News

Atherton residents protest height of planned Caltrain poles

Topic on rail committee agenda tonight (Dec. 5)

As Caltrain begins construction to electrify its train service, Atherton residents whose backyards are bordered by the railroad tracks are protesting plans to install nearly 46-foot-tall cantilevered poles near their homes for the electrical wires.

Resident of the Lloyden Park neighborhood wrote a letter to Caltrain's board of directors and Executive Director Jim Hartnett on Dec. 3 saying they "strongly object" to plans to put 45.5-foot-tall poles, with cantilevered arms that span two sets of tracks, "in the Lloyden Park neighborhood, a quaint residential area of Atherton."

By Dec. 5, the letter had been signed by 53 Lloyden Park residents.

They've also peppered Atherton officials with emails, urging them to refuse to sign the agreement that allows Caltrain to start working (and repays the town for any costs it has related to the agreement, starting off with a $25,000 deposit).

The issue will be discussed today (Dec. 5) at the Atherton Rail Committee meeting and Lloyden Park residents say they plan to also speak at the beginning of a Thursday meeting of Caltrain's governing board.

Atherton Rail Committee member Nerissa Dexter said residents "don't want to have our modest and quaint neighborhood destroyed" by the tall poles.

Atherton council members also expressed consternation when they heard about the planned height of the poles at a Nov. 15 City Council meeting, when the agreement to allow Caltrain to begin construction in Atherton was to be approved. Council members pulled the item from their consent calendar, where it could have been approved without any discussion, along with other routine business.

The town staff report about the agreement said the 19 poles Caltrain planned for Atherton would be "25 to 30 feet in height."

But Stacy Cocke, Caltrain's principal planner for the project, said that is not correct. "The poles in some instances are taller than that," she said. "We're seeing some 40-45 feet" in other areas where design has been completed, she said. The taller poles are designed to span two sets of train tracks, and also have larger foundations than poles that carry wires for only one track, she said.

"I'm actually shocked," Councilman Cary Wiest said when he heard the new height estimates, adding that the town should have been told about the taller poles much earlier.

"We've got a reputation for not necessarily being so friendly on this topic," Mr. Wiest said, alluding to the fact that Atherton has filed several legal actions against Caltrain over the electrification plans. "This is why we're not friendly."

Ms. Cocke said Caltrain was using the taller cantilevered poles to help preserve trees along the tracks. Caltrain officials say they don't know why the town thought the poles would be shorter. The environmental report on the project says the poles could be up to 50 feet tall.

Caltrain says that replacing the planned cantilever poles with 30- to 35-foot-tall poles on both sides of the tracks means more impact on trees. One more tree will have to be removed and 11 more trees will need moderate pruning (less than 25 percent). Caltrain would also have to pay for a redesign.

Caltrain is working with town officials on the pole height issue and it was to be discussed at a Dec. 5 Rail Committee meeting, starting at 6 p.m. in the town's Council Chambers, 94 Ashfield Road, and at the council's Dec. 20 meeting.

In the meantime, Lloyden Park residents plan to attend a Thursday, Dec. 7, meeting of the Caltrain board and share their concerns during the public comment portion of the 10 a.m. meeting, which will be held in the Bacciocco Auditorium, 2nd Floor, 1250 San Carlos Ave. in San Carlos.

Comments

16 people like this
Posted by Eugene
a resident of another community
on Dec 5, 2017 at 10:30 am

I guess I’m a little unclear on the concept. When a backyard is already adjacent to loud diesel-electric trains, it is already compromised. The fewer obstructions to electrification the better IMO. Also isn’t taller poles plus more trees better than shorter poles with fewer trees?


15 people like this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 5, 2017 at 12:56 pm

These electrification poles can be spaced more than 200 feet apart on straight sections of track and will be virtually invisible from homes anywhere there is a screen of trees at last 30 feet high along the Caltrain riot-of-way.



14 people like this
Posted by Martin
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 6, 2017 at 11:59 am

I don't understand people's love for diesel exhaust vs a pole that is hardly different than a street light or power line. Or preference for cutting trees to a higher pole.


6 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 6, 2017 at 8:09 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"I don't understand people's love for diesel exhaust vs a pole that is hardly different than a street light or power line. Or preference for cutting trees to a higher pole"

Really? They object to anything that disturbs their fantasy that they live in the "country". Therefor, nothing like airplanes, trains, or whatever else they decide should not interfere with that fantasy.


4 people like this
Posted by PV Res
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Dec 7, 2017 at 9:27 am

Menlo Voter, please respect Atherton and their lifestyle. Just because Menlo Park is an overcrowded, palo-alto like city, doesn’t mean your neighbors should be. I for one enjoy the rural lifestyle and completely respect Atherton’s objections to the ugly eyesore that will be the power poles.


Like this comment
Posted by PV onlooker
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Dec 7, 2017 at 11:49 am

Find out where the poles are being installed. If you do no want to see it go buy a 15 gallon size rewood tree from your favorite nursery, plant between your house and pole. In 5 years with TLC it will block your view of the pole. In 10 years it will be taller than the pole. just remember within 20 years it will be 60 ft. tall.


10 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 7, 2017 at 12:16 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

PV Res:

Their "lifestyle" is a fantasy. They no more live a rural lifestyle than you do, unless you're way up in the hills. We are within 3 international airports and numerous smaller airports, there is a train running through the middle of their town, a major thoroughfare runs through the middle of their town and they want to pretend they live in the sticks. It's a fantasy.


9 people like this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 11, 2017 at 11:10 am

The electrification poles are widely spaced (200-230 feet), slender, and neutral colored => less visible than the typical thick and dark brown, power and telephone poles that already number in the thousands throughout Atherton and Menlo Park neighborhoods. These fixtures are 40-foot high - or taller! The fear about electrification poles is a "red herring".


10 people like this
Posted by #WINNING
a resident of another community
23 hours ago

If your life is so comfortable that possibly viewing a pole out your window gives you distress, I think youre doing OK.....


2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
22 hours ago

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"If your life is so comfortable that possibly viewing a pole out your window gives you distress, I think you're doing OK"

Ya think? Like I said, some of the residents of Atherton want to maintain the fantasy that they live in the countryside even though they live in an area with over 3 million people.


3 people like this
Posted by PV Res
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
20 hours ago

Menlo voter—please do not insult other towns. Just because Atherton has higher home values than Menlo Park shouldn’t be part of the argument. Also the country/rural lifestyle should be preserved, as there are few places left in the Bay Area that have such luxury.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
12 hours ago

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

PV Res:

There's nothing "country" or "rural" about Atherton.


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