May 5 2014

OPINION: Long Time Resident Urges No on H

Vote No on Measure H, the $14.5 million Piedmont High School Theater Renovation Dear Neighbors,

If you subscribe to the Piedmont Post, you may have read many articles about the proposed renovation of the Piedmont High School Theater (the Alan Harvey Theater). Many questions have been raised and there is an on-going debate in the community about what to do.

You probably have received two fliers from the “Yes on H” campaign. You hopefully will get from us a postcard which encourages you to visit our (note the three Os).

Please take a good look at the issues. Measure H will impact the way future capital projects are conceived by the School Board and the District. In our view, the Board has been blinded by the success of the Havens School rebuild. The Board should have pushed the pause button once it became clear that the initial concept for the theater renovation as proposed by Mr. Becker turned out to be twice as expensive as expected (construction cost rising from $5 million to $10 million).

 We all know that the theater needs work. The Superintendent has set aside a budget of $500,000 for changing the seats, replacing the HVAC, and fixing lighting for safety (such as adding footlights at the edge of the stage). We present our case in the Why No page.

  • If you are a performing arts lover, you should vote No as the proposed project will not fix the major issues with the Theater: its low ceiling and its poor acoustics due to the large bay windows. It is also clear that the renovation is overpriced when compared to a new construction.

  • If you feel, as I personally do, that the additional educational value for kids performing in public under expensive LED lights and a new control room is not worth the extra expenditure, you should vote No. Why waste money when since 2008 school programs have been cut, class sizes increased, and total instructional days decreased? Yes, capital money and operation money do not mix, but they do come from the same wallets! We need to nurture community goodwill so that taxpayers respond generously to the next State school budget cuts.

  • Finally, if you are concerned about all the other needs that are in line for capital expenditure on the High School campus, you should request that the Board set priorities for big capital expenses based on a long term vision rather than letting nuts and bolts issues dominate and through scope creep be turned into big projects.

We also are annoyed by the tactics used by the proponents. Scare tactics distort the public debate, undermine trust, and take Piedmonters for granted. Please take a look at our web page on accessibility. The theater will not be closed due to lack of ADA compliance and it can be made more accessible at a low cost. Let us not have these tactics impair our judgment, as the matter is most important for our students.

Let me know if you want to participate in our No campaign. Whichever position you end up taking, make sure you cast your vote. You can vote using snail mail by registering with the County before May 27, 5 pm by calling  (510) 272-6973 to request a ballot to be mailed to you.

Sincerely yours,

Bernard Pech

Piedmonter since 1983.

Piedmont Citizens Against Measure H – An informal organization for now.  For this campaign, contact me through the email:

Editors’ Note:  The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association (PCA).  We invite various points of view on civic subjects.  PCA does not support or oppose ballot measures or candidates for public office.  COMMENTS may be made below.  Longer OPINIONS may be submitted using the link on the upper left side of this page. 

2 Responses to “OPINION: Long Time Resident Urges No on H”

  1. It’s my understanding that the proposed project is NOT a life safety issue. That’s why it wasn’t part of the huge seismic safety program that we are paying dearly for now. It’s also my understanding that ADA compliance deficiencies will NOT force closure of the AHT; at least so long as significant construction is not undertaken.
    In my opinion, just because the District can legally borrow this much money DOESN’T mean create a project big enough to spend it ALL!
    George Childs, Piedmont Taxpayer

  2. Repeatedly we have heard from the Yes on H campaign that the ADA and Safety issues are “legally required.” No agency has or can mandate the “required” changes. The Theater is in compliance now unless significant new work is undertaken. I doubt just rehabbing the seats, carpet, paint and HVAC requires all the major ADA upgrades the District states are required.

    I would like to see a better and complete Theater facility such as the new San Leandro HS Theater with its complete rigging, storage, multiple classrooms and multi-media facilities. That was done for just under $500/square foot. The Piedmont Theater renovation is costing $834 / sf.

    I do not support bonding residents to the legal maximum as the School Board evidently wishes to keep doing, and on top of the most expensive school support tax in the State. But given the political clout of the School groups and the one option consensus mentality that pervades local politics, Measure H has a good chance of passage. Perhaps the Board will then look at more efficient financial options that result in a complete Theater.

    Rick Schiller
    Piedmont taxpayer

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