Is separation ahead for Atherton and the fire district? | January 29, 2020 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - January 29, 2020

Is separation ahead for Atherton and the fire district?

Town begins public outreach about possible exit from fire agency

by Angela Swartz

Town of Atherton officials will begin gathering feedback from residents on the town's 2016 fire services study, which showed a disparity between the fixed percentage of tax revenues the town's property owners hand over to the Menlo Park Fire Protection District in return for emergency response services, and how much it actually costs the district to provide those services to the town.

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jan 28, 2020 at 10:43 am

From: Peter Carpenter <>
Subject: The Atherton Town Council should balance its focus on "fiscal equity" with a commitment to social responsibility - here is a good role model
Date: January 26, 2020 at 3:11:01 PM GMT
To: Bill Widmer <>, Mike Lempres <>, Rick DeGolia <>, Cary Wiest <>, Elizabeth Lewis <>

In all of its discussions of “fiscal equity” over the last six years neither the Town Council or the Town Manager has ever uttered a single word about the impact of their proposed “fiscal equity” actions on the residents of the less well off communities from which they propose to steal property tax revenues.

The Atherton Town Council should balance its focus on "fiscal equity" with a commitment to social responsibility — here is a good role model

"The most striking new entry this year is the Harry Potter author, JK Rowling. We have established that Rowling is fully resident for UK tax and paid just under £47m on her £100m-odd of royalties and other earnings for 2018-19 through the self-assessment system.

"She eschews tax havens and corporate structures intended for any legal tax avoidance. Part of the reason for this simplicity is that Rowling, as she once wrote in The Times, wanted her children to grow up in “a culture as old and magnificent as Britain’s” rather than “living in the limbo of some tax haven” and associating only with the children of “greedy tax exiles”.

She has also spoken of the debt she owes to the welfare state. Her first Harry Potter tale was written while she was living on benefits. “When my life hit rock bottom, that safety net, threadbare though it had become under John Major’s government, was there to break the fall,” Rowling has said. “It would have been contemptible to scarper for the West Indies at the first sniff of a seven-figure royalty cheque.” “

Web Link

Posted by A Novel Idea
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 29, 2020 at 8:24 pm

What if the town of Atherton became "West Menlo Park" like it is shown on the map? And what if the new Menlo Park included East Palo Alto? Food for thought.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jan 30, 2020 at 5:38 am

Even better - consolidate ALL the fire agencies in San Mateo County and we will get better services at half the current prices.

There are huge economies of scale in fire services.

And a county wide fire agency would be able to take over the ambulance service which would greatly reduce ambulance response times.

A big win.

Posted by Atherton Res
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jan 30, 2020 at 7:49 am

Maybe make the newsletter digital instead of print. Let's save that $2000 and be green.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Feb 9, 2020 at 8:20 am

Fire Board to conduct its monthly meetings at each of its seven Fire Stations to promote a new community focused outreach effort!

After spending years and over $100k on a flawed study
Atherton threatens to leave the Fire District

In January, the Menlo Park Fire Protection District Fire Board did something new, it held its regularly scheduled monthly meeting at its Fire Station 2 in the City of East Palo Alto to help acknowledge and celebrate the appointment of the first East Palo Alto Board President, Robert Jones, in its 104 year history. When President Jones was handed the gavel by outgoing President Virginia Kiraly, it was not only done in front of his family and friends, but also in the City he has called home for over the last four decades, and a community he feels he can best represent, as a member of the five person elected Fire Board.

The Fire District’s 29 square mile service area covers the Town of Atherton, Cities of East Palo Alto and Menlo Park, unincorporated areas of San Mateo County and is on contract to the SLAC National Accelerator and Laboratories. The rich diversity and unique challenges associated with protecting and responding to each community is one of the reasons Fire Chief Schapelhouman asked the Fire Board to take its monthly meetings on the “road”, so to speak, for the next six months.

Chief Schapelhouman said “most people don’t know that we exist as a “Special Fire District”, we are not tied to any of the City Governments. The jurisdictions we protect and provide emergency services too don’t control, or fund us. In fact, we were created 104 years ago, before the Town and Cities were incorporated and who’s areas are actually in our boundaries, with the exception of the County. What that all really means is that we are a single focused, autonomous organization that as a Special District, is considered to be one of the most effective and efficient forms of Government. Consolidated Fire Services over a multi-jurisdictional areas, works very well under a Special District model. We’ve been doing this for 104 years, and that’s why we can provide one of the highest quality and effective levels of emergency and fire services to everyone in the Fire District, across the Board, through our network of seven fire stations, 12 emergency response units and over 100 dedicated and highly proficient team of first responders.”

On Tuesday, February 18, starting at 7 pm, the Fire Board will hold its next regularly scheduled meeting at its Atherton Fire Station 3, located at 32 Almendral Avenue. Residents and members of the Community are encouraged to attend the meeting. On the agenda, the highly controversial issue of the Town Council of Atherton advertising that it wants to hear from “its residents” about not only the cost and quality of Fire Services, but also actually attempting to separate from the Fire District.

Fire Chief Schapelhouman said, “the Fire Board and I look forward to hearing from our residents as to their satisfaction, or concerns, regarding the quality of our emergency services, the management of the agency, budget, and vision for the future. Bottom line, we wanted to give our residents and customers an opportunity to meet and here from the real Fire Board and Fire Chief. The Fire Districts five member Board is duly elected by the entire community that we serve, to manage those critical fire and emergency services”.

President Jones is also the new Board Liaison to Atherton, and he, like the other Board members, want to know not only what this “threat” of separation means, but specifically what it would mean to providing essential emergency services to the rest of the Fire District, all of whom could dramatically be impacted by such a decision, if the Atherton Town Council moves forward. That’s why they have invited the County’s expert on such matters to the meeting.

Already, a small but growing number of concerned residents want to know how the Town of Atherton’s alleged “equity grievance” would affect them. In January, as word spread at the Boards meeting in East Palo Alto, where over 30,000 of the 100,000 people protected by Fire District live, there was both surprise and concern. The City of East Palo Alto’s residents, many who work in Atherton, daily face dramatically different issues like overcrowding, soaring rent and living costs. The socio-economic challenges and realities are very much different than the Town of Atherton, which for the third year in a row has topped the list of “most expensive” homes in America.

The realization and word that this could dramatically affect other less fortunate areas of the Fire District, like East Palo Alto, Belle Haven (Menlo Park) and unincorporated (County) North Fair Oaks, has only just started to be understood and discussed!


In March, the Fire Board will be meeting at Fire Station 77, located on Chilco Street in the Belle Haven neighborhood of Menlo Park.

Topics will include:
The realities of Atherton leaving the Fire District
Belle Haven Library and Community Center – The proposed waiving of fees by the Chief and Fire Board
Use of the Chilco House – Location of the 2nd Battalion (July 1, 2020)
The current and future use of Fire Station 77
The recommendation to move Rescue 77
Proposed Station 88 – Purchasing the land from the City of Menlo Park
Traffic control devices – Modification of non-compliant devices
Facebook - Willow Village Proposal
Dumbarton Rail Response

In April, the Fire Board will be meeting at Fire Station 4, located in the Sharon Heights and upper areas of Menlo Park and Atherton.

Topics will include:
The realities of Atherton leaving the Fire District
The new $20m Fire Station that will replace the 70 year old current facility – When will we be breaking ground
The addition of a Truck and Battalion Chief to the Station once it is re-built
The Alameda Roadway Task Force priorities from the Fire District’s perspective
The potential annexation of Weekend Acres
The actual Wildland Fire threat and new evacuation route planning and mapping
A new early warning and evacuation signaling system for Walsh Road
The emergency service provider contact re-newel with SLAC

In May, the Fire Board will be meeting at Fire Station 5, located in the North Fair Oaks area of Menlo Park and the County.

Topics will include:
The realities of Atherton leaving the Fire District
Exploring a new Fire Station location
Addressing the problematic traffic control devices
The reduction of lanes on Middlefield Road in North Fair Oaks that will negatively impact Atherton and the Stations emergency response times
The potential loss of rail crossings and emergency unit deployment

In June, the Fire Board will be meeting at the newly rebuilt (2018) Fire Station 6, located in downtown Menlo Park.

Topics will include:
The realities of Atherton leaving the Fire District
New historical tours and educational opportunities for children and adults at our Museum
The development, congestion and traffic impacts on El Camino Real, in and around, downtown Menlo Park
The recommended addition of Rescue 6
Emergency water supply for down town Menlo Park

Harold Schapelhouman
Fire Chief
Menlo Park Fire Protection District | 170 Middlefield Road | Menlo Park, CA 94025
(650) 380-1006 cell |

Mission Statement: To protect and preserve life and property from the impact of fire, disaster, injury and illness.

a resident of another community
on Feb 10, 2020 at 7:16 pm

Why is the Menlo Park Fire Protection District spending taxpayer dollars on remodeling a home that they claim they're going to tear down?

So battalion chiefs don't have to sleep in the fire stations. That's why.

Your tax dollars at work.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Feb 10, 2020 at 7:19 pm

"Why is the Menlo Park Fire Protection District spending taxpayer dollars on remodeling a home"

Because until it needs to be torn down YEARS from now the home should not be an eyesore for the community and it should be put to good use.

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