Message from the City Manager
(Updated 4/2/20 @ 9:30 am)
The County of San Mateo COVID-19 Shelter-in-Place (SIP) Order has been amended and extended through May 4. Schools have been closed until May 1.
Most of the conditions of the new SIP Order remain the same. The changes largely relate to the continued operation of businesses and the cessation of most construction activity. There are also more closures and restrictions that will affect the daily movement of people (Park closures, parking lot closures, restrictions on movement). Adapting to the conditions of the SIP Order will take some getting used to. Adapting to these changes with understanding, cooperation, and collaboration will help move us all through these times safely.
We have a very brief, Atherton-specific set of FAQs on our COVID-19 webpage to help residents address basic questions that might arise. There are links below to broader sets of information and FAQs. This News Flash will remain up to date and accessible on the Town’s main webpage. If you have a specific FAQ you would like addressed, please email me at email@example.com. We also encourage you to sign up for the San Mateo County Alert System. This is the emergency contact system for the County. The Atherton Police Department will use this system to alert areas of emergencies or potential safety concerns. When signed up, you will receive a message on the voice or text communication method that you have registered. Sign up here. During the duration of the COVID-19 Emergency, the City Council will meet on Wednesdays at 4 pm (teleconference zoom meetings) to certify the continuing existence of a local emergency and ratify any rules, regulations and changes in operations enacted by the Director of Emergency Services (the City Manager). Links to those Agendas can be found here. Audio of the meetings and/or video of Zoom meetings (where feasible) are being posted on the Town’s Youtube Channel. The Town will continue to release information on a regular basis from various sources. I apologize for the inundated inbox, but we want to ensure that information is disseminated as quickly and as often as possible.
Town of Atherton
History of Actions
On March 13, I issued a Proclamation of Local Emergency. The Proclamation allows the Town to take the steps necessary to protect the safety of our community and Town staff in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. These steps range from a streamlined purchasing process to secure the resources necessary to respond in a timely manner to the immediate the implementation of rules or regulations necessary to protect life or property. These rules and regulations can be ramped up or down based on resources available.
On March 18, the City Council reviewed and approved the Declaration of Local Emergency. The City Council also provided specific feedback regarding a prohibition of residential construction activity. There are additional details below. All active sites have been contacted. Some activity will be allowed to finalize for health and safety reasons. This is mostly for occupied residences where portions of the construction need to be made safe for continued access. While sites are closed for physical construction, there will be occasional activity at sites for site security, checking in on equipment (such as flood pumps), checking or adjusting weather-proofing, or the retrieval of equipment. Emergency construction is allowed to continue on a case-by-case basis as determined by the Building Official. The SIP Order does allow for continued work on Essential Infrastructure, such as Town facilities, roads, drainage, and utility work. This includes necessary maintenance of such public infrastructure. There will be activity that occurs throughout Town in these areas by various vendors and agencies.
On March 25, the City Council met and validated the continuing emergency and reviewed issues related to the various Rules and Regulations enacted pursuant to the Declaration of Emergency. Chief among these reviews was a review of local construction activity. The City Council reviewed some of the feedback from the Subcommittee of the Builder’s Roundtable and directed staff to continue efforts to refine the requirements that might allow projects to start up again; if and/or when the SIP Order is relaxed.
On March 31, the County issued an update to the SIP Order. This Order extends the Shelter-in-Place through May 4 and prohibits most construction activity, consistent with the Town’s earlier determination locally. In response, the Town revised some of its Shelter-in-Place Orders below. The only significant changes to the existing Order is that the Par Course, Picnic Areas, and Playground Areas will be closed to public access. The Park itself remains open but will be monitored to ensure social distancing is maintained. Portions of the parking in the Park will also be closed.
On April 1, the City Council met and validated the continuing emergency and approved the Rules and Regulations enacted pursuant to the Declaration of Emergency. The Council discussed the possible resumption of construction activity at the Town Center as essential infrastructure. The Council directed that staff work with SJ Amoroso to define a set of working protocols that would be used should the Council decide to allow the activity to continue in limited fashion. Those protocols would be reviewed by the City Council at their Special Meeting on April 8.
Service Delivery Expectations
Fundamental Town services continue to operate, but do so incorporating social distancing protocols that limit in-person public contact. Staff have shifted to remote access when feasible. Most programs, services, and meetings are postponed or cancelled; such as public events, community meetings, or other engagements at City Hall or the Park. The Park itself remains open, but all facilities at the Park are Closed to Public Access.
Details and protocols are subject to being ramped up or down based on staffing availability and expansion of COVID-19 emergent issues. The Town will post any changes to its COVID-19 website, here, via News Flash, and post on the Bulletin Board at Town Offices in the Park.
Changes to Operations and Activity under the Shelter in Place Order (updated 4/2/20)
Changes in operations became effective Tuesday, March 17, 2020 and will continue, at this time, through May 4, 2020. This Order is subject to extension. The full text of the County’s SIP Order is available via the following link. Residents are urged to stay informed and follow the recommended COVID-19 prevention measures and the directives from the San Mateo County Health Officer. There is an FAQ section of the County’s website for COVID-19, an FAQ section of the County’s website on the Shelter in Place (SIP) Order, and the Town has its own set of FAQs for its website as well.
— All businesses with a facility in the County, except essential Businesses as defined in the Order, are required to cease all activities at facilities located within the County.
— All public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside of a household or living unit are prohibited.
— All travel, except Essential Travel and Essential Activities as defined in the Order, are prohibited.
— For the purposes of the Order, individuals may leave their residence only to perform Essential Activities, as defined in the Order.
Section 13 of the Order includes various Definitions and Exemptions. Some key areas of allowed activity are:
— Section 13(a)(i) - engaging in activities or performing tasks essential to health and safety or the health and safety of family or household (necessary cleaning services, only childcare for owners, employees, volunteers, and contractors for Essential Services are allowed, adult-care, etc.)
— Section 13(a)(ii) - obtaining necessary services or supplies (deliveries of food, medical supplies and equipment, etc.)
— Section 13(a)(iii) - engaging in outdoor activity, with social distancing (walking, hiking, biking, running, walking pets, etc. - limited to activity within 5 miles of the individual’s residence)
— Section 13(b) - obtaining healthcare (does not include fitness and exercise gyms and similar facilities)
— Section 13(d) to perform emergency services - specifically emergency responders
Section 13(f) of the Order lists out Essential Businesses that are allowed to continue operations under the Order. This area is quite broad and includes a number of support businesses - healthcare, home cleaning services (sanitation only), grocery stores, farmers markets, pet stores, farming, gas stations, newspapers, banks, hardware stores, educational (distance learning), laundromats, dry cleaners, restaurants (take out or delivery), essential supply businesses, home-based care, transportation, professional services, etc.
Section 13(f)(xii) provides that "...plumbers, electricians, exterminators, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the habitability, sanitation, and operation of residences and Essential Businesses, but not for cosmetic or other purposes..." This is interpreted to mean work associated with maintaining the safety and sanitation of a residence. For example, plumbers and electricians for necessary repair; house cleaning for necessary sanitation; pool cleaning for necessary sanitation, care for at-home children or elderly, pest control for sanitation.
Landscaping and/or gardening services are not considered an essential service and are not allowed except for fire safety or tree trimming to prevent a dangerous condition. If these services are related to an emergent safety situation such as a failed tree or broken window, etc. these services would become necessary under maintaining the safety of a residence. Please contact your service delivery personnel and advise them of the probation.
Any activities must be done compliant with social distancing protocols. Social distancing requirements include maintaining at least 6-foot social distancing from other individuals, washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as frequently as possible or using hand sanitizer, covering coughs or sneezes (into the sleeve or elbow, not hands), regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces, and not shaking hands.
Managing and Coping with Stress (updated 3/25/20)
Managing and coping with stress during the SIP Order will be important for us all as we move forward under these ever-changing conditions. San Mateo County Health offers help to support the wellbeing of those coping with the outbreak. The linked PDF on Coping with Stress During Infections Disease Outbreaks discusses ways to stress, stay informed, inform your friends and family, connect with the community, and reach out and help. The Town is also a partner with the Atherton Disaster and Preparedness Team (ADAPT). Each neighborhood has an ADAPT Representative that is reaching out to their respective areas to offer assistance where needed. This could be in the simple form of basic contact all the way to assisting with reaching out to friends and neighbors with needs or information. For more information on ADAPT and to find your area representative, visit the Get Ready Atherton website.
Recreation and Outdoor Activity (updated 4/2/20)
With social distancing protocols in place and activities related to essential activity only, recreating outdoors is a different experience. There are less vehicles on the road. The vehicle activity is often at different times of day than usual. Driver’s may be lulled into a different driving style paying less attention or driving faster than usual. This is a dangerous combination with pedestrians on the edge of the road trying to abide by social distancing protocols and more cyclists than usual - with many being small children out at different times of day.
For walkers, it is recommended that you wear bright colors or reflective clothing. If walking during early morning, dusk, or night, carry and use a light. Pay attention to your surroundings and others out walking as well. Try not to put yourself or others in a boxed-in situation that hampers your or their ability to properly abide by social distancing requirements. If you come up upon others and you are walking as a family group, try not to walk abreast of each other, walk in single file to allow others to pass safely. Pay attention to vehicles and cyclists as they will be moving faster and may not expect as many pedestrians as usual. Often, when walking and trying to observe social distancing pedestrians will take an outside path to provide that distance - that path may take them further into the roadway or in the path of a cyclist. Be careful and always check before moving into the right-of-way or roadway. If you are walking on a path, such as in the Park, and you are a family group, be courteous when passing others and walk single file to accommodate social distancing.
For cyclists, the best plan remains to ride in a family group or ride solo. Avoid crowded areas where there may be a lot of pedestrians out walking. Remember, these areas are now different. Pay attention to the surroundings and watch for pedestrians trying to avoid other pedestrians for social distancing. This may put them in your path. Slow down if you see this sort of activity ahead. Always watch for vehicles and remember, the people out and about will not be the normal crowd you typically experience.
For drivers, you have the most responsible job. Pay attention. Slow down. Watch for walkers edging out into the roadway. They may do so to create space between them and another walker. Don’t try and pass unless it is safe to do so. They may not see or hear you coming. Neighborhoods will be more crowded at all times of the day as people find new ways to recreate in their areas. If you don’t have to be out and about in a vehicle - stay home.
Town Meetings (updated 4/2/20)
— All Town Committee Meetings have been cancelled through May 3 (Audit & Finance, Bicycle & Pedestrian, Environmental Programs, Park and Recreation, Rail, Transportation, and Tree).
— City Council and Planning Commission Meetings will continue at this time but will be virtual meetings only. The City Council will have weekly Wednesday Special Meetings to discuss the continuing local emergency.
— City Council and Planning Commission Meetings will be conducted pursuant to the Governor’s Executive Order regarding the Brown Act to allow maximum remote participation by the Public and Council/Commission.
Items on the City Council and Planning Commission will largely consist of items only for the continuation of normal operations. There will be the regular items such as minutes, check register, awards of contracts, planned land use review and approval, budget review, and project approval. But large items that might engender a large public engagement process may be delayed until after the SIP Order is lifted. If the SIP extends further into May, staff will begin to adapt and work to accommodate larger discussion items.
Events and Activities at the Park or In the Community (updated 4/2/20)
— All organized activities at the Park through May 3 are cancelled and will be rescheduled. The Park remains OPEN for non-organized recreational activities, compliant with social distancing protocols.
— Tennis facilities are CLOSED.
— Playground, Par Course and Picnic facilities are CLOSED.
— Scheduling of any new events at the Park through May 3 have been placed on hold.
— All currently scheduled private events, training, and classes through May 3 are cancelled. The Town will assist in facilitating a cancellation or postponement without incurring a fee to do so.
— Knox Preschool has suspended their services.
— Residential Construction activity is NOT ALLOWED unless related to an emergency situation or Town or Utility Infrastructure Public Works Project. No new permits will be issued until the SIP Order is lifted.
— Essential Governmental Services (to include the work of first responders) are exempt from the Order. For the purposes of the SIP Order, the Town has identified the work of Police, Building, Public Works (MCE, Interwest), Planning, and Administrative Staff are the Town’s employee and contractor first responders and their work in support of the continuation of Town Operations is deemed essential. Throughout this pandemic, the Town will also rely on the support and contribution from many other first responders, that include, but are not limited to fire personnel, EMS personnel, ADAPT, CERT, dispatchers, court personnel, and others. All such personnel are exempt for the purposes of the SIP Order.
Town Operations (updated 4/2/20)
— All Town Offices are CLOSED to the public; but, Town operations are considered an essential service under the SIP Order and basic internal operations will continue. Unlike larger agencies, the Town does not have a depth of staff that would allow for full rotation of staffing should a COVID-19 quarantine need arise. Should there be a need to quarantine staff, a full shut down of services could result. As such, the Town is limiting public in-person contact to allow staff to telecommute where possible, use an A-Team/B-Team approach when at the office, and make adjustments to public contact situations when they are necessary (increased separation, phone contact, electronic interaction, outside waiting areas, etc.).
— All field services will continue operations (police, public works, building inspection when needed and code enforcement), with the implementation of social distancing protocols and limitations. Use electronic communications to contact staff via email or phone. Phones will be forwarded to those staff telecommuting.
During the next few weeks, you will experience delays and at times, an inability to immediately connect to staff. Please be patient and help us move forward cooperatively. Bottom line, if you can do it by phone or email - do that first. If it’s not an immediate need, wait. If you are sick or experiencing a compromised immune system, please self-quarantine.
COVID-19 will require the patience of us all as its impact will at times seem quite dramatic; but, again, most will ultimately only be temporary interruptions. Adapting to these changes with understanding, cooperation, and collaboration will help move us all through these times safely.
Local and Regional Resources (Updated 3/27/20)