Apr 18 2019

City/School Liaison Committee to Discuss Tobacco Grant Funding Possibly for a School Resource Officer or Other Purposes.

Monday, April. 22nd – 4:00 – 5 p.m. open to the public in the Piedmont Unified School District Offices, 760 Magnolia Avenue.

The Piedmont Unified School District and City of Piedmont will hold a meeting of the City/School Liaison Committee to discuss the California Department of Justice Tobacco Grant Award on Monday, April 22nd at 4:00 p.m. in the PUSD offices located at 760 Magnolia Avenue.

Liaisons are appointees chosen from the City Council and School Board. 

The discussions at this meeting will center on how Tobacco Grant funds might be used by the City and PUSD to bolster and/or develop tobacco mitigation efforts and additional health education programs focused on prevention for tobacco related issues and other student health efforts. This conversation is an outgrowth of previous discussions between PUSD, the City, and the community on the initial proposal to establish a School Resource Officer.

The City/School Liaison Committee is not a decision making body, rather it focuses on discussions of issues of mutual interest between the two agencies. The influential discussions are expected to be reported to their elected bodies for potential action and/or information.  This meeting is open to the public.  It will not be publicly broadcast or recorded. 

The agenda is available online at: http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/committees/agendas/city_school_liaison.pdf 

Apr 17 2019

Our Piedmont community will soon be asked to renew the School Support Tax that funds roughly 25% of the Piedmont Unified School District’s (PUSD) budget. Because the State does not adequately fund education, the School Support Tax is critical to maintaining the excellence of Piedmont schools.

The current School Support Tax (Measure A), approved by the community in 2013, taxes each taxable parcel the same amount. In recent letters, Mr. Rick Schiller advocates what he terms a “progressive tax” to replace Measure A. Mr. Schiller proposes that the next tax: (1) apply a uniform tax rate to the square feet of buildings on a taxable parcel, rather than a uniform amount to each taxable parcel, thus shifting more of the cost of schools to owners of large homes; (2) impose a lower rate on unimproved lots; (3) include an “income based senior exemption”; and (4) continue to include “compassionate SSI and SSDI exemptions,” which exempt property owners below certain poverty levels.

The next School Support Tax should fairly allocate a community cost and must indisputably comply with the law. Mr. Schiller’s proposal exposes PUSD to litigation risk that I believe would be imprudent to accept. Further, I do not consider Mr. Schiller’s proposed tax to be “progressive.”

I must start with the litigation risk (excuse the detail), which could impose unaffordable costs on PUSD and potentially leave our schools unfunded. Piedmont’s School Support Tax is a “qualified special tax” authorized by California Government Code § 50079, which provides such a tax “means special taxes that apply uniformly to all taxpayers or all real property within the school district, except that unimproved property may be taxed at a lower rate than improved property.” (Emphasis added).

In Borikas v. Alameda Unified School District, 214 Cal.App.4th 135 (2013), the Court invalidated Alameda’s school parcel tax (Measure H), which taxed residential and commercial properties, and commercial properties above and below 2000 square feet, differently. The plaintiffs argued that Section 50079 “means all taxpayers and all real property must be treated the same, and school districts are not empowered to treat different kinds of taxpayers, and different kinds of real property, differently.” Id. at 147. The Court agreed, holding that Section 50079 “does not empower school districts to classify taxpayers and property, and impose different tax rates.” Id. at 151. The Court found it could “sever” the invalid parts of Measure H, and upheld a parcel tax of $120 per parcel. Id. at 166-67.

Mr. Schiller, and others before him, have argued that Borikas does not bar a tax under Section 50079 based on a uniform rate per square foot (either of land or buildings). Borikas did not expressly rule on such a tax. However, Borikas found it must follow Section 50079’s text, and the text refers to “special taxes that apply uniformly to all taxpayers or all real property.” It does not refer to a uniform rate, but to a tax that applies uniformly.

The tax imposed on small vs. large parcels/homes would be different under a “per square foot” tax. Further, looking to Section 50079’s legislative history, Borikas rejected Alameda’s claim that it would be unfair for “all parcels [to] bear the same tax, regardless of size,” noting: “The Legislature was aware, however, that uniform parcel taxes were considered ‘more inequitable’ than ad valorem property taxes because all parcels, regardless of size, are subject to the same tax. … Nevertheless, the Legislature made no adjustments or provisions in this regard.” Id. at 158 (emphasis added); accord id. at fn. 27.

Nothing since Borikas has removed the risk that a Piedmont “per square foot” tax under Section 50079 will be ruled invalid. In 2014, SB 1021 was introduced in the California Legislature to amend Section 50079 to expressly authorize a “per square foot” tax—it did not pass. In 2018, the Legislature adopted AB 2954, which amended Section 50079 to allow school districts to tax unimproved property “at a lower rate than improved property,” but did not authorize a “per square foot” tax.  While the reference to a “rate” rather than an “amount,” provides an argument that uniformity refers to “rate” also, there is no ruling on point.

Mr. Schiller notes that the Alameda Superior Court has twice upheld Alameda School District’s later parcel taxes, which impose a “per square foot” taxes. However, the Alameda Superior Court also upheld Measure H, and the lawsuits against Alameda’s later taxes were settled before the First District Court of Appeals, which issued Borikas, ruled on appeal.

Mr. Schiller also relies on Dondlinger v. Los Angeles County Regional Park, No. B284932 (2019), but that case addressed Pub. Resources Code § 5566, a different statute, which expressly states that a park district may establish a “rate” which “is to be applied uniformly.” Further, Dondlinger is a Second District decision; Piedmont is in the First District, which is governed by the Borikas decision.

Until the First District Court of Appeals or the California Supreme Court upholds a “per square foot” school parcel tax, or the Legislature amends Section 50079 to expressly allow such a tax, I do not think it is prudent for PUSD to take the litigation risk of asking Piedmonters to approve such a tax. Litigation could cost $100,00 to $500,000, depending upon motions, trial and appeals. PUSD does not have that to spare. Moreover, to feel secure in spending the tax revenue, PUSD would have to file a validation action, but that simply ensures any litigation starts quickly.

While it is possible that no Piedmont property owner would challenge such a tax, there is no way to remove the risk. (Note that Alameda’s parcel taxes have been challenged three times). PUSD could not spend the tax revenue until any litigation is resolved, as PUSD would have no way to pay back the taxes collected if the tax ultimately were held invalid. Further, because PUSD cannot fund its school budget without a parcel tax, if the tax was challenged, PUSD would have to run another parcel tax election immediately, at additional significant expense. Under Mr. Schiller’s proposal, PUSD (and every Piedmont family with school children) would take this risk so that owners of small homes could pay less than owners of large homes. There are times when accepting litigation risk is necessary. This is not one of them.

I also believe that the School Support Tax must be fair to Piedmont residents. The Piedmont schools benefit every resident. For nearly everyone, our children have gone, are going, or will go to school. Piedmont residents have shared the cost of public education no matter where they are in this cycle. Moreover, the excellence of the Piedmont schools is why Piedmont homes are so valuable. Further, an available and excellent public education is fundamental to civil society, and we all have a civic duty to ensure it. Asking the owner of each taxable parcel to pay the same amount seems fair to me. I include unimproved parcels as the Piedmont schools make those parcels valuable.

A “progressive” tax generally is perceived as taxing wealthy people more by increasing the tax rate at higher levels of wealth or income, and is supported by the notion that those who have more money can afford to pay more tax toward community needs. In claiming his proposed tax is “progressive,” Mr. Schiller equates a building’s “square feet” as equivalent to wealth or income, and assumes that owners with more “square feet” can afford to pay more. That may be true in some cases, but certainly not all.

Square feet alone does not establish the value of a home (consider age, quality or location). Owning a large home does not establish wealth other than the home itself (it may have been bought long ago) or a ready ability to pay higher taxes (a young family may have stretched to buy a home with sufficient bedrooms, or a retiree bought a large home years ago).

I also do not support an “income-based senior exemption.” Age does not determine whether a homeowner has a ready ability to pay the School Support Tax.  Nor is current income a true measure of wealth or ability to pay.

Moreover, per the last census, roughly 20% of Piedmont residents were over 65. Assuming roughly 20% of homeowners also are over 65 (it could be higher), exempting any significant number would either underfund the schools or impose a significant burden on the remaining taxpayers.

Further, under Proposition 13, those of us who have owned a home here longer (and are usually older) pay less property tax than young families who have bought a home more recently.  PUSD’s existing income-based SSI and SSDI exemptions (see Section 50079(b)) provide relief to those who are truly in severe financial distress, regardless of their age. That seems an appropriate balance between a homeowner’s ability to pay and the needs of the community.

I support the current Measure A structure—each taxable parcel paying the same amount to support our schools, with narrow exemptions for those truly in financial distress.

Richard W. Raushenbush, Former Piedmont School Board Member

Apr 10 2019

Cathy Glazier, former Piedmont Middle School teacher and long-time volunteer in the schools and community who stands out for the remarkable depth, breadth, and longevity of her service, will be honored with this year’s Arthur Hecht Volunteer of the Year Award. The award is presented each year to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to the community and to Piedmont’s youth through volunteer service over a period of many years. The Board of Education will present the award at its meeting on May 8th.

Art Hecht was well known as a volunteer dedicated to serving students in Piedmont and Oakland. He was a member of Piedmont’s Board of Education from 1970 to 1982, and instrumental in developing Millennium High School, Piedmont’s alternative high school. Established in 1998, the Arthur Hecht Award honors both Hecht’s memory and extraordinary individuals who continue his legacy of service.

Ms. Glazier has been passionately dedicated to the students and schools of Piedmont for more than 30 years. She was a much-loved art teacher at Piedmont Middle School for ten years, and with three sons who attended Piedmont schools from K-12, she volunteered and served in various roles on parent club boards and committees for fifteen years straight. Her commitment to the “whole child” philosophy motivated her to the building and supporting of the Wellness Center. She was a founding wellness center board member and continued to serve in that capacity for another 5+/- years.

Ms. Glazier understood before many others the importance of supporting students’ social and emotional needs. Her advocacy for a Wellness Center was forward-thinking and she used her charm and persistence to garner community-wide support for this important resource. The Wellness Center continues to be an integral support to PUSD students because of her efforts.

Ms. Glazier remains actively engaged in Piedmont schools and community by serving on the Piedmont Education Foundation Board and Funding Committee, the Piedmont Beautification Foundation, and the Piedmont Garden Club.

“Cathy continues to be an incredible volunteer and ambassador for the District, staff, and students,” commented Randy Booker, Superintendent. “Over the years she has been a remarkable champion for Piedmont’s values of inclusion, social/emotional health, and academic excellence. I’ve been honored to work alongside of her and have benefited tremendously from her generosity and spirit of service toward all of her students.”

The Board of Education will honor the extraordinary contributions of Ms. Glazier with this award and a gift of student artwork on May 8th.

Mar 27 2019
  • Middle School courts repaved for Pickleball purposes
  • Wildwood Gardens streets changed to one way
  • Stairway to Oak Avenue from Wildwood Gardens
  • Fencing and improvements to Blair Park along Moraga Avenue 
  • Improvements to Witter Field drainage and various enhancements
  • Water fountain in Piedmont Park near Witter Field for dogs and people

The purpose of the CIP Review Committee and citizen proposed projects can be read by clicking below:

> CIP 2019

Revised Proposal worksheet can be read by clicking below.

> 2019 Proposal sheet revised

Various City Wide projects are: Aquatic Center, Linda Beach Park, Recreation Center and Veterans Hall improvements, Coaches Field improvements including lights, and Public Security Cameras.

The Committee meetings are open to the public and any resident that wants to attend is welcome. The next meeting is scheduled for April 9th at 7 pm in the City Council conference room to the left as you enter Piedmont City Hall, 120 Vista Avenue.  Recordings of the meeting are not made and there are no broadcasts or minutes of the meetings. 

For more information, contact Nancy Kent at NKent@piedmont.ca.gov

Mar 25 2019

Public Safety Committee meets Thursday, March 28, 5:30 p.m. City Council Chambers. The public is welcome to participate and attend the meeting.  No broadcasts are planned for the meeting. *See update and report on the meeting below under comments.

The agenda includes:

  1. Approval of Public Safety Committee Meeting Minutes for 1/31/19 Public Safety 2019-01-31 DRAFT
  2. Update on the Crime Report
  3. Update from the Public Safety Camera Subcommittee
  4. Update on Get Ready, Piedmont Guide
  5. Update on the Hazard Mitigation Plan
  6. School Liaison Update
Mar 16 2019

CIP Review Committee Agenda Tuesday, March 19, 2019 7:00 p.m.   City Hall Conference Room, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA

What is being considered for City expenditures?

The CIP meeting is open for public participation. Minutes and recordings are not made of the meetings, and there are no broadcasts of the meetings.  Meeting materials, staff reports, citizen requests have not been publicly distributed. Attendees at the meeting, and thereafter, all individuals have a right to view and obtain copies of all information distributed to the Committee. Meeting attendees may make recordings of the meetings, as long as the meeting is not disrupted by the recording device.

The March 19 meeting agenda includes:

  1. Update on Public Safety Projects from Police Chief Jeremy Bowers
  2. Review of Revised Work Schedule and Tasks for the CIP Review Committee for Fiscal Year 2019-20
  3. Review of Proposed Projects

Materials related to an item on this agenda submitted to the CIP Review Committee are available for public inspection in the Public Works Department during normal business hours. 

As of this writing (3/17/19) PCA has not received agenda information materials for the 3/19/19  meeting. When information is submitted to PCA, it will be published here. 

New CIP member, Recreation Commissioner Conna McCarthy, was chosen to serve on the CIP Review Committee, as the representative from the Recreation Commission.

Mar 15 2019

Dear Editor,

Since changing to Daylight Saving Time (DSL) last Sunday, media opinionators are talking about making it year-round.  Permanent DSL is a terrible, dangerous idea.  Setting the clocks ahead one hour moves an hour of morning light to the end of the day.  That’s great between March 21 and September 21, when there is more daylight than night.  But for the winter-half of the year, we need more light in the morning when kids are going to school.

Our children go to school at about the same time that commuters are starting their treks to work.  Darkness and early morning sun in commuters’ eyes create dangerous hazards.  Later in the day, schools end before most commuters return home, so evening darkness is not as dangerous.

As it is, Daylight Saving Time ends in November, nearly two months past the September 21 Equinox.  Shortening, not lengthening, the DST period would make mornings safer for our children and grandchildren.

Yours truly,

Bruce Joffe, Piedmont Resident

Mar 8 2019

In honor of Women’s History Month, Dress Best For Less shares the origins of Dress Best for Less.

In 1982, Wendy [Webster] Willrich, along with Jeanne Clark and other mothers of Havens Elementary School children, started collecting clothing and household items to sell to the community in order to raise money for the schools. This was the genesis of what would later become Dress Best for Less.

The enterprise quickly outgrew the space at the school and decided to open the Dress Best for Less shop at its original location on Piedmont Avenue where the store remained for almost 3 decades until moving to its current location  at 3411 Lakeshore Avenue, Oakland, CA 94610. 

For 37 years (and counting), DBFL has raised funds for the Piedmont Education Foundation.  DBFL is the single largest contributor to PEF, with donations totaling over $1 million dollars.

In addition, DBFL is proud to contribute to the community at large, regularly donating to community groups in the East Bay and beyond, such as Bay Area schools, St. Vincent de Paul, animal rescue organizations, Oakland Children’s Hospital and more.

To this day, Dress Best for Less remains a woman-run organization. The bulk of the DBFL team are volunteers, most of whom are mothers of current and former Piedmont School children.  DBFL is living proof of what a few dedicated and driven woman can accomplish.

Donations are always needed.

Marking Room:
799 Magnolia Avenue,
Piedmont, CA 94611
Phone – 510-653-0221
Monday – 10:00am – noon
Tuesday – 9am – 4pm
Wednesday – 9am – 4pm
Saturday – 10am – noon

DBFL Store:
3411 Lakeshore Avenue
Oakland, CA 94610

510-658-8525
shopdbfl@gmail.com

Tuesday-Saturday
11:00am – 6:00pm

Information> http://dressbestforless.org/

Mar 8 2019

Deadline for proposals: Tuesday, March, 19, 2019

The Capital Improvement Projects Review Committee (CIP) is soliciting proposals for new city projects which would enhance our community. Ideas submitted by individuals, community organizations and City Staff are all considered. If you have a great idea, the committee would like to hear from you.

Download the > Proposal Form. Proposals are due no later than Tuesday, March 19th at 5:00 p.m.  Completed forms should be returned to the Department of Public Works, 120 Vista Avenue.

All applicants/residents that have submitted proposals will be personally invited to attend the CIP meeting scheduled on April 9, 2019.  At this meeting, applicants will be asked to briefly describe their projects to the CIP Review Committee. The CIP Review Committee will then determine which projects will require a site visit.

The April 9 meeting is a public meeting.  All interested individuals are welcome to attend and participate in the meeting proceedings.

The CIP Site Visit Tour will be scheduled for a Saturday in early May. The tour will commence at City Hall at 9:00 am and then will proceed to CIP tour stops located throughout the City. At each of the tour stops the CIP Review Committee will see the locations for proposed projects first hand.

At noon, a working lunch will be provided at City Hall for Committee members, city staff, and interested citizens. At this working lunch the CIP Review Committee will attempt to compose their list of 2019-2020 CIP projects that they recommend as a part of this year’s budget process. The CIP chair in conjunction with CIP Review Committee members will be asked to prepare a list of recommended projects and narrative that will be forwarded to the City Council for consideration in the budget process.

If you have questions regarding the CIP process, please contact Nancy Kent Parks & Project Manager, at (510) 420-3064.

CIP Committee Roster as of 3/7/19

Michael Henn

Susan Herrick

Bobbe Stehr

Jeffrey St. Claire

PBF Representative – Nancy McHugh

Park Commission Representative – Jim Horner

Recreation Commission Representative – TBD

Mar 8 2019

At the Capital Improvements Project Review Committee (CIP) meeting a request concerning City funding for better court surfaces at Piedmont Middle School (PMS) was made by Rick Schiller, Pickleball enthusiast.

At their March 5, 2019 meeting, the City Council appeared positive concerning new asphalt at PMS. The Tennis/Pickleball sub-committee report contains the specific recommendation for Pickleball.  Sub-committee Chair Steve Roland spoke in support for City funding of new asphalt and Pete Palmer, in charge of Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) facilities, stated PUSD has no issue with this,  but the School District has no funds to pay for resurfacing of the courts.

“While bids are not finalized, about $60,000 gets us a new asphalt surface – no cracks! – with new poles.  About another $85,000-$90,000 gets a tennis court quality overlay. The three courts at each of the three PMS venues are too cramped and the best option is likely striping two Pickleball courts parallel to the three badminton courts, if that can be worked out. The green on white striping at Oakland’s Bushrod courts works well.”  Rick Schiller

Traditionally past projects approved by CIP have had partial private funding.

The Eight month trial at Hampton and Linda-Beach Courts will have a neighbor survey in 4 weeks from the start of Pickleball usage.