Jan 20 2013

Staff Proposes New Child Care Program for Half of Magnolia Property

IMG_9572 Piedmont Center for the Arts 7/12Staff presentation to Council prior to public input on potential East Wing uses-

With numerous community ideas on the future use of the East Wing of 801 Magnolia Avenue and statements by community leaders urging community hearings to solicit input on its possible uses, City Administrator Geoffrey Grote, will be proposing a single vision for this space to the City Council on Tuesday, January 22:   use as a childcare facility.

Recreation Director Mark Delventhal will present an “Introduction of the concept of the use of un-leased portion (east wing) of 801 Magnolia Avenue as a child care facility/recreation program site.”  The proposal was prepared at the direction of Grote: “Regarding the long-term use, I have asked Mark Delventhal to begin the process of assessing the suitability of this room for use as a pre-school child care site.”

The staff report states that the Tuesday Council meeting “…will involve no actions other than a decision by the City Council to move forward with consideration of how best to use this valuable City asset.”  This type of agenda item generally involves receiving “direction” from the Council.  Direction may include allowing staff to proceed with detailed estimates, develop a program plan, and/or begin using the space – or waiting to receive community input on uses.

As recently as January, 2012, during the City Council election campaign, current City Council members supported gathering public input on possible uses of the East Wing of 801 Magnolia.

Council Member Fujioka noted I support public hearings whenever policy decisions are made regarding the use of public property, and that would include 801 Magnolia . . . .”

Council candidate Robert McBain promised I support public hearings regarding the potential development of city assets . . . Regarding 801 Magnolia, the efforts by the Piedmont Center for the Arts have been successful and constructive.  Let’s review realistic alternatives for the east wing and the financial resources required to make use of that facility. In general, we need to provide thorough hearings and seek judicious understanding of the uses of our limited city facilities.”

Earlier, in May of 2011, various Capital Improvement Project Committee members expressed their desire for public input on the space following a tour of the space with Mark Delventhal when they heard his thoughts on an “18-place” childcare program.  A PCA article reported:

“A number of [CIP] Committee members wished to solicit public input . . . mentioning the variety of public uses which had been identified during General Plan discussions 3 to 4 years ago, including a teen study/recreation center and a co-op reading room. 

“The Committee Chair, and liaison with the Recreation Commission, Leesy Taggart, noted that a number of significant projects were being undertaken in Piedmont for kids and that there were adults and other groups in Piedmont, as well. 

“CIP Member Ryan Gilbert pointed out that, while the community is looking forward to the new Piedmont Center for the Arts, there had been little opportunity for public input on the use of the space prior to the Council’s decision.”

“On the tour, a member of the public raised the issue of fairness of using the sole available public space in Piedmont to benefit 18 children out of 10,500 residents.”

At a subsequent City Council hearing discussing CIP recommendations for the Magnolia property, the Council declined to expend $75,000 to develop a design for the East Wing limited to a particular use.  Chairman of the CIP Committee, Leesy Taggart noted at that time:

“the [CIP] committee’s recommendation for a proposed examination of possible uses of the education wing is intended to be a full-range evaluation of all options and not be tied to any particular type of future use or user group.”  (See August 1, 2011 minutes at p. 3.)

The Piedmont Arts Center, with a successful first year under its belt (see article), is one group that has expressed interest in renovating the East Wing for use by multiple Piedmont community groups as an intimate gathering space or “reading room,” as well as some expanded Arts Center activities.   Arts Center President Nancy Lehrkind confirms that her organization previously completed $29,000 of work on the East Wing for ADA-compliant bathrooms which serve the entire building, has $15,000 reserved to provide ADA access to those bathrooms, and she anticipates an additional $22,000 would complete East Wing interior renovations, part of which is on hand and part which could be raised.  The space “could be open within 60 days as a multi-use space for the enjoyment of the entire Piedmont community,” according to Lehrkind.  The many community visions for the East Wing space are discussed in the PCA article:  A Piedmont Place for You!).

The staff proposal submitted by Delventhal states that, “…child care will likely be the recommended use…. Staff intends to recommend  that improvements to Area C be done to accommodate child care … “.  The childcare would provide “22 placements,” which could represent, for instance, 7 children 3 times per week, or 11 children 2 times per week.  The report describes this use as for “the community,” but the childcare spots will go to a few lucky residents or a few lucky staff members (who utilize child-care programs on an equal basis with Piedmont families).   In the past, staff has complained about the substantial distance between City Hall and child care for young children at the Community Hall.  Children of staff are provided with free childcare through Schoolmates, but details on whether Schoolmates will run the proposed new pre-school program, expanding the free childcare benefit to younger children as well, are not included in the staff report.

The Piedmont Recreation Department currently offers a number of child-care programs and activities, including Tiddly-Winks, Piedmont Cooperative Play School, numerous summer activity camps, after-school enrichment classes, swim lesson and more, but Delventhal states there is still unmet need.

Specialized plumbing has recently been installed in the East Wing at the direction of City staff to accommodate “child-sized” toilets.

Use of the space as a senior/adult center has been mentioned in the past, potentially paid for with a portion of Piedmont’s allocation of East Bay Regional Park bond funds approved by voters of Measure WW. Under the measure, senior centers with programs and activities for adults and seniors are an allowed use of the funding for capital improvements.  Piedmont’s allocation amounts to over $500,000, which may be used to fund more than one project.  The Center still requires a lift or ramp to access the public restrooms and East Wing rooms, and the Arts Center has $15,000 reserved to pay for it.  

Unlike all other cities in Alameda County, Piedmont does not have a senior center, although the City is known for its high percentage of senior residents:  Piedmont households without school-aged children are approximately 50% of the community.    As noted at the May 2011 Capital Improvement Projects meeting, Piedmont recreational programs  have emphasized youth activities in recent years, rather than activities for Piedmont’s adult and senior population.  Senior Centers contribute to the California state goal of encouraging “Aging in Place”.

 LINK:  see prior PCA article:  A Piedmont Place for You! to review various community suggestions for the East Wing of 801 Magnolia.


801 Magnolia after renovations by Piedmont Arts Center

801 Magnolia after renovations by Piedmont Arts Center


  • Front entrance to 801 Magnolia before renovations

    801 Magnoilia Prior to Renovations


IMG_8290  Sunday School with partitions

The East Wing (currently contains City storage items)

City Records Stored in the East Wing

City Records Stored in the East Wing


Old financial records stored in the East Wing

Old financial records stored in the East Wing

West Wing Performance Hall after Renovations

West Wing Performance Hall after Renovations


An enjoyable gathering

An enjoyable gathering


The East Wing (Southern half)

The East Wing (existing layout)


West Wing - mid renovations

West Wing – mid renovations


A Piedmont Gathering Place

A Piedmont Gathering Place

Rotted Windows Prior to Renovation

Rotted Windows Prior to Renovation
















One Response to “Staff Proposes New Child Care Program for Half of Magnolia Property”

  1. Use of the East wing was always in the cards but since neither the City Administrator nor Reacreation Department listed this proposal in their 2012-2013 Goals and Objectives it seems hasty to come forward with such an explicit request, especially at an irregular city council meeting falling after a long weekend when many residents are away from town. The 801 building can be put to multiple “best uses” and Council needs to conduct a thorough vetting of ideas from different city departments, community groups and residents before giving direction. To that end, I think Council should refer this matter to the Capiltal Improvemnts Committee that convenes in May so all interested parties can have time to engage the community and prepare concepts for Council to consider.

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