Caltrain's governing board has approved the environmental report needed to go ahead with electrification of the rail service it runs between San Francisco and San Jose, and Atherton isn't happy about it.
A draft of a letter from Atherton Mayor Rick DeGolia to Caltrain says the town considers the approval of the environmental documents as putting "high speed rail one step closer to reality in Atherton."
Regarding the electrification project itself, Atherton "continues to have concerns related to noise, project timing, tree removal and pruning, (and) locations of wires and poles," the letter says. The town has also asked Caltrain to help pay for safer gates at Atherton crossings and to give more specifics about its promise to reopen the Atherton train station, including train schedules.
Atherton's City Council meets Wednesday, Jan. 21, starting at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at 94 Ashfield Road. On the agenda is discussion of the town's response to the Jan. 8 approval by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board of the environmental review and the electrification project.
A report to the council from Town Planner Lisa Costa Sanders and Community Services Director Michael Kashiwagi says the town staff will work with Caltrain as the electrification project is completed to make sure the issues in the mayor's letter are worked out.
However, the report says, "with respect to high-speed rail, our position remains immutable. The impacts in Atherton are significant and we will stand in front of that train until our concerns are addressed."
Atherton had argued that the environmental report on the electrification project was not adequate because it did not address the environmental effects of high-speed rail, which the town says is inextricably tied to the electrification project.
The report from Ms. Costa Sanders and Mr. Kashiwagi says "the electrification project is dependent on the high speed rail project for funding" and the project is also designed to be compatible with high-speed rail.
Several of the concerns Atherton had with the draft environmental document were addressed in the final version approved by the Caltrain board, including an agreement to place poles for the electric wires in a way to require removal or pruning of the fewest number of trees. Caltrain also agreed to plant three new trees for each heritage tree it removes from outside of its right-of-way and one new tree for every other tree removed.
Also on the council's Wednesday agenda:
● Consideration of spending $8,000 to subscribe to Open Town Hall, an online tool currently used by Menlo Park and Palo Alto to get the opinion of residents on various issues.
● Final approval of regulations on cellphone towers and other telecommunication facilities. The proposed law requires companies to pay the town to place equipment in the town's right-of-way, to hold public meetings to discuss new facilities or major modifications to existing facilities, and to design and site equipment to minimize the impact on neighbors.
● Presentation of reports on the Peninsula Humane Society, from the town's community services department; and on the San Mateo County Mosquito and Vector Control District by Atherton's representative on the district's board, Mason Brutschy.