Atherton: City Council to discuss options for easing traffic in town


Traffic mitigation and a proposal for new police body cameras are among the items on the Atherton City Council's agenda tonight (Wednesday, July 17).

Staff will present findings from a study on how to mitigate traffic that council members say has worsened in town. Transportation consulting firm TJKM reviewed the Alameda de las Pulgas corridor and traffic overall. In a 500-page report, TJKM found which intersections have the worst traffic congestion - a list that includes Valparaiso Avenue at Emilie Avenue, Alameda de las Pulgas at Atherton Avenue and Middlefield Road at Watkins Avenue - and offered recommendations for mitigating the congestion.

Now council members will consider directing staff to explore using traffic control measures to decrease through-traffic in town.

The report’s authors recommend the town update its general plan to describe how streets serve key modes of travel: bicycle, motor vehicle, pedestrian and public transit. They also suggest turning restrictions at key intersections along Alameda de las Pulgas, Valparaiso Avenue and Middlefield Road, and signal improvements at the intersection of Alameda de las Pulgas and Atherton Avenue and at Middlefield Road where it intersects with Fair Oaks Lane and Watkins Avenue.

The council will also review recommendations from the town's Transit Committee, which is advocating for left-turn restrictions from southbound Alameda de las Pulgas to Stockbridge Avenue and Polhemus Avenue during the morning commute; traffic signals at the intersections of Valparaiso and Elena avenues and Valparaiso and Emilie avenues, with left and right turn lanes on Emilie at Valparaiso and Elena at Valparaiso; and new bike lanes in one direction along Atherton Avenue, among other proposals.

There are currently many large commercial and residential projects that are either being designed or are under construction in adjacent communities that will further impact traffic flow in the town, according to the consulting firm's report.

Also on the agenda is a proposal for staff to purchase 30 new Axon body cameras for $500 each for town police officers, according to a staff report. The total cost would be $133,208.08 (which includes installation, licensing and additional costs) over five years. These would replace the town's VieVu body cameras, which are no longer available and can’t be serviced or repaired since Axon Enterprise bought VieVu in 2018.

The Atherton Police Department has used body cameras for more than 10 years, said City Manager George Rodericks in an email. All sworn police officers and the code enforcement officer use the body cameras. The department has the same number of cameras now and the purchase would cover applicable personnel plus a couple of spares, he said.

“VieVu body cameras provide valuable evidence by obtaining accurate victim and witness statements, increased transparency and accountability of police officer activities,” according to a staff report. “Body cameras also help to protect against false accusations, misconduct, or abuse against police officers.”

Axon body camera footage is stored on, a cloud-based system that allows Atherton police to store, streamline and share all of the body camera data with the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office, according to the staff report. This feature is exclusive to Axon and is also utilized by multiple San Mateo County police agencies, according to the staff report.

The council will also vote on whether to authorize the purchase of three marked 2019 BMW police motorcycles for a total cost of $112,749.24. The council will also decide whether to authorize the sale of the police department’s four marked police motorcycles (due to mileage and wear): a 2007 Honda, a 2012 BMW, a 2013 BMW and 2015 BMW, according to the staff report.

The council meeting will start around 5:30 p.m. (depending on when a 5 p.m. closed session meeting ends) at Holbrook-Palmer Park’s Pavilion at 150 Watkins Ave. in Atherton.


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Like this comment
Posted by Debbie R.
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jul 17, 2019 at 12:46 pm

Traffic at Alejandra and El Camino is unbearable as well, especially when Menlo College, Menlo School and Sacred Heart are in session. Wish this would be addressed. Have complained/commented for years.

The El Camino corridor from Alejandra all the way south through Menlo Park is ridiculous. Construction causing closed lanes, increase in traffic, and more development which will add many more cars is making it so difficult to drive in this area. 15 minutes from Alejandra to get to Santa Cruz Avenue. Too much building in Menlo Park. And they want to put another hotel where Red Cottage is located as well as develop Beltramos property! So frustrating!

1 person likes this
Posted by Margie
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jul 17, 2019 at 1:12 pm

Town Council needs to get Menlo Park and County to add back a vehicular lane through Menlo Park's portion of El Camino...why it goes from 3 lanes to 2 lanes only in MPark affects every community north and south of MPark. Not sure traffic lights will solve all the problems on Atherton Avenue since it will only serve to increase the back ups at the intersection but it's a start. No left turns onto Polhemus and Stockbridge will help during rush hours but Waze most certainly will direct those people down Woodside Road to San Carlos where they will turn right , head to Selby then right on Selby to Atherton Ave where they will turn left in order to get to Barry Lane and to the schools on Valparaiso.
Whatever the solution, it sadly will put more traffic on alternative residential streets in Atherton.

Like this comment
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 17, 2019 at 4:18 pm

Atherton should work with the other communities (Redwood City, Menlo Park and the County) to address the problem instead of applying a path here and there that will probably not fix the problem and will likely cause problems in other places. Let's face it if Menlo Park or RWC decides to do the same thing Atherton is doing they will likely just push traffic to Atherton, Palo Alto, etc. Who loses? Everyone from the drivers to the residents of the cities who can not get to and from their homes.

1 person likes this
Posted by Question
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jul 19, 2019 at 9:24 am

Are taxpayers paying for cameras that are always on, or will Atherton officers have a choice about when to use them? Recall the Stanford professor incident in which a policy that seemed pretty clear about camera use being mandatory was interpreted by the police as the officer had the choice. Just pointing out that without a bullet proof policy - no pun intended - the large expenditure only protects the police instead of both police and public.

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