Atherton Council position on School Lights, Statement at Council Meeting on 9/20/10 Atherton, posted by Walter Sleeth, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Sep 21, 2010 at 10:31 am
September 20, 2010
Re: Atherton Town Council Decision to waive any right to challenge Sequoia Union High School Districtís 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 Councilís decision not to oppose the Sequoia Union Districtís decision recently made to ignore Athertonís 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 ĖAtherton 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 townís citizens need to understand more clearly and openly the reasons the Council has waived the Townís and its citizensí rights. My understanding is that only the Town has legal standing to seek to reverse the School Districtís ignoring of the Townís 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 Townís 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 Townís prerogatives. From this citizenís viewpoint the Council erred in waiving the Townís and by extension, its citizensí rights to challenge the School Districtís 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 Districtís decision, thus the Council should move promptly to reconsider. The success by the Town in stopping the Districtís unilateral decision would still leave open the Districtís 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.
Posted by Ed, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, 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.
Posted by Central Menlo, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, 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?
Posted by Central Menlo, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, 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."