Deeming the initial rollout of license plate readers in town a success, Atherton town officials will purchase additional readers using a $52,250 donation from an anonymous donor. The plan is to install some along busier intersections, including along El Camino Real.
With the City Council's approval during last week's April 21 meeting to purchase an additional 10 cameras licensed by the manufacturer for two years of use, the town will soon have a total of 43 automated license plate readers installed.
Automated license plate readers (ALPRs) are mounted on police cars or on fixtures such as road signs and bridges. The town plans to put additional cameras at westbound Stockbridge Avenue at El Camino Real, westbound Almendral Avenue at El Camino Real, southbound Alameda De Las Pulgas at Stockbridge Avenue and elsewhere. Some 22 of these 43 cameras are privately funded.
"The Flock ALPR cameras located throughout town have proven to be a very valuable investigative tool and a proactive crime detection tool," according to a Feb. 17 report prepared by McCulley. "Within the first few weeks of operation a burglary suspect vehicle was identified and linked to a major in-town burglary. Several felony arrests have been made as the result of Flock license plate hits. The arrests include stolen cars and wanted, armed violent fugitives."
Council member Rick DeGolia said he is grateful for the program and noted that Atherton might have the largest deployment of Flock cameras per capita.
The private funding of $52,250 will support the initial purchase and two years of annual cost as well as the majority of the installation costs related to each camera, according to an April 21 report prepared by town staff.
When the initial two-year agreements end for the privately funded camera locations, the town can elect to remove the camera if private financial support is withdrawn. The annual cost to fund all 43 cameras would be $107,500, according to the April 21 report.
Police first proposed the idea to install cameras in town in response to a rash of 20 residential burglaries over a four-month period between November 2018 and February 2019.
All-electric building codes
Council members also opted, in a 4-1 vote, to take a $10,000 grant from Peninsula Clean Energy (PCE) to compensate for staff and consultant time to explore adopting reach codes to require new buildings in Atherton be all-electric. In addition to California required building codes, cities and counties may also adopt more advanced, or enhanced, building codes, which are known as reach codes, according to PCE’s website. Towns across the Peninsula have adapted such codes, including Menlo Park and East Palo Alto. Woodside officials declined to consider these building reach codes, according to a report from the clean energy agency.
Portola Valley is "very close" to moving forward with their codes, with a first reading coming soon, said to Rafael Reyes, the agency's director of energy programs, during the meeting.
Reyes shared how electrically powered homes are safer and healthier, according to the presentation. For example, gas stoves in homes increase children's asthma risk by 42%, the report states. Total electric living eliminates the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and induction ranges automatically turn off when not in-use, eliminating a leading cause of house fires, according to the report.
Council member Diana Hawkins-Manuelian said she supports pursuing a move to all-electric building.
"I think with the new houses going in now, or putting in hardware that's going to be in place going into the future, it's our duty to try to fix some of the problems we have (with gas power)," she said. "If I look at the community of Atherton, I think there's only one thing that I think the ladies will have a hard time giving up their Wolf and Viking stoves. And I've not been able to find any induction stoves that are being promoted very much in the U.S., so that's something that has to be fixed. … I do think that our community would go with it; we have a high number of electric cars already so I'm in favor of this."
Vice Mayor Mike Lempes was the only council member to vote against exploring the code change, noting "it makes me uncomfortable for us to be mandating things for people to do."
Peninsula Clean Energy's consulting team to work with town staff to devise an approach that fits for Atherton, Reyes said. The agency can offer model reach codes and consultants who can offer guidance to create a specific ordinance for the town.
Menlo College will break ground on new dormitory and host in-person graduation
Menlo College officials will break ground on a new 288-bed residence at the campus on May 13, Angela Schmiede, vice president for student success and chair of the pandemic planning team at Menlo College, told the council during the meeting. This will be the first new housing on campus in more than 30 years, she said.
Schmiede said the new three-story housing project will expand affordable housing for students and reduce traffic congestion to and from the campus.
The council gave the greenlight last summer to the project, which the school aims to complete by April 2022.
Menlo College, which is reopening for in-person classes in the fall, will host its 93rd commencement in person for both the classes of 2020 and 2021 since last year's graduates did not have a graduation ceremony because of the pandemic.
Maya Soetoro-Ng, former president Barack Obama's sister and co-founder of Ceeds of Peace, which creates peace building action plan workshops for educators, families, and community leaders will speak at the ceremony. Schmiede described Soetoro-Ng as a "really delightful person."
Graduates will be able to bring two guests and families will sit in distanced pods on the quad, Schmiede said. Typical post-ceremony gatherings have been canceled. Graduates will be required to verify a negative COVID-19 test before the ceremony.
The school plans to enroll about 850 students this fall, said President Steve Weiner during the meeting.
Civic center project
The town's long-awaited new $31.6 million civic center, which includes police and administration facilities, building and planning offices, and a library, is on track to finish on time, City Manager George Rodericks told the council during the meeting.
A soft opening is planned for July and the library should be ready in August, he shared. A grand opening is slated for October.
This week, construction workers planned to continue demolition of roadway, curb and gutters on Station Lane and begin to install of lower roof clay tile for City Hall and the Police Department building, according to a staff report. They also planned to continue work on electrical and mechanical systems for the new library and City Hall and Police Department.
Watch video of the meeting here.