News

Atherton not happy being left out of fire station study

Despite an attempt by fire board member Virginia Chang-Kiraly to smooth things over, the Atherton City Council voted unanimously on March 15 to send a strongly worded letter to the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, berating it for not including the town in a study of fire station locations.

The letter, addressed to fire board President Peter Carpenter and signed by Atherton Mayor Mike Lempres, was unanimously approved by the City Council as it had originally been drafted. It addressed a study by the Citygate consulting firm about future fire station locations.

Before council members discussed the letter, they watched a video clip from the Feb. 21 fire board meeting in which the fire board reviewed and accepted a report on the Citygate study.

In the clip, board member Rob Silano repeatedly asks that the report be forwarded to the city and county managers in the areas the fire district covers -- Menlo Park, Atherton, East Palo Alto and some adjacent unincorporated areas of San Mateo County -- for input.

Board President Carpenter says: "Not their input, just to inform them. We're not asking them for input."

Mr. Silano and Mr. Carpenter then go back and forth, with Mr. Silano repeating: "I'd like to hear their opinion, their city and town managers."

"I don't want to solicit their input," Mr. Carpenter says, "because it's not their decision to make."

"If you're asking people for input, then you're putting yourself in the position to say, OK given the input, we need to make a different decision," President Carpenter says. "If they get a letter saying that we would like their input, then they could reasonably expect that we'd do something with that input."

The discussion finally ends with Mr. Silano saying, for at least the eighth time, that he wants feedback. "I'd like to know how they feel," he says.

"Feel free to ask them," says Mr. Carpenter.

There was no further discussion of the issue at the fire board meeting and Atherton City Manager George Rodericks said he was told he would be sent a copy of the study but never received one.

At the council meeting, fire board member Virginia Chang-Kiraly, the district's liaison to Atherton, asked the council to put off sending the letter. "We're not going to move any station," she said. "This was just information only; no decision was made."

The district knows, she said, that it "will have to have public input of every kind" before moving or closing any station.

"I think we've enjoyed a great relationship," she said about joint meetings that have been held by the fire board and Atherton council. "I just want us to continue the good work. At the end of the day we're here to serve the residents."

Atherton Mayor Lempres said he found the idea that the fire district did not want input from the communities it covers "unconscionable" and "really troubling."

Councilman Rick DeGolia said the comments "made by your current board president ... can only be said to be inflammatory."

"We specifically asked to be involved in any assessment" involving services to Atherton, he said. "Your president not only didn't want us to be involved, but he specifically stated that we should not be."

"We're very open to working with you on that, but there's a problem," he said.

The Citygate study's conclusions include eventually moving Atherton's only fire station out of the town.

The study also concludes that a station in Atherton's new town center would provide overlapping coverage. The town's letter says that item answers a question the town "had not asked." "Atherton had reached this same conclusion previously and instead the Town requested an emergency medical response unit, participation in its (emergency operations center), or planning for future growth to expand services to residents," the letter says.

In a series of emails, including one with the subject "When letters are written by people ignorant of the ways in which emergency resources are managed," President Carpenter insisted that the letter had factual inaccuracies and the town misunderstood the study, which, he said, did look at the other options for a fire district presence in the town center.

The report states its charge was to: "Determine the benefit of locating an additional fire station at the Atherton Town Center that includes one added engine." It does not mention looking at any other aspect of a fire district presence in that location.

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

Comments

31 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 20, 2017 at 12:46 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here are the two factual inaccuracies in the Town's "angry" letter:
1 - The Fire District DID have Citygate evaluate what the Town asked for:
"For some reason, the Report answered a question about the Atherton Civic Center that the Town had not asked. Presumably answering a question that the Fire District posed, the Report concluded that an added ENGINE station at the Atherton Civic Center is not recommended. Atherton had reached this same conclusion previously and instead the Town requested an emergency medical response unit, participation in the EOC, or planning for future growth to expand services to residents. The Citygate Report does not respond to the requests for services that Atherton asked to be included in its Civic Center “ (emphasis added)

Here is exactly what the Citygate contract Scope of Work stated:

"Based on the currently envisioned station scenarios, Consultant will:
Ø Determine a best location for a combined Station 3 and 5, assessing 101 Fifth Avenue and
Waverly
Ø Determine a best location for a new Station 4, assessing Branner Lane and Sandhill Road
Ø Determine the benefit of locating a new station at the Atherton Town Center at Ashfield
Lane
Ø Determine the benefit of locating a new station at 1376 Willow Road for a combined Ladder
Truck and Urban Search and Rescue Warehouse facility
Ø Determine the benefit of locating a new station near Adams and University Avenue."

The resultant Citygate report DID evaluate the coverage value of Fire District resources being placed at the Atherton Town Center. This task was in response to a request that was included in a letter written in October of 2015 by then Mayor DeGolia that said:


“The City Manager asked your Fire Chief to consider the opportunity to address both today's issues and tomorrow 's service needs by getting in on the ground floor of this project - before it's too late. We want the Fire District to participate by housing an Emergency Response Team, enhancing communications, creating a response space within the new Emergency Operations Center (EOC), or planning for the future growth and response needs of the District by developing permanent space at the site”.


Here is what the Citygate Report stated:


"● Citygate does not recommend the District pursue an added station at Site 3A, either with a combined Station #3 and #5 at Site 1A, or as an added eighth station in the District”

2 - The Fire Board took NO action regarding Station 3:

"The Fire District’s YouTube meeting recording for the February 2017 gives the most accurate accounting of what occurred starting at 1 hour 38 minutes to 1 hour 49 minutes along with the Fire Chief’s staff report which states:

Recommendation:

“That the Fire Board accept the Citygate report update and direct the Fire Chief to come back to Board with an updated Fire Station and land acquisition plan that now encompasses the entire District and includes an updated future deployment multi-year model and prioritization horizon”.

And on the subject matter ignorance in the Town's letter:

"The author of this draft also simply does not understand the manner in which a fire agency evaluates its Standards of Coverage. The purpose of a Standards of Coverage study and strategic unit deployment, such as done by Citygate, is to determine at which geographical locations emergency response resources should be placed - or, in our jargon, where should those resources be “stationed”. That initial analysis does not presume what specific resources should be “stationed” at any specific location - that is the result of a follow on analysis."

****************
The Fire District serves over 90,000 residents and its governing body is the Fire Board that was elected by those residents.

The Fire District is not part of the smaller political entities included with the Fire District's boundaries and the Fire Board is not subordinate to those political entities.


36 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 20, 2017 at 2:18 pm

Peter,

Diplomacy is not your strong suit and it is going to cause a lot of problems for the Fire District. You are certainly not helping the Fire District by alienating Atherton.

Brian


25 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 20, 2017 at 2:39 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Brian - I was not elected to play nice with the five Atherton Town Council members but rather to ensure that ALL of the District's 90,000 plus residents are provided the best quality of fire services and the same level of fire services regardless of where they live within the District. The Atherton Town Council clearly wants Atherton to be treated better than the other 83,000 plus residents of the District. I will never support providing a higher level of service to some residents at the price of a lower level of service to other residents.

Remember that this is a Town Council that refused the Fire District's request to add a third lane to Marsh Road and instead spent millions on an open trench - perpetuating a traffic bottleneck that has huge impacts on emergency response times.

Remember that this is a Town Council that has just issued an RFP for Fire Services Fiscal Review that includes the following task:
"• If there were not a Fire District and the Town were responsible for providing fire
services independently, what would the cost of those services look like? What are the
options? Would an additional fire station need to be built and staffed? If so, where
would it be? What would it cost? What is the annual cost? What are the long-term
cost models? What are the added liabilities? Are there any added benefits?"

This RFP was added without seeking Fire District input or review and after being told both by the Fire District and by LAFCO that such a move, called detachment, would NOT lower the property taxes paid by Atherton residents, but WOULD reduce the Fire District resources available to serve the other 83,000 plus residents of the Fire District in East Palo Alto and Menlo Park and would provide FEWER resources for Atherton to provide such services.

No, I am not diplomatic but I am committed to protecting the interests of ALL the residents of the Fire District against the misguided claims of a privileged few.


36 people like this
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 20, 2017 at 2:47 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

Atherton needs to get over themselves. They are not the only town in the Fire District. If they want to leave the district and have their own fire department, by all means do so!!! By the way, you don't own the fire station.


16 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 20, 2017 at 5:10 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

You CAN watch the Fire Board's discussion of the Citygate report on the Fire District's web site:

Web Link

You CANNOT watch the Atherton Town Council's discussion of their 'angry" letter because "The video was inadvertently deleted ".


5 people like this
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 21, 2017 at 8:06 am

SteveC is a registered user.

How nice and convenient. Just hides their lies in the letter


12 people like this
Posted by Creeksidekick
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 21, 2017 at 9:26 am

Peter it appears you are not telling the whole truth.

When you claim that Atherton "spent millions on an open trench" instead of taking the fire district's advice of adding a third lane, you're failing to identify whether adding a third lane would have cost "even more more millions". The Town of Atherton has a right to pursue whatever makes logical and fiscal sense, Atherton does not have unlimited funds. Instead you paint Atherton as foolish by insinuating the spent money on a trench. Why?

Regarding Atherton issuing an RFP for Fire Services Fiscal Review, this is simple prudence. You seem offended that Atherton sought an independent opinion, but Atherton is doing exactly what it's supposed to do in seeking fresh and independent opinions ... to blindly follow the incumbent is negligent.


9 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 21, 2017 at 9:51 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Atherton RFP is the only government study I have seen that is guaranteed to lose money.

If the study shows that Atherton would spend more to have its own fire agency then the cost of the study is a loss.

If the study shows that it would cost less to have its own fire dept and Atherton successfully detached (a difficult process and one that is unlikely to win LAFCO approval and the voters approval) Atherton would get less money that its residents currently pay the Fire District, the residents property taxes would not decrease, and the difference would be distributed by the County to non-Atherton agencies.


11 people like this
Posted by Creeksidekick
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 21, 2017 at 10:10 am

"If the study shows that Atherton would spend more to have its own fire agency then the cost of the study is a loss."

This is beyond arrogant.

Do you understand the Town of Atherton has a fiduciary responsibility to investigate such matters on behalf of its residents? The "loss" as you myopically describe it is not defined by the cost of the study. You are detached from the reality of the Town's duty. The Town must seek independent opinions, it's not allowed to be in the fire district's pocket. If those independent opinions come at a cost, so be it. A cost is not a loss. A cost is the price of doing business.

If the study confirms, as you speculate from your biased angle, there would be no savings and perhaps a decline in services, then the study was productive and worth every penny. It means the Town independently verified a critical piece of data which impacts all residents and it can subsequently report the findings to the tax paying public. Job well done! This is how the system should work. It may not fit your agenda.

And the town should have a policy of revisiting this type of study every five years or so.


5 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 21, 2017 at 11:01 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Do you understand the Town of Atherton has a fiduciary responsibility to investigate such matters on behalf of its residents?"

No, by law it does NOT have such a responsibility.

"A county or city may not use its police power in an attempt to exercise authority over a special district, because such action would be in conflict with the general laws of the state. (Rodeo Sanitary District v. Board of
Supervisors (1999) 71 Cal.App.4th 1443, at p. 1447, citing West Bay Sanitary District v. City of
East Palo Alto (1987) 191 Cal.App.3d 1507, at p. 1512 [stating that a city may not “usurp”
powers vested by the Legislature in a special district]; Hall v. City of Taft (1956) 47 Cal.2d 177,
p. 183 [holding that the police power does not confer upon cities the power to regulate
“local government agencies”]."


5 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 21, 2017 at 12:04 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Kudos to the Atherton Town Clerk:

"Published on Mar 21, 2017
The council meeting was inadvertently deleted before item 19 given technical difficulties. The Town is uploading the last 45 minutes of the meeting that the recording system was able to catch."


17 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 21, 2017 at 1:25 pm

This is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. Peter just want to escalate the issue and continue to alienate the Atherton Town Council for daring to disagree with him and challenge his way of doing things. Even other board members wanted to work with the city councils but Peter said no. How he was allowed to be the president of the fire District is beyond me.


4 people like this
Posted by Creeksidekick
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 21, 2017 at 1:36 pm

Peter the Town of Atherton issuing an RFP for Fire Services Fiscal Review is in no way an attempt to exercise authority over a special district. The Town is acting prudently, apparently, because the Town is curious as to whether it is getting good value.

If the Town detaches, which you acknowledge it might do, and as you suggest, at its peril, is detaching an attempt to to exercise authority over a district?

You're admitted Atherton might detach. Atherton is exploring the options from someone other than yourself. Why does this bother you?


12 people like this
Posted by Peter F Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 21, 2017 at 1:46 pm

"Town is curious as to whether it is getting good value."

Since the Town pays ZERO for fire services it clearly gets great value.


10 people like this
Posted by usurp
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 21, 2017 at 6:51 pm

Peter is super arrogant on this subject concerning a local gov. asking questions about HIS agency. But the fact is that he can be. Because the only way to get a guy like this out of office is by vote. And Peter will assure his votes forever by playing the "east of 101 residents, MP or EPA, I have saved you from the mean old rich folks in Atherton who wanted to reduce your coverage so theirs could be greater". And those votes will roll in for him. He can say whatever he wants and as rudely as he wants to Atherton because their votes don't add up to a hill of beans.

That's politics. Peter is robin hood.

Remind you of Trump at all?


9 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 22, 2017 at 11:24 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

My responsibility as an elected Fire Board Director is to ensure that ALL of the District's 90,000 plus residents are provided the best quality of fire services and the same level of fire services regardless of where they live within the District.


6 people like this
Posted by Creeksidekick
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 20, 2017 at 9:02 pm

The district will soon find out if they have less than 90,000 plus residents.

Atherton is doing the prudent thing by going ahead with the fire services review. Kudos to Atherton for not cowtowing to Peter, and seeking a non-biased opinion.

And if Atherton spends $49,500 only to find that Menlo Fire is the best option? Then so be it.

But if detachment proves to be the best option, then perhaps Peter will realize that his way is not the only way.

One way or another, this will be settled.


5 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 20, 2017 at 9:07 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" if detachment proves to be the best option,"

That can ONLY be decided by the residents - the Atherton Town Council members have only five individual votes in that decision.

The last time the voters spoke out on a Fire District issue more than 79% voted to support the Fire District.


4 people like this
Posted by Creeksidekick
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 23, 2017 at 4:05 pm

If the town council has independent data suggesting detachment, and it lays out the savings per household, and if it means each fire call costs less than what is it now, something ridiculous like $23,000 (?), I think the Atherton residents will vote for detachment.


5 people like this
Posted by Peter F Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 23, 2017 at 4:21 pm

The fatal flaw in your argument is that if there is a detachment, which would inevitably require a vote of all the affected properties including East Palo Alto and Menlo Park, the post detachment property taxes of Atherton residents would not decrease by even a penny and the Town of Atherton would only receive about 1/3 of the propert taxes that the Atherton residents had been paying to the Fire District. With that 1/3 Atherton would be unable to provide the current level of fire services to its residents without an additional parecel tax.


2 people like this
Posted by Creeksidekick
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 23, 2017 at 6:35 pm

In time Atherton will be able to determine if what you say is true, or not. I think the town council is pursuing the independent study because they're not buying what you;re selling. For whatever reason, your credibility became in doubt and Atherton was compelled to seek an independent opinion. Perhaps they felt you were an alarmist.

You'll either be proven right, or proven wrong. Time will tell.


5 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 23, 2017 at 6:42 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

All they need to do is read the laws.

The residents of Atherton will still pay the same property taxes.

The Town of Atherton will get 1/3 of what the Fire District now gets.

The Fire District will lose all of what the Atherton residents now pay to the District in property taxes.

The remaining 2/3 of what the Atherton residents now pay to the District in property taxes will be distributed by the County of OTHER taxing agencies.

East Palo Alto and Menlo Park will have their level of fire services cut by 1/3.

Matrix will get $50k.

Now exactly which residents are going to vote for the above?


14 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 23, 2017 at 7:25 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Atherton was compelled to seek an independent opinion"

You are correct. It is difficult to persuade five otherwise intelligent people to do otherwise when the are acting in pique - particularly when I am not the most diplomatic of protagonists.

However, I am comforted by this posting by a fellow Atherton resident:

" I do trust Peter Carpenter. While sometimes sharp with his comments, he is very intelligent and extremely honest; we are all fortunate to have him on the Fire Board. I believe his understanding of the tax allocations, which are essentially the topic here, are correct."


7 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 23, 2017 at 11:57 pm

I believe a REFERENDUM should be considered. The Atherton City Council should instead have spent $5,000 or less by first hiring a mediator. The hiring of a consultant was premature.

For instance, Menlo Park next door instead sent a set of questions to the Fire District to answer within 30 days or so. No lawsuit, no referendum and no consultant's report.

East Palo Alto sees no reason to pursue this, nor does the County. In my opinion Atherton jumped the gun. They fired the trigger too soon, took the easy way out and are spending far too much money on this issue than they need to.


2 people like this
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 24, 2017 at 2:11 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

Atherton is the law suit happy town. They sue over any and everything.


12 people like this
Posted by Let me get this straight
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Apr 24, 2017 at 7:55 pm

Peter

You and the Chief cry about wanting Marsh Road widened so you trucks can race thru Atherton, starting in Menlo Park and go to destinations in Menlo Park...because Willow Road is a problem. Since when are Menlo Park's impassable streets Atherton's problems. MP gets millions of dollars from Face book and the soon to be completed East of 101 complexes. How about complaining about that? Also please not there is not a single Atherton staff member making over 300K. Maybe they have some sense over there.

Finally you recommend we watch your citygate meeting tape. Doing so shows two Board members, one very clearly saying that they felt the affected jurisdictions should have been consulted while you were very clear you did not want any input at all. So much for a public process, King Peter and Price Harold...or is it the other way around


6 people like this
Posted by Creeksidekick
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 30, 2017 at 8:44 am

When Peter refers to the Atherton Town Council as such, it's nothing but negative and contentious

"otherwise intelligent people"

That's an insult. A fancy one, but an insult nonetheless. He is stating they lack intelligence on his issue. But this is according to him.

This type of tactic is commonly known as an ad hominem argument ... when all else fails, attack the person and not the issue. A young child might be inclined to blurt out "you're stupid". A Fire District Board Member dresses it up bay saying "otherwise intelligent".


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 30, 2017 at 4:04 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Creekside - I would love to be proven wrong.

Nothing the Town Council can do will lower the property taxes of Atherton by a single penny - except if the Town's parcel tax is lowered or eliminated.

I cannot find a single example of where any LAFCO has approved a detachment of a small portion of an established entity in order to create a new entity. Given that the mission of a LAFCO is to ensure "efficiently extending government services. " this is not a surprise.

Who benefits from the Matrix study? Only Matrix.



4 people like this
Posted by Creeksidekick
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 30, 2017 at 10:44 pm

Let me get something straight. You argue until you are blue in the face to try a prove you are right. You cite any and everything you can, you call the Town Council "otherwise intelligent people".

And now you claim you'd: love to be proven wrong?

Which is it? Would you rather be right, as you have argued so extensively for, or would you rather be wrong?




3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 1, 2017 at 10:13 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I HAVE argued that the Matrix study is unwise, inappropriate and will do nothing to change the property taxes of Atherton residents.

I WOULD love to be proven wrong because it is not in a community's best interest for their elected officials to have made unwise decisions.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Opening alert: Kyosho Sushi in Menlo Park
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 2,378 views

Umeboshi - The Macrobiotic Antibiotic
By Laura Stec | 0 comments | 1,986 views

On Voter Databases and Election Systems
By Stuart Soffer | 3 comments | 389 views

 

Meet the winners!

The results are in. Check out The Almanac readers' favorite foods, services and fun stuff in the area.

View Winners