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Back to the drawing board for Atherton?

Original post made on Jun 9, 2018

Only two of the five contractors Atherton had prequalified to bid on the project to build the town's new civic center complex submitted bids, and when those bids were opened on Tuesday, June 5, the news wasn't good.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Saturday, June 9, 2018, 9:04 AM

Comments (13)

17 people like this
Posted by Nostradamus
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jun 9, 2018 at 10:06 am


Massive cost overruns (now 40% at the LOW END).

A design that was TOO BIG AND TOO EXPENSIVE for what Atherton needs. How much TAXPAYER MONEY HAS BEEN WASTED on a design that now has to be thrown out??!?!?

But all along, the town council and the civic center committee IGNORED their input based on clear handwriting on the wall, including the private donations never appearing and the parcel tax failing.

Instead, they're now trying to double down to build housing for the highest paid police force in California (and maybe the world)!!! Of course, part of the $56 to $68M build cost that we cannot afford includes a state-of-the-art gym for these fellows, despite all manner of reasonable objection as to how grandiose this project became.

Listen, I don 't want to be "mean", but at what point do reasonable people say that the individuals involved thus far have just not had the right judgment, and this has been proven through one thing after another, and it's time for them to step down?

This whole thing has been a TOTAL FIASCO and the most troubling thing is the "leaders" of the project like Elizabeth Lewis and Didi Fisher and Rick Degolia have been "one way or another, this is getting done" while IGNORING all of the objective signs that the project was in deep, deep distress.

Bring in Sandy Crittenden to throw up a pre-fab structure for a few million dollars. No gym for the police officers. No marble lobby. No huge office for the town manager. No luxury housing for police officers. No cafe. Basic government offices.

2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 9, 2018 at 10:14 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Maybe Arrillaga will donate? Has anyone in Atherton town hall been paying any attention to what is happening with construction costs in this area? This was easily predicted.

6 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 9, 2018 at 1:50 pm

Menlo Voter
Donate to Atherton? You must be joking or smoking.

12 people like this
Posted by Cynic
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 9, 2018 at 5:28 pm

Time to replace the decrepit trailers with some new double-wides and call it a day. Perhaps some astro-turf to make it look a little nicer than it really is.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 9, 2018 at 6:24 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.


John seems to like having his name on buildings, so why not Atherton?

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Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 9, 2018 at 6:45 pm

Menlo Voter
It could always be called AA City Center.

3 people like this
Posted by Steve Taffee
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 11, 2018 at 12:15 pm

Is it that hard to imagine that developers would look at Atherton, perhaps the wealthiest community on the peninsula, and come in with a high bid?

7 people like this
Posted by Dave Ross
a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on Jun 11, 2018 at 2:07 pm

@Steve Taffee - Generally the general contractors that bid on public works projects are not developers. Developers, in this instance, are competing with public agencies and other business and property owners for scarce construction resources, and that drives up prices for everyone. In my experience (over 40 years in construction), a public agency's zip code is not a big factor in bid results. Here are the top three factors:
1. The scope and design of the project. No matter what the design team or outside consultant predicts, the only true measure of the cost of a project is the bid result (plus, of course, changes along the way).
2. Market condiitons. All sectors of the construction industry are overbooked right now. Labor, materials, management are all in short supply. You know what economists say about supply and demand!
3. Perceived risk. Any GC bidder who wants to stay in business will evaluate the risk factors in each project. If the risk seems high, they may not bid at all in a hot market. If they do bid, they may include $ for risk. For example, if a project has a demanding schedule (hard to meet when labor and materials are scarce), a bidder will add extra $ to cover anticipated late-completion penalties.

It is misguided to blame the bidders - they are businesses made of people who also have to pay their bills and the high local cost of living.

Since all things come in threes, IMO Atherton has three choices (or a combination). Find more money, reduce project scope, and/or wait for a cooler construction market with more eager bidders.

6 people like this
Posted by Sandy Crittenden
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 12, 2018 at 12:17 pm

Sandy Crittenden is a registered user.

The high bids are not a surprise to any clear thinking person. What I was told by members involved in the design was that they were not to worry about price. After all, ‘the project was to be paid for with donated funds’. Again, any resident who has been here for a while and been involved in the community groups and government would know the fundraising would fail without new input. The old guard in town was not going to fund this project.
Nostradamus said, ”Bring in Sandy Crittenden to throw up a pre-fab structure for a few million dollars.” has misjudged me. Doing things on the cheap is not my idea of our town and local government. There is a middle ground.
Having been the lead resident against the parcel tax, I am fearful that whatever I might suggest will be instantly rejected by the decision makers.
The public statements in the Almanac about the civic center being built, no matter what, shows lack of reason and unwillingness to compromise or even to listen to other ideas.
The only thought I will offer is all the time and money that has been spent on the design is sunk cost. “A sunk cost is a cost that an entity has incurred, and which it can no longer recover by any means. Your decisions are tainted by the emotional investments you accumulate, and the more you invest in something the harder it becomes to abandon it. Web Link .
Now is the time to pause for a moment and review other options. Reflect on decisions that were made and see if they need to be revised. What has been spent on the current design has already been spent. It can’t be recovered. There is a better solution. I am hopeful the council and town manager will find it.

2 people like this
Posted by Christine David
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 12, 2018 at 1:33 pm

Having been through the construction bidding process in the private sector it seems to me that George's suggested options are reasonable, Dave's explanations seem logical, and Sandy's supporting comments seem fair and sensible. Just look around the Bay Area at present. There are so many construction projects going on, just up and down the peninsula, that I'm amazed Atherton received any bids at all. Short of waiting for a market correction, these other options might be the only way possible to proceed. Clearly the Town needs new facilities. Lets press on considering all options available with open minds and creative solutions.

10 people like this
Posted by Nostradamus
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 12, 2018 at 11:24 pm

Sandy, you are correct. The people leading this effort have invested years of emotions into a grandiose vision they want realized without regard to how it's cost effective, in the best interests of the residents, or even possible. The primary motivation thus far seems to be giving more and more tax payer money for the benefit of the police department that has in turn made their council positions possible by buying their seats (Lewis). They've now even gone so far as to state they want free housing for the police, in addition to the huge salaries they are getting.

Enough is enough!

You're right. The millions wasted on this is a sunk cost. it can't be recovered. But the people responsible should pay a price for wasting this enormous amount of taxpayer money. Bad decisions should have consequences. Our tax payers have worked too hard for this money that has now been sunk down the drain by Lewis, Didi Fisher and Degolia.

Why aren't they stepping down? Why haven't they been removed? Honestly speaking, why aren't they deeply ashamed that they have wasted these millions on what amounts to feeding their egos?

A little over one year ago, on May 9, the Almanac quoted you as stating: "If donations can't be raised, the building should be redesigned much more frugally, [Crittenden] said. 'I believe it's too expensive. I believe there was minimal restraint in designing this," he said. He suggested "maybe a prefab building that doesn't look prefab,' such as the one he recently built in another part of the state for only $95 a square foot with all the amenities."

The few million I have suggested budgets at least $95/square foot. It's a price we can afford. We shouldn't go beyond what we can afford. We shouldn't go beyond what we need.

I'm all for you stepping up to lead this effort. Just make sure "all the amenities" doesn't include the police gym, the police free housing, or the cafe. These are not needs. These exceed what we can afford. It doesn't have to be a "maximally restrained" approach, but there needs to be much, much much more restraint than the zero restraint Lewis, Didi Fisher and Degolia have shown.

15 people like this
Posted by laughing
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Jun 13, 2018 at 11:29 am

Nostradamus nailed it on the head!! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!!!!! The town needs fiscal responsibility not grandiose ridiculous over the top buildings. An emergency operations center??? In addition to a new police station and city hall??? That is outrageous, a total waste of money and not necessary! I have said for YEARS...outsource. Let the County Sheriff take over police services. Problem solved. A new simple building can then be designed and built for City Counsel meetings and town officials at a reasonable cost. MILLIONS will be saved and the town will receive top notch services for a fraction of the cost. The Sheriff serves Woodside, Portola Valley, Uninc. Menlo Park, San Carlos, Half Moon Bay and on and on and on. This makes sense. Say it with me greedy town officals..."FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY".

3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 19, 2018 at 12:17 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Projected costs VS real costs of construction:

1 -From Atherton’s Matrix report on having its own fire department”

“Fire Stations – The Town will need two fire stations. It is assumed existing sites
will be used for these locations. The current fire station is owned by the Menlo
Park Fire Protection District and it is unknown whether they would allow the
Town to take over the facility and operate from the station. There was also a
recent land acquisition adjacent to the station by the MPFPD at a cost of $5
million. If this facility were sold to the Town an estimated price of $10 million is
being made for the facility. The existing home in the park will require renovations
to accommodate the fire personnel and the addition of an apparatus bay. It is
estimated these modifications and additions will cost $1.5 million.”

2 -From the MPFPD Staff Report:

The cost to build continues to rapidly increase in California. For example, Fire Station 2, a two story Fire Station in 2013 was bid at $458 per square foot, Station 6, a two story Fire Station in 2016 was bid at $780 per square foot and most recently in 2018, Coastside Fire Station 41, a single story Fire Station came in at approximately $917 per square foot.

3- It would be an unwise Town Council to continue to ignore the real VS the projected cost of construction. And every delay in starting this project will further increase the price.

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