Dec 10 2019

“…housing is strictly a matter for local officials.”

“(T)his court finds that the (Housing Accountability Act) is unenforceable to the extent the HAA conflicts with or purports to disregard otherwise enforceable portions of the city’s Municipal Code regarding review of housing development projects,” Judge George Miram ruled.

In its December 7 editorial the Chronicle’s Editorial Board warned that the ruling’s “startling conclusion” is a threat to housing construction in charter cities across California.  “In charter cities, the judge ruled, housing is strictly a matter for local officials.”

“This is a dramatic challenge to state officials. It has the potential to derail their authority not just in San Mateo but in more than 120 charter cities across California.” Read the Editorial here.

On November 21, 2019, the Bay Area Council asked Attorney General Xavier Becerra to request a rehearing of the case.  The Council noted “A terrible and misguided court decision in San Mateo County threatens to undo and undermine a raft of recent [housing] legislation …”

“In a stunning judgement, Miram effectively ruled that the state does not have a role in guiding or enforcing zoning, land use and permitting decisions in cities that are governed under their own charters.”

Local Control and the Opportunity for Meaningful Citizen Input into Planning is a Problematic Issue  in Piedmont.

Piedmont neighborhood groups have complained of lack of citizen input and local control when faced with changes that raised health concerns, destruction of views, harm to aesthetics, loss in property values on Maxwelton and elsewhere. When residents offered modifications to improve projects Planning Commissioners supported, they lost on appeal.  Others complained to no avail, when told they “cannot comment on” proposed development.

700 local citizens signed a petition in opposition to the proposed dispersal of cell towers (68 cell towers ultimately envisioned spread across virtually every street in Piedmont).  Resident Bruce Mowat opined that the response would change, “Once those ‘Above Highland’ realize that most of the future 68 sites will be sited on locations like Seaview, Hampton, St. James, Estates, etc.”

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Dec 8 2019

Piedmont’s Staff and City Council have been eager to maximize increased housing in Piedmont.

Under the leadership of City staff, Piedmont has surged ahead of many California communities in prodding Piedmont homeowners to build additional housing units on their property.  Ignoring the citizen argument that Piedmont’s status as a Charter City gave it more autonomy and self-determination, State goals to drastically erode single-family neighborhoods were embraced.  Standard off-street parking requirements have been ignored, modified or eliminated.  Neighbor privacy concerns have been brushed aside along with safety and property line violations. 

Zoning laws per Piedmont’s City Charter have been forfeited in the multi-family, single-family, and commercial zones.

“An effort to take legal action against San Mateo for the City Council’s decision to reject a proposal to build a 10-unit condominium building off El Camino Real in 2018 hit a stumbling block earlier this month when a judge ruled the city did not violate the Housing Accountability Act when the council denied the project’s approval based on height differences between properties.”

Read the whole Peninsula Daily Journal article here

The San Francisco Chronicle December 5 report “California Could Lose Housing Leverage over Cities under Court Ruling” suggests Piedmont was overeager to modify its zoning regulations:

A judge’s ruling in San Mateo County is raising fears among developers and advocates for more housing construction that the state will lose its leverage for forcing cities to build their way out of California’s affordability crisis. The judge said the city of San Mateo was not obligated to follow a state law on housing approvals because it is a charter city — a system that gives local governments greater control over their own affairs. There are more than 120 charter cities in California and housing is tight in many of them, including San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose.

California Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) issued a statement against the San Mateo County Superior Court ruling exempting charter cities from the requirements to impose multi-family projects in all neighborhoods and essentially eliminate single family zoning:

“The San Mateo trial court’s ruling exempting charter cities from a key component of our housing laws is disappointing and patently ignores the very real need for more affordable housing in our communities. We want local governments to act in partnership with the state to address our housing and homelessness crisis. California has provided more than $1 billion to local governments over the past two years alone to streamline local procedures, update planning documents, and provide infrastructure financing to accompany new housing.”

Piedmonters have observed numerous changes in Piedmont’s single-family zoning with the proliferation of vehicles parked on city streets and reduced or eliminated on-site parking requirements. State requirements do not allow notification of neighbors when new housing units are added to single-family dwellings or requirements for off-street parking.

At the December 2, 2019 Piedmont City Council meeting, Councilmember Betsy Andersen enthusiastically welcomed “a good thing,” Piedmont’s receipt of an SB 2 state grant to streamline the production increase of two-family housing and multi-family housing projects in Piedmont.++

Information on SB 2 –

Dec 8 2019

As a concerned citizen, I attended a Recreation Commission meeting involving the Recreation Department on November 18th. I had expected not to be able to contribute much to the issues or problems concerning the meeting and in many ways I was right.

I am a student at Piedmont High School and up until this very point in my high school career I have not played on an athletics team and I am not very close to many of the parks that inhabit Piedmont. Because the Recreation Department  works with the parks and fields that make up our community I did not have much to offer in terms of my experience on most of them. I was, however, very intrigued by the importance that they have for a variety of citizens. From the pools for the youth water polo program to the aged pickleballers, it was nice to see how many people the Recreation Department has responsibility for.

One of the major issues discussed at the meeting was the concern with the tennis courts implementing pickleball. Until this meeting,  I did not know that there were consistent and passionate pickleball players in the Piedmont community.  I found it interesting how the commission had discussed the impact of certain boundary lines painted in order to accommodate pickleball play on the tennis courts. It seemed the only concerned citizens who bothered to show up were the pickleballers themselves.  Not a single person who protested the dual use of courts bothered to speak out at the meeting.

One of the other concerns that struck a chord with me was the issue of youth programs.  I myself had experienced many rec sports and it was interesting to hear about the creation of these programs when considering what an impact they had on my life.  One of the rec department members, Jackson Sterns, discussed trying to find a proper coach for a water polo summer camp in order to introduce kids to the sport.  One of my friends who had come with me to this meeting, Holden,  had given a critique of the program since his little brother had participated and ended up not wanting to play.

When an employee, who worked with the maintenance of the fields, came forward to give an update on their condition, a Commissioners, Dick Carter, brought up a topic that I could contribute to, Witter Field.  When the employee had finished speaking about Coach’s Field and Hampton Field, Commissioner Carter mentioned the poor condition of Witter Field and as a result my brother, Burke, and Georgie Brayer decided to go up to discuss Witter Field.  I walk home many days of the week and have to walk across Witter Field and, as a result, I can say first hand that the field has not changed much at all since my days as an elementary school student.  The field is in dire need of replacement of it’s turf and should be a top priority of the community.

After the meeting I decided to interview Commissioner Carter in order to find out more about Witter Field.  It turns out that Witter Field is under the jurisdiction of the Piedmont Unified School District; we had revealed our complaints to the wrong public body.

Despite this egregious mistake, the Commissioner was happy that we attended and emphasized the importance of our contribution to the community.  I am happy that I got to see and participate with a Commission that had played a big part in my childhood and really shaped a lot of the early memories that I have of Piedmont. It definitely made me realize the potential I had to contribute to the community and it’s citizens welfare.

Pierce St.Claire, Piedmont High School Senior

Dec 5 2019

Special Piedmont Unified School District Board Workshop 

on Student Stress (AP and Honors Courses, Homework, Grades, College Admissions):

Monday, December 9, 2019

3:30 pm – 6:30 pm

760 Magnolia Avenue, Piedmont School District Conference Room


For more information, contact 510/594-2607

Dec 5 2019

Thanks go to those attending the Climate Challenge Showcase on November 7!!

City staff was so impressed by the high turnout, and by the palpable excitement you showed to reduce our greenhouse gas footprint. Every day on this job reminds us all what a special community we serve, and the community’s dedication was especially apparent on November 7.

On that note, the City set a very ambitious goal for the Challenge – 200 households signed up in six months – but Piedmonters have gone above and beyond again. Residents have already met the goal, just a month and a half into the Challenge. Congratulations!!

With support, the City has decided to take even more ambitious action. We are increasing the goal to 300 households by March. If you have friends or neighbors who have not yet joined the Challenge, please tell them about it and encourage them to join!

We are also turning our attention to emissions reduction. We’re asking residents to reduce emissions by 450 tons of CO2 by March 2020. This will be a tough goal to meet, even considering the amazing work being done to reduce emissions. The City is here to help – Assistant Planner Mira Hahn and I are at City Hall (120 Vista Avenue), ready to brainstorm ideas, and we will be sending out tips to reduce emissions once a month between now and March.

In the end, though, it will be up to all of you to meet this tough goal. Luckily, Piedmonters are an incredibly dedicated and conscientious lot – we have full faith that you will rise to this challenge and greatly reduce Piedmont’s emissions, to secure a better future for coming generations.

Why Join?

Go to >

Let’s give this everything we’ve got.


Justin Szasz

CivicSpark Climate Fellow, City of Piedmont

Phone: (510) 420-3085 for more information.

Dec 5 2019

On Wednesday, November 18th, I went to my first Recreation Commission meeting. I am a student at Piedmont High School and I had to do something that contributed to government in some way for my Civics Class. I honestly thought it was going be pretty boring, but I was happily surprised.

The Recreation Commission meets once a month. They deal with all matters pertaining to public recreation, including parks, playgrounds,etc.  More specifically, they deal with maintaining and creating areas in Piedmont. In the meeting I attended, they talked about Pickleball and maintenance of Coaches Field. 

Two of my Friends, my brother and I left for the meeting and arrived at 8:00 PM. We took the seats in the back and waited for the members of the commission to get started. There were 7 commissioners and 5 other people who attended the meeting. The commission was led by Steve Roland.  He directed the meeting.

It started off with Jackson Sterns talking about sports programs struggling to get kids involved. Dick Carter, a commissioner, mentioned the poor conditions of Witter Field, specifically the turf, which is poorly maintained.

The main meeting topic was a discussion of Pickleball. One of the people attending the meeting complained about there not being enough time to play because of the lights turning off too quickly. He also talked about how Pickleball and tennis players were getting along pretty well. Pickleball has exploded and become very popular.

During this time, we decided to go up and speak. My friend, Holden, spoke about water polo. My brother, Pierce St.Claire, Georgie Brayer, and I talked about the conditions of Witter Field. All of us have played sports and used Witter Field extensively during our time in the Piedmont School system. The field is clearly overdue for serious maintenance.

It was super fun talking and attending the meeting. I enjoyed the various subjects and learning about the growth of PickleBall.

While we were able to communicate our concerns about Witter Field, We didn’t realize that it was actually a School Board issue, not under the jurisdiction of the Recreation Commission. Even though we didn’t go about it conventionally, the commission was happy that we attended and they were really respectful to our blunder.

I found the experience to be very educational.  I learned a lot about public meetings and forums and I am very glad to have attended!

Robert St.Claire, Piedmont High School Senior

Dec 2 2019

Council relents and removes the language change in the  proposed Special Municipal Parcel Tax Ordinance to be voted on at the March 3, 2020, Primary Election.

On December 2, 2019, Piedmont’s contract City Attorney, Michelle Marchetta Kenyon, continued to maintain her opinion that the proposed language change was not substantive.  Her opinion was disagreed with by many in Piedmont.

Vice Mayor Teddy King noted her concern over changing the language if the result was the same, for it added voter confusion. She stated many residents had stated the change from INCLUDING  to MAY INCLUDE was substantive.

Speakers Hedi Gerken, Kathleen Quenneville, and Liane Campodonico agreed with King, that the language should not be changed, while voicing it would be a substantive change allowing services to be dropped by the Council.  The Council had also received opposition to the language change by  emails, letters, and comments.

Council member Betsy Andersen, an attorney, stated she had proposed the change to clarify language, but withdrew her proposal upon believing flexible options would be available, and there would be no guarantee of funding for the named services.  

Questions were raised as to whether or not the 9 listed service items would be funded, if funds were available.  The answer appeared unclear. Some had  assumed that the parcel tax funds were delineated as a funding source for specific services; however, it has been Council practice during their May budget sessions to pool funds rather than specifically assigning the parcel taxes to specific services. During the budget sessions, the Council makes a determination on whether or not the parcel tax needs to be levied to support city services.

Services named in the ordinance are:

  • police and fire protection,
  • street maintenance,
  • building regulations,
  • library services,
  • recreation,
  • parks maintenance,
  • planning and public works
  • and similar services.

The Special Election for the parcel tax will held on March 3, 2020. Mayor Bob McBain and Council member Jennifer Cavenaugh will write the supporting arguments in the “Voter Information Guide.”  

Opposition arguments for the “Voter Information Guide” are due to the City Clerk on December 13, 2019, with rebuttals due on December 20, 2019.  For specific information contact the City Clerk, John Tulloch at 510/420-3040. 

Click > Notice of Election – 2020 Special Municipal – Measure for official ballot language and election protocols.

Dec 2 2019

Dec. 2, 2019

Piedmont City Council
c/o John Tulloch
re: Dec 2 Parcel Tax Agenda Item
Dear Mayor McBain and Council,
         The Parcel Tax is commonly understood and accepted by Piedmont taxpayers to be for essential City services as follows: police, fire, street maintenance, building regulations, library, recreation, parks maintenance, planning, and public works. Your proposed language change allows the parcel tax to be used for any purpose and not limited to the traditional nine essential City services.  I object to this and ask that the original tax language passed by voters in 2016 be continued.
         The reality is that virtually all Piedmont residents will not read the full text of the tax and then compare it to the 75 word ballot question for discrepancies.  Residents mostly rely on the ballot question and Proponent material.  If the Council elects to retain the altered wording that allows the parcel tax to be not limited to essential City Services, the ballot question must clearly state that the parcel tax is no longer limited to essential City services as is commonly understood.
 Rick Schiller
 Piedmont Resident and Property Owner
Dec 1 2019

“Agenda Insight” to be presented before December 2, 2019 City Council meeting:

Item 3, the first item on tonight’s regular agenda, is the second reading of Ordinance 746 N.S. to renew the Municipal Services special Tax for 4 years effective July 1, 2021, and to place this before voters in a special election on March 3,2020, consolidated with the California Presidential Primary on that date….

Although most aspects of this renewal reflect no change, there is a word change that appears to have an impact. The wording of the present parcel tax says, “If in any fiscal year the City Council shall determine that municipal services INCLUDING but not limited to…” and then it names 9 services which must be included in general fund expenditures, with support from the parcel tax if other city income isn’t sufficient to cover them.

At the first reading of this ordinance, last meeting, that language was changed to, “municipal services which MAY INCLUDE but are not limited to..” and then lists the same 9 services. The staff report calls this a non-substantive change, but many people read it as a very substantive change because it gives Council the flexibility to remove any service from this list. The 9 services are police, fire, street maintenance, building regulations, library, recreation, parks maintenance, planning, and public works.

If the Council wants to put this on the March ballot, they must pass the second reading tonight because they are up against a deadline for submitting the final ballot language to the Registrar of Voters…..

Item 4 is consideration of a resolution approving procedural details for the Special Election of March 3… Of particular interest to voters, this item also sets the 75 word ballot question to read, “Shall Ordinance 746 N.S. which maintains essential police, fire, and paramedic services, prevents the reduction in maintenance of City parks, greenspaces and other public areas, and prevents the loss of recreational and other public services, by renewing the City of Piedmont’s expiring parcel tax for four years… be adopted?”

….Interestingly enough, this ballot language is almost the same language we voted on in 2016, so all 9 services were not mentioned last time around either. However, in both 2016 and 2020, it is the language of the resolution we are voting on, not the 75-word summary, and the language of the resolution has changed.

Ann Chandler, Piedmont Resident

Nov 29 2019

Proposed Municipal Services Special Parcel Tax has key language changes allowing elimination of services previously funded by the Piedmont parcel tax. Some have called the parcel tax proposal a “blank check.”

The Piedmont City Council in haste is expected at their, Monday, Dec. 2, 2019, 7:30 p.m. meeting  to approve the second and final reading of Ord. 746N.S. which will place a renewal of the Municipal Services Special Parcel Tax, effective July 1, 2021, before the voters at a Special Municipal Election consolidated with the upcoming Presidential Primary Election on March 3, 2020. 

On November 18, 2019, the City Council approved a first reading of Ord. 746N.S.  At that meeting, the Council, according to the staff report, made what is called a “non-substantive” amendment to the language of Section 20B.2.on the first page of the ordinance.  Vice Mayor Teddy King objected to changing the existing language of the parcel tax proposal which states how the funds are to be spent. However, the rest of the Council and the City Attorney indicated the new language is not significantly different.

Apparently, the councilmembers and the City Attorney did not realize the language change no longer stipulates required uses of the parcel tax funds. For, the language changes from “including, but not limited to” to  “which MAY include, but are not limited to” were viewed by councilmembers as “essentially the same.”  

Voter concern has consequently arisen regarding the proposed new parcel tax language pointing to the change as considerable and  substantive in stating: “which may includeing,” rather than the current word “including.”

The newly proposed change to the parcel tax language would no longer require the Council to use the parcel tax money for the longstanding list of services and permits the Council to eliminate parcel tax funding for:

  • police and fire protection,
  • street maintenance,
  • building regulations,
  • library services,
  • recreation,
  • parks maintenance,
  • planning and public works
  • and similar services.

Some have stated the language change gives the Council a “blank check” by allowing the deletion of previously supported parcel tax funding for the named services.

The amended parcel tax language is indicated below in context. Deleted text is in strike through and new text is in italics.

“If in any fiscal year commencing on or after July 1, 2021, the City Council shall determine that municipal services, which may includeing, but are not limited to, police and fire protection, street maintenance, building regulations, library services, recreation, parks maintenance, planning and public works and similar services, are necessary for the public good, welfare and safety, and that the cost of making available such services will exceed the amount of funds generated through other revenue and income of the City for such services, then it may levy a special tax for such fiscal year on each parcel of real property within the City in a manner provided herein.”

READ the agenda HERE.

READ the three staff reports* on the tax proposal below:

*Editors Note: The newly revised  City of Piedmont website has become more difficult for Piedmonters to access information on specific agenda issues. Example, the subjects of the staff report no longer appear in the links. Only a file number is provided.