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Anonymous donor offers $8 million for new gym

Original post made on Apr 25, 2008

An anonymous donor has stepped forward and offered Menlo Park $8 million to help build a new Burgess Gym.
The offer is contingent on the donor remaining a secret until the new gym is built. The donor would have an "active role" in managing construction, including selecting the construction contractor, said senior engineer Larry Johmann in a city staff report.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, April 24, 2008, 11:09 PM

Comments (31)

Posted by Amanda
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 25, 2008 at 3:14 am

This is fantastic. Congrats Menlo Park!

Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 25, 2008 at 12:17 pm

My favorite part of this is the "active participation" role the doner has.

Assuming he/she isn't a stock-option lottery winner, he/she might actually reign in the spend-happy committee and council.

Thank you anonymous donor!

Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 25, 2008 at 1:59 pm

More Joanna cluelessness. Assumptions, misleading statements, insults all in one post. At least you are consistent. You planning on hanging another big banner on Santa Cruz outside your house this election season?

Posted by trojan horses
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 25, 2008 at 5:24 pm

Hint: this anonymous donor will soon be looking for a concession from the city that will net that person far more than $6 mm.

Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 25, 2008 at 10:55 pm

Say it isn't so Trojan Horses...not another developer conspiracy even when they are donating millions...hide your children, the "developers" are here. Good lord.

Posted by why so expensive
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 26, 2008 at 11:17 am

Assuming that the numbers quoted above are correct, why should it cost over $650 per square foot to build such a facility, when private groups are able to build for one third to one half that cost. What is going on here?

What is this active role? Lots of questions to be answered. Is this donor looking for something in return?

why so expensive...

Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 26, 2008 at 4:34 pm

why so expensive,


I don't think there is a thing we can do to question the largess of this council. I mean, what can we do? Aside from token protests, do you think we can prevent this disgusting use of our money? I don't unfortunately.

We need someone to clean house.

Posted by The Phantom
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Apr 27, 2008 at 9:51 am

The anonymous donor is quite possibly the John Arrillaga family, known for an affinity for sports complexes, and knowledgeable of construction.

A bird told me.

Posted by AnotherJoannaSillyPost
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 27, 2008 at 10:41 pm

"I don't think there is a thing we can do to question the largess of this council."

Uh, Joanna, sorry, but I do believe the Burgess redo plan pre-dated this council by, what, at least 5 years now???

You just keep on outdoing yourself with silly politically-motivated posts. Give it a rest already!

Posted by Ms. Eerie
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 28, 2008 at 10:56 am

Letting private donors run city construction projects seems like a bad idea.

Posted by Al
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 28, 2008 at 11:46 am

Congrats MP! Not to be un-civic minded here, but as a resident who faces the YEARLY onslaught of continuous property tax increases, I was highly disappointed before this generous, kind citizen stepped forward to save the taxpayers of MP from having to go through another bond measure increase/parcel tax, that the City did not plan better and realize that costs for this project ALSO continuously go up and this should've been taken into acct during the planning stages of this whole project! Please please you can do better!

Posted by pragmatist
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Apr 28, 2008 at 12:09 pm

I don't like the idea of an anonymous donor (obviously NOT anon to the city) who no doubt has some non-altruistic reason for wanting to be in the city's good graces.

I also question the price tag. Don't architects/designers usually charge as a % of the total project cost? If so, no wonder the cost is astronomical! Someone needs to tell them "the budget is $x--what can you do for that?" Isn't that what real people and companies do when they need new construction?

Posted by R.GORDON
a resident of another community
on Apr 28, 2008 at 12:30 pm

R.GORDON is a registered user.

Well whoever did it must be generous like the person who gave the property for the playground in Woodside not too long ago.......
Six million for a gym sounds like one big write off. It should be called the Bear Stearns endowment center.

Posted by new and old
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 28, 2008 at 7:22 pm

I moved here in 2004 but what I see in this forum and around the city at large is not unlike my past town. Lots of older residents folks skeptical of anything and anyone new. You treat your volunteers like pariah, you accuse people of illegal activity and misdoings that nobdoby does in small towns like this and you hide in the shadows like cowards.

This donor is offering to help us build a new facility and one that we could not afford otherwise. What do you do? You insult your council and staff and accuse the donor of trying to get something? What is wrong with you people? What happened to your sense of responsibility and respect and decency?

You should be ashamed of yourselves.

I am thoroughly disgusted with your behavior in this forum and all over town. You act like you protect Menlo Park when, in fact, you are a cancer to everything it represents.

Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 29, 2008 at 1:08 pm


I'll try not to cry.

If you peel away the superficial layers of what watchdogs are saying, you will find that the issue is not with the donor, but with big-ticket projects that our city has no business considering.

It really doesn't matter what council approved this. It makes no difference if the offense occurred 10, 5 or 2 years ago. Pet projects like this still exist and will continue to be shoved under the door unless something changes.

Obviously, the donor is being very generous. But what if the gym didn't cost so much to begin with?? What if transparency in the decision making were embraced?

Anyway, I'm so sorry that I dare question the great ones. I should know my place and just take whatever they dish out.

Posted by Ms. Watchdog to you
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 29, 2008 at 1:35 pm

I beg to differ, Joanna. Most of the watchdogs -- with no superficial layers that I can detect -- are questioning the wisdom (and legality) of allowing someone who will be partially managing a multi-million-dollar public project to remain nameless. This watchdog says: Keep the business of the public in the open.

Posted by R.GORDON
a resident of another community
on Apr 29, 2008 at 4:39 pm

R.GORDON is a registered user.

Today, 8 million dollars doesn't buy what it used to. But still this would be a good place to make a donation from, say a "venture capitalist" who lost a bundle in the market after the Bear Stearns collapse in which billions have to be accounted for.
That the donor has only one request and that is "to select a person or contractor of his/her choice" which means, more than likely, there will be no local builder doing the job. Probably outside of San Mateo County Commissioners jurisdiction but using their staff for all of the inspections. It is done every day and a very handy way to get things done. I would wager some outfit from San Jose and that the project will meet with LOTS of obstacles. This is done all of the time and most contractors will tell you it is an easy way to hide cash. On the other hand, Menlo Park is not that needy and the money might serve a better purpose to feed people in poorer communities.

Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 29, 2008 at 5:24 pm

More Joanna assumptions. Look at the last three posts before this one. There is not one significant piece of fact in any of them. It is all assumptions, suspicions and garbage. Joanna says even considering a new gym is ridiculous. And if the prices the city gets back are high, damn the council! Ms, Watchdog says it is unwise to have a donor of a public project remain nameless and calls for open business as if this deal is done. Ridiculous. And R. Gordon, our infamous county sup perhaps? Doesn't matter, all he does is throw out what ifs and worries without any basis.

Get some facts. Show the facts. Prove the facts. Stop the cycle of ignorance.

Posted by let the sunshine in
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 29, 2008 at 8:30 pm

Did anyone read today's (tomorrow's) Almanac? The donor is not going to remain anonymous for long. The council members know the identity, and it's going to get out.

Anyone who thinks (like new and old) that we're evil and/or narrow-minded and/or carcinogenic obviously isn't familiar with the numerous ways in which the city has sold out to strip miners over the last few years. If the donor is truly on the up-and-up, why not disclose that entity's identity from the beginning? (Allegedly it's because the donor is afraid of other communities beginning for handouts. Sorry, that reason doesn't pass the straight-face test.)

Read the Almanac to see a distillation of the reasons that the anon donation is just a bad idea.

Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 29, 2008 at 9:09 pm


Good point. Can't wait to read it.

When given a choice, this council will choose to operate behind closed doors. Cheers.

Posted by No Free Lunches
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 30, 2008 at 7:31 am

My biggest concern is the concept that there are "no free lunches". What's in it for the donor? In government, decisions should be made "out in the open."

Does the donor what their name on the builidng? Does the donor want other concessions? Maybe it is simply altruistic - along with an income tax benefit or part of a long term estate reduction plan.

In any event, it seems worth pursuing, which is exactly what the City Staff and City Council are doing.

At the end of the day, it would be nice to get a first class recreational facility for the community. The donor may just help make that possible.

Posted by 2008Not2006
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 30, 2008 at 11:12 am

"When given a choice, this council will choose to operate behind closed doors."

Uh, Joanna, it's April of 2008 now, not 2006 when your friends Wink-Wink, Duboi$$$ and King Jellins were in charge!

Posted by Ms. Watchdog to you
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 30, 2008 at 11:57 am

Excuse me, Mr./Ms. Truth, but I didn't in any way imply that this is a done deal. Nor am I cycling in ignorance. Get some facts? Here are some facts:

Council members are facing the lure of a multi-million-dollar donation to build a gym everyone wants to see built, including me. None of the council members is questioning the wisdom of allowing the person with the money to remain nameless to the public, even though this person wants to play an active role in managing the project and decide on important components of the project.

Is it "ignorance" -- is it "ridiculous" -- to advocate for keeping this process open so that the public can scrutinize what it should legally be able to scrutinize as more than $6 million of its money is being spent on a public facility? Is it ignorant or ridiculous to want to make our opinions known to our elected officials before the deal is done?

Posted by Just Wondering
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 30, 2008 at 12:51 pm

You're all so opinionated. I'm wondering why none of you weighed in with your comments, concerns, criticisms and questions at the study session last night which was open to the public?

Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Apr 30, 2008 at 12:57 pm

Ralph M. Brown Act
(California Government Code Sections 54950-54963)

In enacting this chapter, the Legislature finds and declares
that the public commissions, boards and councils and the
other public agencies in this State exist to aid in the
conduct of the people’s business. It is the intent of the law
that their actions be taken openly and that their
deliberations be conducted openly.

The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to
the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating
authority, do not give their public servants the right to
decide what is good for the people to know and what is
not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining
informed so that they may retain control over the
instruments they have created.

This chapter shall be known as the Ralph M. Brown Act.

Posted by torches and townspeople
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 30, 2008 at 3:26 pm

why bother to rebut this frothing of the mouth forum...

gather the townspeople and the torches it is election season!!

down with the establishment! off with their heads!

don't ever bring a proposal without a name again!!!!!

we don't need any help and our kids don't need those newfangled gyms or fields!

let's just dig a hole and tell our kids to fill it!

that is true excercise!

and when they fill it, have them dig another and fill that one!!

don't spend money on shovels you liberal tax and spenders!

have them use their hands!

what are these paved roads? dig em up, we'll use gravel again and go back to horse carts!

put em all in jail!

Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 1, 2008 at 7:45 pm

Wow... there are some ignorant people here.

Posted by MenloMommy
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 2, 2008 at 12:48 am

I find it remarkable that members of this Council, who campaigned on the importance of transparency in local government, are seriously considering a proposal that will allow an anonymous private individual/entity to pick the contractor and play an active role in the construction and design process of a significant city planning project.

The only explanation for the donor wanting to remain anonymous, that I have heard, is that the donor doesn't want "lots and lots of calls" from other cities looking for similar donations. Even if this were true (hard to believe, really), I find it troubling that the Council would be so quick to barter away transparency and accountability just to save the donor a few phone calls.

There is nothing wrong with a charitable donor wanting to remain anonymous. But that is not the case here. An individual or entity wants to "anonymously" buy the right to pick the contractor and play an active role in the design and construction of an athlectic facility on city-owned property. Moreover, this "donor" doesn't want to remain anonymous forever--they just want to stay anonymous until the project is completed. This suggests to me that the "donor" is concerned that if his/her identity is known in advance then it might jeopardize their ability to "seal the deal."

Put simply, if there is *any* reason why this indiviual/entity should not be hand picking the contractor for this project, and participating in the design/construction process, the public should know about it in advance.

Posted by do it right
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on May 3, 2008 at 9:27 am

Has anyone really thought whether we need two separate facilities? The City gave away the pool to a private party because Winkler, DuBoc and Jellins claimed the City could not afford to run it. (of course we all know that real reason was to pay off their cronies who are Menlo Master's members)

Is this what is going to happen to the rec and gym facilities? Are they going to get built and then it will be decided to let a private party come in and lease them for no cost.

Use of park-in-lieu fees for construction of buildings is a push at best. The fees are supposed to be for parks, not to build structures. Measure T bond money was to be used for construction. Those of us who value open space should resist the use of these funds for building construction.

The gymnastics crowd is pushing for a much expanded facility. A few years ago it was the soccer crowd that wanted more and more playing fields. And, of course, there was the "child care" crowd wanting to build a Taj Mahal to house their "kiddies" while they spent their time elsewhere.

For certain this is not an "open government" process. Cuncil should act promptly get the facts, including the donor, out in public.

do it right

Posted by R.GORDON
a resident of another community
on May 4, 2008 at 3:20 pm

R.GORDON is a registered user.

Joanna is merely saying things most people are too afraid to say or do not want to be on a "grateful citizenry" list. She is correct in her conclusions of what could and might happen and I, for one, support her tongue in cheek response to those who belittle her obvious concern and good mind. It would not surprise me if she has had past experience from which to use as resources for her conclusions and mostly, they involve money, charity, the San Mateo Planning commission and no I am not supervisor Gordon, who, I think would approve of all the "lolly" this gesture is doing for one of the richest communities in America.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda

on Sep 25, 2017 at 5:34 am

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