News

Atheton divided over funding renovation of carriage house

By Barbara Wood | Special to the Almanac

If there was a theme at the April 16 Atherton City Council meeting, it was "more information please" as the council put off decisions on renovations to the Holbrook-Palmer Park carriage house and on whether to abandon part of the town's right-of-way on Parker Avenue, until they get more facts about both items.

The Atherton Dames have hired Woodside architect Adolf Rosekrans to design renovations to the 113-year-old carriage house, which they say is one of only two original buildings built by the Holbrook family that remains in the park.

But some council members balked at the proposal, which includes the town pitching in $1 million of the proposed $2.5 million cost.

"I think the timing ... is not right," said Councilwoman Elizabeth Lewis. The town has numerous projects underway that need funding, she said, and residents will soon be asked to donate money for a new Town Center.

Town Center "is and should be the primary focus of the residents at this point," she said. "It's much more important to the town than the restoration of the carriage house at this time."

Councilman Rick DeGolia was more supportive. "I have said many times that the park is the crown jewel of the town," he said. "We need to invest in our park."

Councilman Bill Widmer called the renovations "a great project and something that the town will benefit from for years to come." He suggested the town make its contribution to match funding from other sources instead of an outright grant.

Council members weren't actually being asked to vote on funding the project at the meeting; that decision would be made during upcoming budget discussions. But council members had been asked by the Dames to indicate their support for the project.

But Mayor Cary Wiest said he just couldn't decide whether to give his support without more information on details such as the condition of the foundation, and seismic and other issues that might affect construction costs. Susan Masetti of the Dames agreed to get the town "all the information you need."

Parker Avenue

Council members also asked for more information to make a decision about what to do about Parker Avenue, an issue that has been vexing the town since at least 2008. The street has some of the smallest lots in Atherton, most less than 8,000 square feet. But the public right-of-way for the street is 70-feet wide, about 50 feet wider than the actual street.

Council members, asked to consider whether to cede some of that right-of-way to homeowners, were swayed by several residents who feared they might have to pay higher property taxes if their property sizes increased.

The council asked to have City Manager George Rodericks contact the county assessor for more information about the tax implications before making their decision.

If the information isn't ready by the May council meeting, Mr. Rodericks promised that he would inform the Parker Avenue residents.

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