Oct 15 2020

When the City took over operation of the pool in 2011, I was asked to help design how the pool would operate.  The system we came up with generated twice as much revenue as other public pools and saved the City a lot of money.  I spent over a thousand hours in that effort.  I was motivated to do so for two reasons: I wanted to be sure the City’s operation of the pool was a success and I was concerned that, if the pool got too expensive, the City might lose interest in it.  I brought those same concerns to the discussions that led to the current pool proposal.

We need to build a pool that meets the needs of the schools as well as the rest of the community.  Under the facilities sharing arrangement between the City and the schools, the schools get to use the pool just as the City gets to use the schools’ gyms and sports fields.  We are the same taxpayers who would be called on to fund a school pool.  It makes no sense to have two pool facilities, one for the schools and one for everyone else, across the street from each other.

It’s time to have one facility that works for everyone—designed so the Piedmont swim team doesn’t have to rent additional space in other communities and spend hours a week commuting to practice; designed so the high school water polo and swim teams don’t have to practice at night or commute to other pools; designed so kids can both play and have swim lessons after school, all with lap swimmers having room to swim and finally being able to swim their laps when they get home from work at night.

It’s not too expensive.  The bond measure is about financing, not cost. You can’t bid the project until you have detailed construction drawings and no one would pay to have those drawings done until they knew they had the financing and the project would proceed.

The increased cost estimate from 2016, when the conceptual design was initially approved, simply reflects that it will be built at least six years later, and, in fact, it is in line with what we understand other neighboring communities are doing.  When you are arranging for financing, you need to build in room for interest rate fluctuations and other contingencies.  Measure UU is simply authorizing bonds.

You don’t have to issue or spend all the bonds that are authorized, but you have to be sure the bond cap is high enough to more than cover the anticipated cost, because you can’t go get more bonds approved in the middle of the project.

The City Council didn’t prioritize the pool over public safety, by putting the pool on the ballot.  The fact is our infrastructure is old and needs to be addressed.  The pool is on the ballot because there already was a plan to deal with the pool, which had been analyzed, researched, and discussed for years.

The public safety issues just came up.  We don’t know enough about them and there isn’t a plan to deal with them yet.  It isn’t a question of picking one over the other.  If Piedmont is going to be the community you moved here to live in, we have to address them both.

The question is simple: does Piedmont want a pool or not?  If we do, it makes no sense to build an inadequate pool.  It’s time to have a community pool that finally meets the needs of the whole community.

Join me in voting YES on Measure UU! 
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Jon Sakol, Piedmont Resident
Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Oct 12 2020

 Endorser Forum:  Pool Bonds, Measure UU:  Wednesday, October 14, 6:00 – 6:30 p.m.

This forum will be on YouTube. The City of Piedmont is legally not allowed to use public resources for political purposes. Prior to the forum, the Piedmont League of Women Voters endorsed  Measure UU.

>Submit Questions Now

Join the League of Women Voters of Piedmont for a virtual Election Forum featuring proponents and opponents of City of Piedmont Ballot Measure UU. Measure UU authorizes the city to issue bonds to reconstruct the Piedmont Community Pool. Each side will be given two minutes to present an opening statement, followed by a question and answer session where each side will have one minute to answer each question. Submit your questions concerning Measure UU now or during the event.

  • When: Wednesday, October 14, 2020 from 6pm to 6:30pm
  • Where: Livestream on the LWVP YouTube channel
  • Who: Official Representatives in favor of and opposed to Ballot Measure UU

You may submit questions during the livestream by using the YouTube comments or anytime prior to or during the event by completing the anonymous form below or sending an email to lwvpiedmont@gmail.com.

For more information about Measure UU, review LWVP Pros & Cons.

Oct 11 2020

Piedmont Measure TT increases the “flat rate” property tax  on  sales of all Piedmont homes and properties. Measure TT officially states, “this measure is not a commitment to any particular action or purpose.” 

The 35% tax increase will be levied as a percentage of the property sales price adding thousands of dollars to the cost of selling a property in Piedmont.  With a low bar for passage (one vote plus 50%), if approved by a simple majority of Piedmont voters, TT will become effective on all property sales in Piedmont on July 1, 2021.  Read official details below.

Proponents and Opponents use different terms to argue that TT would or would not establish the highest transfer taxes in California. 

TT Proponents rely on the handful of California cities such as Oakland and Berkeley that have created “stepped” graduated transfer taxes based on the sales price range in their cities, and then compare the highest tax rates for the highest priced properties with Piedmont’s flat rate.  Berkeley’s median house value is 1/2 of Piedmont’s and Oakland’s median house value is 1/3 of Piedmont’s, so their steps do not fit the Piedmont range. (See Alameda County median values here). 

TT Opponents claim TT is the highest California “flat” transfer tax because more than 90% of California cities have flat rates under $2 per $1000 compared to Measure TT’s proposed flat rate of $17.50 per $1000 .  (See California city Transfer Tax rates here .)  Note: Alameda County adds an additional amount to the transfer tax.

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Proponents state the money will be used by the City of Piedmont for essential services, and the tax is comparable to some other cities. “The proposed tax increase will provide necessary funds for maintaining and improving city facilities, streets, sidewalks, and parks.”  Proponents claim that opponents are wrong to state that Piedmont would have the highest Transfer Tax.

Opponents state Piedmont will have the highest “flat” Transfer Tax rate in California and will take away homeowner profits.  “Voters must demand accountability measures before passing such a high homeowner tax.” Also, Piedmonters just approved a City parcel tax for  municipal purposes, and Measure TT does not identify specific uses. 

Click each item below to read official information on the measure, liens, bankruptcies, etc.:

*The “City Attorney’s Impartial Analysis of Measure TT” is provided by Piedmont’s contract City Attorney.

Oct 9 2020

When I think about Piedmont, the iconic image that comes to mind is the center of town – the 4 schools, the tennis courts, Piedmont Park and City Hall.  And, in the middle – the pool. We live in a really beautiful place and the pool is a vital part.

This picture fades when you foresee the pool drained and the site pad-locked. Further, it is difficult to imagine it replaced by anything else. I can’t see, and don’t want, it “developed” for alternative (commercial) purposes. That’s not Piedmont. What belongs there is a pool. This is where our kids learn to swim. This is where my parents took me to learn to swim. Why would we take that away from our community and future residents? A cost/benefit analysis falls woefully short of responding to that question. Nobody applies that logic to the other amenities.

We rightfully take pride in our city. We should be a community that does not require a “fiscal” conclusion to support inherently valuable projects. We have parks, fields and courts for our citizens and students to pursue their athletic interests. Swimmers and water polo players deserve the same. Make no mistake, the pool augments the quintessential Piedmont “selling point” – the Schools.

Should UU fail, Piedmont High School and it’s swimming and water polo teams will be without a pool. Would some families opt for private schools that have pools? Seems likely. Replacing the pool is a great opportunity. The proposed plan ties the pool and the tennis courts together and creates a modern and attractive recreational facility. This is more than a replacement – it’s an improvement.

Think about recent projects. Does anyone regret remodeling Hampton Field? Do we wish we hadn’t spent the money to replace Havens? Of course not. All things have a lifespan whether we are talking about civic amenities or personal property. Well, the pool’s life has ended and it is our responsibility to get it replaced.

Those that oppose Measure UU because they ‘don’t use the pool’ or ‘don’t like how it will be funded’ should consider the risks of shuttering the pool. How does creating a blight improve our city? Whatever the objection, in the long-run this project enhances Piedmont, which benefits us all. Because Piedmont’s a community and not just an address, we owe it to the past and future to get this done.

Please vote ‘YES’ on UU.

Chris Hart, Current President Piedmont High School Boosters, Prior President Piedmont Baseball Softball Foundation

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Oct 8 2020
“There are three good reasons to vote No on  Measure UU Pool Bonds.”
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I sincerely thought Piedmont learned a valuable lesson after the Hills Under-grounding debacle and the famous and equally outrageous Blair Park proposal that was thankfully averted due to its handful of determined and fiscally responsible citizens.
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Based on the estimates of a half baked design can be categorized as oversized, under-budgeted, and perhaps, can also be described as a trivial issue given the current needs of Piedmont to improve its police, fire and government buildings, combat climate change, improve roads and public transportation systems, etc., etc.
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Lastly, I hear the proponents claim it is cheap money so lets go ahead and spend it. There is no such thing as cheap money; money is only cheap when you spend others money and not yours.  Given the current use, money would be spent most wisely if the existing pool is renovated at a fraction of the proposed $19.5 million aquatics facility by competent people to continue to serve those who use the pool and perhaps limit its use only to the residents of Piedmont.
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PHS and private swim teams, middle and high school PE class, adaptive PE, the PHS water polo teams, adult fitness swimmers, and senior water aerobics do not need a new aquatics facility that costs $19.5 million, it needs a well maintained and managed functioning pool.
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Please reject Measure UU by voting No on UU.
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Sinan Sabuncuoglu
Architect and Piedmont Resident for over 35 years
Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Oct 7 2020

        It is long past time for Piedmont to rebuild our one and only community pool.

Current residents of Piedmont have benefitted from the generosity of prior residents who built, paid for, and in many cases donated our buildings, parks, playfields and of course, the pool.  Their generosity toward future generations has allowed us, as taxpayers, to focus our collective resources on our excellent public schools.

It is now our turn to step up to rebuild our failing infrastructure. The two measures on the ballot in November are about repairing and replacing what is broken. Measure UU will allow Piedmont to issue, for the first time ever, municipal bonds to rebuild the failing 56-year-old Piedmont Pool.  Municipal bonds are like a 30-year fixed-rate community mortgage, repaid through property tax assessments.  Measure TT will align the real property transfer tax – only paid when a home is bought or sold – to match those of Berkeley and Oakland, and use the funds to repair and maintain our city facilities and failing roads and sidewalks.

To us, six former Piedmont Mayors, the focus on long-term planning is a sign of pragmatic and strategic thinking.  The current City Council unanimously placed Measures UU and TT on the ballot because our failing infrastructure can’t wait.  Spending more to repair a crumbling pool facility makes no fiscal sense. Borrowing money at low interest rates to rebuild a necessary civic asset is the prudent decision.

Soon the City Council will be forced to make the decision that no one wants to make: to permanently close the Piedmont Pool. If Measure UU does not pass, Piedmont will then fail to provide a basic public amenity that every other city in Alameda County provides to its residents. Whether you swim or not, the lack of a municipal pool would be a profound loss for our community and our schools.

Please join us in supporting the future of Piedmont and voting yes on Measures UU and TT.

Dean Barbieri

Michael Bruck

John Chiang

Abe Friedman

Susan Hill

Valerie Matzger

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors.
Oct 5 2020
I oppose Measure TT, the thirty-five percent increase in the Real Property Transfer Tax (“RPTT”), as  Measure TT is fundamentally flawed.
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Proponents claim the city faces a “maintenance deficit” and this is based on the city’s assumption that RPTT revenue will remain flat at $2.8M for the next 10 years.  The data reveals that over the past 10 years the tax revenue has already averaged $3.3M annually. A conservative projection shows by 2030 the RPTT will be $4.4M. Despite  expected volatility Piedmont’s RPTT revenue will continue to grow because of rising Piedmont home prices, consistent sales volume and macro-economic forces.
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Measure TT is proposed as needed for facility maintenance and repair; the text of Measure TT allows taxpayer dollars to be used for any City service. If a tax is needed for facilities, then it should be written that way. Further, Piedmonters are already taxed at high levels by our City services and sewer taxes.  Additionally, our School tax is the highest in the State and School bonds are at the maximum legal limit. Our total City and School financial burden is at the highest State wide level. Keeping City taxes at a reasonable level allows more generous volunteer contributions to our Schools which makes future school tax increases unnecessary and supports the many retired seniors on fixed incomes.
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All City long-term needs including sewer replacement, equipment replacement and pension obligations are stable.  Plainly at this time, there is no reason to permanently raise the transfer tax.
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Vote no on Measure TT.
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Rick Schiller, Piedmont Resident
Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Oct 5 2020
WHAT ABOUT THOSE OTHER CAPITAL PROJECTS?
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Supporting Measure UU seems like a “mom and apple pie” decision, but according to the most recent Budget Advisory Committee report the City has an additional $52 Million in capital needs for which there is no plan. Importantly, the list includes seismic retrofitting of our police, fire and Veterans buildings.
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When people are asked why they choose to live in Piedmont, public safety services are high on the list.  It appears that the pool bonds are being proposed without reference to the larger context of all needed capital projects. Why has the pool been given the highest priority?  Why has there apparently not been a systematic prioritization among all capital needs?
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If the pool bonds are issued, will that minimize the City’s ability to obtain additional financing for these other important needs? Might the pool bonds make residents less likely to approve another bond?
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With Piedmont being among the most highly taxed of comparable cities, we cannot assume that Piedmont’s residents could afford still another bond or that the City could take on additional debt while retaining its credit rating.  The City’s Q and A’s on Measure UU makes no mention of this context.
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Kathleen Quenneville, Piedmont Resident
Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Oct 5 2020

The League of Women Voters of Piedmont Board, composed of both Piedmonters and non-Piedmonters, voted to endorse Piedmont’s Measures TT and UU.  The Piedmont League, a non-partisan political organization, supported the measures without hearing from both proponents and opponents.  The League’s Board has sole authority on endorsing Piedmont ballot measures.  The League’s general membership is not involved in the endorsement of ballot measures.  

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The press release linked below was prepared by the Piedmont League of Women Voters on their Pros and Cons of Measures TT (Tax increase on property sales) and UU (Pool bonds for new municipal pools). 

Pros and Cons TT and UU 2020

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the League of Women Voters of Piedmont.
Oct 4 2020

“It’s legal theft of your equity.”

East Bay Times October 2, 2020

The following submitted article was in the East Bay Times newspaper.

Read the whole article here. or below.

Editorial: Don’t let these Bay Area cities take more of your home equity