May 16 2015

Enrollment is now open.

The Associated Parents Clubs of Piedmont (APCP) have developed a broad range of Piedmont summer programs for school age children.

Information on the APCP Summer Enrichment and AISCE (Academy of Integrated Studies and Community Engagement) programs can be accessed through the links below.  Piedmont and the community at-large are offered many summer opportunities for children and grandchildren.

Brochure  http://apcpsummerenrichment.com/

Class listing details www.piedmontportal.org/schools/aisce/

 The following is an article from The Piedmonter describing the programs:
http://www.insidebayarea.com/education/ci_28111039/piedmont-apcp-aisce-offering-array-summer-classes-programs
May 16 2015

- Piedmont High School students report on the Piedmont City Council meeting of May 4, 2015 – 

On the night of May 4, I attended a City Council meeting that lasted 2 hours.  The Council meets about twice a month.  The purpose of this meeting was to address various issues, discuss city planning, as well as hear updates on crime.

The major issues addressed included the upcoming Bike to Work Day, the new installation of LED lights in the street lamps, the problems occurring because of the Happy Together Preschool (HTP), a crime update from Police Chief Goede, and Piedmont’s Fund Reserve.The most controversial issues included the LED lights and the Happy Together Preschool.

PG&E* has begun planning its estimated 8 week project to replace the 578 standard street lamp lights with new, energy efficient lights, LED.  This project is estimated to cost $140,000, to be financed by PG&E.  Along with the benefit for newer lights, these LED lights will also cut down Piedmont’s CO2 emissions and save the City $22,000 dollars per year on electricity.  The issues regarded the intensity of the lights, which can be changed according to a PG&E employee, and the size of the rebate.  Both of these issues were brought to attention by Councilwoman Teddy King, who wanted to understand the situation.

I am in support of the LED lights because not only would they be funded by a source outside the city, it would also allow Piedmont to cut back on our CO2 emissions and allow us to play our part in the protection of our environment.

The other issue were the noise complaints and social blight that Fairview Avenue residents found with Happy Together Preschool (HTP.)  Currently, HTP is attempting to double the number of their students (15-30), increase its staff (5-7) and increase their hours of opertion by 3 hours.  Many Fairview residents, such as Halley Ivy and Roger Tinkuff see the preschool as a hazard because of the low fence where the young children climb on, and as a blight on the neighborhood because of the noise and parking spaces that HTP requires.

The residents were worried about whether increasing the student population will make it easier to maintain the school, or bring the school down because of too many people in a small building.  The suggested solution was that the expanded hours would allow the parents to pick up their kids in a staggered amount of time rather than all at once.  Additionally, adding more hours onto the day would create an environment where students could play throughout the day in small groups rather than one big group.

On the issues regarding HTP, I did not see enough information to make a solid decision on whether I support the modification or not.  Both sides presented solid evidence, although the residents seemed too emotional when talking.  However, given from what I have seen, HTP needs to get everything straight and under control (such as the playground, noise problems and the fence) before they get more students.

I spoke at the meeting to discuss the issue I have seen with the El Cerrito and Oakland Avenue intersection.  Having crossed this intersection many times, it is easy to say that there is a real difficulty in seeing down Oakland Avenue when trying to cross and that this creates a driving hazard that affects the whole community.  I described my incidents with trying to cross the intersection in my car and how dangerous the crossing is.  I purposed that the city reconsider the amount of parking on Oakland Avenue close to an intersection because with fewer cars blocking the view, the transition from one side of the street to the other would make a tremendous difference.

I interviewed Councilman Robert McBain, who was elected to his position as he wanted to continue his involvement in the community.  The difficulties he saw as the most important were the budget issues as well as creating adequate recreational facilities.  The Council has done a lot to improve the budget by discussing many issues with the administration and he plans to continue this work.

by David Dryburgh, Piedmont High School Student

The following is Zayanne Rifai’s report of the May 4 Council meeting and her interview of Police Chief Rikki Goede:

Going to the City Council meeting was a great experience. It was very organized, and it was from 7:30-9:30 p.m. on Monday, May 4th 2015. The concerns by the Piedmont community were expressed and taken under consideration by the Council. Some topics included: PG&E street light work in Piedmont, Happy Together Preschool conditional use permit, and the Piedmont crime report, as well as tips on how to not be the next victim of a crime.

The first topic, which drew attention, was the installation of streetlights by PG&E.* PG&E is going to replace street lights in Piedmont with the high efficiency bulbs and fixtures.  The high efficiency light bulbs are predicted to provide a saving of $22,000 per year. Cost estimates did not include the cost of existing non-standard custom fixtures. The specialized style of fixtures in some areas was a concern for the City Council. Those fixtures will not be a part of this agreement. The high efficiency light bulbs will have a less blue output and less of a glare.

One public concern was whether or not there will be working street lights while the project was happening. PG&E stated they will swap out the bulbs one by one, making sure that each light fixture works by the end of day.

Once the Council concerns were addressed, they were happy to approve the project, and actually felt great about being a more energy efficient community, while keeping the aesthetics and not jeopardizing anyone’s safety. This was mostly discussed between Paul Benoit, Margaret Fujioka, Piedmont’s mayor, and Jeffrey Wieler, Vice Mayor.

The next topic was Happy Together Preschool, who asked for a 5-10 year Conditional Use Permit extension, adding 3 hours to their daily operating schedule, and 3 extra parking spots. The concerns raised by the community were safety of children, noise and the already problematic parking situation. They pointed out the height of the fence which was a concern.  The kids were able to climb to the top of it and fall over or get out. A community member was able to produce pictures.

The frustrating amount of noise according to the community was intolerable and in fact it was very disturbing to the neighbors that are older who are confined to their homes, and or the ones that actually work out of home.

The option of 2-5 years was brought up, and the community proposed that stricter conditions be given and reevaluated at the 2 year mark. Then if those concerns were dealt with then to possibly grant the 5-10 year conditional permit extension. The younger community members felt like the timing of the first meeting was unfair as it was on the Monday following Spring Break. Some also felt that their complaints which were sent in, fell to deaf ears.

The Council did not make a final decision on the contract and will review it once more on May 18th. Tony Theophilos, Chair of the Planning Commission, agreed to attend the Council meeting on May 18th when the Council further consider the 2-5 year Conditional Use Permit option.

The final topic I want to bring up is the Police report, and the concerns the Police Chief had for the community. Piedmont Police Chief Rikki Goede explained the recent crimes occurring in Piedmont were in areas that spill into Piedmont from Oakland’s communities.

The type of crimes that were occurring and that could be minimized are car break-ins. She mentioned not leaving valuable things in cars. She mentioned that our backpacks or gym bags may not have anything valuable in them, but to a thief, who is hopeful, he/she  will break into your car and leave you with a smashed window.

She also mentioned that on quick runs to the store, or ATM’s, don’t assume that just because it will be a few minutes that your purse, wallet or electronics are safe. Thieves are quick. These are some of the tips she gave everyone in the room on how to avoid being a victim in this type of situation.

I would like to mention that I chose not to speak during the meeting because I am not a resident of Piedmont. I am a resident of Oakland so I felt like it was not my place to say anything on the topics that were talked about.

~~~~~~~~

After Chief Rikki Goede spoke, I followed her into the hallway where she agreed to speak with me about some of my concerns.

Why were you there? What difficulties and problems brought you there?

Piedmont Police Chief Rikki Goede was there to talk about recent crimes that have been occurring in Piedmont, and areas that spill into Piedmont like Oakland’s Montclair and Rockridge community. Also, she gave tips on how to avoid being a victim of the recent trends in crimes as in vehicle breaks in, mail theft, car theft and and she spoke about installing plate readers.

What next step will she take to get their particular concern addressed?

The next step would be installing additional plate readers, which would help police locate stolen vehicles, and crimes that occur using those vehicles. Also, she plans to keep updating recent crime activity to keep people aware of what is happening in the community.

I asked her if there was anything she’d like to add that I could quote her on and she said “Make sure you pay attention. Don’t be on your phone, texting or what ever. Be aware of your surroundings. Criminals don’t like people that can identify them so always look at people in their face.” – Rikki Goede

By Zayanne Rifai, Piedmont High School Student

Editors’ Note:  Opinions expressed are those of the authors.

*”The LED project’s net cost of approximately $140,000 will be funded through PG&E’s 0% on-bill financing (OBF) Program, which includes no out-of-pocket costs for the City and allows simple payback from energy savings during an estimated 6.5 year loan period. At the end of the loan period, the City is expected to save approximately $22,000 in energy costs per year and reduce the City’s carbon output by approximately 34.5 metric tons per year. “

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May 13 2015

US News and World report ranked schools in California and the nation.  Piedmont High School ranked 22nd in California.

Read the ranking criteria and results by clicking the link below:

http://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/california/districts/piedmont-city-unf/piedmont-high-school-3029

May 13 2015

May 13, 2015                                                        

The Piedmont School District’s attorney stated that by the Boricas decision the only uniform rate tax permitted was a flat rate on every parcel. This is the most regressive possible tax structure. The Piedmont School Support Tax is by far the most expensive in the state and is more than double to one hundred times higher than any other school tax. The high expense, flat rate and lack of a low income based senior exemption means the Piedmont tax is financially difficult for many young families, the less affluent, and those on a fixed income. The previous tiered tax structure was somewhat progressive, but every legal opinion states the tiered structure is illegal, as it taxes the same square foot differently for each tier, and is not a uniform rate by the Boricas decision.

On June 5, 2003 the Emery Unified School District (“USD” Emeryville) passed a School support tax based solely on square foot per building. Renewed in 2007 and 2009, the tax was up for renewal again in 2014. Emery USD relied on their highly regarded legal counsel of Fagan, Friedman, Fulfrost, LLP; yes, this is the same law firm used by Piedmont USD. To be as secure from litigation as possible, Emery USD also sought legal review from Attorney Harold Frieman of Lozano, Smith, an expert in school tax challenges and Boricas. He is familiar to many, as the City of Piedmont used Mr. Frieman’s services creating the PRFO Blair Park EIR.

Confident in the legal advice they received from two sources, the Emeryville Board placed the renewal of their building square footage tax on the November 7, 2014 ballot. Measure K passed with 86% approval and imposes “fifteen cents of building area per square foot” for 20 years. Significantly, no one including Boricas attorney David Brilliant has legally challenged any of the per square foot taxes of Emery USD. Mr. Brilliant filed a number of other lawsuits against School Districts after his successful Boricas litigation. All suits filed by Mr. Brilliant are on behalf of commercial property owners and concern non-uniform taxation; the Emeryville tax is a single uniform rate for all. The many Emeryville commercial businesses have large school tax bills and ample legal budgets, yet no lawsuit is filed.

No emergency existed that forced the Piedmont Unified School District to levy the most regressive tax in the state with a mere 24 hour notice when the existing tax had 18 months to run. At taxpayer expense, the District issued a letter stating 30% of teachers would be let go if the tax didn’t pass; this fear tactic was patently false considering the time remained on the existing tax. At the same time in Emeryville, a progressive per square foot tax happily existed unchallenged, a tax reviewed by the same law firm that the Piedmont District uses.

Perhaps our School Board was not given complete information, or another agenda was in place, or the legal landscape has firmed up concerning Borikas. Regardless, the regret expressed by some Board members about imposing the very regressive Piedmont tax can now be corrected with a per square foot of building tax.

Rick Schiller, taxpayer

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
1 Comment »
May 7 2015

Friends of Moraga Canyon will hold its third Blair Park work day on

Saturday, May 9, from 10 a.m. to noon.

Everyone over age 12 is welcome to come and help clean ivy off of oak trees and weed around the base of trees at the foot of the hillside.

Wear work gloves, and bring clippers and rakes if you have them. Refreshments and snacks will be provided. Street parking is available on Moraga Ave. at the east (upper) end of Blair Park.

The appearance of the park has improved in recent months, largely due to the cleanup work by dedicated volunteers. The diseased and dying Monterey pines on Moraga Avenue are scheduled to be cut down by the city of Piedmont in May or by June 30.

For more information on the workday, email marjb@sbcglobal.net

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
May 6 2015

- Protests from across California did not sway the Water Board -

Meeting on Tuesday, May 5, the State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) criticized the lack of urban water conservation in March 2015; the reduction compared with March 2013 was only 3.6%. The economic analysis, commissioned by the Water Board, estimated water agencies would lose $500 million in 2015 if all the state targets are met.

Local water officials protested that the board’s proposed regulations were “draconian, and in some cases unattainable”. Some communities have long reduced water consumption to the minimum and feel further reduction is unfair. “Still others warned of increased fire risk or asked the board to exempt certain public buildings such as jails.” according to the Sacramento Bee.

Nine tiers of water agencies were approved by the Water Board on Tuesday, with targeted reductions of 8% to 36%. For example, the Vaughn Water Company serves a population of more than 30,000 residents who used a daily average of 507 gallons per person in July, August and September, 2014. Their target is a reduction of 36% to 325 gallons per person per day.  San Diego residents used a daily average of 82 gallons per person over the months of July, August and September, 2014. Their target is a reduction of 16% to 69 gallons per person per day.  Arcata residents used a daily average of 43.5 gallons per person over the months of July, August and September, 2014. Their target is a reduction of 8% to 40 gallons per person per day.

East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) residents used a daily average of 94 gallons per person over the months of July, August and September, 2014.  The assigned target is a reduction of 16% to 79 gallons per person per day.  However, EBMUD announced a stricter goal of 35 gallons indoors per person per day on April 14, 2015. (See PCA report)

The Water Board will modify targets wherever food processing plants are threatened with shutdown if water use is reduced.

The Water Board was ordered by Governor Jerry Brown to impose restrictions to achieve a statewide 25% reduction in potable urban water usage through February 28, 2016. Initially, the Water Board proposed a requirement of 25% water use reduction on all urban and suburban customers.

On Saturday, April 18, the State Water Resources Control Board lowered its demands for several areas of California and raised others above 25%  The proposed water consumption reduction requirement for Arcadia and Beverly Hills was revised up to 36%. The district Piedmont is in was lowered to 16%, thanks to its high level of conservation since 2013.  The Board rejected calls to create easier targets for communities that have been conserving since before the drought.

More than 250 protests of the proposed conservation levels and the use of 2013 as a baseline have been received by the Water Board as of April 17. (See PCA report) Piedmont, in particular, suffers from the use of  2013 as the baseline, since Piedmonters have been cutting their water consumption for a decade or more. While some urban and suburban residents have been ordered to reduce daily per person consumption to 79 gallons, other communities’ residents are allowed to use over 300 gallons daily under the new Water Board requirements. The Board preferred not to impose an equal per person daily gallon limit on all urban and suburban residents in California.

If a city or water district falls short of its target, the Water Board threaten stiff unspecified fines. Governor Brown proposes up to $10,000 a day beginning later this summer for the most wasteful districts.

Read the Sacramento Bee report

See new Water Board conservation targets

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May 6 2015

Piedmont’s City Council will hold  an informal discussion with City staff, Saturday, May 16 at  9 a.m. on the City Administrator’s proposed 2015-16 City Budget.  The Budget Session will again be held in the Emergency Operation Center in the Police Department on Highland Avenue. The location provides a “round table” casual atmosphere leading to budget adoption, following two City Council public hearings on June 1 and June 15, 2015.

The Saturday workshop will not be recorded or broadcast for offsite viewing. Those interested in hearing and learning first hand discussions and presentations on where City money might be spent, should attend the meeting.  There will be opportunities for the public to speak and ask questions.  In the past, coffee and donuts have been made available to attendees.

May 2 2015

- First Look at the Proposed City Budget -

The Proposed FY 15-16 Budget for the City of Piedmont will be presented at the City Council meeting on Monday, May 4 at 7:30 p.m..  The FY 15-16 budget is not yet available online. However, Piedmont’s City FY 14-15 Budget contains estimates for the FY 15-16 Budget on pages 9 and 13, as well as projected fund balances for 6/30/15, the end of the current fiscal year. Citizens are invited to attend, to speak to the Council, or observe in the City Hall Council Chambers at 120 Vista Avenue.

The May 4 Council meeting can be observed via the City website or on KCOM.  Recordings are made of the meeting for later viewing from the City website.

Traditionally, there is an informal Saturday discussion of the budget between the City Council and City staff. This meeting is open to the public, however typically no broadcast or recordings are made of the meeting. Prior to adoption of the FY 2015-16 Budget, there will be two City Council public hearings.

Read the complete City Council agenda.

May 2 2015

- Two Committees Discuss City Spending on

Tuesday, May 5

While the Capital Improvement Projects Review Committee (CIP) is meeting at 7 p.m. in the City Hall Conference Room, the Budget and Financial Planning Committee will meet from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Police Department Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Both meetings are on Tuesday, May 5.

Neither meeting will be broadcast or recorded. Citizens interested in the City’s finances are welcome to attend one of the meetings.

May 2 2015

School Board Meeting of April 22, 2015

by Piedmont High School student Claire O’Connor –

On April 22, 2015, the School Board gathered (as they do bi-monthly) to talk about issues concerning the K-12 schools in the Piedmont Unified School District.

The major issues discussed at this particular meeting concerned several main topics: the Piedmont Educational Foundation Endowment Fund for 2015-2016, the new weight training and fitness class at Piedmont High School (PHS), the parcel tax adjustments necessary for upcoming years, the approval of sending out “RFP’s” or Request for Proposals for district facilities, Piedmont Bonds, an “internship” program to help train educators, and other problems brought forth by members of the audience.

Mary Ireland was in the audience, but spoke representing the Piedmont Educational Foundation Endowment Fund. This year, she announced, they will be giving $275,000 from the endowment to the schools in the district. Additionally, the endowment has almost accumulated 6 million dollars.

Assistant Superintendent, Randy Booker, announced that Piedmont now offers, and will continue to offer, a weight training & fitness class as a Physical Education class offering for upperclassmen at PHS. Piedmont High School’s Principal, Brent Daniels, stepped in to further elaborate on this class and noted that this class will teach students the skills necessary to maintain fitness throughout the rest of their lives while also learning how to avoid injury. He also said that this course was not an option for freshmen. Robbie Diaz also commented from the audience that this class had been extremely beneficial to him and has helped his health and other aspects of his life in a multitude of ways.

Assistant Superintendent, Randy Booker, announced that Piedmont now offers, and will continue to offer, a weight training & fitness class as a Physical Education class offering for upperclassmen at PHS. Piedmont High School’s Principal, Brent Daniels, stepped in to further elaborate on this class and noted that this class will teach students the skills necessary to maintain fitness throughout the rest of their lives while also learning how to avoid injury. He also said that this course was not an option for freshmen. Robbie Diaz also commented from the audience that this class had been extremely beneficial to him and has helped his health and other aspects of his life in a multitude of ways.

Tam Hege and Gautam Wadhwani gave a very thorough overview and pros & cons list of the proposed increased levy of the “Support” or parcel tax (Measure A) for the school system. Apparently, because the State is not funding Piedmont schools nearly enough, and will not for potentially up to 6 years from now, we need to increase the tax by approximately $49.00 per parcel. This would allow us to have a more comfortable reserve and would allow us to be more flexible in paying unforeseen costs.

Michael Brady, also an Assistant Superintendent, asked for approval of sending out RFP’s to architectural firms. He hopes to get estimated costs from interested firms within the next month. He also noted that this does not come out of the District’s General Fund. He also spoke later in the meeting that there were many investors interested in Piedmont bonds, and that our bonds have never had higher ratings, so therefore, we are in a really good place.

Superintendent Constance Hubbard shared her idea that Piedmont should get interns for our district. That way, we would have better access to fully qualified educators by having them trained & ready by our amazing teachers.

From the audience, Arthur Weil, a WW2 veteran wants to come to our schools and share his story and was not getting his calls returned by Principal Brent Daniels, so he thought this was a better way of getting his message across. Luke Smith wants the teachers at PHS to create a master schedule to help organize and coordinate with each other. Sofia Mills would like the school to be careful about how PHS uses water, and would like for the school to stop selling plastic water bottles. Apryl Hsu wanted to call attention to the lack of parking availability for PHS students who commute to school everyday. Abby Hansen asked for more trash, compost, and recycling bins around the PHS campus to help stop the ongoing littering problem. Mr. Blackwell, who   came to a previous meeting requested a reform in the support tax system, and claimed that a much more equitable form of taxing would be based on a home’s square footage.

I also interviewed Assistant Superintendent Randy Booker. He was at this meeting because he is required to be present. He brings up issues surrounding curriculum instruction; for example, the weight training curriculum, and teacher evaluation issues. Once he brings up his problems, the School Board can then choose to act collectively as the School Board.

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.