Jul 1 2020

At its regular meeting on July 6th at 7:30 p.m., the Piedmont City Council will consider 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.

Electric Appliances – Electric Heating – Home Energy Audits required prior to listing a home for sale or applying for a Design Review permit

The Council will also consider an ordinance requiring home energy audits under certain circumstances. Click to read the Agenda Report for this item, [Adobe Reader required]which includes the proposed ordinances, as well as links to background documents and details on the public outreach.

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.

The specific proposed requirements are 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 will also consider other amendments to the Building Code and policy changes that, while not Reach Codes, will also 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.

The proposed code amendments were drafted following extensive public outreach – including two public surveys and five public outreach forums – significant research, and collaboration with East Bay Community Energy and several cost-effectiveness analysts.

Members of the public are encouraged to participate by submitting comments and attending the Council meeting. Comments regarding the proposed code amendments may be sent to the City Council via email to: citycouncil@piedmont.ca.gov. To send comments via U.S. Mail, please use the following address: Piedmont City Council c/o City Clerk, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611.

If you have questions about the proposed ordinances and policy, please contact Planning & Building Director Kevin Jackson by email at kjackson@piedmont.ca.gov. Any correspondence sent to the City will be considered a public record.

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Jul 1 2020

Background Reopening Schools (2nd Reading)

Jun 30 2020

At a Special City Council meeting on June 29, the Council listened intently for hours to staff reports and numerous swimmers about the closed Pool operation and maintenance needs. Opinions varied: close the pool and let Piedmonters know how important an updated pool is, close the pool and put in commercial businesses to increase sales tax, repair the pool and let swimmers continue to use the pool, etc.

COVID-19 has made pool use complicated, but the Recreation Staff has devised ways to make limited use of the pool if allowed to reopened under County approvals.

An ongoing long term issue has been water leaking from the pool.  The solution was indicated as a new pool.

The Council by consensus directed the City Staff to return, as soon as possible, with further information on costs and options for reopening the pool, even if on an interim basis.

Jun 30 2020

Council Seeks Ways for Both Real Property Transfer Tax and General Obligation Bond on November Ballot.

At the Special Council meeting on June 29, 2020, the Council met a complicated set of financing options to deliberate.   After several hours of considering the pool closure and alternatives, a lawyer, financial advisor, Director of Finance, City Administrator and the Council attempted to provide a way of financing improvements to City facilities.

The Community Pool was considered primarily for a bond measure, however many roadblocks arose on the timing and advisability.  The cost for a new Aquatic Center has been roughly estimated up to twenty million dollars.

Some wanted public safety needs to be on the ballot separately from the recreation facility improvements, while others wanted all desirables together on the ballot.

Complex financing mechanisms were suggested from Certificates of Participation to lease back of City facilities. Problems with a bond measure preparation and timing appeared to be disappointing news for the Council, most of whom seemed unfamiliar with the various financing mechanisms.

It was noted that Piedmont would receive a AA+ rating for bonds, as “the City does not hold any debt.”  No mention was made of the money currently borrowed from the State to finance Piedmont’s sewer rehabilitation projects.

The Real Property Transfer Tax (RPTT) increase was discussed and is likely to be approved for the ballot.  Council members noted the RPTT  is levied only at the time a property is sold bringing them to believe the one time expense would be acceptable to voters.

A poll was professionally conducted to determine if voters would likely approve the taxes, and the poll showed passage would be difficult to pass at the 66 2/3 rds level.

Facing a tight August deadline for putting any tax measures on the November ballot, the Council will consider the measures at upcoming meetings.

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Jun 29 2020

Recreation projects should be separated from fire and police measures.

Because of COVID- 19, ballot measures in November will not allow for full community discussion of City projects and needs.

Letter sent to the Piedmont City Council:

Based on the survey results and the limitations to public participation brought on by the pandemic, November 2020 does not seem like an appropriate time to put these two initiatives on the ballot, especially the facilities matter.

Every indication suggests a second wave of the pandemic will occur in the fall and these questions should not be put before Piedmonters under constraint.   “Robust resident education will be needed” – that will be a very difficult undertaking during the pandemic and should not be rushed or forced.  The typical forums available for voter education like League of Women Voters, house parties, clubs – won’t be available or will see reduced participation.

And, if put on the ballot, can the public outreach activities staff had planned before the pandemic go forward – it gives the appearance of city staff campaigning for the ballot.  Council should do as it did with the public safety contracts – postpone these ballot questions until more normal conditions return. Two years from now has the added advantage that three council seats – a majority – will be up for election, allowing for the community to send a clear signal of whether it supports these initiatives.

The polling results indicate that well over 60% of Piedmonters consider facilities as excellent, good or average.  The City Administrator concluded that Piedmonters do not clearly understand their facility needs but is that true?  Piedmonters are familiar with the facilities they use and see – recreation and park facilities – and not with the ones they don’t – the police and fire buildings.  The polling results indicate that most Piedmonters like what they see and it’s really up to the city to explain why these facilities need replacement.  Piedmonters understand the maintenance issue with the pool – it has been studied and discussed for years.  The proposals for the pool, Linda Beach and Coaches are for replacement, not maintenance, and looked at this way, the results could indicate that residents do not want these replacements.  To determine if that is the case, it would be better to have the public safety facilities and recreation facilities presented as separate ballot initiatives.

Finally, at a Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee (BAFPC) meeting I attended, the Assistant City Manager/City Clerk indicated that General Obligation bonds might require two votes under the City Charter. The BAFPC suggested a way to avoid two votes would be to establish a Community Facilities District (CFD). I think the staff report is inaccurate when it states the BAFPC “favored” CFD bonds, though it did support a parcel-based tax assessment compared to an ad valorem one:

“The Committee recommends pursuing a parcel-based tax assessment. This is preferable to an ad valorem tax given that the facilities to be funded include primarily (or potentially exclusively) essential public services buildings benefiting all Piedmont residents.”

I think it is inaccurate to conclude that the facilities to be funded are primarily “essential public services”.  While I’ve enjoyed the recreation facilities in Piedmont, it is clear that not all residents utilize these facilities, especially so over the next 30 years as Piedmont “ages in place”.  Police and Fire are, of course, essential, so again, consider placing the public safety facilities and recreation facilities on separate ballot initiatives.

Garrett Keating, Former Member of Piedmont City Council

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Jun 27 2020

The Community Pool was operated for decades at no cost to the City by the Piedmont Swim Club, a non-profit organization.  It was used by the community, Swim  Club members, the Piedmont Recreation Department, Piedmont schools, and the Piedmont Swim Team.  The Piedmont Unified School District teams were incorporated into the lease of  the pool starting in 1998.  The Piedmont Swim Team, (separate from the School District), submitted a letter supporting continued operation and funding by the Piedmont Swim Club.

In 2010, the Piedmont Swim Club wanted to continue to operate and pay the expenses for the pool; however, in a closed, private meeting, the City Council decided not to renew the $1 lease with the Club and the City assumed the full expense of operating and maintaining the pool.

At the June 29, 2020 Special Meeting, the Piedmont City Council will consider ceasing the pool operation. Discontinued pool operations will likely be coupled with any tax increases on a November 2020 ballot measure.  The cost of a new “Aquatic Center” has been roughly estimated to cost $15,000,000. 

The following article was published on this site by the Piedmont Civic Association on Aug 14, 2010. _____________

Piedmont Swim Club Pools Open but Lease Still in Limbo

Aug 14, 2010

The Swim Club’s lease expires on June 30, 2011.  At that time, unless a new lease has been signed, the facility will revert to the City.   It would then be up to the City to either shutter it or find the funds to operate it.  Without a lease, the Swim Club would be forced to dissolve.  The Swim Club Board is actively negotiating with the City for a new long-term lease.   According to Tim Rood,  Swim Club President:

“In 2008, we successfully negotiated a 3-year extension that removed the requirement for the Swim Club to pay a minimum cash rent, saving the members $114,000 over the three years.   Following a meeting to discuss lease terms with the City Manager and City Attorney, on March 30, 2010, we sent the City a proposal for a 15-year lease, offering to continue to maintain the facility and provide the same, mostly unpaid use by the Piedmont Swim Team, the schools and the Recreation Department – estimated at over $70,000 at prevailing facility rental rates.”

After working on it in closed session, the City returned a mark-up of the lease proposal on May 7.  Rood reports the City indicated that it wants to require the

Swim Club:
– to pay rent, but not how much;
– to contribute to a capital improvement fund, but not in what amount;
– to turn over any funds remaining upon expiration of the lease to the City (which conflicts with Club by-laws);
– to submit to periodic review and arbitration of the longstanding use arrangements during the term of the lease;
– to purchase additional liability coverage and earthquake insurance at considerable expense and questionable benefit.

The City Council further stated that “there are some other items that the Council may want to propose changes on, but they want to think them over further.”

The Council also asked the Recreation Commission to review the use arrangements that have been in effect since 1998.  The Commission recommended to keep school use more or less at current levels and not to add the additional school aquatic programs that the School District had requested.  The Piedmont Swim Team has previously submitted a letter of support for a new Swim Club lease.

In response, the Swim Club Board began preparing long-term financial projections and estimates of the value of the community use provided, obtaining quotes on the additional insurance coverage the City requested, and researching facility rental costs and recreational/lap swimming costs at competing facilities.

In 2006, a consultant studied the option of converting to a City operated pool and determined it would have required annual subsidies from the City’s general fund of $127,000 to $327,000 in excess of revenues from pool operation.  Considering the City’s recent budget deficit situation, the Swim Club Board expects to resolve the contract, avoiding this new expense to the City. Source: October 3, 2006 City Minutes, Consultant’s Report, and Staff Report)  [2020 NOTE: City reports no longer available.]

A significant change from previous leases is found in 9(c) of the Swim Club’s proposed lease, which opens the Swim Club to 130 non-Piedmont residents, expanding possible membership total to 650 from the current approximate 500.

The recent closure required by Alameda County Department of Environmental Health for non-compliance with California State Law AB1020 at the height of summer added to the ongoing stress on the Swim Club membership and the City. Read more about closures.

For additional information on this issue, Mr. Rood recommends a recent article by Linda Davis of the Piedmonter summarizing the complexities of the pool closure and lease negotiations.”

City Administrator Sara Lillevand states in her 2020-2021 Budget overview:

“We are nearing a decision point regarding the future of the Community Pool. The present facility is more than 50 years old and no longer meets the needs of the community. Given its age and the lack of substantial investment over its life, the pool has become increasingly costly to maintain. We completed a comprehensive condition assessment of the entire facility and associated operating systems in 2018. The report indicated an investment of approximately $350,000 will be required to keep the aquatic facility safe and operational in its current form for the next 3-5 years, and an additional minimum investment of approximately $1.5 million to extend its life up to ten years. These renovation and repair costs are in addition to the rising subsidy required to operate the pool. For 2020-21 we are budgeting a decrease in revenue due to poor trends and an increase in operating costs of $120,000. Overall, we are projecting an operating loss of $368,000. In order to maintain a reasonable reserve of approximately $66,000 in the Aquatics Fund, we propose a subsidy transfer from the “General Fund of $300,000, which is $50,000 higher than last year.” May 6, 2020

On Monday, June 29, 2020, 7:30 p.m., at a Special Meeting of the Piedmont City Council, the Council will consider whether or not to discontinue use of the Community Pool because of ongoing maintenance and expense issues.

Links for participation and information are below: 

PCA council-current-agenda (1) 6292020 < Agenda

PCA Continued Operation of the Piedmont Community Pool < Staff Report

Budget Overview – 

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Jun 26 2020

At a Special Piedmont City Council meeting on Monday, June 29, 7:30 p.m., the Council will consider placing tax measures on the November 2020 ballot.  Also, the Council will give direction to staff on continued operation of the Community Pool.

Agenda and instructions on participation: council-current-agenda (1) 6292020

  Continued Operation of the Piedmont Community Pool

“Two years have passed since it was acknowledged that the city had “reached the point in the life of the pool where strong consideration should be given to constructing a new facility that would better serve the community needs and require little to no annual subsidy. Alternatively, consideration should be given to transitioning out of aquatics programming as a City service.” In the intervening time, the facility, as well as its ability to recover costs, have further deteriorated. Given the hard financial realities both of the City’s aged aquatics facility and for overall Recreation Department revenues, it falls on this Council to determine whether it has become cost-prohibitive to continue to operate this aquatics facility.”

Consideration of tax measures for November ballot:Provide Direction to Staff on the Preparation of Ballot Measures for the November 2020 Ballot Regarding Financing of Facilities Maintenance, and Renovation_Replacement Needs

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Jun 26 2020

Locations proposed for electric vehicle (EV) charging stations are 4 parking spaces in the Piedmont Community Center parking lot, one parking space near Havens School on Highland Avenue, and 2 parking spaces near ACE hardware on Grand Avenue.

Park Commission Wednesday, July 1 will make a recommendation to the City Council on converting  parking spaces to EV charging stations.

The Piedmont Park Commission will meet on Wednesday, July 1 at 5:30 pm via ZOOM Teleconference.

The agenda:

1. Approval of Park Commission Minutes for June 3, 2020

2. Update from the Piedmont Unified School District Regarding Phase 2 Construction at Piedmont High School and Discussion on New Street Trees in Coordination with the City of Piedmont

3. Consideration of a Recommendation to City Council to Install Electric Vehicle Charging Stations in the Civic Center and Grand Avenue Commercial District in Conjunction with East Bay Community Energy.

  [East Bay Community Energy charges $0.28 per kWh, limits charging to 4 hours and requires the City or private entity to police the occupancy of the charging stations. see below]

4. Update on the Impacts of the COVID19 Emergency on City Parks, Open Spaces, and Landscape Maintenance Regulations

5. Monthly Maintenance Report: Park, Open Space, and Street Tree Update for the Month of June

East Bay Community Energy EV Charging Station Policy

  • A flat rate fee of $0.28 per kWh will be charged for the use of the station.
  • There is a four (4) hour time limit for charging at the EV station. Violators may be subject to towing at owner’s expense.
  • Vehicles parked in EV station spaces MUST be connected to the charging station. Violators may be subject to towing at owner’s expense.

State of California law on EV’s (AB 475 Butler)

“Electric vehicles (EV’s) must be plugged in for refueling when occupying an EV designated parking space, otherwise they may be towed. In addition, the law prohibits a person from obstructing, blocking, or otherwise barring access to an EV-designated parking space.”

Click the red link below to:

Learn how to participate in the July 1 Park Commission meeting 

Read the minutes of the prior meeting

View the maps of charging station locations near Havens School,  Community Center Parking Lot, and Grand Avenue.

View Piedmont produced video and read questionnaire.

PCA Park Commission Agenda_2020-07-01

 

Jun 26 2020

There are few reasons to visit City Hall these days, as COVID – 19 keeps most employees working at home and doors closed, while residents adhere to STAY AT HOME orders. 

People outside of their homes are required to wear a face covering, even when exercising within 30 feet of another person.  Joggers are not exempt from Governor Gavin Newsom‘s order to all Californians to wear face coverings while in public outdoor areas.

Parks & Project Manager Ms. Nancy Kent noted that the City is monitoring park users for compliance with health protections and will close facilities if users do not comply. She indicated park ambassadors are in the parks daily and gently reminding park users of the new rules.

Stay healthy by exercising and keep your neighbors healthy by covering your nose and mouth. Use your face covering!  


Window of the Piedmont City Hall Council Chamber

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Jun 23 2020

Piedmont is the highest taxed of comparable Bay Area cities.

The City Council is considering a raise to the tax when a Piedmont home is sold.

The City Council is currently considering a proposal from the Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee (BAFPC) to raise the real property transfer tax (RPTT) the tax buyers and sellers pay when buying a home in Piedmont.  The current rate is  $13/$1000* of the sales price and increases of 3, 3.5 and 7% are being considered.  The rationale given is to raise $850,000 annually to pay for facility maintenance.  Historically the RPTT has been $2.8M and revenue above that has been dedicated to facility maintenance. Over the past 10 years, RPTT has averaged $3.25M and with that excess, the Facility Maintenance Fund now stands at $5.8M.   An analysis of RPTT growth over the past 20 years shows a very consistent increase in revenue, the one outlier being the years 2008 to 2010 (Figure 1.)  Using the RPTT growth rate from the past 20 years shows that by 2030, RPTT revenue will be $4.5M.
Why this matters is that Council must choose a tax increase to put before the voters in November 2020, and should not raise taxes unless necessary.  An analysis by BAFPC shows that Piedmont is the highest taxed of comparable Bay Area cities (http://piedmont.hosted.civiclive.com/government/commissions___committees/budget_advisory___financial_planning_committee December 2019 report).
The City Finance Director estimates that the RPTT will be $2.2M next year and using that as a baseline justifies a 7% increase in order to raise the $850,000 for facility maintenance (Table 1).   If the preceding 10-year average of the RPTT is used, a 3% increase will rise enough for facility maintenance (400,000 + 805000 = $1.2M).  Assuming Piedmont home values continue to increase, no tax increase is needed – the steady increase in real estate values will raise more than enough for facility maintenance ($1,200,000)
Garrett Keating, Former Piedmont City Council Member 
*Updated: 6/25/2020
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