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
YES on MEASURE A
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

 

Dear Friends & Neighbors,

This is my periodic letter summarizing major issues (as I see them) that are before the Atherton Town Council.  You are welcome to forward this to any other residents.  If you wish to be removed from this list, please let me know.  I encourage you to share your reactions and opinions with me on the items that I have addressed, and on those that I may have omitted. I respond to every email that I receive from an Atherton resident.

Atherton Police Department Toy Drive Flier
Click to enlarge

I wish each of you a wonderful holiday with family and friends.  In the spirit of the holidays, the Atherton Police are conducting a toy drive for students at Selby Lane School.  Please bring new, unwrapped toys for kids 5 to 11 yrs old to a box in the entry lobby to the police/admin building.  Please circulate the attached flyer.

I want to start by restating that it is a genuine honor to represent you and to work to improve our community.   This is my principal non-profit work and it has been very rewarding.  I strongly encourage you to consider getting involved in our community and there are numerous ways to do that.  You can do so by getting together with me to talk about Atherton, by attending a committee or Town Council meeting or by volunteering for one of the many civic committees that are active in Atherton.  I am always happy to talk to you about this.

I am addressing five issues in this letter and I encourage you to read all of them or to focus on those that interest you.  They are:

  1.      Atherton’s new Civic Center
  2.      Road Safety
  3.      Peninsula Clean Energy
  4.      Noise: the Train and Surf Air
  5.      Atherton Taxes

I see these as five issues that we face, but there are also important issues that relate to Holbrook-Palmer Park, drainage concerns, construction related problems, new bike lanes and more.

The New Atherton Civic Center

This project has been going on for three years (and that ignores the previous 20 years over which three attempts were made to replace our crumbling civic center).  Our architects, WRNS Studio, have been working for two years.  We are very close to completing the design for new library, police and admin buildings and a complete change to the Town’s 4.8-acre parcel near the train station from an automobile-centric parcel to a pedestrian-centric parcel.   The replacement of the current dilapidated buildings is essential to attracting and retaining highly qualified staff who protect and serve our community. I also believe that this project is critical to creating an attractive center in Atherton where the community can come together.

The latest designs for these buildings are attached to this email.  These designs should be completed by February, construction documents should be ready by the summer and construction should begin in a year.  These designs are excellent.  They are attractive, understated, very utilitarian and highly efficient.   IF we get the grants and the funding to pay for the solar panels and other less costly energy items, our civic center will be the FIRST Zero Net Energy civic center in California, which will be something that we can proudly point to as it will greatly reduce the facility operating costs and it will lead the way for others (both residents and municipalities) to learn from.

In order to make this a reality, we need to raise additional tax-deductible private donations from everyone in Atherton.  I encourage each and every one of you to dig deep and contribute to this center, which will serve our community for the next 50-70 years.  We have invested nearly $3m in this design process and WE WILL BUILD THIS CENTER, BUT WE NEED YOUR HELP!!  Toward this goal, we have a $1m matching offer with $500K left that expires December 31, so please participate.  If you know anyone who is interested in naming a building, an outdoor area or a new street after themselves or their favorite person or concept, please call me.

Road Safety

Atherton has struggled with this issue for decades as cut through traffic has increased and we have seen many deaths and injuries on El Camino Real.  When I joined the Council three years ago, the focus was on speeding traffic and deaths and injuries on ECR.  The leading proposal was to reduce ECR from 6 to 4 lanes on the theory that this would make it safer.  The Council decided to first look at the facts and we discovered that over the prior 14 years there were 39 deaths or serious injuries on ECR, but that 36 of those occurred when people tried to cross the road (often at one of the five unprotected crosswalks).

The Council is pursuing the following three major things to address this issue:

·      Protecting three of the unprotected crosswalks on ECR with pedestrian-activated streetlights at Almendral, Alejandra and Isabella.  I also predict that in 2017 a solution will be agreed to for the Selby Lane crossing, which would leave only Stockbridge as unprotected.

·      The Town is conducting a Complete Streets study of ECR to assess how to improve safety in coordination with Menlo Park and Redwood City.

·      We adopted a Neighborhood Street Protection Plan that empowers residents to identify streets with serious cut through traffic problems and sets up a process to authorize traffic calming devices to discourage it.

Peninsula Clean Energy

In 2015, I worked with others in San Mateo County (SMC) to organize Peninsula Clean Energy (PCE), San Mateo County’s new electricity provider.   PCE is a joint powers authority made up of all 20 cities in SMC and the unincorporated county.  Approval of PCE was the FIRST item ever to come before every city council in the county that received 100% of the possible council member votes.  PCE began its launch in October and will complete the launch in April.  It is the first start up that I’ve worked on that within one year of hiring its CEO will have a $250m per year run rate.  PCE will provide much cleaner and cheaper electricity to our residents than is provided by PGE.  PGE will still provide all service calls and all billing, but PCE will outsource the electricity that is delivered to our residents, cities and businesses.  Initially, this electricity will be 75% greenhouse gas free and 5% cheaper than PGE.  To illustrate the impact that this is having, watch the news because to fulfill its electricity delivery commitments, PCE will be enabling several entirely new solar facilities in the central valley that would not have come into existence without PCE purchasing 100% of the renewable energy that they will produce.

Noise: The Train and Surf Air

Noise remains a major issue in Atherton.  In 2016, we made a major leap forward by establishing THE FIRST QUIET ZONE on the CalTrain tracks. While a few CalTrain engineers seem to take delight in blasting the train horn north of Fair Oaks, this is mostly being adhered to and it has significantly improved the quality of life for those that live close to the Fair Oaks tracks.  Our next task is to improve the Watkins crossing to enable us to establish a Quiet Zone at Watkins.  This will likely take two years, but it has begun.  I am proud that Atherton has showed the Peninsula that it is possible to establish a Quiet Zone on the CalTrain tracks.

With respect to Surf Air, they continue to fly their planes with far more noise than other pilots who fly the same equipment into San Carlos Airport.  This is a major problem.  I believe that Atherton showed real leadership by publicly taking on Surf Air and by suggesting that this is principally a problem for the Board of Supervisors.  San Carlos is a county airport, so the Board needs to take the lead to get Surf Air to change their operating procedures or to find another airport.  I am proud of the effort Atherton made that resulted in the FAA supporting a new, good weather flight path over the bay.  While this new flight path has improved the quality of life for many residents, it hasn’t solved the problem.  More work is required on this issue.

Atherton Taxes

Everyone knows that we pay a lot of property tax.  What everyone doesn’t know is that Atherton only gets about 8% of the general property tax.  The rest goes to the Fire District, the Schools, the County and others listed on your bill.  Because Atherton gets almost zero sales or use tax because we are a residential community, we have a parcel tax to retain our police force and to keep up our roads.  Over the next year, the Council will look at alternatives that could replace the parcel tax in part or in whole.  There are four alternatives that are being considered are 1) retain the parcel tax ($750/parcel for most residents), 2) add a business tax that would be paid by those doing business in Atherton who aren’t sole practitioners, 3) replace the parcel tax with a utility users tax that would tax our utility use and 4) replace the parcel tax with a property transfer tax that would subject any real property transfer to a fee (to implement this Atherton would have to become a charter city).  Any tax, including renewal of the parcel tax, will need to be placed on the November 2017 ballot. I am very interested in your opinions on these four options.

What I haven’t addressed in this tax outline is any additional tax to supplement private donations to pay for the civic center.  I will address this in a letter that I send out in March 2017, but I don’t believe that an additional tax will be necessary.  We have a general fund surplus because of a state rebate program, called ERAF.  I expect that this surplus combined with what we select from the above four options should be enough to supplement private donations and pay for the civic center.

I want to repeat that it is a real honor to represent our community as a member of the Town Council and on the SMC Library and PCE Board of Directors.  If you have comments or would like to talk, please send an email.  I look forward to meeting each of you.

Happy Holidays,

RickSignature

Rick DeGolia

84 Clay Drive
Atherton, CA 94027
650.793.2800 (m)

April Letter to Atherton Residents

Dear Atherton Friends and Neighbors:

I hope that you are well and enjoying the resurgence of Spring that came from this much needed late April rain.  My garden is showing its thanks in so many ways!

This email will address (1) a summary ​of​ your responses to the Open Town Hall Project, (2) the opportunity and value of joining one of Atherton’s committees which have several openings and address important quality of life issues for all of us, and (3) an outline of the current concept for a 10 gigabit fiber network in Atherton.

Open Town Hall

The Open Town Hall Project enables you to identify your priorities for the City Council​ over this year.  ​Here ​are the results to date: (I identify the number of votes and points are 3 for #1, 2 for #2, 1 for #3.​)

_______________________________________________

Traffic Issues (mostly ECR, but also school traffic) 26 votes, 54 pts

Gigabit Fiber Network 18 votes, 36 pts

Drainage Issues 17 votes, 36 pts

_______________________________________________

Balanced Budget 13 votes, 30 pts

Bicycle/Pedestrian Paths 14 votes, 23 pts

Civic Center Project 10 votes, 23 pts

_______________________________________________

HSR Issues 9 votes, 17 pts

Crime Prevention 8 votes, 13 pts

Aircraft Noise 7 votes, 14 pts

Train Quiet Zone 7 votes, 14 pts

Park Improvement 5 votes, 12 pts

​If you haven’t voted, go to ​http://www.ci.atherton.ca.us/OpenTownHall​

Atherton Town Committees​

​Atherton has key committees that review issues within their subject matter areas and provide much needed advice to the City Council.  These committees provide opportunity for residents to get involved with community issues, to work closely with other residents and to have a real impact on policies in Atherton.  At different points in our lives, we each get involved with what we consider meaningful non-profit work as a way to “give back”​.  These committees engage in community-oriented non-profit work that can be both engaging and fulfilling.  This work helps shape the future of our Town.  I strongly encourage you consider joining a committee of interest to you.  I am happy to talk to you about any of these committees and to address any questions that you may have. Here are the openings:

Audit/Finance Committee2 openings – recommends action on tax and spending issues that impact the Town of Atherton.  This committee meets once every other month on the second Tuesday at 2 pm.

Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory CommitteeNewly formed committee – will recommend implementation of new bicycle and pedestrian paths in Atherton.  Meeting times are not yet established.

Environmental Programs Committee 3 openings – provides leadership on water management, energy efficiency and sustainability issues.  This committee meets once every other month on the second Monday at 4 pm.

Park & Recreation Committee2 openings – provides guidance on programs, maintenance and policies related to Holbrook-Palmer Park. This committee meets on the first Wednesday of each month at 6:30 pm.

Planning Commission2 openings – focuses on land use, zoning and related issues.  This commission meets once every month on Wednesday at 6 pm.

Ad Hoc Telecommunications Committee – currently focuses on issues related to improving broadband and cellular connectivity in Atherton.  This committee meets on the first Tuesday of each month at 4 pm.

To fill out an online application for one of the vacancies listed in the Town Committees above click here . You may also  download the application and drop it off at Town Hall.

Proposed Atherton 10 Gigabit Fiber Network​

​​​The idea for a gigabit fiber network in Atherton grew out of discussions at the Ad Hoc Telecommunications Committee, which was established in June 2014.  After initially considering the state of broadband networks in Atherton and the difficulty associated with townwide WiFi, the Committee asked staff to send a letter requesting Information​ from all known and likely broadband network providers to see what they would propose to build a robust fiber network in Atherton.  We sent the letter in July 2014 and received no responses.

Beginning in September 2014 a resident began to explore creating a private company (comprised of residents) to design and deploy a robust fiber network in Atherton.  Over the past eight months the conceptual design for this effort has begun to take shape.  This group has engaged a design firm (Byers Engineering) that has designed many fiber networks. Byers is now in the midst of the Atherton design effort.

The concept for this network is that if following completion of the design, the private entity determines that projected costs are within the target zone, then it will hire a construction firm to lay underground fiber along our streets and throughout the Town.  Residents would be offered the ability to purchase the right to receive and own a bundle of four fibers (each providing up to 10 gigabits of bandwidth with current equipment and up to a terabit in the future) which will connect to a central office where network service providers (Comcast, AT&T, Google, Sonic etc.) could lease rack space and offer broadband service.  For residents that don’t want to purchase the four fiber bundle, the company would locate a single fiber at a connection point on the street in front of each resident’s house at no cost. This fiber would be owned by the company. Residents would be responsible to connect the fiber(s) from the street to their homes, which connection could be independently contracted or offered by the construction company or its sub-contractors for a fee.

​Service providers would offer service (which could include Internet, cable, phone and other broadband service)​ to all residents that connect to the fiber network.  The network wouldn’t be owned by the Town, it would be owned by the individual residents and the private company, but it would be independent from the service providers.  A key goal is to expand the capability of the Atherton Library to offer library services to its service population.  The 21st century library has to be about information management and we’d like to enable our new library in the Civic Center to gain lease access to this network and thereby provide residents with library services and programing in your homes.  The goal would be to offer basic Internet service to all those connected to the network at no charge.  Residents could pay for upgraded services, such as Netflix, movies, phone, cable and enhanced Internet service, just as you do now, but basic Internet and library programming would (hopefully) be at no cost.

​Besides enabling the library to be at the forefront of defining the 21st century library​, one great advantage of this system would be that the service providers would not own the fiber network.  For those residents that purchase the four fiber bundle, the fiber would be owned by the resident.  For others, the fiber would be owned by the private company.  In both cases, the cost of broadband service should be greatly reduced because there will be competition amongst service providers to offer services over this network. We will also protect future access and cost.

Please note that the foregoing description is entirely conceptual and subject to significant change.  I wanted to share this with you because I think that it is extremely exciting and a great improvement for Atherton and for our library.

My next month’s email will address traffic issues in Atherton.

If you find these emails interesting, please pass them on to your friends and neighbors. I’m happy to add any Atherton residents to this  list and to take anyone off who prefers not to receive these emails.

Warm regards,

Rick

Rick DeGolia
Mayor 
Town of Atherton​
84 Clay Drive
Atherton, CA 94027
650.321.7707 (h)
650.793.2800 (m)
www.rickdegolia.com

 

Atherton Green Building Subcommittee to the Civic Center Advisory Committee

img_65855_primaryThe Civic Center Advisory Committee (CCAC) has created a green building subcommittee. The subcommittee will focus on green building design, energy efficiency, and what is involved in a Zero Net Energy facility. The committee has defined its initial goals to be discovering what are the options for our new civic center from a green building perspective. This includes understanding the costs and benefits. Zero Net Energy facilities are designed to reduce total facility costs, when you factor in the ongoing operating costs of a facility.

The committee is looking to tap residents with green building interests and experiences to assist the subcommittee in developing ideas. If you are interested please send an email to Theresa DellaSanta at tdellasanta@ci.atherton.ca.us

Rick DeGolia

650.321.7707 (h)

650.793.2800 (m)

July 2014 Update on Atherton Issues

Dear Friends and Neighbors:

rickdegoliaIt has now been eight months since I was elected to the City Council.  I am writing to give you a summary of my view of the issues before the Council and solicit your advice.  Please pick the issues that are of most interest to you in this long email.

In brief, my experience on the Council has been extremely interesting.  I think that I have materially contributed to move important issues forward, such as the troublesome aircraft noise problem around Middlefield Road and the Parker Street zoning matter, and to help foster a good working environment on the Council.  I feel lucky to be a member of this Council during a time when our finances are healthy and we can focus on major strategic issues, such as road safety, safe routes to school for our children and preparing for a new center in Atherton with the Civic Center project.   I hope that many of you will join in supporting these important efforts.

My contact list has grown over the past year and if you prefer not to receive this type of email, please let me know.  If you have thoughts on one or more of the following topics (or on other issues of concern), please do not hesitate to respond to me at this email address or by mail at 84 Clay Drive or call me at (650) 321-7707.

Here are the most important issues, as I see them:

Fiscal Management

In general, Atherton is in very good fiscal shape.  This is due to three main reasons: excellent cost containment decisions by the Council over the past 5 years, very good stewardship and management by our City Manager, Police Chief and other town staff, and a recovering real estate market that has resulted in increased revenue due to (i) a rapid catchup of the reduced property assessments that occurred during the 2008-9 recession and (ii) the sale and reassessment of an average of three properties a month with new, significantly higher assessed values (and the town receives about 8.5% of the property taxes that we all pay).

This has enabled the Council to pay down a significant portion of the town’s unfunded pension and retiree healthcare liabilities, which in turn reduces our annual operating costs due to reduced annual payments.  To add to this, in 2013, the Council approved a new contract with the police which increases employee pension and healthcare contributions, thereby reducing the town’s annual contractual cost by about 7.5%.

The long term result of this increased financial stability is that it enables Atherton to make some long overdue infrastructure investments.  We currently have four master plans which are designed to identify key capital improvement projects.  I believe that it is important for the Council to create a mechanism for residents to weigh in on which of these projects you consider to be the priorities.  I would like to see us use multiple touchpoints to obtain your thoughts and priorities on these projects and I would appreciate your opinions.

Safety First in Atherton

Atherton’s most significant road safety problem is El Camino Real.  This reality was recently made obvious by the July 23 pedestrian death on ECR at Almendral.  The principal problem is that it isn’t safe to cross six lanes of highway without a street light and it isn’t safe to walk or ride a bike along ECR, where there are neither sidewalks nor pathways.

One issue is that ECR is managed by CalTrans, not Atherton.  We have proposed and CalTrans has agreed to deploy two pedestrian-initiated street lights at Isabella and Alejandra.  There is also a discussion to do the same thing at Selby.  Finally, the Council has authorized a study to assess reducing ECR from 6 lanes to 4 lanes.  I support all of these efforts, as well as increased enforcement of the speed limit on ECR.  I believe that it is critical that Atherton take the lead to make it safe for our residents to cross this highway that cuts through our town.

Civic Center Project

In 2012, Measure L, which asked if Atherton should primarily use private donations to construct and design a new Town Center, was supported by 73% of the voters.  As you are probably aware, the City Council has approved a master plan for a new civic center near the train station and the town has engaged a project management firm to oversee the design and construction of this major, multi-year project. This project will not just provide Atherton with a modern police station and library, it will replace all of the temporary buildings and reshape the town’s 4.8 acre parcel along the train tracks from what is largely a parking lot into a real town center where people can come together.  It is important that, as the design takes shape, the Council actively reach out to you to obtain your thoughts, comments and input because this will be most significant project in Atherton’s history.

Holbrook-Palmer Park Master Plan

The second master plan focuses on the Holbrook-Palmer Park, which I believe to be Atherton’s greatest asset. The Council reviewed a preliminary version of this master plan that largely targeted an off leash dog area and modifications to some of the pathways to make them more convenient for walkers. The Council asked the consultant to include an assessment of the uses and conditions of the buildings in the park.  There are currently three privately funded projects in various stages of work/review, including improvement of the Little League field, creation of an event garden next to the Pavilion and restoration of the Carriage House.  This master plan will provide the framework for better managing the park and determining how to properly maintain the facilities and planting material that are the town’s investments in the park.

Pedestrian and Bike Path Master Plan

The third master plan focuses on how to create safe routes to school for children riding bikes and safer bicycle and pedestrian paths for our residents.  I consider this to be an extremely important plan because it involves the safety of our streets, and if done right, it should help relieve some of the traffic congestion that we experience around our schools.

The safety on our streets has to start with El Camino Real.  We need a safe way for people to cross ECR, whether on foot, on bike or in a car.  There should be a fair amount of foundation, state and county funding available to help with improvements to our streets to establish bike and pedestrian paths.

Drainage Master Plan

The fourth master plan concerns drainage in Atherton.  The Atherton Channel can handle a seven year storm, but it needs repair and maintenance and a more significant storm will result in considerable flooding, as we have experienced in the past.  There should be funding sources outside of Atherton to help with these expenses.

Aircraft Noise

It was approximately one year ago that Surf Air began flying into San Carlos Airport.  Almost immediately, residents who live under the San Carlos Airport GPS Approach path began to complain about the 6-12 very noisy aircraft per day operated by Surf Air that were interfering with their quality of life.  After I was elected to the Council, I was appointed to be one of the Council’s representatives to work with Surf Air and the airport to seek to address the noise problem. Although the noise hasn’t stopped, we have established a good working relationship with the parties and we have ideas and recommendations that, once implemented, should reduce the noise significantly.

Technology Subcommittee

Atherton has never put together a technology master plan that is focused on providing the best technological connections and communications interfaces to our residents.  We have many residents who have helped build some of the world’s most innovative companies providing advanced network and communications infrastructures, but we struggle in Atherton to have consistent, excellent connections and infrastructure.  This committee will look at this issue, including looking at what the Atherton Library may be able to provide with currently unused tax dollars as part of its rebirth in the new civic center.  This will be a residents committee.  If you would like to join us, please let me know.

Conclusion

I know that this email is far too long to maintain the interest of most of you.  I hope that you have selected topics that were important to you and that you will reach out to me with any thoughts that you may have on these and other issues.

Best regards, Rick

Rick DeGolia
​Vice Mayor
Town of Atherton​

84 Clay Drive
Atherton, CA 94027
650.321.7707 (h)
650.793.2800 (m)
www.rickdegolia.com