Atherton council hears update on civic center design


When Atherton's City Council asked its architects to shave some square footage, and cost, off the new civic center's design, they ended up saving something they hadn't thought to ask for – a heritage oak tree scheduled for removal.

At the council's Sept. 21 meeting, Architect John Schlueter of WRNS Studio showed the majestic oak as part of the new site plan for the civic center, along with refined floor plans and a look at some of the interiors and exteriors for the new civic buildings. New accommodations for police, administration and planning and building functions are planned along with a new library and council chambers.

Among the changes that will allow the complex to shrink by about 3,200 square feet, or about 15 percent from an earlier version, Mr. Schlueter said, were combining the police department's fitness and technical areas and reducing the new dual purpose council chambers/emergency operations center. The new chambers will seat about 50, with an adjoining loggia for overflow.

"It's a huge, huge reduction and huge site improvement," Mayor Elizabeth Lewis said.

The reductions in size should save at least $2 million in construction costs, the council was told at an earlier meeting. Firm cost estimates for the design are scheduled to come to the council at its Oct. 19 meeting.

The council also considered whether to help pay to move a nearly 80-year-old, three-foot-diameter underground steel water pipe controlled by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission that will skirt the new buildings.

The water pipe's location does not interfere with the buildings' placement, but not moving it could cause problems if it fails. A consultant estimated the cost of moving the pipe at $768,000, plus design and permit costs. The town could be out as much as $500,000 if it pays to remove the 45 percent of the pipe the SFPUC has an easement for. It has no easement for the remaining 55 percent of the pipe, the consultant said.

"I don't like our side of the cost," Councilman Cary Wiest said, but he also doesn't like the risk of leaving the old pipe in place. "This is the time to do it," he said. "This is the perfect opportunity to make this decision in the taxpayer's interest."

City Manager George Rodericks said the town will continue negotiations with the SFPUC.

Council members also saw plans for a 199-square-foot space in the town's current council chambers that could be re-purposed as a cafe or warming kitchen. They asked the architect to try to find more space, and to leave flexibility for a future tenant to design the space.

The library floor plans will be further refined after meeting with the Friends of the Atherton Library, the architect said. Details such as exterior wall materials are also being considered, with rammed earth one of the options. Rammed earth has a low carbon footprint and is thermally efficient, keeping heat and cold out and storing heat, Mr. Schlueter said.

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2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 30, 2016 at 10:33 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Please don't build a less than optimal long term Town Center.

The Town Council has made a good faith effort to raise private donations for this project. Now is the time to put a bond issue on the ballot and let the voters decide if they want to fund the remaining balance to build an optimal Town Center.

3 people like this
Posted by Nope
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 30, 2016 at 10:56 am

Nope, we don't want to fund it. This was sold (and designed) on all private donations. Talk about a bait and switch!

And Peter Carpenter, if the voters would need to pay, why can't it be scaled down? Is everything in this thing really "necessary"? Fitness center for police? Haven't we gone many, many, many years without one of those? That's a "nice to have", not a "necessary" item. Just one example.

2 people like this
Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 30, 2016 at 2:45 pm

A town center needs to be funded one way or another. The buildings are in poor condition, especially the portable buildings. The cost of maintenance is increasing. Rebuilding will be cheaper in the long run than the constant cycle of patch and repair. When things break, town staff can't work as efficiently. A new town will realize recurring cost savings too as it will be net zero energy.

The town center has already been significantly scaled down from its original plans. We want to build a functional town center that operates efficiently for the residents and employees. We don't want to skimp to the point that it will cost us more in the long run to workaround penny wise, pound foolish decisions.

I agree with Peter that the town has made a good faith effort. It just may be too high a hurdle to find 100% private funds. I'm supportive of having a new town center funded partly by bonds and private funds.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 30, 2016 at 2:54 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Nope, we don't want to fund it."

How embarrassing to live in a community that would not pay for its own police station and town center!

Atherton residents approved and are paying for tens of millions of dollars of bonds for elementary and high school buildings even though few Atherton residents actually attend those schools. Why in the world would we not gladly support a bond for a new police station for a police department that is doing a great job? And a new administrative space to replace worn out and unsafe buildings?

3 people like this
Posted by Nope
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 30, 2016 at 3:04 pm

Because it's much, much more than is needed to replace worn out buildings. You know this, and so do/did the supposed private donors.

Like this comment
Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 30, 2016 at 4:35 pm

I doubt it's much more than what is needed. The civic center committee has building industry experience. I'm sure they are vetting the proposal every step of the way.

If you have ideas for bringing down the cost while ensuring the building maintains its functionality for the long term, I would encourage you to get in contact with the committee.

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

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