There are several topics of importance on the Atherton City Council's Wednesday, Oct. 21, agenda, including reviewing plans to shut down train service in town for good, with a proposed closure date of Dec. 1.
The council signed off on a Caltrain proposal to permanently close its historic train station in January because of years of minimal service and low ridership, and a desire to safeguard the town from legislation similar to the recent Senate Bill 50, which would have put cities on the hook for allowing high density housing near public transit. But the town's agreement of how to close the station with the rail service has been delayed as officials have focused on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Caltrain ridership hit a low of approximately 5% of pre-pandemic levels and has significantly changed Caltrain's operations, revenues and balance sheet from the time the proposal was presented to the town, according to a report prepared by town staff for the meeting).
The Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, which owns and operates Caltrain, consists of representatives from San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, would seek approval from the San Mateo County Transportation Authority for at least 50% match funding for the installation of $800,000 worth of permanent safety fencing and Watkins Avenue crossing safety improvements. It would also ask the transportation agency to cover 100% of the costs for site improvements.
The agreement wouldn't be effective until the San Mateo County Transportation Authority approves the aforementioned funds and upon receipt of required environmental approvals.
Other stipulations, with the associated costs in parentheses, in the memorandum of understanding include:
• Removing of the Atherton station center boarding platform and access crossings ($400,000)
• Re-purposing of the Atherton station property, including the existing station building, parking area, site landscaping and other related improvements along the rail corridor allowing for integration of the station building into the town center complex, and aesthetic and safety separation from the active rail corridor.
• Installing four-quadrant gates, and related safety improvements, at the Watkins Avenue rail crossing ($5 million)
• Study and implement of access improvements connecting the Atherton town center to the Menlo Park Caltrain station.
• Cooperation with the town should the town elect to expand a quiet zone within the town limits.
There are currently no storefronts in town, but that could change with the opening of the new civic center, slated for completion in 2021.
The council will vote on soliciting proposals to operate a 250-square-foot library cafe. Because of the current volatile business climate during the pandemic, and an expressed desire to possibly coordinate the selection of the cafe vendor with that of an event services management vendor at Holbrook-Palmer Park, staff recommends that the council postpone release of the request for proposals until March 2021, according to a staff report.
The new, approximately 10,000-square-foot library will include quiet reading areas, maker spaces, conference rooms, a heritage community room and a large, approximately 2,000-square-foot, deck and terrace fronting the unfinished cafe space.
The town is seeking a vendor who will finish, furnish and equip the cafe within six months of receiving the temporary certificate of occupancy, anticipated around July 1, 2021. The vendor would operate the cafe for an initial term of three years and will be renewable at the option of the town for up to three additional one-year periods.
The vendor would pay Atherton monthly rent in the form of a percentage of gross receipts from all concession sales.
The council reviewed a draft request for proposals for the cafe in September, and expressed a desire to expand the pool of potential vendors to include both for profit and nonprofit organizations and to incorporate a means by which to compare proposals that would provide a preference for nonprofit organizations.
The library has a service area of approximately 15,000 patrons and will be open seven days a week.
The council will also examine naming rights to portions of the civic center project, including "Legends of Atherton" themed rooms in the library, according to a staff report. Each donor has the opportunity to name a library conference room for family or "dedicate the room to an Atherton legend" of their choice and decorate with memorabilia. The City Council must approve the legend and memorabilia decor.
The town has received a $3 million donation to fund the town hall, $3 million for the civic center courtyard, $300,000 to fund a water fountain near the library and other funds. These donors gave money in exchange for naming rights.
Public Works Director Robert Ovadia will update the council on the progress of the civic center project construction.
The council will consider rate increases for residential, commercial and green waste collection. The proposal calls for increases in rates between 2.5% and 10% more than the current rates, according to a staff report. The increased rates fund required collection and disposal operating expenses.
The meeting will take place on Zoom at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. For more information, go here.