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The following letters and other commentary express only the personal opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Piedmont Civic Association.

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Feb 21 2021

 The Piedmont Arts Fund (formerly PAINTS and CHIME) would like to invite all members of the community to creatively express the “Things that Matter” in a community art quilt.

We will eventually display the “Things that Matter” quilt, with our interwoven and diverse narratives to capture this unique time, in the new theatre building. 

Any funds raised will be used exclusively towards inclusive visual and performing arts programs at PUSD. We are launching our quilt project in February during Black History Month. As March is Art Month, we plan on weaving our creative community stories and unveiling the quilt in a public open space. Quilt Kits are available for a variable donation, and we also are offering free kits to community members who are not able to donate at this time. Our goal is to represent our entire community through this unique art project and we hope you will create this piece of history with us.

https://piedmontstore.org/products/things-that-matter-piedmont-art-community-quilt-project

 

Feb 11 2021

Students for Solar Launch Event

Students for Solar is a group of twelve PHS and MHS students working to raise the $400,000 needed to put solar panels on the roof of the STEAM building, a newly constructed building at our high school. To find out more see our website: https://greenclubphs.wixsite.com/studentsforsolar

Our event on February 22 will feature speakers Meredith Fowlie, Gabriel Kra, and Josh Posamentier to inform the public on solar energy and climate change. It will also feature a panel of district employees to field any questions about the project.

REGISTER AT: https://pef.schoolauction.net/students4solar/?_ga=2.114284935.1438797767.1612201578-300494272.1612201578

Editors Note:  Students for Solar is a separate organization unaffiliated with the Piedmont Civic Association. 
Feb 9 2021

 PADC + Wellness celebrate Black History Month in Piedmont

The Wellness Center (Piedmont High School) is thrilled to partner with the PADC (Piedmont Appreciating Diversity Committee) to celebrate and honor Black History Month. Last week we held our first of a three series event. Here is a summary of what’s to come.

2/4/21 from 7pm – 8pm: Listen to the following PODCAST ahead of time and come together to discuss reactions: Black History Buff podcast features The Little Rock Nine on Spotify, 27 min. Click HERE to join.

  • Wellness Facilitators: Laurie and Amy

2/11/21 from 7pm – 8pm: Self-Care (including self-care through action). Click HERE to join.

  • Wellness Facilitators: Emma, Lea, and possibly Jannat

2/25/21 from 7pm – 8pm: Somatic manifestations of generational trauma (including chronic and acute forms of trauma). Click HERE to join.

  • Wellness Facilitators: Nic and Jannat

Feb 3 2021

Read a proposed revised Arts Center lease sent to the  Piedmont City Council.

The proposal recommends the City of Piedmont Recreation Department manage 801 Magnolia Avenue with The Piedmont Center for the Arts guaranteed 1,600 hours of free annual usage.  The unallotted time of 2,050 hours would be scheduled by the Recreation Department to fully and inclusively utilize the property for various community and recreation uses. 

Click the Nancy Lehrkind proposed Arts Center lease and petition below.

Art Center Proposal Lehrkind 1282021

Petition – https://www.change.org/piedmontcenter

Jan 31 2021
To the Editor: The following is a letter I sent to the Piedmont City Council
Dear Council Members:

I am writing to urge you to renew the lease for the Piedmont Center for the Arts. In a community that prides itself on promoting culture and the arts in our school curriculum, it seems inconceivable that the city council might not renew the Center’s lease.

Over the years and with countless numbers of tireless volunteers, the Piedmont Center for the Arts has become a venue for world class musical events.  It has enabled our residents to enjoy outstanding concerts without fighting the traffic and parking we face going into San Francisco and Berkeley.   Celebrated musicians from renowned companies have spoken of the venue’s lovely space, its stellar acoustics, and the magnificent Steinway piano.

The Center has become a jewel in the crown that is Piedmont, and it saddens me to think of this almost sacred space being used as a community center.  Do not let this cultural treasure slip away.  Please renew their lease.

Thank you,

Freddi Robertson, Piedmont Resident
~~~~~

 I am writing in support of your extending the lease and operation of the Piedmont Center for the Arts.

I am an Oakland resident.
My first time there was for the showing of a movie about a horrible situation on the 57 bus in Oakland. (The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives )
Then I went to the center when they were part of the “Jazz in the neighborhood” program which introduced me to an intimate setting with great musicians. The volunteers had, on top of the music and nice setting, set up a very welcoming atmosphere.
Today, I received a video in commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz gas chamber camp and was blown away with emotions yet i don’t have a Jewish background.
So, for me, the Piedmont Center for the Arts is a place where i can safely see, hear, feel, a different, not commercial, art experience. It’s invaluable.
Sincerely,
Elisabeth Heidorn, Oakland Resident
~~~~~~
May I add my voice to the chorus of community members who are writing in support of the Piedmont Community Arts Center and the renewal of their lease! The Arts center is one of the most valuable of Piedmont’s many assets. It has become, as currently organized and managed, a wonderful place to hear music, view art and listen to lectures. The entire surrounding community benefits from this jewel of a site and its variety of offerings. Its popularity and ability to attract wonderful performers speaks to the incredible job being done by the current staff of devoted volunteers. As a former Art teacher at Piedmont High School, I only wish it had been available when I was there as it is providing all  students, not just those in a class, a place to pursue and display their art. I “second” Valerie Corvin’s fine letter, printed in the Post on Jan 20, and I implore you to please renew the current lease for the PAC and continue to support the hard working volunteers who take care of the Center and its programs.
Helen Brainerd
Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors.
Jan 25 2021
In his letter (https://www.piedmontcivic.org/2021/01/10/opinion-a-false-choice-has-been-presented-for-arts-center-lease/) Steve Schiller labeled the current discussion of the 801 Magnolia Avenue building a “false choice” between “an art center and no art center.” I agree and attribute this false choice to a false process.  City staff, and not the City Council, appears to have made the decision to open 801 Magnolia lease negotiations with the Piedmont Center for the Arts (PCA):
.

“Given PCA’s investment in rehabilitating the City building at 801 Magnolia Avenue and its commitment to developing a viable gathering space, as well as its willingness to embrace changes to improve and expand benefits to the community, Staff believes it is appropriate for Council to consider PCA’s request to continue to operate an arts venue in this City facility”.  Staff Report, November 16, 2020

On its face, that sounds appropriate – staff recommending that City Council consider PCA’s request for a new lease.  However, staff appears to have instigated lease negotiations with PCA without direction from the Council.  I can find no notice of public or closed session meetings where this topic of the lease was agendized by staff to receive direction from the City Council.

This process puts the cart before the horse – the question of whether the 801 Magnolia  lease should be renewed should be addressed by the Council with negotiations proceeding as directed.  Instead, the lease was negotiated over the past months by staff and presented to the Council as a first reading of the lease ordinance, strictly limiting the questions from councilmembers and the public.  As currently drafted, the lease has substantial flaws that weaken the city’s access and use of this public facility.  (Piedmont Civic Association – Piedmont, California » Opinion: Four Major Flaws in Proposed Art Center Lease).

This process would have benefited so much from open public meetings at the Recreation Commission and the City Council.  As it stands, Piedmonters are being told that PCA will close if the lease is not renewed.  That is false and the fate of PCA is really in its own hands – PCA’s lease with the city expires June 3, 2021 with the option to proceed month-to-month after that.  PCA could operate indefinitely under those terms while the community engages in a public discussion of the use of the 801 Magnolia building.

For that to happen, Council needs to step in and give that direction and reject the second reading.   A second reading of the proposed lease is imminent and it is too late to make substantive improvements to the lease at a Council meeting.  Another oddity of this process is that the readings span the seating of a new council member.  Two council members had serious reservations about the process and lease terms at the first reading.  It would be appropriate for the new council member, not on Council at the first reading, to abstain from voting on a second reading and recommend staff hold public meetings at the Recreation Commission.

All council members can be reached by email at:   citycouncil@piedmont.ca.gov.

Garrett Keating, Former Council Member

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Jan 11 2021

The proposed lease for 801 Magnolia – West Wing creates a totally exclusive use of a public building by a private group.

As now President Sue Malick of the Center for the Arts, said to the City Council in March, 2011, “public buildings should be used by the public.”  And such use should never exclude citizens of our Piedmont community.

The proposed new lease contains absolutely no obligations for the Center to share the space with the community or even to spend funds on further capital improvements there.

The original, 2011 lease worked because the original Board of Directors of the Arts Center obligated themselves in that lease with the City to do specified work with private money to make this wasting asset a habitable, useful building and a gathering place for community arts & performances.

Only three of the original Board Members are still serving on the Arts Center Board; the majority of the Board members have a different vision. Since 2018, they have worked to eliminate all community events and to simply operate “an affordable venue rental.”

No-one is saying the Arts Center cannot be in this public building or that they cannot continue to rent it out for talented musical performances enjoyed by all. This is NOT about art; it is about control of a public asset—in this case a big public building!

The Arts Center proposed lease gives the Board the right to exclude anyone they want. There have been many verbal and written representations of what the Board intends to do; however, the actual proposed lease frees them from any and all inclusive community use or, in fact, any obligations whatsoever.

Once the lease is signed, the Center can do what they have been doing for the past two years, i.e. excluding all community use and just operating a rental venue for a profit.

I have struggled to find any reason for a City to completely outsource the running of a public building to a private group.

During the 8 years I was responsible for running this public building, the City of Piedmont conducted zero oversight of the building or our operations. They never checked the operation of the handicap lift installed for the City’s benefit, whether there was, in fact, acceptable handicap access, the smoke and fire alarms (which do not exist) or even if this 1905 building was safe in the event of an earthquake.  The City has attended to earthquake concerns and retrofitting with all of the other City buildings.

It was just as if the City was so happy someone else was running this “tear-down” for them, and “Hey, it’s art!,” so the City doesn’t need to be responsible. Is this negligence and considerable potential liability, now going to be continued for another 10 years?  Is that what this is really about? 

The City does not seem willing to take responsibility for the proper management and care of one of its largest public buildings, especially one they acquired to tear down. The City Council action in December 2020 revealed their intent to outsource control and liability for 801 Magnolia Avenue—and do it under the guise of supporting “the arts.”

Council members perhaps realized that the citizens would not know about the City’s negligence – people love going to arts programming there and the City Council will look great for supporting the arts! However, there is just no justifiable reason to create such exclusive control of a public building in a small town with few publicly-accessible spaces.

Giving the Arts Center Board 450 hours a year of free rental usage in the building at 801 Magnolia under Recreation Department control would certainly be a huge “support for the arts” by the City.

I sincerely hope the 2021 City Council will take time to investigate and publicly report on the safety and soundness of the 801 Magnolia building for public use, and consider alternative proposals for its use which would be inclusive rather than the currently proposed exclusive use.

The same musical performances would all continue for the town to attend and there would still be a “Piedmont Center For The Arts”.

Nancy Lehrkind, Piedmont Resident and Founder of the Piedmont Center for the Arts

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Dec 11 2020

– Remarks to the Community following the 12/7/2020 swearing-in of new Councilmember Conna McCarthy –
 

-I am delighted to be with all of you tonight. I am fortunate for the opportunity to thank those who helped me get here: Starting with my husband Peter Craigie who steered me into buying our first home in Piedmont 32 years ago. Thank you to our 3 amazing adult children, Kieran, Cormac, and Kathlyn, all PHS grads. Dad and I are so proud of the challenges you undertake and your service to country and community.  I am particularly grateful to each one of you for taking a leadership role in my campaign.

-Thank you to my San Francisco McCarthy Family: My mom, Jackie McCarthy. My brother Niall, my brother Adam, my sister Sharon and their spouses Yvonne, Heather and Dale and my 11 very charming nieces and nephews.

-Most importantly I am forever appreciative for being raised by Leo T. McCarthy who taught me and my siblings the value of public service.  He was a profound example of ethical leadership. He counseled each of us to use our knowledge, power, privilege, and voice to create a better community and tonight I am very proud to stand in his reflection.

-Thank you to my Campaign Team: Photographer Lauren Remer, Sean Wong who designed my signs and media materials, Campaign Administrator Wendy Szczech, Advisors Chad Olcott and our beloved, wise Cameron Wolfe, my Campaign Manager Andrea Swenson who just completed 8 years of service on Piedmont School Board. Thank you for always picking up when I call. Thank you Data Manager Sharon Hom. You make a complicated task easy. And once again, a shout out to my brothers Niall and Adam who made sure I achieved fundraising goals.

Thank you to the Endorsers and Advisors who support my leadership and continue to encourage me: former Mayor Bob McBain, newly elected Mayor Teddy Gray King, Councilmembers Tim Rood and Betsy Andersen.  Councilmember Jen Cavenaugh and I will have some catching up to do as we were both candidates in this election cycle.  I look forward to continuing collaboration with School Board members Amal Smith, Cory Smegal, Veronica Anderson-Thigpen, and Hilary Cooper.   We know that with women at the table, everyone gets fed.

I wear white tonight in deference to the 100 year anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment. As I am with you tonight in the role of Councilwoman, I am particularly grateful to those Piedmont women, who early on served in elected office sometimes as the only female member of a decision-making body. Sue Smegal, Ann Trutner, Stephi Moers, Valerie Matzger, Susan Hill, Tam Hege to name a few. The women elected today stand on your shoulders.

Thank you to the folks at City Hall who work every day to make sure Piedmont is a wonderful place to live.

Thank you City Administrator Sara Lillevand –  We first worked together  when I joined the Recreation Commission and Sara was Recreation Director. And now I am delighted to be joining Sara’s leadership at City Hall. Sara is the glue that holds all the pieces together. A few months into her job as City Administrator , the pandemic hit. Sara put on a second hat as Director of Emergency Services. All Piedmonters benefit from her thoroughness, patience and adaptability.

Thank you to Asst City Administrator John Tulloch.

John knows the devil is in the details. And while he is patient explaining rules and regulations, he sets a high standard for accountability. He is highly ethical and fair. Most importantly he is eager to help others succeed.

Thank you to Recreation Director Chelle Putzer and her team, Erin Rivera, Jackson Stearns, Steven Chavarria and Cora Woods. As a Recreation Commissioner I saw first-hand the incredible talent in our Recreation Department. Chelle was on the job for 3 months when the pandemic hit. She deserves widespread applause for her ability to lead a team that is consistently able to pivot with fresh starts and with creativity to meet the needs of all Piedmonters.

When I decided to run for City Council I reached out to every Department Head. Without fail, each director responded offering to make themselves available to answer questions, or add background or context or shed light on topics of concern to Piedmont voters.

-Finance Director Mike Szczech – Thank You for your humor and intellect.

-We will all miss Chester Nakahara as Director of Public Works, but I am appreciative that Parks and Project manager, Nancy Kent remains a source of continuity.

-Police Chief Jeremy Bowers is a special treasure amid a social re-awakening demanding equity and justice in Police Departments throughout the nation. Kudos to the search team who brought Jeremy to Piedmont. His leadership is gift to all of us.

-Thank you to Planning Director Kevin Jackson. There are several hot topics in your court. I look forward to working with you and your team.

-Welcome Interim Fire Chief Michael Despain, let’s work together to find the next  Piedmont Fire Chief.

-Thank you to the Voters of Piedmont

We will build an aquatics facility.

We will plan and prepare and be ready for opportunities to improve existing infrastructure.

We will remain resolute in our pledge as City leaders to embrace differing backgrounds, lived experiences, and beliefs, and look for opportunities to express our shared values for diversity, and inclusivity.

Piedmonters, continue to support your elected council members by sharing your ideas, and volunteering your talents. Ask questions. Challenge us to be better and join us in doing better.

But right now, as the pandemic has suspended our lives,  take care of each other. Look out for your neighbors. Practice patience and forgiveness. Each of us is bearing a burden that pushes us to find new levels of resiliency.

Stay Safe. Stay healthy. Know that your Piedmont leadership is looking out for you.

Thank you.

Councilmember Conna McCarthy

Nov 29 2020

– The Proposed Piedmont Center for the Arts Lease Is Flawed –

On November 16, 2020, three City Councilmembers voted to approve a 7-year renewal of the City’s lease of 801 Magnolia Avenue to the Piedmont Center for the Arts (PCA), rejecting a motion to allow more public input first. Because the City Council will have a second vote on the proposed lease, Piedmonters still have an opportunity to express their views by writing to the Piedmont City Council at: 

cityclerk@piedmont.ca.gov

The threshold question for the City Council is whether to continue PCA control of a City building.

Public comment was split between those appreciating PCA’s role in hosting arts events and those who hoped that 801 Magnolia could become more of a “community center” where arts is one use, but not the only use.

Most Piedmont non-profits rent City or School facilities as needed (e.g., Education Speaker Series, Diversity Film Series, Piedmont Soccer Club); PCA could do the same for its arts events. The City Manager stated that Recreation Department programs could fill any unused City space and the PCA space is often unused (even pre-COVID), other than as a quiet space for its commercial sub-tenant.

This is not a choice between arts and no arts, but rather how best to maximize community benefit from limited City spaces. If the City Council decides to renew PCA’s lease, the proposed PCA lease has four major flaws. As a result, it fails to achieve the goals set forth in the City Staff Report. The lease is at:

https://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=17199779.

(1) Future City Construction.

The proposed lease prevents the City from terminating the lease until January 2024 at the earliest—and then only if the City is conducting significant renovations of the Police, Fire or Recreation buildings. (See Sections 1.8 & 9.2).

The City, however, plans to seek voter approval of bonds to renovate or rebuild City buildings in Spring 2021. The City’s building plans might include relocating City staff to 801 Magnolia Avenue while construction is ongoing or even a new structure at the 801 Magnolia Avenue location. The City could be ready to begin construction in Summer 2022, but be blocked by the PCA lease, as construction costs increase during the delay.

The simple fix is to amend the lease to allow the City to terminate without cause on 180 days’ notice (note that the City’s lease to the Piedmont Educational Foundation allows termination without cause on 90 days’ notice).

(2) City Use of 801 Magnolia Avenue.

Because the 801 Magnolia Avenue space has been unused much of the time (other than PCA’s sublease to The Piedmont Post), the City seeks the right to hold “City Sponsored Activities” there or to rent it out for “City Private Rental Activities.” A good idea, but the proposed lease puts unwarranted hurdles in the City’s way.

The proposed lease would allow City-Sponsored Activities, but only (i) with advance notice, (ii) if the City cannot go elsewhere, (iii) if the City mitigates PCA’s concerns about “unreasonable interference” with “Tenant’s use,” and (iv) the City tries to relocate its activity if PCA asks. (Section 4.2(c)). City Private Rental Activities, allowed only if PCA has nothing planned, face similar restrictions. (Section 4.2(b)).

The simple fix, consistent with the City’s ownership on behalf of all City residents, is to allow the City to schedule any activity there that is compatible with any arts related activity previously scheduled by PCA. At a bare minimum, a City right to terminate without cause on 180 days’ notice will ensure good faith cooperation on both sides.

(3) Revenue for City Expenses.

In 2011, the City gave PCA a no-rent lease because PCA agreed to pay to perform long-deferred maintenance on the building. In the proposed lease, PCA pays no rent, but is not asked to perform any work. By contrast, another non-profit, the Piedmont Education Foundation, pays rent of $19,020/year for less nice space inside Veterans Hall.

PCA’s 2019 balance sheet shows over $406,000 in assets and its 2018 and 2019 profit & loss statements show income exceeding expenses. After public comment that PCA could afford to pay rent (like most non-profits using City or School facilities), PCA’s Treasurer stated that PCA could “do more,” i.e., pay rent. The City has stated that it needs revenue to fund maintenance. Accept PCA’s offer!

(4) Equal Access.

In the past, PCA has turned away those who did not meet its definition of “arts-related.” The Staff Report says PCA agrees to more diverse programming, but the proposed lease would narrow PCA’s Approved Uses from a “venue for exhibits and performances” to “arts-related” activities only, plus its sub-lease. (Section 1.1).

In theory, the City Private Rental Activities provide another path for residents to rent the 801 Magnolia Avenue space, but, as noted above, the City’s rights are restricted. Even if that is fixed, PCA has the first right to schedule events. The lease should require PCA to rent space to any Piedmont resident for any event compatible with the space.

I encourage Piedmonters to share their views on the proposed PCA lease, as it will determine the use of 801 Magnolia Avenue for the next 7 years.

Rick Raushenbush, Piedmont Resident and Former Piedmont School Board

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.  The Piedmont Center for the Arts (PCA) is a separate organization from the Piedmont Civic Association (PCA) that originated in 1986 and provides this news site. 
Nov 17 2020

New Lease Terms Offered by City are Significantly More Costly for City and More Favorable for the Occupant – Why Such a Radical Change from the Original 2011 Lease?

Nancy Lehrkind, the founder of the Piedmont Center for the Arts, wrote a letter to the Piedmont City Council alerting them to problems she was aware of regarding the first reading of an extended lease for the City property at 801 Magnolia Avenue to the “nonprofit” Piedmont Center for the Arts.

Lehrkind presented data on finances and issues.  Click below to read her letter  with additional information attached.

PCA Lehrkind 112020

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.