Dec 6 2017

OPINION: Taxpayer Supported City Facility Should Not Be Used for Newspaper Business

 Regarding the proposal to move The Piedmont Post newspaper into 801 Magnolia Avenue – the Piedmont Center for the Arts Building (public space) –

On the Monday, December 11 Planning Commission agenda is an application by The Piedmont Post to sub-lease office space from the Piedmont Center for the Arts (PCA) in the 801 Magnolia building. Some background/history: The editor of The Post serves on the PCA board.

PCA was given an essentially  rent-free lease for half of the 801 Magnolia Building by the City Council in 2010 as a non-profit with the authority to sub-lease to other non-profit organizations. As the city owns the building, it is public space and private for profit uses were prohibited. PCA has certainly earned that status as a public space given the arts activity it has brought to Piedmont.

Last spring, the City Code (Chapter 17) was revised by the Council to allow private for-profit uses in public spaces. Private businesses are required to obtain a Conditional Use Permit, one criteria for which is that “the intent is to allow commercial uses which will serve the residents of the City” as opposed to regional users.

City staff explicitly recommended “newspaper” as an acceptable use in its report to Council at the time. In The Post’s application for a Conditional Use Permit, it addresses this intent requirement with the following response: “It will be very convenient for students and residents to file sports stories, notice cultural events, to pick up copies of the weekly newspaper, and provide photographs, etc.”

The Post has been publicly critiqued by Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) School Board members for its biased reporting on school bond measures and stories maligning PUSD staff and hires.

If the use permit is granted, such conduct will continue from taxpayer-supported office space. Comments on this matter can be sent to Kevin Jackson, Planning Director, at or City Council at

By Garrett Keating, Former City Council Member

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

7 Responses to “OPINION: Taxpayer Supported City Facility Should Not Be Used for Newspaper Business”

  1. While the School Board should be subject to factual examination, the Post’s recent campaign against the School Board is unfair and inherently biased; it is not news but a misinformed editorial campaign. That’s not good reporting and this follows a pattern of biased reporting, misinformation and a denial of equal space in important Civic issues including Taxes, Bond issues and Blair Park.

    By leasing to the Post on public property, the City is encouraging and furthering the biased coverage and unequal resident treatment of the only local newspaper. Leasing taxpayer funded space to the Post undermines cooperation with the School Board and denies an equal voice for all residents in specific important Civic matters such as taxes bonds and park conversions.

  2. If anything serves the residents of the City, it’s the Piedmont Post; and as long as future users adhere to that requirement, I can see no problem. I consider the Post a valuable asset for its very competent coverage of the City’s affairs.

  3. The building PCA is in is over 100 years old. Such buildings require ongoing maintenance. If a private tenant pays market rent, and thus contributes to the building’s maintenance, I see no reason why the Piedmont Post should be excluded from being a potential tenant of the unused space. Opposition to a free press should not be a credible reason.

  4. Regarding maintenance, the city has a burgeoning facilities maintenance fund for projects like this. The paper’s biased coverage is what some object to and while we respect the paper’s rights, some would rather not see them exercise that right in a tax-payer subsidized space.

  5. Susan, the Piedmont Post does well serve the City as to Sports, Art, resident life events and culture. If we define City Affairs as critical tax, bond and expenditure issues then the Post fails to provide objective, non-editorialized coverage. The City should not encourage and further the bias of the Post in political affairs. However, the Post has operated as the media outlet for City Hall so it is understandable that the Post is now being rewarded with a lease on City property behind City Hall.

    Michael, in 2012 the City claimed $11M was needed to complete the mainline sewer. I opposed it and the Post went on a three week campaign of misquoting me and misinformation. The tax failed and in 2014 one million in total was loaned from the General Fund and Maintenance to complete the mainline by about 2023, twelve years ahead of EPA requirement. The Eleven Million the Post was pushing turned out to be a need of one million and despite the one million loan, both General and Maintenance funds are quite healthy today. No new tax was needed to complete the mainline sewer system.

    As Chair of the Planning Commission that rejected the Blair Park Proposal, you surely are aware of the ever changing cost figures put before your Commission and the public. I recall appearing before your Commission to protest the Post publishing Jeff Wieler’s column that claimed you and your Commission were “unqualified.”

  6. Rick, I always appreciate your careful research, and yes, I have sometimes authored Letters to the Editor against spending by the city or schools and opposed the Blair Park play fields. Where we differ is that I just assume local papers such as the Post are going to take positions I sometimes disagree with.

  7. Michael, Your compliment is appreciated and I always value and learn from our exchanges. When I opposed the 2012 Sewer Tax, I quoted emails between myself and the EPA Compliance Officer publicly at the LWV Forum. The Post City Editor was present and she stated my comments had no documentation. The Post reporting was categorically false and rather bizarre as the Post published the same emails, though redacted, in a subsequent issue. The Post also report I claimed Piedmont did not have to comply with the EPA. You know I would never make such a ridiculous statement.

    I do not have an issue with the Post taking an editorial stand different than my opinion. The issue is the Post should not print categorically false information and City Hall should not support that brand of unethical journalism merely because it furthers additional taxes.

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