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Atherton council votes 3-2 for library in park

Original post made on Oct 20, 2011

On Wednesday night, in a meeting that didn't end until early Thursday morning, Atherton's council members voted 3 to 2 to choose town-owned Holbrook Palmer Park as the "preferred site" for a new library.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, October 20, 2011, 11:59 AM

Comments (34)

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Posted by Park & Rec
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 20, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Three hundred residents, the Park and Recreation Commission, and two council members wanted the council to survey the town before voting on a site location.

But three council members could not wait for that information. By one vote the park has been changed. The numbers have not been released as to how many Atherton residents actually use the library and how often they use the library.


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Posted by Davena Gentry
a resident of another community
on Oct 20, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Holbrook Palmer Park was given to the Town to be a park, not a library. Geez the Little League wants a new baseball diamond and now a library I doubt it will feel like a park after everything is built out. I really enjoy going there to walk my dog, wonder if much pathway will be left.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 20, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Hopefully someone can post the exact language of the gift of the land by the Holbrook Palmer family to the Town.


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Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 20, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Four former mayors have suggested the council survey the town first.


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Posted by atherton voter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 20, 2011 at 4:43 pm

The proponents have clearly stated the new building in the Park is a new community center with abundant meeting rooms, 17 computer stations in a separate room and so forth. They say is that the old library is too small but why are libraries closing across the country as digital books become the new norm. The presentation in August made the point it needed to be larger because "people take up more room than books!" The subject they avoid is that the community center (aka library) will be mostly for people who do not live in Atherton. They have no idea how many people that might be just as they have no idea how many Atherton residents use it now.




From Atherton's General Plan in section 4.234 para B. "The Park is to be used for the benefit of the citizens of Atherton"

This should now be changed to "The Park and Community Center facilites should be designed and used for the benefit for all peoples who live in adjacent communities who will be able to enjoy the Park's open spaces, picnic tables, and manicured gardens while having access to computers, digital downloads and meeting spaces."




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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Oct 20, 2011 at 5:32 pm

atherton voter, sorry to be picky, but ebooks are not yet the new norm. Perhaps they shall be, but they're not currently. Since libraries need to server *everyone* in a community, that includes those who don't read ebooks, either by choice or circumstance. So many libraries are closing due to lack of funds, not because of ebooks. Either way, it's incredible sad. I am very happy to read about your town's controversy about the new library - because it means you will still have one!

As for the use of the community rooms by non-residents, is there a stipulation that one needs to be a city resident to use meeting rooms at neighboring libraries? I know it's common for non-residents to pay fees for use of neighboring cities amenities, including classes at rec centers and reserving park facilities. Perhaps that will be the case in Atherton, and will be good for the town coffers?


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Posted by atherton voter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 20, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Thank you for your comments and of course digital ebooks are relatively new but has and will have a major impact on the size of libraries in the future (and it is now having a major impact on book publishing). What the Atherton Council has approved is a 11,000 square foot building replacing our existing library of about 5,000 square feet. The number of volumes will roughly triple but I could be in error on this. Lets say it will be a significant increase. However Atherton will always have a library and the question is of location.
The library will be part of the San Mateo County Library system and obviously anyone can use the library without charge. Atherton will not be able to gain revenue from individual users and perhaps even using rooms for library events. The other park facilities where they now gain revenue will be torn down for this new structure and it will
unlikely be a venue for weddings, receptions, and social events. Perhaps some revenue can be gained from rental of rooms to various affinity groups. The council members who voted for this placement hope to gain revenue for the Town by charging (probably over charging) rent for the overhead for operations and maintenance for the grounds etc.
As always the motive is usually based on 'follow the money"zcnE


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Oct 20, 2011 at 6:31 pm

I'm confused. If this is a community center, is the extra footage of the library deemed library space? I've attended events at many libraries, but I don't know if the organizers pay a fee or not- maybe it depends on if they're a resident or nonresident?

It does seem sad that there wasn't a more comprehensive gathering of Atherton residents' views as to what they want.

As a county library user, I'll use your new library more if there are more books I can't get at MP library. I love Holbrook Palmer also, but I hope residents still have first dibs on the amenities.

Perhaps I'm too much of an optimist, but your town's already nice library program can perhaps be expanded when you have a bigger facility?


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Posted by atherton voter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 20, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Hmmm,I guess there is much to explain in this effort by Atherton library advocates, and it is difficult to detail in a few sentences. The real description of the 11,000 sq ft building will be a library but in reality it has a huge community center component that fits a typical definition of a community place. The existing library has no meeting rooms and seven computer stations are put on the entrance floor. There will be no fee element for sure either in old or new building and no restriction on who can use it. Come one, come all. Holbrook Palmer Park is also open to anyone who wishes to use it in a casual way. However the fee part will come into play if you rent a room in the existing Main Building, Pavilion or host a wedding and reception. The new building will have limited revenue potential.
I am sure the Atherton Library program will be expanded when there is a new building and there will be more visitors. The problem lies in the purpose and intent of the donor of the Park and in the minds of most residents as it does not fit their vision to use this property this way and is and invasion their only open space land.


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Posted by Atherton Outrage
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Oct 20, 2011 at 8:46 pm

How arrogant!

200 signatures of lackadaisical Atherton residents is nothing to sneeze at. They have trouble getting that many voters in some elections. The Council Chamber was packed to the rafters, a reflection of the sentiment of a representative sample of residents.

Yet Widmer, Dobbie, and McKeithen dismiss the sentiment and vote against the will of the constituents!

I smell a RECALL ... long overdue.

It's time to get some residents on the Council who actually care about the Town, rather than their pet projects and their egos. I think this vote just woke the sleeping giant.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Oct 20, 2011 at 9:08 pm

Thank you, atherton voter, for all of the info. It's understandable if people are upset about how the park is used, given that it was a gift to the town. I appreciate you taking the time to explain it to me. As a lover of libraries, I've been trying to follow the issue a bit, but I know less about the park - except of course that it's a great place. I'm sorry that this is so frustrating for so many people.


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Posted by Rachel Croft
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 21, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Why would the Town put a county library in a park that was donated to the town for the use of Atherton residents? The park is already fully utilized. Years ago Town Council denied the construction of two buildings in the park that were designated to hold a bonsai collection, and another to house an art collection. The preservation of open space was felt to be of primary importance.
Libraries have traditionally been part of a town center. Didi Fisher's request for a master plan to take into account all the town buildings is pertinent, and she has accumulated signatures that concur with her request. Town Council should heed her efforts.


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Posted by Wedding Planner
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Oct 21, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Someone pays the town $3,000.00 or more to use the facilities for a few hours and the council thinks this is not profitable. How?


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Posted by Clear Thinker
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 21, 2011 at 6:58 pm

There is nothing wrong with constructing a "Community Center" in Holbrook Palmer Park. If it is designed by and in control of Atherton's residents and officials, it will function nicely in the spirit that the donor intended. Residents should have the privilege of using the facility for private events at market value for such a venue. It is absurd that existing areas have been rented out for private functions at a monetary loss to the city of Atherton. Who was in charge of allowing that to happen?!

There is something VERY wrong with moving a COUNTY Library complete with patrons, traffic and noise from surrounding communities into that same Community Center in a park bequeathed and intended for the exclusive use of Atherton residents. The Atherton Library should remain in its present location and be upgraded as needed. Reference materials and areas for quiet study are required from a library since many books and periodicals are available only by expensive purchase or subscription. The non-library functions (childrens programs and other noisy interferences with reading) should be moved to the new Community Center. It is unwise to combine these two functions, a Library and a Community Center, in H-P Park considering the donor's intent and the tranquility of the park.

Now and forever the elephant in the room is the residents' petition to let their voices be heard by survey on this subject. The arrogance of the three council-members who ignored and thus denied that request is intolerable. 3 over-ruling 300 is not a democracy.


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Posted by Community Center
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Oct 22, 2011 at 6:28 am

Atherton already has three "Community Center" Buildings in the Park;
The Main House, Jennings Pavilion, and The Carriage House. There is no need to tear down The Main House to build a new community center. No need has been expressed.

Atherton already provides land for nine schools and seven thousand students. Those schools have libraries. There is no need for an expanded library for Atherton residents.

Menlo Park and Redwood City have wonderful libraries. There is no need for a third regional library so close to those two.

There is a need for open space and a peaceful park.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Oct 22, 2011 at 3:04 pm

As a non-resident who does enjoy the park, & been to many events there, I do wonder about the increased traffic into the park once this project is complete. What's great about the MP Library is that it's on the edge of the community center, so that the park & ponds can be enjoyed w/out big traffic worries. But due to the layout of Holbrook Palmer, a similar layout isn't likely?


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Posted by Atherton Outrage
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 22, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Open the gate from the Felton Gables neighborhood in Menlo Park. That way there will be fewer cars and more foot traffic. More parking problems for them, but that's OK with us.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 22, 2011 at 9:33 pm

Interesting series of challenges:
1 - the library fund is dedicated to being used for a library. What funds are going to be used for the community center portion of this building?
2 - what are the terms of the gift of the land regarding non-park uses?
3 - what are the terms of the gift of the land regarding use of the land by non-residents and how do those conflict with the County requirement that the library be open to anyone?




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Posted by atherton voter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 23, 2011 at 6:07 am

Peter Carpenter asks some excellent questions and they certainly reveal that library funds be used to for community areas of the building may be against the fund restrictions on use. In the recommendation package to the Council they state the spaces can be used for such activities as bridge classes, knitting groups, museum lectures, cooking demonstrations, book clubs. Yes, right there in the center..oops excuse me, I meant to say library!.
The Holbrook-Palmer will can be obtained from the Town clerk under the freedom of information act but the wording of the will specifically as to use of specific type building use is rather loose and may be open to various interpretations. The Steering committee says they have engaged legal council and the opinion of a library in the park is that it is consistent with the intent of the will. The subject is covered in one sentence on page 11 of the package.

Web Link

The Town cannot legally restrict use of the Park to Atherton residents alone and, of course, that would include the library so it is open to all. In actual fact we are building a structure mainly for the benefit of non-Atherton use as well as further encouraging the use of the Park. Also by taking down the main house and pavilion we are removing an income stream from rental of the facilities in hard-pressed Atherton.
As stated in their publications the Library steering committee stated that, "When the task force looked at sites for the library, one of the strong considerations was that a library in the park would cause the park to become much more civic."
Mrs Palmer is rolling over in her grave!


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Posted by Atherton Outrage
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 23, 2011 at 6:29 am

Olive Palmer said Atherton must maintain the land in proper order and condition and in a manner suitable for a HIGH CLASS PUBLIC RECREATIONAL PARK.

Olive also said construction or use of a building in the park can only be for purposes consistent with the land being used as a public recreational park. Museums and auditoriums were specifically mentioned as acceptable edifices.

If the Town violates her stipulations for more than 30 days, the land goes to Stanford University. Stanford can use it or dispose of it free from all restrictions and limitations.


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Posted by atherton voter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 23, 2011 at 8:33 am

Unfortunately I read a bit more in the ALBSC report to the Council and I can only shake my head.
Here is a particular quote that I cannot understand and it might be the latest in doublespeak language. Anyone knows what it might means?

"The ALBSC understands that locating our library in the park represents a change in public land use and recognizes that this change is consistent with park planning policy and public park land use." Huh?

Also referring back to Peter Carpenters question regarding the community center portion being supported by library funds this quote from the report also opens up a can or worms on this subject. Seems like they are really trying to solve all problems without the authority or charter to do so in behalf of the library system who will operate the library.

"The ALBSC understands that a new library in the park has a responsibility to support the community activities already taking place in the Main House."

Olive Palmer has reportedly sent a message back from the other side that she has fired the attorney who drafted her will and will now designate the ALBSC as her executor with authority to do whatever they want.

Web Link


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 23, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Palo Alto restricts access to its Foothill Park to Palo Alto residents, why cannot Atherton do the same with Holbrook Palmer Park?


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Posted by atherton voter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 23, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Peter asks another good question. Somehow Palo Alto has managed to pull the ladder up for resident only use. I wonder if Atherton has ever considered it as they pay for Holbrook Palmer out of largely property tax revenue and that seems to be the justification for Palo Alto and Foothill Park?
Here is a bit of history on Foothill Park:

Web Link


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 23, 2011 at 2:05 pm

What would happen if a group of citizens qualified a ballot measure for an Atherton ordinance that stipulated that the use of Holbrook Palmer Park be restricted to Atherton residents and their guests?

If such an initiative passed clearly a county library could not be located in the Park.


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Posted by atherton voter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 23, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Peter, that is a very interesting thought and one way to skin this cat.
The Council meeting of October 26th was just posted on this Almanac Town Square Forum and annotated as to the speaker. Councilman Carlson made an excellent presentation in which he pointed out that the current Atherton library fund is over $5 million dollars and is expected to grow to over $8 million dollars in 2015 all from property tax revenues and an increasing tax base. He throws out the idea of leaving the JPA library system and establishing Atherton's own library system where the monies paid for Atherton residents are more directly used for the benefit of the town residentsand not diluted by going into the county library system.
His main appealis for the need for a Master Plan study to look at all the Town facilities as a group both to efficiently use the land space available and to efficiently use building space without duplication. He feels the library issue should be studied as part of the larger town center requirements. A Special Meeting has been authorized as over 200 Atherton residents petitioned the town to call this meeting.


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Posted by Forshame
a resident of another community
on Oct 23, 2011 at 3:33 pm

You wealthy Athertonians didn't think of the Foothill Park scenario before all of this? That is pretty funny/sad. And Atherton is hard-pressed financially? What, you're a miniature version of Vallejo?

Riddle me this, batpeople: why all the snobbery about keeping the park to Athertonians? You mean - gasp! - that your monies are paying for others to use your facility? What, as if Athertonians don't use parks and amenities in other neighboring cities? You're a lot more like your status-seeking neighbor, Shallow Alto. Perhaps your armed butlers - er - police officers - can be charged with checking ID at the gate to the park. Oh, wait, that would require a modicum of competence - too much of a challenge for your police department.


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Posted by The Horse
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 24, 2011 at 8:23 am

Peter,

The horse has already left the barn. McKeithen, Dobbie, and Widmar voted to build the library in the park last Wednesday. Rather than delay that vote till after the Special Meeting on a Facilities Master Plan, they took care of their interests.


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Posted by Smell a Rat - Use Common Sense
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 25, 2011 at 9:17 am

I would suggest that many of you who wrote would be better off spending some time educating yourself as to the facts rather perpetuating misinformation and setting forth narrow-minded views.

As to Park & Rec's comment - the 300 signatures requested that a Master Plan be done, not a survey of whether the library should go into the Park. One might reasonably ask, if a Master Plan is so important, why didn't Ms. Fisher (former Mayor - isn't every council member?), a member of the Town Center task forces looking into the building of a new Town Center for years, require that a Master Plan be done as part of that much larger project? Why only now when a library might be going into the Park and the library committee has already stated on its own that it believes the Park Master Plan needs to be updated?

To Davena Gentry - Holbrook Palmer Park was given to the Town to be a high class Public Recreational Park. At the time the gift was being considered, the number one use envisioned by the residents of Atherton was a LIBRARY. Just where do wedding and corporate events fit into public recreation?

To Atherton Voter - "The new building in the Park is a new community center with abundant meeting rooms.... why are libraries closing across the country as digital books become the norm?" There is no indication that the new library would have anything more than one small meeting room, and perhaps not even that if the community did not want it as determined in the design and size phase. As for libraries closing - why are local private schools expending millions to build state-of-the-art libraries and new libraries drawing record attendance? Your facts are simply wrong. Do the research.

By law, and as the recipient of federal monies, Atherton cannot restrict use of the Park to Atherton residents. And why should we? Perhaps Menlo Park and Redwood City should consider charging us a fee? Maybe Burgess should be off-limits to Atherton residents and Little League teams? If we intend to close off the gate to Felton Gables because they won't let school children pass over private property (and as was suggested even restrict their right to build gates that back up to the Park on their own land) why not have guards posted to keep out any non-Atherton residents? Remember they tried that along Connecticut beaches? Illegal, let alone unconscionable.

To Wedding Planner – "Someone pays the town $3,000 or more to use the facilities for a few hours and the council thinks this is not profitable? How?" How? Because there is such a thing as EXPENSES. Look at the materials from the October 19, 2011 council meeting (they are on-line) that relate to continuing to rent out the park. Look at the HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS of taxpayers' money which has gone into subsidizing these mostly non-Atherton parties just the last few years. It is precisely these costly events (with no guarantee that changes can be put into place to make them profitable) that have contributed to "hard pressed [financially] Atherton". And what about the wear and tear referred to in a recent article? The town received $1,050 this summer for a corporate event for 500-800 people. Our park effectively could not be used by residents at the time, suffered foot-traffic (at a minimum), and with overhead included probably ended up costing the residents money -- but wait -- maybe the residents like paying for parties to which they aren't invited more than they like having non-residents borrow books.

What a bunch of close-minded, selfish people we have become. As for the petitions, incredibly biased surveys (complete with prejudicial and misleading cover letter) and the new Town Center, I refer you to my comment posted there. For years I have read on these blogs about Atherton's negative press. The lawsuits are nothing – they happen in the best of communities for no fault of their own. What we should be ashamed of is so much of what has been written here – the" keep everyone else out" attitude, the failure to think in terms of a community. In supposing we are somehow better than others, we have truly come off worse.



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Posted by atherton voter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 25, 2011 at 9:47 am

[Post removed. The quote is from an anonymous poster. Please don't attribute to a named person.]


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Oct 25, 2011 at 1:11 pm

I liked Smell A Rat's post. I use facilities of other towns, & I know that you all do, too. If you look at the Yelp reviews for the park, the majority of them are from out of towners, who've been to the park for various events & reasons.

The whole renting things out is always an issue, whether it's at a church, school, park or other large place. It's not always easy to valance the needs of the residents/members/students of a facility w/the need to make some money & maintain it.

Atherton has always been considered exclusive & us locals have always rolled our eyes at the myriad self-important snobberies we encounter in conjunction w/Atherton, because frankly, much of it is ridiculous. But why all of the sudden this desire to make the park exclusive? You should've restricted its use *years* ago. Oh, wait, maybe you can't legally do that? Or don't you know? Either way, now that the library will be at the park, they're intertwined, so it seems moot to try to make the park exclusive to the town's residents.

What are people so scared of? The traffic? That sounds to me like a realistic potential issue- but not a 24/7 one. Or are you all scared that the unworthy, unwashed masses from nearby will suddenly descend on your new library/community center? Please, I think your concerns need a serious reality check. I promise to shower right before heading over!


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Posted by peachy
a resident of another community
on Oct 25, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Wait, is Rat saying that ATHERTON receives handouts for its park?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 25, 2011 at 2:09 pm

"By law, and as the recipient of federal monies, Atherton cannot restrict use of the Park to Atherton residents"

This is an interesting assertion but please cite the laws in question. Palo Alto receives a lot of Federal funds and still restricts access to Foothill Park to its residents.


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Posted by Park & Rec
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 26, 2011 at 11:25 pm

To Smell a Rat,

Didn't Park and Rec request that council survey the town on the library in the Park? You did not comment on that part of my statement? Do you think council should honor the suggestions of those that have been serving on commissions for years?

A few years back the council formed a Blue Ribbon Task force, but it did not give the Blue Ribbon Task force the library as part of its scope on a town center. Seems like the 300 signatures disagree with that decision. Do you think the council made a mistake by not asking the Blue Ribbon Task force to consider the library?

Your response to Ms. Gentry states that a survey done over fifty year ago had as the number one response to move the library to the park. Did the survey ask if the residents wanted to build a Regional 11,000 square foot library? How did they think they were going to get the money? Why didn't it happen? Why would they want to move the library to the park? What were the second and third choices? Can you have the Library committee post this survey on the town's web site?

Ms. Gentry made no comment about weddings in the park. Didn't the council decide to stop renting the park out for weddings and corporate events?

You tell Atherton Voter to do the research. Can the Library committee give us some numbers? How many people a year from Atherton use the library? How many people a year from outside Atherton use the library? Will the town do a town survey as part of the research? Do you think that once all the private schools libraries are built, will less people go to the Atherton library?

Atherton provides educational facilities for thousands of people. Many of these schools want to expand. You support extra visitors into Atherton for the library. Do you support increasing the number of students at the schools?

Your comments to Wedding Planner are that the council has not figured out a way to make a profit charging $3000.00 for a wedding rental. The council should have figured out how much charge to cover rental costs years ago. Didn't they hire someone a few years back to do a study of fees?

Your last paragraph is about the lawsuits from years ago. The council decided to sue the school district to stop construction of the MA Preforming Arts Center, voted to stop a couple from moving two urns across town, and voted to stop three residents from moving into their homes. After spending a few hundred thousand dollars in legal fees and having numerous residents come to meetings to voice their disapproval, the council let the Preforming Arts Center be built, the urns be moved, and the residents move into their homes.

You write that we are closed minded for not wanting to let others use Park for a Library, but you write that we should not let others use the Park for their wedding, memorial, or birthday party. That is a contradiction to me. If you want others to use the Park, why not allow them to marry, remember, and celebrate in the Park? Is it being "closed minded" to prevent those uses, while advocating reading a book and renting a community room?

If the majority of the town wants to keep or enlarge the library where it is and keep it regional. The council should respect that opinion. If the majority of the town wants a library in the park, then all should respect that opinion.

You quoted the survey the council did in the 1950s. Why do you oppose doing a survey now?


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Posted by atherton voter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 27, 2011 at 3:49 pm

smell a rat asks:
To Atherton Voter - "The new building in the Park is a new community center with abundant meeting rooms.... why are libraries closing across the country as digital books become the norm?" There is no indication that the new library would have anything more than one small meeting room, and perhaps not even that if the community did not want it as determined in the design and size phase. As for libraries closing - why are local private schools expending millions to build state-of-the-art libraries and new libraries drawing record attendance? Your facts are simply wrong. Do the research

The first bit of research I did was to look up library usage on Wikipedia and here is the link. I need not say anymore but if you want evidence of the decline of library usage read it well for facts and perhaps you will not be the one to make misrepresentations:

Web Link

Also you may read the library Needs Assessment report on the ALBSC in which they base their recommendation for an 11,000 square foot building to house the multiple use rooms and sections of this place. It boggles my mind how you can represent there would be just one small meeting room. Your facts are the ones completely wrong.


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