Atherton civic center design unveiling

Photos of event, plus architects' drawings of new public buildings

The recommended design for a new Atherton civic center was shown to group of about 100 people on Monday night, March 21, at a joint meeting of the City Council and the Civic Center Advisory Committee in Holbrook-Palmer Park's Jennings Pavilion.

"We are closer that we ever have been to reality," said Mayor Elizabeth Lewis. Mayor Lewis said she's been working on the civic center project for seven years, but others have been working on the project for as many as 25 years.

In addition to seeing the drawings of the proposed civic center, the audience saw a five-minute video explaining why the new buildings are needed.

Narrated by advisory committee member Paul Tonelli, the video shows the ill-repair of the existing town facilities. "We are still in a losing battle to keep our facilities safe and operable," says Mr. Tonelli in the video.

Councilman Rick DeGolia, who with Mayor Lewis serves as a liaison to the advisory committee, said he hopes that enough money can be raised to make the civic center net-zero energy, producing as much energy as it consumes.

"One thing I've been particularly passionate about ... is to make this building as sustainable as we possibly can afford," he said. The building is designed to accommodate energy-saving features such as solar panels if the town can pay for them, he said. "If we can do it, this civic center would be the first zero net energy civic center in California," Mr. DeGolia said.

He said if the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission goes ahead with plans to replace its 3-foot-diameter water main that now runs through the site, the town is considering reusing the existing steel pipe as a heat pump. "It's already in place, and we don't have to buy it," he said.

Kim Young, who is part of the Atherton Now group that is working to raise most of the funds needed to build the civic center, said she was inspired by seeing Portola Valley's new town center. That center "really embraces everybody," she said, with picnic benches and play areas and a farmers' market every week. "We would love to see some of that here," she said, to "really make our neighbors feel close and have a real heart to our town."

Next up: The advisory committee will meet on April 4 to discuss any changes prompted by the public meeting before forwarding the design to the City Council for approval either on April 20 or May 4.

In addition to the plans, the council will consider an estimate of the cost to build the proposed project from the project managers, consultants Mack5.

The architects will then spend the next six months refining the design, including floor plans and site plans and working on the specifics for the engineering, building materials, landscaping, plumbing, lighting, mechanical and other details.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 23, 2016 at 2:03 pm

Stop refining and just build it! You have been refining for years, enough already. More will like it than hate it. The only people benefiting from all the delays are the architects. Its fine, get rid of the permit center eyesore, the sheds around the police department and build it.

Like this comment
Posted by JU
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 23, 2016 at 2:17 pm

Here's the most important part: where's the money. Looks like they have $5 million pledged (need $30 million total).

According to the atherton FAQ:
Web Link

What happens if the Town does not get sufficient donations or grant funding?

That's a policy call for the City Council. Funding must be found somewhere to address the need.

Once the Town completes its design phase, the Town must have all of the funding available to pay for the project in order to publicly bid the project and award the construction contract. The Town needs new facilities.

The Building and Planning Departments are working out of old trailers originally designed as "temporary" that have mold, infestations, and roof/structure leaks that cannot adequately be controlled. One of the trailers has been boarded off to prevent further issues.

The Police Department's briefing room, break room, changing room, locker room, assembly room, and training room are one and the same. The Police Officers also work out of temporary trailers for which the Town still pays rent. Over the years, the Police Department has created temporary, ad hoc solutions to holding areas, dispatch, restrooms (one shower - 30 personnel), technology solutions, equipment storage, and security that are woefully inadequate for a modern police facility. The facility itself has become a recruitment and retention issue for new, quality personnel and a security risk for the Town.

If there is insufficient funding to construct a new facility, the Town must still make substantial improvements and renovations to its existing facilities to bring them up to current standards. Either way, there is a need for significant capital outlay to address the declining facility conditions. The Town can choose to do short-term solutions or can, as the Civic Center Project proposes, design and build a long-term solution.

How the City Council chooses to address the funding need is a policy call. If faced with this decision, options will inevitably involve a return to the voters to overturn the restriction on the use of General Funds; or to allow a one-time reallocation of the Parcel Tax; or to use existing Town reserves (unallocated General Fund or Capital Reserves); or the potential to issue bonds secured by a revenue source (General Fund, Parcel Tax, etc.).

Until that point arrives however, the Town follows the requirements of the existing ballot measure.

Like this comment
Posted by What News!
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Mar 23, 2016 at 3:43 pm

What News! is a registered user.

I curious about the fundraising. In a very successful campaign to raise money for a public library, the start was to get big donors in place before asking the general, small donation folks to help out.

These days naming opportunities are common. Will Atherton sell naming rights for our library, community meeting rooms, Chsmbers and such to the highest donors?

1 person likes this
Posted by Big hint
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 23, 2016 at 4:47 pm

Resident: "Stop refining and just build it!"

JU: "Once the Town completes its design phase, the Town must have all of the funding available to pay for the project in order to publicly bid the project and award the construction contract."

JU: "Here's the most important part: where's the money. Looks like they have $5 million pledged (need $30 million total)."

See why they don't want to ever declare it done?

2 people like this
Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 24, 2016 at 4:20 pm

If there were 100 people at the meeting, about 75% were either Town Staff, Committee members, or the highly paid Consultants making their slick presentations. The few residents that were interested in the facts were given a rushed pitch on how the design matched the unbiased survey done by the advocacy committee and were given few facts on the true economics and design alternatives. We heard "trust us"! We have enough "soft money" (i.e. we can pay all the consultants & fees for along time), and will certainly raise the ~ $25M required to actually build the current design.

The question is: How much of the ~ $25M will have to be committed (NOT just pledged) before the Town starts construction? If Town funds will eventually be required it will be in violation of the earlier vote of the residents & may well be a dereliction of duty by the elected officials.

Let's resolve where the money is coming from before Atherton buids its own version of the "High Speed Rail"

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