Rick’s Semi-Annual Letter to Atherton Residents

This is my semi-annual letter to Atherton residents to update you on the critical issues before the City Council. After Atherton opened the new Town Center earlier this year, the largest issue before the City Council has been how to comply with state housing requirements. This letter principally addresses those housing issues. Atherton also has an election because four candidates are running for three seats. My re-election letter is attached to this email here. If you would like to read my areas of focus in this election, please open the letter. Also, attached here is a form that I encourage you to fill out if you would like to support my re-election; however, this letter is not principally about elections, it is principally intended to keep you informed about what I believe to be the biggest issues before the council. Accordingly, the focus is on housing:

Housing and Affordable Housing in Atherton

Atherton, like every other municipality in California, is required to comply with the Housing Element requirements under the state’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), as administered by the state Housing and Community Development Department (HCD). Over the past 4-5 years, the state legislature has passed bills to require an increase in housing, based on the theory that an increased supply will reduce the cost and improve the affordability of housing in California. The RHNA guidelines are supposed to increase supply and affordability, but to date they have largely benefited developers at the expense of local control (by city councils) and affordability has not improved.

In the last housing cycle administered by HCD (2015-2023), Atherton was obligated to zone for 94 new housing units. In the new housing cycle (beginning January 31, 2023), Atherton is obligated to zone for and see built 348 new housing units (an increase of 375%). Atherton objected to this significant increase because, unlike many other cities and towns, Atherton has no undeveloped property on which to build, other our only park (Holbrook-Palmer Park) and adding housing to our park would remove the only recreational resource in Atherton.

Atherton’s outsourced planning group initially insisted that to comply with the 348 RNHA housing requirement, that the city council must zone for denser development than is currently allowed. The planning group recommended that the city council add “Overlay Zoning” to authorize property owners to build 6-20 townhouses per acre on specifically identified lots in Atherton (generally on busier streets and near the periphery of Town). After initial consideration, the Council decided against this suggested density increase because we realized that with property costing approximately $8M per acre, no matter how dense the allowed development, the housing that would be built would never be able to be affordable if the developer had to purchase the land. Further, we heard from several hundred residents that they didn’t want townhouse development in Atherton. In general, Atherton residents have spent dearly to buy into a community that is semi-rural, quiet and not crowded.

I believe that the ONLY place that townhouses can reasonably be in Atherton to yield affordable housing is on existing school property. Because land is so expensive in our Town, affordable housing can only be built by the existing landowner and the ONLY realistic location for that housing to be built is on current school property. This is not a small matter in Atherton because we have seven schools in Town and on every school day Atherton’s population just about doubles with the influx of students and school staff. Accordingly, there is an enormous need at each of these schools for affordable housing for their teachers and staff.

Based on this strategic understanding that the only realistic affordable housing in Atherton must be built without a required purchase of new land, the Town’s recently submitted Housing Element to HCD relies on a strategy to (1) enable and incentivize schools to build townhouses on their land for their teachers and staff and (2) encourage residents to build and rent ADUs (accessory dwelling units) on their property. The incentives for residents to build new ADUs (and to qualify existing pool or guest houses as ADUs) are (1) the square footage of any ADU (separate from the main house) or JADU (within the main house) is excluded from the maximum allowable square footage on the property and (2) if we get sufficient interest to build ADUs, then we should be able to avoid a requirement to approve denser development.

Over the next few months, the city council and Town staff will design a comprehensive program to incentivize residents to build ADUs to satisfy the bulk of our RHNA housing obligation and we will be asking residents to confirm that they are interested in building these ADUs (or converting pool or guest houses to qualify as ADUs). This will need to be a very robust program to satisfy HCD that Atherton will build sufficient ADUs to satisfy a large part of our RHNA housing obligation. Staff will also be working with the schools to encourage and incentivize them to build housing for teachers and staff on their land.

Please send me your thoughts.  I respond to every email that I receive from an Atherton resident.  Please note that there will be public meeting on the Housing Element at 6 pm on Tuesday, October 11th.  

Warm regards,

Rick DeGolia



May 2022 Housing Update

Dear Friends and Neighbors:

This is my periodic personal letter to Atherton residents on issues that I view as important to Atherton. I send this to solicit your views. I respond to every response that I get. The principal subject of this letter is HOUSING and how state housing mandates will impact Atherton.

The Background on Housing

You may have read about the state housing mandates that are being applied to every municipality in CA. The State Housing Department (HCD) has been authorized to require every city in CA to increase its new housing (2023-2031) by approximately 400% of what was required in the last eight-year cycle (2015-2023). For Atherton, over the next few months, we are required to authorize (and demonstrate a likelihood to build) 348 new housing units that will be built between 2023 and 2031.

Atherton is currently zoned only for single family homes (except for school, Town and Circus Club property). Most of this new HCD requirement will be satisfied by alternative dwelling units (ADUs) to be built in our backyards. Our planning consultants estimate that HCD will not accept more than 35 new ADUs a year in Atherton. That gets us 80% of the requirement. When we add potential lot splits and staff housing that could be built at schools (only one of which has indicated an interest), we get within 10% of the requirement. The Planning group is recommending that the Council not remove any of our single-family zoning, but that we add the ability of a few property owners to build townhomes on their properties at a density of up to 10 units per acre. This is called Overlay Zoning because those properties would be authorized to build EITHER a single-family home and an ADU or townhomes on their lot.

Initially, the Atherton Council considered the recommended overlay zoning only on a property on Oakwood Aveue that is literally adjoining Redwood City, on five properties on Bay Road that face smaller Menlo Park lots across the street, and on a few properties on Marsh Road approaching Middlefield Road. After the last council discussion, the Town organized a community meeting in Holbrook-Palmer Park at which several residents expressed interest in townhomes that could enable seniors or other Atherton residents to downsize and remain in Atherton without having the property management responsibilities that they currently have. This is consistent with the Planning recommendation and would be limited to fewer than 10 properties, but this is still a significant zoning change for Atherton.

At the HPP public meeting there were also some who advocated that Atherton refuse to cooperate with the state mandates and agree to pay the considerable fines. The problem is that non-compliance doesn’t only incur substantial fines, it also involves the state taking over local zoning. Opposing the state mandates may be a good long-term solution. I believe that these mandates will be changed in the future, but that won’t address the short-term requirements that we have for this year. In my opinion, the last thing that Atherton residents need is for Atherton to become a target for those who would go to great lengths to assert far more undesirable zoning than we would approve ourselves. I do think that because of the number of ADUs being built that Atherton can satisfy the current requirement without much disruption. My real concern is where these state mandates could go in the future.

It is important for those you with opinions on this subject to share your opinions with members of the Council. We have spent an enormous amount of time on this issue and we want to get it right. Your perspective is extremely important, so please share your thoughts.

Thank you for listening.

Rick DeGolia

2020 Update on Atherton Issues: November election, Fire Services and Possible Closure of Caltrain Station

Friends and Neighbors,

This is my semi-annual letter to Atherton residents to share my perspective on issues before the Council and to seek your views. My comments do not speak for other members of the Council in any way. Please don’t hesitate to respond to this email with your thoughts and concerns. I respond to every email or phone call that I get from an Atherton resident. 

In this email, I address the pandemicthe November election for Atherton and two very large issues: the Fire Services issue (should we leave the Menlo Park Fire Protection District), the Caltrain Station issue (should we support Caltrain to close the Atherton Station).

The Pandemic

I hope that you and your family are safe and well during this extremely challenging time. So that I don’t get complacent, I keep reminding myself that this pandemic is a once in a hundred year event and that in 1918-20 the worst impact of that flu pandemic occurred in late fall and early winter after the disease became prevalent in the spring and summer. Of course, I hope that doesn’t happen this year, but I use that information to prepare myself for more difficult times. I am proud that Atherton has taken this pandemic extremely seriously and that we have been very conservative, while working to enable re-engagement where it makes sense. The result has been no known infections among our staff and greatly reduced scheduled use of Holbrook-Palmer Park, while enabling construction to resume with appropriate rules and precautions to protect construction workers and residents.

The November Election for Atherton

  This November’s election will be the first election for the Atherton Council in six years. I believe that there were no challengers in the past two elections because the Council has been extremely effective, collaborative and responsive to the electorate. This Council has been the longest standing Council (6 years) in Atherton history. Also, it is only the second Council (the other one being the first council that was elected in 1923) where all five members were originally elected vs. appointed. Unfortunately, the Fire Services issue has severely divided our Council. I hope that this will be addressed in this election. Diana Hawkins Manuelian, a new candidate, and Elizabeth Lewis, our incumbent councilwoman, strongly oppose detachment from MPFPD and I am, therefore, supporting them. If you are interested in their views, please visit their webpages and especially look at Diana’s excellent video. I believe that the re-election of Elizabeth and the election of Diana would be a good step for Atherton.

Diana’s Web page — http://dianahawkinsmanuelian.com
Diana’s Video on YouTube — https://youtu.be/hrdiUt-i86s
Elizabeth’s Web Page – http://www.elizabethlewis2020.com


Fire Services Issue

The Fire Services Issue is rooted in the fact that Atherton residents pay approximately $13M to the Menlo Park Fire Protection District (MPFPD) in property taxes, representing about 16.5% of our property tax dollars. This compares to about 8.5% that goes to the Town of Atherton and roughly 16% that goes to your elementary school district. As the total amount of property tax paid by Atherton residents has increased over the past 20 years, the 16.5% of taxes paid to the Fire District has increased, but the cost of delivering services to Atherton hasn’t increased at a commensurate rate. The Fire District has five stations that provide significant service to Atherton, one is in Atherton and the other four totally surround us from Alameda, to downtown Menlo Park, to Middlefield Road to North Fair Oaks. Over the past 20 years and looking into the future, the critical new investments by the Fire District have been in other portions of the district, not in Atherton. The result of these taxes and expenses is that Atherton residents provide approximately 35% of MPFPD tax revenue and the cost to deliver services to Atherton is somewhere around 10% of all MPFPD expenses. 

Some residents have observed this discrepancy for years, but the problem is that the property tax rates were set up by Proposition 13 in 1978 and can only be changed by an act of the state legislature. One of the first things that I did upon being elected to the Council in 2013 was to meet with Jerry Hill to explore the likelihood of changing that tax allocation. The answer: absolutely no way.

MPFPD is a district that serves Atherton, Menlo Park, East Palo Alto and unincorporated portions of San Mateo County, such as North Fair Oaks and Ladera, among others. The proponents of detachment say that the way to rectify the “inequity” of Atherton contributing roughly 35% of the MPFPD tax revenue and receiving much less of the service expense is by leaving the district and finding another services provider or threatening to leave the district in order to force the district to enter into a contract where the Fire Board would agree to share with Atherton some of taxes legally awarded to them under Proposition 13. 

In my opinion, there are four significant problems with this proposed “solution”:

First, Atherton gets excellent service from MPFPD. No one disputes this, but many object to how much we pay. Detachment proponents observe that there is only one station in Atherton and that we would get better service if there were a second station; however, in addition to the station on Almendral, there are four MPFPD stations that literally surround Atherton. No other fire services provider could begin to provide coverage as thorough as that provided by MPFPD.

Second, the only alternatives to MPFPD are Redwood City Fire, Woodside Fire, Cal Fire and Atherton organizing its own fire department. No one is advocating for Atherton to form its own fire dept. There is no evidence that one of the other districts would want to take on serving Atherton, given the dispute with MPFPD and due to the fact that both RWC and Woodside Fire departments are represented by the same union as MPFPD.

Third, even if Atherton were to leave MPFPD over this tax and expense discrepancy, Atherton residents would not pay one cent less of property taxes. We are required to pay our 1% of property taxes under Prop 13, no matter what. In a detachment, MPFPD would continue to get some of our taxes for pensions and other committed expense, our new services provider would get an amount approximately equal to the cost of services and the remainder of our property taxes would go to San Mateo County to be redistributed to all of the tax recipients today. The amount of those allocations would be agreed to in a tax agreement to be negotiated between Atherton and the SMC Board of Supervisors. The consequence is that detachment would involve zero reduction of tax payments by Atherton taxpayers and Atherton would assume significant risk by with replacing MPFPD with another services provider.

Fourth, detachment would be devastating to MPFPD, resulting in massive furloughs of staff and an enormous reduction of service to the rest of the district. The community that would be most devastated by Atherton’s departure would be East Palo Altand, in my opinion, there is no way to justify Atherton’s removal of taxes from MPFPD to the enormous detriment of EPA.

Essentially, I look at our Fire Services situation as I look at insurance: it is expensive, but necessary. Of course, I’d like MPFPD to do some additional things for Atherton that are within its calling. I believe that it is possible to negotiate some benefits within their areas of responsibility, but I don’t believe that they will do that so long as the threat of detachment is hanging over them. I am also certain that there is absolutely no way that they would agee to a tax agreement to divert to Atherton any of the property tax than they are legally entitled to under Prop 13. None of us like how much property tax we pay, but it is not something that our City Council can control. We pay more taxes to all other agencies than we receive in services. To me it’s essentially insurance and MPFPD is positioned to give us the best possible fire and medical services and they have done that. 

Finally, I know that for an actual application for detachment to move forward, there has to be another service provider who is willing to replace MPFPD. I don’t believe that there is one and even if there were, I am certain that the Board of Supervisors would never approve a tax agreement with Atherton that would effectively be to the detriment of East Palo Alto, Menlo Park and unicorporated county areas. Because I don’t believe that there is a realistic possibility that Atherton could in fact detach, it is a waste of staff time and taxpayer dollars for us to be considering detachment and this has generated serious ill will with MPFPD.


The Caltrain Station Issue

Caltrain has avoided investment in the Atherton station for years. Due to the very low daily ridership from the Atherton station, Caltrain closed the station to weekday service in 2005. Weekend service averages 114 riders a day. The Atherton station requires passengers to cross the southbound tracks to get on a northbound train. Consequently, trains moving in the opposite direction from a train in the station must stop and “holdout” from the station until the train in the station has departed. With electrification Caltrain must reconfigure the Atherton station to eliminate this “holdout” configuration. Caltrain estimates that it will cost $30M to upgrade this “holdout station” configuration. Accordingly, in order to avoid a $30M capital expense and because we have very low ridership and because Caltrain would save 5-10 seconds for every train trip without the Atherton Station, Caltrain wants to close the Atherton Station.

Atherton has had train service since 1863 and our longest serving council member, Malcolm Dudley, was instrumental in getting Caltrain funded when it was first formed. There is a lot of history here. I believe that the station is a significant benefit to Atherton residents who use it and it is certainly an asset that is valuable to all of us, so it makes no sense to consider supporting its closure unless there are significant benefits offered to Atherton in return.

The benefits that Caltrain is offering to Atherton are as follows:

1. Obtain significant safety improvements by removing the existing station platform, fencing off the tracks with an attractive metal fence and installing quad gates across Watkins Ave. that would be similar to what we have on Fair Oaks Lane.

2. Enter into a Maintenance Agreement to enable Atherton to include the Caltrain property and station into the Town Center and obtain much needed additional parking.

3. Explore the SFPUC and Caltrain rights of way next to the tracks south of Watkins to build a bike/pedestrian pathway to enable residents to more easily get to the MP station.

Of these benefits proposed by Caltrain, the use of the Caltrain property to improve parking and the installation of quad gates on Watkins are significant. We definitely need more parking at the new Town Center, and we could incorporate the train station into the infrastructure in a very useful and aesthetically pleasing manner.  The installation of quad gates on Watkins would enable Atherton to declare a Quiet Zone throughout the Town, meaning Caltrain engineers would be prevented from blasting the train horn anywhere in Atherton, unless there is an emergency. Extending the Fair Oaks Quiet Zone through Watkins could motivate Menlo Park to establish a Quiet Zone at Encinal Ave. Establishing the Fair Oaks Quiet Zone during my first term as mayor was the single most beneficial thing that we did during that term as a Council.

Given that Caltrain has the legal right to close the station without providing any benefits to Atherton, my judgement is we should obtain these benefits and make the best of an unfortunate situation. We all know that Caltrain is experiencing extremely difficult times as a result of the pandemic (their ridership numbers have dropped more than 90%), so we have to see how this plays out. I believe that they will find the $7-9 million that they estimate it will cost to provide these stated benefits to Atherton.

A quick comment on the Census: The 2020 Census is about to close. For those who have not yet completed the Census, you can go to my2020census.gov to fill out your questionnaire. For questions, call (844) 330-2020 (English) or (844) 468-2020.

Rick DeGolia
Mayor, Town of Atherton and member of the City Council



Atherton Update 2019: Burglaries and the new Town Center

Atherton’s current City Council members: Bill Widmer, Mike Lempres, Vice Mayor Elizabeth Lewis, Mayor Rick DeGolia and Cary Wiest
Dear Friends and Neighbors:

This is my periodic letter summarizing major issues (as I see them) before the City Council. I have been honored to represent you on the Atherton Council since 2013. Please​ feel free to forward this to other residents. I encourage you to share your reactions and opinions with me on any Atherton issue. I respond to every​ email that I receive from Atherton residents. 

Atherton Town Center 
As you no doubt are aware, Atherton’s complete rebuild of our library, police station and administrative offices is the largest project that Atherton has ever undertaken by an order of magnitude. This completely redesigned and rebuilt parcel near the train station will replace outdated buildings, temporary trailers and a large parking lot with a modern buildings and a park-like town center to help our staff better serve our residents and enable the Town to hire and retain top quality employees. Utilities have been laid and new foundations are nearly complete for both the library and the admin/police facilities. The Historic Town Hall has been gutted (90 years old and no termites) and interior work will proceed throughout this winter. Over the next year, you will see these buildings framed and the new site configuration defined. The project is on time and on budget. The new buildings are scheduled to open in late 2021.

This construction is funded with current and limited future general funds. The short term future funding will be financed through a lease arrangement called Certificates of Participation; however, the Council has agreed to enable a donor who makes a 100% tax deductible donation of at least $5m to the project to name the new street that will run past these buildings and connect Fair Oaks Lane and Ashfield Road.  If we obtain this $5m donation, we will not need any Certificates of Participation.

In addition to naming rights for the new street, residents are encouraged to review many other naming opportunities associated with this major project, which will be described in a December issue of the Athertonian. If you are interested in considering naming the new street or any other naming opportunity, please contact me or George Rodericks at (650) 752-0504.

Finally, the Town Center will not be connected to any natural gas meters. All of the Town Center’s power is expected to come from solar panels pursuant to a power purchase arrangement to be considered by the Council next year. In addition to providing day-to-day power, these panels and batteries will serve as back up and reserve power in the event of a power shut off and they will keep our critical facilities in operation. From the beginning, I have been a strong advocate for this center to be the first Zero Net Energy civic center in California. It still has the opportunity to be that.

Home Burglaries and Safety

Last winter, Atherton experienced 20 home burglaries between November and February. The burglars all followed a similar pattern: breaking into a window or glass door in the back of a house (usually on the second story) and ransacking the master bedroom and closet, looking for cash and jewelry. Atherton’s police force has been been very focused on breaking the ring responsible for these crimes and so far this year they have not returned. APD is using sophisticated technology, including automated license plate readers, to defeat the criminals. The Council is focused on protecting our neighborhoods while providing civil liberty protections by insuring that only necessary information is collected and that all information is very protected.

Congestion, State Housing Mandates and our Quality of Life

As many of know, in the last state legislative session a bill, SB 50, would have authorized 4-5 story multi-unit housing complexes on any property within a half mile of any train or BART station and within a “jobs rich area.” This bill would have overridden local zoning and, to add insult to injury, it would have authorized this housing with zero requirement for parking. Now, that might work in an urban area, but it definitely doesn’t work in Atherton or for many suburban communities where every family has at least one car and almost all the housing is single family houses. The Council is committed to fighting this or any similar bill. It remains a major issue for us over the next year.  

I wish you a wonderful, safe holiday season. If there are any issues that you are concerned with that impact Atherton or your neighborhood, please contact me.

Thanks for listening. If you are interested in participating on the Atherton Parks and Recreation Committee (focused on Holbrook-Palmer Park), the Environmental Programs Committee or the Atherton Bike-Ped Committee, please let me know.
Rick DeGolia
Atherton City Council
Council member Rick DeGolia

Update on Atherton Issues

Dear Friends and Neighbors:

This is my periodic letter regarding Atherton and the City Council. If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to respond. I answer every communication.

The Council has been working in an extremely open and cooperative manner for three years. 2016-2018 is a period of unprecedented Atherton Capital Improvement Projects. That is what I focus on here, but I will start with a short note on the Parcel Tax.

Parcel Tax: Measure F
Measure F is on the ballot for this Tuesday. PLEASE VOTE. It is important that we continue this tax for three years so that we can continue to use its funds to afford two police officers (including our school resource officer) and continue to invest in our important road maintenance programs. This is only a three year measure because in three years we should free up the projected surplus that is fully committed to help pay for the town center. This $750/parcel goes 100% to our police and roads, plus some to drainage. We need your vote now.

Marsh Road Drainage Project
In 2016, we completed a $4m drainage project to rebuild the Marsh Rd portion of the Atherton Channel and install a new, award-winning safety wall to keep cars out of the channel. This was the most costly project in Atherton’s history. We also installed the first pedestrian-initiated streetlight on El Camino Real at Almendral, where a pedestrian was killed two years before. CalTrans is now installing two more in Atherton and 13 on ECR.

HPP Water Capture Facility
In 2017, CalTrans awarded Atherton a $13.6m grant to build a water treatment and retention facility. This is designed for placement under one of the fields in Holbrook-Palmer Park. It will enable Atherton to satisfy our storm water treatment obligations to remove road-based waste from the Channel. This is the first of 5-6 similar CalTrans funded projects around SF Bay to control storm water pollution. Atherton will support the Bay cleanup, we will get a very significant supply of clean water for our park, it will enable us to manage excessive flows during large storms and we will get significant upgrades to our entry bridge, our irrigation system and the field under which the facility is built. It will be very disruptive for two years during construction. The Council has the right to walk away once we have seen the design and can weigh the costs and benefits. There is no cost to Atherton.

Atherton Town Center
In 2018, Atherton will start construction on our new town center. This $52m project includes $17m for the new library and $1m or so from a proposed CA Energy Commission grant to pay for solar panels, which would make this the FIRST Zero Net Energy civic center in California, resulting in greatly reduced operating costs after completion in mid to late 2020.

This new town center will include a complete reconfiguration of the streets in the current parcel surrounding the train station. Ashfield Rd will end at our historic Town Hall (which will become part of the new library) and a new street will connect Ashfield to Fair Oaks Lane. If you or someone you know would like to name that new road, please contact me. There are several naming opportunities within this project.

The new town center is being paid for with a combination of private donations and 100% of our unreserved, unallocated general fund surplus; however, we would like to increase private donations to enable us to use the surplus for other capital improvement projects, so please support this important community improvement with a tax deductible gift.

Please Vote on November 7,

Rick DeGolia
​Atherton City Council​
Atherton, CA 94027
650.793.2800 (m)

Spring 2017 Update on Atherton Issues

Friends and Neighbors,

[Note: This is my periodic letter summarizing major issues (as I see them) before the Town Council.  ​Please​ ​forward this to other residents.  If you wish to be removed from this list,​ ​just​ let me know. I encourage you to share your reactions and opinions with me ​on any Atherton issue. I respond to each​ email that I receive from Atherton residents​.]
There are lots of issues before the Council this spring, including neighborhood traffic matters, construction issues, safety on El Camino, Holbrook-Palmer Park, train noise and Surf Air, but by far the biggest issue is the new Town Center.  ​On about ​May 10 you will receive a mail ballot on funding for the new Town Center. This is an extremely important ballot. Please return it ASAP! Here is the background:
We are at the end of the fourth serious review of Atherton’s critical need for new facilities for our police and town staff.  The current facilities are crumbling.  Our staff work out of 60-90 year old buildings and seven temporary trailers that don’t comply with code, are not suitable for the electronic age and are falling apart. Click on this to see the condition of our ​current ​facilities.
This isn’t new information. Atherton has created three prior resident committees over the past 20 years to replace these facilities, but each effort failed for lack of funding. Atherton has never created a facilities replacement fund.  This is a major mistake.
Four years ago, Atherton launched a fourth attempt to correct this with a master plan design process that included hundreds of residents and was followed by hiring WRNS Studios, a highly regarded SF-based architect with excellent work in our area. Our focus has been to fund the design and construction with private donations. Atherton Now, a resident organization, was formed to raise the money.  Unfortunately, over the past 3 years they only raised about $7m, $18m less then their target.  The current design and estimated construction costs are $43.1m.  Of this amount, $17m are library expenses that will be covered by library taxes and $2.9m are covered by dedicated building dept. fees, but that leaves (after current private donations) a shortfall of $16.2m.  We have three options: (1) delay the project until we raise more private donations, (2) seek to pass a bond that with interest and other expenses would cost Atherton residents about $10,000 per household or (3) supplement private donations with existing and near term general fund surplus.
Some residents have called for us to downsize the current design, but this design has been seriously downsized.  The operable facilities for police and admin are about the same square footage as we currently have.  If there is any error in the size of this facility, it is that we have erred to not allow for future growth. These facilities are expected to last for 75 years.  We need to be forward thinking, not shortsighted.  We have spent $3m on the design.  We need to build this one way or the other.
Just look at the cost of other local public facilities: a 23,000 square foot addition to Menlo Park’s library would cost $32.3m.  Our 19,000 sq ft police/admin facility will cost $26.6m.  A 50,000 sq ft Palo Alto police facility is estimated to cost $75.3m. It is VERY EXPENSIVE to build police facilities. Atherton has managed the design costs very carefully. This is a great solution for Atherton. NOW WE NEED TO BUILD IT.
Folks: This is a huge project for Atherton.  It is an order of magnitude bigger than any other project in our history.  Just think about our employees: They drive 30-100+ miles to get to work and they work in crowded, crumbling facilities and trailers.  We need this project to hire and retain our high quality staff.
This year, the City Council created a funding plan that will use current and future unrestricted, unallocated general funds to supplement private donations to build this project. We currently have $12.5m of these surplus funds.  This is sufficient to get the construction started.  We expect about $7.5m of additional surplus funds over the next four years.  This is sufficient to complete the project.  If we have unexpected costs, either related to the project or otherwise, then we can borrow a small amount of money to cover the difference. This plan does not cancel any approved capital improvement project.  It will delay future capital improvement projects because it will use up to $16m to fund our biggest and most important capital improvement project! The value of this funding plan is that (A) we don’t delay the project (which is very costly) and (B) we don’t create any new tax or other fee on our residents to complete the project.  This is the best plan that the Council and our financial advisers have come up with. This is the issue that will be on your mail ballot.  Please vote yes to support this funding plan and to get this Town Center built without new taxes.

Attached are (1) images of the new facilities and (2) a summary of Measure A issues.
Warm regards, Rick DeGolia
Rick DeGolia
​Atherton City Council​
84 Clay Drive
Atherton, CA 94027
Three conceptual images of the new Atherton Town Center
Investing in the Future of Atherton
10 Things You Should Know


  1. What is Measure A?

Measure A is an Atherton ballot measure for the June 6, 2017 election. It allows the Town to use limited, non-restricted and unallocated public funds to supplement existing and future private donations to construct the New Atherton Town Center.

  1. Why do we need a New Town Center?

Atherton’s existing Town Center buildings are falling apart and past the end of their useful lives. Watch this video to see the current condition of our Town’s facilities.

  1. Why do we need Measure A approval?

$7 million has been privately donated to date. However, $15.3 million more is needed to construct the New Town Center. Approving Measure A allows Atherton to move forward with construction of the completed design that is already paid for with private donations.

  1. Why now?

The design is now complete and has been paid for by private donations. Construction bids will be received by the end of the year. We cannot proceed without all of the funds identified to complete construction. Measure A allows Atherton to prudently use available nondedicated, unrestricted, and unallocated public funds to supplement private donations.

  1. Can Atherton afford it?

Yes. Atherton’s financial condition is very strong. Sufficient non-dedicated, unrestricted, and unallocated public funds have been identified to prudently invest now, and throughout completion of the project, without sacrificing other critical projects.

  1. Will Measure A cut funding for currently approved Atherton capital projects?

No. All existing approved capital projects will continue to be 100% funded.

  1. Will Measure A lead to higher taxes or resident fees?

No. Measure A will not increase resident taxes or fees in any way.

  1. Who supports Measure A?

100% of the Atherton City Council. 100% of the Atherton Civic Center Advisory Committee, numerous other Atherton Civic Leaders, and hundreds of your fellow Atherton residents.

  1. How do I vote?

Measure A is a vote-by-mail ballot. You will receive your ballot in your mailbox the week of May 8, and the final date to return it is June 6, 2017. Measure A will be the only item on your mail-in ballot. Please make sure to open, review, vote YES, and return ballot by mail or drop it off in the Atherton Post Office ballot box before June 6, 2017.

  1. Where can I get more information about the New Atherton Town Center?

Go to the Town’s Website and click on the Civic Center Project link on left side menu. Or email MeasureA@outlook.com with your questions.

December Letter to Atherton Residents on City Council Issues

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