News

Wednesday: If you've got $10 million, Atherton has a deal for you

You could get the right to name a street

Looking for a special gift for the person who has everything? Or do you want to ensure your name is not soon forgotten?

Atherton may soon offer just the thing -- naming rights to a new street, for a $10 million donation.

When Atherton's City Council meets for a study session on Wednesday, council members will discuss what donations the group raising money to build the new civic center should request in trade for various "naming opportunities."

The meeting starts at 3 p.m. Wednesday, May 4, in the town's council chambers at 94 Ashfield Road.

The most expensive item on the list put together by fundraisers Atherton Now is the right to name the new road that will run past the civic center entrance, connecting Ashfield Road and Fair Oaks Lane. That naming right is set at $10 million.

For $5 million, a donor can name the historic town hall, or for $3 million the main outdoor plaza.

For a $1 million donation, Atherton NOW has an array of naming options: a cafe or catering kitchen, the library entrance patio, a children's play area, a fenced library deck or the redwood grove.

Smaller donors will have the opportunity to put their names into the project on benches, bricks, memorial garden areas and various signs in the new complex, the report says.

Town budget

Also on the agenda for the study session is an information session on the town's general fund budget.

Council members will discuss possible modifications to the town's business license tax, which is currently $50 and $250 a year -- depending on the type of business -- or 5 percent of gross receipts, whichever is lower.

If the town does want to change its business license tax, the matter will have to be placed on the ballot during an election of City Council members, which next happens in November. Changes in the tax would require a majority approval.

While Atherton does not have commercial zoning, its current business license tax applies to everyone from Realtors to alarm companies doing business in the town.

Comments

18 people like this
Posted by Craziness
a resident of Atherton: other
on May 2, 2016 at 1:04 pm

This all seems crazy to me. Instead of trying to raise more money than is possible, and instead of even thinking about going to voters with a bond offering, why not scale back the town center to something much more affordable?

Professional quality gym for cops? Likely not.

Cafe? I don't think so.

Like the old song goes, you can't always get what you want, but you can probably get what you need.


5 people like this
Posted by Ethan
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on May 2, 2016 at 2:49 pm

For a hundred bucks can I name the fire hydrant out front after my dog?


7 people like this
Posted by Rich and Famous
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 2, 2016 at 2:55 pm


you can't always get what you want but if you try some time, you just might find you can always buy what you don't need,


1 person likes this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 2, 2016 at 10:04 pm

So is Atherton on its way to becoming "Google Way", "facebook street , and "Oracle Lane"?

Ugh. How about naming places after people with great character (not necessarily wealth)


11 people like this
Posted by Wake Up
a resident of Atherton: other
on May 4, 2016 at 11:56 am

Craziness is right on. These people need to wake up.

Residents paying for new town center in Los Altos, DEFEATED.

New parcel tax measure in Menlo Park for schools, DEFEATED.

This whole town center has become a boondogle that was spec'd out with all kinds of crazy amenities assuming big donors would come and pay for it all. This latest gambit about naming rights is a very clear sign that these donors are not stepping forward and Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer will be asked to foot the bill pretty soon.

They'd better scale the town center WAY back if they want even a chance of getting my vote. Some questions:

Why is it so big for such a small police department?
Why do they need a gym?
Why is the office for the city manager on the scale of a pharaoh's chamber?
Why build a cafe? Is this necessary or just "nice to have"?

Let's scale it back to half the size.


3 people like this
Posted by Chad
a resident of another community
on May 4, 2016 at 12:17 pm

How about Obama Blvd, since Mr. Pres visited you Atherton dummycrats on multiple occasions to part your money from your wallet and your wify's purse. He brought Atherton so much prestige, naming something after Obama seems to be a no brainer.


1 person likes this
Posted by ?
a resident of Atherton: other
on May 4, 2016 at 8:21 pm


Can you sell naming rights to a public st.


6 people like this
Posted by Goodbye, Almanac.
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on May 8, 2016 at 8:01 am

I rarely even bother to read The Almanac anymore as I can't stand what's happened to it over the last 5-7 years. The Almanac used to be a respected source of straight up news back for many years, but sadly, this has not been the case for a number of years. Now it is a yellow journalism rag that tries to stir up gossip with nasty headlines like this. Even worse is this forum such as this where the trolls of this town have been given a vehicle to drag down anything and anyone who is working to do some good for our community. Is it possible to restore The Almanac to a community asset like it once was in the days when Marjorie Mader and others founded the paper? I suppose the reason for the lack of responsible journalistic practices is that The Almanac's business is going down the tubes, so it increasingly caters to the people who are now it's main readers -- the trolls. Wake up, Almanac. You are hastening your own inevitable demise.


8 people like this
Posted by Craziness
a resident of Atherton: other
on May 8, 2016 at 10:34 am

Now the Almanac is a "yellow journalism rag" if it permits people who disagree with a given idea to state their opinion.

"…the trolls of this town have been given a vehicle to drag down anything and anyone who is working to do some good for our community."

Isn't it a matter of opinion about whether something is "good" for the community?

In my opinion, it is not "good" for the community to spend more money than is needed for a town center by designing a structure that is far beyond the town's basic needs. It's fiscally irresponsible and will create even more taxes for Atherton residents who are already very highly taxed with parcel taxes and property taxes.

I also think it is irresponsible and actually fraudulent to have sought public input into the town center while advertising it will be paid just by private donations when the people involved have to know this is currently impossible. It's a bait and switch: don't worry about how much it's going to cost, because you're not paying for it (bait)…we need to raise a bond measure (switch).

Most importantly, stop trying to bully and intimidate people who don't agree with you and even the newspaper that is willing to show different points of view. They have also run many stories on your view of the town center. I haven't seen them taking any sides, although they should point out all of the bait and switch hypocrisy in an editorial.


1 person likes this
Posted by sad
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 8, 2016 at 11:08 am

The Almanac is scaring away potential donors by making it sounds like having a decent town center is a vanity project. Who wants to donate now and then have The Almanac lead the charge on being castigated by critics in TSF?


3 people like this
Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton: other
on May 8, 2016 at 2:01 pm

While private funds are intended to pay for most of the town center, it is still a public building. That's why community input and review is sought. Those who live near the building should also have an opportunity to comment as whatever is built will most directly affect them. Lastly, the new library is going to be funded publicly. As it uses public funds, it should be under public review. Even if none of this applied, a public agency getting as much public input they can is always a great idea.

I'm not so concerned about what the amenities the building has as long as the donors pay for it. If the donors want a cafe, let them have a cafe. If the donors want zero net energy, let them have it. I assume the fundraising committee is in close touch with donors to make sure what is being added to the town center is in line with what they are willing to donate.

I don't see any indications yet the public will have to pay for the rest of the town center. If and when that does happen, the town council would need to answer for that. The Measure X vote was clear in what Atherton residents wanted.

The civic center committee has pre-meeting open forum a half hour before every meeting to address resident concerns. If anyone has any questions, that may be the best place to get all your questions answered.


8 people like this
Posted by Craziness
a resident of Atherton: other
on May 8, 2016 at 4:58 pm

Apple, you say:

"I'm not so concerned about what the amenities the building has as long as the donors pay for it. If the donors want a cafe, let them have a cafe. If the donors want zero net energy, let them have it. I assume the fundraising committee is in close touch with donors to make sure what is being added to the town center is in line with what they are willing to donate."

But this is exactly my point. Unless it's guaranteed there's enough money from donors to pay for everything (and there's not), the town center committee/city council should be telling the public that some of the stuff you say "let them have it…as long as the donors pay for it" may actually fall upon the town's citizens to pay for. Maybe then the citizens would attend the meetings and say you know what, I'm not sure we need to spend millions building a gym for cops because this is a tiny police department, not an olympic training center.

The article these comments derive from is highly suggestive that donors have not materialized. Otherwise why ask for naming rights to a street?

The committee and town council has also been very protective of how much of the funds have been raised so far. You just can't get a straight answer.

sad, and so it begins…the lack of private donors will be blamed now on the Almanac?? That's funny. The lack of private donors is due to a design that is way out of bounds with reality.


2 people like this
Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton: other
on May 8, 2016 at 9:49 pm

@Craziness

The town has a FAQ that has some answers to your civic center questions.
Web Link

You may also want to go to the pre-meeting forum to get your other questions answered. I have no idea myself.


16 people like this
Posted by Craziness
a resident of Atherton: other
on May 9, 2016 at 8:44 am

Apple, thanks for the link.

Here's what the FAQ states:

"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.)."

Here's my question to you:

If you as a resident are going to need to pay for some of this extravagant, over-the-top, palace that is being built, would that change your tune on "let them have it...as long as the donors pay for it", since the "as long as" is no longer true? Where would you draw the line on how lavish this building has become?

By the way, in the square footage FAQ, I noticed no one who wrote it wanted to get into the specifics of how the square footage is allocated within departments. Just how big is the city manager's office supposed to be, anyway? How big is the cafe? How big is the gym that's being built for cops (and how much is all the equipment going to be)?

If we shaved all this off, and put the city manager in a normal-size office (I've looked at the plans, and his office is slated to be larger than the Oval Office), how many millions would be saved?

Let's stop this insanity. By the way, how come the surplus parcel tax isn't being abated to residents AGAIN, another year, like promised? How much of it is being slushed away to give to the town center and to the police department?

What's the square footage of Rodericks' office going to be? Why are we paying for something about 5X the size of what he needs to do his job?

Why do we need to pay millions of taxpayer funds to open a gym for cops when they're already the highest paid cops in the Bay Are (probably all of California), with the job that involves the least danger of all police departments? Isn't that enough of a "recruitment tool"? Just how man thousands per year per family do our taxpayers have to pay to keep giving more and more and more to this police department because they provide special favors for some of the people on the town center committee, like running police database checks on guys their daughters are dating??


2 people like this
Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton: other
on May 9, 2016 at 2:03 pm

@Craziness

My take is the town council made a commitment to its citizens that private money would be used. If they break that commitment, I will be unhappy and let the town council know my displeasure. As it's an election year, I don't think the council will be changing its position until mid-November at the earliest. ;-)

Until then, it's hard for me to get excited over speculating on potential future actions and building details.

In my experience, Atherton council members and staff have always been approachable and willing to answer questions. Maybe I just haven't waded into anything too controversial. If you really want answers, ask them first. They work for you.

Before you can rally others to your cause, you need to collect what the facts on the ground are. That's what the folks who defeated the Menlo Park school district parcel taxes did to defeat those measures.


2 people like this
Posted by Orange
a resident of Atherton: other
on May 9, 2016 at 3:21 pm

Measure X states that only private funds are to be used for the civic center project. I think the real question going forward should be, at what point in time does this money need to be raised before they decide on alternate sources of funding? 2 years? 4 years? until they run out of money to complete the design phase?

Before any bond/parcel tax funds can be used on the project, the town will need to put it up before voters. My guess is that the citizens will not be supportive of such a massive project if we're the ones footing the bill.


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

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