Jul 23 2014

At a Special City Council meeting on Thursday, July 24, 2014, at 7:00 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, 120 Vista Avenue, the Council will interview 5 candidates for the position of Recreation Director. Being a personnel matter (Government Code Sec. 54957(b)), the interviews are closed to the public; however, if members of the public would like to speak, there will be a 10 minute period at the beginning of the meeting divided evenly between those wishing to address the council.

The names of the candidates are considered confidential.  The meeting will not be broadcast.

Jul 20 2014

- No environmental studies and little public input - 

With few questions by policy makers on short and long term impacts of housing increases in Piedmont, Piedmont’s Housing Element will likely become known to most homeowners when a neighbor develops an additional housing unit.

The City Council will consider the Housing Element Draft at their meeting on Monday, July 21, City Hall, Council Chambers starting at 7:30 p.m.  The meeting will be broadcast.  Cities are required to adopt Housing Elements to cover the period 2015-2023 by January 31, 2015.

Piedmont’s draft Housing Element is based on adding secondary units (apartments) within existing homes or allowing a second house to be build on properties in the single family residential zone.

Piedmont’s planning staff and consultant have performed no studies per the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)  to assess the impacts of increased housing on schools, public services, police, fire, parks, emergency, or recreational facilities.  CEQA is specifically required under State law.  Piedmont intends to approve a “Negative Declaration” for the CEQA requirement without the initial step of actual environmental studies.

Every 8 to 10 years the State comes out with new housing need projections which are divided up throughout the State by region. Some communities have no objection to the housing increases as developers and land owners are eager and ready to develop property. Piedmont has for a century kept inappropriate development at bay due to the City Charter and requirement of voter approval prior to zoning changes.  The result has been a well established, well maintained, viable city.

Piedmont is significantly constrained by the lack of available land and high property values.

The State’s current housing increase round will end on December 31, 2014, yet Piedmont has already exceeded its quota, approving 44 new units when its quota was 40 units. In addition, more applications for new dwelling units have been received by the City this year, so the excess could increase. For the State’s next round of housing increases for 2015 – 2023, Piedmont is required to provide the opportunity for 60 new housing units.

Piedmont has not only complied with the spirit and letter of the law, but has taken significant steps to increase housing units.

Piedmont’s origin was based on keeping Piedmont a single family residential area. This origin is reflected not only in Piedmont’s voter approved City Charter, but in the zoning laws controlling buildings and land use in Piedmont.

The State has preempted cities’ zoning laws by pressing for additional housing in every city. Being landlocked and built-out, is insufficient to relieve a city, such as Piedmont, from the demands of more and more housing particularly very low and low income housing. In an attempt to balance income levels within cities, perhaps for social engineering, Piedmont is being pressed to increase housing for very low and low income units.

Piedmont is noteworthy for its longevity as a city, its numerous historic homes, its economic viability, and quality of life.  The State law states that housing is to be maintained rather than eliminated, yet as the character of Piedmont changes due to enforced requirements from the State, will the city be able to continue the current quality of life?

The planning staff, Planning Commission, and City Council have accepted the State and regional goals.  Developers and public interest organizations have legally challenged cities that did not establish a pathway for increased housing units especially for very low  and low income individuals.

Despite declining populations in Piedmont and Oakland since 2000, Piedmont, responding to State demands, continues on its drive to increase housing units. On July 14, the Piedmont Planning Commission readily recommended to the Piedmont City Council a draft Housing Element to be forwarded to the State Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) staff as Piedmont’s working draft for preliminary review and comments. In the previous round, the draft Housing Element was modified to conform to DHCD staff suggestions.

Raising Piedmont’s profile with DHCD, Planning Director, Kate Black, and Piedmont outside consultant, Barry Miller, treated DHCD staff to a tour of  Piedmont.  Did the tour include any of the City’s many empty housing units? (The 2010 census recorded 123 unoccupied housing units in Piedmont and 6,718 in neighboring Oakland.)

Considering the danger posed by vacant housing units correlated with increased crime rates, Oakland and other cities have a program of demolition of vacant housing with federal funds. In March, 2014, the U.S. Treasury announced new funding of $30 million for housing demolition to avoid neighborhoods with vacancies becoming blighted.  Burglaries, arson, and drug-dealing are a few of the crimes associated with vacant housing.

Few comments on the draft Housing Element have come from Piedmont residents.

Several people attended the presentations on the Housing Element Planning Commission “work sessions”.  The “Town Hall style” meeting held in the Police Emergency Operations Center was attended by approximately 2 dozen residents most of whom had received personal letters from the Planning Department because they either resided in or owned a second unit.  No letters were specifically sent to property owners adjacent to or living near a second unit, who might have expressed pleasure or concerns.  The “Town Hall” meeting was not broadcast and the comments were not made available.

Unlike communities that can expand into undeveloped land, Piedmont is completely landlocked, surrounded by Oakland, with no room to expand.  Additionally, Piedmont’s very economic viability is established on its desirability as a place to purchase a home.  Piedmont has its own schools, police and fire departments and public services.  As more and more properties in Piedmont are subdivided or turned into duplexes per the State decrees, property values and willingness of voters to support extraordinarily high taxes comes into question.

Piedmonters, in general, favor providing housing for very low income individuals and others, however, some have expressed their desire to have this done in a manner that does not erode the character and stability of the City’s housing stock.

When the old PG&E building below and adjacent to the Oakland Avenue Bridge was sold for housing development, many thought this was an opportunity to address some regional housing goals.  Piedmont, however, did not take advantage of this opportunity.  The old PG&E site has some of the best access to Piedmont’s very limited public transportation bus routes.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recommends siting low income housing near available jobs, public transportation education, social services, and counseling. Piedmont is poorly served by public transportation and lacks social services.

Following are some questions posed:

Will Piedmont eventually become a city of multiple units, renters, and transient residents? Who will pay for the schools or will they be merged by the State with surrounding school districts?  Will property values continue to grow?   Will those desiring a single family residential area go elsewhere? Will City government and the School District need to grow to provide services found in other communities, such as social services?

There have been no long term assessments of services costs and the general impact of increased housing units in Piedmont.

The 2011 Housing Element created an exception to single family Zone A minimum lot size requirements to enable lot splitting. The current draft Housing Element identifies more than 10 properties in Zones A & E (Estate Zone) that could be split in order to add a second house to an existing lot.

Read the City Administrator’s report and the draft Housing Element. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Comments may be communicated to the City Council:

Margaret Fujioka, Mayormfujioka@ci.piedmont.ca.us(510) 463-7821

Jeff Wieler, Vice Mayorjwieler@ci.piedmont.ca.us(510) 428-1648

Teddy Gray Kingtking@ci.piedmont.ca.us(510) 450-0890

Robert McBain, rmcbain@ci.piedmont.ca.us,(510) 547-0597

Tim Roodtrood@ci.piedmont.ca.us,   (510) 239-7663

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Jul 20 2014

People automatically grab their cellphones in an emergency, but in major events they may find there is no service. In lower Manhattan during the 9/11 attacks, cellphone service became unavailable.  Super storm Sandy destroyed cell towers along with houses and commercial buildings. Cellphones can become useless when the capacity is overloaded even though towers survive. On Friday, July 18, San Francisco’s ABC TV affiliate reminded viewers not to rely on their cellphones in disasters such as fires and earthquakes.

Families need to make emergency plans that don’t require cellphones.

The Piedmont Fire Department wants you to be prepared for disasters.

By preparing for a disaster you can better help yourself, your community, and the Fire Department. Education and training for disasters can be provided on any scale and for any number of people.

The Fire Department is committed to training individuals, families, neighborhoods, and businesses. We can tailor training to meet time constraints, unique needs, routine concerns, or schedule you may have.

If you would like to schedule training or just have a few questions about preparing, please contact the department at (510) 430-3030 and ask for the Captain or Lieutenant on Duty.

Click to Download the American Red Cross brochure entitled Be Red Cross Ready
Click to download a brochure called 10 Ways You Can Be Disaster Prepared

Click Here to View Disaster Preparedness Links»
Note: these links are found at the right-hand side of the page.

Jul 18 2014

The Piedmont Police Department is notifying Piedmont residents of callers posing as IRS agents attempting to extort money from residents.

The IRS and other law enforcement agencies DO NOT CONTACT individuals through phone calls demanding money.

Some residents are not alert to these scams and do not subscribe to information outlets. You are asked to inform your friends and neighbors, particularly senior citizens, about the scams.

Press Release

July 18, 2014

The Piedmont Police Department would like to make the citizens of Piedmont aware of potential phone/email scams that some of our residents have encountered.

Over the last two months, subjects posing as IRS agents and/or other law enforcement agency employees have called Piedmont residents demanding an immediate transfer of cash which they claim is owed to the agency. They instruct victims to avoid being arrested they must send large sums of cash to a given address or call back with a credit or debit card to take care of the debt.

The Piedmont Police Department encourages citizens to be vigilant against phone/email scams that use the IRS or other law enforcement as a lure. These agencies do not initiate contact with citizens by email or phone to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. They also do not ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts. Recipients of these phone calls or emails should not answer questions, give out any personal information or open any attachments, or click on any links contained in the message.

For more information on these and other similar phone/email scams you can visit the IRS website at http://www.irs.gov or the California Attorney General’s website at http://oag.ca.gov

If you are a Piedmont resident and you believe you are the victim of one of these phone calls, please contact the Piedmont Police Department at 510-420-3000.

Anyone needing further information and/or with inquiries can contact Detective Willie Wright at (510) 420-3013.

Jul 16 2014

On Tuesday, July 15  the California Water Resources Control Board approved mandatory restrictions on water use in urban areas, including Piedmont, with fines ranging up to $500/day.  If also approved by the State Office of Administrative Law, any public employee with law enforcement authority can issue the tickets.

The following water use will be prohibited:

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/07/15/6559158/california-faces-mandatory-
water.html#storylink=cpy
  • Run-off from landscape watering onto adjacent property, sidewalks or streets.
  • Washing sidewalks and driveways with drinking water. (Recycled water is permitted.)
  • Using a hose to wash a vehicle unless the hose has a shut-off nozzle.
  • Using drinking water in an ornamental fountain unless the water is recirculated.
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/07/15/6559158/california-faces-mandatory-water.html#storylink=cpy

The restrictions will go into effect as soon as they are approved by the State Office of Administrative Law. They will remain in effect for nine months.

While agriculture uses 75% of the state’s water, agriculture is exempted. Also exempted is the power-washing of sidewalks, streets and buildings.

Each water district is charged with implementing mandatory water use restrictions and adopting a sliding scale for the new state water restriction fines. Up to this point the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) has requested only voluntary reduction of water use because the agency is in a less dire water supply situation than other California water providers due to its efforts to plan for long-term water supplies.

Meanwhile, the State Legislature is trying to draft a new water bond. (Read about the challenge in the Sacramento Bee.)

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Jul 16 2014

Is Phase I of the Blair Park Plan going to be implemented?

On July 14, the Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) Review Committee visited Blair Park and Coaches Field during its tour of a number of possible projects for potential funding from the CIP Fund and the WW Bond funds of $575,000.  (Other sites visited included: the Veterans Hall; Aquatic Center; Dracena Park; Linda Beach Field Entrance; Linda-Kingston intersection; Crocker Park; Hampton Field; Piedmont Park; and Community Hall Plaza, amphitheater, terraces.)

When in 2012, the Blair Park Sports Complex proposal was rescinded by the City Council, it was done in large part because residents in Oakland and Piedmont joined together to mount a legal challenge to the project as Friends of Moraga Canyon (FOMC), a group legally opposing the project. In a settlement agreement between the City of Piedmont, Piedmont Recreational Facilities Organization (PRFO) and FOMC, the City payed FOMC $15,000 to assist with their legal costs and committed to spending $15,000 for a plan to improve Blair Park maintenance and make it more useful to residents.

The Council approved Blair Park Plan, Phase I, valued at $300,000, was to be considered through the Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) Review Committee for funding recommendations in 2014.  Phase II valued at $350,000 was also to be considered for future funding.  Read PCA article on details of the Blair Park Plan.

Blair Park, viewed by some as a development opportunity and by others a respite from asphalt and concrete, has been neglected for decades, needing maintenance and safety improvements.  Recently, the City undertook an emergency removal of 14 diseased trees.

Landscape improvements are lacking.  Pedestrian access to the park is missing. Sidewalks on Moraga Avenue are missing from Monte Avenue to Blair Park. The sidewalk dead ends halfway between Monte and Pala Avenues. Pedestrians or bikers face great hazards to cross at that point.  A boardwalk is built immediately adjacent to Moraga Avenue on the opposite side of the street.  The boardwalk dead ends at Red Rock Road, location of the Corporation Yard.  There is no identified pedestrian crossing in the area. 

Bikers going up Moraga Avenue from Monte Avenue toward Blair Park face extreme hazards from vehicles coming behind them on the blind curve near Pala Avenue. Interested participants in the developing Piedmont Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan have identified the need for improved access to and beside the park. However, to date the Plan’s consultant’s reports have not placed a priority on Blair Park access.   

Piedmont is entitled to $575,000 in East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) WW bond funds for specific purposes related to parks and recreation.   The use must remain in place for the 25 years.

For more information on Blair Park, as reported on this site, go to the left column on this page and Search > Blair Park.

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Jul 13 2014

Based on little public knowledge or input, the Planning Commission will consider: reducing parking requirements, reducing building fees for second units, requests for all current housing units to be rented, how to extend the time span on rent controlled units, lack of studies evaluating impacts of additional units to infrastructure such as roadways, parks, schools, and public services, forgiveness of taxes on low income units, subdivision of lots, and more.

On Monday, July 14, 2014 at 5:00 p.m. in the City Hall Council Chambers, 120 Vista Avenue,  the Planning Commission will hold a public hearing and discussion concerning the City’s Update to the Housing Element of the General Plan. 

With few citizens, often none, attending or providing input at the various Planning Commission Housing Element “workshops” and about 2 dozen at a “Town Hall type meeting,” combined with little discussion by the Planning Commissioners, the staff and consultant’s proposed changes to Piedmont’s Housing Element are steadily moving forward to review and approval by the City Council and the State Department of Housing and Community Development staff.

- Considerations is being given to: Second unit apartments added to single family homes, greater housing density, very low income housing, affordable housing, market rate housing, and mechanisms to satisfy the State push for more varied housing units in Piedmont. -

The draft Housing Element can be viewed here.  A copy is also available in the Public Works Department at City Hall.

The City Council is expected to consider the draft Housing Element and the Planning Commission’s recommendations at the July 21, 2014 Council meeting, 7:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers.

Both the July 14 Planning Commission meeting and July 21 City Council meeting are open to the public and will be broadcast.

You can watch the meetings on KCOM, cable 20 or by logging on to the city’s website at www.ci.piedmont.ca.us: on the right hand side of the homepage under the “City Council” heading, click on the “Online Video” link, then scroll down under the “Sections on this Page” heading, click on the the Planning Commission or City Council link, click on the “Video”or “In Progress” link, and scroll down to the date and agenda item and start watching!

Email comments to kblack@ci.piedmont.ca.us, send them via US mail to Planning Commission, c/o Kate Black, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611, or drop them off at City Hall.

Read the Draft Housing Element.

Read the July 14 Planning Commission Agenda.

Jul 13 2014

- Consultant’s report eliminates areas of resident concern, but it’s not too late for citizen input. -

Monday, July 14, in City Hall Council Chambers, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, the Piedmont Planning Commission will consider the Bike and Pedestrian Improvements planning progress presented by the City’s consultant, Niko Letunic. The item is the last item on July 14 Planning Commission Agenda .  The meeting will be broadcast. 

At previous hearings, citizen recommendations included additional street trees to enhance the pedestrian experience, attention to the intersections of busy arterial routes and local streets for better pedestrian comfort.

Several citizens were unable to find their recommendations in the list of survey results, including:

  • safe pedestrian walkways along Moraga Avenue to Blair Park
  • a pedestrian path on Moraga Avenue next to the Mountainview Cemetery wall from the bus stop to Ramona Avenue
  • a pedestrian median needed for pedestrians crossing the overly wide Monticello Avenue at Moraga Avenue
  • consideration of the special needs of pedestrian senior citizens

These suggestions were also not  found in the February 2014 preliminary Bike/Ped Improvement Options report by consultant prior to input from Piedmont residents.

A recent suggestion was made that the Piedmont General Plan should provide consideration and direction on pedestrian, vehicular, and bicycle safety prior to the addition of new uses to already congested areas such as the Civic Center and Grand Avenue.

A presentation on recent progress in the planning process for the City’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan (PBMP) will be made.

The purpose of the meeting  is for City staff and its project consultant to present and receive feedback on the “implementation strategy” for the plan—namely the prioritization, funding and phasing of projects and other improvements that will make up the plan. The implementation strategy is an interim step in the planning process; based on feedback at the hearings, the list of high-priority projects (and other aspects of the strategy) will be refined and presented more broadly to the public as part of the draft Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan, beginning in August.

“The prioritization of projects will be based in large part on feedback received from Piedmonters and other stakeholders on ideas presented to the community in recent months. An important opportunity for feedback was through an online survey that ran for four weeks in February and March and received more than 260 responses. For a summary of the survey results, as well as the full [partial] list of comments received through the survey, click here.

The meeting will be an additional opportunity for the public to find out more about the plan and to voice their opinions. The City’s project consultant and City staff will be available to answer questions from the Commissioners and members of the public.

For more information about the PBMP, contact Kate Black at kblack@ci.piedmont.ca.us or at (510) 420-3063. If you would like to stay up to date on the development of the plan, contact Janet Chang at janetchang@ci.piedmont.ca.usor at (510) 420-3094 to be added to the email list for the project.

Get involved—these are your streets and sidewalks. Your voice is important!”

In August a draft will be available of the prioritized pedestrian and bicycle improvements to make walking and biking safer, easier and more popular.

Read the July 14 Planning Commission Agenda where a reference to the Bike and Pedestrian Plan can be found at the end.

Jul 13 2014

The Police and Fire Pension Board (PFPB) will meet in the Council Chamber, 120 Vista Avenue, on Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 4 p.m. The board will hear a report on the number of current beneficiaries and the benefits paid in the 4th quarter of 2013/14.  Jack Horgan and/or Brad Kane of Osterweis Capital Management will report on the pension fund investments and other post-employment benefits investments.

PFPB members are Chairman Bill Hosler, Mayor Margaret Fujioka, Councilmember Robert McBain, Tom Kinkaid representing the Police Department, and Brian Gidney representing  the Fire Department.  According to the City website, staff are Erick Cheung and Paul Benoit.

The PFPB meets quarterly to oversee the City’s public safety pension plan and will continue to meet as long as there are retirees or dependents who are covered by the old plan.

The meeting is open to the public, but will not be broadcast.  Prior to meetings, materials indicating assets and beneficiary numbers have usually not been publicly distributed.  Those present at the meeting and requesters after the meeting will be provided any distributed information.  

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When voters approved Piedmont employees transfer to Cal PERS (California Public Employees Retirement System), Piedmont’s existing pension system remained only for previously retired employees.  The fund currently holds assets exceeding in the millions projected costs of the remaining beneficiaries.  On the other hand, the City’s contribution to PERS requires the City and its employees to annually pay increased amounts to PERS to cover pension costs. 

The PERS costs along with health and welfare benefits for retirees are an ongoing large expense to the City.  The cost of retiree health insurance, separate from PERS, is regularly brought up at Council meetings as a significant underfunded  City liability.  Mention has been made of using any residual funds from the Police and Fire Pension Fund to pay retiree health benefits to reduce the City’s liability.  In the future this may be a possibility, but it is dependent on the longevity of those currently receiving benefits from the Police and Fire Pension Fund assets and any applicable laws governing pension funds.

The entire Pension Board charge can be found here.

Jul 12 2014

On Monday, July 14, the Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) Review Committee will gather at 9:00 a.m. in the Council Conference Room, City Hall, 120 Vista Avenue. The purpose of the meetings is to tour sites proposed for improvement using $575,000 of WW bond funds and the City’s Capital Improvement Projects Fund.  The CIP Review Committee has been tasked with making recommendations to the City Council.

The tour and meeting is open to the public.

- CIP Review Committee Agenda -

1. Tour of Sites to be Considered for Possible CIP Funding

a. Piedmont Park; Community Hall Plaza, Amphitheater, and Terraces

b. Veterans Hall

c. Piedmont Community Pool

d. Dracena Park (Entry Way at Park Way & Dracena Avenue)

e. Coaches Field / Blair Park

f. Linda Beach Playfield (Howard Avenue Entrance)

g. Linda/Kingston Triangle

h. Crocker Park

i. Hampton Field

The sites will be visited in the order listed above. Each site visit will take approximately 15 minutes.

2. Working Lunch at Piedmont Park Tea House (Open to the public)

 There will be no public broadcast of the tour or the later CIP Review Committee discussion held over lunch at Piedmont’s Main Park Tea House. To learn about the issues, individuals should plan to attend the meeting and tour. Transportation from site to site has not been announced.

To date, none of the CIP meetings have been publicly broadcast.

The Brown Act precludes the committee members from holding discussions amongst themselves prior to reconvening in a meeting at the Tea House when consideration of the various sites will take place.   This will allow all committee members and the public to hear the deliberations.  During the tour, inquiries made to staff for a better understanding of issues and plans are permissible.

Given the complicated hoops to be jumped through to receive WW funds, the Council is likely to pursue one project rather than several. Two primary projects recently discussed by the City Council are:

- Renovation of Hampton Field’s grass playfield and tennis courts -

The City has invested in Beach Playfield, Coaches’ Field, Havens Playground, Witter Field, Hampton Field and Dracena Park.  All of which provide space for youthful activities.  Hampton Field, however, has not held up well over the years.  During wet weather, drainage is very poor significantly restricting playfield usage and causing debris to flow to a street surface.  The ever problematic tennis courts at Hampton have for decades been vulnerable to cracking with drifting sand creating hazards for players.  The City has an approved environmental document on record for Hampton Field and has recently acted to obtain construction documents to make the necessary improvements.

- Council approved enhancements and clean up of Blair Park -

Blair Park built on fill land was for generations used as a dumping ground for leaves and chipped trees. Invasive plants have damage trees and left much of the park area unusable.  The City recently took an emergency action to remove some unhealthy trees and branches that presented hazards to vehicles and park users.  Many remaining trees need attention to maintain their overall viability.  A sidewalk inside and along the roadway has been suggested as a way to enhance the park and encourage use while maintaining its open space character.  The City Council has approved a plan for Blair Park.  The park is a major gateway to Piedmont passed daily by thousands of individuals.

There are many desired projects, however some would not meet the criteria and timing required for WW bond funding.

Updated 7/14/14
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