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

As members of the East Bay Coalition for Public Education, we have joined forces with administrators, teachers, staff, school board members, parents, and students from school districts across the East Bay to advocate for adequate funding for all public schools in California. We ask each of you to add your voice in support of public education, in conjunction with neighboring districts, during Fund Education Now! Week February 3 through 7.

Facts: California has the 5th largest economy in the world, yet the state is ranked 40th in the nation for education spending. Districts are unable to provide teachers with a livable wage creating a teacher shortage across the state. The lack of adequate state school funding has helped perpetuate gross inequities in the quality of education for students. In districts like ours, the burden for funding has shifted to local residents leading to ongoing budget concerns and a need for local parcel taxes.

During the week, we will flood our state representatives with messages from all stakeholders in our communities, gather signatures for the Schools & Communities First initiative, and continue to raise awareness about this issue.

Monday, February 3rd: K-5 students & teachers will create testimonials about what they love about school through artwork, and postcards.

Tuesday, February 4th: PMS students will create art and write letters to shine a light on the need for adequate state funding. High school students will post their support on social media. After school, we will be out front of Mulberry’s to share information about the Schools & Communities First ballot initiative.

Wednesday, February 5th: Parents and community members can post on social media and email our state representatives about why schools need more funding.

Thursday, February 6th: Wear Red for Ed!

COME TO THE RALLY at the Piedmont Community Center from 3:30 – 4:30 pm. Show your support for our teachers and staff, and California Public Schools. We will have music, snacks, speakers, a short video, and more!

Friday: We will wrap up the week by delivering our artwork and letters to Buffy Wicks, Nancy Skinner, Tony Thurmond, Governor Newsom, and any others at the state level who affect school funding.

Please join us in advocating for ALL students in California. Our future depends upon the quality of their education.

Regards, Randy Booker, Superintendent

Gabe Kessler, President, Association of Piedmont Teachers

Terra Salazar, President, California School Employees Association

Cory Smegal, School Board Vice President

Megan Pillsbury, School Board Member

Link to additional information > Fund Public Education Now Flyer (1)

Jan 26 2020

Nominations Open Now Until  March 16, 2020

This award is presented annually to individuals who have volunteered their efforts over a period of time and made a difference because of their involvement and commitment to Piedmont’s youth

Following are the previous recipients:

Hunter McCreary (1998); Ann Chandler (1999); Ruth Cuming (2000); Lisa Lomenzo (2001); jointly by Cathie Geddeis and Marion Souyoultzis (2002); jointly by Fritz and Mary Wooster (2003); Elizabeth (Betsy) Gentry (2004); Cynthia Gorman (2005); Grier Graff (2006); Julia Burke (2007); Maude Pervere (2008); jointly to Anne-Marie Lamarche and Mark Menke (2009); Janiele Maffei Tovani (2010); Andrea Swenson (2011), June Monach (2012), Bill Drum (posthumously) and Mary Ireland (2013), Ray Perman (2014), Jennifer Fox (2015), Katie Korotzer (2016), Hilary Cooper (2017) Holly Hanke (2018), and Cathy Glazier (2019).

Art Hecht was a tireless community volunteer, and was dedicated to students in both Piedmont and Oakland. He served on Piedmont’s Board of Education from 1970 to 1982. Art also was very active with the Piedmont Continuation High School (now called Millennium High School).

In 1998, the Art Hecht Volunteer of the Year Award was established in his memory.

Nominations for this award are now being sought and will be kept strictly confidential. The deadline for nominations is 4:30 p.m. on March 16, 2020. A selection committee will vote on the award recipient, who will be recognized at the May 13, 2020 Board of Education meeting, where the honoree’s good works will be acknowledged. They also will receive the gift of a work of student art. The student will receive a monetary award and commendation from the Board.

Nomination Forms are available on the PUSD website, in the District Office or by calling Sylvia Eggert, Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent, at (510) 594-2614.

Jan 16 2020

No Digital Gadget Exposure for Kids of Tech Elite

Many Silicon Valley leaders prohibit exposure of their children to digital gadgets, including iPads, smartphones and even banning use by their nannies while at work.  Several current reports suggest why these parents are making this choice.

The National Education Policy Center at University of Colorado, Boulder, found “self-interested advocacy by the technology industry” as a factor in investing in installing and using digital devices in classrooms.

Personalized Learning and the Digital Privatization of Curriculum and Teaching   Faith Boninger, Alex Molnar, and Christopher Saldaña    Read more here.

Researchers have now produced actual evidence questioning the use of digital gadgets in schools.  Quotes from the report in the January/February 2020 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Technology Review:

“Teachers don’t know much about how well digital tools work, but they support using them.”

“Most students in the US are using ed tech tools every day.”

“College students who used laptops or digital devices did worse on exams.”

“Eighth graders who took Algebra I online did much worse than those who took the course in person.”

To read the whole article  (online by subscription only) and see the data and charts begin on page 18 of the paper January/February 2020 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Technology Review.

Dec 5 2019

Special Piedmont Unified School District Board Workshop 

on Student Stress (AP and Honors Courses, Homework, Grades, College Admissions):

Monday, December 9, 2019

3:30 pm – 6:30 pm

760 Magnolia Avenue, Piedmont School District Conference Room

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

For more information, contact 510/594-2607

Dec 5 2019

On Wednesday, November 18th, I went to my first Recreation Commission meeting. I am a student at Piedmont High School and I had to do something that contributed to government in some way for my Civics Class. I honestly thought it was going be pretty boring, but I was happily surprised.

The Recreation Commission meets once a month. They deal with all matters pertaining to public recreation, including parks, playgrounds,etc.  More specifically, they deal with maintaining and creating areas in Piedmont. In the meeting I attended, they talked about Pickleball and maintenance of Coaches Field. 

Two of my Friends, my brother and I left for the meeting and arrived at 8:00 PM. We took the seats in the back and waited for the members of the commission to get started. There were 7 commissioners and 5 other people who attended the meeting. The commission was led by Steve Roland.  He directed the meeting.

It started off with Jackson Sterns talking about sports programs struggling to get kids involved. Dick Carter, a commissioner, mentioned the poor conditions of Witter Field, specifically the turf, which is poorly maintained.

The main meeting topic was a discussion of Pickleball. One of the people attending the meeting complained about there not being enough time to play because of the lights turning off too quickly. He also talked about how Pickleball and tennis players were getting along pretty well. Pickleball has exploded and become very popular.

During this time, we decided to go up and speak. My friend, Holden, spoke about water polo. My brother, Pierce St.Claire, Georgie Brayer, and I talked about the conditions of Witter Field. All of us have played sports and used Witter Field extensively during our time in the Piedmont School system. The field is clearly overdue for serious maintenance.

It was super fun talking and attending the meeting. I enjoyed the various subjects and learning about the growth of PickleBall.

While we were able to communicate our concerns about Witter Field, We didn’t realize that it was actually a School Board issue, not under the jurisdiction of the Recreation Commission. Even though we didn’t go about it conventionally, the commission was happy that we attended and they were really respectful to our blunder.

I found the experience to be very educational.  I learned a lot about public meetings and forums and I am very glad to have attended!

Robert St.Claire, Piedmont High School Senior

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

Nov 5 2019

Piedmont voters cast their votes on Measures G and H at the November 5, 2019 Special Election for the Piedmont Unified School District parcel taxes.  Both Measures G and H readily received the required 2/3 rds (66 2/3%) approval by those voting continuing the Piedmont tradition of strong local support for Piedmont schools. Approval for the measures was:

82.69% for Measure G  

74.34% for Measure H

Measure G is essentially a continuation of the existing parcel tax of $2,763 per year per parcel with a likely 2% increase each year over the eight year term of the measure.

Measure H is a new and additional flat tax based on the habitable space on each parcel in Piedmont taxed at 25 cents per square foot of improved habitable space on a parcel during the eight year term of the measure.

Community volunteers supporting the measures, primarily  parents of students, made an all out effort to personally contact each Piedmont voter, in addition to sending several glossy mailers to all voting households explaining the reasons to support the measures for the schools. Lawn signs for G & H were placed throughout the city. 

No opposition was officially filed against the measures, although opposition was explained through various media sources, including editorial disapproval by some regional newspapers emphasizing funding disparities with other school districts. 

Concern was also expressed over the demands placed on taxpayers, particularly seniors, and the fact that the parcel taxes under new federal tax laws were unlikely to be tax deductible. 

Voting results based on those voting:

 YES   3,416   82.69%    NO   715   17.31 %

H   YES   3,059  74.34%     NO  1,056  25.66%

There are 8,647 voters in Piedmont, of which 7,066 are permanent vote by mail voters, or 81.7 % of the Piedmont voters. Over 4,000 Piedmont voters cast their ballots on November 5, 2019 making the turnout by voters close to 50%.  A small number of provisional ballots are yet to be counted.  Updated 11/8/19

~~~~~~~~~~

UPDATE: NOVEMBER 8, 2019 – The following percentage of  Piedmont voters is incorrect, as reported by the Alameda County Registrar of Voters. For no known reasons, the Registrar combined voters in Dublin with those in Piedmont, therefore disregard the following data.

Alameda County Registrar of Voters Reported:

Total Voter Registration per Alameda County Registrar of Voters: 13,259 [Incorrect, as this reports Piedmont and Dublin voters. ]

      Turnout     Percentage

Vote by Mail Reporting Ballots Cast

      4,324

      32.61 %

Election Day Reporting Ballots Cast

          477

        3.60 %

Total Ballots Cast

      4,801

      36.21%