Apr 17 2015

Fossil Fuels Divestment, Housing Goals Met, Lutheran Church Permit, $871,000 in Transportation Funds

Editors’ Note:  Two Piedmont High School students Anton Orban and Kerry Krohn observed and described the same Council meeting on April 6, 2015. Readers will note differences in their reports.
April 6, 2015 City Council Meeting Report
by Piedmont High School Student, Anton Orban

On April 6th, I attended a routine City Council Meeting held within the Piedmont City Hall’s Council Chambers. These meetings commonly occur on the first and third Mondays of each month. The matters disclosed and discussed in this meeting were the consideration of an application for a ‘Conditional Use Permit’ for the Zion Lutheran Church as recommended by the City’s Planning Commission, the consideration for a street closure to permit the local Recreation Department to hold their first Annual Family Triathlon on May 16th, and the Regional Housing Needs Assessment Allocation Progress Informational Update.

Mayor Margaret Fujioka opened the meeting, following ceremonial City Council practices and the approval of Councilman Tim Rood to serve as the City’s Representative to the Alameda County Community Choice Aggregation Steering Committee and to proclaim April 6th K.C. Oakley Day within the City of Piedmont for the young local skier’s notable feats on and off the pitch.

Prior to the Mayor’s Presentation of Proclamation to K.C. Oakley, however, during Public Forum, citizens spoke of distressing matters. Dr. Julia Walsh, brought forth a plea for the city to “divest from fossil fuels” and no longer invest in fossil fuel corporations along with CALPERS, a pension fund which the city belongs to.

Upon being interviewed, Dr. Walsh revealed her credentials as a credible source to this matter as she is a Professor of Public Health at UC Berkeley. The twenty year Piedmont resident later assured the Council members that divestment posed no financial risk and expressed both to the Council and in my interview of her that she will gladly assist the City to transition away from supporting energy companies as she has done for several other local communities, including Sonoma.

Vice Mayor Jeff Wieler objected to the plea to divest on the basis that “Piedmont has never engaged in as large of an initiative.” However, Mayor Fujioka countered his objection, responding that the issue would be discussed in greater detail at another upcoming Council meeting.

I find that Dr. Walsh’s demand for divestment is warranted as energy companies in the United States profit off of the further degradation of the environment. Although I am not well versed in the City of Piedmont’s involvement with fossil fuel corporations, I find that corporate bodies should not be supported by communities such as our own, if their profiteering is detrimental to the environment of our community’s welfare.

Another important highlight of the meeting, included the Informational Report on Piedmont’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation progress. According to a report given by Paul Benoit, City Administrator, Piedmont ranked highest in compliance for the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) progress of Alameda County jurisdictions from 2007 to 2014, with an impressive 98% compliance when juxtaposed with surrounding communities. Benoit expressed to those attending, alongside Kate Black, Planning Director, that Piedmont is moving to increase its number of second unit housing to sixty as it would help us meet the regions’ quota of middle-low income housing units.

Councilmen Tim Rood and Robert McBain both complimented the progress, though McBain urged those attending the meeting that Piedmont is complying with the program because it is the morally correct thing to do. However, I felt skeptical of this good intention.

Though many Piedmont public officials may want to comply with this program out of the goodness of their hearts, Piedmont is an affluent community where people are more interested in their property value than in helping people of lesser economic standing to be included in our community. I believe that we are complying with the county’s new housing mandate in order to qualify for Federal grants, that we would be exempt from applying to if we had not obliged with RHNA.

The meeting was adjourned after announcements were made about Governor Brown’s statute for California residents to reduce 25% of their water use and the worsening drought in California. This deviation to the agenda was largely thanks to Tucker Johnson, a Piedmont High School student, who spoke of the community’s need for drought awareness and education. Fortunately for Tucker, Piedmont and those of the community anticipated his request  by already planning a Water Conservation Showcase to be held on April 22rd including  the Piedmont Fire Department. Councilman Tim Rood informed everyone of the educational event also informing potential attendees that food will be present at the event should the topic of water conservation famish listeners.

Another interesting announcement made before the Council meeting was adjourned, Mayor Fujioka stated that Piedmont will be the recipient of $871,000 administered by the Alameda County Transportation Commission to improve transportation in Piedmont, thanks to those who voted on Measures B and BB. If you thought Piedmont already had nice sidewalks and streets, think again, because Piedmont will soon get another facelift to facilitate traffic and transportation. Though no notice was given, it is imminent that construction notices will be given at future City Council meetings.

                                       Anton Orban
Report of April 6, 2015 City Council Meeting
 by Piedmont High School Student Kerry Krohn –

On April 6, 2015, I went to the Piedmont City Council meeting.  The Piedmont City Council meets on the first and third Monday of each month, at 7:30 p.m., in the City Council Chambers at City Hall. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss important issues presented by citizens and organizations, as well as the government body.

The major issues discussed were drought options and fossil fuel reduction, the consideration of an application for a Conditional Use Permit for Zion Lutheran Church as recommended by the Planning Commission, the consideration of a street closure for the Recreation Department’s first annual family triathlon, and information update on a new affordable housing proposal, the City’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment Allocation Project.

The City Council first addressed some environmental public issues concerning the drought, setting up a community aggregation system, and conserving fossil fuels. Most of the City Council members supported a community aggregation system, and Tim Rood, a City Council member, stated that Marin and Sonoma County both have it. Because of this system, Tim Rood continued, these counties have cleaner, and more local power which is cheaper than PG&E.

During Public Forum, Dr. Welch, a Piedmont resident, addressed the related issue of conserving fossil fuels, and divesting from fossil fuel corporations from Piedmont, which the City Council later decided to discuss in a future meeting.

Tucker Johnson, a Piedmont High School student, also addressed his concerns about California’s drought, which the City Council supported, and Mayor Margaret Fujoika replied that the City would be providing drought information programs at a future meeting.

The City Council then addressed the Conditional Use Permit for Zion Lutheran Church, and Pastor Paul Aldrich of Zion Lutheran Church spoke about his complete support towards the permit. Vice Mayor Jeffrey Weiler also supported the permit, claiming that he was a Lutheran himself. He supported the diversity and education it would also bring.

Council member Teddy G. King, voiced her concern that the planning of the church was unstable and unhealthy for children, but the majority of the City Council decided that the church made some significant changes, and the City Council agreed to approve a Conditional Use Permit.

The City Council then discussed the street closure for the Recreation Department’s Triathlon. Rebecca Sunaima, who was the “brain child” for the event, voiced her encouragement.  Mayor Margaret Fujioka also voiced her support, stating that Piedmont has never had a race like this before. Tim Rood was concerned about the safety of firetrucks getting in and out of Piedmont and residents accessing their driveways. The City Council then unanimously agreed to the street closures for the Triathlon.

The last item discussed on the agenda was the new affordable housing project. The affordable housing project is an important issue that will also bring more diversity to Piedmont. Robert McBain, a City Council member, supported the new affordable housing project, saying that it obeys housing needs and gives variety to buyers. Tim Rood was concerned about the incentives for the buyer, as well as enforcing requirements for payment from the residents and grants available for low income buyers.

I interviewed Pastor Paul Aldrich, who was there to support the Conditional Use Permit for his church. He had voiced his opinion to the Planning Commision and was hoping for the church to expand to include a foreign language school, controlled by Shu Wren.  This meeting was the last step for him, and he hoped the City Council would pass the permit if there was no complaints.  It was approved by the City Council.

                                  Kerry Krohn

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed  in the two articles are those of the authors.

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