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.