Sep 14 2021

Planning Commission Makes Recommendation to City Council Regarding Use of Measure A-1 Funding –

“(Our community) needs time to understand and explore what this means… Development is more successful with community support behind it.” 

On September 13, 2021, the Planning Commission recommended that the City Council direct staff to continue developing an affordable housing program using Piedmont’s share of Alameda County Measure A-1 funding. The Commission supported the three-step approach for the funds recommended by the Planning Commission’s Ad-Hoc Subcommittee on Measure A-1.

The Commission recommended the City Council explore ways to: 1) Establish a Piedmont Affordable Housing Fund; 2) Launch a low-interest loan program for affordable housing, such as scattered site single-family homes, ADUs and JADUs, conversion of commercial land, small houses, and shared housing; and 3) Preserve $2.2 million in funding in the form of a low-interest loan for the development of an affordable housing development of up to 40 housing units on ½ to 1 acre of land in Piedmont.

The reason behind the Commission’s recommendation of a sequential use of the Measure A-1 funds, first for the low-interest loan program that then transitions for use towards a traditional multifamily development as the loans are repaid, is that the County’s timeline does not allow for the time necessary to successfully identify and analyze a site for a multifamily project and carryout robust community engagement for the General Plan amendments and zoning ordinance revisions that would be necessary to attract a developer.

Planning Commission Chair Rani Batra stated, “(Our community) needs time to understand and explore what this means… Development is more successful with community support behind it.”

Commissioner Tom Ramsey stated, “All of us support a traditional affordable housing development… Where we have discussion is how we get there.”

In making its recommendation, the Planning Commission determined that the development of a multifamily affordable housing project on City-owned land would have a greater chance of attracting a developer and gaining entitlement once the City had completed its update to the Housing Element, the related zoning code revisions and environmental review. That process is not expected to be completed within the constraints of the County’s timeline for receipt of Measure A-1 funds.

The City Council’s receipt of the recommendation for the approach for the use of the funds has not been scheduled but is expected to occur in October or November.

During the meeting, the Planning Commission heard comments from eleven community members. Many urged the Commission to recommend that the City Council approve the 2023- 2031 Housing Element update and associated changes by November 2022 so that the Measure A1 funding could be used towards the development of affordable housing in Piedmont within the faster timeline requirements set forth by Alameda County.

In 2016, Alameda County residents voted to adopt Measure A-1, a $580 million property tax revenue bond for affordable housing. The City of Piedmont is allocated $2.2 million in Measure 2 A-1 funding in the form of a low-interest (3%) loan program administered by the Alameda County Department of Housing and Community Development (County HCD). Piedmont’s Measure A-1 allocation must be used for the development of affordable rental housing or site acquisition.

State requirements have challenged City officials to find sites and policies to promote the construction of 587 new houses and apartments by 2031. Earlier this year the City Council engaged the services of Lisa Wise Consulting to assist the City in preparing a Housing Element update that facilitates the production of this allocation of housing units, and the services of Rincon Consulting to perform the related environmental review required by the California Environmental Quality Act.

At 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, September 29th, the Piedmont Planning Commission and Housing Advisory Committee will hold a joint study session about the basic requirements for Housing Element updates in California.

Senior City Planner Pierce Macdonald-Powell

For more information and project updates, please visit the City of Piedmont’s web site at http://piedmont.ca.gov

Aug 20 2021

Dear Editor,

It is obvious that the procedure for recalling a Governor is
flawed.  Instead of prescribing that the Lieutenant Governor ascend in the
case that a Governor can no longer serve us; the process for replacement is
a free-for-all.  Republicans have glommed onto this flaw with a
vengeance.   Please urge your state legislators to fix this destructive
feature; it’s a wrench in the gears of good government.

Meanwhile, please make sure to vote NO on the recall.  Don’t let
anti-democracy Republicans win with a minority of votes because the
majority didn’t vote.

Sincerely,
Bruce Joffe, Piedmont Resident

Jul 31 2021

$691,230  plus $252,619 ($943,849) for housing consultants – 

Piedmont city staff recommends that the City Council approve a $252,619 Agreement  for services related to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for the City’s 6th Housing Element Update covering the period 2023 through 2031.  The  Piedmont City Council, unlike numerous similar Bay Area cities, has acceded to the suggested new housing to be built in Piedmont.  City expenditures are being made now in an effort to expedite the construction of 587 new housing units.  Piedmont currently has approximately 4,000 housing units. 

The consultant recommended by staff for approval by the City Council is Rincon Consultants, Inc. (Rincon).  An Optional Task (see Exhibit A in the report) is a Study of Piedmont Sewer Capacity.

Read the report & agreement here.

On May 3, 2021, the City Council approved an earlier consultant agreement addressing the 587 new housing unit allocation in the amount of $691,230 with Lisa Wise Consulting, Inc. (LWC), to provide for professional services to update the Housing Element and prepare for the additional Piedmont housing units

The consultant agreement will be considered by the City Council on Monday, August 2.  Participation and timing details can be found on the City Council Agenda linked here.

Jul 1 2021

Paul Benoit, Piedmont’s prior City Administrator, has partially stepped into the role of Sara Lillevand, Piedmont’s current City Administrator.  Lillevand has taken a leave of absence, utilizing her vacation and other time off to attend to family matters.

Benoit, already under contract with the city to advise on the new Municipal Pool project, was granted by the City Council an increase in his hourly compensation from $111 to $116 per hour with a maximum additional amount of $4,800.   Staff report > https://piedmont.ca.gov/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=17755781

The Council did not give Benoit the full authority and power afforded the City Administrator under the Piedmont City Charter, as he will be assisting Lillevand.

While assisting Lillevand, Benoit will be residing in Piedmont.

Jun 24 2021

Alameda County Grand Jury points to Piedmont as an example –

Piedmont Measure TT was identified by the Grand Jury as problematic.  Piedmont’s City Council, responsible for the ballot question language, proposed an increase to the city’s real estate transfer tax. The measure was rejected by voters by 48% yes to 52% no.

The question placed on the Piedmont ballot read as follows:

Shall the City of Piedmont, to be in alignment with neighboring East Bay  Cities, increase the real estate transfer tax from $13.00 to $17.50 per $1,000  of transfer price, generating $948,462 annually until ended by voters, to provide general tax revenue for city services and to repair and maintain city facilities including police and fire stations, parks, and recreation facilities, and other city infrastructure, be adopted?”

The Grand Jury stated:

“Piedmont’s Measure TT recited a list of possible expenditures, including ‘to repair and maintain city facilities including police and fire stations, parks, and recreation facilities, ‘ yet none of these expenditures was required by the  proposed ordinance. That such spending might occur does not make the question an accurate and impartial synopsis of a measure, which may not result in any additional spending on the mentioned repair and  maintenance. Piedmont’s measure also included the statement that a purpose of the measure was ‘to be in alignment with neighboring East Bay Cities.’   The grand jury did not see how this statement related to a description of the measure or to its purpose.”

The Grand Jury Report notes Ballot Questions [Language found on ballots asking for a yes or no vote] often fail the accuracy, transparency and impartiality requirement.

Several key points:

  • Alameda County Grand Jury investigation focused exclusively on the accuracy, transparency and impartiality of ballot questions.
  • Ballot Questions are required by law to be Brief, Accurate and Impartial.
  • Ballot Questions suffer from a “proponent’s bias.”
  • Ballot Questions fall short of what voters have a right to expect in terms of transparency and impartiality, even when satisfying minimum legal standard.
  • The Grand Jury declined to prosecute violators, instead urging governments to improve their behavior within the requirements of the California Elections Code.

Click the link below to READ the full 2020-21 Alameda County Grand Jury report: http://grandjury.acgov.org/reports.page?

Jun 20 2021

“In reviewing the City’s long term projections and considering the current economic situation, the Committee reminds the Council of several things:

• The financial projections seek to maintain, over the long term, an 18% General Fund balance (which, the Committee thinks is prudent). Achieving this target, however, requires that the City eliminate or reduce transfers to the Facilities Maintenance Fund, which addresses ongoing and deferred maintenance of city facilities, and eliminate supplemental funding for street and sidewalk repairs beyond the current budget year. Current projections indicate the Facilities Maintenance Fund will be depleted by FY 27-28. Even without incorporating the yet to be determined costs of major capital projects referenced above, the Facilities Maintenance Fund is inadequately capitalized for the duration of the 10- year projections. This underfunding is not sustainable; it will severely affect repair and replacement expenditures within this decade.

• The Committee supports the conservative approach used to establish the budget for transfer tax revenues given their historic volatility. The Committee also supports the modest increase in projected transfer tax revenue, from the $2.8 million consistently used in the recent past, to $3.2 million annually beginning in FY23. This increased budget amount could still be attained with a recessionary pace of sales and/ or drop in sales prices given substantial gains in Piedmont home values over the past decade. The Committee recommends that to the extent actual transfer tax revenue exceeds the conservative estimate, such funds be used to fund the Facilities Maintenance Fund, consistent with prior years.

• The projected pension expenses have increased based on an updated actuarial study completed earlier this year, which assume CalPERS 2 Piedmont Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee investment returns decline to 6.0% over the next 20 years. However, future pension costs could still rise should CalPERS investment performance be below target due to a sustained downturn in financial markets.

• The prior funding of the Public Agency Retirement Services (PARS) Fund, supplemented by the proposed capital transfer from the current budget surplus, will provide the City much needed flexibility in managing future pension cost increases, as the City’s obligations are expected to increase substantially over the course of this decade. However, this flexibility may be adversely affected by stock market fluctuations to the extent there is significant decline in values during the withdrawal years.

• As in prior years, the projections continue to show that the long term financial health of the City is dependent on property-related taxes, especially the continuation of the Municipal Services Parcel Tax. The projections assume that the MSPT continues with a standard CPI adjustment each year, and the Committee supports this approach.

• The City continues to benefit from a robust economic recovery and rising Bay Area housing prices. Given the uncertainty as to how long such favorable economic conditions will persist, it is important to continue with conservative property tax and transfer tax assumptions.”

READ the entire Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee Report 2021-2022

June 21 – AGENDA DETAILS: SCHEDULE AND PARTICIPATION

Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee members:

Deborah Leland, Chair

Andrew Flynn,

Cathie Geddeis,

Robert McBain,

Paul Raskin,

Frank Ryan

Vanessa Washington

May 16 2021
The Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee (BAFPC) needs to get the revenue projections right before it starts considering new taxes.
Y = mX + b.  That’s not a typo but an equation, instantly recognizable to mathematicians as the equation for linear regression.  Put technically, the known value (X) times the slope (m) plus a fudge factor (b) estimates the unknown value (Y).   Put simply, estimate the unknown future value from the known past values.
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In the figure below, X, the horizontal axis, is years (2000-2030) and Y, the vertical axis, is the annual Real Property Transfer tax revenue in dollars (millions), collected on Piedmont home sales from 2000 to 2021.  The circles show the annual tax revenue and the blue line is the linear regression of that data out to the year 2030.
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Because linear regression is not perfect, to be safe, practitioners will take out the high and low values (outliers) and re-run the regression. The red line shows the estimated tax revenue with the two red circles removed from the regression.
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The 2009 data is the Great Recession when the tax revenue was $1.7M and the 2021 data is this year’s tax revenue (The COVID bubble?), likely to be $5M.  The lines pretty much overlay each other and show a very consistent increase in tax revenue over 20 years, with or without the outliers.

Every year, rather than rely on linear regression to estimate end of the year tax revenue, the City simply assumes revenue will be $2.8M.  And every year, the city winds up with $500,000 or more to put away into reserve funds like Facility Maintenance, Equipment Replacement or Pension Stabilization.

This year is an exception– almost a $2M surplus will be collected.  On a year-to-year basis, that may be ok – by staying on budget the city ends the year with a surplus that can be banked for long term needs.

But last year the City decided to project this $2.8 forward for 10 years – that’s the flat line in the figure – and claimed the city was facing a “deficit”.  This reasoning was offered as justification for putting Measure TT, the proposed increase in the transfer tax, on the 2020 ballot.  Measure TT failed, just in time for record transfer tax revenues.

Why this all matters is because the Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee (BAFPC) will soon convene and possibly consider what to do about the failure of TT.

The BAFPC reviews the revenue projections by staff and there’s chatter of a “Plan B” to raise more revenue.  Perhaps with a new Mayor and chairperson there will be new thinking by the BAFPC and the committee will advise staff to adopt a more accurate forecasting approach.

For example, transfer tax receipts over the past 10 years now average $3.4M annually (not including 2021) – use that value for the flat-line projection.  Better yet, perform this simple linear regression to project next year’s revenue and apportion that estimate to the three funds as needed.  The BAFPC needs to get the revenue projections right before it starts considering new taxes.

Click graph below to  enlarge.

Garrett Keating, Former City Council Member

Apr 28 2021

Virtual Town Hall featuring District 15

Assemblymember Buffy Wicks

League of Women Voters

Wednesday, May 5, 2021 5:00 – 6:30 pm

Click below for flyer and details

Final flyer- LWV Virtual Town Hall featuring Assemblymember Buffy Wicks[19714]

___________________________

Nancy O’Malley event

Thursday, May 6th, 4:00-5:00 p.m. – online media

“Perspectives on Women’s Issues”

with Nancy O’Malley, Alameda County District Attorney

On Thursday, May 6th, at 4:00 p.m., the Piedmont League of Women Voters will welcome Alameda County District Attorney, Nancy O’Malley.  She will discuss her important work with abused and homeless women, helping them move beyond trauma into a positive future.

DA O’Malley will address the many challenges COVID-19 has posed. She will also explain the ways in which the current lack of civility in politics is impeding the pace and scale of progress for women who suffer from violence. For example, passage of the Violence Against Women Act was held up due to politics, and funding for the Victims Crime Act, which provides resources to states for victims of crime, was also reduced.

Nancy O’Malley is a nationally recognized expert in issues involving violence against women, violence against persons with disabilities, and interpersonal violence including sexual assault, domestic violence, elder abuse, child abuse, stalking, and human exploitation and trafficking. She serves in an office with a national reputation for excellence dating back to former District Attorney and United States Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren. DA O’Malley carries out this proud legacy as the first woman to serve as Alameda County’s elected District Attorney, and as a leader known throughout California and the country for her innovation and vision.

The event is free and open to all community members. To register, please go to

https://www.lwvpiedmont.org/content.aspx?page_id=4002&club_id=601389&item_id=1256825.

You can watch DA O’Malley’s presentation live on Zoom or on our YouTube channel. The event is free and open to all community members. It will be recorded and posted on the League of Women Voters of Piedmont website for those who cannot join live.

Apr 27 2021

Unique Opportunity to Observe Your City Council Members During the Workshop

Special City Council Meeting

Thursday, April 29, 2021 9:00 a.m. Via Teleconference

Computer or smart phone: https://piedmont-ca-gov.zoom.us/j/83121532252

Telephone: Dial (669) 900-9128 and enter webinar/meeting number 831-2153-2252

Piedmonters will be able to view and participate in the Council virtual “Team Building Workshop” from home or elsewhere.

Click below for instructions on how to observe and participate.

Council Team Building Agenda 2021-04-29

 

Apr 17 2021

How does the City Council plan to oversee the use of the City owned property at 801 Magnolia Avenue?

While seniors decry the lack of senior programing and voice a need for a Senior Center in Piedmont, private business use has taken priority over public use limiting public use.

Approval of a new lease with the Art Center Board indicates various Council policies are needed:

  • Policy decision authority retained by the Council, the ultimate landlord
  • Guaranteed inclusion rather than exclusion of legitimate non-profit uses of the facility 
  • Council oversight of compliance by all users with local, state, and federal laws including: municipal, state, federal taxes, 501c3 non-profit status, workers compensation, ADA compliance, anti-discrimination, incorporation documentation, valid business licenses and  prohibition of political activities on the premises
  • Accounting of space utilization and ongoing consideration of lost City revenue
  • Evaluation and accountability of liability, risks, and costs to the City by each user and provision of appropriate insurance coverages
  • Semi-annual reports to Council on diversity of users, uses, financial statements, compliance with City policies, and City obligations
  • Staff Annual reports to Council on building structural integrity, safety measures, maintenance, ADA compliance, and interior and exterior upkeep expenditures
  • Required Council approval for all commercial subleases extending over two weeks
  • Council adoption of written conditions required for all sublets 
  • Prohibition of Art Center Board members and advisors to sublet the property for more than two weeks per year
  • Prompt staff reports to Council concerning issues arising from the lease or sublets 
  • Public access to financial records, board meetings, and minutes of Art Center Board
  • Adoption of comprehensive Council policies governing the use and rental of all Piedmont public properties

Piedmonters, owners of 801 Magnolia Avenue, have been awaiting invitations to observe Board meetings and receive regular financial reports from their tenant.  The Piedmont Center for the Arts Board is composed of well-meaning, generous, local residents of Piedmont and Oakland who may have overlooked their obligation to keep Piedmont citizens informed in a transparent manner of the use of this important public asset.