Aug 15 2017

Piedmont students went back to school on Tuesday, August 15, 2017.

To view the Piedmont Unified School District Instructional Calendar for the 2017 – 2018 school year, click > HERE.

Aug 15 2017

Several Small Bay Area Cities Have Simpler Contracts for Services

     Albany, California negotiated until it reached an agreement less than a month before new garbage removal services began. Even then, one Councilmember objected, wanting further efforts to reduce costs to citizens. The Albany City Council approved a ten year solid waste & recycling agreement in October 2011 with the following provisions:

Seniors 62 years of age and older receive a 20% discount on service.

Disabled residents with an ongoing physical disability that prevents them from being able to wheel a cart curbside may qualify for an exemption to curbside service (carts will be serviced from location as designated by resident – typically side or backyard)

Beginning November 1, 2011 the standard residential household monthly rate was $36.37.  With a cap of 5% increase annually, the standard residential household rate increased from $36.37 to $38.04 effective November 1, 2012.

As of May 1, 2017 backyard residential pickup was an additional $15.21. Low waste generators receive monthly trash service (10 gallon) and recycle service (64 gallon) and weekly organics service (64 gallon) at the monthly rate of $15.25.  See the complete residential household monthly rates listed here.

     Belvedere, CA differentiates between the city’s “flat” and “hill” areas. The complete rates listed here.
    Mill Valley, CA differentiates between the city’s “flat” and “hill” areas.  The cost to SSI residents are $8.46 in the “flat” and $10.32 in the  “hill” areas.  The complete rates are listed here

    Corte Madera, CA differentiates between the city’s “flat” and “hill” areas and offers a list of “Lifeline” rates to seniors, disabled and low income residents. The complete rates are listed here

1 Comment »
Aug 13 2017

No tax deduction allowed for ratepayers paying for city waste services.

Placing the cost of City Waste Services on private home garbage ratepayer billing rather than using the Piedmont General Fund Budget eliminates the tax deductibility of a legitimate municipal service, which should be covered by the Municipal Services Tax. 

How much municipal cost for waste services will be shifted from the city budget to individual residents’ in their required monthly waste removal charges? The recently received Republic Services bid provides no breakout of the cost of providing the city service that is billed to ratepayers.

Questions have also been raised about the ratepayer fees for City services without a benefit to the individual ratepayer, which may be considered an unauthorized required tax.  

Simultaneously, the City Council is moving ahead on considering a change to the City Charter to allow the city to accumulate more than the Charter prescribed maximum reserve of 25% of the annual budget. The city has been experiencing unprecedented increases in excess revenues which have been placed into various city reserve funds. Rather than using existing money for ongoing municipal services, such as city waste removal or the greatly needed pavement of substandard or damaged sidewalks, the city continues to ask for more funding from Piedmonters.

The voter enacted Piedmont City Charter states:

“The Council shall establish a fund known as the General Fund Reserve in an amount not to exceed twenty-five (25%) of the budget for the purpose of maintaining municipal services during periods of reduced revenues to the City, as well as meeting unforeseen contingencies and emergencies of the City.”

Council Moves Forward to Contract with Sole Source Bidder – 

On July 17th, the Piedmont City Council accepted the proposal submitted by Republic Services for waste collection services beginning on July 1, 2018, notably imposing huge rate increases particularly for backyard services and no rate break for seniors or the disabled.

Numerous residents have expressed dismay and shock at the cost of procuring only one bidder and the expensive end result.  It is not unusual for sole source procurement to result in unacceptably high costs. No breakout of the cost to go 30 feet into a backyard versus 100 feet or up many steep steps was offered.

Piedmont resident Alan Kong recommended “a re-procurement … with a non-responsive” penalty or  “a more stringent annual renewal cap.”

Despite the long lead time, a new less complex RFP for Piedmont property owners will not be sent out in an attempt to acquire waste removal charges in line with other communities. Detailed contract negotiations will proceed on the basis of the lone bid by Republic Services.

Concerns over the huge increase in rates for garbage collection have produced suggestions from a range of individuals.

“From what I have read in Mr. Benoit’s report may be indicative of inappropriate discussions by the proposers. In some industries such as sanitation/waste disposal, where there is limited to no competition, the eligible participants will divide territories/cities. Periodically these territories/cities will be redistributed in an RFP re-bid process. It seems odd that 2 proposers declined to bid altogether while of the remaining 2 proposers (Waste Management and Republic), there was a formal “no bid” citing safety. 

“Perhaps a re-procurement should be enacted with a qualifier that a non-responsive proposal will penalize/disqualify that party from future contract award considerations. Or implement a more stringent annual renewal cap (no greater than a legitimate index + X%, annually…and tie the contractor into a 5-10 year term contract with a stringent termination clause).

“However this is resolved, the seemingly damaged party will be the residents of the City of Piedmont. There are easy answers to this situation.” Alan Kong


“What the City has left out in its online explanation of the process and in response to Mike Rancer’s thoughtful comment, is that Waste Management, which services many Oakland streets right next to Piedmont, wanted to use a different type of cart that matched to a lift on the trucks which would reduce their concern about worker injury. Piedmont did not want to investigate this thinking backyard service would not be possible. The Jan. 17 2017 staff report included my letter and research material; that material has Oakland provider Waste Management’s rate sheet which clearly shows Waste Management providing both curbside and backyard service.”  Rick Schiller


“Are the City’s requirements asking for something that is far too expensive? Maybe relaxing some of the requirements would result in lower prices, and more competitors for the contract.”  Bruce Joffe


“Maybe the problem is that Piedmont is too small to generate competitive bids or economies of scale. Given that Piedmont is completely surrounded by Oakland, and many of our streets cross the boundary into Oakland, has the city considered talking to Oakland about joining their contract and consolidating services to improve efficiency and lower our cost? It would be the height of negligence if our City Council simply rolled over and accepted this non-competitive bid. ”  Michael Rancer


“Those are enormous rate increases – did Republic provide a quantifiable basis? They admitted they blew the last bid – you have to wonder how good this estimate is. And their flat rate for backyard makes no sense – all Piedmont backyards are not created equal. Staff’s formula may have been too complex for Republic, so make it simple – scale backyard service to lot size.

“Bad month for ratepayers – sewer, garbage and water rates all go up.”  Garrett Keating


“Rick Schiller is to be commended for the extensive research and persuasive recommendations that he made.

“I hope that the shocked ratepayers will remember this when City Council election time comes around again. As a reminder: “Hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear: Should you not fear me?”

“Politics tends to be forgotten. Writing those quarterly checks is the “gift” that keeps on giving, and giving, and giving. ” Jim McCrea


“July 14, 2017
Piedmont City Council
c/o John Tulloch, City Clerk

July 17 Agenda: New Republic Services refuse contract.

Dear Mayor Wieler and Council,
It is what it is: one bid from Republic Services. Regrettably the preliminary cost estimates are for substantial increases of 60% for curbside service and 120% for backyard service. Considering the considerable increases, it is most unfortunate there will be no accommodation for seniors over 70. Staff indicated such an accommodation leaves the City vulnerable to legal challenge yet, perplexingly, this specific accommodation is common elsewhere and has not been legally challenged.

The Staff Report states “backyard service would be available to disabled residents at curbsides rates.” What is the mechanism for disabled qualification?
Mr. Benoit indicated, when we spoke at the Linda Triangle opening, that the new contract would include unlimited curbside green waste. This is most appropriate in lush, expansive Piedmont with its many large lots. Unlimited curbside recycling also seems appropriate and is in harmony with Piedmont’s embrace of ecological concerns.”   
Rick Schiller


“I find it odd and inconsistent that Piedmont finds a senior exemption of backyard service at curbside rates contrary to State law as many Municipalities have this exemption. In Marin County Almonte, Alto, Belvedere, Corte Madera, Homestead, Marin County, Mill Valley, Strawberry and Tiburon provide exemptions for backyard service at curbside rates for (1) any age 70 Senior on signature alone that requests the service and (2) any disabled person with a doctor’s letter. The City of Berkeley has the same two exemptions and lowers the qualifying age to 62 and does not require a doctor’s letter for the handicapped exemption (form and code attached). City of Albany has both a disability exemption and an age 62 low-income discount exemption (see attached p 7). Santa Clarita has an age 60 low-income discount exemption (see attached p 7). No doubt there are many more California cities with an age based senior exemption of backyard service at curbside rates.”  Rick Schiller


“I think that there should be a provision that someone at age 75 (or pick a comparable age) or older should automatically be entitled to backyard collection at curbside rates. Will some noses get out of joint if they are thought to be “too old” to haul the cans to and from the curb and they don’t feel that way? If so, let THEM opt out of the reduced rates. “ Jim McCrea


“I have not followed the Piedmont waste issue closely, but I did have a caution that may be useful. The City of Oakland spent a great deal on staff, consultants and public time to craft a detailed and specific RFP that outlined a great number of demands and requirements. Unfortunately, their efforts were rewarded with only one responsive bid from their current provider, Waste Management. This caused no end of trouble for the city ending up with recirculation of the EGO, eventual litigation and very increased rates. The 2016 Grand Jury report covers this problem pretty well. Piedmont should not repeat Oakland’s path on this. Also, collusion between garbage companies is not unknown. ”  Michael Henn


“Good news- the proposed contract has significant reductions in service levels in that unlimited recycling/composting and individual curbside pick-ups are eliminated from the contract which should lower rates. These services were likely the reason rates were increased so much in the last contract so their elimination now should lead to lower rates. Likewise, the scalable backyard service formula should result in a more accurate (and higher) rate for this service, again leading to a rate reduction for curbside service, the majority of Piedmont’s service.

“Bad news – for recycling, this contract is a serious step backwards. Specifically, the contract calls for a 60% diversion rate, a rate the city had already achieved before the advent of the cart system 10 years ago. And it ignores the 75% diversion rate that council set by resolution – the stretch goal for this contract is 70% by 2028. Many other east bay cities are achieving 75 % and our city has routinely been above 70%. Staff assumes that with the reduction in unlimited recycling, green waste will go to the landfill instead and result in an underestimate of our true diversion rate – this happened in the past. But it won’t now – Alameda County has banned the dumping of green waste in land fills and green waste is now properly sorted and credited. The contract should at least adjust the diversion targets to 65, 70, and 75% at a minimum to maintain the current level of recycling in town. To do the right thing, the contract should set the target at 75% as directed by Resolution 38-08.

“General Plan Goals and Policies: the staff report lists the numerous goals and policies this contract addresses (wish that had been done with chapter 17 revisions) but many are really not related to this service contract. To make true headway with our Climate Action Plan, this contract should require the use of biodiesel vehicles – this is likely the largest source of truck traffic GHG emission generated by the city and the city could achieve major reduction by mandating this in the contract.”  Garrett Keating


“May I suggest that a requirement be included that the carts be placed back on the curbs after emptying. When the carts are left in the street, as they usually are, they occupy parking spaces where parking is very limited to begin with. I asked the company to include this in its instructions to its drivers, but compliance lasted approximately one week. This is a minor irritation but an irritation nonetheless.”  Susan McCreary

Read prior PCA article HERE.

Read City web page on waste services HERE.

Aug 11 2017


– PUBLIC HEARING  – Monday, August 14, 2017, City Hall at an undetermined time following the completion of all other items on the Planning Commission Agenda.  The matter will likely be undertaken after 7:00 p.m.  For more specific information on the timing, contact the Planning Director, Kevin Jackson at 420-3050.

The meeting will be televised live on Cable Channel 27 and streamed from the City website.

As basements are enlarged, attics expanded, and rooms added, what should the floor area ratio (square feet of living space relative to lot size) requirements be? Questions on the intent of the building code and impacts to neighborhoods relative to property size will be considered.

At the July 10, 2017 Planning Commission meeting, “Planning Director  [Kevin] Jackson raised the topic of the floor area ratio (FAR) exemption, which was brought to light during the discussion for the project at 100 Dracena Avenue. He asked the Commissioners whether they would like to receive a report outlining the intent of the code provision and options for how the code language might be modified to improve the effectiveness of the regulation. The Commissioners agreed that they would like to discuss the topic further, and they each spoke briefly on their interests in the topic. They requested, at a minimum, to have a future discussion to clarify the priority or intent of the language. They also suggested that changes be made to the code to better define what constitutes a habitable area and to clearly separate projects that are eligible for the FAR exemption from those that include envelope expansions.” Draft Planning Commission Minutes

The Planning Commission will consider the following staff report at the August 14, 2017 meeting:

AGENDA ITEM NUMBER 11 [Last item of the agenda]


Open the public hearing, receive this report and staff’s presentation, take testimony from members of the public and provide comments and direction to staff regarding floor area ratio (FAR) regulations and exemptions. The Commission will not be taking action or making any recommendations to Council on any code revisions as part of this discussion.


Recent Discussion

Having acted on an application seeking approval for a variance from the City’s FAR limits at its last meeting on July 10, 2017, the Planning Commission requested that staff return with a report outlining the intent of the code provision and options for how the code language might be modified to improve the effectiveness of the regulation. The Commission was also interested in ways to better define what constitutes a habitable area and to clearly separate the sequencing of projects that are eligible for the FAR exemption from those that include envelope expansions.

Floor area ratio is currently defined in City Code section 17.90.020 as follows:

Floor area of a building means the sum of the gross horizontal area of the floors of the building, measured from the exterior faces of exterior walls or from the center line of party walls separating two buildings, and includes:

  1. living space on all levels, including within a basement;
  2. elevator shafts and stairwells at each floor;
  3. bay window or window seat that projects beyond the exterior wall, even if the window or seat does not have an average ceiling height of seven feet, six inches in which a person can reasonably stand or sit;
  4. living space within an attic, including space that does not have direct heat. An attic space that has exposed wall framing and/or does not have permanent access cannot be used for habitation, and does not count toward floor area. Permanent access includes built-in stairs (even if they do not meet all of the building code requirements), but does not include built-in or pull-down ladders;
  5. enclosed porch or lanai, heated or not;
  6. high-volume space that exceeds an average height of 15 feet, measured from finished floor to the outer roof, is counted as two stories; and
  7. area within a building used for commercial purposes.

Living space not considered habitable under the Building Code because of window size, ventilation, access, ceiling height, heating, or electrical service (e.g. unconditioned storage area) is not counted in the floor area, but if the space is actually used for living, sleeping, eating, bathing, washing, or cooking, the space will be included, subject to the interpretation of the Director.

Although modifications have occurred, the above definition is very similar to the one originally adopted into the City Code in 1979.

History of Floor Area regulations in the Piedmont City Code

The following represents a concise list of City Council actions that modified regulations related to floor area in Chapter 17 of the City Code:

Ordinance 391 N.S., November 1979
In this comprehensive update to Chapter 17, a definition floor area was added. The definition has remained largely unchanged since its adoption in 1979.

Ordinance 516 N.S., April 1990
In this comprehensive update to Chapter 17, regulations for floor area were added, but only for residential properties. The intent was to limit the size of a home (the bulk of a building) in relation to the size of the lot, which would allow small homes on small lots and large homes on large lots. The regulations were provided in a new Section 17.20 Home Expansion (see Exhibit A, page 9). The section outlined its intent, set limits and provided exemptions to the limits.

FAR Limits: 55% for lots less than or equal to 5,000 s.f.
50% for lots greater than 5,000 s.f. and up to 10,000 s.f. 45% for lots in excess of 10,000 s.f.
The limits have remained unchanged since their adoption in 1990.

Exemptions from FAR limits:

  1. a)  When the improvement adds nor more than 350 s.f. of floor area. The exemption may be used no more than once per parcel, and never within 36 months of another application in which floor area is increased.
  2. b)  When the total proposed floor area does not exceed 2,000 s.f.

The minutes for the January 16 and April 16, 1990 City Council meeting are provided in Exhibit B, pages 11-14, and Exhibit C, pages 15-18.

Ordinance 523 N.S., March 1991
In this ordinance, Council deleted the exemption for additions of no more than 350 s.f. of floor area. In doing so, the Council stated the original intent of this exemption was “to allow small older homes which already exceed permitted FAR coverage a one-time opportunity to modernize.” In deleting this exemption, the mayor stated it “was being used far more often than originally anticipated by the Council, was being viewed as a ‘right’ by homeowners and architects and was also not being limited to small older homes per her understanding of the intent of this section.” In its discussion the Council added that the exemption was unnecessary because the Planning Commission had the “discretion to grant variances from the FAR restrictions in exceptional hardship circumstances.”

Ordinance 547 N.S., October 1993
With this ordinance, Council made two modifications to the FAR regulations: 1) the addition of this provision to the limitations: “The area comprised of a driveway which is not entirely contiguous with and an integral part of the main lot, as in the case of a ‘flag lot”, shall be excluded from the calculations set forth below;” and 2) deleted the exemption for houses where the total proposed floor area does not exceed 2,000 s.f. Council minutes do not include a discussion that provides the intent of these modifications.

Ordinance 573 N.S., February 1996
In January 1996 the City Planner asked the City Council to consider an amendment to the provisions of Chapter 17 to include an exemption to the FAR limitations when the floor area expansion is entirely within the existing building envelope. The intent of the exemption was twofold. In order to gain more living space without having to seek a variance from the FAR limits, homeowners were using areas in basements and attics that did not meet building code habitation requirements. The exemption was intended to mitigate this evasive and potentially unsafe action that was prompted because FAR variances were rarely granted. Secondly, the intent was to incentivize floor area expansions that do “not add to or change an existing residence’s exterior size.” As noted in the attached minutes from January 2 and 16, 1996 (Exhibit D, pages 19-20 and Exhibit E, page 21), when considering the ordinance, the Council directed the inclusion of provisions in the exception that mitigated the potential problem of residents “sequencing” improvements in order to evade the FAR limitations. The exemption (Section 17.22.3) was adopted as follows:

If a residential improvement is proposed which will not alter the exterior dimensions of the residence, the improvement shall not be required to meet the requirements of section 17.22.2, provided that this exemption shall not apply within three years of the issuance of a building permit for a prior improvement that was subject to section 17.22.2.

Ordinance 728 N.S., March 2017
In this comprehensive update to Chapter 17, the entire chapter was reformatted. The reformatting moved the FAR regulations, including the intent provisions, from Section 17.22, Home Expansion and Construction, to the code divisions providing regulations for the specific zones: Division 17.20, Zone A Single Family Residential; Division 17.24, Zone C Multi-Family Residential; and Division 17.28, Zone E Estate Residential (See Exhibit F, separate). As part of the comprehensive update, a technical correction was made to the exemption from the FAR limitations so that start date for the interim period between a prior expansion of the building envelope and a project to exceed the FAR limitations by expanding within the envelope is the final inspection of a building permit rather than the issuance of a building permit. In order to better prevent the sequencing of improvements in order to circumvent the FAR limits as the City Council originally intended, the exemption was modified and adopted as follows:

The floor area ratio standard is not applied to finishing an area into habitable space if: (1) there is no expansion of the exterior building envelope; and (2) the owner has not obtained a final inspection within the prior three years on a building permit issued for an expansion of the building envelope.


As noted above, the intent of the FAR limits is to maintain a community development pattern in which homes are sized in proportion to the lots on which they are sited for a resulting sense of openness and appropriate scale. The regulations are meant to prevent a “McMansion” development pattern in which homes seem oversized with multiple-story facades abutting each other. When originally adopting the FAR limits in 1990, the City Council wanted to allow owners of small homes on small lots the ability to make small additions so that the housing stock was maintained and accommodating to modern living. Thus, the Council included exemptions to the FAR limits to allow for such small home remodels: an owner could exceed the limits when constructing an addition of 350 square feet or less if an addition had not been constructed within the past three years; and the limits could be exceeded if the total proposed floor area did not exceed 2,000 square feet.

However, in practice the exemptions did not have the desired effect. Owners sequenced construction so that homes both big and small were being expanded in excess of the limits on a regular basis. In response, the Council deleted both exemptions within four years of their implementation. In doing so, the Council determined that the Planning Commission had the discretion to grant variances from the FAR limits when there was evidence of exceptional hardship circumstances. The ordinance deleting the second exemption also limited the lot area used for calculating the FAR to only contiguous areas. For example, driveways of flag lots could not be used.

The consequence of having FAR limits (located in section 17.22 of the City Code until March 2017) without exception was that rather than seeking a hard-won variance from the provisions, owners were using areas within basements and attics that did not meet building code requirements for habitation, risking the residents’ health and safety in the process. To solve this problem, the City Council amended the FAR regulations in 1996 to add the following exemption.

If a residential improvement is proposed which will not alter the exterior dimensions of the residence, the improvement shall not be required to meet the requirements of section 17.22.2, provided that this exemption shall not apply within three years of the issuance of a building permit for a prior improvement that was subject to section 17.22.2.

As in 1990, the Council was concerned that the sequencing of projects to expand the building envelope and projects to expand within the interior of the home could result in ineffective regulations. Therefore, the Council included a provision that required at least three years to elapse between a project to expand the exterior dimensions of the building envelope and a project to develop floor area in excess of the FAR limit within the envelope of the building. The start date for the three year period was the issuance of a building permit for the expansion of the building envelope.

There were unforeseen consequences from the designation of the issuance of a building permit as the start date of the 3-year hiatus period between building expansion and development within the envelope. In order to avoid being subject to the FAR limitations, property owners would get a building permit issued with 12 months of the approval date of the design review permit application (as required by the Code) and either: 1) delay construction for 3 years (paying to renew the building permit every six months) and then submitting a permit application to create floor area within an attic or basement in excess of the FAR limitations; 2) extend construction for at least three years so that toward the end of the lengthy construction period they could seek approval for an application to modify the permit to include additional floor area within the envelope and in excess of the FAR limitations.

To better implement the Council’s intent to allow the FAR to be exceeded if the expansion is within the existing building envelope, but not if the building envelope has been expanded within the past three years, and to close the loophole that allowed the circumvention of the FAR limitations, staff recommended a technical correction to the start date of the three year period, replacing “from the issuance of a building permit” with obtaining “a final inspection.” This change was included in the comprehensive update to City Code Chapter 17 recommended by the Planning Commission on November 10, 2016 and adopted by the City Council on March 20, 2017.

Also included and approved in the same comprehensive update was the elimination of the exclusion of noncontiguous driveway areas of flag lots in the calculation of floor area ratio. There are very few flat lots in Piedmont, some of which have curvilinear lot lines which make the border between contiguous and noncontiguous area subjective and arbitrary. And, for the most part, the noncontiguous driveway areas are not so significant in size as to make an appreciable difference in the resulting floor area ratio.

Effectiveness of the Exemption

Unfortunately, short of reviewing by hand each planning and building permit application that has been processed during a number of years past, there is not an effective way to document how many projects since 1996 have taken advantage of the exemption to the FAR limitations by expanding habitable area within the building envelope, rather than building outwards or upwards. During the years 1996 through 2015 variances from the FAR limitations was one of the least sought after variances, accounting for only 71 of a total 1,110 variance requests over a 20 year period (6% of variance requests). Only variances from building height and hardscape coverage limits were fewer in number. And anecdotally, on a number of occasions staff has been able to guide homeowners to expand within the envelope rather than building upwards, using the FAR limit exemption as a tool in that guidance.

Ultimately, the effectiveness of the regulations and the exemption depends on how rigorously the limits are enforced. To this end, the Planning Commission and staff might give increased consideration to developable basement or attic areas when considering applications to expand the building envelope.

Possible Improvements to the Regulations

The historical record shows that the City Council had specific goals in mind when it originally adopted the FAR limits and exemption. The intent of the limits was to have residential building sized in scale with the lot area. The goals of the exemption were to incentivize expanding floor area within the building envelope, rather than expanding the envelope; and to mitigate the unsafe practice of using for living purposes areas of a building that do not meet building code safety standards. The Council also required a 3-year period between a project to expand the envelope and a project taking advantage of the exemption in order to limit the use of permit sequencing as a means to avoid being subject to the FAR limits. The City Council also wanted to provide some flexibility to the FAR limits as they applied to small houses on small lots, ultimately finding that the best way to implement this was to provide the Planning Commission the discretion to allow variances in exceptional hardship circumstances.

With this in mind, the Commission might want to consider the questions below along with staff’s comments on the questions.

Are the regulations of floor area effective in limiting the size of homes?

On average, the City’s Planning Division receives about 400 applications annually. Over a twenty year period 71 requests for FAR variance were submitted and only 47 of those requests were approved. This is 0.6% of planning applications. If we consider the low number of variance requests and approvals, we find that the vast majority of projects conform to the FAR limits and therefore we may infer that the regulations and the discretion of the Planning Commission are effective.

Without a labor-intensive review of permits to compare the period between 1990 and1996 to recent years to document any decrease in the number of homes using unsafe basements or attics as living area, I can only report anecdotally that in recent years it has been uncommon for such circumstances to be brought to the City’s attention.

Are the regulations effective in preventing the circumvention of the FAR limits by means of project sequencing?

As brought to light by a recent application for a variance from the FAR regulations, unintended loopholes in the regulations allowed owners to avoid being subject to the FAR limits if the project is sequenced in a variety of ways. One of those loopholes was closed when the City Council recently approved that the start date for the interim period between a project to expand the envelope and a subsequent project to exceed the FAR limits by expanding within the envelope was changed from the issuance of a building permit to the final inspection of a building permit. This eliminated the ability to string out a construction project to over three years or to delay the start of a construction project by three years as a means to avoid the FAR limits.

However, even with this correction to the start time of the three-year interim period, nothing in the City Code prohibits an owner from providing most, but not all the features that meet the habitability standards of the building code: ceiling height, heat, adequate natural light and ventilation (windows), electrical outlets and light fixtures, finished floor and ceiling materials. Rather than trying to develop a planning or building code provision to address this, staff recommends that the Commission consider developing a policy that would guide the Commission, staff and the public when new or remodeled “non-habitable” space is being proposed. Window size, finish materials, the number of electrical fixtures could all be limited under the policy so that a de facto habitable space is not being created. The policy might also state that proposed non-habitable area will be evaluated when additions to the building envelope are proposed.

Is three years a length of time that effectively separates a project to expand the building envelope from one that develops habitable area within the envelope?

The minutes for the Council’s meetings from 1990 and 1996 do not indicate how three years became the time period to differentiate between projects to eliminate a sequencing of projects to circumvent the FAR limits. The intent of this hiatus period was to prevent the purposeful sequencing of projects in order to increase the size of the house without being subject to the FAR limits. One could infer that Council thought it was enough time to make it inconvenient to start a project after having finished another, and to allow for a change in a family’s needs. However, there is nothing in the record to indicate that this was an evidence-based time period, and the Commission may want to consider a change to this provision that would make the regulations more effective.


The floor area regulations in City Code Chapter 17, which were originally implemented in 1990, can be considered effective for the purpose of limiting the size of single-family residences in relation to the size of the lot. Perhaps less effective is the exemption from the FAR limits. It appears that the exemption may still provide a homeowner the ability to sequence projects so that the home can be expanded upwards and/or outwards with a floor area in excess of the limits, without having to seek a variance from the Code requirements.

Should the Commission want to improve the effectiveness of the regulations, it might consider: 1) a policy that gives guidance to the Commission, staff and the public regarding “finished” conditions when new or remodeled “non-habitable” space is being proposed; and/or 2) a change to the hiatus period between a project to expand the building envelope and a subsequent project to exceed the FAR limits by developing the living area within the building envelope.


Should the Commission direct staff to develop draft code amendments or a draft policy, those draft documents would be brought to the Commission at a subsequent meeting for its consideration. The Planning Commission’s responsibility is to make a recommendation to the City Council. The Council is the decision-making body for the adoption of new code amendments or City policies.


Exhibit A Exhibit B Exhibit C Exhibit D Exhibit E Exhibit F

Page 9 Pages 11-14 Pages 15-18 Pages 19-20 Page 21 Separate

Section 17.20 Home Expansions, adopted April 16, 1990

Abridged City Council Minutes, January 16, 1990, Ord. 516 N.S. 1st Reading

Abridged City Council Minutes, April 16, 1990, Ord. 516 N.S. 2nd Reading

Abridged City Council Minutes, January 2, 1996

Abridged City Council Minutes, January 16, 1996, Ord. 573 N.S. 1st Reading

City Code Chapter 17, Planning and Land Use, available at:

Exhibit F Separate City Code Chapter 17, Planning and Land Use, available at:

Aug 11 2017

The Climate Action Plan Task Force will meet Tuesday, August 22, 2017,  6:30 pm in the Emergency Operations Center, 403 Highland Avenue, Piedmont, CA 


Call to Order Roll Call

Public Forum This is an opportunity for members of the audience to speak on an item not on the agenda. The 10 minute period will be divided evenly between those wishing to address the Task Force.

Regular Agenda

1. Review of Previous Task Force Discussions (10 minutes)

2. Discussion of Proposed Water and Waste Water Sector Measures for the 2030 Climate Action Plan (30 minutes)

3. Discussion of Proposed Adaptation to Climate Change Measures for the 2030 Climate Action Plan (30 minutes)

4. Discussion of Municipal Measures for the 2030 Climate Action Plan (30 minutes)

5. Consideration of Future Agenda Items (10 minutes)


Materials related to an item on this agenda submitted to the City Council are available for public inspection in the City Clerk’s office.

The meeting is open to the public, however no broadcast will be made of the proceedings.  There are no minutes of the Task Force discussions or recommendations. 

Aug 11 2017

EBMUD will be replacing 88-year-old water pipelines on Grand, Arroyo, and Lower Grand avenues.  –

Between summer 2017 and summer 2018 there will sometimes be lane closures on Grand Avenue between Arroyo Avenue and Oakland Avenue, and full road closures on portions of Arroyo Avenue and Lower Grand Avenue.

Attend the Thursday, August 24 community meeting from 7 to 8:30 pm at Beach School, 100 Lake, for more information.

The pipeline construction on Grand Avenue will require lane closures, but two-way traffic will be maintained at all times. Full road closures will be required on Arroyo Avenue and Lower Grand Avenue during certain periods.  Temporary asphalt paving will be applied daily, and is designed to provide a safe road surface during construction. Final paving will occur after pipeline work is completed. Work hours on Grand Avenue will be 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. Work hours on Arroyo and Lower Grand Avenues will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Water service interruption for Neighbors –

Crews will notify you, in person or with a door hanger, regarding any planned water service interruption to your property. After a service interruption, there may be air in the pipes that may loosen particles in your home plumbing. Close your toilet water supply valves, and then run water from your front hose bib, bathtub and/or cold water faucets for 1-3 minutes. This will dispel any air or loosened particles from your household pipes.

Problems or further Information Contact: Ben Glickstein,  Community Affairs Representative for EBMUD.

Jul 23 2017

Climate Action Plan Task Force

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

6:30 p.m.

Emergency Operations Center

403 Highland Avenue, Piedmont, CA

Call to Order Roll Call

Public Forum This is an opportunity for members of the audience to speak on an item not on the agenda. The 10 minute period will be divided evenly between those wishing to address the Task Force.

Regular Agenda

1. Review of Previous Task Force Discussions (10 minutes)

2. Discussion of Proposed Solid Waste Sector Measures for the 2030 Climate Action Plan (30 minutes)

3. Discussion of Proposed Consumption Measures for the 2030 Climate Action Plan (30 minutes)

4. Discussion of Outreach and Community Engagement Strategies (30 minutes)

5. Consideration of Future Agenda Items (10 minutes)


Materials related to an item on this agenda submitted to the City Council are available for public inspection in the City Clerk’s office.

Jul 23 2017

The Superintendent of the Piedmont Unified School District, Randall Booker, has announced that Victor Acuna will no longer be serving as Athletic Director.  For protection of both employer and employee, the reasons for the separation have not been publicly released.

Below, Acuna is highly praised in the School District “Press Release.” Acuna had been repeatedly, publicly criticized for various issues related to the athletic program and his initial selection.

The School District has announced the intention of filling the vacancy with a replacement athletic director through a widely publicized recruitment.

8/4/2017   11:55 PM Pacific

$74,068 – $103,048

Go to the end of the Press Release for further details.


Office of the Superintendent – 760 Magnolia Avenue – Piedmont, CA 94611 – 510.594.2614


July 22, 2017

On July 22, 2017, the Piedmont Unified School District announced the departure of Director of Athletics Victor Acuña, who has served with distinction since the Spring of 2016. Superintendent Randall Booker noted, “His dedication to our students and coaches has been exemplary and he improved every aspect of our athletics program, particularly in the areas of budgeting, coach development, and communications. Most importantly, he improved the overall student-athlete experience, and he will be sorely missed.” Mr. Acuña’s last day of service will be July 31, 2017.

Many high school athletes are already preparing for Fall sports, and the District is working to have a new Director of Athletics in place before the start of school. PHS Principal Adam Littlefield and MHS Principal Shannon Fierro, who have extensive experience with administration of student athletics, will coordinate the recruitment and selection process. Administrators, members of the PHS Athletic Boosters, Recreation Department, coaching staff, and several student athletes will participate in the interviews. Assistant Athletic Director Megan Hernandez will continue in her position for the next several weeks to help ensure a smooth transition.

The District’s Director of Athletics is responsible for: recruiting, hiring, supervising, and evaluating 175 coaches; developing and overseeing the Athletic Department budget; monitoring student eligibility; serving as the school representative of the Western Alameda County Conference; partnering with the PHS Athletic Boosters; coordinating team schedules, transportation, equipment, and supplies for 49 teams; and ensuring a safe and supportive program for over 500 student athletes. Over the past five years, the athletic program has grown to meet the increased interest of our high school students and community, adding three additional sports to serve over sixty students.

The Director of Athletics, which is a full-time administrative position funded jointly by the District and the Piedmont Education Foundation, requires a coaching certification and has a base salary of $74,068. The position will be broadly advertised, including posting on Ed-Join and the North Coast Section websites.

“We are looking for an exceptional candidate to continue the excellent work started by Mr. Acuña and Ms. Hernandez,” said Superintendent Booker. “The District will be searching for a new Director of Athletics with tremendous communication skills and who can support coaches to instill sportsmanship, teamwork, and self-discipline in our student athletes.”

*For a direct link to the Athletic Director application go to: 

For further information contact: Ms. Sylvia Eggert at 510.594.2614 or

*Updated July 25, 2017


The Piedmont Unified School District is located in Piedmont, California, a city of approximately 11,000 residents in the San Francisco Bay Area. The outstanding staff provides a remarkable education and learning environment for all students. The residents of Piedmont demonstrate a strong sense of community and are committed to maintaining and enhancing educational programs, services and facilities.

Jul 22 2017


Backyard service proposal leaps from $61.08 to $131.43 per month.

While Piedmonters have complained that the current rates for waste collection are too high, Republic Services, Piedmont’s current collector, was the only bidder offering to provide service to Piedmont under a new contract.

The City Council hired a special consultant, Garth Schultz of R3 Consulting, to advise on the expiring contract with Republic, but only Republic responded with a bid.

In the most extensive public outreach seen in years, backyard service was repeatedly pointed out to be a desired service by many Piedmonters.

Piedmont with its significant population of senior residents, lugging carts back and forth to the curb presents issues.  The proposed new contract will increase the costs for “backyard” service from the current $61.08 to $131.43 per month. Curbside rates will go from $55.11 per month to $88.65 per month.

Republic Services rejected the City’s RFP request for variable backyard rates.  Republic would only consider an additional flat fee for backyard pickup rejecting the notion of individual rates for each home based on distance, terrain, etc. for backyard service. 

Reduced rates for seniors or the “handicapped” needing backyard service is not part of the proposed contract unless they qualify under unspecified rules. (See p3 of the staff report linked below.)

Resident Rick Schiller “asked Council by email and the City what is the qualification for the handicapped discount and received no reply (see my Jul 14 letter which I posted in comments). ”

Schiller further states: “Early in the process, I gave the City a list of many regional cities that have this discount, including nine in Marin County. The City’s own consultant on this, Garth Schultz, was quizzed on this by Tim Rood and Garth commented that I was correct and such a discount is common.  The City told me such a discount is not legally allowed which is odd when it is “common” and has never been legally challenged elsewhere.”

All Piedmont property owners are required by law to pay for waste services with the contracted service provider.  Ratepayers through their service charges will be paying for the waste service for all Piedmont public schools, all City buildings, various authorized special events, all municipal waste in parks and the corporation yard, plus all sidewalk bins.

According to the City’s Request for Proposals, part of the ratepayers fees will be returned to the City for the following City benefits:

  • Reimbursement for the Procurement Process
  • Transition Payment
  • Franchise Fee
  • Annual Service Rate Adjustment payment
  • Performance Review Payment

Under the proposed new contract Republic will be required to expend $75,000 per year to educate Piedmonters on how to properly dispose of and limit their waste.

Bulk pick ups will be allowed to increase in volume and multi-family dwellings will be newly allowed bulk pick ups. There will be no charge for any recycling waste cans.

Most Council members seemed unimpressed by the increase in the rates being charged.  One justified the increase because Piedmonters were stated to be currently receiving a bargain for service.  Looking for ways to eliminate the use of the diesel fuel used to power waste trucks, one Council member expressed concern; however, the Council was told refueling stations in the area for other fuels were not available.

In  the fall of 2016, resident Rick Schiller commented to the Council:

“In early 2015, I did a rudimentary survey of weekly garbage service cost in surrounding cities. At that time the Alameda three full size bin weekly service was $36.07 monthly. Berkeley’s was $35.93. The Chronicle reported the 3 bin weekly Oakland service as $36.82 monthly. However, a friend living in the windy, hilly streets of Montclair put her service cost closer to $30 monthly. In contrast the current Piedmont charge is about 80% higher. In the past service providers have taken advantage of Piedmont’s lax contract procedures and the false belief that all residents had no financial concerns. I urge you to control the garbage service costs.”

To read other regional comparison rates provided by Schiller, click here.

The matter will be continued to a future meeting following the City’s “consultant’s” attempts to further negotiate with Republic Services on a new contract.

Read the staff report here.

Readers may send comments to the City Council, as follows:

Jeff Wieler, Mayor  (510) 428-1648

Robert McBain, Vice Mayor  (510) 547-0597

Jennifer Cavenaugh  (510) 428-1442

Teddy Gray King  (510) 450-0890

Tim Rood  (510) 239-7663

Or to:

To send via U.S. Mail, please use the following address:

City Council
City of Piedmont
120 Vista Avenue
Piedmont, CA 94611

*Article updated July 23.

Jul 22 2017

Piedmont’s First Annual National Night Out Tuesday, August 1st 

Throughout the United States neighbors have been gathering annually to familiarize themselves with one another and to learn how to be responsive to neighborhood safety concerns.

Piedmont’s new police chief, Jeremy Bowers, has initiated a Piedmont celebration of “National Night Out,” (NNO) which has been recognized throughout the USA as a way to engage neighbors in protecting their homes, themselves, and neighbors.

Tuesday, August 1st , marks the City of Piedmont’s inaugural participation in National Night Out.

For a bit of background, “National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live. National Night Out enhances the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement while bringing back a true sense of community. Furthermore, it provides a great opportunity to bring police and neighbors together under positive circumstances.

Millions of neighbors take part in National Night Out across thousands of communities from all fifty states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities, and military bases worldwide on the first Tuesday in August. Neighborhoods host block parties, festivals, parades, cookouts and various other community events with safety demonstrations, seminars, youth events, visits from emergency personnel, exhibits and much, much more.” Read for further information > (

In Piedmont’s initial year, there are four NNO neighborhood events which will occur on Tuesday, August 1st.  They are:

100 Block of York Avenue …….6 – 8 p.m.

300 Block of St. James Avenue…..5 – 7 p.m.

200 Block of Greenbank Avenue 6 – 8 p.m.

100 Block of Crest Road time TBA

Members of the Piedmont Police Department will be visiting each of the above locations throughout the evening.


If you would like further details or want to participate, contact Captain Chris Monahan at 510-420-3012.