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Atherton council calls 4pm meeting on library

Original post made by Fair Vote, Atherton: West Atherton, on Jul 21, 2012

A special council meeting at 4pm Wednesday has been called to approve the ballot measure for the library in the park. At 4pm people are at work or picking up children, so who can attend?

The Ballot Measure as drafted is not balanced. It does not simply say "Do you want a Library in the Park - Yes or No." It says the new Library will not take any open space to be built. It does not say the Main House will be torn down and is no longer available for $5,000.00 per night wedding rentals. It does not discuss parking needs and police services.

It reflects the council majority's support of moving the library to the park. It should be neutral.

Please move the meeting to 7pm and let the residents attend.

There is a place for both sides to express their opinions, but not in the ballot measure.

Comments (32)

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 21, 2012 at 5:20 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The proposed ballot language reads:

"Should the Town of Atherton construct a new library in Holbrook-Palmer Park using funds dedicated for Library purposes only, and not using any existing park open-space for this purpose?"


It is not clear that the library in the park proponents would be well served by this language.
If this language were to pass then the restrictions on the proposed new library would be significant. It's footprint would have to be no larger than whatever existing structure it replaced and no new parking would be allowed.


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Posted by Fair Vote
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jul 22, 2012 at 7:43 am

Peter,

I would like to get your thoughts on how this is playing out.

1. Do you think the ballot measure as written is balanced?

2. Shouldn't just say do you want a library in the park - yes or no?

3. Do you think either WMD (Widmer, McKeithen, or Dobbie) influenced the city attorney when he drafted the question?

4. Do you think the 4pm meeting is being called to limit resident input?

5. Although the 250 signatures were presented for a special meeting, council is refusing to set a date for the meeting until August, citing schedule conflicts. Yet they call the meeting to post their ballot measure, since their schedule works for July 25th, why not call the special meeting for July 25th for the petition.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 22, 2012 at 8:14 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"1. Do you think the ballot measure as written is balanced?"

Yes, it is not perfect but is certainly has some perils for the pro-park supporters.

2. Shouldn't just say do you want a library in the park - yes or no?
It could, but that would provide less protection for the park's open space.

3. Do you think either WMD (Widmer, McKeithen, or Dobbie) influenced the city attorney when he drafted the question?
I think Conners listened to everyone and then drafted what he felt was a responsible ballot question. The language will not be finalized until approved by a majority of the council - or 600 registered voters submit alternative language. Given how difficult it was for the petition leaders to get agreement on the special meeting petition language I suspect it would take months to get agreement on proposed ballot language. Everyone sees this issue from their own narrow perspective and everyone wants the words ro be somewhat different.

4. Do you think the 4pm meeting is being called to limit resident input?
No.

5. Although the 250 signatures were presented for a special meeting, council is refusing to set a date for the meeting until August, citing schedule conflicts. Yet they call the meeting to post their ballot measure, since their schedule works for July 25th, why not call the special meeting for July 25th for the petition.
The agenda for the 25 July meeting includes certification of the Library EIR - that COULD be a very lengthy process. I don't think the special meeting petitioners would appreciate their meeting starting at an indeterminate and/or late time. And now that the council was literally forced by the rapid progress of the petition process to place the library location on the ballot the other three items on the special meeting agenda are not time critical. In fact the Aug 13 special meeting could be a great opportunity for a lot of citizens to speak out on all four issues - it will be interesting if the citizens rise to the challenge.


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Posted by Fair Vote
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jul 22, 2012 at 9:15 am

Peter,

Thanks for your thoughts.

Our opinions will differ.

4. Coucnil could still have the citizen's meeting at 7pm on July 25th. No need to make them wait. Having a meeting at 4pm limits those that can make it. That is why the regular council meetings are at 7pm.

3. I do not think Conners listened to everyone. Mayor Widmer announced he would appoint two council members to work with Conners. I doubt that consisted of either Council Members Carlson or Lewis.

1. High Speed Rail passed in 2008 because it was presented that a yes vote would allow you to get to Los Angeles in 2 hours for $50.00. The negatives were not addressed.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 22, 2012 at 9:55 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" I do not think Conners listened to everyone. Mayor Widmer announced he would appoint two council members to work with Conners. I doubt that consisted of either Council Members Carlson or Lewis."

Do you have any facts to support your statement? Have you talked with Conners? Did you seen him push back when the council wanted the ability to fire a town manager without cause or a hearing?


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Posted by Fair Vote
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jul 22, 2012 at 11:59 am

Peter,

Here are two I found posted on the residents' Athetonian Blog.

1. It would be a Brown Act Violation if the City Attorney talked to more than two council members to discuss the drafting of an agenda item. Therefore Conners could not discuss this with "Everyone".

There is a post by Vice-Mayor Lewis on Friday morning on the Athertonian Blog discussing the Ballot Measure to be drafted by the City Attorney and she does not state she was allowed any input.

2. In April, Council Members W-M-D advised the City Attorney to "Shut Down" the Athertonians Blog which was pushing for the town vote.

Conners with input from McKeithen and Widmer drafted a letter for the June council meeting. A statement in the letter read:

"Instead, you immediately released a strongly-worded statement to the media containing a barrage of inaccurate accusations against Town leadership and unfounded and unprofessional comments directed towards individual council members. Ironically, you took this action while claiming to be "non-partisan." "


When asked to provide a web page link to support this statement Conners could not. Later it was discovered that the word "Inaccurate" had been added by the Mayor to the sentence.

The item was pulled from the Council agenda.

3. On the Library in the Park Issue, the city attorney would have discussed the matter with some one to get information. Who would have given him the information? For months the Library in the Park has been presented as needing a footprint larger than the existing footprint of the Main House. Why has the city attorney suddenly changed the footprint size without it being dicsussed publically?


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Posted by History
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 22, 2012 at 2:25 pm

For the last decade some members of the council has been aggressively implementing ordinances that were illegal; waiting to see if the public or city attorney would challenge. Then issuing refunds, but often keeping part of the revenue.

Recently they instructed the city attorney to "shut down" the residents' Athertonians email list.

There were three illegal taxes that had to be refunded.

The lawsuit against the school district.

The lawsuit against a couple moving two urns.

Conners is hired and paid by the city council majority. If they advise him they want something, he will have deliver as much as legally possible. It may be what the full council or town majority want.

If a 3,000 square foot footprint library is approved in the park, and the council majoroty wants to build a 3,500, I doubt anyone would file a lawsuit to stop construction.




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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 22, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Town attorney is the attorney for the Town, not the attorney for the Town Council. Conners has repeatedly told council members that specific actions which they proposed were legally unacceptable and has, for example, flatly refused the Mayor's request to draft language regarding the job description of the Town Manager which he felt was illegal.


If the library location ballot measure is adopted by the council as drafted and is then approved by the voters the resultant library will legally not be permitted to have a larger footprint than that of existing structure which it replaces. Any attempt to circumvent the language approved by the voters will be quickly and easily challenged in court.

The Brown Act permits all council members to be consulted on the language of an agenda item however they may not use such consultation to agree on a specific outcome of that agenda item.


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Posted by from Senator Jean Fuller's web site
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jul 22, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Voters deserve impartial ballot information

"It makes a measure's title and summary critically influential.

The state needs to ensure that the title and summary of ballot initiatives are written in a manner that is as clear, concise and unbiased as possible.

The individual "yes" and "no" campaigns should be left to their own to convince the voters one way or another. But as the arbiter of the election, the state needs to be fair and unbiased in the information it presents."


Peter wrote: "Conners has repeatedly told council members that specific actions which they proposed were legally unacceptable"

We have a council that has to be repeatly told it is proposing illegal actions.

Hopefully, the city attorney has realized that he has had to repeatly tell council members that they propose "legal unacceptable" actions and will advise the council of their duty to provide an unbasis position for the ballot statement. Of course there may not yet be a law to require council to write an unbaised statement.

We have a council majority that wants the Library in the Park Measure to pass, has to be repeatly been told it is proposing illegal actions, and that knows how "critically influential" the Summary is.

They are using their influence to their advantage in the ballot process.


The council majority knows that the voters approved High Speed Rail at $40B dollars, but now the state has the ability to spend $70B and does not need to have a second vote nor fear legal action.

No resident of Atherton has the time nor money nor interest to sue the town, should it opt to build a larger library that needs just "a little more: open space.


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Posted by Ballot Measure
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jul 22, 2012 at 5:02 pm

To the Citizens of Atherton:

Yes, or No, should $500,000 be paid to each of

VALERIE GARDNER
CHARLES MARSALA

to get them to stop bickering over ever aspect of the library in the park as part of their vendetta against Kathy McKeithen?

I predict it passes overwhelmingly.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 22, 2012 at 5:08 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

We have, for the first time in a very long time, a Town Manager, a Town Attorney and a Police Chief who are smart, courageous and wise - I am confident that the council members will be well advised by them on the limits of their actions.

The November ballot measure is not an advisory measure it is a directive measure with which the council must comply. And there are plenty of Atherton residents who would be prepared to sue the Town if it violates the terms of a voter approved or disapproved measure.


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Posted by Fair Vote
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jul 23, 2012 at 8:50 am

Peter,

If the main house and two tennis courts are removed there is more than enough existing "Open Space" to accomodate a 13,000 square foot regional library. This serves the library in the park supporters well.

Hence, an Accurate statement could be: "Do you want tennis courts and the main house removed to build an 11,000- 15,0000 square foot regional library in the park?




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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 23, 2012 at 8:54 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Current Town Code:

"Footprint" means the plan view projection to ground level of the perimeter of a building to the outside perimeter of the exterior walls. Open or partially covered flat work such as decks and patios not more than six inches in height are excluded from the footprint."

I read this to exclude tennis courts and therefore i do not think that the tennis court footprint could be used for the library - I could well be wrong.


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Posted by Fair Vote
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jul 23, 2012 at 9:51 am

The issue is how does the Town Code define "Open Space" in a park. I do not think buildings, parking, and tennis courts count to open space.

Three votes of the council can also change a defination.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 23, 2012 at 11:50 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

This is what the Town Attorney states:

"The best statement of what is intended in the "project" is that the Library will not use any existing open space, defined somewhat inexactly as fields and existing "parkland". The intent is that it not exceed the area of an existing structure that it might replace.

The ballot measure limits the proposed Library by implication (a Library) to one structure. That structure may not use existing open space. I think the language is pretty specific; the intent definitely is."


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Posted by Michael McPherson
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jul 23, 2012 at 6:48 pm

The way I understand it, the position being taken is that the building will not exceed the footprint of the existing building and all the patios and hardscape around it. This seems consistent with the City Attorneys definition as stated above. The structure will be much more massive than what currently appears; for a building to cover a patio and not be deemed to take up open space seems at least arguable.

Why not just ask "Should the Town of Atherton replace its existing library with a newly built one in Holbrook Palmer Park?" Leave all the spin to the pro and con arguments.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 23, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" The intent is that it not exceed the area of an existing structure that it might replace."

Structures as defined in the Town code do not include patios.


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Posted by Fair Vote
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jul 23, 2012 at 7:11 pm

Given that 250 people signed a petition requesting what Mike wrote, why would the council and city attorney add to the statement?

Can someone explain what is being proposed?

We have been doing this for two years. How big of a library is being proposed in square footage: 5,000 - 10,000 - 12,000 - 15,000?

Approximately 3,000 square feet of "Open Space" will be gained by tearing down the main house and the suggested library size has been at least 10,000 square feet. That equation does not work, even with a basement and a second floor it only adds up to 9,000 square feet.

The intent has always been advertised as to tear down only the main house. As written would this ballot measure allow the council to tear down other buildings or remove tennis courts to come up with the extra 1,000 to 2,000 square footage needed to build a 12,000 - 15,000 square foot library?

Maybe the council can add to Wednesday's agenda an item to explain what size building is being proposed, put the intent in writing, and what buildings will be removed?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 23, 2012 at 8:00 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Given that 250 people signed a petition requesting what Mike wrote, why would the council and city attorney add to the statement?"

The petition did NOT request what Mike wrote - the petition called for a special meeting with an agenda item that stated:

"Should the location of the new library be decided by a town-wide vote by residents?


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Posted by Fair Vote
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jul 23, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Peter- You are right. It is Fisher's email from earlier today that petitions residents to email the council to have a more objective ballot statement. I thought the process from the begining had been to have the council have a simple yes - no question.

Any thoughts on the other questions? If tearing down the Main House only gives 9,000 square feet max, why are they talking about 10,000 square feet or more for the library?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 23, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

There are LOTS of questions and I hope that there will be lots of people at the Wednesday meeting to ask those questions.

Conners' email gives us a lot of good insight and is a good departure point:

From: bill conners [mailto:bslawstuff@yahoo.com]
Sent: Monday, July 23, 2012 11:35 AM
To: charles marsala
Cc: Theresa DellaSanta; Jerry.Carlson.External; Elizabeth.Lewis.External
Subject: Re: Open Space

Charles,

Good questions. Please let me respond.

First, know that ballot measures by nature have to be incredibly concise, and drafting is often a challenge. That said, let me answer each question separately.

The ballot measures were drafted by me. I had no input from any councilmember. I have not revised any measure based on any comment from a councilmember. In one case sought factual input from a Planner, and the City Manager reviewed, but did not change, the language for each. What is before the Council came from me without input from anyone.

The Council was asked about the "footprint" one more than one occasion. My recollection is that it was changed or clarified at least once. The best statement of what is intended in the "project" is that the Library will not use any existing open space, defined somewhat inexactly as fields and existing "parkland". The intent is that it not exceed the area of an existing structure that it might replace.

The ballot measure limits the proposed Library by implication (a Library) to one structure. That structure may not use existing open space. I think the language is pretty specific; the intent definitely is.

The ultimate size of the Library wherever ultimately approved has not been determined, thus the ballot measure does not seek to establish that size. Even if allowed in the Park, the size remains within the purview of the Council. Since the size has not been resolved, and the maximum is essentially established by virtue of the size of the existing structure slated for "trade" in the Park, this seems like an issue to be ultimately determined by the Council and staff was not directed otherwise when directed to craft ballot measures. It is fair to say that there has never been the perfect ballot proposal crafted, since someone will always take issue with some element of it, and to be clear, the limitation on measure length makes such statements very concise. It is usually left to the pro/con arguments and rebuttals to expand upon the measure itself and provide more information about how each side views the measure itself.

The JPA does not own the facility. The Town will own the Library regardless of where it is constructed (assuming that a new Library is to be built). The JPA staffs the libraries and performs an "audit" function, but the decision of whether or not to build, the size, shape, color, and use of the facility is only a Town decision. It is quite probable that the JPA will be asked to provide professional input into many of these decisions, but it is equally probable that the Town will make all ultimate decisions based on its own perception of what is right for the Town, recognizing that as in all things political such decisions may be made by a majority of the Council.

I have informed the Council that staff has NOT sought nor responded to any Council or outside input. I personally authored both measures to ensure that they are as fair and balanced as possible. Now, if the Council wants to tamper with the language at a public meeting, then they do so on their own. Staff has put forth what we believe to be unbiased measures, but ultimately it is the City Council that has to decide if we have captured their intent in this regard. Basically we have done our job and now it is totally up to them.

I hope I've answered your questions completely. Thanks. Bill Conners
*********************




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Posted by Fair Vote
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jul 24, 2012 at 7:31 am

Mike, Peter,

Thanks. It is confusing. I thought the proposed building was bigger than the existing Main House, and wondered how the ballot measure would allow that.

The City Attorney's letter states that "Open Space" is defined "inexactly".

At this point I understand the Bottom Line is that new building will take up the existing footprint of the main house and the patio and hardscape areas. Patio and Hardscape Areas are not defined as "open space."

The City Attorney's letter indicates that we are asked to vote on a library whose "ultimate size has not been determined" and give the council majority the right to determine the size at a later date.

I thought a final size had been determined.


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Posted by Lloyden Park Resident
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Jul 24, 2012 at 11:14 pm

Mike McPherson and Fair Vote appear to have it right. "Footprint" is quite different from "hardscape." The new library in the Park is proposed to have a footprint two or even three times that of the Main House. The new library is to use all the footprint of the destroyed Main House plus "hardscape" which means all the walkways, parking and other areas around the house for a structure with a much larger footprint than the Main House. That larger structure would arguably still not take up "Open Space" which Mr. Conners says is defined "inexactly" to include only "fields and existing 'parkland.'" This should be clarified so voters understand what limits are or are not placed on the size the the library if it is approved to be built in the Park.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 25, 2012 at 7:23 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Conners states"The intent is that it not exceed the area of an existing structure that it might replace."

Where do above posters find the word 'hardscape' in this statement?


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Posted by Fair Ballot
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jul 25, 2012 at 9:19 am

Peter,

It is from the December 2011 Motion made by McKeithen and seconded by Widmer.

The Main House is 3,500 square feet. The recommended size of the library per the SMCL is 11,100 square feet.

This should be a clean vote, not tainted by an "inexact" defination of "Open Space".

Oct 2011 Orginal Motion

MOTION by McKeithen, second by Dobbie to approve the Atherton Library Building Steering Committee's (ALBSC) recommendation to approve Holbrook Palmer Park as the preferred site for the new library to replace the Main House pending meeting CEQA requirements as determined by City Council and staff, that staff move forward with a revised master plan for the park, and that specifications, particularly that the dimensions of the library will be the exact same size as the main house so that no green space is lost, are approved by Council.

Vice Mayor Widmer said he would like to amend it to add that specifications and sizing of the library is approved by Council, and include that the dimensions of the library will be exactly the size of the main house so we wouldn't lose any green space footprint.

Revised Motion in Dec 2011
MOTION by McKeithen, second by Widmer to accept staff recommendations with revisions to recommendation #1 to add "including enclosed walls" to end of the first sentence.

1. That the new library site is limited to the existing Main House footprint and its associated hardscape areas as shown on Attachment 1 and that the building footprint will not exceed 10,000 square feet. Although the available site is greater than 10,000 square feet as shown on Attachment 1, the library footprint will be less that the available site area and will not exceed 10,000 square feet.








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Posted by Mike McPherson
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jul 25, 2012 at 2:38 pm

Peter; I read the quote you have made of what Bill Connors stated differently than you. For a 10,000 square foot structure to replace a 3,500 square foot one and not use any open space as defined, all of the walkways, patios, and other hardscape must be included in the definition of "existing structure". I think the language has been carefully parsed to allow for the new structure to cover all of that area, and not infringe upon the very narrow definition of open space.


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Posted by Fair Ballot
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jul 25, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Mike,

I agree with you. I wonder what "open space" means to the average voter?

The "intent" of the ballot measure should be to give either opinion a clear endorsement from the residents of the town.

Do you want to replace a 3,500 square foot building with an 11,100 square foot or bigger library? Yes or No.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 25, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Mike-I have furthervpursuedvthis and your interpretation is correct. What remains unclear is will any new patios, sidewalks and parking required by the library be included in the constraints imposed by the ballot language or do the constraints apply only to the building itself.


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Posted by Fair Ballot
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jul 26, 2012 at 11:38 am

What was the result of yesterday's meeting? Did Councl approve the Ballot Statement?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 26, 2012 at 11:51 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Library: should the town construct a new library in the park using funds dedicated for library purposes only, by replacing the main house and some surrounding patios and walkways.
Approved 4-1 Lewis opposed.


A superb result in my opinion.


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Posted by Fair Ballot
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jul 27, 2012 at 7:01 am

How many hours to get the city council and the city attorney to agree that it was a misleading ballot statement to not classify Hardscape and Patios as "Open Space"?

It is still misleading. It will cost more than "Funds dedicated for library purposes." Does the town hold any value to the park land that will be donated, how much revenue will be lost not being able to rent those facilities, where will the displaced activities go?

Praise to Council Member Lewis. What is the probably that in the end three members of the Atherton Council will build an 11,000 square foot White Elephant facility in the park which is not used by either the Atherton public or the neighboring communities beacause the Menlo Park, Redwood City libraries, the internet, and E-Books provide citizens with the resources needed?
















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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 27, 2012 at 7:19 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

This issue will be decided by Atherton's intelligent and literate voters and reading both the ballot measure and the arguments FOR and AGAINST.


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