Atherton library: Traffic concerns on residents' minds | May 2, 2012 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - May 2, 2012

Atherton library: Traffic concerns on residents' minds

• Deadline for public comments on the draft EIR is May 7.

by Renee Batti

Traffic was on the minds of most of the speakers addressing the Atherton Planning Commission on April 25, as the commission reviewed the draft environmental study of the planned library in Holbrook-Palmer Park.

Lisa Costa Sanders, the town's deputy planner, said that about five people from the public spoke at the meeting, most voicing concerns over the traffic increases expected to result if the town proceeds with plans to build a library of about 10,000 square feet in the park.

The public has until 5 p.m. Monday, May 7, to comment on the draft environmental impact report (EIR).

At last week's meeting, the Planning Commission approved a recommendation to the City Council that it allow the commission to review the final EIR, Ms. Costa Sanders said. The final report is expected to be released sometime in June, and the tentative schedule for reviewing that document doesn't include Planning Commission review.

One resident who has been especially vocal about projected traffic increases on Watkins Avenue resulting from building a new library is Anne McNertney, whose house is near the corner of Watkins and El Camino Real. That intersection has been identified by the draft EIR as being heavily affected by construction of a new, larger library — whether it's built in the park or in the Town Center, where the existing, seismically unsound facility now stands.

Ms. McNertney, who has spoken at the recent commission and council meetings, opposes a mitigation measure identified in the draft EIR that would create a right-turn lane from Watkins onto northbound El Camino Real, telling the council that the street is "enough of a raceway now."

At the April 18 council meeting, she asserted that such a turn lane would directly impact her property, devaluing it to a point that would constitute a condemnation.

The current "level of service," or LOS, at that intersection is already rated F for peak morning traffic. (LOS ratings range from A to F, with F indicating the worst level of delays for vehicles navigating the intersection.)

For peak afternoon traffic, it is now rated D, but is expected to drop to E even without the library in the park. But with construction of a larger library, peak afternoon traffic is expected to cause delays at the intersection that will earn an F rating, the draft EIR says.

A second problematic intersection that will worsen with construction of a larger library is Watkins Avenue and Middlefield Road, according to the draft EIR. But the report recommends a traffic signal at the intersection to solve the existing problem of delays and to make the traffic flow tolerable even if the library is built nearby.

Ms. Costa Sanders said that a few speakers at the Planning Commission meeting also voiced concerns over the loss of the park's Main House, which would be demolished to make way for the new library. A number of residents argue that the building is of historic importance.

Comments on the draft EIR should be submitted to Ms. Costa Sanders by 5 p.m. May 7 by email at; or by snail mail: Lisa Costa Sanders, Atherton Town Hall, 91 Ashfield Road, Atherton , CA 94027.


Like this comment
Posted by William
a resident of Atherton: other
on May 1, 2012 at 1:58 pm

Were there anything to report on from the council's April Meeting?

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Posted by maximus
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 7, 2012 at 1:26 pm

The discussion of traffic and the new library strikes me as rather obstructionist. The library is moving all of a few hundred yards. It will still be accessed by exactly the same streets.

Is the real issue that the new library will be an attractive and comfortable and some residents (whose town facilities Atherton residents use) in adjoining towns might use something in Atherton?

Seems to me that Atherton sponges off its neighbors. For libraries, fields, etc. and can contribute more to the community of adjacent communities.

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 7, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The library is moving all of a few hundred yards. It will still be accessed by exactly the same streets."

No true - a library in HP Park would be accessible only from Watkins whereas the current library can be accessed from Watkins, Atherton Ave, Maple and Ashfield.

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Posted by my take on this
a resident of Atherton: other
on May 7, 2012 at 2:41 pm

You have raised an interesting point about what we might have on offer to share with our neighbors -and worth a good mulling over. I had never really thought about it before.
But No this is not the real issue behind the big scuff up over the Library location. And neither is open space or traffic or any other of the side issues.
I'm pretty sure the real underlying issue that has not been well expressed is that:
One group wants to keep the Library and it's vast reserves in the existing location and then used as a start up vehicle for building a twenty million dollar new Town Center around it-
Paid for out of privately collected donations since we are broke and can't actually afford to be building anything.
And then there are other people who don't want to see a regional library held hostage to an unfunded project and/or are concerned that a Town Administration housed by private money will end up being reflected in some residents receiving different treatment than others. This has already been a problem in the past with gifts to the Police Department for example. It puts all public service employees under a conflicted obligation. The Town then becomes a club for some but not all residents and the whole thing goes south from there. Kind of beside the point of even building the thing in the first place when the Circus has been so recently remodeled with plenty of people already running the show from over there.

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 7, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

It is false simplicity to say that there are two groups with the agendas described. Many concerned citizens fall into neither of the described two groups but they do want to be given the opportunity to vote on this issue as it involves both our only library and our only park.

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Posted by Schools
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on May 7, 2012 at 8:05 pm

Max and My Take,

Atherton does not sponge off its neighbors. Atherton provides numerous public and private schools for more than 8,000 students a day to come into Atherton-almost the population of Atherton.

Atherton used to provide wedding space for regional use, until the pro library council members ended that to make way for the library.

Many would support another field in Holbrook Palmer Park as opposed to moving a library into the park.

What is the reason that the council members who now support the library in the park opposed the MA Performing Arts Center and wanted Pop Warner to play outside of Atheton?

I don't think many realize the size of the two "groups" on the library in the park issue. First less than fifteen people have ever showed up to a council meeting pushing for the library in the park. More showed up to support the MA PAC.

Since Menlo Park already has a library close by and many like the cozy Atherton Library, shouldn't Atherton offer something different to the regional community? Such as wedding and reception space?

There is no town center "group" either, just a committee of less than ten people. How old is the town center and does it need to be replaced? Can it be done for less? Are there other methods to pay for it?

There is another option. Use the money first to upgrade the current Atheton Library and then to do joint venture libraries with the schools, Selby, Menlo College, etc

To Peter -- you are right. Most residents simply want to vote on the issue.