Aug 2 2020

All Piedmont properties are potentially impacted.

A first reading of a newly proposed ordinance for vegetation controls for all Piedmont properties will be considered Monday, August 3, 2020, 6:00 p.m., by the Piedmont City Council.

The proposed fire code ordinance broadens requirements to include all of Piedmont, rather than specifically identified high fire hazard areas.  California state law requires property owners in high fire hazard, wildland-urban border areas to maintain a 30 feet of open space cleared of vegetable fuel surrounding their homes, barns, garages and other structures. 

The vast majority of Piedmont dwellings do not have a 30 foot open space perimeter between their homes, so it is not possible to have 30 feet of defensible space as specified in the ordinance. The City policy of allowing reductions in distances between neighboring structures presents a fire safety threat unaddressed in the ordinance.

Piedmont’s Park Commission, Planning Commission, and Public Safety Committee have not been presented as advisors with the ordinance prior to the Council consideration. Landscaping, planting choices, and safety are regularly agendized by the commissions and committee. 

“The City’s recommendations were developed with extensive research by staff including consultation with the State Fire Marshal’s Office as well as CalFIRE Planning and Land-use personnel. The specific elements of the Fuel Reduction and Vegetation Management standards were developed from National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the California Fire Code, and extensive review of policies and practices from other regional jurisdictions as noted in Attachment B.” City Administrator report linked below

Items included in the proposed new ordinance:

a. Cut down, remove, or reduce any hazardous vegetation or combustible material. Hazardous vegetation or combustible materials include, but are not limited to weeds, grass, vines, leaves, brush, diseased or dead trees, combustible growth, debris, or rubbish capable of being ignited and endangering property.

b. Maintain a defensible space of at least 30 feet from the perimeter of each building or structure located on a parcel. The size of the defensible space area may be increased or decreased by the fire code official based on site-specific analysis of local conditions, which include, but are not limited to, considerations of: the size of the property, whether the property is located on a steep slope, whether property located in an exposed windswept location, the fire risk that the vegetation surrounding the property poses, the proximity of adjacent structures and risk to such adjacent structures, and whether the vegetation surrounding the property is regularly maintained or pruned. A responsible person is not required to manage vegetation located beyond the property line of the subject parcel.

c. Maintain any space that is within 3 feet from a roadway clear of any flammable vegetation, and maintain a 15-foot vertical clearance, free of vegetation, above roadways including streets, driveways and rights-of-way.

d. Remove or trim any vegetation that is deemed by the Fire Marshal to impede emergency vehicle access.

e. Remove all portions of trees within 10 feet of functioning chimneys or stovepipe outlets.

f. Maintain the roof and gutters free of leaves, needles, or other dead/dying wood.

g. Remove brush and tree limbs that are within six feet of the ground from mature trees.

h. Remove flammable vegetation and limbs from trees that may pose a fire and/or safety hazard to the home or property.

i. Install a spark arrestor on functioning chimneys or stovepipe outlets.

2. Vacant parcels. For any vacant parcel in the city, each responsible person for such parcel shall ensure that vegetation on the parcel is maintained in accordance with the requirements below. Each responsible person shall: Attachment A Agenda Report

a. For parcels with an acreage that is 0.5 acres or less, the responsible person shall clear the entire lot of flammable vegetation and maintain it to a height of 6 inches or less.

b. For parcels with an acreage that is greater than 0.5 acres, clear the area that is one hundred feet along the perimeter of the property line of flammable vegetation and maintain such vegetation to a height of 6 inches or less. A responsible person is not required to manage vegetation located beyond the property line.

c. Maintain any space that is within 3 feet from a roadway clear of any flammable vegetation, and maintain a 15 foot vertical clearance, free of vegetation above roadways including streets, driveways and rights-of-way.

d. Remove flammable vegetation and limbs from trees that may pose a fire and/or safety hazard from the property.

e. Remove brush and tree limbs that are within six feet of the ground from mature trees.

3. Penalties. Violations of this section shall be subject to penalties. Penalty amount may be established by resolution of the City Council. If penalty amounts have not been established by resolution of the City Council, violations of this section shall be punishable by fine in the amounts specified in Government Code section 51185.

8.14.060 Definitions. In this division:

Defensible Space means the area adjacent to a structure or dwelling where wildfire prevention or protection practices are implemented to provide defense from an approaching wildfire or to minimize the spread of a structure fire to wildlands or surrounding areas, as provided in Government Code section 51177(a).

Flammable vegetation means: (1) vegetation, brush, or grasses, which is dry, dead, or dying and which is over six inches in height; or (2) vegetation which has a high resin or sap content including but not limited to Arborvitae, California Bay, Cedar, Cypress, Douglas Fir, Eucalyptus, Fir, Juniper, Palm, Pine, Spruce, Yew, California buckwheat, California sagebrush, Chamise or greasewood, Laurel sumac, Manzanita, Pampas grass, Rosemary, Scotch broom, Spanish Broom, Sugar bush, and Toyon and which is over six inches in height.

Responsible person means any natural person or a corporate entity that is the owner, occupant, lessor, lessee, manager, licensee, or other person having physical or legal control over a structure or parcel of land.

READ > Designating Very High Fire Severity Zones and Adding Additional Fuel Reduction and Vegetation Management Requirements to the City Code 

Oakland’s approach.

Oakland homes adjacent to the East Bay Regional Parklands are instructed to:

30 feet of Lean, Clean and Green

  • Remove all dead plants, grass, weeds and overgrown brush.
  • Clean leaves, needles, and debris from roofs and rain gutters.
  • Keep tree branches 10 feet away from chimney, roof and other trees.
  • Move firewood and fuel tanks 30 feet from house.
  • Remove all items from under deck. Do not use this space for storage.
  • Fire harden your home. Install fine wire mesh over roof, eave and foundation vents.

Piedmont does not border on East Bay Regional Parklands.  Oakland provides an exception for specimens of trees, ornamental shrubbery, and ornamental ground cover even on the Wildlife-Urban border.

City of Oakland Section 4907 Defensible Space – Amend Section 4907 as follows:

Add: 4907.2 Defensible Space. Persons owning, leasing, controlling, operating or maintaining buildings or structures in, upon or adjoining the Wildland-Urban Interface Fire Area and persons owning, leasing or controlling land adjacent to such buildings or structures, shall:

Maintain an effective 30-foot defensible space by removing and clearing away flammable vegetation and combustible growth from structures.

Exception: Single specimens of trees, ornamental shrubbery or similar plants used as ground covers, provided that they do not form a means of rapidly transmitting fire from the native growth to any structure.

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READ the proposed Piedmont ordinance below:

Introduction and 1st Reading of Ord. 755 N.S. Designating Very High Fire Severity Zones and Adding Additional Fuel Reduction and Vegetation Management Requirements to the City Code
AGENDA https://piedmont.ca.gov/UserFiles/Servers/Server_13659739/File/Government/City%20Council/Agenda/council-current-agenda.pdf
1 Comment »
Aug 2 2020

Consideration of a Resolution Stating the City of Piedmont’s Unequivocal Rejection of Racism and Directing that the Black Lives Matter Flag be Flown During the Month of August 2020

Piedmont takes a stand for Black Lives Matter –

In addition to making clear statements of anti-racist intent, the attached resolution directs staff to fly the Black Lives Matter flag during the month of August. 

…..WHEREAS, systemic and institutional racism, spread and perpetuated through overt actions and unconscious bias, has taken a large toll on Black people in our community and across the nation; and

WHEREAS, many in Piedmont have recently come to understand that in order to do our part to unravel systemic racism we must take a proactive anti-racism stance; and

WHEREAS, we must listen to those who have endured centuries of discrimination and exclusion as they share the truth of their lived experiences; and we must seek solutions to remedy racial harm; and

WHEREAS, we are committed to fostering a safe, inclusive and civil community through our policies, our programming, and our leadership; we stand firm in our collective belief that a safe and civil environment for all across Piedmont is paramount; and

WHEREAS, we stand in support of all in our community, honoring and protecting every person regardless of race, creed, color, gender, religion, ethnicity, nationality, ability, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity;……

READ the full staff report and Resolution by clicking below:

PCA Consideration of a Resolution Stating the City of Piedmont’s Unequivocal Rejection of Racism and Directing that the Black Lives Matter Flag be Flown during the Month of August 2020

 

Jul 31 2020

Transfer Tax increase, as proposed, requires only a majority of voters to support the tax rather than 2/3rds required voter approval of identified purposes.

“Our facilities maintenance fund, which was established in 2003 to address ongoing and deferred maintenance of city owned facilities, has very little planned funding within our budget beyond FY 2019- 2020. The committee has recommended in previous budget analyses that in the near term (over the next 5 –10 years), minimum additional funding of approximately $850,000 per year is needed just to maintain the existing condition of City buildings, parks, streets and sidewalks.”  Report of the Piedmont Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee, June 2020.

The lack of steady funding for Facilities Maintenance has been the sole justification offered by the Committee and City Council for the proposed increase in the Real Property Transfer Tax headed for the November 2020 ballot.  The Committee warns the transfer tax will be a flat $2.8M for the next 10 years and recommends raising the tax to bring in $950,000 annually to address the maintenance “deficit.”   Make no mind of the fact that the transfer tax averaged $3.4M over the past decade and is projected to reach $4.5M by 2030.  The Facilities Maintenance fund currently has a balance of $5M and this year’s transfer tax was $3.5M.

Assume the Committee is right.  If so, then why is there a such huge loophole in the resolution authorizing the tax for expenditures other than facility maintenance?  The resolution notes the dire state of Piedmont facilities: “The increase in such tax is made necessary due to aging infrastructure which is escalating operating costs that outpace the growth of City revenues;” yet goes on to state:

“The tax would apply to the sale of real property until ended by the voters; and revenues from the tax could be used for any legitimate governmental purpose; this measure is not a commitment to any particular action or purpose. The tax is a general tax and shall be approved if the measure receives at least a simple majority of affirmative votes.”

“Not a commitment to any particular action or purpose.”  So the new tax can be used for anything – salaries and benefits, new equipment, project overruns.  The real reason for that clause may be to lower the vote needed for the measure to pass – general taxes only need a simple majority to pass.

Garrett Keating

Piedmont Resident

2 Comments »
Jul 31 2020

The Piedmont Unified School District will close the Witter Athletic Complex at 6:00 am on Monday, August 3rd until further notice. The Complex includes Witter Field, the baseball and softball fields, the batting cages, and the Witter Field House restrooms.

This closure is due to persistent lack of compliance with the Alameda County Public Health Department’s Shelter in Place orders. Despite repeated warnings from District staff, users of the Witter Complex have continued to play group sports in violation of COVID-19 health orders.

Similar issues led the City of Piedmont to close the Linda Beach Playfield last week. The District regrets having to take this action and the inconvenience this may cause the community. Nonetheless, continued lack of compliance on both City and District fields poses a serious public health risk, necessitating these closures. The District will work with the City and County to determine when it is safe and appropriate to reopen the Witter Complex.

Questions or comments? Please contact Director of Facilities Pete Palmer at ppalmer@piedmont.k12.ca.us

2 Comments »
Jul 31 2020

The Bell Schedule Committee convened, developed, and found consensus on
the following daily bell schedules in response to the COVID-19 learning
landscape (both distance learning and in-person learning models) and ultimately,
the Board’s adopted parameters.
● Students will attend classes (either in a distance learning or in-person
learning model) 4-5 days per week under a specific schedule that
incorporates both daily synchronous and asynchronous learning
opportunities.
● Minimum Instructional Minutes:

■ 180 minutes of daily instruction for transitional kindergarten
and kindergarten students (as required by Ed. Code
43501(a)).
■ 230 minutes of daily instruction for 1st – 3rd grade students
(as required by Ed. Code 43501(b)).
■ 240 minutes of daily instruction for 4th – 12th grade
students (as required by AB 77: 43501(c)).
■ Daily attendance recorded for distance learning sessions
(as required by Ed. Code 43504 (d) (1))
● 30 minute duty-free lunch for teachers and staff.

REVISED JULY 29, 2020

● Grades K-5, a teachers’ direct instruction (any combination of in-person
and synchronous teaching) cannot exceed 1200 min per week.
● Grades 6-12, a teachers’ direct instruction (in-person, or synchronous)
cannot exceed 20 hours per week.
● Elementary teachers will be provided with a minimum of 1 hour of
preparation time per day.
● Secondary teachers (1.0FTE) will be provided with no less than 475
minutes of prep per week.
● At the secondary level, schedules will include a 10 minute passing period.

Jul 31 2020

School Board Candidate Hari Titan Asks For Community Input on In-School Versus Distance Learning, Virus Transmission Mitigation, 14 day Quarantines for COVID – 19 Positive, and More

I’m conducting a survey that is open to all community members in Piedmont regarding how schools should open under ideal circumstances.
This new survey goes into the substantive decisions being made by the school district and seeks to find out how the public would have decided things.
The results of this survey will be easily interpretable and will be shared with participants and the school board.
The survey is here:  bit.ly/2020ReopenSurvey
Thank you for your participation.
Hari Titan
Candidate for the Piedmont Unified School District Board of Trustees
Editors Note:  This is an independent survey apart from the Piedmont Civic Association. PCA does not support or oppose candidates for public office.  Participation in the survey is completely at the discretion of participants.  PCA has not screened the questions and takes no responsibility for the future use of any information provided on the survey, including names or email addresses. 
Jul 31 2020
Do not play if you have any symptoms of Covid-19, have been around anyone with symptoms, or played at another Pickleball venue where someone has contracted covid.   
– NEW PROTOCOL: Singles only.  No doubles, no family doubles.   
– Maintain minimal six feet at all times. Move away from the paddles and the sanitizer; do not congregate. Stay away from the net as much as possible while playing.
– Play only with balls and paddles you bring. It is suggested that you mark and play with your own ball. Kick or hit your opponent’s ball back to them.
– Lined up paddles on the fence determine order of play. Both players come off if others are waiting. If you come with a partner or family to play, limit your play to 15 minutes or one game if others are waiting.
– Masks are required while playing and waiting.
– Leave your bag in one spot for the duration of your play and six feet away from other bags.
– Sanitize after each game, sanitizer is provided.
– Bring water as the water fountains are close. The bathrooms are closed.
– No basketball or other use of the courts. Inform other users that City and School District policy is no other activity.
– The gates will be opened by designated players only. If you leave the courts and no one else is playing, be absolutely sure that all gates are locked. Put the jug of hand sanitizer back in the metal box, lock the box, remove the key ring and put the keys in the small combination box hanging on the right. Close it and spin the dials.
– Both follow and enforce the protocols.

Play is at the Piedmont Middle School (“PMS”) courts only:
9am – 1pm Mon Wed Fri Sat Sun
4pm – 6pm Tue Thur

PMS is located at 742 Magnolia Ave, Piedmont. Take the steps down to the right of the gym and the courts are down the hill behind the school. Because of major school construction parking on Magnolia will be congested.
Jul 30 2020

Piedmont would become the first city in California to require existing residences to make retrofits when spending $25,000 on home improvement projects, including kitchen or bath updates.   Berkeley and San Francisco require all electric for new construction, but not for existing homes.

July 20, 2020 was the first time the Council had considered the proposed REACH CODE ordinance.

In a split vote, three City Council members, Vice Mayor Teddy King, Councilmember Jennifer Cavenaugh, and Councilmember Tim Rood, approved the first reading of the REACH energy program designed to wean Piedmonters off of natural gas.  Mayor Robert McBain and Councilmember Betsy Andersen voted against the first reading of the comprehensive ordinance.    Older buildings undergoing a major remodel or new buildings will be the most impacted by the new ordinance.   The second and final reading of the proposed ordinance was expected for August 3, 2020, however the REACH codes are not on the agenda for that meeting.

On its website for days prior to the Piedmont meeting, the Sierra Club stated,  “All Alameda County residents are urged to join this virtual public meeting to give public comment in support of this electrification ordinance. Building electrification is an essential strategy to curb climate and air pollution.”  Sierra Club speakers did participate at the July 20 meeting.  The Sierra Club opposes cooking with gas, not only in homes, but also in restaurants.

The propane gas industry sent two speakers, and various individuals who helped develop the proposed ordinance encouraged the Council to improve it or adopt the ordinance as proposed. 

One or more speakers were less enthusiastic and raised issues of costs, practicality for life conditions, and concerns over commercial and municipal property not being included.  One speaker stated, “It seems the city should start with their own facilities.” 

Councilmember Andersen questioned why the ordinance had not been reviewed by the Planning Commission stating this would give the residents of Piedmont a greater opportunity to consider and participate in the omnibus ordinance impacting Piedmont homes. Additional, information was requested regarding the cost impact to homeowners.

Mayor McBain was concerned that the $25,000 threshold for ordinance compliance was too low and suggested a higher possible $50,000 threshold.

Rood, Cavenaugh, and King praised the staff for involving the public in outreach to form the comprehensive ordinance meeting Piedmont’s Climate Action Plan goals.  There were no changes made to the proposed ordinance provisions, and the ordinance first reading was approved as proposed by the three affirmative votes.

Unresolved questions raised by the public and council were:

  • What is considered cost-effective?
  • Why wasn’t the Planning Commission asked to review the ordinance?
  • What exceptions are allowed under the ordinance?
  • Why are the exceptions not included in the ordinance?
  • Will the Planning and Building staff be making the exception decisions?
  • Was specific consideration given to Piedmont’s many older homes ill fitted for retrofits?
  • Where would the required heat pump be placed on a property?
  • What happens to homes heated by radiators or radiant heat?
  • Why are City, School, and commercial buildings excluded from the ordinance requirements?
  • Should City facilities set the example first and then require homes to comply?
  • Is a 30 year amortization period realistic for expensive energy improvements?
  • What is the expected cost for required improvements of various ages and sizes of homes?
  • Will homeowners be discouraged from making improvements because of significant added costs or evade city permits?
  • What happens if your furnace goes out in the middle of winter and you do not have time to install a required solar system?
  • How much will it cost to administer the ordinance?
  • How was it determined that $25,000 on improvements, such as a new kitchen, would trigger ordinance compliance?

READ the 2020 Ordinance 1st Reading of Ords. 750 & 751 NS Reach Codes & Energy Audit Policy

Piedmont staff described the specific proposed requirements as follows:

  • Newly constructed low-rise residential buildings, including new detached accessory dwelling units (ADUs), must use all electric building appliances.
  • Projects proposing an entire new upper level on a low-rise residential building, or that increase a low-rise residential building’s total roof area by 30% or more, are required to install solar panels on their roof.
  • A housing renovation on a low-rise residential building, that costs $25,000 or more, will require the applicant to include one item from a list of energy efficient insulation or electrification fixes (renovations of $100,000 or more must include two). Multiple items are cost-effective.

The City Council also considered other amendments to the Building Code and policy changes that, while not Reach Codes,  help reduce natural gas use. They are:

  • An application for an electrical panel upgrade must include space in the panel to accommodate future electrification of all building appliances.
  • Kitchen and laundry area renovations must include electrical outlets to allow for future electrification.
  • Requiring completion of a Home Energy Score or Audit (homeowner’s choice) when listing for sale of a property or submitting an application for a design review permit.

Proposed Title 24 amendments (“Reach Codes”), the City Council were considered at the July 20 Council meeting. The first reading was on July 20 and the second reading was expected on August 3, yet is not on the agenda. 

At its regular meeting on July 20th, the Piedmont City Council considered the first reading of an ordinance implementing reach codes, which are amendments to state’s Building Energy Efficiency Standards and state Electrical Code which are designed to promote efficient building methods in homes in Piedmont. The Council considered an ordinance requiring home energy audits under certain circumstances. Click to read the Agenda Report for this item, which includes the proposed ordinances, as well as links to background documents and details on the public outreach. The agenda report and Ordinance 750 N.S. were updated and posted effective July 15, 2020. The update includes typographical corrections in the report and the inclusion of amendments to City Code section 8.02.020 in the ordinance.

The Council was slated to take this issue up at its meeting of July 6th, but due to the importance of the issue and the lateness of the hour, decided to continue consideration to its July 20th regular meeting when a first reading of the ordinance was approved.

These measures are being proposed because Piedmont’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) 2.0 calls for the community to reduce its annual greenhouse gas emissions from the building, transportation, waste, and wastewater sectors, combined, from about 38,000 metric tons of CO2e in 2017 to just 9,800 metric tons in 2050. Currently, a large percentage of Piedmont’s emissions come from natural gas appliances in buildings, especially gas furnaces and water heaters. To meet CAP goals, the Piedmont community must decrease natural gas use in buildings by improving insulation, and by switching out natural gas appliances for electric appliances powered by renewable energy.

Read complete City of Piedmont press release here.

First Reading approved by the City Council >  – 2020 Ordinance 1st Reading of Ords. 750 & 751 NS Reach Codes & Energy Audit Policy

10 Comments »
Jul 30 2020

A significant percentage of Piedmonters are out of town and are unaware of the impacts.

 Dear Piedmonters,

I appeal to you to join me in lobbying our elected city leaders for an extension of time (beyond August 3rd) for the  second reading of the recently proposed Ordinances 750 and 751 (aka the “Reach Codes) for a variety of reasons including:

1)      Because the impact of these proposed ordinance affects all of Piedmont’s property owners, I believe it would be very welcomed and appropriate for the city to make a special effort to communicate these proposed ordinances to all Piedmont citizens.

2)      It’s my sense that a combination factors (e.g. COVID-19 and the summer season) results in a significant percentage of Piedmonters out of town and unaware of the Piedmont Posts’s  July 22nd reporting on the Reach Codes    In addition, those that have read the codes may find (as I do) that more time is needed to responsibly reflect upon the proposed ordinance and render productive feedback to our elected city leaders.

The benefits of achieving a broad awareness of the proposed Reach Codes, and the benefits of receiving constructive feedback from citizens and homeowners supports allowing more time before the second reading.

The text of the proposed ordinance can be found here:  https://piedmont.ca.gov/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=16846499

Thank you for your consideration

Dai Meagher, Piedmont Resident

4 Comments »
Jul 26 2020

Interested in running for the School Board or the City Council?

It’s Time to File!

On November 3, 2020 Piedmont voters will support or reject the $19 million Municipal Pool Bond Measure, increase the Real Property Transfer Tax when selling their homes,  and choose the future City Council and School Board.

Piedmont voters who are interested in seeking election or reelection to public office on the City Council or School Board must file their candidacy documents by August 7.  City Clerk John Tulloch must be contacted to learn specifically what documents must be completed.  Contact # 510/420-3040

 Nomination Filing Period ends August 7, 2020

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Real Property Transfer Tax Increase and Pool Bond Measure for New Aquatics Center

Piedmonters wanting to file an argument for or against the Real Property Transfer Tax Increase or the Municipal Aquatics Center bond measure must meet the deadlines by contacting the City Clerk. 

Contact City Clerk John O. Tulloch at 510/420-3040 for updated information, dates, and specific qualifications to file an argument for or against the ballot measures.

Deadline for Direct Arguments on Measures – August 14, 2020 ?

 Deadline for Rebuttal Arguments on Measures – August 21, 2020 ?

Two seats on the City Council  will be elected on November 3.   Mayor Robert McBain having served two 4 year terms is not eligible to seek re-election.   Council member Jen Cavenaugh has taken out papers for another 4 year term.  Conna McCarthy has filed her City Council candidacy papers. Connie Herrick and  N.”Sunny” Rhodes Bostrom-Fleming have taken out candidate papers.

Three positions on the School Board will be chosen. Two School Board members, Andrea Swenson and Sarah Pearson, will  have served two 4 year terms and are not eligible to seek re-election. A third School Board member, Cory Smegal, is eligible to be re-elected to another 4 year term.  Those who have taken out papers as of this date for the School Board are: Veronica Anderson, Hilary Cooper, Jason Kelley, Hari Titan, Dr. James Crawford-Jakubiak, and N. “Sunny” Rhodes Bostrom-Fleming.

Sunny Bostrom-Fleming, who has taken out papers for both the School Board and the City Council, will only be allowed to file papers for one of the positions.

For the most updated information on candidates, click below:

https://piedmont.ca.gov/cms/one.aspx?portalId=13659823&pageId=16885057

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Staff report: Approval of a Resolution Setting Procedural Details for the General Municipal Election of November 3, 2020

SECTION 7. There shall be no filing fee for candidates for office in the General Municipal Election.

SECTION 8. The candidates’ statements shall be limited to a maximum of 200 words.

SECTION 10. The nominations for the General Municipal Election are open and close no later than 5:00 pm on August 7, 2020, unless extended pursuant to Elections Code Section 10225.

For all election related questions, contact City Clerk John O. Tulloch at 510/420-3040.