News - February 17, 2010

Portola Valley Town Center rental rates rise

by Dave Boyce

The public had nothing to say ahead of the Portola Valley Town Council's unanimous decision at its Wednesday, Feb. 10, meeting to sharply increase the cost to the public to rent the community hall at Town Center.

Starting March 1, renting the main room for a day will rise to $1,800 from the current $1,200, and the two smaller activity rooms that now go for $75 an hour will increase to $200 per hour. Non-residents will pay more.

Non-residents will not be paying more for memorial services because henceforth that privilege will be available to residents only, and they will pay more — 900 percent more when the current rate of $100 jumps to $1,000.

If use of the facilities in 2010 echoes 2009, the new rates could raise an additional $10,000 for the town, Assistant Town Manager Janet McDougall said in a staff report.

The town can use the money. The current budget year is the first in 15 years in which revenues have dropped. Home-construction and state-derived revenues are down and expenses are up, including a 33 percent increase over three years for law enforcement services.

Council members expressed degrees of reluctance, but in the end relied on Ms. McDougall's analysis that current rates are undercutting rentals for other local institutions, including churches. Three of the last four memorials in the community hall were for non-residents, she noted.

Rates for comparable facilities nearby ran the gamut, according to the staff report. "It's a bit apples and oranges and kumquats," Mayor Steve Toben noted before the vote, "but it's a reasonable analysis that yields reasonable results."

"We haven't heard any objections, that I'm aware of, come in on this," he added.

Councilwoman Maryann Moise Derwin voted for the increase but said she remained "uncomfortable" with the sharp increase for memorials.


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