Oct 14 2020

OPINION: Measure UU is Not the Best Option for the Pool

Rick Schiller is right to raise the tax burden of Measure UU, not because of its structure but because of its substantive increase in taxes on recent and new families coming to Piedmont who already pay an inordinately higher share thanks to Prop 13.

Simply put, the longer you’ve lived in Piedmont, the less you’ll contribute to the pool. Second (my kids) and third generation Piedmonters moving back home will pay bond assessments based on assessed property values well less than $1M, while recent and new families are assessed at $2.5M and above. This is no way to fund a community pool.

The pool will triple GHG emissions and that’s with energy efficient elements.  Instead of the proposed design that uses natural gas, the pool should be all electric, using the latest technology to generate on-site power needs. Mountainview is building an all electric pool and aquatic complex at the cost of approximately $20M. Downsizing the current Piedmont design could achieve this and maybe make room for a Pickleball court in the comprehensive Civic Center.

The operational analysis for the pool is predicated on a 5% fee increase so the day use fee will likely increase.

The city considered including the pool and public safety buildings in an essential services bond measure that could be funded with a parcel tax.  Pools may not be essential services but a parcel tax would be a much more equitable way to pay for the pool. If an ad valorem assessment is the only way, then I’d support an exclusion for first generation owners with the proviso that once the property transferred within a family it would be assessed at the average Piedmont home value.

Piedmont can build a new pool without passing the tax and GHG burdens on to future generations.

Reject UU and have the city come back with a sustainable design and equitable tax structure. 

Garrett Keating, Former City Council Member

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

6 Responses to “OPINION: Measure UU is Not the Best Option for the Pool”

  1. I believe in progressive taxation and bond costs are another tax cost. New homeowners entering at the $2.5M level are either currently employed and income upwardly mobile, or have high net worth and can pay cash for a $2.5M home. They can easily afford a higher tax than the much lower fixed income senior. A flat tax is a regressive tax as those with substantial income feel little pain and those with low fixed income are too aged to go back into the work place and create more wealth. Bad public policy is adding additional regressive taxes that eventually force fixed income seniors from their homes.

    I am in lock step with Garrett in terms of reducing GHG emissions from large civic projects and especially a large new build. Apparently the City is more interested in passing Reach Codes which hope to reduce GHG one stove at a time.

    Distressing is that apparently the high single use cost of the pool will be even higher after residents pony up $20M plus interest cost of the bonds. Use fees for the pool have been exorbitant.

  2. I support UU because a pool is needed and the current one is substandard in addition to being worn out. This city is not so poor as the Con folks are saying. The 75 cents a day or $270 or so a year for the average home is a pretty bearable burden. Taking 4 people to a Giant’s game with a hot dog will cost that much. I do agree with Rick and Garrett that the pool should incorporate as much solar water heating and PV for its electricity needs as the site allows. The city has practiced too much Do as we say, not as we do, in its projects. Last year, while proudly pushing a new Green Infrastructure plan, the city failed to include a bioswale in its new bumpout at Highland and Craig. Numerous folks have pointed out that with a gas-powered leaf blower ban in place, the city and its landscapers fail to abide by it. But these are just asides. Piedmont needs a new pool. Vote Yes on UU.

  3. Rick’s point is well taken and as structured, UU is pretty fair to low income seniors.. It’s not fair to recent and new families. My suggestion was to scale up assessed value to the average home value when a property is transferred under Prop 13 so the next generation pays its fair share going forward. I think this would not impact fixed income seniors staying in their homes.

  4. I am undecided about Measure UU, as I would like more information. What would be the lifecycle cost and carbone footprint of the proposed pool as per the Nov 2016 study, compared to the ones for rebuilding the existing pool? It is clear that the committee that put together the Nov 2016 study did not pay any attention to the City Climate Action Plan. Can somebody demonstrate that the pool can operate only with solar energy? Given the upcoming closure of the Diablo Nuclear Power Plant and its unavoidable replacement with natural gas power plants, would not an electric heated pool in practice indirectly consume mostly natural gas rather than carbon-free energy?
    Are we hypocrites about meeting the IPCC goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degree Celcius by 2050 by proposing to build a pool with three times more water than the existing one? Could a commitment by all the proponents of Measure UU to install solar panels on their homes be enough to supply the kWh needed to heat the pool?

  5. Dear Bernard,
    You raise some good points and it would be nice to have the information you request, but alas that level of detail is not available at the moment. But in general Garrett and I agree with your point the the 2016 study did not sufficiently consider sustainability in terms of GHG emissions and CAP goals. However, we did some preliminary calculations for solar array sizes needed to meet the heating demands for two potential pool sizes (note that the baseline heating demand used is based on PG&E data for the existing pool that we extrapolated to other pools sizes). These results are available at the Connect resources page: https://www.piedmontconnect.org/s/Piedmont-Pool-renovation-analysis-and-recommendations_final.docx. From these calculations we are confident that the pool can be heated using solar PV plus heat pumps.
    The GHG analysis is forthcoming but we deferred this work until we are assured that the bond measure will pass. Our plan once the bond is passed is to do a more extensive study including GHG impacts; where your concerns about what the nature of the grid is once Diablo is decommissioned will be considered. Using our methodology we believe we have the ability to make recommendations considering a number of potential options for the new pool and its facility infrastructure.

  6. That analysis Tom refers to shows how that lap pool could be operated off solar and heat pumps with some backup electricity coming from the grid. There’s a sweet spot between pool size and array size that could make the lap pool carbon neutral. But that analysis is only for the lap pool. The proposed recreation pool is 3900 sq ft and the new building 7000 sq ft and we did not determine how to operate those as carbon neutral. As designed, there probably isn’t sufficient area for solar arrays to make all three carbon neutral by 2050. The CAP goal is that new municipal facilities be carbon neutral by 2050 so the pool could arguably triple NG use now and hope to reduce later. To me, it makes more sense to downsize the proposed pool now and rely more on solar.

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