Dec 12 2023

Open Letter to Piedmont Planning Director Kevin Jackson

Dear Planning Director Jackson,

I attended the November 30 community workshop about the proposed Moraga Canyon housing project.  You and I spoke about several issues, and you welcomed me to send you follow-up observations.  I am concerned about the project’s isolation, the low-income residents’ separation, and the willingness of the project’s managers to incorporate community feedback into the plans.

The first part of the community meeting was a presentation by City staff and the project planning consultants to describe the project and its four options.  Then, the assembled people were invited to speak one-on-one to various project team members at poster-board stations along the perimeter of the room.  No opportunity was given for workshop attendees to question the project planners as a group.  General questions about the overall nature of the project would not be answered by staff personnel who were designated to discuss specific options at individual poster-board stations.  This gave me and several other people the feeling that the City isn’t really interested in hearing and addressing our concerns.

I am concerned about the isolation of the 132 new units planned for the Moraga area.  There is no “urban fabric” connecting that location with the rest of Piedmont, except for the heavily-trafficked Moraga Ave.  Walkers or bike riders would not see other Piedmont houses for over a quarter mile.  Isolation may be a more severe problem for residents of the 60 subsidized units who may not have cars available for both going to work and for shopping or going to school.  This problem could be mitigated if the City were to operate a shuttle bus, similar to the shuttles that Emeryville operates to and from the MacArthur BART station.  A Piedmont shuttle could take residents down Moraga, along Piedmont Ave., across MacArthur to Grand Ave., up Grand to Oakland Ave., up Oakland to the City Center, and then along Highland back to Moraga.  Connection to the BART station might even be included in the route.  The City could operate the shuttle for the first five years, and then evaluate whether the amount of ridership justifies continuing, perhaps with support from passenger fees.  This solution was mentioned when we spoke at the meeting, Mr. Jackson, so I am reminding you now and requesting that it be given serious consideration.

A more serious problem is the planned separation of the below-market units from the market-rate units.  This is a terrible idea that will have dangerous consequences.   It would create a low-income “ghetto” in the midst of high-income housing.  Low-income residents would be stigmatized whenever there was a problem like graffiti, or trash, or theft.  The higher-income residents would instinctively blame any grime or crime on “those people” living in the separate, nearby buildings.  Numerous studies have shown that when lower-income people are physically integrated into a higher-income housing project discrimination is minimized.  Indeed, the lower-income residents become better integrated into the community, and their own economic circumstances improve faster than those living in separated housing.

While you agreed that integration was a good idea, Mr. Jackson, you contended that separation was necessary because the subsidized housing had to be built as a separate project.  This was not my experience when I developed housing for low and moderate income people, financed by both Federal and State programs, a few decades ago.  Section 8’s below-market rental housing units were part of a larger market-rate project financed through HUD (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development).  There was no physical difference between the rental units.  A local non-profit corporation bought the project from a for-profit developer who gained the tax-shelter benefits from selling designated subsidized units at below-market rates.

In Piedmont’s project, some of the 132 units could be sold to individuals (72 at market rate, 60 at below-market rate), with unsold units being sold to a non-profit agency which would rent the market-rate units and the subsidized units together, with no physical distinction among the units.  They would be seamlessly included within the 132-unit project.  No ghetto.  No separation.  There are many different ways to finance such mixed-income projects – direct subsidies, tax credits, a combination of county, State and Federal funding, perhaps even some philanthropy.

We discussed this possibility at the community meeting and you asserted that an integrated project was not feasible; there would have to be two separate projects.  I implore you to go back and investigate State and Federal subsidy programs more thoroughly.  Creating a new housing community that separates residents by their economic status creates a danger that will cost our City financially and socially in the decades to come.

I hope you, the planning consultants, and the City Council act on these concerns productively, and demonstrate that you do respond to community residents’ feedback.


Bruce Joffe, Piedmont Resident

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Dec 11 2023

Dear City Council Members,

I recently became aware that the City Council is preparing to ask Piedmont’s voters to approve a Municipal Services Special Tax in March 2024.  I am troubled by two aspects of this proposal.  
1.  It appears that the Council wishes to characterize this as a “renewal” of the tax, when in fact it is a “renewal and increase” (a substantial one, at that – 20%).  The Council needs to be honest about the increase. 
2.  While usually these taxes have been for 4-year periods, and four years is the duration recommended by the Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee, the Council proposes a TWELVE-year term. This effectively removes the Council’s accountability to the voters.  I urge the Council to approve a 4-year term, not the proposed 12-year term.

The last time I checked, the tax burden in Piedmont was among the highest in the Bay Area. We have a host of taxes, including paying for the new pool, and we can anticipate that another special tax will be needed for public safety improvements.  Particularly in this environment, the Council needs to remain accountable to the voters.  Ask for a municipal services special tax, but be clear about the increase and hold the term to four years.  If you don’t make these course corrections, you will risk voters rejecting the special tax, as happened in the past with the overreaching sewer tax.

Kathleen Quenneville, Piedmont Resident
Editors’ Note:  Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Sep 28 2023

Safety is an escalating concern. Please take a moment to complete the survey below.

Piedmont City Council

Aug 28 2023

Tiny Forests are a Bargain, Typical Cost Equals 5 Street Trees

While Piedmont removed a block-long tree canopy for a public construction project, ecologically concerned communities are demanding “tiny forests” in addition to preservation of the tree canopy.

Tiny Forests are created by sowing multiple layers in a dense arrangement of shrub and canopy plantings.  “The plants compete for resources as they race toward the sun …”  reports the New York Times.  Woodlands and healthy canopies absorb carbon dioxide, but tiny forests multiply the ecological effect on little land, absorbing storm water, suppressing weeds, remaining lush through droughts, and “grow as quickly as ten times the speed of conventional tree plantations.”  In Cambridge, MA 1400 shrubs and saplings grow in a basketball size plot after only 2 years.

New York Times, 8/27/2023

Adding a tiny forest to a community with a sufficient tree canopy provides a boost to the reduction of the community carbon footprint.  It should never be a choice between a tiny forest and the protection of a neighborhood tree canopy.  Street trees are also important for healthy communities.  Tree canopies

  • Remove pollutants from the air, soil and water
  • Release cool the surrounding areas, mitigating the urban heat island effect
  • Intercept rainfall and reduce stormwater runoff
  • Provide shade and reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • Provide carbon sequestration
  • Aesthetic effect Increases adjacent property values


Jul 5 2023
The following letter was sent today to all school parents, teachers, and staff members.

Dear Students, Parents, Friends and Colleagues,

Today, it is with great pleasure that I officially join the Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) team as your new Superintendent. I recognize the profound importance of this role, and the trust you have placed in me, and I am fully committed to ensuring the highest quality educational experience where every student feels a sense of belonging in order to achieve and thrive to the fullest potential. And, I confess, I am simply thrilled to get started after my appointment at the March 8th Board meeting.  It is wonderful to finally be here.

I am excited to share an update on our new leadership team, which began under Dr. Donald Evans and finalized at our most recent Board meeting.  We are so fortunate to have Melissa Daymond as our new Principal at Wildwood, Ariel Dolowich as our new Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, and Joseph Marik as our new Assistant Principal of Piedmont High School.  We have also promoted Irma Muñoz to Principal of Millennium High School and Jean Takazawa with an expanded role as our new DEIB Director.  My thanks to Dr. Evans and staff for our collaboration on these leadership changes over the last several months. I am confident in our new team’s ability to build upon the PUSD tradition of excellence.

Over the next several months, I look forward to connecting with our school community to listen and learn how we best serve our students. You may already know that serving students is my “north star,” and I am a believer in creating an environment where honest and open communication is valued, and all voices are heard.  To this end, I look forward to working with our Board, students, staff, parents and community members.  We are better together, and it is, indeed, joyful work.

I would also like to acknowledge the opportunities and challenges ahead. I have already begun the process of taking a deep dive into our district data in all areas:  academic achievement, social-emotional wellness, financial and other key data.  While I can see so many positives and opportunities from our data points, I can also see that we have work to do in some areas, with heightened attention on our budget.  To that end, I look forward to working with our Board and school community to develop a strategic plan that builds on the work our Board started last year with our new Vision, Mission and Core Values.  Defining our priorities will ultimately drive our success, and our students deserve nothing less.  I will close by sharing my deep sense of optimism about our work together to provide the finest education for our students.  Let’s begin.


Jennifer Hawn, Ed.D.


May 7 2023

Budget Advisory & Financial Planning Committee

Tuesday, May 9, 2023 6:00 p.m.

Police Emergency Operations Center, 403 Highland Avenue, Piedmont

A broadcast of the meeting will not take place. Minutes are not kept of the meetings.  The public can attend the meeting and, if desired, may make visual and audio recordings of the meeting. 

No meeting materials, such as the Budget and Financial Plan, were publicly distributed with the meeting announcement. Materials should be publicly available at the meeting.

Regular Agenda

1. Fiscal Year 2022-2023 Financial Update

2. Review Proposed Fiscal Year 2023-2024 Budget and Consideration of FY 2023-2024 Budget Report

3. Review Long Range Financial Plan

4. Review of Public Safety Dispatch Staffing

Announcements, old business and consideration of future agenda items .

Materials related to an item on this agenda submitted to the Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee are available for public inspection in the Finance Department during normal business hours.


Michael Szczech
Finance Director
City of Piedmont
(510) 420-3045

Any member of the public who needs accommodations should email the City Clerk at or call (510) 420- 3040 who will make their best efforts to provide reasonable accommodations to provide as much accessibility as possible while also maintaining public safety in accordance with the City procedure for resolving reasonable accommodation requests. Information about reasonable accommodations is available on the City website at Notification at least two business days preceding the meeting will enable the City to make reasonable arrangements to ensure accessibility to this meeting. [28 CFR 35.102-35.104 ADA Title II]

In accordance with G.C. Sec. 54954.2(a) this notice and agenda were posted on the City Hall bulletin board and also in the Piedmont Police Department on Friday May 5, 2023. 

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May 7 2023

Last week, Piedmont elementary school kids enjoyed multiple sessions of P.E. class on the Linda Beach pickleball courts.  In this photo, local kids are learning pickleball from volunteer instructors from the Piedmont and Oakland communities.

The Linda Beach courts are currently available for pickleball use by the schools and the public during a several month trial being conducted by the Piedmont Recreation Department.  At the end of the trial, the Piedmont Recreation Commission and City Council will decide whether the use of the Linda Beach courts exclusively for pickleball will be made permanent.  Use of the courts by Piedmont school kids will continue throughout the trial and, hopefully, become permanent.

Pickleball is the nation’s fastest growing sport.  The International Federation of Pickleball currently has at least 70 member nations and is striving for inclusion of pickleball as an Olympic sport, possibly as early as 2028.  According to the Sports Fitness Industry Association’s 2022 Pickleball Report, a third of pickleball players are under age 25.  The current number one rated pickleball players in the world are Ben Johns, a now 24-year-old who converted from tennis to pickleball at age 17, and Anna Leigh Waters, a now 16-year-old who went pro at age 12.  Both are reeling in substantial tournament winnings and endorsement deals.

Former Piedmont High School and professional tennis player, Brad Gilbert, recently told ABC News, “I do see the sport [pickleball] growing because of how much quicker the learning curve to play.”  Brad Gilbert coached the former tennis great Andre Agassi, who has now become a pickleball convert.  Agassi, Michael Chang, John McEnroe and Andy Roddick recently played in a pickleball event with a million dollar purse.

According to a recent article on, part of the huge rise in pickleball participation is due to the increased inclusion of pickleball in schools’ athletic curriculums and at summer camps.  In another referenced article, soccer star Alex Morgan rued the decline in kids’ interest in sports, noting that 70 percent of kids in the U.S. stop playing sports by age 13.  Morgan urged the prioritization of funding for municipal infrastructure allowing for low-cost participation by kids in sports that are “fun.”  Pickleball meets both criteria.  Municipalities across the nation are racing to meet the growing demand for pickleball facilities.

The Piedmont Pickleball Committee hopes that one or more of these happy youngsters enjoying pickleball at the Linda Beach courts will become a star on a future Piedmont High School Pickleball Team and/or the next Ben Johns or Anna Leigh Waters.  At the very least, they will learn a sport which is low cost, fun and can be continued throughout their lifetimes.”

by Jeff Trowbridge, Piedmont Pickleball Committee

May 7 2023

City staff  seek community members to help create a plan for electrifying
Piedmont’s residential buildings.

The City staff of Piedmont is soliciting letters of interest from community members willing to serve on a task force that would help develop a plan for how to electrify Piedmont’s existing residential buildings. 

Submit letters of interest by Tuesday, May 16th

The Building Electrification Strategy Task Force, appointed by the City Administrator, not the City Council, will work with staff to better understand existing barriers to home electrification and create a strategic framework for equitably moving Piedmont’s building stock off of natural gas.

Residential building electrification essential for meeting Climate Action goals
Transitioning Piedmont’s existing residential buildings from natural gas to clean electricity as
soon as possible is crucial for meeting the ambitious emission reduction targets established by
the City’s Climate Action Plan.

Despite substantial investment in climate action work – which has earned a Beacon Spotlight
Award for Sustainability Best Practices from the Institute for Local Government for two
consecutive years – Piedmont is not presently on track to meet its greenhouse gas emissions
reduction goals.

Most emissions come from gas gas furnaces and water heaters.

The gap is largely due to natural gas use in residential buildings, which accounts for roughly half
of Piedmont’s in-territory emissions. Because much of Piedmont’s housing stock is old and
large, heating and cooling these homes requires greater than average energy use. For each year
between 2017 and 2020, annual emissions just from residential buildings exceeded Climate
Action Plan targets for total emissions in Piedmont by 2050. Most of these emissions came from
natural .

The City is now seeking to draw on the wealth of expertise within our community to create a
strategic plan for expediting this transition. The Task Force will be charged with developing an
Existing Building Electrification Strategy that will guide future policies and programs related to
residential building electrification.

Staff have approached several community members who have previously engaged with the City
on electrification and sustainability initiatives about their potential interest in serving on the task
force. To ensure that the task force incorporates diverse perspectives and wide-ranging expertise,
we are also soliciting interest from the community at large.

If you think you can help, send an email to letting us know:

• Why you’re interested in serving on the task force
• What unique skills, experience, or perspective you would bring
Submit your letter of interest by Tuesday, May 16th. The City anticipates making task force
appointments by the end of May.

For questions about letters of interest or the Electrification Task Force, contact Assistant City Administrator/City Clerk John Tulloch at or (510) 420-3040.

May 3 2023

“Piedmont has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.”

Piedmont Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee report

Some highlights from the April Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee  (BAFPC) meeting:

Four Year Capital Improvement Program: 

2022-23 2023-24 2024-25 2025-26 TOTAL
FACILITIES 613,000 4,361,000 855,000 420,000 6,249,000
PARKS 458,000 900,000 395,000 109,000 1,862,000
PARK PATHWAYS 100,000 100,000 100,000 100,000 400,000
TENNIS COURTS 80,000 200,000 270,000 550,000
SUSTAINABILITY 50,000 125,000 476,500 28,000 679,500
GREEN INFRA- STURCTURE 400,000 400,000
COMMUNITY POOL 60000 400000 460,000
TOTAL $1,361,000 $6,486,000 $2,989,050 $657,000 $10,600,500










Estimates to replace/renovate Essential Services facilities, City hall basement and Recreation Building:     $16, 450,000. – 52,585,425.


Proposed FY23-24 will include a part-time Facilities Project Manager:            $100,000/year

Increase in Planning Department Part-time staff:                                           $180,400

Increase in Planning Department Supplemental and Consulting service:       $519,000

Consulting for Moraga Canyon Specific Plan:                                                  $700,000

2 new dispatch positions Police Department:       $282,000, 5-year cost = $1, 518,000


2 new dispatchers would require a 11% increase in the parcel tax.


Property taxes receipts were 8% above the previous year (well above expected) and the real property transfer tax for 20222/23 was projected to come in at $4.7M, almost $1M above estimates.

For more details email Finance Director Michael Szczech,

In year’s past, City Council would have the assistance of two citizen committees to assist in reviewing these spending and tax increases.   The Municipal Tax Review Committee (MTRC) would meet every two years prior to the parcel tax being put on the ballot for renewal. The MTRC held public meetings and met with all department heads to review service levels and department needs.

The Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee (BAFPC ) has replaced the MTRC but is not conducting the comprehensive review of city departments the prior committee once did. With the addition of the Measure UU assessments, the likely increase in the parcel tax, and a possible new bond for essential service buildings, the BAFPC should revisit its 2018 study of taxes in comparable cities to assess the long-term impact of these new tax adoptions on Piedmont.  That study found Piedmont’s tax levels acceptable based on comparison with Hillsborough.

The other committee was the Capital Improvement Projects Committee (CIP) which reviewed staff and citizen proposals for capital improvement projects.  With Piedmont’s conservative budgeting, there’s always a surplus in city revenues at the end of the year and CIP annually met to review proposals for capital projects from staff but also from residents.  Residents filled out a form and presented to the committee. The Indian Road, Ronada/Ramona and Kingston traffic islands all were initiated through the CIP process.  CIP seems to have been disbanded after COVID – the committee is no longer listed among the city’s commission and committees.  In my experience, the CIP provided a good reality check to staff proposals.  For example, in response to a question from a BAFPC committee member, staff said the primary criteria for CIP is safety and that is true.  This year’s top CIP project is the Piedmont Park – Guilford stairs at the cost of $388,000.  That project was initiated by a fall on the stairs and what could have been addressed with a handrail has morphed into a major beautification project.  Has this project diverted funding from other safety projects like Park Way and Highland where a pedestrian was hit by a car? A CIP committee asking these questions earlier in project development would provide significant cost savings.

The opening line of the first BAFPC report was: “Piedmont has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.”  That was speaking to the payroll and benefits obligations of the city at the time.  Piedmont is receiving record tax revenue and should reconvene the CIP and MTRC committees so it doesn’t slip back into a spending problem.

Garrett Keating, Former Member of the Piedmont City Council

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

 On Tuesday May 9, The Budget Advisory & Financial Planning Committee (BAFPC) will meet again at 6:00 pm in the EOC (Emergency Operations Center  of the Piedmont Police Department at Highland and Vista Avenues.)

The important BAFPC meetings, unlike Piedmont Commission meetings, are not broadcast or video recorded by the City. Minutes are not kept of the Committee meetings, although required by the City Charter.  The public may attend and participate in the meetings with a right to obtain all materials distributed to the Committee members. The public has a right to make audio and video recordings of the meetings.

Apr 16 2023

City Council makes appointments to Commissions & Committees from a talented pool of 37 applicants.

The Piedmont City Council made 22 appointments to fill vacancies for City Commissions, Committees, and appointed volunteer positions at a special meeting on April 4, 2023.

In a testament to the spirit of volunteerism embedded in this community, 37 residents applied to serve on City of Piedmont bodies during this year’s recruitment. Applicants spanned all ages and stages of life, ranging from 5th generation Piedmonters to those who arrived less than two years ago. During interviews with the City Council on April 4th, prospective Commissioners were united in their passion for service and love for the city they’ve made home. With only 5 minutes to make their case, they spoke movingly of their appreciation for Piedmont’s “small town” feel, how much they value the outstanding services they receive, and their desire to give back. The nearly three hours of interviews painted a positive and hopeful picture of Piedmont’s future, with a deep and talented pool of residents eager to use their skills.

Click below to read the names of the appointees:

2023-04-13 Commission and Committee Appointments

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