News

Tonight: Atherton council to elect new mayor, consider El Camino traffic signal

By Barbara Wood

Issues on the table when Atherton's City Council meets tonight (Dec. 18) at 7 p.m. in the council chambers, 94 Ashfield Road, include the naming of a new mayor and vice mayor, whether a traffic signal or pedestrian-controlled signal should be installed on El Camino Real at Selby Lane, and a public hearing on amending the use permit for Sacred Heart Schools to eliminate traffic improvements that would destroy 12 heritage trees.

Mayor Elizabeth Lewis' term will end tonight, and who the next mayor will be could depend on politics. Cary Wiest, elected to the council just over a year ago, is currently the vice mayor.

The issue of whether to install a traffic signal on El Camino Real at Selby Lane, the site of 50 accidents between 2002 and 2011, has been an issue in Atherton for the past year. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) wants to install the signal and have Atherton pay 25 percent of the cost, approximately $200,000 of the $800,000 total.

But Selby Lane residents worry that a signal will bring more traffic into their neighborhood, and many favor installing what Caltrans calls a "pedestrian hybrid beacon," a traffic light controlled by pedestrians, at that location. Caltrans would bear the entire cost of the pedestrian-controlled signal, about $200,000.

Because of the safety problems at the intersection, Community Services Director Mike Kashiwagi is recommending the traditional traffic signal for the problem intersection.

The Sacred Heart School issue dates back to a master plan for the school approved by the town in 2010. The conditional use permit allowing new construction and improvements on the campus called for changes on Emilie and Elena avenues to accommodate more traffic.

But the school found that making the improvements would destroy 12 heritage trees and has asked to instead continue a program of trying to reduce campus traffic by encouraging things such as carpooling, shuttles to and from public transportation, and off-site parking.

The council will consider allowing Sacred Heart to use a Transportation Demand Management program to reduce traffic rather than making the street changes.

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