Atherton won't book large events in park


By Barbara Wood

Special to the Almanac

Wedding bells will not be ringing in Atherton's Holbrook-Palmer Park next year, after a divided City Council on Wednesday night voted not to allow future bookings of large events in the park, despite a report from town staff saying the events would bring the financially-strapped town more than $85,000 in profit.

Classes and town-sponsored events and meetings will still be allowed in the park.

Councilman Jim Dobbie said his major objection to the events is the fact that they take up all the parking in the park, leaving none for residents, especially on weekends.

"For big events every spot is filled. I don't think that's the purpose of the park," Mr. Dobbie said.

Council member Kathy McKeithen said she had problems with the financial projections. "I looked at this report, and I said something doesn't seem right to me," she said.

She questioned whether all town costs were included in the report. "I'm not against other people using our park," she said. "But I am not in favor of having our taxpayer money subsidize people's weddings there."

But other council members said the town could use the money the events would generate.

"In this economic time we've slashed our budget -- we've laid off people," said council member Elizabeth Lewis. Even if the amount of profit was much less it would be "totally irresponsible" for the council not to go for it, she said. "Do the right thing for our residents," she urged.

Council members Jerry Carlson agreed with Ms. Lewis. "Right now it's additional money to offset the costs of the park," he said.

The vote was 3-2, with council members Mr. Dobbie, Ms. McKeithen and Mr. Widmer voting not to book large events in the park in 2012 and council members Ms. Lewis and Mr. Carlson voting to continue the bookings.

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by $860,000 Deficit
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Dec 22, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Atherton has a $860,000 annual deficit, yet $85,000 a year in income is turned down to make way for the County Library in the Park.

Like this comment
Posted by Oh the irony
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 22, 2011 at 1:26 pm

I find a hint of irony in the town of Atherton being called "financially strapped", yet it is #2 on Forbes' list of top 10 zip codes.

Like this comment
Posted by Yes the irony
a resident of another community
on Dec 22, 2011 at 2:47 pm

My heart does not bleed for this problem that they are facing. Those dang engaged couples who want to have a nice wedding - they have some nerve inviting people who take up all of the parking! Taxpayers subsidizing weddings? Again, my heart doesn't bleed for the Atherton taxpayers.

Like this comment
Posted by Spitting into the ocean
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 22, 2011 at 6:39 pm

Renting out the park can't even begin to solve Atherton's budget deficit. Anyone with proficiency in third grade arithmetic can figure out that without making drastic cuts to the police department, Atherton's budget will never get balanced. Instead of wasting time haggling over stuff like this that can't possibly make any financial difference, it's time to cut the fat from that department or outsource it.

Like this comment
Posted by What is Large Event??
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 22, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Does "Large Event" mean any event over twenty people? over fifty people? or over one hundred people?

Like this comment
Posted by housemouse
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 22, 2011 at 9:05 pm

"large events" really means "all events" with only town meetings and scheduled classes surviving the cuts. No more weddings, no more corporate meetings, no more memorial services, private parties,...its all done. "All" also doesn't discriminate between 20 or 200 people, nobody's invited.

Like this comment
Posted by Really?
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 23, 2011 at 5:58 am

This decision is insane. For starters, most of the people using the park on the weekend are there to walk their dogs, have a picnic, or play in the kids area. The majority of these people are non-residents.

The Council, therefore, has decided to give up at least $80,000 in annual revenue because the events attract non-residents who take up the parking spots used by the non-residents who use the park on the weekends. Brilliant!

The $80,000 is probably understated. The City Attorney pointed out this was the one area where the Town could charge whatever the market will bear. It's not unlike San Jose or San Francisco running a convention center. It could be a revenue generating facility for the Town.

To put the $80,000 in perspective, there was a property which sold for $40 million in Atherton earlier this year. It had been protected by Prop 13. The re-assessed value increased the tax base by $39 million. Of the 1% property tax, the State gives Atherton a mere $40,000 ... just half of what they could make on the Park renting business model.

It is "many dollars". It's 10% of the projected deficit for next year!

If parking is such a big concern, Atherton should implement a resident only parking section in the park. They probably have some stickers left over from when they used to do something similar at the train station. Why not charge the non-residents for parking at the Park while they're at it?

Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 23, 2011 at 10:53 am

Here is an odd answer.... if the bookings are that common why not double the fee. OK, some people do not get to park in the park - but they can still use it. They can park nearby and walk. Upside - well if the $85k is profit, then each dollar charged over is pure profit - not a percent.

Like this comment
Posted by Will
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 23, 2011 at 3:30 pm

The REAL story is they don't want people not living in Atherton to use the park. Most back yards can accomodate any function...most apartments can't. This is about the exclusive shutting out non-residents. 'Mumzee" doesn't want thoooooose people around.

Like this comment
Posted by housemouse
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 23, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Will, i think you've got it all wrong, its not about outsiders using the park on weekends at all, doing away the park events is just the next step to building the nest for the Library. Look at who was for and against the events above. Same lines as the library vote.

Last thing any of these guys want to see is the park turning a nifty little profit. Ow Atherton, such a tangled web you weave. And for those of you who believe these guys when they say they are going through the EIR with an open mind, please wake up and prepare for the drive up book return next to the playground.

Like this comment
Posted by EIR
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Dec 23, 2011 at 5:34 pm

The EIR is a cause for concern. Many (Park & Rec, 2 council members, severeal residehts and more) want the council to survey the residents, but three council members voted no to a survey.

Then Fisher started a drive to require a tow vote. McKeithen says that is a waste of money because McKeithen is going to go door to door as part of the EIR. Problem is that people will not feel comfortable, giving all the information to McKeithen. Doing a mail in survey should be less expensive and faster than walking door to door.

But a survey would probably show people want open space and do not see the need for a library in the park; hence the 3-2 council vote to stop the survey.

Like this comment
Posted by Housemouse
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 23, 2011 at 8:34 pm

[Post removed. Please refrain from personal attacks.]

Like this comment
Posted by Davena
a resident of another community
on Dec 28, 2011 at 1:00 pm

What a ludicrious decision. I've enjoyed attending various events at Holbrook Palmer Park and it seems as though there is tremendous demand for the venue. Why close it to events when the Town even spent so much money recently making improvements for such events? They could charge more...

Housemouse is right, it seems it is the next step in building a nest for the library.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

After experiencing harassment, owner of Zareen's restaurants speaks out about Islamophobia, racism
By Elena Kadvany | 28 comments | 7,550 views

Don't Miss Your Exit (and other lessons from an EV drive)
By Sherry Listgarten | 14 comments | 2,494 views

Goodbye Food Waste!
By Laura Stec | 8 comments | 2,441 views

Good News: The New Menlo Park Rail Subcommittee Hits A Home Run
By Dana Hendrickson | 12 comments | 1,630 views

Premarital and Couples: Tips for Hearing (Listening) and Being Known
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,013 views


Register today!

On Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More