Oct 27 2014

The Alameda County Assessor’s Office is behind schedule for mailing property tax statements.

Although the first installment payment of the 2014-2015 property tax is due November 1, 2014, the Alameda County Assessor’s Office announced that the statements will not be mailed until October 31, 2014. Even if property owners receive their bills on November 1, they could only pay on time by credit card or electronic check, both of which carry a “convenience fee.”  The Assessor’s office “convenience fee” for paying by credit card is 2.5% –$1000 on a typical $40,000 bill.

The $3 “convenience fee” for electronic check payment is economical, but don’t forget to add the $3 to the payment due. To learn the amount due look up your parcel here.  Note, however, the online statements contain the statement  “this is not an official bill.”

Since property taxes are arriving late this year, property owners need not rush to pay their bills.  The 10% delinquent payment is not imposed until December 10, 2014, for the first installment of the tax statement.

Oct 27 2014

Election Day is Nov. 4 !  Time to cast Vote-By-Mail ballots !

Voters who have registered for Vote-By-Mail ballots should have received their ballots by now.  Vote-By-Mail ballots must be received at the Registrar of Voters,  1225 Fallon Street, Oakland, Piedmont’s City Clerk, or a polling location no later than 8:00 p.m on Tuesday, November 4, Election Day.  Post marks are not sufficient. 

Voters may turn in Vote-By-Mail ballots to the Piedmont City Clerk’s Office, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, during regular business hours up to and including Election Day. Voters may also turn in Vote-By-Mail ballots to any polling place in Alameda County on Election Day. 

Early voting ballots are available for registered voters at the Registrar of Voters Office at 1225 Fallon Street in downtown Oakland. The office is open for early voting Monday through Friday and on Saturday, November 1st and Sunday, November 2nd from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

What is on the ballot?

Tuesday, November 4, will be the California General Election. On the ballot are all statewide elected officials, as well as Piedmont’s representatives in the United States Congress, the State Assembly, and on the boards of several special districts, including EBMUD, BART, and AC Transit. Also on the ballot are several statewide measures, at least one countywide measure, and one City of Piedmont measure.

Piedmont’s Ballot Measure GG

The Piedmont City Council placed Measure GG on the ballot. This measure modifies the City Charter in two ways. First, it would move the date of the City’s General Municipal Election from February to November. Second, it would change when the Piedmont Unified School District Board of Education annually elects its President and Vice President. To read the staff report describing the effects of the measure as well as its full text, click here. The measure needs a simple majority to pass.

If you have any questions regarding Measure GG, contact the City Clerk’s Office at (510) 420-3041.

Polling Place Locations

Polls open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.   There will be six polling places in Piedmont on Election Day. They are as follows:

Precinct # Location Notes
280100 Veterans Hall, 401 Highland Ave Side B
208500 Community Hall, 711 Highland Ave
208700 Ellen Driscoll Playhouse, 325 Highland Ave
281000 Corpus Christi Church, 322 St. James Dr. Gibson Center
281300 Veterans Hall, 401 Highland Ave Side A
281600 Kehilla Community Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave Fellowship Hall

Your polling place location may have changed.

Check your sample ballot or the My Voter Profile page to find out which polling place is yours.

To see a personalized voter pamphlet and find out the location of your polling place, visit the Registrar of Voters My Voter Profile page.

General Information

If you have any questions regarding your voter registration, your sample ballot, or your polling place location, contact the Alameda County Registrar of Voters Office at (510) 272-6933 or visit their web site.

Oct 26 2014

When long standing zoning restrictions are set aside, will Piedmonters be happy?

The draft Piedmont General Plan Housing Element has been written largely to satisfy the State, while avoiding law suits for noncompliance. 

Under the document, significant control of Piedmont zoning will potentially be removed from voters and placed in the hands of the City Council and the staff Council relies on.

The Planning Commission will meet on Thursday, October 30, 2014, at 5:00 p.m. in the City Hall Council Chambers to hold a public hearing on the state-mandated Draft Housing Element and consider recommendations to the Piedmont City Council.  The far-reaching draft document, intended to increase housing in Piedmont, has passed muster with State reviewers.

The Draft Housing Element, covering a planning period between 2015 and 2023, is voluminous and requires careful thought and consideration. Surprises are found throughout the document, such as a suggestion to require the City to approve applications within 30 days rather than the State required 60 days.  On some occasions, neighbors have found even 60 days are tight when responding to applications for major new construction next door.

The voter controlled Piedmont City Charter, a mainstay of zoning stability in Piedmont, is challenged in the Draft Housing Element by potential future independent reviewers looking for encumbrance to housing development within the City Charter.

Piedmont has approximately 4,000 residences and 11,000 residents.

Some California cities have balked at the State imposed requirements and delayed implementation or come up with stringent requirements for development to fend off undesired changes.  For example, some cities have required increased setbacks when building second units. In contrast, Piedmont has been less demanding of second unit applications, relaxing requirements, such as off-street parking and set backs.

Piedmont’s 20 year planning consultant, Barry Miller, has built a reputation within the planning community for using second units as a way to meet affordable housing needs.  Piedmont’s planning has been in line with his concepts.

Miller and the planning staff have accommodated the State including inviting officials to view first hand the limited opportunities for increased housing in Piedmont. As a built out city with no ability to expand, development potential is extremely limited in Piedmont.

 Few Piedmonters have reviewed the the Draft Housing Element.

The California State Law requires citizen participation when developing a Housing Element. The Planning Commission was designated by the City Council as the citizen body to review the Draft Housing Element.  At meetings where the draft was discussed there have been few participants. The “Town Hall Style” meeting, was held without public broadcast and recordings and was largely intended to spur on support for second units.

The City Council, circumventing the City Charter, has not placed recent zoning changes on a Piedmont ballot for voter validation and approval per the City Charter. Comprehensive public involvement in zoning changes could be achieved by placing the matters on a Piedmont ballot. The State law allows such an action.  The City has avoided allowing voters to act in fear of zoning change rejection.

Piedmont’s Housing Element is built on more second-units.  

Without taking money out of its own coffers, California, in an effort to increase affordable and low-income housing, passed  legislation requiring cities, even Charter Cities such as Piedmont, to allow second-units in single-family zones.  The Piedmont City Charter states that only the voters of Piedmont can change zoning, designating areas for housing as single-family or multiple family.

Each California city is required to define the conditions for allowing second units within single family zones.  Piedmont has done this.  If an application comes to the Planning Department meeting all conditions for a second unit, then the Planning Department is required to approve the second unit application under a “ministerial act;” neighbors are not notified and the Planning Commission has no jurisdiction over the application.

If a second unit application cannot meet ALL criteria for “ministerial” approval, the Planning Commission has the responsibility to consider the matter; neighbors are notified; and all conditions regarding the application are considered, such as safety, variances, privacy, light and air, etc.

As housing in Piedmont changes, the question remains:  Will the implementation measures proposed for the 2015- 2023 time period please Piedmonters?

Some of the proposed policies will reduce public involvement and make it easier for development.  The City Council previously rezoned the Commercial Zone to allow “mixed use,” a combination of commercial use and apartments on the same property.   Despite the City Charter, no attempt was made to place the matter before voters.

Piedmont’s City Attorney opposed the established description of single family and multi-family housing in the Commercial Zone, concluding single family and multi-family housing were synonymous. Yet language approved by voters had defined single family and multi-family zoning as separate and different.  The preemptive action by the Council overstepped City Charter language that requires Piedmont voters to consider zoning changes.

The Draft Housing Element policies presented are often onerous to property owners and possibly punitive to nearby properties.  From fees to variances, Piedmonters will find their city changing.   The future will show if the General Plan Housing Element will be used as a rigid requirement or as a working document meeting current needs and desires of the residents of Piedmont.

The related Initial Study and Negative Declaration pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act will be heard at the Planning Commission meeting of November 10, 2014.

Read the Oct. 1, 2014 “Clean” version of the proposed plan here.  Chapters noted below.

Read comments from the California Department of Housing and Community Development  and Piedmont’s responses as incorporated into the Housing Element.

Timeline for final approval of Housing Element:

  • October 30, 2014 – Planning Commission Hearing
  • December 1, 2014 – City Council Hearing
  • January 31, 2015 – Final Housing Element due to State Department of Housing and Community Development

The Planning Commission meeting is on Thursday, October 30, 2014, starting at 5 p.m. It will be televised on KCOM Channel 27 and live streamed on the City website. The meeting is open to the public and interested individuals may address the Planning Commission.

The Director of Planning, Kate Black has requested the following:

Send comments to me at kblack@ci.piedmont.ca.us, * send
them via US mail to Planning Commission, c/o Kate Black, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611, or drop them off at City Hall.
Kate Black, Planning Director, City of Piedmont, 120 Vista Avenue
Piedmont, CA 94611 – 510-420-3063
“To insure full compliance with the Brown Act, we ask that you not reply to all, but reply only to me. Thank you.” *< This statement comes from Kate Black, Director of Planning.

*Editors’ Note: Correspondence sent to the Planning Director needs to specify that it is for ALL Commissioners or Council members to ensure the correspondence is not exempt from the Brown Act or the Public Records Act. 

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Oct 26 2014

The following is a press release of October 24, 2014 –

Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Law Enforcement Scam

The Piedmont Police Department would like to warn the citizens of Piedmont about a phone scam in which the perpetrators portray themselves as employees for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.

On October 23, 2014, the unknown suspect(s), who portrayed themselves as Alameda County Sheriff’s Office deputies, contacted two different Piedmont residents by phone and demanded a transfer of cash which they claimed was owed to the agency. The suspect(s) informed the victims that they had missed jury duty and there was an outstanding warrant for their arrest. The suspect(s) then told the victims to place the amount owed for the warrant onto a prepaid card known as a “Vanilla” card to avoid being arrested.

Please note the following:

The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office never asks for a credit card number over the phone or requests the use of a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer.

No law enforcement agency will call you and propose an immediate money transfer to avoid arrest.

Anyone who receives these type of calls is advised to contact their local law enforcement agency.

Anyone with information and/or inquiries related to this specific Piedmont case should contact:

Detective Willie Wright at (510) 420-3013.

Oct 21 2014

-  The application deadline has been extended to October 31, 2014 -

The voter approved committee to oversee and advise on future school parcel tax rates requires three members to represent property owners in Piedmont.  It is unknown how many, if any, resident property owners have already applied, but the Piedmont Unified School District Board of Trustees has extended the application deadline to solicit applications for membership on the School Support Tax Sub-committee for Measure A, the school parcel tax based at $2,406 per parcel.

According to Superintendent Constance Hubbard:

The deadline for applications for the School Support Tax Advisory Subcommittee has been extended.  Applications are due by October 31, 2014.

Applications may be downloaded below or from the District website, and obtained by contacting the Superintendent’s office. Membership on this committee is open to property owners living in Piedmont who are not employed by the School District.

CLICK HERE FOR APPLICATION FORM  Due by October 31.

CLICK HERE FOR SUBCOMMITTEE CHARTER

Oct 21 2014

At the Wednesday, October 22, 2014, School Board Meeting starting at 7:00 p.m. in the City Hall Council Chambers, the Board is expected to authorize issuance and sale of 2014 General Obligation Refunding Bonds in the aggregate of up to $11,000,000.

On October 8, the Board  considered information provided by the District’s bond consultant KNN (Kelling, Northcross and Nobriga) on the mechanism to refinance outstanding bonds in order to issue bonds with a lower interest rate. The financial action is expected to save Piedmont property owners approximately $800,000 over the next seven years.

The meeting is open to the public and will be broadcast on Cable Channel 27 KCOM and also live streamed on the City’s website. Recordings will be made of the proceedings and available to the public following the meeting.

Read the staff report here.

Read the agenda for approximate times of agenda items here . 

Oct 20 2014
To the Piedmont City Council:                                                                                                                                                          October 20, 2014
Congratulations to the new members of the Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee (BAFPC).  Expanding the size of the committee is probably wise given the many long-term financial challenges facing the city. Alternatively, eliminating the explicit addition of members to conduct a biennial review of the municipal parcel tax is not advisable given the important role this volunteer review has served in maintaining citizen support for the tax.
  I have commented before that subsuming the role of the Municipal Tax Review Committee (MTRC) to the BAFPC is not wise – the committees by definition took different views of city annual and long-term financial needs, to the betterment of city budgeting and fiscal planning.  In fact, it was the 2011 MTRC that recommended the establishment of a committee to look at the long-term financial needs of the city.  By overburdening the BAFPC, the biennial review of city services will likely not be as comprehensive as was undertaken by the MTRC.  The review of city services is especially called for given two recent developments:
            – Recommendations from the 2011 MTRC report:           “The committee recommends that the City undertake a prioritizing of City services and modify the detailed budget presentation designating certain services (costs, etc) as “mission-critical” and other services as not in that category in order to assist future Councils to create a priority of funding.   The City should adopt formal objectives for the appropriate fund balance levels of funds related to capital and equipment replacement and use these levels as guidelines in allocating revenues.”  These two unanimous MTRC recommendations are meant to assist Council with annual budgeting for city services but have not been undertaken.
- Annual property transfer tax receipts: Piedmont has realized unprecedented property transfer tax receipts these past two years. The trend in this revenue source needs to be examined and considered by Council when setting the annual tax rate for city services.
Finally, the role of the BAFPC in reviewing the sufficiency of the Municipal Services Special Tax (Parcel Tax) needs to be clarified.  As the Piedmont City Code indicates, the purpose of the parcel tax is to provide annual municipal service levels that Council considers are necessary:
SECTION 20B.2 AUTHORIZATION TO LEVY SPECIAL MUNICIPAL TAX -
If in any fiscal year commencing on or after July 1, 2013, the City Council shall determine that municipal services, including, but not limited to, police and fire protection, street maintenance, building regulations, library services, recreation, parks maintenance, planning and public works and similar services, are necessary for the public good, welfare and safety, and that the cost of making available such services will exceed the amount of funds generated through other revenue and income of the City for such services, then it may levy a special tax for such fiscal year on each parcel of real property within the City in a manner provided herein. This is a non-ad valorem parcel tax which, pursuant to California Constitution Article XIII D, Section 3, shall be deemed a special tax as defined pursuant to Section 53721 of the California Government Code.
The purpose of the tax is not to meet the “ongoing financial needs of the city” such as unmet pension and retiree health care obligations.   No doubt BAFPC may consider other revenue sources to meet those needs but the parcel tax should not be part of that consideration.  I recommend that you modify the resolution with the following text:
e)            Periodically review and comment on the sufficiency of the Municipal Services Special Tax (Parcel Tax) to address the municipal services levels of City. This charge shall be accomplished not later than eighteen (18) months prior to the expiration of the tax as set forth in Chapter 20B of the City Code.
Garrett Keating, Former City Council Member and Public Safety Committee Member
Editors’ Note:  The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.
Oct 19 2014

At their October 20 meeting in City Hall starting at 7:30 p.m., the City Council will modify the charge and membership of the Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee (BAFPC); make appointments to the committee; consider the smoking restriction ordinance; and upgrade the salary and job descriptions of the Planning Director and others in the Planning Department.

 Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee

City Administrator Paul Benoit recommends reestablishing the BAFPC, which was recently permanently established by taking the following actions:

1) Modify the membership of the Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee to seven regular members and one alternate member; 2) Clarify the role of the alternate member; and 3) Remove the option to appoint additional members for the purpose of studying the Special Municipal Services Tax.

2) Appoint the following residents to the Committee:

Three Year Term: William (Bill) Hosler & Dirk tenGrotenhuis

Two Year Term: Angela Carmel Michael, Shel Schreiberg, & Jennifer Cavanaugh

One Year Term: Karen Sullivan & Christopher Moore; John Chiang (Alternate)

Read the staff report.

Smoking restriction ordinance

The City Council has considered the matter once and the staff has returned with potential language for the ordinance.  Read the staff report.

New job descriptions and increased compensation in the Planning Department

Following an outside consultants’ evaluation of Piedmont’s job descriptions, the Planning Department is identified for revisions in compensation and descriptions. For example, the Planning Director, who currently makes approximately $123,624 will become the Director of Planning and make $135,984 per year.  The position is currently held by an employee hired under Piedmont’s prior retirement plan with a benefit of 3% of the average highest 3 years of compensation times each year worked. Retirement age is 60.  Read the staff report.   Read the budget .

Also at the meeting will be:

10/20/14 – Receipt of the 3rd Quarter Crime Report from the Police Chief

10/20/14- Update on Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Operations Center Evaluation 

 Read the full meeting agenda.  The meeting is open to the public and will be broadcast via Channel 27 KCOM and streamed from the City website.

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Oct 19 2014

The Piedmont School Board will hold a Workshop to discuss a review of District Facilities on Tuesday, October 21, 2014, in the District Office, Piedmont Unified School District, 760 Magnolia Ave, Piedmont at 9:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m.

The meeting open to the public will not be broadcast or recorded. Individuals interested in the discussion can obtain full information at the meeting.

The Board will conduct a workshop on School Facilities. Staff will review the history of the Seismic Safety Bond Program (SSBP), Modernization Program, Deferred Maintenance and Master Plan options. The Board is requested to provide direction to the staff as to desired next steps for review of District facilities needs planning.

Bond Capacity for capital improvements – the potential for additional bonds:

At the October 8, 2014 Board meeting, KNN (the School District Bond consultant) estimates that PUSD’s available bonding capacity will increase significantly. Estimates are:

$18.5 million in 2014-15; 

$26.3 million in 2015-16;

$34.8 million in 2016-17;

$43.4 million in 2017-18;

$52.4 million in 2018-19; and

$61 million in 2019-20.

 Capacity of facilities to accommodate increasing enrollment:

The capacity of facilities to accommodate changing enrollment is a significant issue for PUSD, where student population grew by 150 over the last four years.  This is unusual growth for Piedmont. Also, although only 40% of Piedmont residents have students in the schools, this percentage may increase at any time.

School Capital Facilities Fund:

The Capital Facilities Fund (CFF) includes funds that provide for the eventual replacement of Witter Field and similar projects that were neither included in bond-funded construction programs nor classified by the State as “deferred maintenance.” PUSD allocates approximately $50,000 per year in the CFF specifically for Witter Field. In addition, the District collects facility rental fees; donations from local lacrosse, soccer, and baseballs clubs; and contributions from the City of Piedmont for athletic facilities preservation, all of which are deposited in the CFF “Witter Field” account. PUSD is now close to achieving its goal of raising $700,000 by the end of 2015 for Witter Field turf and track replacement scheduled per the expiration of the warranty.

 

Read the full staff report.

Contact School Board Members.

Meeting agenda.

Oct 19 2014

The following statement was made at the City and School  Liaison Committee meeting of Friday, October 17, 2014.

Thank you to the City Council and School District Liaison Committee members for this opportunity to speak on the topic of the Turkey Trot.

My name is Katie Korotzer. I currently serve as the president of the Associated Parents Clubs of Piedmont, which encompasses 6 parent clubs and 14 school support groups. I’m speaking to you as a representative of the parent volunteer community.  This parent volunteer community carries forth a very long legacy of service to others and financial stewardship of funds raised for our schools.

Since the publication of the FAQ about the Turkey Trot by the superintendent’s office in late September, the parent volunteer community has had many conversations and reactions to the situation we now face. 

As parents of students currently attending PUSD schools we feel that our voice should be considered when arriving at a solution.  We have had friendly conversations with the organizer of last year’s Turkey Trot and hope to continue those conversations in order to reach an agreement that would be acceptable to all stakeholders.

As parents, we recognize that there are pre-existing legal and financial matters that we are not party to and which must be resolved before any agreements can be finalized.

As you all are aware, every year from 2003 to 2013, the Turkey Trot has been organized by a group of people consisting of parents of student athletes along with Cross Country & Track coaches, as a fundraiser for the Piedmont High School Cross Country & Track Teams.  (Refer to Hard Copy documentation: photocopies of race permit applications by Cross Country team for City Street Closures each year for the decade between 2003 & 2013). 

The Cross Country and Track Teams are part of the 14 sports that are offered for boys and girls at PHS.  Most, if not all, of these 14 teams conduct their own annual fundraising drives ranging from simple car washes, to what has over the past decade become a very successful annual Turkey Trot.   Teams raise money to pay for things such as uniforms, equipment and transportation.  All of the 14 sports have parent and coaching representation within Boosters, a parent volunteer run 501c3 organization since 1978.   

One of the questions before us today is regarding “ownership” of the Turkey Trot. Who has the “right” to make decisions about this PHS Cross Country and Track Team fundraiser?

Should it be the group of cross country & track student athletes, current parents and coaches that for the past 10 years have filed for the City Permit, or should it be the newly formed Piedmont Turkey Trot Corporation?

That may be a bigger question than can be answered in today’s meeting. 

Whatever the answer, the parent volunteer community believes that the Turkey Trot is a wonderful event, which brings in a huge group of runners from Piedmont and surrounding areas.  No one knows for sure if these runners are motivated to run because proceeds benefit the student athletes of the PHS Cross Country & Track teams.  But the fact remains that since its inception, the event has been sponsored by PHS Cross Country & Track teams. Without the involvement of these student athletes, their parents and their coaches, the event would not have been occurring and growing as it has for the past decade.

Parent volunteers are therefore in support of the Turkey Trot occurring in 2014, but with the following suggestions for this year’s Street Closure Permit Applicant – the newly formed Piedmont Turkey Trot Corporation.  Parent volunteers have reason to believe that these suggestions will be taken by the Piedmont Turkey Trot Corporation and are looking forward to a friendly, cooperative dialogue within the next few days with the spokesperson of the corporation.

The suggestions for the Turkey Trot Corporation are:

  • Parents of current student athletes be included as board members, and that this be an ongoing practice each year.
  • An articulated plan be developed for succession of event management to avoid volunteer “burn out” and a sense of “event ownership by any one individual”.
  • That the entity responsible for planning the Turkey Trot have on it’s board in advisory capacity: (1) a city representative and (2) a school based representative such as a school board member or district employee, and (3) a PHS cross country or track coach.
  • That the organizing entity of the Turkey Trot engage in a yearly committee/board discussion, with minutes taken and available for public review, of how any excess net proceeds after Cross Country and Track team fundraising needs are met, would be used.
  • And that prior to City approval of the 2014 Street Closure Permit, the organizing entity comes to an agreement with the City as to how funds are going to be distributed on an annual basis, preferably in keeping with the tradition as stated in Council Agenda Reports of the past three years (2011,2012, 2013): “All proceeds from the fundraiser will go to support the Piedmont High School Cross Country and Track teams”.

Additionally, there have been several suggestions from the parent volunteer community regarding a change to the traditional language of the next sentence in the Council Agenda Reports referred to above, which refers to excess funds and which currently reads: “as well as acquiring exercise equipment to benefit the whole school” to something such as one of the following suggestions which have come from the parent volunteer community and from the newly formed corporation:

  • “Student athletes should decide how Excess Funds would be used”
  • “Excess funds be distributed equally to all teams”
  • “Excess funds go into a Witter Track & Field Replacement Fund”
  • “Excess funds go to offset City of Piedmont costs to host the event”
  • “Excess funds go to support running in Piedmont, perhaps through the Rec Dept.”
  • “ Excess funds go to as-yet unidentified charities; perhaps local food banks because the event occurs on Thanksgiving”

As a parent volunteer group, there is no set consensus on the use of these “excess funds”; yet parent volunteer trust could conceivably be placed in a representative board as described above to discuss these possibilities and make this decision from year to year on behalf of the parent volunteer and student athlete community.

It is now the job of City and School representatives to move forward regarding issuance of the City Street Closure Permit.

These remarks will be shared with the spokesperson of the Turkey Trot corporation today, for inclusion in what parent volunteers believe will be productive and cooperative talks within the next few days, ideally leading to a healthy reconciliation of perceived differences between stakeholders.

Thank you.

Katie Korotzer, President of the Associated Parents Clubs of Piedmont

Editors’ Note:  The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.
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