By Barbara Wood
Special to the Almanac
Atherton residents, whose request to the City Council to survey the town about the location of a new library was not approved, have taken matters into their own hands and created their own survey.
According to former Atherton councilwoman Didi Fisher, a link to the online survey was emailed to 1,800 residents of Atherton on Monday evening, Oct. 24, and by Friday evening, 155 people had taken the survey.
The City Council decided by a 3-2 vote at its Oct. 19 meeting to choose town-owned Holbrook Palmer Park as the "preferred site" for a new library. Council members also voted unanimously to request a special meeting to discuss conducting a master plan study of town facilities and buildings. Petitions bearing at least 300 signatures asking for the master plan were presented to the council at the start of the meeting.
Many of the speakers at the packed meeting had also asked the town to conduct a survey, but the council did not request one.
The survey emailed Oct. 24 has 10 questions asking how well informed survey-takers are about the library issue, their views on usage of the park, how much they use town facilities, and demographic information.
The survey, perhaps to no one's surprise, shows how divided the town is about the library issue. A total of 54.8 percent of the respondents to the survey said they agreed or strongly agreed that the library should remain in the town center. A slightly larger percentage, 58.7 percent, said they agreed or strongly agreed the library "should not take up our limited park space."
A similar division took place on the question of library size. A little more than half the respondents, 50.3 percent said they agree or strongly agree that they like the Atherton library "small and quant the way it is." But even more said it "would be better with a little more space," with 62.8 percent saying they agree or strongly agree with that statement.
Just a little over half the respondents, 56.9 percent, said they "like Holbrook-Palmer Park the way it is."
Respondents to the survey were less divided on a few topics. A total of 78.1 percent said the town needs a master plan for all its buildings before making a final decision on the location of the library. A slightly lower percentage, 70.9 percent, said they want a town vote on where to move the library.
A large number of those who took the survey said they had been at least vaguely aware of the library issue before the recent council meeting on the topic -- 74.2 percent said they were either vaguely aware, aware or participated in the issue.
Only 18.7 percent of those taking the survey said they have lived in Atherton fewer than 11 years, with 35.3 percent saying they have lived in the town between 11 and 20 years, and a robust 25.9 percent saying they have lived in Atherton more than 30 years.
Forty-two percent of the respondents said they have school-age children, while 38.5 percent said they are retired.
One of the survey questions that gained the most agreement might give hope to those embroiled in this issue. A total of 83.9 percent of those surveyed said they "love living in Atherton."
Click here to see the survey summary.