Election: Atherton gives loud 'no' to library in park | November 14, 2012 | Almanac | Almanac Online |



News - November 14, 2012

Election: Atherton gives loud 'no' to library in park

by Barbara Wood

After more than a year spent squabbling about a divided City Council's decision to make Atherton's Holbrook-Palmer Park the site of a new library, the town's residents finally had their chance to have their say on Nov. 6 — and what they said was a resounding "No."

The vote on whether to put a new library in the park was 2,038 to 928 in the latest count. Sixty-nine percent voted no.

Voters — also by large margins — approved two other measures. Measure M, which asked whether the Menlo-Atherton Little League should improve the existing ball field and surrounding areas in the park using private funds and Measure L, which asked residents whether funding to build a new Town Center should be restricted primarily to private donations, were each approved by more than 70 percent of the voters.

The ball field improvements would include building a permanent spectator stand and restrooms, and the resurfacing of the nearby tennis courts.

The vote on the ball field was 2,233 to 738. On the Town Center, the vote was 2,115 to 755.

Library site

The contention over the library site began a little over a year ago when, following the recommendation of the Atherton Library Building Steering Committee, the City Council voted 3-2 vote in October 2011 to choose town-owned Holbrook-Palmer Park as the "preferred site" for a new library. Council members James Dobbie, Bill Widmer and Kathy McKeithen, who was on the task force that recommend the park site for the library, voted for the park site. Council members Elizabeth Lewis and Jerry Carlson voted against it.

Town residents immediately spoke up, asking for a survey to determine if there was support for the library and for a master plan of all town facilities before deciding where to put the library.

The council held a meeting to discuss a master plan, but did not approve going ahead with a plan. After the council twice turned down the request for a survey, those opposing the park site put their own survey online and started a petition asking for an election on the issue.

By June, as the debate continued to escalate, the council members finally agreed to put the measure on the ballot. At the same time, they agreed to put the other two other measures on the ballot.

The library committee, headed by Denise Kupperman, made its recommendation for the park site after more than two years of work. The committee came up with a plan for replacing the town's current library, located near the Town Center in an 82-year-old, 4,790-square-foot building that does not meet current seismic safety standards.

The town had projected it would have about $8.3 million in a fund that must be spent on the library by 2013.

The ballot measure asked voters whether the town should build the library in Holbrook-Palmer Park, razing the existing Main House to make way for the new building, using the library-designated funds.