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:
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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. “