Guest opinion: Bleachers wrong for Atherton park | January 29, 2014 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Viewpoint - January 29, 2014

Guest opinion: Bleachers wrong for Atherton park

By Walter Sleeth

In the fall of 2012 our community voted to "Save Our Park" by aborting well thought out plans for a library, which might have benefited all Atherton citizens.

Now, a small group of highly organized individuals from both Atherton and Menlo Park have convinced three of our council members to support very large permanent covered concrete bleachers in Holbrook-Palmer Park for the seasonal use of a small group of grade-school Little League players, many of whom are not Atherton residents.

I played baseball as a boy and I like the Little League, but I think concrete bleachers displacing green areas of the park are not what this community was hoping for when they voted to Save Our Park in 2012. I agree with our residents desire to give the Little League a better field in Atherton, but is this the way we want it done?

The new concrete bleachers would hold up to 200 spectators. It is ironic that the Burgess Park Field in Menlo Park has uncovered, non-permanent metal bleachers totaling about 50 running feet, five rails high and accommodating no more than 150 spectators at the "20-inch per bottom rule" presumably used by the Atherton council.

Alternative suggestions were made for non-permanent metal bleachers and scoreboards at less cost to the Little League, but the Little League refused this. (When Councilman Bill Widmer, after being told by the Little League that there were no removable scoreboards available, researched the item and found that it was available, the Little League officials and the three City Council supporters turned a deaf ear to him.) The three council members have ignored the recommendations of the town's Planning Commission.

It appeared that at least one if not several council members relied on a biased and unduly narrow interpretation of the case law concerning what should be considered in interpreting the scope of a ballot measure. Many voters had assumed the Planning Commission would be able to do its job and recommend that the bleachers be sized for the historic park-like setting we have.

Many residents, who voted yes on Measure M, as I did, would have voted "No" if it had been understood that our vote would be interpreted to saddle the town with a concrete 200-seat, covered bleacher. This action by a 3-2 majority of the council ignored reasonable voices asking that second thoughts be given so as to reduce the size of the structure and to make sure "outlying" structures, such as fences, foul poles and scoreboard, could be removed in the off-season.

These structures are likely to become safety hazards. One resident raised the point that a solid concrete structure at the rear of the park could be a hazard for children walking behind it when the area was vacant. Unfortunately, there was an unnecessary rush to judgment.

If you want to save our park, now is the time to make your voice heard. Please email the council members:,,, and

Walter Sleeth lives on Catalpa Drive in Atherton.


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