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Sep 25

Study Session Topics for October 1 - Bicycle & Pedestrian Master Plan and Signs

Posted to City Manager's Blog on September 25, 2014 at 11:02 AM by grodericks grodericks

Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan

Back in April 2014 the Council met at its Study Session and received the draft Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan. The Plan provided a comprehensive outlook for bicycle and pedestrian improvements throughout Town. The goals included providing connectivity with adjacent agencies, improving safety, becoming more strategic and successful competing for bicycle and pedestrian grant funding, and addressing barriers and solutions for bicycle and pedestrian destinations.

Safety, and in particular, safe routes to school became a priority focus for the Plan. Closing gaps and increasing usage also rose to the top. Details of the Town's Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan can be found on the Town's website here. A lot of effort was put into creating the Plan through a Stakeholder Advisory Group consisting of representatives from the City Council, San Mateo City/County Association of Governments, local schools, residents, the Police Department, Facebook, San Mateo County Safe Routes To School, Menlo Park, and Redwood City. The Stakeholder Group developed a Master List of Projects totaling over $13 million. 

Atherton does not have the current funding to do it all. Staff and the Council have started watching for and applying for grants consistent with projects proposed on the Master List. Grants are often criteria based and some projects will fare well for one grant application but not for other applications. It's important to submit the right project with the right partners for the right grant opportunity. Grants are also cyclical such that if the Town does not receive a grant one year, we try and try again refining the project along the way. 

Segment Map.jpgNevertheless, as all of this is going on, the City Council still needs to walk through the Master List and help staff prioritize projects. That's what's going to happen at the October 1 Study Session. There are 34 projects on the Master List. Some of them involve projects consistent with the Grand Boulevard Initiative on El Camino Real, others are improvements to Class I, Class II, and Class III bike routes, corridor feasibility studies, and intersection improvements. Some improvements are as simple as wayfinding signage and "sharrows" on the pavement. There's a map of the segments that are being addressed on the Town's website as well. It's important to note as you look at the map that bike lanes and pedestrian ways may have an impact on the way a street functions and looks.

EUAY_Class_1.jpg
Installation of a Class I bike path is one that is separated from the roadway and may be either unidirectional (a minimum of 4 feet wide) or bi-directional (a minimum of 8 feet wide).


1SWJ_Class_2.jpg
A Class II bike path is a 4-foot minimum striped and signed lane on the roadway. These paths may require roadway widening in Atherton in areas where we have the excess right-of-way in order to meet the minimum requirements for width.


7ERK_Class_3.jpg
A Class III bike path is a path that continues along an existing street, there would be signage, but no roadway striping that separates the path from the traffic.

  

Atherton has applied for a grant for one of the segments listed on El Camino Real (Selby Lane/Fifth Avenue). Should the Town receive the grant, further study and collaboration with adjacent jurisdictions and agencies will be required as the project moves along (the County, Caltrans, Menlo Park Fire District, etc.). On the Master List, this was Segment No. 1 along El Camino Real. 

At the Study Session, staff will be asking the Council to assist in prioritizing projects on Middlefield Road, a path in Holbrook-Palmer Park (the pedestrian component is already moving forward), and projects on Elena Avenue/Atherton Avenue and Austin Avenue. Projects could be as simple as signage and roadway markings to more involved Class I paths separated from the roadway. 

The Town has budgeted $500,000 in the current fiscal year for bikeway and pedestrian pathway projects. The 5-Year Capital Improvement Program has placeholders of $100,000 in each of the next four years of the Program. 

Interested? The meeting begins at 4 pm on October 1 in the Council Chambers. The Bicycle and Pedestrian Priority Setting is the first item on the 2-item Agenda. It is anticipated to take no more than an hour or so. Study Session meetings of the Council are limited to 2-hours total and give the Council an opportunity to talk more informally about projects and issues. Public Comment is always welcome!
 
Signs Signs Everywhere Are Signs

signs.jpgThe second item on the Agenda is the draft Sign Ordinance. In my blog post for August we talked a bit about signage - from construction sites to real estate signs to political signs to estate sale signs to signs for that lost pet. They all present challenges. Our current ordinances are way out of date. There are some in the community that are self-policing. Others, not so much. We are bringing an update to our sign ordinance to the Council for their consideration in an attempt to provide clear guidance for the size, type, and placement of signage - on public and private property. We have sought out input from some community stakeholders who have provided feedback along the way - local builders and contractors as well as the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors.

What we do not want is a free-for-all with respect to signs. We would like to see some standardized sizes, proper placement so as not to impede on the safe passage of pedestrians and vehicles, as well as timing for removal and placement that makes sense.

Sounds like fun, right?

Those are two of the big ones I noted in last month's blog. We are also still working on:
  • development of a Wireless Telecommunications Facility Ordinance;
  • an encroachment permit ordinance update; 
  • construction site regulations (noise, fencing, surveillance, parking, etc.);
  • development impact fees (wear and tear fees for those construction projects that have impacts on the roadway due to their project);
  • updates to the refuse ordinance to address construction and demolition requirements; and
  • updates to the special event permit ordinance.
There are also numerous changes to address continuity and consistency across the Town's municipal codes. For the November 5 Study Session we expect to have discussion on the proposed Wireless Telecommunications Ordinance and the Encroachment Permit Ordinance.
 
If you have any thoughts or questions on the above, please feel free to give me a call at (650) 752-0504 or send me an email at grodericks@ci.atherton.ca.us. I'd love your feedback - it's what makes things work. 

Sincerely

George Rodericks
City Manager
Town of Atherton
George Rodericks.jpg

Aug 18

It's the law or rather, it soon may be...

Posted to City Manager's Blog on August 18, 2014 at 12:49 PM by grodericks grodericks

Let's Talk Law

I have served as Atherton's City Manager now for just about 2 years. During that time, there have been several issues that have made their way to my desk that involve enforcement and compliance with Town ordinances and laws. Atherton is a pretty well regulated (and self-regulated) community and for the most part, most of the residents maintain their property well within the standards and laws that apply. But, there are a few issues that percolate to the top - and Atherton is not unique in the types of issues that affect quality of life.  

30 mph.jpegNow, I'm not talking about public safety laws - speeding, illegal parking, loud parties, or running through that neighborhood stop sign. We all know that those violations never occur, right? Well....wrong. Our Police Department is very busy addressing those issues as well as other property and quality of life crime in Town. For details on what's happening, visit the Citizen RIMS area of the Town's website for regular updates. You can even sign up for email alerts. Nice feature. 

This post is not about those issues, rather, it's about compliance with Town ordinances and laws mostly related to land use and identification of areas of improvement. The municipal codebook is actually about 2 inches thick (available online here). Where to begin...

Wireless Telecommunication Facilities

cellular tower.jpgHow about communication? Communication is important. Clear communication. We're working on an ordinance to address clear communication. More specifically, an ordinance to address wireless communications - yes, I'm referring to cellular towers. Right now, we do not really have an ordinance that addresses the issues the way we would like.

The downside is we (the Town) are pretty much restricted as to what we can and cannot regulate with respect to cellular tower installations. They have a right to be there. Period. That's what the Federal Government has told us. The good part though, is we have a right to regulate the time, place, and manner of their installation. While that might sound a bit vague, we are working on an ordinance to make it very, very, clear. Crystal clear, in fact. Through the ordinance, we hope to be able to regulate issues surrounding screening, stealth installations (trees, flag poles, etc.), underground vault requirements, notice and public input, and more.

Since this is about communication, let me be clear. The ordinance will not prevent the installation of cellular towers. Nor will the ordinance prevent upgrades to existing sites. Let's face it, most of us want our wireless communications to work well - we just do not want to see the visual blight of a cell tower nor do we want to live next to one. We will be bringing the ordinance to the City Council for public review at a Study Session in the fall (likely October or November). This is the first chance for public input surrounding the ordinance. There will be several others before the ordinance is ultimately considered for adoption. Sign up using NotifyMe! to get an email alert of Council meeting agendas and other electronic notifications. We'd love to hear from you on the topic. 

Encroachments Within the Public Right-of-Way

right-of-way standards.jpgFrom communication to encroachment. If you've been following recent meetings of the City Council you've heard that we are working on a new encroachment ordinance to address improvements placed within the public right-of-way. The public right-of-way is that stretch of land between your front property line (typically a fence or gate along your frontage) to the edge of the public roadway pavement. The Town, via local laws and standards, controls how that area can be improved. For example, within the first 3 feet from the edge of the roadway pavement, landscaping is limited to 5 inches in height. Within the next 3 feet, landscaping is limited to 3 feet in height. Rocks, logs, curbs, or other similar obstructions are not allowed within 6 feet of the edge of pavement. Etc. Etc. Etc. 

If you are doing any work within that right-of-way, underground or above ground, you are required to obtain an encroachment permit from the Town before the work begins. This ensures that the Town is aware of the work, can advise of any concerns and impose reasonable conditions as required (safety, traffic control, etc.). The larger issue here though is one of liability and private improvements. Technically, you as the homeowner are liable for harm caused by your private improvements placed within the public right-of-way. Most of you may not be fully aware of this so we are developing a process to formalize that understanding. I was driving home the other day down Atherton Avenue and a truck was parked on the opposite side of the roadway (blocking the street to unload - don't get me started on that issue). I digress.

Rocks in ROW.jpgBack to my story, I was driving home along Atherton Avenue and a vehicle headed the opposite direction pulled out around the truck into the lane of opposing traffic. I had to pull off the roadway and onto the shoulder to allow the vehicle to pass safely. In doing so, I nearly hit a couple of rocks placed within the right-of-way by the homeowner. Had my vehicle hit one of those rocks, that homeowner may have been liable for the damage to my vehicle. The right-of-way is intended to be a "safe harbor" off the roadway. Some private improvements impinge on that safe harbor by not allowing the safe passage of pedestrians, bicycles, and/or vehicles. The Town has an interest in protecting the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers. 

We want the process to be painless. The cost of any permits will solely be the cost of processing the paperwork. It is anticipated that the permit will be in the form of an agreement and drawing. The property owner will provide a drawing of what will be in the right-of-way and will execute an agreement acknowledging liability for those private improvements. Just as is the case now, the Town has the ability to deny/approve/modify what can be placed in the right-of-way. Stay tuned for this one. I hear lots of complaints about rocks and logs in the rights-of-way. We hope to be able to allow improvements that work well, integrate with future planned improvements, encourage safety, and allow for individual property owner improvements.   

Signs Signs Everywhere Are Signs

signs.jpgAlright, we talked communication and we've talked encroachment. I've saved the best for last. Signage. From construction sites to real estate signs to political signs to estate sale signs to signs for that lost pet. They all present challenges. Our current ordinances are way out of date. There are some in the community that are self-policing. Others, not so much. We will be updating our sign ordinance in an attempt to provide clear guidance for the size, type, and placement of signage - on public and private property. This one will take some time and some input from the stakeholders as well as the community. What we do not want is a free-for-all with respect to signs. We would like to see some standardized sizes, proper placement so as not to impede on the safe passage of pedestrians and vehicles, as well as timing for removal and placement that makes sense.

What's Left

Those are the big ones. We are also working on:
  • construction site regulations (noise, fencing, surveillance, parking, etc.);
  • development impact fees (wear and tear fees for those construction projects that have impacts on the roadway due to their project);
  • updates to the refuse ordinance to address construction and demolition requirements;
  • updates to the special event permit ordinance; and
  • updates to address improvements through the bicycle and pedestrian master plan.
These are the surface changes. There are also numerous changes to address continuity and consistency across the Town's municipal codes. Some of you may have noticed in the list above changes to the special event permit ordinance. I'm sure my italicizing it and bolding it helped.

This is to tighten up what already exists. If you are hosting an event at your home or at a venue in Town (Park, Circus Club, School) and that event requires or results in the Town's use of resources in response or in advance of your event (parking control measures, traffic control via the police department, noise response due to complaints, etc.) you are required to pay the cost of those services. You are required to obtain a special event permit in advance of the event. This one is already on the books - but it needs to be cleaned up and tightened up to address one-night events and add clarity to address private events and school events. 

If you have any thoughts or questions on the above, please feel free to give me a call at (650) 752-0504 or send me an email at grodericks@ci.atherton.ca.us. I'd love your feedback - it's what makes things work. 

Sincerely

George Rodericks
City Manager
Town of Atherton
George Rodericks.jpg