Nov 29 2020

– The Proposed Piedmont Center for the Arts Lease Is Flawed –

On November 16, 2020, three City Councilmembers voted to approve a 7-year renewal of the City’s lease of 801 Magnolia Avenue to the Piedmont Center for the Arts (PCA), rejecting a motion to allow more public input first. Because the City Council will have a second vote on the proposed lease, Piedmonters still have an opportunity to express their views by writing to the Piedmont City Council at: 

cityclerk@piedmont.ca.gov

The threshold question for the City Council is whether to continue PCA control of a City building.

Public comment was split between those appreciating PCA’s role in hosting arts events and those who hoped that 801 Magnolia could become more of a “community center” where arts is one use, but not the only use.

Most Piedmont non-profits rent City or School facilities as needed (e.g., Education Speaker Series, Diversity Film Series, Piedmont Soccer Club); PCA could do the same for its arts events. The City Manager stated that Recreation Department programs could fill any unused City space and the PCA space is often unused (even pre-COVID), other than as a quiet space for its commercial sub-tenant.

This is not a choice between arts and no arts, but rather how best to maximize community benefit from limited City spaces. If the City Council decides to renew PCA’s lease, the proposed PCA lease has four major flaws. As a result, it fails to achieve the goals set forth in the City Staff Report. The lease is at:

https://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=17199779.

(1) Future City Construction.

The proposed lease prevents the City from terminating the lease until January 2024 at the earliest—and then only if the City is conducting significant renovations of the Police, Fire or Recreation buildings. (See Sections 1.8 & 9.2).

The City, however, plans to seek voter approval of bonds to renovate or rebuild City buildings in Spring 2021. The City’s building plans might include relocating City staff to 801 Magnolia Avenue while construction is ongoing or even a new structure at the 801 Magnolia Avenue location. The City could be ready to begin construction in Summer 2022, but be blocked by the PCA lease, as construction costs increase during the delay.

The simple fix is to amend the lease to allow the City to terminate without cause on 180 days’ notice (note that the City’s lease to the Piedmont Educational Foundation allows termination without cause on 90 days’ notice).

(2) City Use of 801 Magnolia Avenue.

Because the 801 Magnolia Avenue space has been unused much of the time (other than PCA’s sublease to The Piedmont Post), the City seeks the right to hold “City Sponsored Activities” there or to rent it out for “City Private Rental Activities.” A good idea, but the proposed lease puts unwarranted hurdles in the City’s way.

The proposed lease would allow City-Sponsored Activities, but only (i) with advance notice, (ii) if the City cannot go elsewhere, (iii) if the City mitigates PCA’s concerns about “unreasonable interference” with “Tenant’s use,” and (iv) the City tries to relocate its activity if PCA asks. (Section 4.2(c)). City Private Rental Activities, allowed only if PCA has nothing planned, face similar restrictions. (Section 4.2(b)).

The simple fix, consistent with the City’s ownership on behalf of all City residents, is to allow the City to schedule any activity there that is compatible with any arts related activity previously scheduled by PCA. At a bare minimum, a City right to terminate without cause on 180 days’ notice will ensure good faith cooperation on both sides.

(3) Revenue for City Expenses.

In 2011, the City gave PCA a no-rent lease because PCA agreed to pay to perform long-deferred maintenance on the building. In the proposed lease, PCA pays no rent, but is not asked to perform any work. By contrast, another non-profit, the Piedmont Education Foundation, pays rent of $19,020/year for less nice space inside Veterans Hall.

PCA’s 2019 balance sheet shows over $406,000 in assets and its 2018 and 2019 profit & loss statements show income exceeding expenses. After public comment that PCA could afford to pay rent (like most non-profits using City or School facilities), PCA’s Treasurer stated that PCA could “do more,” i.e., pay rent. The City has stated that it needs revenue to fund maintenance. Accept PCA’s offer!

(4) Equal Access.

In the past, PCA has turned away those who did not meet its definition of “arts-related.” The Staff Report says PCA agrees to more diverse programming, but the proposed lease would narrow PCA’s Approved Uses from a “venue for exhibits and performances” to “arts-related” activities only, plus its sub-lease. (Section 1.1).

In theory, the City Private Rental Activities provide another path for residents to rent the 801 Magnolia Avenue space, but, as noted above, the City’s rights are restricted. Even if that is fixed, PCA has the first right to schedule events. The lease should require PCA to rent space to any Piedmont resident for any event compatible with the space.

I encourage Piedmonters to share their views on the proposed PCA lease, as it will determine the use of 801 Magnolia Avenue for the next 7 years.

Rick Raushenbush, Piedmont Resident and Former Piedmont School Board

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.  The Piedmont Center for the Arts (PCA) is a separate organization from the Piedmont Civic Association (PCA) that originated in 1986 and provides this news site. 
Nov 29 2020

Free Flu shots will be given in

Piedmont Main Park – Community Hall

 711 Highland Avenue

Wednesday, Dec. 2 – 1:00 – 4:00 p.m – while supplies last.

No insurance is required. Available for all.

Wear your face mask.

Alameda County Health Care Services and Alameda County Health Department.

Nov 23 2020

Covid-19 Spreading at a Faster Pace in Piedmont

Thanksgiving Week in Piedmont began with more new Covid-19 positive cases reported, for a total of 59 Piedmont cases as the region spirals upward.  (UPDATE 66 total Piedmont positive tests as of November 24!)  Due to a rapid rise in Covid-19 cases, the State of California moved Alameda County – along with 40 other counties –  to the Purple Tier, the most restrictive level on November 16, 2020.

At the end of October, Piedmont had reached a total of 42 cases since testing began.  There were five new cases by November 4 and seven in the most recent week of November 16 to 23.   In the first three weeks of November, a total of 17 Piedmonters tested positive.  That is more than the total cases in March, April, May and June combined.  Piedmont did not reach a total of 17 Covid-19 cases until July 14, 2020.

Celebrate Thanksgiving Safely!

Nov 18 2020

Would the City lease out and give control of the Japanese Tea House to a private organization in the same manner as proposed for the Piedmont Center for the Arts?

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To: Piedmont City Council:

I have read with great interest the upcoming approval by the City of a lease for the 801 Magnolia Avenue building. Here is my “slippery slope” argument to highlight the consequences of extending the proposed lease to The Piedmont Center for the Arts.

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I have just formed a new nonprofit, Cherry Blossoms, Inc. (“CBI”). Our nonprofit would like to get a five-year lease from you for the City’s Japanese Tea House, and its surrounding deck for $1.00 per year. We plan to rent it out for art exhibits, bonsai exhibits and to professional Japanese puppet masters and to Kabuki theatre performers to bring culture to the Piedmont community.

We also would plan to make money renting to music teachers for individual & group lessons and recitals, especially on traditional Japanese instruments. Anyone else wanting to use it could apply to rent it from us, and we would rent it out at our sole discretion charging whatever user fees we think we could get.

Our lease would provide that the City would be responsible for all water, refuse removal, exterior maintenance, including decks, benches, trees, landscaping maintenance, and any maintenance related to the structural integrity of this sweet little building. CBI would be responsible for interior maintenance; we will be making lots of money in rental fees and so could easily do any inside maintenance that we, in our sole opinion, decide needs doing.

Once a year the City could rent it out from us for the Japanese Consulate visit or for a bride using the Community Center as a “City Private Rental” with six month’s advance written notice to us, unless we later decide we really need to use it. In that case, we can just give you 30 days’ notice prior to your scheduled booking and you will have to try your best to find another venue.

Such a lease with us is modeled exactly on the one you are already giving to the Piedmont Center for the Arts and will demonstrate the City’s support for Asian arts in Piedmont.

Now that the City is supporting the arts by giving away other under-utilized city buildings, we demand equal treatment. We have the blessing and backing of a significant portion of the Piedmont community and will be presenting our proposed lease to you for a First Reading as early as possibly in January, long before the cherry trees bloom.

We look forward to working with you to advance the arts in Piedmont.

M. Rhiger, Piedmont Resident

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Nov 17 2020

November 16, 2020 on a first reading, the Piedmont City Council split their votes on extending a $1 per year lease for seven more years to a private organization, Piedmont Center for the Arts, of Piedmont’s property at 801 Magnolia Avenue. 

For several hours more than a dozen speakers testified for and against the proposed lease extension of the 801 Magnolia building. The current $1 per year lease will expire in June 2021. 

Mayor Bob McBain, whose term on the Council is ending and who sets the agenda, noted he had promised the Arts Board and others, he would have a vote on the lease extension of the Piedmont Center for the Arts.  McBain acknowledged he and City Administrator Sara Lillevand had been meeting with the Art Center Board for months and in August he had informed others, including Lillevand, there were 3 votes on the City Council in favor of the lease extension.

With no publicity or public notice by the City, the matter was addressed favorably primarily by the Board of the Art Center. Other speakers concerned about the lease noted the lack of public input and need for alternatives to the problematic proposed lease.

All speakers supported use of the facilities for the arts while offering suggestions to protect the City’s interests and increase community involvement.

At the close of the public hearing and Council discussion,  Mayor Bob McBain preempted the other Council members and made a motion to approve the lease extension.  Vice Mayor Teddy King seconded his motion.  Council member Betsy Andersen, who was the 3rd Yes vote, asked that the term of the lease be changed from 10 years to 7 years.

Council member Jen Cavenaugh made a substitute motion seconded by Council member Tim Rood to table the matter in order to allow additional information based on questions and concerns plus more time for public input prior to approving the first reading of the proposed long-term lease of the property.  McBain, Andersen, and King voted against the motion, and it failed.

McBain and King’s motion was approved by Andersen, McBain and King gaining a first reading to extend the lease for 7 years. Rood and Cavenaugh voted no.

The matter will return in December, or later, to the Council after a new Council is seated in December.   McBain will have be termed out of office and his seat will be filled by Conna McCarthy on December 7, 2020.  Council member Jen Cavenaugh reelected to a second term on the Council will serve for another 4 years.  Council members, King, Rood, and Andersen will remain on the Council for two more years.

Some issues raised and not resolved prior to the Council approving the first reading of the lease were:

  • Why wasn’t the lease extension publicized in local media to gather public input?
  • How much more would it cost the City to operate the Center?
  • What is the financial condition of the Art Center, Inc.?
  • Who controls how the property can be used?
  • What is the value to the City of the property?
  •  Why are Art Center Board minutes and financial information not provided to the city regarding income and users?
  • Why are arts groups and other community organizations turned away in preference for commercial business activities?
  • How can revenue from the Center foster arts in the community?
  • The City recently stated it needed more money on two recent ballot measures. Why is the Art Center revenue stream of hundreds of thousands of dollars not considered a desired revenue source?
  • What is the status of the IRS 501C3 qualification given recent information on the Art Center?
  • Why are there terms in the lease that do not favor the taxpayers and City of Piedmont?
  • What information is available on cost-effective use of the building?
  • How can a private organization lease public property and then sublease to a commercial entity?
  • Why is the Arts Board allowed exclusionary control of the property and not include all segments of the community?
  • Why isn’t the building fully utilized?
  • Can conflicts  between commercial uses, recreation classes and art shows be resolved?
  • What are the CEQA issues raised by a resident who received short notice?
  • Will the new high school theater offer superior performance space?
  • Have parking demands been considered?
  • Where is the sub-tenant commercial lease?

Those satisfied with the lease extension spoke to:

  • Prior improvements made to the building.
  • Successful programs of music and art for Piedmont and the wider community.
  • Continuing benefit to the City at little cost.
  • Grandfathering the commercial newspaper sub-tenant lease
  • Expanding programs
  • Use by top artists
  • Volunteer commendation for a successful operation.

The Lease Extension approved by 3 council members is linked below:

Art Center Introduction and 1st Reading of Ord. 758 N.S. – Approving a Lease Agreement with Piedmont Center for the Arts for City Property at 801 Magnolia Avenue

2 Comments »
Nov 17 2020

New Lease Terms Offered by City are Significantly More Costly for City and More Favorable for the Occupant – Why Such a Radical Change from the Original 2011 Lease?

Nancy Lehrkind, the founder of the Piedmont Center for the Arts, wrote a letter to the Piedmont City Council alerting them to problems she was aware of regarding the first reading of an extended lease for the City property at 801 Magnolia Avenue to the “nonprofit” Piedmont Center for the Arts.

Lehrkind presented data on finances and issues.  Click below to read her letter  with additional information attached.

PCA Lehrkind 112020

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Nov 12 2020

A controversial item has been placed on the November 16, 2020 Council Agenda…the lease of City property at 801 Magnolia Avenue, the Art Center.  Agenda here.

The Council composition is soon to change based on the recent election of Conna McCarthy to replace Bob McBain on the City Council. Given the lease terms and controversy, questions have been raised regarding the need to act prior to the seating of the new Council, which will occur within days in early December 2020. The current Art Center lease does not end until June 2021.

With over six months left on the lease, a citizen asked, “What is the rush?”  Others have called for a widely publicized community evaluation of the use of the City property, since one has never been undertaken.

Adding to the controversy, a proposed fee schedule for 801 Magnolia Avenue would not be developed and brought back to the Council until after the new lease agreement has been approved by the Council.

The staff report estimates the office space “market rate” rental at $50 per foot, by comparing it with the Veterans Hall office rental rate of $36 per square foot leased to the Piedmont Education Foundation, the  local non-profit organization benefiting Piedmont schools. The reason to compare a rental rate for commercial entities with the rental rate charged to a local non-profit is questioned.

Commercial rental space in Piedmont is at a  premium because of location and scarcity.  Plus, the City property at 801 Magnolia Avenue includes two much-sought-after parking spaces.

A number of citizens would like the fee structure to be a part of the lease discussion, prior to approval of any lease.  It has been proposed that the Recreation Department manage all use of the space to assure appropriate and full use of the property. The staff proposed agreement provides for City programs and events as well as private non arts-related rentals.

The building at 801 Magnolia Avenue was purchased with taxpayer’s funds.  If income from the property were to be maximized, it has been estimated rental income from various uses could bring in over $200,000 per year.

  • Who should manage the building?
  • What purposes should the property be used?
  • What use of this city property would be most beneficial for the community?

Opinion articles have been published on this site.

https://www.piedmontcivic.org/2020/11/04/opinion-city-owned-801-magnolia-building-should-be-run-by-the-city/

Opinion: Why Rush 801 Magnolia Lease?

Citizens have suggested various uses for the property.  Some are listed below.

— a community library,

— senior center,

— Dress Best for Less, drop off site and marking room, benefits schools and Piedmont’s local recycling goals,

— counseling/ tutoring space,

— recreation programs,

— meeting site,

— rentals for weddings, book reviews, receptions, celebrations,

— performances and art shows,

— recital and amateurmusical practice space.

The staff report is linked below

.Art Center Introduction and 1st Reading of Ord. 758 N.S. – Approving a Lease Agreement with Piedmont Center for the Arts for City Property at 801 Magnolia Avenue

3 Comments »
Nov 12 2020

– Measure UU Passed, Pool Design Is Next –

Measure UU: A call for engineering experts among our community –

We are faced with a very interesting and challenging engineering problem: designing a pool that will meet the neighborhood’s aquatic needs for the next 50 years within the constraints of the Piedmont Climate Action Plan and the State of California 2035/2050 goals.
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Very few pool design companies have the skills to analyze and optimize the complex trade-offs between the various available energy technologies and the pool size in area and water volume. Piedmont has an opportunity to innovate and show the way for other communities.
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We would like to call on the engineering skills within the members of the community to join us with the goal of making back-of-the envelope calculations on various options, based on data gathering and scientific calculations. This  would help the City Council to make decisions on how to proceed.
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You can connect to us by email: piedmont.green.pool@gmail.com or through this PCA forum.
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Indira Balkissoon, Piedmont Resident

Garrett Keating, Former member of the City Council

Bernard Pech, Piedmont Resident

Tom Webster, Piedmont Resident

Nov 10 2020

Piedmont pedestrians raise safety issues when walking for exercise and recreation.

Sidewalk blocked by vehicle parking violation.

 

Walking is a simple healthful exercise especially recommended during the COVID – 19 pandemic.  Not only medically beneficial, but a stress reliever for those reacting to cabin fever.  Regrettably, in Piedmont there are safety challenges to pedestrians.  While the City has prohibited parking vehicles on sidewalks, the police rarely enforce the prohibition.  Seniors, toddlers, baby carriages, wheelchair bound, all are too often forced into competition with vehicular traffic in the streets.  As rainy season approaches, this will be an increasingly dangerous situation for the many health walkers trying to use Piedmont sidewalks on a daily basis.

Attractive crosswalk painted patterns (see illustration below) improve street appearance while providing additional protection to pedestrians crossing busy intersections.

Piedmont women in particular choose walking as their daily exercise under the current constrained conditions since bicycling and swimming do not build bone density, a prime consideration.

Cyclists are prone to weak bones. Read more here.

“A cohort of female Olympic swimmers had lower bone mineral density measurements at all sites when compared with non-aquatic elite athletes, suggesting that weight-bearing or strength activities out of water could be incorporated into training to improve bone health, according to findings published in Bone.”   Healio News July 09, 2019  Read more here   Bone Journal articles here

Piedmont walkers are also keenly aware of hazardous sidewalks with cracks and upliftings.  It has been noted that in certain areas of Piedmont sidewalk corrections have never occurred.  Walkers are often forced into the street to find a level walking surface creating a danger for vehicles and themselves.  Piedmont streets are on a comprehensive pavement management schedule.  No such program is known for Piedmont sidewalks.

It has been suggested that vehicles should be allowed to park on only one side of narrow streets to allow pedestrians, vehicles, and bicycles safe passage.

Photos showing common vehicle violations.

Attractive pedestrian crosswalk pattern more visible to cars.

2 Comments »
Nov 9 2020

The Alameda County Registrar of Voters continues to compile election  results.  More Piedmont votes have been added to totals, however the Piedmont relative percentages have not varied enough to change the outcome and are not expected to change.  The most recent and detailed results can be found at –https://www.acgov.org/rovresults/241/indexA.htm

Presumed Elected:

City Council – Jennifer Cavenaugh and Conna McCarthy

School Board – Cory Smegal, Veronica Anderson-Thigpen and Hilary Cooper

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Measure UU, pool bonds, continues to be approved by over 68% of the voters.

Measure TT, increase in the real property transfer tax, continues to fail by a wider margins. See below.

2 of 2 Precincts Reported (100.00% )
Needs 50% + 1 Yes vote to pass
 
Contest Votes Percentage
No 3,755 51.83 %
Yes 3,490 48.17 %