Jun 17 2020

“Piedmont is the highest taxed city in the area.”

Letter to the Piedmont City Council regarding increase in Piedmont taxes.

Table 4 of the Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee (BAFPC) report provides scenarios of increased property transfer tax (RPTT) revenue based on alternative increases to the tax.  The analysis looks backward and provides you with increased revenue the city would have received over the past 10 years had these rates been in place.  That’s an understatement and I recommend you give direction to staff to conduct a fourth scenario that forecasts RPTT growth under the current tax rate that will occur based on the growth rate of the past 10 years.  This is very easy to do and will provide you with information to select the appropriate tax increase, if indeed one is needed at all. 
Three reasons: First, as the BAFPC analysis shows, Piedmont is the highest taxed city in the area and adding more taxes to that burden should be factually considered. Second, the Facilities Maintenance Fund is fully funded.  Third, as the Public Works Director said at your last meeting, facilities maintenance is on pace and substantial deferred maintenance has been achieved under current RPTT revenue.  As you know, the past 5 years have seen record RPTT receipts even in a period of declining sales so there is good reason to analyze whether the a tax increase is needed.

I have some questions for staff:

City Administrator:  the BAFPC recommended city staff dialogue with PUSD officials about how increases in city taxes might impact the District’s need for additional funds.  Can you elaborate on these discussions?

Finance Director:  even in the midst of the pandemic, you recently stated the real estate market is “robust”. Can you elaborate on your projection that revenue will drop by 29% in 20-21,  yielding a RPTT of $2.2M.  Is that due to a drop in the number of sales or home prices?

Assistant City Clerk; You stated that under the City Charter, a bond initiative might require two votes.  Can you elaborate on that and any conclusions?  If that were the case, some have suggested a facilities district as a way to avoid 2 votes. I recommend Council abide by the Piedmont City Charter.

Garrett Keating
Former Member Piedmont City Council 
Link to Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee report > Receipt of a Report from the Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee on Financing Options for Improvement of City Facilities
Apr 29 2020

Two Council seats are on the November 2020 Piedmont ballot.

Piedmont will hold a City Council election on November 3, 2020 at the California General Election (Presidential Election).

Candidacy Preparation

Mayor Robert “Bob” McBain having served two terms on the City Council will be “termed out” according to the Piedmont City Charter, and he cannot remain on the City Council or seek re-election.  His retirement  leaves an entirely open seat for a new council member. 

An additional seat is also up at the 2020 election.  Council member Jennifer Cavenaugh will have served one four year term and is eligible to seek a second four year Council term on November 3.

Citizens of Piedmont interested in serving on the Piedmont City Council can consider their qualifications, support, and willingness to serve for a four year term on the Piedmont City Council.

Serving as a member of the City Council is a volunteer position without compensation.  Only authorized expenses and travel are provided for the council members. Time spent on city matters varies tremendously by council members.  The time expended may average between 5 to 40 hours per week depending on current issues and council member efforts.

Usually, there are 2 to 3 scheduled public meetings per month with outside meetings adding considerably to council member schedules.  Council members also field resident inquiries and comments. 

Campaign election committees generally form prior to or during the summer of an election year.  Public facilities, including City owned addresses and property, may not be used for campaign purposes.

Candidate filings will begin in Piedmont City Hall July 2020 and end in August.  For detailed and specific information on candidacy requirements and dates, contact:

City Clerk John Tulloch at 510/420-3040.

Piedmont City Charter:

ARTICLE VIII. Elections SECTION 8.01 GENERAL MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS General Municipal elections for the election of officers and for such other purposes as the City Council may proscribe, shall be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November in even numbered years. (Charter Amendment 11/04/2014)

Editors’ Note:  PCA does not support or oppose candidates for public office or ballot measures. 

Jan 30 2020

State laws ending single-family zoning have a great impact on Piedmont’s parcel tax system and method of supporting city services.

Piedmont, one of California’s most heavily taxed cities, proposes and taxes three housing units on single-family parcels as though there was just one household  – with no commensurate parcel tax to cover the public service needs (parks, recreation, library services, police, fire) of the additional families.

On March 3, 2020, Piedmonters have a renewal of the City parcel tax on their ballot, Measure T,  found at the end of Piedmont ballots.  As written, Measure T does not distinguish between a one family dwelling unit on a single-family parcel and a parcel that has two or three dwelling units on a single-family parcel. 

New State laws impacting “Single-family” residential parcels are intended by the State of California to result in many new dwelling units in former single-family zoned housing by adding one or two units – up to three residential units – on a single parcel.  The March 3rd parcel tax, Measure T, does not reflect this new reality as parcels will be taxed on the basis of one residence on a parcel in the “Single-family” category.

Piedmont is financially impacted by the new housing requirements made at the state level increasing densification. Piedmont’s system of supporting itself has for decades been based on taxing single-family properties in Piedmont containing one single-family residence/household on a parcel.  

Many California cities have increased their sales taxes to gain needed revenue.  Piedmont, zoned primarily for “single-family” residences, has relatively little commercial property and thus very little opportunity for increased sales tax revenue. Voter approved parcel taxes in Piedmont, property transfer taxes, and increased property valuations have allowed Piedmont to prosper.  

Those parcels with the newly allowable 3 housing units on their property will pay no more for the densification of their properties despite windfall income without additional  taxes for the service needs of additional families.

READ the Measure T Tax Tables for Piedmont Basic Municipal Service>HERE.

Increasing the number of households in Piedmont will require additional services – street safety, parking, fire protection, public schools, city administration, public open spaces, police services, etc. – without commensurate increases in revenue. 

Push for more affordable housing in California.

In 2019, the population outflow from the State of California was more than 200,000 citizens relocating to other states.  The figure reported by the US Census Bureau is 203,414.  While California is expected to lose a Congressional Representative after 2020, Texas may gain three Congress persons due to dramatic population increase.

“In the 1970’s citizen activists [in CA] created urban growth boundaries and land trusts to preserve open space and delicate coastal habitats.” Following Prop 13, “Cash hungry cities opted to zone for commercial uses, which would generate sales taxes, instead of affordable housing.” (New York Times 12/1/19)

With the press of political demands for more housing, the State of California has taken a dramatic step to remove restrictions on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).  When ADUs are added to single-family zoned parcels, many requirements have been eliminated: setbacks, floor area ratios, view protections, parking, owner occupancy, public participation, notification, and other factors.

School taxes.

In November 2019, Piedmonters voted overwhelmingly by over 82% to tax individual parcels.  Every parcel has the same tax basis of approximately $2,700. An additional tax based on square footage of living space is also added to individual parcel taxes.  The taxation needs for the school parcel tax were based on expected student populations.

READ the approved 2019 Piedmont School Parcel Tax Measure HERE.

Unlike San Mateo, the Piedmont City Council accepted the new State laws and has shown no effort to enforce the City Charter which gives Piedmont voters the right to have a say in what happens to Piedmont’s zoning.  Further, the Piedmont City Council took no action or policy position on the various housing initiatives put forth in Sacramento that take away local laws even though the legislation was contrary to Piedmont’s City Charter.

Piedmont’s Charter was written to guarantee Piedmont voters the right to control many aspects of the City including elections, finances, budgets, police and fire departments, public schools, public borrowing, zoning, etc.  

 Charter cities in California have lost significant local authority over land use and public participation in decisions. 

The recent court decision in a San Mateo County Court to uphold and acknowledge San Mateo’s City Charter regarding a housing project could eventually impact Piedmont.  The San Mateo Court decision does indicate a judicial act protecting Charter City rights.  

The Piedmont City Council per the City Charter has the responsibility of enforcing the City Charter and putting before Piedmont voters recommended changes to zoning – single-family, multi-family, commercial, and public zones, yet nothing has been placed before the voters.  Other City Charter changes and amendments were on a recent ballot and approved by Piedmont voters.

Piedmonters for over a century held control over land use decisions, police and fire services,  public schools, parks, etc. through the City Charter.

Affordable housing in Piedmont

In Piedmont, the abandoned PG&E property on Linda Avenue next to the Oakland Avenue Bridge, was noted in Piedmont’s General Plan, as an optimal location for affordable housing – close to schools, transportation, stores and parks.  Disregarding Piedmont’s General Plan and Piedmont’s City Charter, the City Council permitted a number of market-rate townhouses to be built on the former PG&E site without including any affordable housing and illegally rezoning the property from public usage to the multi-family zone without a citizen vote on the rezoning, as required by Piedmont’s City Charter. 

Jan 29 2020

Feb. 10, 5:30 pm. Planning Commission, City Hall

The Planning Commission and City Council will soon consider changes to bring the City’s regulations regarding Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and Junior Accessory Dwelling Units (JADUs) into conformance with new state laws.

On February 10, 2020, the Planning Commission will hold a public hearing to consider amendments to the Piedmont Design Guidelines to establish objective architectural and landscape standards for ADUs and JADUs.  AGENDA >February 2020 PC Agenda 

The City Council is tentatively scheduled to review the proposed amendments to the Piedmont Design Guidelines at a public hearing on Tuesday, February 18, 2020.

The proposed changes to the Piedmont Design Guidelines are intended to do the following:

  • to ensure that new ADUs and JADUs match the architecture of the primary residence;
  • to protect street trees and the public right-of-way; and
  • to ensure that the architectural design of ADUs and JADUs preserve privacy between neighboring properties.

Per state requirements, the new design standards for ADUs and JADUs in the proposed amendments to the Design Guidelines are objective, measurable, and prescriptive.

The staff report and agenda for the February 10, 2020 Planning Commission meeting can be read > Planning-ADU-Report-2020-02-10.  

Background   On January 21, 2020, the City Council introduced the first reading of a proposed ordinance to establish a ministerial review process for ADUs and JADUs in compliance with state law.

The City Council will hold a public hearing to adopt the proposed ordinance on February 3, 2020. On January 1, 2020, new state laws came into effect which limit a local jurisdiction’s ability to regulate ADUs and JADUs.

The provisions affected by the changes to state law include, but are not limited to:

  • ministerial review of all ADU permit applications,
  • off street parking requirements eliminated,
  • unit size limitations,
  • application approval timelines,
  • owner occupancy, 
  • the allowance for junior accessory dwelling units (JADUs), ADUs on multi-family properties
  • ADUs that must be approved by-right.

Local laws which do not conform to these new state standards are preempted and cannot be enforced. City staff has developed a proposed ordinance and amendments to the Design Guidelines which will be considered by the Planning Commission and the City Council to conform Piedmont’s ADU and JADU regulations to the new state law.

Public Engagement: The opportunity for public input is available throughout this process. Interested members of the public are encouraged to attend the public meetings:

    The Planning Commission meeting is on February 10, 2020

    The City Council meetings are on February 3, 2020 and February 18, 2020

These meetings will be televised live on KCOM-TV, the City’s government access TV station and available through streaming video on the KCOM meeting video page.

Written comments regarding the proposed ordinance may be sent to the City Council and Planning Commission via email to: citycouncil@piedmont.ca.gov.

Comments intended for the Planning Commission’s consideration should be submitted by 5 p.m., Thursday, February 6, 2020.

To send comments via U.S. Mail, please use the following address: Piedmont City Council c/o City Clerk, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611.

If you have questions about the proposed ordinance, please contact Planning & Building Director Kevin Jackson by email at kjackson@piedmont.ca.gov. Any correspondence sent to the City will be considered a public record.

Jan 26 2020

The League of Women Voters of Piedmont is forming discussion groups to participate in the 2020 Great Decisions program on world affairs.

Sponsored by the Foreign Policy Association, Great Decisions is America’s largest discussion program on global matters.

The program is a series of eight meetings, lasting approximately two hours each. Participants receive a Foreign Policy Association briefing book which provides background and context for group discussion. Each session starts with an insightful video created by the Foreign Policy Association, followed by a lively discussion of the week’s topic.

Chosen by a panel of foreign policy experts, this year’s topics are:

  1.  Climate Change and the Global Order
  2. India and Pakistan
  3. Red Sea Security
  4. Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking
  5. U.S. Relations with the Northern Triangle
  6. China’s Road into Latin America
  7. The Philippines and the U.S. 8. Artificial Intelligence and Data

The program offers two sessions: Wednesday evenings from 7-9 pm, and Thursday afternoons from 1 – 3 pm. Participants can attend either session.

The Wednesday session will meet at 40 Highland Ave. beginning February 12.

The Thursday session starts February 13, meeting at the Piedmont Police Department Conference Room, 403 Highland Ave.

Both sessions meet every other week, with the eighth and final sessions ending May 20th & 21st, respectively.

To RVSP, please visit the LWVPiedmont.org and click the Great Decisions Discussion Group link.

The cost of the program is $32.00. Payment via credit card, debit card or PayPal is accepted. Payment via check should be payable to the League of Women Voters Piedmont and sent to Ward Lindenmayer, 40 Highland Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611. Please note in the memo section that the check is for Great Decisions and indicate whether you prefer to attend daytime or evening session.

Regardless of which way you pay, please send your email contact to Ward at wardandelaine@comcast.net.

Last year’s Great Decisions program attracted 60 participants, nearly twice as many as in the past. This, perhaps, says something about the state of the world and how global affairs have become important to so many.

Great Decisions is open to all. You do not need to be a member of the League to join in. Briefing books are now available for pick-up at 40 Highland Ave., Piedmont. Please sign the sheet when you pick up a book and leave a check in the envelope if you have not previously paid.

Oct 23 2019

“I hope we have the civic wisdom to evaluate and plan for the infrastructure changes necessary to accommodate the additional population ADUs [Accessory Dwelling Units] will generate over time; and also to guard against those who would exploit the issue to circumvent the principles articulated in our General Plan and Design Guidelines.”

First, the sour grapes: at its October 21, 2019 meeting, the City Council voted unanimously to overturn a denial of design permit by the Piedmont Planning Commission. A rare event. The decision was, in my opinion, based solely on political expediency centering on “ADUs” – an important civic consideration – that was a never part of the consideration by the Planning Commission and sets a problematic precedent for future residential development in our city.

Without relitigating the details of that decision, I’ll point out that seven separate Planning Commissioners- most leaders in their fields of architecture, design and the like, and Piedmont residents, voted against these similar designs on three occasions over a three year period of time- neighborhood opposition has been consistent throughout the process. For the reversal of the Commission’s decision, standing before the Council were: two Planning Commission nonresident Staff members,who opined on design elements and related matters outside their purview and not burdened by any evident qualifications, the applicant, one non-profit advocacy organization, and three non-neighbor character witnesses.

The advent of ADUs as a civic issue in our State and Piedmont is a legitimate one. I’m not sure there’s a housing crisis so much as an affordable housing crisis, but that’s almost beside the point- the fact is it’s political catnip today and not going away tomorrow. I hope we have the civic wisdom to evaluate and plan for the infrastructure changes necessary to accommodate the additional population those ADUs will generate over time; and also to guard against those who would exploit the issue to circumvent the principles articulated in our General Plan and Design Guidelines.

Philip Stein, Piedmont Resident

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Sep 1 2019

The Piedmont City Council met on Tuesday, September 3 at 7:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 120 Vista Avenue. The meeting was broadcast live on the City website and Cable Channel 27.  Recordings of the meeting are available on the City website.

Regular Agenda

  1. Approval of Council Meeting Minutes for 08/05/19

    PCA Council minutes2019-08-05

  2. Receipt of the 2nd Quarter Police Department Report from the Chief of Police 

    See crime statistics, maps, and programs in link below. 

    http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/html/govern/staffreports/2019-09-03/crimereport2nd.pdf

  3. Consideration of Authorization to Solicit Bids for Traffic Calming Measures at the Intersections of Greenbank & Oakland Avenues as well as Fairview & Grand Avenues

    APPROVED BY THE COUNCIL

    http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/html/govern/staffreports/2019-09-03/trafficcalming.pdf

  4. Introduction of the City’s New Website

    http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/html/govern/staffreports/2019-09-03/newwebsite.pdf

 

Sep 1 2019

The League of Women Voters of Piedmont & City of Piedmont

Invite you to Join
Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson

for a Discussion about the 2020 Census

Wednesday, September 18, 2019 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm Piedmont Community Hall 711 Highland Ave, Piedmont CA

Keith Carson, Piedmont’s representative on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, will lead a discussion on the importance of the decennial census, getting counted, and how citizens can become involved in the process on Wednesday, September 18, 2019 from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. in the Piedmont Community Hall.

A native of Berkeley, Carson attended Berkeley High School and Merritt College. He then transferred to UC Berkeley where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Sciences. Carson went on to receive his Master of Public Administration from California State University, Hayward (now California State University, East Bay.) He has served on the Board of Supervisors since 1993.

Please attend for this timely, informative discussion. The event is free and open to the public.

May 28 2019

City Council to Appoint Recreation Director Sara Lillevand to be Piedmont’s First Female City Administrator

Ms. Lillevand’s appointment will be on the agenda of the Monday, June 17 City Council meeting. 

After an extensive recruitment process, which resulted in forty three applicants, the City Council has selected Sara Lillevand to serve as Piedmont’s next City Administrator.

Ms. Lillevand currently serves as the City’s Recreation Director, a position to which she was appointed by the City Council in 2014. As a part of the City’s senior management team, she has worked on major issues facing the City, including facilities maintenance and planning. She was a key member of the team which managed the Hampton Park renovation project and developed the highly successful fundraising program to fund the renovations, which raised over $800,000.

Working collaboratively, she has been a leading member of the teams which developed conceptual master plans for the Community Pool, the Recreation Center, the Veterans Memorial Building, and Linda Park.

In her four and a half years as Recreation Director, Ms. Lillevand has focused on increasing community engagement in Recreation Department programs. With community input, Ms. Lillevand also successfully reorganized the department’s Schoolmates program in response to changes in school schedules, allowing the program to continue to provide a high level of service to residents while remaining revenue positive, and implemented new programs for middle school students and seniors.

“Sara is an ideal choice to serve as Piedmont City Administrator,” said Mayor Robert McBain. “Her leadership skills and dedication to the community are unparalleled. Her work as Recreation Director has shown that she can bring Piedmonters together to help our community move forward. Sara has been a leader and a trailblazer her whole life and we look forward to her continued leadership as Piedmont City Administrator.”

“I am honored and privileged to be given the opportunity to serve Piedmont as its next City Administrator,” said Lillevand. I thank Paul Benoit for his exceptional guidance and mentorship as well as the Council for its confidence in me. I look forward to serving the community with vision, integrity, and a commitment to engagement.”

The Council will formally consider Ms. Lillevand’s appointment on June 17, 2019.

Sara Lillevand grew up in Piedmont and attended Piedmont schools.  She and her children reside in Piedmont.  Lillevand and her family have long been enthusiastic supporters of Piedmont sports and Piedmont schools.

May 28 2019

Piedmont Budget Advisory & Financial Planning Committee:

Thursday, May 30, 2019

7:00 p.m.

City Hall Conference Room, 120 Vista Avenue, City Hall

The Committee will consider what to recommend to the City Council regarding taxes on Piedmont properties.  The meetings of the Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee are not broadcast. Committee minutes of the meetings are not produced.  No supporting documents are available to the public prior to Committee consideration.  The meetings are open to the public, and upon request at the meeting, any documents distributed to the Committee will be made available to the public.

Agenda calls for 

  1. Discussion of the Municipal Services Special Tax (Parcel Tax) and Consideration of the Committee’s Review of the Parcel Tax Pursuant to Resolution 120-14

Roster 

Council Liaison: Mayor Robert McBain – rmcbain@piedmont.ca.gov – (VM) 420-3048
Staff Liaison: Finance Director Michael Szczech – mszczech@piedmont.ca.gov – (W) 420-3045

Committee Members:

Cathie Geddeis

Bill Hosler

Deborah Leland

Christina Paul

Maya Rath

Michael Reese

Frank Ryan

Alternate:

Chris Kwei