May 25 2014

OPINION: Former Mayor States No Need for More Sewer Taxes

The City has enough money to pay for sewers.

I listened with interest to the Piedmont City Council’s discussion on financing future sewer projects at its May 19th meeting.  In response to the Council’s request for community input, I have the following comments:

The Council should explain why voters were asked to pass an $11 million tax for sewer repairs a little over two years ago, and after that measure failed, are now considering a $1.2 million tax measure to complete the very same work.  This is a significant issue and needs to be addressed, particularly if the Council chooses to place a tax on the November ballot.

The Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee’s recommendation is that the Sewer Fund needs a one-time infusion of cash of at least $1,000,000 over the next 3 years to maintain a prudent Sewer Fund balance.  The Fund would then have the seed money to proceed with replacing all the remaining substandard sewer lines during the next 20 years.  In my judgment, the Council should fund this request out of current general fund revenues. Instead, the Council is considering seeking passage of a tax measure which would increase most homeowners’ property taxes from $120 to $150 a year for 3 years or by adding a surcharge to the already steep real estate transfer tax.

The City has an annual general fund budget of approximately $22 million.  Allocating two percent a year to this project for three years would produce over $1.3 million.  As of June 30, 2013, the City had over $10 million in reserves, including over $4 million undesignated and an additional $4 million set aside for capital improvements and equipment replacement.  Why not use a portion of these funds to loan to the Sewer Fund rather than requesting an additional tax?  If reserves are inadequate, the Council should address that issue in a comprehensive way, not by this piecemeal approach.

Al Peters, Former Mayor of Piedmont

May 22, 2014

Editors’ Note:  The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.  Comments are welcomed below.
Jan 27 2014

OPINION: All Councilmembers Should Get to be Mayor

Former Mayor proposes how all councilmembers could serve as Piedmont Mayor – 

You may wonder why in an uncontested election for the Piedmont City Council two candidates are waging a serious campaign.  It is because of a long-standing “gentleman’s agreement” that after length of service on the Council, the council member receiving the most votes in the first election is the next mayor for two years even if this excludes one council member from becoming mayor before being termed out of office.  In the past twenty years Council members Garrett Keating and Walter Schey were not mayors.

I believe that every member of the Piedmont City Council elected to serve two terms should have the opportunity to be mayor.  I would continue the Council tradition of electing a mayor and vice mayor for two-year terms except when two members of the Council are in their final two years before being termed out of office and neither of them has been mayor.  In this situation, I recommend that the Council elect each for a one-year term.  A one-year term as mayor is not unusual for smaller cities in the Bay Area. It is done that way in Emeryville and Orinda.  And our Piedmont Board of Education elects its presidents for a one-year term.

This year we have an uncontested election for city council.  Campaign disclosure statements show that as of December 21st candidate Teddy King had raised $14,181 and candidate Tim Rood had raised $1,648.  I can understand mailing one citywide flyer to educate voters but why should a candidate feel the need to raise and spend a lot of money in an attempt to become mayor six years hence?  Not only would my proposal be a fairer method, but is it better for the Council to recognize the contributions of all its members by giving each person the opportunity to serve as mayor?

Al Peters, Mayor 2000 – 2002         January 26, 2014

Editors’ Note: The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.

Sep 24 2013

OPINION: Former Mayor Calls for Resolutions Not Divisions

– Blair Park proposal divided the City and resulted in misuse of City and private funds. – 

At the September 16th Piedmont City Council meeting, the Council decided in closed session that the City would “absorb” any amounts still owed it by Piedmont Recreation Facilities Organization (PRFO).  Lost in the forgiveness of PRFO’s debt to the City is the full financial cost of the failed attempt to put a football size soccer field in Blair Park. Mark Bichsel, former City Finance Director, prepared several schedules summarizing expenditures made by the City of Piedmont from the inception of project costs on October 2, 2008 through December 31, 2012. In this period the City expended $838,689. Much of this was reimbursed by PRFO, by my calculations over $500,000.

Friends of Moraga Canyon (FOMC) spent over $70,000 in its opposition to the project and in addition received a $15,000 settlement to pay outstanding legal fees. I am not privy to what costs PRFO paid on its own behalf, but it is safe to say that collectively the City of Piedmont, PRFO and FOMC spent close to $1,000,000 in pursuit of the Blair Park project. This does not even count the financial costs of untold hours spent by City staff on this ill-advised project.

I believe the Blair Park proposal resulted in an appalling misuse of City and private funds. My plea is for the Council to take seriously the need to: 1) establish and follow risk management policies, as recommended by the Piedmont League of Women Voters; 2) listen to and acknowledge competing interests; 3) perhaps most importantly, work out resolutions to controversial issues that bring the community together rather than divide. Only then will the City Council represent the best interests of the entire town.

Al Peters, Former Piedmont Mayor

September 23, 2013

Editors’ Note:  The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association. 
Nov 23 2010

First Draft EIR Hearing on Moraga Canyon Sports Facilities – A Pep Rally Atmosphere

The Piedmont City Council’s scheduled public hearing Monday evening, Nov. 15, 2010, on the Moraga Avenue Sports Fields became a pep rally event, as more than 300 adults, children and young people crowded into Veterans Hall.  Most came to voice  their support for the proposed sports complex at Blair Park. Although the agenda specified a public hearing on the “Moraga Canyon Sports Fields Environmental Impact Report (EIR) Response to Comments,” the majority of speakers focused on the need for more sports fields in Piedmont. > Click to read more…

Jun 20 2014

New Sewer Taxes ? June 24

Council might back off of a tax measure for new money to fix sewers.

Recent information from Alameda County  shows an unprecedented increase in the Real Property Transfer Tax flowing into Piedmont’s budget causing the City Administrator and Council to take another look at placing a sewer tax measure on the November 2014 ballot.  The City has been considering a ballot measure to generate new money derived from an increase in the tax on real estate transfers. For cost effectiveness and water quality, the City seeks to expedite the 30% remaining of the sanitary sewer rehabilitation  program.

The matter will be considered at a Special Meeting of the City Council in the Council Chambers on Tuesday, June 24 starting at 7:30 p.m. The meeting, open to the public, will be broadcast on KCOM Channel 27 and available live streamed from the City’s website.

“At the June 2nd meeting, the staff report for the first public hearing on the 2014-15 Budget included an update to Real Property Transfer Tax (RPTT) receipts. Based on the information provided by Alameda County through May 15, 2014, the City was estimated to receive
approximately $2.95 million and on pace to have a record year. At that time, staff continued to propose that funds in excess of budgeted amounts be allocated for unfunded retiree medical liabilities, facilities maintenance, and equipment replacement.

Based upon receipt of new data provided by the Alameda County Assessor’s Office, FY 2013-14 will be unprecedented, with RPTT receipts through June 9th at $3.78 million. This is largely due
to an historic total of approximately $972,000 for the month of May. The total for May is only $43,000 less than what the City received for April through June combined for Fiscal Year 2012-13. The previous record for a single month of transfer tax was June 2006, with receipts of $694,840.”

City Administrator Paul Benoit’s Report to the Council

The voter approved Sewer Fund originally was intended to rebuild and maintain Piedmont’s sanitary sewer system, however it was soon changed to include the City’s storm drain system. Both systems are recognized as important to protecting waterways from damaging effluent.

Historically, the City has used excess General Funds for purposes other than sewers: beautification projects, recreation facilities, employee compensation,  $2.5 million for private undergrounding problems, etc.

The City Council offered a 2011 ballot measure to complete the remaining 30% of the aged sanitary sewers. The tax proposed would have essentially doubled property owners ‘ Sewer Fund Taxes from $471 to $849  and $707 to $1,274 depending on lot size. Piedmont voters rejected the tax increase when they learned of errors in the City’s cost estimates and incorrect statements on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirements.  Supporters of the sewer tax were undeterred by the new information and continued to support the sewer ballot measure that would have provided the City with new funds of approximately $11 million.

In a recent turn around on how much money was needed to accomplish EPA requirements, the City reduced the needed amount from approximately $11 million to approximately $1 million. City explanations of the dramatic change in needed funds to complete the sewer rehabilitation included overstated and incorrect calculations.

For years records were not kept by the Public Works Department on specific work hours or various projects charged to the Sewer Fund.  Council members did not have information on the actual work charged the Sewer Fund.

A priority list weighing various uses, including sewers, with available City funds has not been produced by the Council.

Former Mayor Al Peters stated in an opinion:

“The City has an annual general fund budget of approximately $22 million.  Allocating two percent a year to this project for three years would produce over $1.3 million.  As of June 30, 2013, the City had over $10 million in reserves, including over $4 million undesignated and an additional $4 million set aside for capital improvements and equipment replacement.  Why not use a portion of these funds to loan to the Sewer Fund rather than requesting an additional tax?  If reserves are inadequate, the Council should address that issue in a comprehensive way, not by this piecemeal approach.”

As the City looks for new money for sewers, it places other projects ahead of sewers.

Capital Improve Project (CIP) funds are generally used for special projects. There is no information indicating the City  prioritizes projects based on unavoidable expenses such as the completion of EPA required sewer work.

Although CIP funds and General Funds can be used for sewers, it is unknown if CIP allocations for sewer projects will be considered by the City Council.  As of this writing, the significant infusion of funds supplied by the Real Estate Transfer Tax changes the budget numbers. Without a new sewer tax, it appears special projects could be implemented and the Sewer Fund could be provided with the funds necessary for renovation of the remaining sanitary sewers in a cost effective, expeditious manner.

To read detailed analysis on Piedmont’s Sewer Fund, go to the left side of this page and click on “Sewer Fund”.

Read the City Administrator’s Report to the Council

Oct 6 2013

Park Commission Hears Ideas for Improving Blair Park

– Hopes and ideas to shape up the landscape of long neglected Blair Park drew a number of speakers at the Piedmont Park  Commission meeting on October 2nd. –

The Commission first heard presentations by Bob Birkeland, landscape architect of Restoration Design Group (RDG) and arborist Jim Clarke of HortScience, Inc., the two firms collaborating on a landscape design plan for Blair Park. Birkeland and Clarke outlined their initial assessments of the park’s potential, its constraints, and the condition of many of its trees.

Among their conclusions: 41 of the 54 Monterey pines bordering Moraga Ave. are in poor condition and should be removed.  Lack of irrigation in the park is the key limiting factor to existing trees and to establishing new, drought-tolerant species. (Birkeland explained that Cemetery Creek is diverted into a culvert buried 22 feet below the park’s landfill.) The coast live oaks and California bay tree should be pruned, ivy vines should be severed at the base of tree trunks, and blackberry and ivy will require repeated control.

Audience members then described their concepts for improving Blair Park and what the park means to them.   Scenic Avenue resident Morissa Sherman, who makes award-winning plum and blackberry jams from Blair Park, said she hopes the park’s fruit trees will be retained. She also described her love of watching the park’s wildlife, from red-tailed hawks to foxes.  Peggy Esposito, who has lived on Moraga Avenue for 35 years, said she chose to live there because it was near an undeveloped area and to her the park “is much more than a gateway to Piedmont.” She proposed creating a bio-swale for park irrigation. She also told the Commission the Monterey pines were planted in the early 1970’s by students working one summer for Piedmont and that the trees were not what the City had ordered but were planted anyhow.

Piedmont resident Sinan Sabuncuoglu said, “Blair Park gives us a chance for a new way of stewarding the environment – to preserve and restore the rich ecology.” He suggested “involving everyone in planning a Bay-friendly landscape” possibly with community gardens and a plan that evolves over time with amenities such as a par course, bike path, bocce ball and horseshoes.  Scenic Avenue resident and former Piedmont Mayor Al Peters noted that the park is “a major, welcoming entryway to the City” and he said the tall story poles that were erected two years ago for the sports fields proposed by Piedmont Recreation Facilities Organization, should be removed. He also commented on the live oaks on the park’s hillside that are being killed by overgrowing ivy vines and said “I want the City to properly maintain the oak forest.”

The Park Commissioners expressed their agreement with the speakers and support for maintaining the park.  Commissioner Nancy Kent said she sees the need to assess the trees on the hillside slope and would like to enhance the slope for wildlife.  Commissioner Patty Siskind said, “I think everyone wants to improve the park, and it will definitely be pursued.”  She and Commissioner Anian Tunney were  concerned about the cost and source of irrigation.  Birkeland said there are number of possibilities, such as having a water truck drive across the street from the Corporation Yard. Commissioner Mary Geong said she was glad to hear that Friends of Moraga Canyon is willing to raise funds to help pay for park improvements, as one speaker had indicated. Commission Chair John Lenahan concluded, “We need to maintain the park. We will have a different and hopefully better Blair Park.”

A proposed landscape improvement plan for Blair Park is scheduled to be presented by RDG and HortScience at the December 12, 2013 meeting of the Park Commission.

Sep 17 2013

OPINION: Tim Rood Throws His Hat in the Ring for City Council

– Budget Advisory Committee Member Tim Rood Announces Candidacy for Piedmont City Council – There are now three candidates running for three Council seats in the February 2014 Municipal Election. 

Tim Rood. Photo courtesy of Tim Rood.

Tim Rood

The following is a press release from Tim Rood:

Budget Advisory & Financial Planning Committee (BAFPC) member Tim Rood has announced his candidacy for Piedmont City Council in the February 4, 2014 election. Rood has been endorsed by all of his colleagues on the BAFPC: Chair Bill Hosler, Mary Geong, Steve Hollis and Tom Lehrkind. The BAFPC was established by the Council in 2012 to assist the Council with recommendations on financial planning, forecasting and budgeting. Rood and the other BAFPC members were appointed for a three-year term.

“Tim is very knowledgeable of the City’s budget and overall financial position and the fiscal issues facing the council,” said BAFPC Chair Bill Hosler. “As a committee member, he’s demonstrated his openmindedness, his analytical approach, and his commitment to responsibly maintaining our high-quality City services and facilities.”

BAFPC member Steve Hollis agreed. “Working closely with Tim on the Budget Advisory & Financial  Planning Committee over the past two years, I’ve been impressed by his grasp of fiscal issues, his collaborative approach, and his commitment to saving taxpayer dollars while keeping Piedmont a great place to live. Tim will bring an informed and fresh perspective to our Council’s deliberations,” said Hollis, who, like Hosler, served on the 2011 Municipal Tax Review Committee (MTRC).

“I’m honored to have been endorsed by all of my Budget Advisory & Financial Planning Committee colleagues,” Rood stated. “Piedmont is such a wonderful place to live thanks in large part to the dedication and effort of our citizens. It’s been a privilege to represent Piedmonters on the BAFPC for the past two years, collaborating to explore ways to save the City money and address future liabilities, while responsibly maintaining our civic assets. As a Council member, I will bring my in-depth knowledge of City finances, as well as my professional experience as a city planner, consulting to dozens of municipalities and leading community outreach processes to find consensus on difficult issues. I look forward to working with the incoming City Administrator and other staff to implement the BAFPC’s money-saving recommendations, including refinancing the pension side fund, restarting the phased rehabilitation of the City’s sanitary sewers, and addressing the projected deficit in the sewer fund.”

A daily bicycle commuter, Rood has been an enthusiastic advocate for the City’s recent bicycle/pedestrian master plan. He established and leads the Green Transportation interest group as a co-chair of Piedmont Connect, a local volunteer environmental organization. For the past two years, Piedmont Connect has sponsored an “Energizer Station” at Ace Hardware as part of Bike to Work Day in Piedmont, in which Mayor Chiang, Council Members Garrett Keating and Margaret Fujioka and Rood have all participated.

Rood’s campaign steering committee includes Council member Garrett Keating; former mayor Al Peters, a member of the Task Force on Civic Governance appointed by the League of Women Voters of Piedmont; former Council member Walter Schey; former Planning Commissioner Melanie Robertson; MTRC members Michael Rancer and Eric Lindquist; Kathleen Quenneville, also a member of the ask Force on Civic Governance; and a diverse group of current and former parents of Piedmont schoolchildren, including former parents Diane Allen, Denise Bostrom, and Hingman Chan; PMS and PHS parents Bill and Tina Bocheff; Beach and PMS parent Jim Mitchell, and Wildwood parent Judy Richardson.

In addition to the BAFPC members and his campaign committee, Rood’s other endorsers include School Board President Rick Raushenbush, Recreation Commission Chair Nick Levinson, former mayor Nancy McEnroe, and Capital Improvement Program Committee member Ryan Gilbert, who was also a member of the 2011 Municipal Tax Review Committee.

Tim Rood has been a Piedmont resident since 2002 and has been an active local volunteer throughout that time. He and his wife Muffy have two children who attended Wildwood from kindergarten and are now at Piedmont Middle School and Piedmont High School. His community service includes six years on the board of the Piedmont Swim Club, serving as a precinct captain in the 2013 school parcel tax campaign, and volunteering with the League of Women Voters of Piedmont to register voters at the Piedmont Harvest Festival. He also volunteers as treasurer of Human Impact Partners, an Oakland-based 501(c) 3 non-profit organization.

A certified city planner and licensed architect, Rood has led multi-disciplinary consulting teams and public outreach processes for numerous cities, including Oakland, Martinez, San Rafael and Healdsburg, and holds a LEED accreditation in green neighborhood design. He holds a bachelor’s degree cum laude from Columbia University and masters’ degrees in architecture and city planning from U.C. Berkeley. Rood is a partner in an award-winning urban design and planning firm, Community Design + Architecture (CD+A), which specializes in the design and implementation of walkable, bicycle-friendly streets and communities. The San Francisco Better Streets Plan developed by CD+A has won multiple awards.

Tim Rood welcomes any questions or thoughts on City government and can be reached at (510) 239-7663 or by email at

Tim Rood

Editors’ Note: The Piedmont Civic Association does not support or oppose candidates for public office.  The comments are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Piedmont Civic Association.  Information about candidates and their campaigns is welcomed.

Dec 7 2011

Council Approves Blair Park Project 4 to 1

The proponents, Piedmont Recreational Facilities Organization (PRFO), made a polished presentation at the December 5 Council meeting resulting in a 4-1 vote for approving a new sports complex at Blair Park.  Council Member Keating voted against the project, while Council Members Barbieri, Chiang, Fujioka, and Wieler voted in favor.

> Click to read more…

Aug 26 2013

OPINION: FOMC Lawsuit Settlement Funds Go to Blair Park

–  Landscape plan to improve neglected park –  

Councilman Robert McBain made comments at the August 19th City Council meeting that were quoted in the POST (8/21/13) that I believe need to be addressed.  Friends of Moraga Canyon (FOMC) settled its lawsuit against the City of Piedmont by accepting $30,000 for the reimbursement of legal fees.  FOMC asked that $15,000 of the $30,000 settlement be deposited in a separate account with the City of Piedmont expressly for the purpose of retaining a landscape designer to create a plan to improve Blair Park.

$30,000 was transferred from the City’s Legal Indemnity Fund to pay this obligation.  Piedmont Recreation Facilities Organization (PRFO) established this fund as a vehicle to fulfill its written promise to cover any and all legal liabilities incurred by the City in connection with the Blair Park project. (To date, PRFO still owes the City approximately $220,000.)

FOMC raised and paid over $70,000 to cover its legal and other expenses.  The settlement directed $15,000 to FOMC’s attorneys to pay off the remaining balance still owed.  This left $15,000 in settlement funds that could have been used to repay some of its major supporters.  Instead, FOMC decided to have these funds placed in a City account expressly for the purpose of hiring a landscape designer to create a plan for the maintenance and improvement of Blair Park. Unlike all other well-cared for Piedmont parks, Blair Park has been ignored and neglected, especially during the four years of the sports field controversy, and a plan to enhance the park’s natural setting and amenities is sorely needed.

Al Peters, Former Piedmont Mayor

Editors’ Note:  The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.

May 2 2011

LWV Task Force Presentation on “Lessons Learned in Undergrounding” Sends Council and Staff back to the Drawing Board

The Piedmont League of Women Voters Task Force on utility undergrounding presented its extensive investigation in a public forum entitled “Lessons Learned in Undergrounding”on April 26.  Task Force members Mary Heller, Rob Hendrickson, Kathleen Quenneville [Chair], Al Peters and Alex Gunst discussed their findings and recommendations.  The Task Force expertise includes construction litigation, public policy administration and legal issues, engineering, accounting, mediation, construction management, and past experience as a Piedmont Mayor.

The City Council Chamber was filled to capacity with  citizens interested in the presentation and discussion of a failed and costly private undergrounding district. The Task Force made the following suggestions for changes to Council and staff procedures and policies to prevent failure and cost overruns in future underground utilities and other civic projects.

The City Council’s Role > Click to read more…