Sep 19 2016

OPINION: Conflicts of Interest and Voter Approval for Land Use

Letter to the City Council regarding land use changes without voter approval and conflicts of interest.

re: Sep. 19, 2016  Council Agenda Item 5: Planning and Zoning Revisions

Acting Mayor Wieler and Piedmont City Council –

The July 11, 2016 Planning Commission Staff Report at p. 3 recommends changing the use of City Property Zone B to include: “ . . . for profit entities because the City may want to allow a community-serving business, such as a local newspaper or beverage stand, to operate out of a City building.”  The only exclusively local newspaper is the Piedmont Post.

I express my concerns on the following four points:

1. The US Constitution’s First Amendment and the California Constitution’s protection of free speech raise serious question about the City’s approval of use of public property by a local newspaper with notorious and biased views on controversial local civic issues. The Post apparently operates as City Hall’s media outlet for these important issues by most often favoring the Council majority, by masking the Post’s editorial viewpoint as objective front page reporting, and by denying equal space for opposition viewpoints.

2. There are very serious conflict of interest issues involved in any Council action necessary to allow use of public property by the Piedmont Post.

3. Very real and substantial issues arise under Section 9.02 of the City Charter whether any change in use classification, with the exception of an owner’s voluntary request to zone the owned property to residential, requires an affirmative vote at a special or general election.

4. The Planning Commission recommended not-for-profit businesses be “non-political.” To be consistent, all businesses must be “non-political”  if eventually allowed rental space on City owned public property.


Rick Schiller, Piedmont Resident

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

One Response to “OPINION: Conflicts of Interest and Voter Approval for Land Use”

  1. Rick raises key legal and ethical questions about allowing use of 801 Magnolia [Art Center] for for- profit businesses. It’s odd that this topic is even being considered as to my knowledge there has been no public comment to consider this during the course of the Chapter 17 hearings that have been held these past two years. The city might want to provide a more transparent justification for this proposal less it be charged with an ethics violation by our local newspaper.

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