In November 2012, 73% the Atherton electorate voted to move forward on a new Town Center to be built primarily with private funds. Following the election, Rick was elected Vice Chair of the new Civic Center Advisory Committee (CCAC) and appointed to Chair its new Ad Hoc Library Committee. Working with the other dedicated members of these committees was a key part of what inspired and energized Rick to become more involved with the future of Atherton. After being elected to the Council in 2013, Rick was appointed to be one of the two Council Member liaisons to the CCAC.
The City Council has approved a Master Plan for Atherton’s new Town Center, which will include the new library, police facility, administrative and planning offices and public works facility. The Town has hired a Project Manager to aid in the design and construction of the new Town Center. This is a major task and an enormous opportunity for Atherton to build a civic center that residents love using and are proud of. To do this right, the Council has consistently recognized that very broad outreach to and input from the Atherton community is essential with respect to the plan and design of the Town Center facilities.
This project is important because:
- a new Civic Center on Atherton property near the train station needs to balance both what we know we need today and the unknowns of tomorrow, which include technological changes and related developments.
- We will be updating the current Atherton police headquarters (which contain unsafe working conditions for our police staff, code violations and outdated technology) for the first time in 50 years with an eye to the next 50 years.
- All town departments, including Administration, Building, Planning and Public Works departments have functionally obsolete spaces that need thorough modernization and this will require significant new investment.
- Defining what the library of the future means to Atherton means balancing dramatic technological changes with a town ethic that values tradition and does not embrace change for change’s sake. We need a facility that can both provide the cozy reading spaces cherished by our older residents with the rapidly changing needs of teens and children.
The Ad Hoc Library Committee of the CCAC met many times in 2013. It was made up of Jim Dobbie, Phil Lively, Rose Hau and Rick DeGolia. This committee worked extremely well together and agreed that a new library should include, among other things, a dedicated children’s area, an Atherton historical room and a multi-purpose room for large events. Any design for a new library needs to be thoroughly vetted with the community at a series of meetings throughout the town. This will be a key part of the new Town Center project.
Because Atherton is a donor city in the San Mateo Library system and our dedicated tax dollars significantly exceed the cost of our current library operations, our library fund has been growing for many years. Currently there is about $9 million in this fund that can be used to build a new library in the Atherton Town Center. In addition, beginning in 2000, the council began assessing a ‘building fee’ on building permits in anticipation of paying for the Building Department’s portion of a new facility. There is approximately $2,200,000 in a special account designated for this project.
The costs for the new Town Center, other than the library and the Building Department, need to be raised privately. For this effort to be successful, it is essential that the community be involved in the Master Plan and Town Center design process. This is a community effort that can have a major effect on Atherton for the next 50+ years. Please contact me, if you have thoughts about these project or are interested in participating in this process.