Nov 17 2020

November 16, 2020 on a first reading, the Piedmont City Council split their votes on extending a $1 per year lease for seven more years to a private organization, Piedmont Center for the Arts, of Piedmont’s property at 801 Magnolia Avenue. 

For several hours more than a dozen speakers testified for and against the proposed lease extension of the 801 Magnolia building. The current $1 per year lease will expire in June 2021. 

Mayor Bob McBain, whose term on the Council is ending and who sets the agenda, noted he had promised the Arts Board and others, he would have a vote on the lease extension of the Piedmont Center for the Arts.  McBain acknowledged he and City Administrator Sara Lillevand had been meeting with the Art Center Board for months and in August he had informed others, including Lillevand, there were 3 votes on the City Council in favor of the lease extension.

With no publicity or public notice by the City, the matter was addressed favorably primarily by the Board of the Art Center. Other speakers concerned about the lease noted the lack of public input and need for alternatives to the problematic proposed lease.

All speakers supported use of the facilities for the arts while offering suggestions to protect the City’s interests and increase community involvement.

At the close of the public hearing and Council discussion,  Mayor Bob McBain preempted the other Council members and made a motion to approve the lease extension.  Vice Mayor Teddy King seconded his motion.  Council member Betsy Andersen, who was the 3rd Yes vote, asked that the term of the lease be changed from 10 years to 7 years.

Council member Jen Cavenaugh made a substitute motion seconded by Council member Tim Rood to table the matter in order to allow additional information based on questions and concerns plus more time for public input prior to approving the first reading of the proposed long-term lease of the property.  McBain, Andersen, and King voted against the motion, and it failed.

McBain and King’s motion was approved by Andersen, McBain and King gaining a first reading to extend the lease for 7 years. Rood and Cavenaugh voted no.

The matter will return in December, or later, to the Council after a new Council is seated in December.   McBain will have be termed out of office and his seat will be filled by Conna McCarthy on December 7, 2020.  Council member Jen Cavenaugh reelected to a second term on the Council will serve for another 4 years.  Council members, King, Rood, and Andersen will remain on the Council for two more years.

Some issues raised and not resolved prior to the Council approving the first reading of the lease were:

  • Why wasn’t the lease extension publicized in local media to gather public input?
  • How much more would it cost the City to operate the Center?
  • What is the financial condition of the Art Center, Inc.?
  • Who controls how the property can be used?
  • What is the value to the City of the property?
  •  Why are Art Center Board minutes and financial information not provided to the city regarding income and users?
  • Why are arts groups and other community organizations turned away in preference for commercial business activities?
  • How can revenue from the Center foster arts in the community?
  • The City recently stated it needed more money on two recent ballot measures. Why is the Art Center revenue stream of hundreds of thousands of dollars not considered a desired revenue source?
  • What is the status of the IRS 501C3 qualification given recent information on the Art Center?
  • Why are there terms in the lease that do not favor the taxpayers and City of Piedmont?
  • What information is available on cost-effective use of the building?
  • How can a private organization lease public property and then sublease to a commercial entity?
  • Why is the Arts Board allowed exclusionary control of the property and not include all segments of the community?
  • Why isn’t the building fully utilized?
  • Can conflicts  between commercial uses, recreation classes and art shows be resolved?
  • What are the CEQA issues raised by a resident who received short notice?
  • Will the new high school theater offer superior performance space?
  • Have parking demands been considered?
  • Where is the sub-tenant commercial lease?

Those satisfied with the lease extension spoke to:

  • Prior improvements made to the building.
  • Successful programs of music and art for Piedmont and the wider community.
  • Continuing benefit to the City at little cost.
  • Grandfathering the commercial newspaper sub-tenant lease
  • Expanding programs
  • Use by top artists
  • Volunteer commendation for a successful operation.

The Lease Extension approved by 3 council members is linked below:

Art Center Introduction and 1st Reading of Ord. 758 N.S. – Approving a Lease Agreement with Piedmont Center for the Arts for City Property at 801 Magnolia Avenue

Nov 12 2020

A controversial item has been placed on the November 16, 2020 Council Agenda…the lease of City property at 801 Magnolia Avenue, the Art Center.  Agenda here.

The Council composition is soon to change based on the recent election of Conna McCarthy to replace Bob McBain on the City Council. Given the lease terms and controversy, questions have been raised regarding the need to act prior to the seating of the new Council, which will occur within days in early December 2020. The current Art Center lease does not end until June 2021.

With over six months left on the lease, a citizen asked, “What is the rush?”  Others have called for a widely publicized community evaluation of the use of the City property, since one has never been undertaken.

Adding to the controversy, a proposed fee schedule for 801 Magnolia Avenue would not be developed and brought back to the Council until after the new lease agreement has been approved by the Council.

The staff report estimates the office space “market rate” rental at $50 per foot, by comparing it with the Veterans Hall office rental rate of $36 per square foot leased to the Piedmont Education Foundation, the  local non-profit organization benefiting Piedmont schools. The reason to compare a rental rate for commercial entities with the rental rate charged to a local non-profit is questioned.

Commercial rental space in Piedmont is at a  premium because of location and scarcity.  Plus, the City property at 801 Magnolia Avenue includes two much-sought-after parking spaces.

A number of citizens would like the fee structure to be a part of the lease discussion, prior to approval of any lease.  It has been proposed that the Recreation Department manage all use of the space to assure appropriate and full use of the property. The staff proposed agreement provides for City programs and events as well as private non arts-related rentals.

The building at 801 Magnolia Avenue was purchased with taxpayer’s funds.  If income from the property were to be maximized, it has been estimated rental income from various uses could bring in over $200,000 per year.

  • Who should manage the building?
  • What purposes should the property be used?
  • What use of this city property would be most beneficial for the community?

Opinion articles have been published on this site.

https://www.piedmontcivic.org/2020/11/04/opinion-city-owned-801-magnolia-building-should-be-run-by-the-city/

Opinion: Why Rush 801 Magnolia Lease?

Citizens have suggested various uses for the property.  Some are listed below.

— a community library,

— senior center,

— Dress Best for Less, drop off site and marking room, benefits schools and Piedmont’s local recycling goals,

— counseling/ tutoring space,

— recreation programs,

— meeting site,

— rentals for weddings, book reviews, receptions, celebrations,

— performances and art shows,

— recital and amateurmusical practice space.

The staff report is linked below

.Art Center Introduction and 1st Reading of Ord. 758 N.S. – Approving a Lease Agreement with Piedmont Center for the Arts for City Property at 801 Magnolia Avenue

Nov 12 2020

– Measure UU Passed, Pool Design Is Next –

Measure UU: A call for engineering experts among our community –

We are faced with a very interesting and challenging engineering problem: designing a pool that will meet the neighborhood’s aquatic needs for the next 50 years within the constraints of the Piedmont Climate Action Plan and the State of California 2035/2050 goals.
.
Very few pool design companies have the skills to analyze and optimize the complex trade-offs between the various available energy technologies and the pool size in area and water volume. Piedmont has an opportunity to innovate and show the way for other communities.
.
We would like to call on the engineering skills within the members of the community to join us with the goal of making back-of-the envelope calculations on various options, based on data gathering and scientific calculations. This  would help the City Council to make decisions on how to proceed.
.
You can connect to us by email: piedmont.green.pool@gmail.com or through this PCA forum.
.

Indira Balkissoon, Piedmont Resident

Garrett Keating, Former member of the City Council

Bernard Pech, Piedmont Resident

Tom Webster, Piedmont Resident

Nov 9 2020

The Alameda County Registrar of Voters continues to compile election  results.  More Piedmont votes have been added to totals, however the Piedmont relative percentages have not varied enough to change the outcome and are not expected to change.  The most recent and detailed results can be found at –https://www.acgov.org/rovresults/241/indexA.htm

Presumed Elected:

City Council – Jennifer Cavenaugh and Conna McCarthy

School Board – Cory Smegal, Veronica Anderson-Thigpen and Hilary Cooper

~~~~~~~

Measure UU, pool bonds, continues to be approved by over 68% of the voters.

Measure TT, increase in the real property transfer tax, continues to fail by a wider margins. See below.

2 of 2 Precincts Reported (100.00% )
Needs 50% + 1 Yes vote to pass
 
Contest Votes Percentage
No 3,755 51.83 %
Yes 3,490 48.17 %
Nov 9 2020

Thank you Piedmont for your wonderful support and votes!

My heartfelt gratitude to everyone who took the time to talk with me, read my website, watch me on the various Zoom forums, and consider me for the Council seat. All of you made this such an incredible experience for this first time candidate.

Although I am disappointed the election did not turn out the way I had hoped, I am committed to public service and look forward to offering my services in a way that will benefit our City. There is never a shortage of work to be done, so I am sure I will find a place to volunteer and contribute.

We are extremely fortunate to have Jen Cavanaugh’s expertise and energy for a second term. A special thanks goes out to her for her kindness and camaraderie during the campaign.

As our newest Council member, Conna McCarthy will continue her dedication and hard work for our City. I would like to extend my deepest, most heartfelt thanks to all of my diehard supporters. So many of you gave me good advice, good ideas, and kept my spirits high. I can’t thank you enough for getting me through my first campaign.

A big, loving thank you to my wonderful husband Mark for his help, support and encouragement. He was my campaign committee of one and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And last, a thank you to Kapo, our loyal 4 legged family member. She logged a lot of miles carrying my “Vote Herrick” sign and brought a smile to many people’s faces. She’ll miss the campaign trail. I wish you all good health, a lot less stress and lots of hope as we go forward into 2021.

In community and with joyful gratitude,

Connie Herrick, Former Candidate for City Council

Nov 4 2020

Hats off and praise is deserved for the thousands of Piedmonters who were involved in the Piedmont City Council and PUSD School Board elections, plus Piedmont Measures TT, increase in property transfer tax, and UU pool bonds.

Despite COVID – 19 encumbrances, residents endorsed, posted signs, mailed letters, donated to campaigns, and talked to friends and neighbors and then voted. Piedmonters once more showed a keen interest in Piedmont by participating.

Out of the 9 individuals who sought public office, five were elected – Council: Jen Cavenaugh and Conna McCarthy – School Board: Cory Smegal, Veronica Anderson Thigpen, and Hilary Cooper. 

The two City Council tax measures,  TT, increase in property transfer tax, lost by approximately 50 votes, and UU, pool bonds, was handily approved by over 2/3rds of the voters. 

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Piedmont election.

Updated election returns > https://www.acgov.org/rovresults/241/indexA.htm

Nov 3 2020

The following are Piedmont election results as of 9:25 p.m. November 3.  Election results are not final until all votes have been recorded and certified.  The elected candidates are listed in the order of votes gained.  Election results are unlikely to change. 

Elected to the City Council:

Jen Cavenaugh

Conna McCarthy

Elected to the School Board:

Cory Smegal

Veronica Anderson-Thigpen

Hilary Cooper

Piedmont Ballot Measures:

Measure TT – Increase in real property transfer tax – Failed – by 31 votes

Measure UU – Pool Bonds – Approved – by over 2/3rds of voters

Updates can be found on https://www.acgov.org/rovresults/241/indexA.htm

Nov 1 2020

In these crazy times, we can’t host a coffee or ring doorbells, so I’m writing to let you know that I’ve endorsed Veronica Anderson Thigpen for the PUSD School Board, and I heartily recommend voting for her.

I have known Veronica since she moved here in 2018, and joined the Piedmont Appreciating Diversity Committee. Right away, Veronica added a clear, articulate voice on important issues, like the proposal to have an armed police officer stationed at PHS/MHS.

Soon after, Veronica took responsibility for managing MLK Day, which showcased her great skills as an organizer and leader. The day went perfectly, a real achievement with so many moving pieces. She impressed other Committee members so much that in only her second year Veronica became PADC’s co-President. She has demonstrated excellent people skills, good judgment and a willingness to dig into complex issues in search of practical solutions.

Veronica’s background as an education and business journalist for 18 years has given her a broad perspective on education. She works now as an advisor to school systems and educational non-profits looking to build equitable, inclusive and effective organizations. She is knowledgeable, smart, energetic, and community-minded.

Veronica also has a daughter who is a junior at PHS, where she has helped to launch a revitalized Black Student Union. Her husband, David Thigpen, heads the undergraduate Journalism Department at UC Berkeley.

I hope that you’ll join me in supporting Veronica, and talking her up with your friends. When door-to-door campaigning is out, we need to find other ways to connect!

Maude Pervere, Piedmont Resident

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Nov 1 2020

– Environmental Voting Guide written by Piedmonter Emily Ballati –

Things-are-Heating-Up-Guide-to-Environmental-Voting

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author. 
Oct 29 2020

The Mercury News Editorial –

Editorial: Reject Piedmont property tax hike for pool repairs

The Mercury News editorial is copied below:

“Piedmont residents tax themselves to ensure that they have the best schools and premier city government. The average homeowner pays $4,400 in extra taxes for schools and another $635 for city services.

But those taxes also drive up the cost of housing in the exclusive city surrounded by Oakland and further ensure that those with average means will not be able to crack the city’s residential market.

Voters in Tuesday’s election will face two tax hikes. Measure TT, which we have previously recommended voters reject, would increase the city’s tax on property sales to state record-high levels. Now we look at Measure UU, a $19.5 million bond proposal to pay for replacing three old community pools with two new ones. Voters should reject that, too.

Based on the city estimates provided to voters, Measure UU would add an average $263 annually to the tax bill for a home assessed at the city average of slightly over $1 million.

It a bit of a tricky calculation for voters because city officials in the ballot wording obfuscated the projected average tax rate as 2.6 cents per $100 of assessed value rather than an easier-to-understand $26 per $100,000.

It turns out that the city overstated that rate, especially for the latter part of the 30-year tax. The firmer number is that city taxpayers would collectively pay about $1.3 million annually to retire the bonds needed to finance the construction.

To put that number in perspective, the city spends more than that – nearly $1.7 million to be precise – just to cover the interest payments on public employee pension debt. Put another way, most of the pool bond payments could be covered by Measure TT, which is expected to add about $948,462 annually to the city’s transfer tax revenues.

Individually and collectively, the two measures raise a question of, how much is too much? Rather than throwing multiple tax measures at voters, city leaders need to prioritize and look for savings elsewhere.”