News

Atherton mulls regulating private gates into town's park

 

Fifteen homes on Felton Gables Drive in Menlo Park have an unusual asset on their property: a back gate leading directly into Atherton's Holbrook-Palmer Park.

A recent town investigation shows all but two of the 17 homes on Felton Gables Drive sharing a back boundary with the park have such gates, as do two of four properties bordering the park on Atherton's Lane Place.

A public gate also leads to the park from Felton Gables Drive.

The private access may soon be restricted because of liability and safety concerns.

At an Oct. 4 meeting, the Atherton City Council asked City Manager George Rodericks to send a letter to the 21 homeowners whose properties back onto the park. The letter is to explain the town is looking into private gates into the park because of concerns about security (both for the park and the homeowners) and the liability the gates could pose for the town.

Residents will be reminded of the sunrise-to-sunset park operating hours and asked to lock park access gates. The town is also considering surveying the park's property line to determine if any of the gates or fences are on town property.

The matter was brought to the town's attention in June, when two Felton Gables Drive homeowners requested permission to repair a concrete board fence on Atherton property that divides their yards from the park.

"Almost all these fences have access gates, but it's another thing for the town to bless it," said Atherton Public Works Superintendent Steve Tyler at the time. For example, if a criminal accessed a property through the park, the town could find itself liable.

"When we do allow gates, we put security on them," Mr. Tyler said.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Lewis said the council agreed years ago to gradually phase out private access gates by constructing a public gate, and not allowing new private gates.

However, because the properties are in Menlo Park, the town never sees plans for new fences and gates. There may now be more gates than when the town made the decision to eliminate them.

The town ended up making repairs to the broken fence in July, and counted the number of gates, documenting their locations.

Council members appeared divided on restricting the gates.

"I'd like to see them all go away," said Councilman Bill Widmer. But Councilman Rick DeGolia said that since it is a public park, the public should have access to it.

The matter will probably get further discussion after the town surveys the park property line.

"We really need a survey for one purpose," said City Attorney Bill Conners "Any gate needs to be on their property, not ours," he said, or the town is liable. "We're the owner and we're responsible to make it safe."

– Christian Wagner contributed to this story.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Read my lips
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2017 at 6:40 pm

(side note: thank you for the particularly excellent articles of late!)

"A public gate also leads to the park from Felton Gables Drive."

If you're referring to the gate next to the tennis courts, then I wouldn't really call that 'public.' The last time I looked, that gate was locked by a key on both sides. It appears only private Felton Gable residents have access through that 'public' gate to a public park.

If that has changed, I welcome hearing it.


"Councilwoman Elizabeth Lewis said the council agreed years ago to gradually phase out private access gates by constructing a public gate"

Personally, I think the homeowner gates to the park are a non-issue provided the Felton Gables residents abide by the same rules as everyone else.

That said, a public gate on the Felton Gables side of the park is the right thing to do.

Question: who put up the existing concrete fence between the park and Sussex Place (the dead-end road in Felton Gables that dead-ends at the concrete fence)? That would be the perfect location for public access to the park from the Felton Gables side of the park.


2 people like this
Posted by George Rodericks
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 11, 2017 at 8:48 am

George Rodericks is a registered user.

@Read my Lips -

"A public gate also leads to the park from Felton Gables Drive."

The gate referred to is the locked gate next to the Tennis Courts. It is referred to as the "Felton Gables Gate" and is the product of an agreement between the Town and the Felton Gables Homeowner's Association limiting public access through the Felton Gables neighborhood across a private easement and managing access into the Park from a rear property line. The Agreement was originally executed in 2004 and updated in 2012. The Agreement allows the Town to provide keys to Atherton residents to access the gate and travel through the Felton Gables Neighborhood across a private easement - primarily for Safe Routes to School. Keys are limited to Atherton residents that live in the Menlo Park City School District between El Camino Real and Middlefield Road - those that would likely walk to school.

"Question: who put up the existing concrete fence between the park and Sussex Place (the dead-end road in Felton Gables that dead-ends at the concrete fence)? That would be the perfect location for public access to the park from the Felton Gables side of the park."

The previous access location at Sussex Place was boarded up back over 20+ years ago. There were continuous complaints from the residents in Felton Gables that users of the Park would park vehicles on Felton Gables neighborhood streets clogging up already narrow streets, trek across private property (Sussex Place is a shared private driveway for two properties), and access the area at all times. The access way was sealed off to prevent continued impact. The Town has approached the two property owners along Sussex Place to determine if there is any interest at re-opening the access way. The property owners were not interested in doing so.

Should you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact me direct at (650) 752-0504 or grodericks@ci.atherton.ca.us.

Regards,

George Rodericks
City Manager
Town of Atherton


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