Sep 30 2016

Report: New Stop Signs and Land Use Issues Dominate Council Meeting

Some citizens said the Council acted too fast while an equal number said the new signs make Piedmont safer.  –

On Monday September 19, 2016, I drove up to 120 Vista Avenue to attend one of the two City Council meetings held each month. Starting promptly at 7:30 p.m., everyone in the room stood up, placed a hand over their heart, echoed the Pledge of Allegiance, and then returned to their chairs.

The City Council members wasted no time to get into the meeting, which would cover the following: an approval of a license plate reader replacement, public statements on the sixteen new stop signs, a ceremony for Matthew Anderson’s efforts on reducing waste and emissions in Piedmont, as well as a presentation on mosquitoes, updating of City Municipal Codes, an approval for an internship program, as well as an approval to upgrade the Recreation Center along with a few other notable buildings.

After a unanimous decision approving a license plate reader replacement for the police and the replacement of the Dracena Park tot lot surface, the Council moved the meeting to the public forum. The most active part of the City Council meeting, in my opinion, the item was dominated by citizens speaking about the installation of sixteen new stop signs along major streets like Magnolia and Hampton.

It was a very engaging experience to me, because I can see the effect of the new signs when I walk to school everyday. Also, the fact that each citizen had their own take on the signs gave me new perspective on the whole situation. Some of the citizens that were called up by the council expressed that the stop signs were a great investment, due to their inexpensive cost and clear visibility. Many of the supporters expressed that they jogged or biked frequently in the city and the new signs made it safer to get through in busy intersections.

On the other hand, there was an equal number of people who thought the City acted too hastily without consulting and providing more time with members of the public. Many were frustrated that the decision was decided during the summer when many people are out on vacation and could not voice their opinion, while some felt the City concluded this action much quicker than other decisions.  In addition, members of the public expressed concern that a study would be needed to prove that the signs have a significant enough effect.

Not all members of the public who were present came with complaints, however. One citizen, Reid Settlemier, was skeptical on the signs environmental toll. He explained that when cars stop and accelerate they produce extra emissions — especially on the steeper roads. He thought that if the city were to implement speed limits instead of stop signs then the city could provide a safer environment without dramatically displacing traffic.

Personally, I felt that a mix from both sides of the issue would be the most beneficial. Frequently walking up Magnolia Avenue, even after the stop sign installations, the street still has its fair share of fast drivers. Though it is easier  for pedestrians where the stop sign intersections are, it is still very hard due to the road incline and curves. There are even some vehicles, notably construction and trailers, that blow right through the signs.

Following the public forum, two men from the Alameda County Mosquito Abatement District (ACMAD) gave an in depth PowerPoint presentation on mosquitoes. In wake of the Zika virus and the annoyance of mosquitoes in general, the presentation covered two different types of mosquitoes found in Piedmont, their life cycles, their habitats and food sources, their role in diseases, and how to contain them. ACMAD was very informative and explained that one of the most effective ways to limit the growth of mosquitoes is scrubbing garden pots and finding sources of stagnant water like pools, where the mosquitoes lay their many eggs. They emphasized that controlling mosquitos is a very laborious process, because they need to go door to door and get permission from citizens to search backyards for signs of mosquito eggs.

After the ACMAD presentation, the City Council received an update on proposed Municipal Code changes. The Council discussed they need time for public review before implementation of any changes proposed. The proposed update of zoning provisions calls for an emphasis on preserving Piedmont residential character, which was stated as the most important aspect of Piedmont.

The Council opened the meeting to public participation and a citizen talked about how the Shell Gas Station on Grand and Wildwood could be changed.  She suggested a cafe or homes would be a better transition than the gas station as is currently there.

City Council members nodded their heads in approval and the woman went on to say if there is to be a new building, it should be non-political unlike the Piedmont Post. Agreeing, the Council also discussed that there would be a guarantee of a safe environmental cleanup if there was a new commercial building, favoring the residents due to the lack of businesses in Piedmont.

The meeting concluded with approvals for Civic Spark Internship Program, public opportunity to discuss new facilities for Linda Beach and Coaches Field. Plans to renovate the Recreation Center was affirmed to be the most in need due to its importance to families and children.

Following the meeting I went up to Paul Benoit, the City Administrator and asked what his role was in the meeting and what steps he would take to get issues addressed. He stated that as he works for the City he is required to attend every meeting, and he works with the City Council and staff to address issues brought up from local residents. Benoit promoted that the Forum was a great way for residents to express opinions and encouraged local residents to take advantage of the meetings so he could help address their issues. I thanked Mr. Benoit for his time, shook his hand, and proceeded out the doors to the cool night sky exhausted, but thankful towards the people who contributed towards my city.

Carter Perkins, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

Leave a Comment