The Menlo Park Fire Protection District announced on March 2 the $3.2 million purchase of a house on Valparaiso Avenue, next door to the district's Alameda de las Pulgas fire station in unincorporated Menlo Park.
The three-bedroom, two-bathroom house at 2110 Valparaiso Ave. is on a 6,000-square-foot lot next door to the half-acre corner lot the fire station currently occupies.
Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman said the additional land was needed for the district to build a station similar to the one it recently built in East Palo Alto, with three equipment bays that vehicles can drive through; fire trucks at the Valparaiso station must now be backed in and out of the station.
The chief said the district used "a template overlay" for a three-bay drive-through facility to determine the need for additional property.
The district paid nearly $1 million more than the March 3 $2.25 million estimated value on the Zillow website for the 1980s era, 2,050-square-foot home.
Chief Schapelhouman said the Zillow estimate was not correct. In an email, he wrote that the district's agent, Nino Gaetano of Pacific Union Real Estate, found data on recent sales of comparable houses in the area for as high as $2.9 million. The chief said the property's sales price will be listed at $2.9 million, but that the district "included a separate cash payment to the seller" of $300,000. "That is how the seller wanted the deal structured," he said.
Mr. Gaetano said that, in his opinion, the district "did really well and Zillow is not reliable and is never used for supporting data" by appraisers or real estate professionals.
The district paid cash for the property, with the money coming from the capital reserve fund for the Alameda station, Chief Schapelhouman said.
The purchase is just the latest property acquisition by the fire district, which in 2017 spent more than $16 million buying land and structures. Those purchases included a $4.6 million house next to the Almendral Avenue fire station in Atherton, a $5 million 28,000-square-foot warehouse on 1.37 acres on Pulgas Avenue in East Palo Alto, and a $6.6 million acre of St. Patrick's Seminary land next to the Middlefield Road fire station in Menlo Park.
The chief said the Alameda fire station is the district's oldest, built in 1949. It will be rebuilt after the district finishes a new station on Middlefield Road. "It will take us about 10 years, or more, to rebuild both of these facilities," he said.
Chief Schapelhouman said that at least two of the district's chief officers have expressed interest in renting the new house. When the district first began negotiating for it, the house was listed for rent at $6,000 a month.
The house is clean and ready for someone to move in immediately, Chief Schapelhouman said.
The district is currently finishing up a new station in downtown Menlo Park on Oak Grove Avenue. A new station was completed in East Palo Alto in 2016.
The station on Alameda de las Pulgas serves Menlo Park, Atherton, nearby unincorporated areas and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, which the district serves under a contract, the chief said.
The fire district includes Menlo Park, Atherton, East Palo Alto and adjacent unincorporated areas. It has seven fire stations and an administration and fire prevention building.
It had a $54 million budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year, with reserves of $65 million.