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 9 2020

A number of Piedmonters are registered as “No Party Preference” and may not realize they may not be able to vote by mail for  nominees in California’s Presidential Primary on March 3, 2020, unless they changed their registration prior to January 2, 2020.

Piedmonters are confused by the following statement on the Alameda County Registrar of Voters website:

All registered voters in Alameda County are eligible for this Presidential Primary Election.

Change your party affiliation at any time by filling out a new registration form; you can use the Online Registration Form. Be sure to re-register at least 15 days prior to the next election in order for the change to take effect for that election.

However, in late December, 2019 the Alameda County Registrar of Voters  mailed notices to every Piedmonter registered as “No Party Preference” stating:

You are currently registered to vote as No Party Preference.  You will receive a vote-by-mail ballot for the March 3, 2020 Presidential Primary Election that does not include candidates for U.S. President unless you return this postcard” [with a party selection] “by January 2, 2020.”

Some citizens did not see this notice until after the holidays.

Piedmonters registered as “No Party Preference,” who wish to vote for a party candidate in the presidential primary on March 3, 2020 Presidential Primary Election, are encouraged to re-register at least 15 days prior to March 3 here and then go to the polls to vote in person on March 3.

Dec 2 2019

Council relents and removes the language change in the  proposed Special Municipal Parcel Tax Ordinance to be voted on at the March 3, 2020, Primary Election.

On December 2, 2019, Piedmont’s contract City Attorney, Michelle Marchetta Kenyon, continued to maintain her opinion that the proposed language change was not substantive.  Her opinion was disagreed with by many in Piedmont.

Vice Mayor Teddy King noted her concern over changing the language if the result was the same, for it added voter confusion. She stated many residents had stated the change from INCLUDING  to MAY INCLUDE was substantive.

Speakers Hedi Gerken, Kathleen Quenneville, and Liane Campodonico agreed with King, that the language should not be changed, while voicing it would be a substantive change allowing services to be dropped by the Council.  The Council had also received opposition to the language change by  emails, letters, and comments.

Council member Betsy Andersen, an attorney, stated she had proposed the change to clarify language, but withdrew her proposal upon believing flexible options would be available, and there would be no guarantee of funding for the named services.  

Questions were raised as to whether or not the 9 listed service items would be funded, if funds were available.  The answer appeared unclear. Some had  assumed that the parcel tax funds were delineated as a funding source for specific services; however, it has been Council practice during their May budget sessions to pool funds rather than specifically assigning the parcel taxes to specific services. During the budget sessions, the Council makes a determination on whether or not the parcel tax needs to be levied to support city services.

Services named in the ordinance are:

  • police and fire protection,
  • street maintenance,
  • building regulations,
  • library services,
  • recreation,
  • parks maintenance,
  • planning and public works
  • and similar services.

The Special Election for the parcel tax will held on March 3, 2020. Mayor Bob McBain and Council member Jennifer Cavenaugh will write the supporting arguments in the “Voter Information Guide.”  

Opposition arguments for the “Voter Information Guide” are due to the City Clerk on December 13, 2019, with rebuttals due on December 20, 2019.  For specific information contact the City Clerk, John Tulloch at 510/420-3040. 

Click > Notice of Election – 2020 Special Municipal – Measure for official ballot language and election protocols.

Dec 2 2019

Dec. 2, 2019

Piedmont City Council
c/o John Tulloch
re: Dec 2 Parcel Tax Agenda Item
Dear Mayor McBain and Council,
         The Parcel Tax is commonly understood and accepted by Piedmont taxpayers to be for essential City services as follows: police, fire, street maintenance, building regulations, library, recreation, parks maintenance, planning, and public works. Your proposed language change allows the parcel tax to be used for any purpose and not limited to the traditional nine essential City services.  I object to this and ask that the original tax language passed by voters in 2016 be continued.
         The reality is that virtually all Piedmont residents will not read the full text of the tax and then compare it to the 75 word ballot question for discrepancies.  Residents mostly rely on the ballot question and Proponent material.  If the Council elects to retain the altered wording that allows the parcel tax to be not limited to essential City Services, the ballot question must clearly state that the parcel tax is no longer limited to essential City services as is commonly understood.
Sincerely,
 Rick Schiller
 Piedmont Resident and Property Owner
Dec 1 2019

“Agenda Insight” to be presented before December 2, 2019 City Council meeting:

Item 3, the first item on tonight’s regular agenda, is the second reading of Ordinance 746 N.S. to renew the Municipal Services special Tax for 4 years effective July 1, 2021, and to place this before voters in a special election on March 3,2020, consolidated with the California Presidential Primary on that date….

Although most aspects of this renewal reflect no change, there is a word change that appears to have an impact. The wording of the present parcel tax says, “If in any fiscal year the City Council shall determine that municipal services INCLUDING but not limited to…” and then it names 9 services which must be included in general fund expenditures, with support from the parcel tax if other city income isn’t sufficient to cover them.

At the first reading of this ordinance, last meeting, that language was changed to, “municipal services which MAY INCLUDE but are not limited to..” and then lists the same 9 services. The staff report calls this a non-substantive change, but many people read it as a very substantive change because it gives Council the flexibility to remove any service from this list. The 9 services are police, fire, street maintenance, building regulations, library, recreation, parks maintenance, planning, and public works.

If the Council wants to put this on the March ballot, they must pass the second reading tonight because they are up against a deadline for submitting the final ballot language to the Registrar of Voters…..

Item 4 is consideration of a resolution approving procedural details for the Special Election of March 3… Of particular interest to voters, this item also sets the 75 word ballot question to read, “Shall Ordinance 746 N.S. which maintains essential police, fire, and paramedic services, prevents the reduction in maintenance of City parks, greenspaces and other public areas, and prevents the loss of recreational and other public services, by renewing the City of Piedmont’s expiring parcel tax for four years… be adopted?”

….Interestingly enough, this ballot language is almost the same language we voted on in 2016, so all 9 services were not mentioned last time around either. However, in both 2016 and 2020, it is the language of the resolution we are voting on, not the 75-word summary, and the language of the resolution has changed.

Ann Chandler, Piedmont Resident

Nov 29 2019

Proposed Municipal Services Special Parcel Tax has key language changes allowing elimination of services previously funded by the Piedmont parcel tax. Some have called the parcel tax proposal a “blank check.”

The Piedmont City Council in haste is expected at their, Monday, Dec. 2, 2019, 7:30 p.m. meeting  to approve the second and final reading of Ord. 746N.S. which will place a renewal of the Municipal Services Special Parcel Tax, effective July 1, 2021, before the voters at a Special Municipal Election consolidated with the upcoming Presidential Primary Election on March 3, 2020. 

On November 18, 2019, the City Council approved a first reading of Ord. 746N.S.  At that meeting, the Council, according to the staff report, made what is called a “non-substantive” amendment to the language of Section 20B.2.on the first page of the ordinance.  Vice Mayor Teddy King objected to changing the existing language of the parcel tax proposal which states how the funds are to be spent. However, the rest of the Council and the City Attorney indicated the new language is not significantly different.

Apparently, the councilmembers and the City Attorney did not realize the language change no longer stipulates required uses of the parcel tax funds. For, the language changes from “including, but not limited to” to  “which MAY include, but are not limited to” were viewed by councilmembers as “essentially the same.”  

Voter concern has consequently arisen regarding the proposed new parcel tax language pointing to the change as considerable and  substantive in stating: “which may includeing,” rather than the current word “including.”

The newly proposed change to the parcel tax language would no longer require the Council to use the parcel tax money for the longstanding list of services and permits the Council to eliminate parcel tax funding for:

  • police and fire protection,
  • street maintenance,
  • building regulations,
  • library services,
  • recreation,
  • parks maintenance,
  • planning and public works
  • and similar services.

Some have stated the language change gives the Council a “blank check” by allowing the deletion of previously supported parcel tax funding for the named services.

The amended parcel tax language is indicated below in context. Deleted text is in strike through and new text is in italics.

“If in any fiscal year commencing on or after July 1, 2021, the City Council shall determine that municipal services, which may includeing, but are not limited to, police and fire protection, street maintenance, building regulations, library services, recreation, parks maintenance, planning and public works and similar services, are necessary for the public good, welfare and safety, and that the cost of making available such services will exceed the amount of funds generated through other revenue and income of the City for such services, then it may levy a special tax for such fiscal year on each parcel of real property within the City in a manner provided herein.”

READ the agenda HERE.

READ the three staff reports* on the tax proposal below:

https://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=16243381

https://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=16243385

https://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=16243387

*Editors Note: The newly revised  City of Piedmont website has become more difficult for Piedmonters to access information on specific agenda issues. Example, the subjects of the staff report no longer appear in the links. Only a file number is provided.

Nov 14 2019

PIEDMONT TAXES, TURKEY TROT, WIRELESS SITES –

  • Street Closures and City Staff Allocations for Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day.  Street Use Permit for the Annual Turkey Trot Race Sponsored by PTT Thanksgiving Race, Inc.  See Map > HERE

  • Consideration of Wireless Communication Facilities Permit Applications and Exceptions filed by Crown Castle NG West LLC and SureSite for sites PHS01 to PHS08 and PHS10 to PHS18 (Applications #19-0188) and License for Use of City-Owned Streetlights and Determining that the Applications are Categorically Exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) 1127 4. Two council members, King and Andersen, cannot vote on all sites.  City Administrator Lillevand cannot participate in all site discussions. Staff report  > HERE

  • Key features of the proposed WCF applications include:

    1. No underground equipment vaults, with fewer impacts to street trees
    1. Smaller, more compact radios and antennas
    1. No noise-generating equipment
    1. 10-inch diameter radome shrouds atop streetlight locations
    1. 14-inch diameter radome shrouds atop utility pole locations
    1. Trash receptacle equipment enclosure design (only at sites PHS01 and PHS03)
    1. Small side-mounted equipment enclosures on utility poles
    1. Encroachment permits for future maintenance work
    2. Radios 2203 and 8843, appropriately sized for the sites
    3. Power and communication cables concealed in 2-inch-wide risers
  • Introduction and First Reading of Ord. 746 N.S. – Renewal of the Municipal Services Special Tax Effective July 1, 2021 and Placing the Measure Before the Voters 0435, 0705, 1030.  March tax election is to be selected. Staff report > HERE.

~~~~~~~~

City of Piedmont City Council Agenda Monday, November 18, 2019 6:30 p.m. – Special & Regular Meeting City Council Chambers, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA Closed Session The City Council will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Emergency Operations Center, 403 Highland Avenue a. CONFERENCE WITH LEGAL COUNSEL – EXISTING LITIGATION (Govt. Code 54956.9) Name of Case: Crown Castle NG West, LLC v. City of Piedmont .

 

The City Council will convene its regular meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers Call to Order Pledge of Allegiance Consent Calendar 1. Approval of Council Meeting Minutes for 10/21/19 2. Approval of a Street Use Permit for the Annual Turkey Trot Race Sponsored by PTT Thanksgiving Race, Inc. 1000 Public Forum This is an opportunity for members of the audience to speak on an item not on the agenda. Special & Regular Session 3. Consideration of Wireless Communication Facilities Permit Applications and Exceptions filed by Crown Castle NG West LLC and SureSite for sites PHS01 to PHS08 and PHS10 to PHS18 (Applications #19-0188) and License for Use of City-Owned Streetlights and Determining that the Applications are Categorically Exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) 1127 4. Introduction and First Reading of Ord. 746 N.S. – Renewal of the Municipal Services Special Tax Effective July 1, 2021 and Placing the Measure Before the Voters 0435, 0705, 1030

For more information, contact the City Clerk at 510/420-3040.

Nov 12 2019

Parcel tax measures G+H were on the November 5 ballot and passed with strong margins. We are grateful for the continued support this community has given to our schools.

We are especially grateful to G+H campaign chairs Hilary Cooper, Doug Ireland, and Christine Wente von Metzsch who graciously stepped in to lead the campaign. This win is a direct reflection of their tireless effort in setting the vision, rallying the volunteers, and filling in to work on the ground whenever necessary. They were wonderful ambassadors to talk up what is remarkable about our school district.

A successful campaign needs boots on the ground. Thank you to the myriad volunteers who heeded the call for help by showing up for phone banks, neighborhood walks, and other as needed duties.This campaign relied on hours and hours of volunteer time, and each week a cohort of G+H supporters gave their own talents and energy.

Another big thank you to Larry Tramutola, June Monach, and Christian Garcia for yet another Piedmont campaign to which they provided their expertise, common sense, wisdom, and energy. Our community is very lucky that Larry and June call Piedmont home, and we have benefitted many times over from their talents and support.

And last, but never least, thank you to the educators in our learning community, our teachers, staff, and administrators. They are dedicated to their vocation, skilled craftspeople who are on the front line every day to teach and nurture our children and build them into responsible citizens. They model what it means to be life-long learners in their willingness to learn new skills and share what they know. These measures passed because this community recognizes and appreciates their talents and energy.

To borrow from Mr. Rogers, “We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”

Thank you, Piedmont, for sharing in this responsibility!

PUSD Board of Education Sarah Pearson, Megan Pillsbury, Cory Smegal, Amal Smith, and Andrea Swenson

Nov 11 2019

The Alameda County Registrar of Voters corrected their  previously published information found on the County website.  Piedmont has 8,609 registered voters of which over 7,000 are permanent vote by mail voters.

The tally shows that 51.35% of Piedmont voters or 4,421 voted at the Special School Parcel Tax Election November 5, 2019 on  Measures G & H. On Measure G 4,394 Piedmonters cast a vote and on Measure H 4,410 votes were cast.

Total Piedmont Registration:8,609

Turnout

Percentage

Vote by Mail Reporting Ballots Cast

3,764

43.72 %

Election Day Reporting Ballots Cast

657

7.63 %

Total Ballots Cast

4,421

51.35 %

Measure G

YES                3,655             82.88%

NO                     755              17.12%

Measure H

YES               3,269              74.40%

NO                  1,125              25,60%

The number of spoiled or disqualified ballots, over votes and under votes has not been reported. The election will be formally certified soon. Voters approval of Measures G and H will not change.

 11/11/2019 

Nov 7 2019

I am so thrilled to report that the Piedmont Community passed both Measures G and H.

Your continued commitment to a robust public education is incredible! I want to thank the countless parent, staff, and student volunteers for all of their support and civic engagement over the past few months. It was encouraging to be a part of a community-wide conversation about our schools and how we support teaching and learning.

I fully recognize and am grateful for the commitment that families have made in our school system. I will continue to work closely with the Board of Education, teachers, staff, families, and students to ensure that Piedmont’s schools not only continue to provide excellence in education, but that we also continue to grow and improve in how we educate students.

Please join me in also thanking and acknowledging the election staff from the City of Piedmont. Their efforts ensured a smooth election day!

On behalf of all of the teachers, support staff, and administrators, thank you for your support and engagement with our incredible district.

Sincerely,

Randall Booker, Superintendent of Piedmont Unified School District