at key locations around Town?

Yes we have. In fact, if the Atherton Fiber project moves ahead, the Town will ask for a separate fiber trunk reserved for future Town use. When the fiber project was first envisioned, the Town envisioned using the system for emergency notification, traffic signal management, security management, street light management, information sharing, and other traditional network communications. Security was a component of that thought.

At this time however, there are no planned cameras or security locations along public streets or intersections. We will be placing security cameras in the Park at key locations to assist law enforcement.
Can the Town stop cell site installations?

No. The federal government is all over this one and when the federal government occupies the field, there is no room or ability for local government to intervene. We can, however, regulate time, place, and manner of these installations. What this means is that while we cannot deny an installation, we can condition the installation to mitigate its impact - think cell-tower trees, screening vegetation, painted installations, hours of work, etc. 

The Town recently adopted a very restrictive ordinance that provides us with the ability to more closely monitor and regulate new installations and modifications to existing installations. 

But - bottom line, we cannot deny the installation. We do not have the ability to question any health-related compliance or FCC compliance requirements. We can require reports validating compliance but we cannot deny or comment or condition based on those issues. Frankly, I wish it were different and that the Town had more control than it does, but we do not. 

Neighborhood Issues and Traffic

I’ve heard that there is a process to get a speed table or speed hump in my neighborhood. Is this true?

We are working on that. The Traffic Safety Committee recommended that the City Council consider creating a Neighborhood Traffic Management Plan to address traffic issues and needs in a systematic and fair way throughout Town. There will be criteria against which to measure the issues on a particular street (speed, traffic volume, visibility, accessibility, etc.). These criteria will assist staff and the Traffic Safety Committee when they are faced with a request for a speed table or roundabout or other traffic control device in a neighborhood. 

There will be a series of public outreach meetings in the Fall 2015 to gather local input on the project. Watch for News Flash information via the Town's website for more information.

The web is saying that El Nino this year is supposed to be huge. What is the Town doing? What about that Drainage Master Plan? 

El ninoEvery August/September, Public Works is tasked with creating/updating the Town's Storm Response Plan. We validate contact numbers, sandbag locations, number of sandbags, known drainage problem areas, etc. Staff begins an extensive program of storm drain clearance, channel maintenance, vegetation clearance and trimming. As winter approaches, staff begins setting out barricades at known flooding locations, sandbags, and other materials needed during a heavy storm event to assist with emergency response. Notices are sent out to the community (electronic news flashes) advising on winter preparations and storm preparedness. Staff monitors emergency operations channels and participates in weather/hazard conference calls throughout the season with the County and State Offices of Emergency Preparedness. That's all preparation and event related response. 

But what about that drainage master plan? That's a plan that is in the process of update. The preceding link will take you to the Drainage Master Plan webpage that provides updates on the progress of the Master Plan. It is currently in the process of moving to the City Council for discussion at an upcoming Study Session. The Plan Document (over 200 pages) was presented to the Council for receipt at the July Council Meeting - here's a link to the digital document.

Please take some time to review the document. The document highlights the known problem areas in Town as well as addresses future storm water issues. Overall, improvements and solutions highlighted in the plan total approximately $41 million. Because the Town has limited funding resources, selected improvements must be prioritized by the City Council over the course of the Town's Capital Improvement Program. On average, the Town can fund about $2 million per year in capital infrastructure improvements. Revenue to the Town's Capital Improvement Program is primarily from the Special Parcel Tax allocated at $1.48 million per year. The rest is from grants or special intergovernmental funds (gas tax, transportation tax, etc.).

Nearly $1 million of the $2 million in annual capital expenditures on infrastructure is directly related to roadway maintenance - the rest (about $1 million) is spread across the other priorities in Town - park improvements, bicycle and pedestrian pathway improvements, traffic control devices, street light maintenance, drainage issues, and public facilities. 

We can all do the math, but assuming the Town allocates about $500,000 a year to spend on drainage improvements alone, unless there is additional funding, that's a fairly long time before the Town can make a significant dent in the infrastructure needs identified in the Report.

The Town continually seeks out grants and other funding opportunities, to include the possibility of drainage improvement districts to generate independent funding. Nevertheless, limited funding options will force the Town to prioritize the improvements over the course of multiple years to address the issue.  

What is it that the Code Enforcement Officer does?

As some of you may know, the Town used to employ a part-time (16-20 hours per week) code enforcement officer. This wasn't working very well and resulted in the Town addressing issues on a complaint-basis only and being unable to address many issues at all. 

As a result, the Town stepped up the game and hired a full-time code enforcement officer working out of the Police Department. Monica Diaz (mdiaz@ci.atherton.ca.us) is the Town's Code Enforcement Officer/Community Service Officer. Monica works cooperatively with the Building Official, Arborist, and Town Planner to address issues related to zoning, illegal construction, general property maintenance, trees, and safety. Monica is working proactively to address illegal encroachments into the Town right-of-way (rocks, vegetation, planter boxes, etc.) as well as illegal construction (working without a permit, working outside construction hours, etc.). A typical code enforcement process begins with Monica making initial contact with the property owner. Monica will investigate the potential code violation with the property owner. If it is determined that a violation exists, the property owner will be given an opportunity to comply. Depending on the severity or safety concern presented by the violation, the timeline for compliance will vary. Often, the period is 30-60 days.

If after 30-60 days the property owner has not brought the property into compliance, a more formal process will begin. Formal written notice of violation will be presented to the property owner asking again to bring the property into compliance. If there is no compliance after a compliance period, a final notice is issued advising that if compliance cannot be achieved, the Town may be forced to determine whether the violation constitutes a public nuisance and order abatement (that's a public hearing process before the City Council). If the property owner still does not bring the property into compliance, ultimately the City Council must declare the property a nuisance and order abatement. If at last chance the property owner does not comply, the Town will obtain a warrant to enter the property and remedy the violation. The costs to remedy the violation, plus administrative overhead, are assessed as a lien against the property. That full process can take a year or longer. 

Most of the time, property owners bring issues into compliance within 30 to 60 days. If you have an issue or concern, feel free to send it off to Monica and she will get back to you directly. 

I still see rocks in the right-of-way - isn't that illegal?

Yes and no. The Town is updating its encroachment ordinance to require the filing of a revocable license for improvements in the right-of-way. The standards for improvements allowed within the right-of-way has not changed. Rocks, boulders, and other similar objects are allowed within the right-of-way provided that they are at least 6 feet back from the edge of pavement. Obstructions such as the preceding that are within the 6 foot area are illegal. 

It is important to maintain a safe-harbor for the passage of pedestrians, bicycles, and vehicles. The roadway shoulder (Town right-of-way) is that safe harbor. There are standards for development within that right-of-way and property owners are allowed to make improvements in that area that are consistent with those standards. For more information on what is or is not allowed within that area, check out the City Manager's Blog and/or contact Steve Tyler, Public Works Superintendent (styler@ci.atherton.ca.us)

There's a tree in front of my property between my fence and the street, who's responsible for it?

treesYou. Most, if not all property lines in Atherton technically extend to the center of the roadway. From the centerline back to a point certain is the "dedicated public right-of-way" designed for permanent roadway and shoulder (utilities). Your front property line for the purposes of setbacks and development is set back from the edge of pavement somewhere between 5 and 20 feet (typical in Atherton) - it varies throughout Town.

The Town's Municipal Code echoes State law (Streets and Highways Code) in making the adjacent property owner responsible for maintenance and liability within that area of the public right-of-way between the edge of pavement and the developable line. That means that you as a property owner are not only responsible for maintenance of the trees within that area to ensure that their canopy is high enough above the roadway to allow pedestrian and vehicular access, but that in the event of failure of that tree, you are responsible for clearance of the right-of-way (street and shoulder).

This is where the issues of rocks in the right-of-way become extremely important. If a property owner were to maintain rocks (or anything hazardous for that matter) within the public right-of-way in a manner that caused damage to property or harm to a person moving in, on, or through that right-of-way - that property owner (not the Town) can be held liable as they have duty to maintain that area free of hazard. The standards that the Town has established set the standards for maintenance of that right-of-way.  

Who is responsible for El Camino Real?

El Camino Real is a 6-lane State highway. All improvements to State highways are Caltrans projects. As owner-operator of the State highway system, Caltrans is responsible for the operation, maintenance, and tort liability after construction. As a result, all project planning, design, and construction must be performed in accordance with Caltrans standards and according to Caltrans project development processes. Caltrans is responsible for providing for the authorized expansion or modification of improvements proposed by others to the existing system. Caltrans has full jurisdictional authority over project planning, design, and implementation on State highways.

As a stakeholder, the Town provides input and recommendations into that process and can even participate financially to assist with priority projects. Under an agreement with Caltrans, the Town maintains the landscaped median and vegetation within the right-of-way. 
Bottom-line, the roadway from edge of right-of-way to edge of right-of-way is the responsibility of Caltrans. 

There's a construction project in my neighborhood and they have a truck parking in front of my house. Can I stop them from parking there?

construction parkingNo. The public roadway easement (inclusive of the shoulder) as discussed above is by definition public. A property owner cannot prevent someone from parking a vehicle in front of their property along the public frontage. 

That said - there are several issues at play in the above question. The first is the size of the vehicle and its exact location. A vehicle cannot block a driveway, a mailbox, or prevent the safe ingress and egress from a driveway. So, if the vehicle is a large truck parked to block your driveway - you can force them to move it. If it is blocking your mailbox and preventing delivery - you can force them to move it. If they are preventing the safe ingress and egress from your driveway due to the size of your vehicle - you can force them to move it. In any of these situations, the Atherton Police Department is happy to assist. 

The second issue is construction parking. When the Town issues a building permit for construction on a residential property we also educate the contractor about the requirements for parking and the creation of a construction operation and parking plan. These are standards and not law, but are associated with a validly issued building permit and can be enforced. The standards require that construction parking shall be located on-site or within the public right-of-way, only in front of the construction site and on the same side of the street as the construction site. Sometimes this is difficult to do and there are exceptions granted, but in general, the goal is compliance with the standards. 

If you are having issues with a particular construction site and associated parking, feel free to contact our Building Official Brett Hall (bhale@ci.atherton.ca.us)
I sometimes see sprinklers running in the Park, is the Park subject to the State water restrictions?

Park water used for irrigation is non-potable water (from 2 different wells). The irrigation water is not subject to the State's mandate. Nevertheless, the Town is taking steps to conserve in all areas. In concert with close monitoring for some of the specimen species in the Park, Park irrigation has been reduced by 20% from 2013. Except for sprinkler maintenance, sprinklers are used only during the hours of 8 pm to 8 am. Staff does not water for a period of 48 hours after 0.1" of rain. Trees are manually watered during the day to sustain tree health. For more information, feel free to contact Steve Tyler, Public Works Superintendent (styler@ci.atherton.ca.us). 

Town Administration and Finance

What is the Town's annual expenditure budget for operations?

Pie_Chart.jpgThe Town's Operations Budget supports the general services of the Town. Town operations consist of City Council, Administration, City Attorney, Finance, Planning, Building, Police, Public Works, and Interdepartmental. The Town's Operations Budget for Fiscal Year 2015/16 is $11,798,069.

Broken down by each of the above departments that's:
  • City Council - $57,356
  • Administration - $708,845
  • City Attorney - $204,000 
  • Finance - $647,238
  • Planning - $211,598
  • Building - $1,249,285
  • Police - $6,348,657
  • Public Works - $1,819,467
  • Interdepartmental - $551,622
What is the Town's annual expenditure budget for capital projects?

The Town's Capital Improvement Program is funded from various sources. The largest source of funding for capital projects is the Special Parcel Tax that provides $1.48m in revenue to the Capital Improvement Program (CIP). The Town uses a 5-Year CIP calendar to forecast revenues and expenditures within the CIP. Only the single current-year is budgeted. The next 4 years are forecast. With the Civic Center Project, likely the largest single capital project the Town has undertaken, the CIP budget for the next couple of years is significantly inflated. 

In Fiscal Year 2015/16, the Town has budgeted $5,707,000 in expenditures. Of this total, nearly $2.5m is associated with the Civic Center Project. The remainder is a typical annual CIP program. Projections in Fiscal Year 2016/17 are similar - $33,103,000. Of that total, $30.7m is the Civic Center. The Civic Center Project trails off in Fiscal Year 2017/18 reflecting only $1.7m of a $3.7m budget. The CIP returns to normal levels in Fiscal Year 2018/19 with a $2.1m budget. 

Without the Civic Center Project, typical CIP expenditures are related to drainage improvement projects, street projects, park projects, and facility projects. 

What are the Town's primary revenue sources?

green-dollar-sign-clipart-green-dollar-sign-4.jpgFor the Town's basic operations, the primary revenue source is property taxes. Of the typical general revenue year to year of $12.5m, $8.5m is from property tax sources. The Town budgets revenues conservatively and does not include potential one-time or at-risk revenues in its operations budget expectations. Overall revenues to the general fund break down as follows:
  • Property Taxes - $8,475,862
  • Sales Taxes - $295,172
  • Franchise Fees - $834,935
  • Intergovernmental - $42,378
  • Business Licenses - $219,514
  • Planning Revenue - $245,100
  • Building Revenue - $1660,830
  • Police Revenue - $99,171
  • Public Works Revenue - $268,755
  • Park Program Revenue - $152,299
  • Miscellaneous Revenues - $324,276
Beyond these revenues, the Town has also traditionally received funds from the State called Educational Revenue Augmentation Funds (ERAF). ERAF funds are at-risk revenues that the Town does not use as part of its base operations. When ERAF funds are received, the Town either uses them to address long-term liabilities or one-time capital projects. The Town has traditionally received approximately $1m in ERAF revenues. The Town's general fund also receives a portion of the Special Parcel Tax (20%) - $372,000. Because this is an fund transfer in for a specific purpose (police services), the Town adds it to its annual revenue after funds are totaled.

Does the Town have a Reserve?

rainy dayfund.jpgYes. The Town has 3 reserve categories. The first is a 15% Emergency Reserve. This Reserve is 15% of the Town's annual operating costs - that $11.7m from above. The second Reserve is a 20% General Reserve - 20% of the Town's annual operating costs. These two Reserves total approximately $4m.

New for Fiscal Year 2015/16 is a Capital Facility Replacement Reserve. The Town has been remiss in saving for long-term facility replacement. The Fiscal Year 2015/16 budget attempts to start forward on the right path of establishing a reserve to replace the Town's buildings in the future. This reserve is not for current buildings, rather, it is to replace the new building as part of the Civic Center Project after their useful life - 50 to 70 years ahead. 

Beyond these amounts, the Town will typically have an "unappropriated general fund balance" - this is the amount held by the Town beyond its operating needs and reserve requirements. 
How many staff are employed by the Town?

The Town has 39 full-time staff. These are distributed across the various departments as follows:

  • Administration - 3
  • Finance - 3
  • Building - 1
  • Public Works - 3
  • Police - 29
Beyond these full-time staff, the Town also has 18 contract staff working at various different capacities. These are distributed across the departments as follows:

  • City Attorney - 2
  • Planning - 3
  • Building - 5
  • Public Works - 5
  • Engineering - 3
In total, there are 57 staff working for Atherton residents.
Does the Town make money on our Park?

Yes, but not really. Revenue from Park activities totals approximately $277,117. It is broken down into the following categories:

  • Social Fees - $47,000
  • Meeting Fees - $30,000
  • Class Fees - $20,966
  • Weddings - $23,000
  • Park Day Use Fees - $13,133
  • Administrative Fees - $18,200
  • Knox Playschool Lease - $78,118
  • Tennis Revenue - $46,700
Maintenance of the Park falls in costs directly related to supporting the programs (Park Operations Vendor, Tennis support) and costs related to maintenance. These total $606,577. It is broken down as follows:

  • Park Maintenance - $434,827
  • Park Programs - $137,250
  • Tennis - $34,500
Netting these out, the Park is subsidized by the Town's General Fund every year. In Fiscal Year 2015/16 that subsidy is $329,460 or 54%. 

Does the Town have any long-term debt? What about pensions or other liabilities? What are you doing about them?

The Town does not have any long-term debt. However, the Town does have pension and other post employment benefit obligations (OPEB). The Town's OPEB liability is at the 90% funding level. The Town has a Irrevocable Trust established to fund the future OPEB liabilities. The Town has fully funded past liability and has funded the Trust to the 90% level with the remaining 10% representing potential future liability that may or may not be earned depending on the length of service of current employees. 

The Town's pension obligation is controlled largely by CalPERS. The Town has paid off all side-fund liabilities from the 90's; however, CalPERS has recently stepped up its desire to ensure that its pension programs are fully funded. CalPERS has established a rate structure - agency by agency - to "catch" up over the next 5 years. The Town's pension rates are set by CalPERS to reach that goal. Employees pay their own share of the pension obligation. 

The Town does not participate in Social Security.

How do I find out more information?

The Town's website has a plethora of information at your disposal. 
If you have additional questions, feel free to contact myself or Robert Barron, Finance Director (rbarron@ci.atherton.ca.us). 

Town Capital Infrastructure

When is that new Civic Center going to be built?

civic_center.jpgThe Civic Center Project is expected to "break ground" in late 2016. There are a lot of things that that projection depends upon - funding, completion of design, permitting, and outside agency cooperation. The Project has a project webpage that is kept as up to date as possible and the Civic Center Committee meets regularly on the 1st Monday of each month at 4:30 pm in the Town Council Chambers. 

One of the key features of the potential design is the realignment of the roadways through the Civic Center to create a more pedestrian-centric environment that can be used for years to come by our residents. 

We encourage your participation in the project as much as possible. In the fall, as the architect begins the Schematic Design Phase there will be a series of community outreach meetings soliciting your feedback on the exterior design of the buildings. At this time, the programming (i.e. what's going inside) has been worked through and the architect is putting the finishing touches on that conceptual design plan. That is expected to go to the City Council in September or October 2015. 

How often is the road in front of my house going to be resurfaced?

roadconstructionequipment3-300x299.jpgIn short - every 5 to 7 years the Town will inspect and make some sort of repair to the every roadway in Town.

The Town has all of its streets and roads on a Pavement Management Program. A good pavement management program extends the life cycle of a roadway and includes the patching of failed pavement sections, crack sealing, and roadway resurfacing. A solid and consistent pavement management program is a planning and budgeting tool that helps communities make more consistent, cost effective and defensible decisions and what to do and when to do it. The cost of repairs to a roadway will increase if not done at the appropriate time. Delaying roadway improvement projects results in more costly improvements when they are ultimately undertaken.

The Town conducts physical inspections of every roadway on a regular basis and inputs that information into the pavement management program which in turn analyzes the data in concert with actual field inspections. On average, the Town will conduct some sort of physical roadway improvement on every roadway every 5 to 7 years.

For specific questions about your street, feel free to contact Steve Tyler, Public Works Superintendent (styler@ci.atherton.ca.us)

I heard there was a project for bicycle and pedestrian path throughout town. What's the status of that project?

Atherton.pngThe City Council approved the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan and it is now in the Phase I Implementation Phase. Most of this phase consists of the installation of signage and pavement markings facilitating Class III bikeways. 

The Town has a project website and an active Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee

The limits of the Phase I project (Class III) is defined below:

  • Elena Avenue – between Valparaiso Avenue and Atherton Avenue;
  • Faxon Road – between Barry Avenue and Elena Avenue;
  • Barry Lane – between Faxon Road and Atherton Avenue;
  • Selby Lane – between Atherton Avenue and West Selby Lane;
  • Dinkelspiel Station Lane – between Watkins Avenue and Fair Oaks Avenue
  • Austin Avenue – between Atherton Avenue and West Selby Lane;
  • Atherton Avenue – between Alameda De Las Pulgas and El Camino Real;
  • Fair Oaks Avenue – between El Camino Real and Middlefield Road;
  • Alejandra Avenue – between El Camino Real and Emilie Avenue;
  • Emilie Avenue – between Alejandra Avenue and Park Lane;
  • Park Lane – between Emilie Avenue and Camino al Lago;
  • Camino al Lago – between Park Lane and Alameda de Las Pulgas; and
  • Watkins Avenue – between El Camino Real and Middlefield Road.
I keep hearing about these hawk beacons. What are they? What do they look like? How do they work?

Hawk Light.jpegThere are 3 HAWK Beacons slated for installation on El Camino Real in Atherton. Two are funded entirely by Caltrans at the intersections of Alejandra and El Camino Real and Isabella and El Camino Real. The timeline for these installations is Fiscal Year 2016/17.

The third HAWK is being installed at Almendral and El Camino Real. This HAWK is funded in partnership with the Menlo Park Fire Protection District. 

HAWK Beacons are effectively pedestrian activated stop lights for vehicles traveling along El Camino Real. The lights will be dark until activated by a pedestrian. Once activated, the lights flash yellow (caution), then flash red, then go to a solid red. At solid red, the lights act like a stop light for all vehicles traveling on El Camino Real. As the pedestrian crosses, the lights can return to flashing red (proceed when safe) and then go dark. 

Here's a video of one in action in Crescent City. Atherton's will have one signal head per lane of travel. 

What’s going on with the Park Master Plan?

The Park Master Plan has been accepted by the City Council and implementation is underway in Fiscal Year 2015/16. The current year budget's CIP has $225,000 budgeted. Projects for Fiscal Year 2015/16 are:

  • Renovations of various plantings around the Park
  • Corp Yard and Preschool Relocation Studies
As these and other projects progress, the City Council may review improvements at mid-year (January 2017) and consider moving up Fiscal Year 2016/17 projects. These projects include:

  • Pedestrian Circulation - reconstruction and repair of various path links and addition of lighting fixtures
One of the concerns is that given that the Little League facility just completed and the Park Foundation will begin renovations to the Event Garden, the Town does not want to overload the Park with construction activity. 

More information on the Park Master Plan can be found on the Town's website

Street lights have always been an issue in my neighborhood. Some neighbors want them, some don’t, some want LEDs. Is the Town working on anything on the topic of Streetlights?

Led_street_light_beam_pattern.jpgYes. One of the projects in the Town's CIP is the Series Street Light Replacement Program. Of the approximately 248 Town-owned street lights, approximately 40 are powered by high-voltage series circuits. These will be replaced. Part of the project also involves an analysis of the Town's overall street light program and the implementation of LED street lights at key locations. Further, the project will involve making recommendations on other issues such as upgrading to the remainder of the Town's lights to LEDs, purchasing the approximately 185 PG&E owned distribution lights and seeking an alternative maintenance provider.

Pilot projects will be initiated to assist residents in the area in selecting appropriate LED lights. Some LEDs are brighter than others and some have different color variations that become important when viewed at night. The Town will seek input before making any significant installations. These days, most, if not all of the installations can be retrofit into existing light standards and designs. 

Whew! That was a lot of information. I'm willing to bet there are a few typos in the mix here and there. Please take a read and send me your comments. I am happy to answer any questions or elaborate further on any of the issues listed. And remember, watch for opportunities to provide feedback to the Town via our Open Town Hall website!

Have a great weekend!

George_2.jpgGeorge Rodericks
City Manager
Town of Atherton
(650) 752-0504