Sep 24 2012

Cell Tower Review and City’s Bicycle Plan

Bike/Pedestrian Plan Gains Traction-

On Tuesday, September 18, the City Council and Planning Commission held a joint meeting to discuss possible modifications to the requirements for Wireless Communications Facilities review, and planning for enhanced bicycle and pedestrian safety.

Kate Black, City Planner, reported on the telecommunications facilities issues specific to Piedmont: the expectation of increasing future applications and potential changes to Chapter 17G of the Municipal Code.  The City Attorney reported on the narrow grounds available for local regulation of telecommunications facilities.  “Cities are free to regulate such siting to accommodate local needs, including aesthetic concerns but such regulations must be based on substantial evidence and cannot have the effect of prohibiting provision of personal wireless service…”   It was the sense of the Council members and Commissioners that any modifications to the review requirements should not compromise Piedmont’s limited opportunities for control of the facilities.

Piedmont resident, Paul Karuda, spoke to the joint meeting advocating the regulation, monitoring and taxing of these business installations.  He cautioned that without such an effort, the City will forfeit a steady stream of income, and violations will likely occur. He provided maps from The Center for Municipal Solutions (CMS) showing manipulation of “proof of technical need” for coverage areas and recommended considering the CMS model ordinance.

Bicycle/Pedestrian Safety Plan

A dozen residents spoke in favor of improving bicycle safety in Piedmont and several spoke in favor of pedestrian safety improvements as well.  Black suggested expanding the scope of the City’s upcoming Bicycle Plan to include a Pedestrian Plan (including a Safe Routes to School).  The recommendation is to retain Barry Miller, the planning consultant, whom Black and the City Administrator are “comfortable with” after a number of previous contracts with him over more than six years.

Planning Commissioner Michael Henn questioned the “sole provider” nature of continued reliance on the same planning consultant.  Black and the City Administrator said that the Municipal Code does not require competitive bids for professional services, only for construction contracts.  A letter signed by 48 individuals supported the hiring of Miller, “We understand from staff reports that the funding for the BMP is in the approved FY 2012-13 budget and that a proposal has been obtained from Barry Miller, whose fine work on Piedmont’s General Plan we very much appreciate.”

Working with Miller on the bike plan will be Niko Letunic who spoke about getting to know Miller as a  colleague in the City of Oakland Planning and Zoning Division of the Community and Economic Development Agency.  The first phase is a $4,000 “complete streets” policy statement to be prepared by Letunic.  Council member Jeff Weiler suggested eliminating the $4,000 expense and just adopting the forthcoming Alameda County “complete streets” policy statement.  Black said that the County statement would not be precisely suited to Piedmont and would require adjustment.  The subsequent contract for the bike/pedestrian plan is estimated to cost $94,360.  (Miller at a “client loyalty” discount rate of $90 per hour, Letunic at the rate of $150 per hour and Jeremy Shaw at $100 per hour.)  The budget does not include an optional Citizens Advisory Committee at an additional cost of $7,000.


2 Responses to “Cell Tower Review and City’s Bicycle Plan”

  1. Your article focuses on the cost of the bike/ped plan but never mentions that the plan is eligible for 100% funding through competitive Measure B transportation sales tax funds from the County, which staff will apply for in the upcoming funding cycle, or that Piedmont is required to adopt bike and ped plans by July 2015 in order to remain eligible for the 350k we get annually for local road projects.

  2. Two more points about cost. If Piedmont does not receive Measure B grant funds, it does have sufficient discretionary Measure B funds (received annually) to pay for the plan. Hopefully the City will get the grant funds and can use its banked Measure B funds on bike/ped improvements. No budget has been submitted and whether a Citizens Advisory Committee is included in the grant application remains to be seen. I support a committee but also would like to see Piedmont propose a joint working group with the City of Oakland since so many elements of Piedmont’s bike/ped plan need to integrate with Oakland’s plan.

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