Apr 17 2015
Editors’ Note:  Two Piedmont High School students Anton Orban and Kerry Krohn observed and described the same Council meeting on April 6, 2015. Readers will note differences in their reports.
April 6, 2015 City Council Meeting Report
by Piedmont High School Student, Anton Orban

On April 6th, I attended a routine City Council Meeting held within the Piedmont City Hall’s Council Chambers. These meetings commonly occur on the first and third Mondays of each month. The matters disclosed and discussed in this meeting were the consideration of an application for a ‘Conditional Use Permit’ for the Zion Lutheran Church as recommended by the City’s Planning Commission, the consideration for a street closure to permit the local Recreation Department to hold their first Annual Family Triathlon on May 16th, and the Regional Housing Needs Assessment Allocation Progress Informational Update.

Mayor Margaret Fujioka opened the meeting, following ceremonial City Council practices and the approval of Councilman Tim Rood to serve as the City’s Representative to the Alameda County Community Choice Aggregation Steering Committee and to proclaim April 6th K.C. Oakley Day within the City of Piedmont for the young local skier’s notable feats on and off the pitch.

Prior to the Mayor’s Presentation of Proclamation to K.C. Oakley, however, during Public Forum, citizens spoke of distressing matters. Dr. Julia Walsh, brought forth a plea for the city to “divest from fossil fuels” and no longer invest in fossil fuel corporations along with CALPERS, a pension fund which the city belongs to.

Upon being interviewed, Dr. Walsh revealed her credentials as a credible source to this matter as she is a Professor of Public Health at UC Berkeley. The twenty year Piedmont resident later assured the Council members that divestment posed no financial risk and expressed both to the Council and in my interview of her that she will gladly assist the City to transition away from supporting energy companies as she has done for several other local communities, including Sonoma.

Vice Mayor Jeff Wieler objected to the plea to divest on the basis that “Piedmont has never engaged in as large of an initiative.” However, Mayor Fujioka countered his objection, responding that the issue would be discussed in greater detail at another upcoming Council meeting.

I find that Dr. Walsh’s demand for divestment is warranted as energy companies in the United States profit off of the further degradation of the environment. Although I am not well versed in the City of Piedmont’s involvement with fossil fuel corporations, I find that corporate bodies should not be supported by communities such as our own, if their profiteering is detrimental to the environment of our community’s welfare.

Another important highlight of the meeting, included the Informational Report on Piedmont’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation progress. According to a report given by Paul Benoit, City Administrator, Piedmont ranked highest in compliance for the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) progress of Alameda County jurisdictions from 2007 to 2014, with an impressive 98% compliance when juxtaposed with surrounding communities. Benoit expressed to those attending, alongside Kate Black, Planning Director, that Piedmont is moving to increase its number of second unit housing to sixty as it would help us meet the regions’ quota of middle-low income housing units.

Councilmen Tim Rood and Robert McBain both complimented the progress, though McBain urged those attending the meeting that Piedmont is complying with the program because it is the morally correct thing to do. However, I felt skeptical of this good intention.

Though many Piedmont public officials may want to comply with this program out of the goodness of their hearts, Piedmont is an affluent community where people are more interested in their property value than in helping people of lesser economic standing to be included in our community. I believe that we are complying with the county’s new housing mandate in order to qualify for Federal grants, that we would be exempt from applying to if we had not obliged with RHNA.

The meeting was adjourned after announcements were made about Governor Brown’s statute for California residents to reduce 25% of their water use and the worsening drought in California. This deviation to the agenda was largely thanks to Tucker Johnson, a Piedmont High School student, who spoke of the community’s need for drought awareness and education. Fortunately for Tucker, Piedmont and those of the community anticipated his request  by already planning a Water Conservation Showcase to be held on April 22rd including  the Piedmont Fire Department. Councilman Tim Rood informed everyone of the educational event also informing potential attendees that food will be present at the event should the topic of water conservation famish listeners.

Another interesting announcement made before the Council meeting was adjourned, Mayor Fujioka stated that Piedmont will be the recipient of $871,000 administered by the Alameda County Transportation Commission to improve transportation in Piedmont, thanks to those who voted on Measures B and BB. If you thought Piedmont already had nice sidewalks and streets, think again, because Piedmont will soon get another facelift to facilitate traffic and transportation. Though no notice was given, it is imminent that construction notices will be given at future City Council meetings.

                                       Anton Orban
Report of April 6, 2015 City Council Meeting
 by Piedmont High School Student Kerry Krohn -

On April 6, 2015, I went to the Piedmont City Council meeting.  The Piedmont City Council meets on the first and third Monday of each month, at 7:30 p.m., in the City Council Chambers at City Hall. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss important issues presented by citizens and organizations, as well as the government body.

The major issues discussed were drought options and fossil fuel reduction, the consideration of an application for a Conditional Use Permit for Zion Lutheran Church as recommended by the Planning Commission, the consideration of a street closure for the Recreation Department’s first annual family triathlon, and information update on a new affordable housing proposal, the City’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment Allocation Project.

The City Council first addressed some environmental public issues concerning the drought, setting up a community aggregation system, and conserving fossil fuels. Most of the City Council members supported a community aggregation system, and Tim Rood, a City Council member, stated that Marin and Sonoma County both have it. Because of this system, Tim Rood continued, these counties have cleaner, and more local power which is cheaper than PG&E.

During Public Forum, Dr. Welch, a Piedmont resident, addressed the related issue of conserving fossil fuels, and divesting from fossil fuel corporations from Piedmont, which the City Council later decided to discuss in a future meeting.

Tucker Johnson, a Piedmont High School student, also addressed his concerns about California’s drought, which the City Council supported, and Mayor Margaret Fujoika replied that the City would be providing drought information programs at a future meeting.

The City Council then addressed the Conditional Use Permit for Zion Lutheran Church, and Pastor Paul Aldrich of Zion Lutheran Church spoke about his complete support towards the permit. Vice Mayor Jeffrey Weiler also supported the permit, claiming that he was a Lutheran himself. He supported the diversity and education it would also bring.

Council member Teddy G. King, voiced her concern that the planning of the church was unstable and unhealthy for children, but the majority of the City Council decided that the church made some significant changes, and the City Council agreed to approve a Conditional Use Permit.

The City Council then discussed the street closure for the Recreation Department’s Triathlon. Rebecca Sunaima, who was the “brain child” for the event, voiced her encouragement.  Mayor Margaret Fujioka also voiced her support, stating that Piedmont has never had a race like this before. Tim Rood was concerned about the safety of firetrucks getting in and out of Piedmont and residents accessing their driveways. The City Council then unanimously agreed to the street closures for the Triathlon.

The last item discussed on the agenda was the new affordable housing project. The affordable housing project is an important issue that will also bring more diversity to Piedmont. Robert McBain, a City Council member, supported the new affordable housing project, saying that it obeys housing needs and gives variety to buyers. Tim Rood was concerned about the incentives for the buyer, as well as enforcing requirements for payment from the residents and grants available for low income buyers.

I interviewed Pastor Paul Aldrich, who was there to support the Conditional Use Permit for his church. He had voiced his opinion to the Planning Commision and was hoping for the church to expand to include a foreign language school, controlled by Shu Wren.  This meeting was the last step for him, and he hoped the City Council would pass the permit if there was no complaints.  It was approved by the City Council.

                                  Kerry Krohn

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed  in the two articles are those of the authors.
Apr 17 2015
April 8, 2015 Park Commission Meeting
by Piedmont High School Student, Thomas Horn

In their monthly meeting, held Wednesday, April 8, the City of Piedmont’s Park Commission discussed a range of temporary and ongoing projects for improving outdoor spaces in Piedmont, including renovations in Crocker Park and construction of a landscaped median triangle at Linda and Kingston Avenues, as well as other items.

The commission invited Mark Feldkamp, Parks and Project Manager for the city, to discuss the removal of the garage at the northwest corner of Crocker Park. According to Feldkamp, the project is going smoothly, with a nearby homeowner agreeing to the use of her land for part of the demolition process, which greatly eases the city’s task. Additionally, the city has been able to preserve old redwood timber from the garage for reuse. However, Feldkamp noted that the corner of the park with the garage will likely require about $200,000 to landscape attractively.

On the construction of the Linda/Kingston Triangle, the commission invited Chester Nakahara, Director of Public Works, to discuss recent progress. Nakahara reported that the city had received numerous requests from nearby residents to restripe the intersection and install new stop signs in different locations before the beginning of construction. One of the frequently requested locations for a new stop sign was on the north corner of Linda and Rose Avenues, which is in Oakland.

Nakahara felt optimistic that a stop sign could be placed here after consultation with the Oakland traffic engineer. The Oakland traffic engineer would be able to use the traffic study conducted by the City of Piedmont to justify this proposal if necessary. The sign and striping budget of the City of Piedmont is very limited, but the commission agreed that this aspect of the project could be completed as soon as funds became available.

The commission returned to Feldkamp for information on the Spring Path project [located between Maxwelton Avenue and Moraga Avenue near the Piedmont Corporation Yard.] Local residents are complaining about difficulties for their children in walking to school, according to Feldkamp; and wish that the reconstruction of the path would proceed more quickly. However, Feldkamp believed that a work pace slightly slower than usual was acceptable, given that the work was conducted by child volunteers.

Feldkamp also addressed the landscaping plan for the new residential buildings under construction at 408 Linda Avenue [location of former PG&E Substation below the Oakland Avenue Bridge] stating that it was now “95 percent good” after a few changes. Commissioner Susan Herrick noted that the previous plan to place roses under oak trees was regrettable; Feldkamp laughed and said that this had been corrected.

Dave Frankel, supervisor of maintenance for the city, next updated the commission about the completion of street tree pruning for 2014-15, which involved the trimming of 494 trees. Commissioner Anian Tunney asked Frankel about the apparent removal of several trees along the west side of Highland Avenue. Frankel responded that eight elm trees were removed to assist in gutter repairs, and that all were suffering from existing diseases. They would be replaced by new trees, which the residents of the nearby homes agreed to water.

The commission expressed concern that the residents might not be able to water the trees appropriately, but Frankel insisted that this measure was necessary because of the labor-intensive nature of tree watering.

I agree with Frankel that it is beneficial for nearby homeowners to take responsibility for the street trees in front of their homes, because their care and concern for their home environment will likely result in the trees being better cared for than if they were one of the many concerns of city parks workers. Additionally, watering the trees could help local residents feel more civically engaged and more appreciative of the city’s efforts to maintain the beauty of the area’s street-scape.

Finally, Frankel updated the commission on the city’s water conservation efforts. As part of the mandate by Governor Jerry Brown to save water, Piedmont is required to reduce its water consumption by 25 percent. However, the city is entitled to use 2013 as a baseline for water-conservation measurements, and measuring from this year, the city has already cut water usage by 20 percent. Further cuts in water usage will be achieved by not planting annual flowers this year, and possibly by using non-potable water for irrigation.

Interviewed after the meeting, Frankel stated that he has been delivering monthly updates to the Park Commission for “twenty years” as part of his job, but that the drought is the “next hot topic” for him, which he will deal with by investigating irrigation systems and seeing where repair and conversion to non-potable water are possible. The April 14 meeting of the EBMUD board may also change the situation with respect to water conservation rules, so Frankel is monitoring the regulatory situation closely.

                              Thomas Horn

Editors’ Note:  Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Apr 16 2015

The East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) Board approved new water conservation rules on Tuesday, April 14, 2015, which went into effect April 15.

In a move aimed at complaints of differential treatment of various residential customers a flat rate indoor use goal was adopted for all EBMUD residential customers, recognizing that some have already cut their indoor use through drastic conservation measures. (For example, recapturing shower water to flush toilets.)

Two-thirds of EBMUD’s single family residential customers use less than 7,500 gallons per month. The highest one percent of water using households use 45,000 gallons per month.

The new goal for residential customers is to limit indoor water consumption to 35 gallons per person per day. This will entail change of habits for some customers since the estimated daily water flow for two occupants even with energy flow toilets, faucets and shower heads exceeds the goal without including laundry or the use of a dishwasher:

10 gallons  = 6 flushes of a low flow toilet

20 gallons = 2 five minute low flow showers

80 gallons = twenty minutes of low flow sink faucet for hand-washing, teeth brushing, cooking and food/pots/dishes rinsing or washing by hand.

(Estimates provided by averaging several water use calculators.)

Due to the status of rain totals and snowpack, EBMUD declared a Stage 4 critical drought, the highest stage, and set a community-wide goal to reduce water use by 20% compared to 2013.

In addition to the indoor limit of 35 gallons per person per day, EBMUD has adopted strict outdoor water use rules:

  • Lawn watering on no more than two non-consecutive days per week with no runoff.
  • Lawn watering only before 9 a.m. or after 6 p.m.
  • Lawn watering prohibited after rainstorms: no watering allowed within 48 hours of measurable rainfall.
  • Use only hoses with shutoff nozzles to wash vehicles.
  • Use a broom or air blower, not water, to clean hard surfaces such as driveways and sidewalks, except as needed for health and safety purposes.
  • Turn off fountains or decorative water features unless the water is recirculated.

For more information on the drought and ways to save water go to:    https://www.ebmud.com/water-and-wastewater/latest-water-supply-update

 EBMUD website.

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Apr 16 2015

Piedmont Middle School students, Piedmont CONNECT, League of Women Voters of Piedmont, and Stopwaste.org are jointly presenting an informative environmental conservation evening for the whole family at the Piedmont Community Hall, 711 Highland Avenue on Wednesday, April 22 from 6 to 8 p.m. Exhibits will feature solar energy, electric cars, how to save more water, sound water conservation landscaping, and how to better recycle green waste.

Apr 14 2015

The City Council is expected to allocate approximately $400,000 for capital projects through the budget process.

The Capital Improvement Projects Committee (CIP) will review resident proposals for projects to be undertaken by the City.  The meeting will not be broadcast or recorded for future viewing.  Those interested in observing the committee’s work can attend the Thursday, April 16 meeting to be held in the City Council Conference Room, City Hall, 120 Vista Avenue. The meeting begins at 7 p.m.

Read the agenda.

Apr 14 2015

The City has submitted an application for Hampton Field to the East Bay Region Park District for Piedmont’s one time WW Bond Fund entitlement. The March 12, 2015 application included a California Environment Quality (CEQA) certificate of compliance for the Hampton Field improvements.  The construction costs for Phase One are estimated at $542,685, including staff time cost of $10,000, and $180,000 consultant expense for a total project cost of $732,685. The WW application request is for $507,325, the amount available for a qualified project in Piedmont.  No local matching funds are required.

It is anticipated that the East Bay Regional Park District Board will approve Piedmont’s WW Bond Fund proposal for Hampton Field improvements in May. Construction work that includes drainage and tennis court restructure is expected to begin in the fall.

Apr 14 2015

Calling all elementary school students to get your bike ready!

On Saturday, April 18, the Piedmont Police Department and Piedmont Explorer Post 911 are jointly sponsoring an Earth Day Bike Rodeo from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. at Beach School, 100 Lake Avenue. All elementary school boys and girls are invited to try the exciting bike obstacle course to win prizes, and get bike safety tips, and free bike tune ups!

More information from Piedmont’s Boy Scout Council.

Apr 9 2015

On Saturday, April 11, 2015, the City of Piedmont will be paving Moraga Avenue between Pala Avenue and the eastern City Limit with Oakland.

The work will begin at 8:00 a.m. and should be completed in a single day. 

 This work, which will include the filling of potholes and replacing temporary patches, is the final step in the sewer construction that has been going on for several weeks. Due to the logistics of working in a busy street, it will be necessary to have traffic control measures around the work areas with traffic delays and disruptions on Moraga Avenue during this work. Please follow the instructions of the signs and flagmen present.
Your awareness, cooperation, and patience is appreciated.  If you have any questions related to this matter, or would like the City to be aware of any special circumstances, please call Chester Nakahara, Director of Public Works at (510) 420-3061 or email him at cnakahara@ci.piedmont.ca.us.
Apr 8 2015

The disparate treatment of residential water consumers in various California communities has received national media attention this week.   The April 6, 2015 New York Times reports that California water policy –

“is a case study in the unwise use of natural resources, many experts say. Farmers are drilling wells at a feverish pace and  pumping billions of gallons of water from the ground, depleting a resource that was critically endangered even before the drought, now in its 4th year, began.”

In July 2014, while some Piedmonters were consuming 100 – 150 gallons per day or less, residents in some hotter locations used more than 600 gallons per day. Even after Governor Jerry Brown’s demand of a 25% consumption reduction is fulfilled, the four to one or greater differential of water use will remain in many areas. And some communities still do not meter water, instead charging residential customers a flat rate for unlimited water use. A few make no charge for water, according to The New York Times.

On April 7 Richard Howitt, Professor Emeritus of Agricultural and Resource Economics, at UC Davis, told Bloomberg Surveillance that yards in hotter areas of California should look more like Arizona. Howitt, a lead researcher at the UC Davis Center for Watershed Studies recommends California’s agriculture sector convert to higher profitability crops. “Cut down on low value crops, continue growing carrots.” 

Howitt continued, “The agriculture sector has got to realize that water is now a commodity, not political, and must be treated as such. Our agriculture would have to change its way of operating in a long term drought. We would only grow those crops that would really be very profitable. There are margins for adjustment in crops.”

Meanwhile the Central Valley agriculture well drilling frenzy has lowered the water table by as much as 50 feet, The New York Times reported. Land is sinking as much as one foot per year, damaging roads and bridges. Nevertheless, no limits on well drilling or groundwater exhaustion have been established for agriculture.

At its Tuesday, April 14 meeting, the EBMUD Board will review the District’s  year-end Water Supply Availability and Deficiency in this historic drought. The Board will decide on potential actions, which may include mandatory conservation restrictions, drought surcharges and excessive use penalties.

Read CA Water restrictions on urban and suburban communities  March 27

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Apr 6 2015

At a special meeting on March 31, 2015, the City Council made appointments to fill vacancies on commissions and committees. Drawing on the talents of fourteen applicants for nine vacancies, the Piedmont City Council made the following appointments:

CIP Review Committee

Susan Herrick

Civil Service Commission

Sandra Rappaport

Patricia Forsyth

Park Commission

Jonathan Levine

Jamie Totsubo

Planning Commission

Susan Ode

Public Safety Committee

Ryan Gilbert

Garrett Keating

Recreation Commission

Steve Roland

April 6, 2015