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 This completely redesigned and rebuilt parcel near the train station will replace outdated buildings, temporary trailers and a large parking lot with a modern buildings and a park-like town center to help our staff better serve our residents and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

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