Atherton drafts angry letter over fire station study

Study concluded Atherton's only station should eventually move out of town

Menlo Park Fire Protection District Chief Harold Schapelhouman has often protested that local government entities do not include the fire district when planning new developments, roadway changes or other projects that will impact the fire district and its ability to provide emergency services.

This time, however, Atherton is protesting that the fire district isn't involving the town in making decisions that will impact its residents.

At its March 15 meeting, the Atherton City Council will review a strongly worded letter to fire district board president Peter Carpenter, complaining that a consultant's report on future locations of district fire stations was done without Atherton's input, despite the town's requests to be included.

"In response to Atherton's request for additional fire district presence in Atherton," the draft letter says, the consultant's report concluded that Atherton's single existing station, on Almendral Avenue, should eventually be moved out of Atherton.

The report also concluded that there is no need for a fire station in Atherton's new civic center complex, answering a question the town "had not asked," the draft letter says. "Atherton had reached this same conclusion previously and instead the Town requested an emergency medical response unit, participation in the (emergency operations center), or planning for future growth to expand services to residents," the letter says.

Doing the study without input from the town is a "blatant lack of regard" for its concerns and "disheartening and counterproductive," the draft letter says.

"We hope that our agencies can return to a more open, cooperative and collaborative relationship," the letter says. It asks for more outreach to the Atherton community and a presentation to the City Council about "the issues and options being discussed" as well as an opportunity for the council to be involved in the "final decision-making" about fire service delivery affecting Atherton.


5 people like this
Posted by Roberto
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 14, 2017 at 1:06 pm

Roberto is a registered user.

I am pretty sure Peter answered this in a comment to the Almanac just 4 days ago and his position is clear Summary: Atherton can write all the letters they want, he does not intend to answer them. Actual answers below (cut/paste from Peter):

"2 – Is the Fire Board accountable to the Atherton Town Council?
Answer: No
3 - What authority does the Atherton Town Council have over the Fire District?
Answer: None
4 - Who represents the residents of the Fire District who also happen to reside in one of the political jurisdictions subsumed within the boundaries of the Fire District on Fire District matters?
Answer: The Fire Board - which has been elected by those residents.
5 - Does the Atherton Town Council represent Town residents with regard to any matters for which the Fire District is responsible?
Answer: No"
In short, he was clear that they did not intend to involve Atherton in the discussion or where an additional presence in Atheron could be.

18 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 14, 2017 at 2:07 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Atherton staff report and draft letter (which has not been even discussed by the Town Council) are horrible examples of poor staff work.

1 - The contract with City Gate was reviewed and approved by the Fire Board last year with an Atherton Council member present who asked no questions and made no suggestions regarding the tasks included in the contract.

2 - The Fire Board received the report, which is posted on the Fire District web site, without taking any action - PERIOD.
Citygate did NOT recommend moving Station 3 but rather evaluated a number of alternatives and then made these recommendations:

Recommendation #1: The District consider three stations in the western zone and a minimum of two
each in the central and eastern service zones
Recommendation #2: The District should strive for a third full crew (ideally a ladder truck) in the east
Recommendation #3: Before making final site decisions on Stations #3 and #5, Citygate recommends the District try to find an acceptable parcel to move Station #3 to the west close to a major east/west and north/south street junction.

The Fire Board made NO decisions regarding the Citygate report but will continue to evaluate the optimal location of all of its stations at future meetings.

The Fire District provides the same level of service to all of its residents regardless of which municipality those residents also happen to live and our station location decisions are made without regard to any municipal boundaries subsumed within the Fire District.

Atherton Town Council member Wiest was present for the entire Citygate presentation and that he did not ask any questions or make any requests after the presentation had been completed.

3 - On March 3 I sent the following email to the Atherton Mayor:
From: "Carpenter, Peter" <>
Subject: Standards of Coverage Presentation
Date: March 3, 2017 at 5:09:25 PM PST
To: Mike Lempres <>
Cc: <>, "Chang Kiraly, Virginia" <>, Michelle Radcliffe <>


I noted your comments in today’s Daily News.

The Fire Board received a presentation from Citygate.

We made NO decisions regarding station locations.

Web Link

Note Findings 1 and 3.

And before the Fire Board makes any decisions on Station 3 the Town Council and all the District’s residents will certainly have “plenty of opportunities to get our opinions in on this”.

Let me know if you have any additional questions.


No reply was received to this communication.

4 - On March 6 the Fire Chief sent the following email to the Atherton Town Manager:
"Subject:: RE:: CiityGate Report -- Follow--up
Hello George
We had a special Board meeting this afternoon and I had a chance to speaks to President Peter Carpenter and Liaison
Virginia Kiraly afterwards.
Virginia said she would talk to the Mayor but we all agreed the mid-year meeting works best from a timing standpoint
to review this because it’s “just information”.
I read the news article on this and I’m a little confused as to why John Orr would call the Mayor instead of the Board
President or myself, but that’s his call I guess, the article is misleading in its summary, which contributes to the
Bottom line is we have no plan to move that Fire Station and as I mentioned in my last e-mail, I need to take all that information plus a whole lot more on existing station priorities and put them all together and then discuss and
recommend potential reprioritization and project alignment for the next several years with the Board
Kerry was there for the entire presentation and we gave you everything the Board received. No decisions or
recommendations were made so the bottom line is we acknowledge the request but respectfully defer discussion to
the mid-year meeting given there is no urgency regarding this maKer.
Please let me know if that makes sense.
Thank you
Harold Schapelhouman, Fire Chief"
In summary, both the Atherton staff report and the draft letter intentionally misstate the facts in an attempt to create a controversy where none exists. I hope that with the complete background information the Council will realize that the information included in the staff report was inaccurate and that the language in the proposed letter does not reflect the facts.

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