Fire District

Diana supports staying with our Menlo Park Fire District

I want to ensure that we have the best quality fire protection services for the town. I oppose Atherton detachment from the Menlo Park Fire District, and I would work to reestablish good working relations with the Menlo Park Fire District and our city partners.

Earlier this year, the Atherton City Council members proposed that Atherton detach from the Menlo Park Fire District. I strongly oppose withdrawing from the fire district because we need our first-class fire district now more than ever. By participating in a fire district (that includes Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, and parts of unincorporated San Mateo), we can pool our tax dollars to have one of the nation’s best fire departments.

The Matrix study was commissioned by the council to discern how much the fire district spends specifically in Atherton versus how much Atherton contributes in taxes. I believe this is a misguided effort. Looking at service calls within our city overlooks some of the greatest benefits of participating in the joint district.  Pooling our resources with the other cities allows us to afford shared resources we would not afford otherwise, allows consolidation and response time efficiency, and, most importantly, allows us to afford one of the nation’s best fire services. We would lose all of these benefits if we were to withdraw from the fire district. The report discusses the idea of building our own fire department or rehiring back our same fire department or hiring a neighboring fire district (who is part of the same fire union with less resources).  All of these options provide no financial gain and significant service loss.

All the cities in the Menlo Park fire district pay the same percentage of our property tax to the fire district. This is determined at the state level (via prop 13 and AB8). The town can not change the amount of taxes we pay. Detachment would not lower Atherton taxes, but it would diminish the quality of our fire services.

Smoke and fire do not recognize city borders! We need to work together with our fire district and the state to create a plan to address the complicated and costly long-term problems caused by increased fire and smoke.

Because of the number of trees,  the city of Atherton is at higher risk for canopy fires. I would prioritize planning with the fire district and the state to create a timely response to this increased risk.