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Atherton Council position on School Lights, Statement at Council Meeting on 9/20/10

Original post made by Walter Sleeth, Atherton: Lindenwood, on Sep 21, 2010

September 20, 2010


Re: Atherton Town Council Decision to waive any right to challenge Sequoia Union High School District's Decision to ignore Atherton Zoning Procedures


I am Walter Sleeth; I live at 227 Catalpa Dr. I have been a resident of Atherton for 20 years. I came this morning because I am concerned and disagree with the Council's decision not to oppose the Sequoia Union District's decision recently made to ignore Atherton's Zoning rules in order to proceed with the lighting of athletic fields and conducting other related amenities at a number of night athletic games at the Menlo –Atherton High School on Middlefield Road in the Town of Atherton.

I have no opinion on whether the lights and other amenities are worthwhile or ill advised. My concern is the failure of the council to disclose openly why it has taken this position. The town's citizens need to understand more clearly and openly the reasons the Council has waived the Town's and its citizens' rights. My understanding is that only the Town has legal standing to seek to reverse the School District's ignoring of the Town's Regulations.

While I recognize the Council may have, at least in part, been reacting to recent criticism to certain litigation matters, which negatively impacted the Town's budget, the citizens elect the members to the council to use their judgment when deciding whether to defend or seek legal redress on issues, which come before it. This decision is one, which effects the powers of the Town to enforce its zoning against all residents and should not be lightly taken or used to demonstrate the Council is hesitant to use legal means to enforce the Town's prerogatives. From this citizen's viewpoint the Council erred in waiving the Town's and by extension, its citizens' rights to challenge the School District's failure to comply with the regulations of the jurisdiction its properties are resident.

I request that the Council reconsider its waiver of rights and challenge the School District. I have been informed that there is a 30-day statute of limitations from the date of the District's decision, thus the Council should move promptly to reconsider. The success by the Town in stopping the District's unilateral decision would still leave open the District's being able to seek an exemption to the Zoning; it may have very good reasons to prevail, i.e. building school spirit, keeping students off the streets and that the burden to neighbors in the area is minimal.


Thank you for hearing me this morning.

Comments (6)

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Sep 21, 2010 at 10:38 am

sniff sob

maybe they tired of getting spanked in court

maybe they hear from folk who support lights, far outnumber the one who sued and do not show up to school board meeting anyway


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Posted by Ed
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 21, 2010 at 12:47 pm

The Atherton council can not even enforce the town's own building or zoning ordinance over a blatantly illegal single family residence ( see Building department audit 2007). It is now an established fact that anyone can get away with any thing they want around here.
If the council can't stand up to a single pushy resident, what do you think their chances are against a school district or the rail authority?
I have started to wonder about what kind bogus advice the council receives from the ABAG attorney appointed to represent this town (the litigation insurance council), as a possible explanation for the long list of misguided decisions being based on bad advice.
No one could get it this wrong every time just by sheer luck.


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Posted by Central Menlo
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 21, 2010 at 2:57 pm


Mr. Sleeth, A point of issue is that the Atherton zoning ordinances do not apply to the school district. It may be reasonable to think that the town of Atherton would explain it's decision - and it may be equally reasonable that they might not (in the face ongoing ongoing appeal from neighbors). The school district held open hearings and voted in open session (including public comments). Neighbors have sued to challenge the school district's position. What more is needed?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 21, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Central Menlo states:"A point of issue is that the Atherton zoning ordinances do not apply to the school district."

Wrong. The school district is subject to Atherton ordinances unless it votes to exempt itself AND Atherton does not challenge that exemption.

The school district did vote to exempt itself from Atherton ordinances and now Atherton needs to decide if it will challenge that self serving exemption.


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Posted by Central Menlo
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 21, 2010 at 10:10 pm

"The town argued that a city has the power to control the use of land by zoning and that school districts, even though they are agencies of the state, were not exempt of such control. The court held that local zoning ordinances are merely advisory and not binding on school districts because the location of schools is a matter of statewide concern as to which the legislature has completeely occupied the field, acting through its agents, the school district."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of another community
on Sep 22, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Well, now, there ya go....


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