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The following letters and other commentary express only the personal opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Piedmont Civic Association.

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Jul 1 2017
In case you missed it, there was an interesting pair of front-page headlines in last week’s Piedmonter. City Council: “Budget OK’d; municipal sewer taxes rising in July.” Education: “District withholds teacher raises.” Let that sink in for a minute and then ask yourself – which would you choose, paying more for sewers or paying teachers what they are owed? To answer that, you need to know a little about Piedmont’s sewers and a little about the teacher retirement fund.
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Like Piedmont overall, our sewers are the best in the East Bay. That was not true 20 years ago but after EPA made all East Bay cities replace their old lines, Piedmont increased the Sewer Tax and every few years replaces sections around town – this summer’s work will take the city to 80% completion, 8 years ahead of schedule. The Sewer Tax increase amounts to about $25 per parcel and raises an additional $60,000 to bring annual sewer revenue to $2.4M. Piedmonters rejected a 50% increase in the Sewer Tax a few years ago, and it’s a good thing they did – the need was not there.
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The need is there for the School District. At a recent School Board meeting, the business official said that District teachers will not get their 2017-2018 salary increases in order to maintain educational programming. The reason – school districts must increase their annual contributions to the underfunded employee pension funds (CalPERS and CalSTRS). The state has mandated these annual increases from the districts going forward and they represent a real problem for maintaining the School District’s current programming – read Rick Rausenbush’s assessment at http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2017/01/31/piedmont-my-word-increased-pension-payments-threaten-states-schools/ to see how bad it could get for the Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD.)
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So back to the question, sewers or schools? That seems like a no-brainer given the condition of our sewer system and the PUSD projected deficits but it’s not that simple. City revenues and School revenues are two different pots of money and they don’t share. That’s too bad because the mantra of any resident, new or old, is that they came to Piedmont for the schools and stayed for the community. With the robust housing market, the City’s revenues are at all time-highs, thanks to the home sale transfer tax and property reassessments. In addition, the City benefits from state revenue increases more than PUSD – the new gas tax will increase City funds for street paving (TBD) and permanent funding increases to state public safety funds will bring $100K to Piedmont. As a result, the City has added two positions and is giving out 2% raises. The picture is not so rosy for the School District – the school has cut positions and programming and, according to the Superintendent, more cuts may be needed. For more details, see city and school budgets at http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/html/govern/staffreports/2017-06-19/1718budget.pdf (City) and www.piedmont.k12.ca.us. (School.)
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Another way to understand this funding disconnect is to look at how the City and School District maintain required annual reserves. Each is required to maintain reserves as part of their budget – for the City, it is up to 25% of the General Fund, for the School District, minimum 3%. For the past several years, the City has met this cap by transferring over $1M in General Funds to special accounts – this year $800,000 to Facilities Maintenance, $400,000 to Equipment Replacement. For the School District it is just the opposite – the school budget had to be reduced by over $400,000 this year in order to meet their reserve requirements.
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The Piedmont City Clerk recently proposed removing the 25% cap written into the City Charter so even more reserves could be held by the City. Instead, Council directed staff to undertake a review of the City Charter and address the 25% cap and other ambiguous Charter provisions. Perhaps there can be new Charter provisions so the City and School District can “share the wealth” so to speak. Such language won’t be forth coming from City Hall so residents should weigh in when this City Charter review comes to Council.
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Garrett Keating, Former Piedmont Council Member
Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Jun 19 2017
Listening is important.

In his column “Silence is Golden,” Mayor Jeff  Wieler took heart in that no speakers showed up to address the Grand Avenue zoning changes adopted by Council at a recent Council meeting.  I think he may be confusing neighborhood absence at the meeting with acceptance. 

Anyone familiar with the process knows how unresponsive the Mayor and some Council members were to neighborhood and community concerns about the initial zoning proposal.  Starting from a “community workshop” that amounted to a presentation by the developer that was followed by tailor-made zoning code, the neighborhood had to push hard to get City Hall to listen to their concerns and consider the General Plan.

With the help of some Council members, the city hired a planner and held workshops with the neighborhood leading to the final zoning code passed Monday night.  After attending many Planning Commission meetings and workshops, many neighbors probably didn’t see the point in appearing before a Council that had not listen to them in the first place.

And speaking of listening, I hope the Mayor will listen to his Planning Commission and reject the the Crown Castle cell tower proposal. 

Garrett Keating, Former Piedmont Council Member

Editors’ Note:  Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Jun 4 2017

Piedmont Post Claim about Measure H1 Plan is Inaccurate –

The May 31, 2017 Piedmont Post headline asserts: “School Board to spend $57 million on one building; Balance of $9 million from H1 bond not enough to pay for theater.”  Apparently, the Post reporter or editor failed to read the memo to the Board setting forth what was included in “Option 2B,” which the Board approved.

The memo is available online as the supporting material for the May 24, 2017 Meeting Agenda, Item VIII.A,> https://agendaonline.net/public/Meeting.aspx?AgencyID=1241&MeetingID=44038&AgencyTypeID=1&IsArchived=False

Among other things, it clearly states: “OPTION 2B 3-Story Main High School Building on Magnolia + New Theater.”  And it includes: “Modernize the vacated 20s building, converting antiquated science labs to general classrooms.”  And further: “($526,500 in FFE for 27 new or modernized classrooms),” which are the classrooms in the new STEAM building, new AHT [Allan Harvey Theater] and modernized 20s building.

At this point, these are all estimated costs.  However, Piedmont residents should understand what is actually included in Option 2B.

Richard Raushenbush, Former Member, Piedmont Board of Education

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Apr 23 2017

Three options were described and discussed at the Town Hall meeting sponsored by the Piedmont School District.

    On April 1st, 2017, the Piedmont Unified School District Town Hall meeting took place at 9:00am in Piedmont High School’s Student Center.  The new Facilities Advisory meeting was convened to get feedback from Piedmont citizens on the three options for the new designs for Piedmont High School.  The meeting began with one of the facilitators, Gina Bartlett, telling the audience the purpose of the meeting and what was hoped to get out of it.  She said that they did not want agreement on the options, they wanted feedback.  The goal was to get the opinions of teachers, students, parents, and community members.  Bartlett also went over how the small groups should discuss each option in their small groups in order to get the most out of the discussions. Each group included five to six people, and there were 12 groups.  As it was a discussion-style meeting, speakers did not share their names.

    Superintendent Randy Booker spoke next.  He went through each option so people could have background on the project.  He stated that since Measure H1 passed, the District has $66 million for the new high school.  Booker went over the constraints for the proposed facilities.  They include: funding, lack of real estate and topography, and lack of interim housing.  These were the three things the board struggled with when creating the three options.  He said that it is important that the plan fits into the Piedmont community.  There needs to be a logical entrance.  This will provide a face to the school, and improve security.  Booker emphasized that though not every building will be new, the Board is planning to reserve a portion of the funds to improve the classrooms in the untouched buildings.  An animation was shown of the three options.  Each one involves building a three-story STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math classrooms) building and a new gymnasium or theater.  The video, along with more information and places to give feedback, can be found at www.measureh1.org.

    The rest of the meeting was spent critiquing and sharing ideas about each option in the small groups.  Each table wrote what they liked and disliked about each one on a piece of poster paper.  These ideas are then going to be discussed by the Piedmont Board of Education to create the final plan.

Option 1 involves putting the STEAM building behind the current gym, and putting in a new theater in the same place as the current one.  School Board offices would then be moved into a remodeled 20s building.  The benefits discussed about this plan included that it is the least expensive and creates the most classrooms.  A repeated criticism of this plan was that it would be difficult and inefficient to have a building that houses so many classrooms far away from the rest of the school.  Students would have trouble getting to it because of the small walkway that would lead to the entrance.

Option 2 would include a new theater in the place of the 10s building, and the STEAM classrooms where the current theater is.  People noted that this would create a face to the school.  Both these buildings would be along Magnolia Avenue, so it would be the first thing people would see.  The main entrance would be between the two buildings, and the main office would most likely be in the bottom floor of the STEAM building.  This would improve security, as office staff would have an easier time monitoring who is entering the campus.  A con mentioned was that both these buildings are very large, so they would be invasive to the feel of the current area:  architects would have a hard time making large modern buildings that fit into the surrounding area and campus.

Option 3 has the STEAM building in the place of the current gym and the new gym along Magnolia Avenue in the place of the 10s building.  People liked the idea of removing the unused amphitheater and having the three-story building make use of the hillside.  Because the entrance would be level with the quad, it would make another centralized building.  Having the gym on Magnolia makes it easier to find, and for more community members, able to utilize it.  Several groups thought that having a new gym is not as important as a new theater.  More people in Piedmont could make use of a new theater than a gym.  One parent reminded the group that when students are taking PE classes, they often go from the locker room to Witter Field.  Moving the gym further from the field makes it inconvenient for the teacher and students involved.  One student also brought up the idea that the identity of Piedmont High School is not sports.  By having the gym so prominent on the outside of the school, it disrupts what the students value most, which is academics.

After reviewing each option, I believe that #2 is the best for the school.  I think a new theater will be more beneficial to the school than a new gym.  Not all students play sports in the gym, but all students use the theater.  The new one would be wheelchair accessible and be up to date with earthquake and fire standards.  This option would also move Millennium High School into the current 20s building.  MHS students would be more integrated with PHS students.

There will be more chances to get involved and voice opinions.   Input from all meetings will be used by the School Board in preparing a final plan.

by Gemma Fucigna, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Mar 22 2017

    On February 11th, the Planning Commision met in Piedmont’s City Council Chambers at five o’clock. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss variances and design review of building applications within Piedmont.The session began with an approval of minutes from the prior meeting, followed by a public forum.

   I, Brock Settlemier, spoke out on an individual issue that was not on the Planning Commission’s agenda.  There is an absolute lack of motorcycle parking in the City of Piedmont.  An initiative taken by the city was the “Complete Streets Plan”, to balance the transportation system of Piedmont, making it compatible for all cars, pedestrians, bicyclists, and senior citizens.  However, they left out the minority group of motorcyclists in Piedmont.  As a licensed motorcycle driver, owner, and student of Piedmont High School, I strongly voiced my concerns and advocated for the creation of motorcycle parking for the school.  The possible benefits would be a more balanced transportation system, a new way to commute to school for students/faculty, safer roads for motorcyclists, a reduction in greenhouse gasses, and a new modernization for the City of Piedmont.

    The major issue discussed at the meeting was item four of the agenda, 110 Fairview Avenue Variance and Design Review.  The owners, Mike Smith and Anne Beth, wanted to add a second story of 1,278 sq/ft to their home.  They live in a small, one story, Dutch Colonial home.  With their disabled son, grandchildren’s toys, and a lack of a decent socializing space, the applicants wanted to build up by adding the second story.  This proposed second floor would contain a bedroom, bathroom, and closet.  Their most convincing argument was that their addition would be more compatible with the neighborhood, where most of the houses are two stories and 2000 sq/ft or more.  This addition would make 110 Fairview more similar to the other homes in the area.  The architect was commended by Aradhana Jajodia for maintaining the style of the home, building up and saving space in the backyard.

    Mike and Anne were met with heavy resistance from nearby residents about their second story addition.  The owner of 129 Nova Drive, opposite the house, stated that the addition would be an issue of privacy.  He stated that, “A net 17 windows looking onto my back garden and into the house.”  This was one of the major issues of the design plan and was a repeated concern throughout the other neighbors’ statements.  Luckily, the owner was open to future conversation to find an alternative.

    The contractor of the house took the podium next.  He worked on 110 Fairview Ave ten years before, and was in support of the proposed plan.  His argument was clear.  The house would not expand on its small, original footprint.  The plan was underdesigned, and would not meet the maximum square footage that the city allowed.  The second story addition would not be too monumental.

    Down the street, Terry London voiced his concerns against the project.  He stated that the building would block their only view of the Piedmont Hills, completely obstructing the master bedroom’s view and seventy percent of their guest room.  In a later interview with him, he stated that the rules and regulations guiding development in Piedmont, “Don’t always take into account the specifics of particular situation, like height, topography, and the surrounding homes.”  He will remain involved in the future of the project.

   The meeting was a textbook example of how our government works efficiently in the United States.  Opening up the agenda to the public gave all the neighbors the opportunity to voice their opinions to the officials, who thoroughly considered and questioned each individual on their opinions.  Voices from both sides of this argument were effectively dealt with in the Commission’s final decision.

    The Planning Commision made a final deliberation on the issue in front of the audience, but closed to further opinions.  Planning Commissioner Tony Theophilos spoke out first from the Commission by addressing the issue of privacy.  He believed that there should be a reduction of windows, and finding a balance could be feasibly found.

   Next, Commissioner Aradhana Jajodia said the architect did a quality job on the design, except the back of the house was unpleasant looking from the neighbors point of view.

    Commission Chair Eric Behrens believed 108 Fairview Ave was the only house with a significant view of the Piedmont Hills.  He said “it seemed a little too big to me.”  Behrens suggested the applicants build down rather than up, such as a basement.

    Finally, Commissioner Jajodia made a motion to reject the design. It did not comply with the design review view guideline and the design presented a scale and mass violation.  Her perception was that the building should not overpower or dominate any of the surrounding homes.  The item was delayed to another meeting to allow a new plan by the architect.

   The Planning Commission meets once a month for a net four hours at minimum.

By Brock Settlemier, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions are those of the author.
Feb 21 2017

Below is a student report on the Piedmont Unified School District Board Meeting of February 8, 2017.

The Piedmont Unified School District School Board meeting on February 8, 2017, took place at City Hall and began at 7:00 PM. opening up with statements from each board member on recent community activity. Max Miller, the student representative to the Board from Millennium High School gave statements concerning the goings-on at both Piedmont and Millennium high schools. Miller focused on service learning and community service at both schools, the Millennium community dinner, which supports the Millennium trip to Camp Augusta, an upcoming night rally at Piedmont High, new musical Legally Blonde, and a college presentation from Ms. Bly.

The other board members updated the audience on recent events they had attended in the community. Notable events included upcoming Elementary School Enrollment Day, an information night regarding transitional and traditional kindergarten, and a community engagement meeting regarding Measure H1 to take place on April 1st, from 9:00-12:00 AM. All these reports were presented by Superintendent Randall Booker. In these opening remarks the Board also discussed the process for finding a new principle for Piedmont High, and Board President Sarah Pearson mentioned a recent coffee discussing the transition held by co-principals Eric Mapes and Irma Munoz.

Following opening remarks, the Board moved to a presentation by Blake Boehm from KNN Public Finance, LLC, regarding Measure H1 finances. Currently the Board is largely concerned with the implementation of Measure H1, a large bond passed June 2016. H1 addresses gaps in Piedmont’s education system, from insufficient facilities to opportunities to modernize Piedmont’s curriculum.

Boehm discussed bond implementation, specifically focusing on upcoming parcel tax hikes and how to guarantee that taxpayers are paying only the necessary amount to fund the bond. The bond will be instituted in three series, for a total of 66 million dollars to be spent starting in 2018. Bond sales to the community will take a maximum 6 years, and any debt incurred during this time will be paid for with property taxes. Boehm was optimistic that a continual trend of high fiscal value and community growth in Piedmont would ensure that the bond would continue to be valuable for years after its initial implementation, and saw no problems paying off any debt in upcoming years. As interests rates continue to increase, Boehm stated that savings could even surpass current predictions. At Boehm’s conclusion, the Board voted to see another presentation from Boehm at the next Board meeting.

Following presentations on Measure H1, the Board heard presentations in support of implementation of Extended Day Kindergarten (EDK) by Piedmont kindergarten teachers and the principle of Wildwood Elementary School Carol Kramer. EDK is a proposal to lengthen the normal day of a Piedmont kindergartener from half day schooling to a full day. Supporters of this change state that kindergarteners are better able to become immersed in the curriculum with a longer day, and would have more time for exploration and play. Presenters also stated current kindergarten models are outdated and need modernization. Furthermore, Measure H1 allocated funds specifically geared towards the district-wide implementation of EDK. These monies would pay for more facilities, better materials, and a higher salary for kindergarten teachers working a full day.

Opposition to EDK stated that a longer school day could increase stress at a very young age. The Board voted unanimously to move forward with EDK across the district. EDK would bring back some elements of joy and play to school, where these have clearly been lacking currently.

From my perspective, the Board correctly ruled in this case, and the benefits of implementing EDK will be seen not only in kindergarteners themselves, but across the board as they move up through Piedmont schools. While the opponents of EDK are justified in their concerns over increased student stress, EDK would actually help alleviate the stress of moving from half-day kindergarten to full-day first grade. The benefits would also extend to working parents, who could spend less on childcare. The Board will continue to hear opinions concerning the nuances of executing EDK in all three elementary schools for the remainder of the school year.

The School Board meets bimonthly, excluding special meetings, and hears issues pertaining to Piedmont schools. The Board attempts to promote better schooling for all Piedmont residents while ensuring that taxpayer dollars are used as efficiently as possible.

By Madison Wilson, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note:  Opinions expressed are those of the author.

Feb 21 2017

The League of Women Voters, Piedmont is holding a FUNDRAISER ON SUNDAY, MARCH 12TH FROM 3-5:00 PM

The League of Women Voters annual fundraiser event is open to the public. Keynote speaker will be Berkeley Professor Steven Raphael discussing “Crime and Punishment in California: Recent Trends and Reforms”Dr. Raphael is an adjunct fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California and professor of public policy at UC, Berkeley. His research focuses on the economics of low-wage labor markets, housing, and the economics of crime and corrections.

He is the author of The New Scarlet Letter? Negotiating the U.S. Labor Market with a Criminal Record and Why Are So Many Americans in Prison? He is editor in chief of Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society and a research fellow at the University of Michigan National Poverty Center, the University of Chicago Crime Lab, and the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), Germany. He holds a PhD in economics from the UC Berkeley.

Date: Sunday, March 12, 2016

Time: 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. Refreshments from 3-3:30pm

Location: Piedmont Community Center, Highland Avenue

Tickets for the event are $25.00 per person in advance and $30.00 at the door. To purchase tickets in advance go to >

 

or send your check payable to LWVP in care of Ward Lindenmayer, 40 Highland Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611.

_________________________________

Editors’ Note:  The Piedmont Civic Association (PCA) and the League of Women Voters, Piedmont are separate, non- affiliated organizations. 
Jan 25 2017

Correspondence between residents and Mayor Wieler.

Thank you for your prompt response Mayor Wieler. There is nothing in law or code to suggest existing homes would be “non-conforming” if Piedmont zoning remains as is- that should not be an impetus and it’s certainly not a rationale.

We are in full agreement with the spirit and most of the substance of the editorial on the January 22, 2017 Piedmont Civic Association website.
1) What is the purpose of this omnibus approach to zoning in our city?  What’s the benefit to us, to our neighbors? Piedmont Planning Director Kevin  Jackson has repeatedly cited historically high variance approval rates as an indication that our zoning rules are outdated. Is it possible those high approval rates are a function of reasonable plans and compromises engendered by the variance approval process itself?
2) Smaller lot sizes (which as you know are already accounted for in the current code), reduced set backs and potentially larger structure footprints will encourage the construction of larger homes and more density which will- over time- change and, in our opinion erode the character of broad sections of our community
3) Absence of material change to Zone E lot sizes and set backs – hmmmmmm.
We hope you and the city council will consider Piedmont Civic Association’s recommendation  for more transparency, clarity and outreach in these matters.  The power to effect changes of this magnitude should not reside with staff and a few select committees. We urge our city government to take the necessary steps to seek formal approval from our citizens before these changes are adopted.
Respectfully,
 Philip & Jean Stein
Piedmont
On Jan 23, 2017, at 9:00 AM, Jeffrey Wieler <jswieler@gmail.com> wrote:

Thanks for your email.  I urge you to come to tonight’s meeting to express your concerns and ask questions.  Concerning the lot size issue, I believe one impetus for the change is the fact that most Piedmont homes sit on lots under 10,000 sq. feet in size, and it makes no sense to deem  them non-conforming.  As a practical matter, I doubt anybody would find it economical to tear down a large home on a large lot to sub-divide.

However, we are having multiple meetings on the rewrite precisely to answer questions like yours.
Jeff Wieler

On Mon, Jan 23, 2017 at 12:26 AM, Philip Stein <treehousephil@gmail.com> wrote:

Editorial ALERT: Changes Impacting All Piedmont Houses and Properties Obscured in Proposal Documents

Hi, Neighbors,

Have you read the 535 page staff description of proposed changes to Piedmont’s zoning?  

Rather than simply affecting the commercial and “civic center” zones, this proposal has become a massive set of changes affecting essentially every Piedmont single family residence (SFR).

The changes appear to include:

  • reducing minimum square footage required Single Family Residence lot size by 25% (8,000 sf  to 6,000 sf)
  •  reducing frontage – reduced by 33% (90 feet to 60 feet)
  • reducing side setbacks by 50% (to as little as 2 feet (using language that falsely appears to expand the setback!)
A simple proposal for “Grand Avenue zoning fixes” appears to have expanded exponentially. If this proposal moves forward, it could potentially significantly increase the density of Piedmont’s residential areas.  It would allow substantially larger structures next to your home . . closer to your home, allow many larger lots to be subdivided, and allow much larger second homes on one lot.

Is there any description in the voluminous city documents of the total eventual impact on our city?  Will these proposals, in combination, lead to a tear down of many old Piedmont homes? Will residents only find out what’s really in this massive proposal after the Council passes it?

Unfortunately, no effective executive summary of the 535 pages is provided, nor any effective notice of specifics in this massive mission creep.
Changes having the potential to transform Piedmont should not be obfuscated within a 535 page document.  It now seems to cover everything from Airbnb rules . . to parking . . . to 4-story civic center buildings with zero (0) setbacks . . . to increasing density for virtually every Single Family Residence lot.   All important issues – and in some cases “hot-button” issues for Piedmont.

The multiple issues encompassed in this hydra-headed proposal should be dealt with separately, with appropriate opportunity for public input for each.

Staff was initially simply working on clean up language in the ordinance and a few zoning changes affecting the Grand Avenue commercial or civic area. Why have Single Family Residence changes been slipped in? Does the citywide impact on single family residences, commercial, and public property make a citywide vote necessary . . . . or at least desirable?

For those who have a few spare days to review it, the 535 page staff report is here:

http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/publicworks/docs/planning/ch17revisions/2016-11-10_report.pdf

 

Jan 25 2017

The City is in the process of developing a Request For Proposals (“RFP”) for a new Waste Collection service provider, and has retained R3 Consulting. My 1/15/2017 letter to Council is attached. I have requested an Age 70 Senior and Disabled “accommodation” to be included in any RFP; the accommodation is backyard service at curbside rate. This would be opt-in and you can default to curbside. I feel the small cost of this minor subsidy can be off-set if needed by (1) an overall slight total contract cost increase (2) a marginally higher backyard rate for non-seniors though overall a larger premium for backyard service is needed than our current contract, or (3) have a higher rate for zone E (> 20,000 to 100,000 + square feet) properties.

My research found the senior age 70/disabled accommodation in nine Marin County cities. On 1/17/17 Councilman Rood asked Garth Schultz of R3 Consulting about this as Schultz had included this in his slideshow to Council. Mr. Schultz stated this senior 70/disabled accommodation is “standard” and is offered in other venues when backyard service is otherwise not provided. The Senior 70/disabled accommodation is evidently quite normal.

While outside of Piedmont controlling costs for fixed income seniors seems nearly universal, Piedmont is entirely devoid of any senior cost considerations. Our School Tax exceeds other School taxes by minimally double to literally one hundred times, and many other school taxes having a senior exemption.

How to support the Senior 70/Disabled accommodation:
1. Attend the Thursday Feb. 2 7pm Town Hall meeting at the Veteran’s Hall to support the accommodation. This is a good opportunity.
2. Take the city survey and include the accommodation as a comment:http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/input-sought-on-waste-collection-contract/   I suggest also supporting curbside service as the default. This will keep overall cost down.
3. Write letters in support to the Piedmonter  jkawamoto@bayareanewsgroup.com or the Post atnews@piedmontpost.org   Keeping to 200 words increases publication chances.
4. Likely Council will approve the RFP early in March as it is scheduled to be issued March 13. A letter or better yet an appearance before Council is most effective.

A few other fundamentals concerning Waste Collection cost: to date the City survey on Waste Collection of 650+ responses shows 67% of residents supporting a curbside default. 45% of residents have been using the backyard service and 46% are willing to pay double for backyard over curbside; the current backyard premium is $5 monthly. On 10/17/2016 City Administrator Benoit reported to City Council that for Republic Services to continue “would require a significant rate increase, perhaps in the range of 30% to 40% (and) Republic Services could not sustain the current level of backyard service and that it would have to be substantially reduced.” Unmistakably, backyard service and the too low premium for it in our current contract is a major cost driver. My survey shows the backyard premium is often in the $15 monthly range or higher in other Cities.

Overall the R3 Consultant found Piedmont’s Waste Collection fee to be 20%+ higher though exact comparisons are sometimes difficult with different service packages in different Cities. While Piedmont’s Trash Collection is expensive, it is a comprehensive and appropriate package of services for Piedmont; I am hopeful most elements can be retained at a competitive cost and continuing good diversion rates for recycling. And the time is well past for backyard service at curbside rates for age 70 seniors and disabled.

Rick Schiller, Piedmont Resident

 Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Jan 14 2017

Transportation for youth recreation programs to end June 1, 2017.  Piedmont Recreation Department will continue to provide Summer transportation services.

~~~~~~~~~~~Letter from Recreation Director Lillevand

By now, many Piedmont residents have heard about my decision to eliminate the school-year transportation services currently provided by Piedmont Recreation Department (PRD).

As a working mom in a household with two full-time working parents, I truly appreciated heartfelt public comments in front of City Council on December 19. I understand the very real hardships associated with child care and the struggle to provide meaningful and enriching opportunities while at work. I understand the convenience, appeal and peace of mind that PRD transportation brings to working parents. I understand the feelings of frustration and anger that City sponsored classes will be more difficult to access without PRD transportation. I understand the shock of a mid school-year announcement and I acknowledge and take full responsibility for poor timing and communication of this decision.

I also understand my responsibility as the Director of Recreation to deliver a vast array of safe and cost effective programs to the Piedmont community. After two years of observation and analysis, I have come to the conclusion that while PRD transportation provides a unique and much appreciated service, PRD is not positioned to offer this service in a safe and efficient manner and therefore it is not in the best interest of the City to continue.

The primary reason for this decision is risk related. We are fully responsible for the safety of children in our care. It is one thing to be caring for them in our facilities and camps. It is another thing altogether to be transporting them throughout Piedmont and surrounding areas. Despite highly committed and attentive staff, the risk of injuring or losing track of a child is significant. Indeed, this past summer we inadvertently left a child at Lake Merritt. Fortunately, that story had a happy ending but these are the things that keep me awake at night.

Secondarily, there are substantial issues with logistics and the staffing effort required to deliver this service. Finally, but not insignificant is the financial deficit that the program incurs. The last two issues could be addressed with added staffing, better technology, and increased fees. The primary issue of risk and liability however is one that cannot be well addressed without a wholesale departmental focus on transportation.

While I understand that parents feel that their children’s opportunities will be limited or lost by the elimination of school-year transportation services, parents do have options.

  •  PRD’s Schoolmates program runs on school days from 7:30 am to 6:00 pm at each of the three elementary school sites with daily enrichment activities integrated in to its play-based program including arts, crafts, cooking, outdoor play and more. In elementary school, my children spent more weekday time with Schoolmates staff than they did with me. I have endless gratitude for the Schoolmates program and the remarkable staff who really knew my children and enriched their lives on a daily basis.
  •  After School Enrichment (ASE) classes sponsored by the school parent organizations are available at each elementary school site. As a side note, PRD’s transportation services began before the existence of parent club after school enrichment offerings when PRD’s programs were the only option for after school enrichment activities.PRD after school enrichment programs as now configured require vehicular transportation. Together with PRD staff, I am and will continue to explore options to retain access to our after school enrichment programs for all families. These efforts include: investigation of transportation alternatives; securing program locations at or very near Wildwood, Beach and Havens; and integrating additional enrichment activities in to Schoolmates.Our goal is to expand, enhance and improve recreation programs in Piedmont for all residents. We are not looking to restrict access or eliminate opportunities. I understand it feels like something valuable is being taken away. I assure you that PRD does and will always strive to serve working families. I believe and ask you to trust that elimination of this resource drain will actually open up possibilities for better services and programs to be delivered.Understanding the impact of this change, we have decided to extend after-school transportation services for five months through the end of the school year to June 1, 2017. PRD will continue to provide Summer transportation services.Thank you for your understanding as we at PRD strive to evolve in ways that maximize efficiency of our limited resources to best serve the wonderful Piedmont Community.Sincerely,

    Sara Lillevand Director of Recreation –         358 Hillside Avenue, Piedmont, California 94611 (510) 420-3070

    December 30, 2016