Apr 18 2019

City/School Liaison Committee to Discuss Tobacco Grant Funding Possibly for a School Resource Officer or Other Purposes.

Monday, April. 22nd – 4:00 – 5 p.m. open to the public in the Piedmont Unified School District Offices, 760 Magnolia Avenue.

The Piedmont Unified School District and City of Piedmont will hold a meeting of the City/School Liaison Committee to discuss the California Department of Justice Tobacco Grant Award on Monday, April 22nd at 4:00 p.m. in the PUSD offices located at 760 Magnolia Avenue.

Liaisons are appointees chosen from the City Council and School Board. 

The discussions at this meeting will center on how Tobacco Grant funds might be used by the City and PUSD to bolster and/or develop tobacco mitigation efforts and additional health education programs focused on prevention for tobacco related issues and other student health efforts. This conversation is an outgrowth of previous discussions between PUSD, the City, and the community on the initial proposal to establish a School Resource Officer.

The City/School Liaison Committee is not a decision making body, rather it focuses on discussions of issues of mutual interest between the two agencies. The influential discussions are expected to be reported to their elected bodies for potential action and/or information.  This meeting is open to the public.  It will not be publicly broadcast or recorded. 

The agenda is available online at: http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/committees/agendas/city_school_liaison.pdf 

Apr 17 2019

Our Piedmont community will soon be asked to renew the School Support Tax that funds roughly 25% of the Piedmont Unified School District’s (PUSD) budget. Because the State does not adequately fund education, the School Support Tax is critical to maintaining the excellence of Piedmont schools.

The current School Support Tax (Measure A), approved by the community in 2013, taxes each taxable parcel the same amount. In recent letters, Mr. Rick Schiller advocates what he terms a “progressive tax” to replace Measure A. Mr. Schiller proposes that the next tax: (1) apply a uniform tax rate to the square feet of buildings on a taxable parcel, rather than a uniform amount to each taxable parcel, thus shifting more of the cost of schools to owners of large homes; (2) impose a lower rate on unimproved lots; (3) include an “income based senior exemption”; and (4) continue to include “compassionate SSI and SSDI exemptions,” which exempt property owners below certain poverty levels.

The next School Support Tax should fairly allocate a community cost and must indisputably comply with the law. Mr. Schiller’s proposal exposes PUSD to litigation risk that I believe would be imprudent to accept. Further, I do not consider Mr. Schiller’s proposed tax to be “progressive.”

I must start with the litigation risk (excuse the detail), which could impose unaffordable costs on PUSD and potentially leave our schools unfunded. Piedmont’s School Support Tax is a “qualified special tax” authorized by California Government Code § 50079, which provides such a tax “means special taxes that apply uniformly to all taxpayers or all real property within the school district, except that unimproved property may be taxed at a lower rate than improved property.” (Emphasis added).

In Borikas v. Alameda Unified School District, 214 Cal.App.4th 135 (2013), the Court invalidated Alameda’s school parcel tax (Measure H), which taxed residential and commercial properties, and commercial properties above and below 2000 square feet, differently. The plaintiffs argued that Section 50079 “means all taxpayers and all real property must be treated the same, and school districts are not empowered to treat different kinds of taxpayers, and different kinds of real property, differently.” Id. at 147. The Court agreed, holding that Section 50079 “does not empower school districts to classify taxpayers and property, and impose different tax rates.” Id. at 151. The Court found it could “sever” the invalid parts of Measure H, and upheld a parcel tax of $120 per parcel. Id. at 166-67.

Mr. Schiller, and others before him, have argued that Borikas does not bar a tax under Section 50079 based on a uniform rate per square foot (either of land or buildings). Borikas did not expressly rule on such a tax. However, Borikas found it must follow Section 50079’s text, and the text refers to “special taxes that apply uniformly to all taxpayers or all real property.” It does not refer to a uniform rate, but to a tax that applies uniformly.

The tax imposed on small vs. large parcels/homes would be different under a “per square foot” tax. Further, looking to Section 50079’s legislative history, Borikas rejected Alameda’s claim that it would be unfair for “all parcels [to] bear the same tax, regardless of size,” noting: “The Legislature was aware, however, that uniform parcel taxes were considered ‘more inequitable’ than ad valorem property taxes because all parcels, regardless of size, are subject to the same tax. … Nevertheless, the Legislature made no adjustments or provisions in this regard.” Id. at 158 (emphasis added); accord id. at fn. 27.

Nothing since Borikas has removed the risk that a Piedmont “per square foot” tax under Section 50079 will be ruled invalid. In 2014, SB 1021 was introduced in the California Legislature to amend Section 50079 to expressly authorize a “per square foot” tax—it did not pass. In 2018, the Legislature adopted AB 2954, which amended Section 50079 to allow school districts to tax unimproved property “at a lower rate than improved property,” but did not authorize a “per square foot” tax.  While the reference to a “rate” rather than an “amount,” provides an argument that uniformity refers to “rate” also, there is no ruling on point.

Mr. Schiller notes that the Alameda Superior Court has twice upheld Alameda School District’s later parcel taxes, which impose a “per square foot” taxes. However, the Alameda Superior Court also upheld Measure H, and the lawsuits against Alameda’s later taxes were settled before the First District Court of Appeals, which issued Borikas, ruled on appeal.

Mr. Schiller also relies on Dondlinger v. Los Angeles County Regional Park, No. B284932 (2019), but that case addressed Pub. Resources Code § 5566, a different statute, which expressly states that a park district may establish a “rate” which “is to be applied uniformly.” Further, Dondlinger is a Second District decision; Piedmont is in the First District, which is governed by the Borikas decision.

Until the First District Court of Appeals or the California Supreme Court upholds a “per square foot” school parcel tax, or the Legislature amends Section 50079 to expressly allow such a tax, I do not think it is prudent for PUSD to take the litigation risk of asking Piedmonters to approve such a tax. Litigation could cost $100,00 to $500,000, depending upon motions, trial and appeals. PUSD does not have that to spare. Moreover, to feel secure in spending the tax revenue, PUSD would have to file a validation action, but that simply ensures any litigation starts quickly.

While it is possible that no Piedmont property owner would challenge such a tax, there is no way to remove the risk. (Note that Alameda’s parcel taxes have been challenged three times). PUSD could not spend the tax revenue until any litigation is resolved, as PUSD would have no way to pay back the taxes collected if the tax ultimately were held invalid. Further, because PUSD cannot fund its school budget without a parcel tax, if the tax was challenged, PUSD would have to run another parcel tax election immediately, at additional significant expense. Under Mr. Schiller’s proposal, PUSD (and every Piedmont family with school children) would take this risk so that owners of small homes could pay less than owners of large homes. There are times when accepting litigation risk is necessary. This is not one of them.

I also believe that the School Support Tax must be fair to Piedmont residents. The Piedmont schools benefit every resident. For nearly everyone, our children have gone, are going, or will go to school. Piedmont residents have shared the cost of public education no matter where they are in this cycle. Moreover, the excellence of the Piedmont schools is why Piedmont homes are so valuable. Further, an available and excellent public education is fundamental to civil society, and we all have a civic duty to ensure it. Asking the owner of each taxable parcel to pay the same amount seems fair to me. I include unimproved parcels as the Piedmont schools make those parcels valuable.

A “progressive” tax generally is perceived as taxing wealthy people more by increasing the tax rate at higher levels of wealth or income, and is supported by the notion that those who have more money can afford to pay more tax toward community needs. In claiming his proposed tax is “progressive,” Mr. Schiller equates a building’s “square feet” as equivalent to wealth or income, and assumes that owners with more “square feet” can afford to pay more. That may be true in some cases, but certainly not all.

Square feet alone does not establish the value of a home (consider age, quality or location). Owning a large home does not establish wealth other than the home itself (it may have been bought long ago) or a ready ability to pay higher taxes (a young family may have stretched to buy a home with sufficient bedrooms, or a retiree bought a large home years ago).

I also do not support an “income-based senior exemption.” Age does not determine whether a homeowner has a ready ability to pay the School Support Tax.  Nor is current income a true measure of wealth or ability to pay.

Moreover, per the last census, roughly 20% of Piedmont residents were over 65. Assuming roughly 20% of homeowners also are over 65 (it could be higher), exempting any significant number would either underfund the schools or impose a significant burden on the remaining taxpayers.

Further, under Proposition 13, those of us who have owned a home here longer (and are usually older) pay less property tax than young families who have bought a home more recently.  PUSD’s existing income-based SSI and SSDI exemptions (see Section 50079(b)) provide relief to those who are truly in severe financial distress, regardless of their age. That seems an appropriate balance between a homeowner’s ability to pay and the needs of the community.

I support the current Measure A structure—each taxable parcel paying the same amount to support our schools, with narrow exemptions for those truly in financial distress.

Richard W. Raushenbush, Former Piedmont School Board Member

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Apr 16 2019

Extensive New Recreation Projects May Call for a New Piedmont Tax Measure

Projects being considered by the City are the Aquatic Center with expanded new pool and facilities, Coaches Field reconfiguration and night lighting, Linda Beach Park improvements, and updating of the Recreation Building and Veterans Hall.  

Volunteers with support primarily from sports and recreation enthusiasts may be knocking on your door to learn about your funding ideas for the numerous recreation projects through a voter approved bond measure.  Door knocking, a common election tool used to estimate specific approval or rejection of potential ballot bond measures, is underway in Piedmont. 

Some Piedmont leaders have indicated gaining more knowledge about Piedmont voter preferences for recreation facilities is needed to learn where support or opposition lies. The volunteer knocking on your door may be a neighbor. 

Larry Tramutola, a Piedmont resident and widely known political consultant on taxing issues involving cities, special districts, school districts, etc., volunteered to advise on methods for approaching and convincing voters to support a new recreation bond measure.

Consultants, planners, recreation enthusiasts, commissioners, and the City Council have for years been fashioning various plans for improved or enhanced recreation facilities throughout Piedmont. The City has expended a significant amount of money and time towards the plans.

To date, no bond proposals have reached the City Council. 

Consideration of voter acceptance of a bond measure was studied by the Council over a year ago resulting in insufficient voter support by polled voters for bond funding of the recreation projects. For approval, the bond measure would require approval by 2/3rds of those voting on the measure.

New Internal Revenue Service laws may impact Piedmonters willingness to further tax themselves, as there is a recent limitation of $10,000 on deductibility of state and local taxes.

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Apr 16 2019

Tasting a Sustainable Future: Piedmont Climate Action Fair & Reception –

Donated food to taste plus information !

On Wednesday, April 24th from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., the City of Piedmont and Piedmont Connect will host “Tasting a Sustainable Future: Piedmont Climate Action Fair & Reception” at the Piedmont Community Hall.

Consumption is a large portion of emissions that are emitted in Piedmont. It is hard to measure and to monitor as emissions stemming from consumption are based on individuals’ choices. The April 24th event will showcase different sectors of consumption: transportation, food, water, home energy, clothes, and waste.

Residents who come to the event will have the opportunity to learn how to purchase more sustainably, reduce their food waste, conserve water, travel greener, and electrify their homes. Information at the event will be provided by representatives of the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD), East Bay Community Energy (EBCE), Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), and StopWaste. Members of Piedmont’s community and City staff will also be sharing resources and information.

Attendees will have a chance to meet Piedmont chef Paul Arenstam of Summer Kitchen and San Francisco chef Nick Balla of Bar Tartine, who will serve sustainable snacks from Balla’s new Smokebread project. They will also be able to try Patagonia Provision’s new Long Root Wit beer made with the climate-friendly grain, kernza.

Residents interested in attending may register through Eventbrite at

>https://tastinasustainablefuture.eventbrite.com.

Registration will close once the event reaches capacity. The City appreciates your understanding.

For more information about this workshop or to be added to the climate action email list, please contact Assistant Planner Mira Hahn at mhahn@piedmont.ca.gov or Climate Fellow Brooke Edell at bedell@piedmont.ca.gov, or by calling (510) 420-3050.

Apr 16 2019

– Public Safety (Surveillance) Cameras Frequently Asked Questions Answered –

The Piedmont Police monitored surveillance cameras program will be considered by the Council for adoption in June, 2019.  To understand the issues involved, see the frequently asked questions, important dates for public meetings and the police department’s existing Public Safety Camera Policy > here.

“The City of Piedmont is in the process of evaluating and considering a Public Safety Camera program.  The evaluation has taken the form of a pilot which has been in process since September of 2017.  While the Piedmont Police Department has experienced successes with the pilot, the City is seeking to engage the public to provide information on a proposed program, seek input and answer questions the public may have.”

The Police Department is partnering with the Public Safety Committee to aid with public outreach on this important topic. No decision of whether to approve the Public Safety Camera Program has been made.  The City of Piedmont, Piedmont Police Department and Public Safety Committee thanks you for your time and interest.

Click to read the City of Piedmont’s Public Safety Camera Frequently Asked Questions document.

Community members with question about the proposal are encouraged to contact Police Chief Jeremy Bowers at jbowers@piedmont.ca.gov or via telephone at (510) 420-3010.

Apr 14 2019

Reducing Traffic Speed on Oakland Avenue, Magnolia, and Fairview Avenues with Bulb-Outs, bright flashing Beacons, Bioswales and relocated Crosswalks.

The city consultant, Coastland, prepared preliminary designs for proposed bulb-outs and other changes at several intersections on Oakland Avenue plus other streets.  The consultants will discuss their concepts at the Piedmont City Council meeting on Monday evening, April 15, 2019, in City Hall, 7:30 p.m. The meeting will be broadcast live on Channel 27 and from the City website under videos/City Council.  See links to staff reports showing locations and photos at the end of this article.

Before proceeding to the final designs and construction documents, the City wants to ensure that the Council and the community have full awareness of the proposed improvements and have an opportunity to have any questions or concerns addressed.

Oakland Ave. at El Cerrito Ave. This is a fully developed, 4 corner bulb out design that will achieve the following: •shorten the pedestrian crossing distances on Oakland Ave. and El Cerrito Ave., •bring the pedestrian access points into greater visibility

  • include hard-wired, double sided, bright rapid flashing beacons (brighter than the current beacons) at each corner with user activated buttons •include all new pedestrian ramps for each direction on each corner•refreshed street paint at the intersection Similar to the previously constructed bulb outs on Linda Ave.,

Staff is proposing to next install landscape improvements wherever possible in place of impervious concrete. In addition to the improved aesthetics, these landscaped areas will be planned as bio-swales wherever possible to capture and slow down the storm drainage on Oakland Ave. (See staff report Exhibit B for a photograph of the existing intersection and Exhibit C for the proposed improvements.)

Oakland Ave. at Jerome Ave. While very similar in features to the Oakland Ave. at El Cerrito Ave. bulb outs, the Jerome Ave improvements will have a slightly different configuration due to the intersection geometry.

Grand Ave. at Fairview Ave. In the Piedmont Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan (PBMP), this intersection was identified as No. 8 in the High Priority Projects. The basic issues related to this intersection are that it is a very wide crossing for pedestrians, and motorists traveling northbound on Grand Ave. and wanting to turn slightly right to proceed up Fairview Ave. are difficult for pedestrians to see. See staff report Exhibit C for photographs of the existing intersection. Furthermore, because of the ease of this slight right turn and the uphill nature of Fairview Ave., there is a tendency to accelerate through the intersection. The configuration was driven by creating traffic calming and increase pedestrian safety, but also preserving the existing street parking. Thus, the use of street paint still allows parking in front of 1250 Grand Ave., which fronts on Fairview Ave. See staff report Exhibit D for the proposed configuration of improvements.

Oakland Ave. at Greenbank Ave. This intersection was not identified on the PBMP, but is, due to its configuration and topography, problematic for the local residents and pedestrians. The basic issues related to this intersection are similar to those described at Grand Ave. at Fairview Ave. These include compromised visibility for both pedestrians and motorists, downhill grades creating increased speeds, and the existing geometry of the intersection fostering unsafe conditions. See staff report Exhibit E for photographs of the existing conditions at this intersection. The driveway to 1203 Oakland Ave. will cross over a portion of this bulb out, but the nature of this installation will maintain access to this driveway. (See staff report Exhibit D for the proposed configuration of improvements.)

Magnolia Ave. at Nova Drive Previously identified in the PBMP as No. 17 in the High Priority Projects, this intersection poses issues for pedestrians, especially when walking on the northern side of the street (left side going uphill). Along Magnolia Ave. at the intersection with Nova Drive, the throat of the intersection is extremely wide. See attached Exhibit F for a photograph of the existing intersection. Since the 2018 Paving Project includes this portion of Magnolia Ave, Staff wants to take the opportunity to implement the recommendations of PBMP and install logical measures to create traffic calming and a safer environment for pedestrians. The proposal is to create an island refuge with street paint, lane delineators, and signage. This would be connected to the existing sidewalks with new crosswalks of considerably shorter length. Besides creating an island refuge for pedestrians, this will visually narrow the westbound lane of Magnolia Ave. which should promote slower speeds.

Read staff reports by clicking below:

04/15/19 – Receipt of Report on Preliminary Design of Traffic Calming Measures at the Intersections of Oakland and El Cerrito Avenues and Oakland and Jerome Avenues 

04/15/19 – Receipt of a Report on Proposed Traffic Calming Measures at the Intersections of Fairview & Grand Avenues, Greenbank & Oakland Avenues, as well as Magnolia Avenue & Nova Drive

 

Apr 10 2019

Cathy Glazier, former Piedmont Middle School teacher and long-time volunteer in the schools and community who stands out for the remarkable depth, breadth, and longevity of her service, will be honored with this year’s Arthur Hecht Volunteer of the Year Award. The award is presented each year to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to the community and to Piedmont’s youth through volunteer service over a period of many years. The Board of Education will present the award at its meeting on May 8th.

Art Hecht was well known as a volunteer dedicated to serving students in Piedmont and Oakland. He was a member of Piedmont’s Board of Education from 1970 to 1982, and instrumental in developing Millennium High School, Piedmont’s alternative high school. Established in 1998, the Arthur Hecht Award honors both Hecht’s memory and extraordinary individuals who continue his legacy of service.

Ms. Glazier has been passionately dedicated to the students and schools of Piedmont for more than 30 years. She was a much-loved art teacher at Piedmont Middle School for ten years, and with three sons who attended Piedmont schools from K-12, she volunteered and served in various roles on parent club boards and committees for fifteen years straight. Her commitment to the “whole child” philosophy motivated her to the building and supporting of the Wellness Center. She was a founding wellness center board member and continued to serve in that capacity for another 5+/- years.

Ms. Glazier understood before many others the importance of supporting students’ social and emotional needs. Her advocacy for a Wellness Center was forward-thinking and she used her charm and persistence to garner community-wide support for this important resource. The Wellness Center continues to be an integral support to PUSD students because of her efforts.

Ms. Glazier remains actively engaged in Piedmont schools and community by serving on the Piedmont Education Foundation Board and Funding Committee, the Piedmont Beautification Foundation, and the Piedmont Garden Club.

“Cathy continues to be an incredible volunteer and ambassador for the District, staff, and students,” commented Randy Booker, Superintendent. “Over the years she has been a remarkable champion for Piedmont’s values of inclusion, social/emotional health, and academic excellence. I’ve been honored to work alongside of her and have benefited tremendously from her generosity and spirit of service toward all of her students.”

The Board of Education will honor the extraordinary contributions of Ms. Glazier with this award and a gift of student artwork on May 8th.

Apr 10 2019

For the first time since 2011, the entire state of California has been noted as drought free on the U.S. Drought Monitor map released March 21, 2019.  The drought status analysis is produced jointly by the National Drought Mitigation Center, the US Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and updated each Thursday.  It is calculated through the analysis of satellite- and model-based observations of conditions that influence drought with a 1-kilometer spatial resolution.  [Visit the National Drought Mitigation Center here.]

Berkeley Environmental Advisory Commissioner Michael Goldhaber encouraged maintaining water conservation habits, but noted that personal water consumption is dwarfed by agricultural and industrial consumption.

Apr 9 2019

Stranger Danger !

Piedmont Police Department Announcement:

An incident involving a young student this past Monday morning, April 8, serves as a reminder that parents should be vigilant when it comes to teaching kids about stranger danger.

Around 7:40 am Monday, in the area of Crocker and LaSalle Avenues, a middle school student was approached by a man in what we believe was a gray SUV. The stranger asked the student if he needed a ride to school. The student was alert enough to quickly call his mother who then called our department.

Officers immediately went to the area, but the suspected man and his vehicle had already left the area. We are currently following possible leads that may lead us to the man in question. Thankfully, the student is okay, and we have not heard of any other incidents.

Piedmont Police Department – 420-3000

Apr 9 2019

City announces:

On Wednesday April 10th, upper Dracena Park will be reopened after emergency tree removal operations that began in late February. The entirety of the path running from Artuna Avenue to Park Way will be reopened. A small section of path which runs parallel to Park Way is still under construction. Until that area can be regraded and the new path installed, temporary fencing will remain around that small section of the path until weather conditions allow for installation to be completed.

If you have any questions about this project, please contact Parks & Project Manager Nancy Kent at (510) 420-3064 or via email at nkent@piedmont.ca.gov.