Feb 21 2018

Piedmont League of Women Voters Joins Individual Citizens Expressing Great Concern About the Lack of Citizen Participation and Quick Timing of Proposed Revisions to the City Charter – 

Councilmember Jen Cavenaugh suggested the newly proposed office holder limits appeared to be a solution looking for a problem.

As Piedmonters find out about proposed Piedmont City Charter changes, concern has grown.  In years past when important City Charter changes were proposed, community involvement was primary.  The majority of the City Council at their February 5, 2018 meeting made no attempt to require outreach to Piedmonters.  Only Councilmember Jen Cavenaugh desired more civic engagement prior to placement on the June ballot, which would postpone the Charter ballot to November, 2018.

The City Charter requires all proposed Charter changes be placed on a Piedmont ballot and approved by Piedmont voters prior to becoming law.

The Charter changes were agendized by Mayor Bob McBain and the City Administrator with little time for general public input.  After the February 5 introduction of Charter changes, the next Council meeting for consideration has been scheduled for March 5, 2018.  A Council meeting typically would have been held on February 20, following President’s Day of February 19, however that meeting was cancelled making the Monday, March 5, 2018 the next and last regularly scheduled Council meeting to take action on the ballot measure for it to qualify for the special election in June.

City Attorney Michelle Kenyon told the City Council the numerous changes to the Charter came from the City Administrator, the City Clerk and the Council members. The public was not involved or informed of Charter changes until release of the staff report for the February 5 Council meeting.

Mayor Bob McBain immediately suggested that the June 2018 ballot measure only offer two proposed Charter changes, which evolved to: 1. Exclude former two term officials from seeking public office until an eight-year waiting period has elapsed.  2. Remove from the Charter the budget limitation of 25% in Piedmont General Fund reserves. 

 The Council has shown interest in changing the limit on General Fund reserves from the current 25% limit. To avoid the accumulation of reserves in the General Fund, the Council has recently established various reserve funds where excess money has been placed in an effort to avoid exceeding the 25% limit. 

Cost to the City of up to $55,000 to vote on the Charter changes in June instead of November 2018.

The unexpected urgent placement of the ballot measure requires Council action within weeks of their first public introduction.  The incomplete and unavailable form of the possible ballot language must receive Council action by March 8 if it is to be on the June 2018 ballot.  (See Alameda County election deadlines below).  The expedited timing eliminates the opportunity for broad citizen participation prior to a ballot measure and would cost Piedmonters up to $55,000 than  waiting for the November election when there would be one ballot measure at a reduced cost. 

Some Council members suddenly want Charter changes for Special June Ballot, rather than waiting for November Election.

City Clerk John Tulloch told the Council that City Administrator Paul Benoit had informed the Superintendent of Education Randall Booker the Council wanted to place further limitations on out-of-office former officials seeking election to the Board of Education.   Benoit’s conversation took place prior to public information or Council consideration.

City Attorney Michelle Kenyon explained that the City Council and ultimately the voters rather than the School Board would make the decision on term limit requirements.  Kenyon acknowledged that this was an “important change” to the Charter.  

Importance of the Piedmont City Charter 

The Piedmont City Charter is the underlying legal basis of Piedmont governance.  Previously when significant changes to the City Charter were considered, a Charter Review Committee was appointed by the Council to review, carefully consider issues in open meetings, and then make recommendations to the Council.

The proposed Charter change limiting former office holders’ return to the City Council or School Board originated with Mayor Bob McBain.  McBain explained to the Council he had been approached about office holder term restrictions and had decided it would be beneficial to end prior officer holders ability to ever serve again.

McBain stated he felt it was unfair, and created an uneven election if past officeholders, who he referred to as “incumbents,” sought election after an absence of only 4 years.  He noted that many people want to serve and there are many volunteers.  This City Council has had the practice of recycling prior commissioners and committee members between the various boards, raising a question of the appointments excluding new willing volunteers. Though he had suggested a permanent exclusion, McBain was later convinced during the meeting that an eight year absence from  service was an acceptable time limit for an individual to once more seek election.

Council member Jen Cavenaugh stated that only one person in recent years had wanted to come back and returning past office holders were able to hit the ground running.  She was repeatedly interrupted by other Council members during the meeting when she attempted to speak. 

City Clerk John Tulloch had initiated outreach to other cities to see what exclusions on past officials they included  in their Charters.  He spoke of no outreach within Piedmont. 

On February 13, Mayor McBain and City Clerk Tulloch made a presentation to the School Board.   Following McBain and Tulloch’s presentation, the School Board was not prepared to take a position on the Charter changes.  See Superintendent’s report below.

The City Council has not taken final action to place the term limit issue on the June 2018 ballot and despite the School Board’s inaction, Mayor McBain preemptively proclaimed to the School Board that the service limits impacting the Board members would be on the June 2018 ballot and he hoped that the School Board would vote for the new limits on public service. 

McBain’s proclamation was on a split Council vote with Council member Cavenaugh seeking further information and citizen involvement prior to expending money for the ballot measure in June. 

Given the few past office holders out of office for only four years, the limitation and barring of candidates appeared to be targeting specific individuals.

Deadlines for June 2018 Election Ballot:

Close of Nomination Period for the June 5, 2018 Direct Primary Election –  March 09, 2018

Deadline to file Arguments In Favor/Against a Measure on the June 5, 2018 Direct Primary Election – March 14, 2018

Deadline to file Rebuttals to Arguments In Favor/Against a Measure on the June 5, 2018 Direct Primary Election – March 19, 2018

Ballot arguments are filed with the Alameda County Registrar of Voters.

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The Board of Education current Policy 9110 states in regard to terms of office:

“BB 9110 Board Bylaws Terms Of Office:  The Piedmont City Charter contains the following provisions relative to the Board of Education: 1. The Board shall consist of five members elected from the city at large for a term of four years. Board members shall be elected at the times and in the same manner provided for members of the city council. Only qualified voters of the city shall be eligible to hold the office of Board member. No person who has served two full consecutive terms as a members of the Board shall be eligible to hold office until one full intervening term of four years has elapsed. Any person who serves as a member of the Board for more than eighteen months of an unexpired term shall be considered to have served a full term.”

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TO: Board of Education   FROM: Randall Booker, Superintendent  DATE: February 13, 2018   RE: POSSIBLE AMENDMENTS TO THE PIEDMONT CITY CHARTER

___________________________________________

I. SUPPORT INFORMATION

At its June 19. 2017 meeting, the Piedmont City Council directed staff to review the city charter and point out provisions that may be outdated. Subsequent to that meeting, Councilmembers also reviewed the charter and made suggestions regarding provisions they thought might need amendment.

At the February 5, 2018 City Council Meeting, City staff presented on the culmination of this review. As part of the discussion, a Councilmember suggested a possible revision of term limits (which in turn, could affect the [Piedmont Unified School District] PUSD School Board). City staff then requested direction from the City Council on further proposed Charter amendments and the possible placement on a ballot for consideration by Piedmont voters.

The following are the proposed changes that could specifically affect PUSD:

Article II – City Council
Section 2.03 Term of Office

Article VII – Public Schools
Section 7.02 Membership, Term of Office

Board Bylaw 9110

A question was raised as to whether Piedmont should amend the existing term limits provided for in the Charter. Currently, the Charter (and Board Bylaws) limits Councilmembers (and by extension Board of Education Members) to serving two consecutive terms. The current provision, however, does not prohibit a Councilmember (or Board Member) who has served two consecutive terms from running again after a full term (four years) has elapsed. The question for Council (and Board) consideration is whether there is a desire to impose stricter term limits than currently exist.

If there were such a desire, an option described for Council (and Board) consideration would be to limit Councilmembers (and Board Members) to serving two full terms in office. Should the Board wish to consider this option, both Section 2.03 and Board Bylaw 9110 would need to be revised as follows:

No person who has served two (2) full consecutive terms as member of the Board shall be eligible to hold such office again. until one full intervening term of four (4) years has elapsed. [Editors Note:  This appears to have been an error.]

II. RECOMMENDATION: REVIEW AND ACTION

Review the City’s proposed changes to the City Charter and, by extension, Board Bylaw 9110 and provide direction to the Superintendent.

Read the Piedmont League of Women Voters letter to the City Council HERE.

Feb 18 2018

Three Linda-Beach Designs Address Stormwater Drainage

On Thursday, January 18th, the City of Piedmont held its second meeting regarding the Linda Beach Master Plan in the hopes of gaining community input on the matter. The development project, taken on by Recreation Director Sara Lillevand and landscaping firm Groundworks Office, is set to revamp the large area between Howard and Linda Avenues near Beach Elementary School. The meeting was designed to allow Piedmont’s citizens to share their opinions about three existing proposals to assist in the process of creating one final master plan.

    The new concepts were designed based on the expectations of the community and the existing features of the area that give the park its character. The first concept presented was called the “Sports Plan”. Including two regulation size tennis courts and a skate park area, the plan encouraged play for families with children of all ages. The second concept was known as the “Nature plan” which replaced the tennis courts with planted terraces and open event spaces. This concept would create a more traditional park feel with lots of greenery and open space, as well as stadium seating and a picnic deck. The final concept offered was a “Hybrid Plan” which involved what Groundworks viewed as “the best of both worlds”.  The layout would feature one regulation size tennis court as well as an outdoor classroom, greenspace, and bocce courts.

    There were also necessities that the new park will have no matter what. All three plans would include treatment planting to address stormwater drainage as well as a variety of different surfaces with varying levels of porosity to prevent flooding. Picnic tables, event space, and increased access to the area were deemed a must to the project early on and will most likely be included in any final plan. Another element included across the board was interactive art to add color and life to the park as well as support local artists. The city has also requested that the plan provide space for Beach Schoolmates to expand to accommodate its large number of students.

    One of the main concerns expressed throughout all three plans was how to make the best use of the very limited amount of land allocated for the project. City Council member Jen Cavanaugh expressed concern that the storage space beneath the Oakland Avenue bridge would remain empty in all three proposed plans and could be renovated into bathrooms to preserve space.

In my personal opinion, the third plan presented was the most efficient use of land and met more of the communities wishes. I believe it will make the best use of the city’s money and time and, in return, will become a place of great popularity. The city needs a park with a classic park feel that also offers a safe variety of activities for a wide variety of ages. I strongly support the city’s decision to include the community in formulating a plan that is going to create an idyllic new space.

After the meeting concluded Recreation Director Sara Lillevand explained “There are so few opportunities in town to develop available square footage and it is exciting to see what the community wants to do with it”.

The new Linda Beach Playfield is going to be an exciting new place for the city and through this collaborative process it is really going to reflect what we want as a community.

by Ellie Roberts, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Feb 10 2018

Application Deadline Fri. Mar. 9th – 5:00 p.m.

The City of Piedmont is looking for a few talented volunteers for vacancies on commissions and committees. Interested residents may > apply online or download the > Application for Appointive Vacancy. Applications are due to City Hall, 120 Vista Avenue, on or before the deadline of Friday, March 9, 2018 at 5:00 p.m.

Commission/Committee No. of Vacancies No. of Incumbents Eligible for Reappointment
Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee 2 2
CIP Review Committee 1 1
Civil Service Commission 2 2
Park Commission 2 1
Parking Hearing Officer 1 0
Planning Commission 1 0
Police & Fire Pension Board 1 0
Public Safety Committee 2 2
Recreation Commission 1 1

Interviews with the City Council for these positions will be scheduled for the evening of Thursday, March 15, 2018. No appointments will be made without a Council interview.

You can read about the duties of the commissions and committees by clicking here.

Residents with questions are encouraged to call the City Clerk’s office at (510) 420-3040.

Feb 10 2018

How many Tennis Courts do we need?!

Who doesn’t love free pizza and talking about parks of your childhood? That’s just what I did January 18th, 2018 in the Piedmont Community Hall. This was the second meeting of the Groundworks Architecture and Landscape Firm with the Piedmont Community, hosted by the Piedmont Recreation Department, to discuss the redesign of the Linda Beach Playfield.

    At the previous meeting, the Groundworks team gathered ideas from about forty attendees about what the community wanted and valued. They put this information  into a list of guidelines. They then used guidelines to come up with designs.

    We were presented with three options: sports, nature, and hybrid.

    The sports option focused on expanding the tennis courts to fit two regulation size courts with colorful mural like retaining walls as well as a skatepark for teens under the bridge.

    The Nature design gave a serene and peaceful vibe, bringing a sculpture garden/public art space under the bridge, a terraced amphitheater/event space at the north end of the field.

    The Hybrid design was a perfect combination of both. Hybrid updates the tennis court to regulation size, while adding an event space with outdoor classrooms and a green space at the north end. The Tot Lot was moved in this design to the south end of the park featuring a slide into the park from Howard Street.

    After the presentation of the three designs, the audience was split into five table groups to discuss the options. Most of the people at the meeting were advocates for having as many tennis courts and sports areas as possible. On the other hand, many others were excited about having a green area to relax and hang out as a community. The skatepark was a big topic, but we students at the table were insistent on not including the area. Ryan Stokes, a Piedmont resident, was an advocate for the skatepark.

I spoke to Lorri Arazi, a listing agent for the newly built townhomes on Linda Avenue, about the plans. “I initially came on a fact-finding mission, I thought I’d be a listener and less of a participant. But I felt strongly, I had a strong gut reaction when I saw the skatepark next to the bridge,” Arazi told me, “I think that’d be really noisy for the people buying the condos.”

    More issues were brought up about the bathrooms, flex space for group activities, noise complaints, and wasting the space by planting more trees everywhere. Many younger people showed up to voice their opinions as well as the adults. “It was really really wonderful to see people of all ages here and involved and interested,” Arazi commented. Everyone had a positive reaction to the plans, were excited to voice their opinions and see this area remodeled.

    Arazi told me that, “I’ll definitely come to the March 21st meeting. If [the skatepark] shows up on the next iteration, then I’m going to want to voice my concern.” She also explained that by then she will hopefully have a few units sold, and can bring those families to voice their input as part of the community. The city will be having an online survey about this topic, in addition to a City Council Meeting being held on March 21st to talk about the final design. I look forward to seeing the final design, and the community support around the area.

by Maeve Andrews, Piedmont High School Senior

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Courts or no Courts?

    As the Piedmont Community Hall began to fill up with intrigued families, city officials, community members and Civics students, I could tell that I was in for an interesting evening. The debate over what to include in the new Linda Beach Playfield design had just begun.

    On Thursday, January 18th, at 5:45 p.m., I attended the Linda Beach Master Plan meeting to learn more about the city’s project and to share my thoughts on the subject. The project, headed by Piedmont’s Parks and Recreation Director, Sara Lillevand, is intended to landscape, renovate, and redesign the land surrounding the Beach Playfield on Linda and Howard avenue. A similar meeting had convened on November 16 of 2017 to introduce the project and present the Groundworks Office firm which was chosen to landscape the park.

At the beginning of the Master Plan meeting, the project leaders reviewed the notes from the past meeting and revealed three detailed design concepts that the Groundworks team had put together. We then broke off into groups and worked to address the pros and cons of each of the three designs. Design one was labeled as the ‘sports’ design and consisted of two regulation size tennis courts, a skate park, a community activity space, and a boardwalk entrance to the park from Howard Avenue. The second design, known as the ‘nature’ design, featured several community flex spaces, lots of planted trees and seating areas, and no tennis courts. The third design was labeled as the ‘hybrid’ plan and consisted of one full size tennis court, an adult exercise area, a bocce ball court, and some community flex space.

As a tennis player, I advocated for a version of the sports oriented plan because it included two regulation size tennis courts. Other community members spoke up about how the tennis courts take up lots of area and that the land should be allocated to multipurpose or flex spaces that can be utilized by any and all community members at different times.

One community member spoke about how the tennis courts are a much desired aspect of the Beach Playfield and eliminating them would upset many residents. He also brought up the interesting prospect of installing night lights for the courts which would increase the hours of use. There was much debate over what to include and what to not include during the meeting but the council decided to take the copious amount of community member input and work to build at least one new plan which will then be reviewed at the next meeting.

After the meeting I spoke with the project leader and Recreation Director, Sara Lillevand, to discuss her opinion on the project and the project’s next steps. She explained to me how her main goal of the meeting was to bring as many community members together as possible to receive input on what should be included in the design. She said that the meeting exceeded her expectations primarily due to the fact that there were so many young community members present. Moving forward, Lillevand will collaborate with the Groundworks team to gather the community input from the meeting, work with the city contractors, and develop a final plan to present. This project is moving quickly and I am excited to follow it in the coming months and utilize the final project. Let’s hope for tennis courts!

by Andrew Pinkham, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors.
Feb 4 2018

Big changes have been suggested for how Piedmont is administered. 

City Administrator form of government is evolving toward City Manager form of government, further limits on Council terms, increase in tax funds held in reserve, reduced meeting requirements, etc.

On the Monday, February 5, 2018 Council agenda is an item that potentially starts a change to long held principles within the Piedmont City Charter. The City Charter is in the domain of the voters of Piedmont, who must approve any changes to the City Charter..

When the Charter was updated and revised approximately 35 years ago, a citizen Charter Review Committee appointed by the City Council was established to develop recommendations for City Council consideration.  After review of the recommendations, the City Council placed the recommended revised Charter on a Piedmont ballot, and it was readily approved by Piedmont voters.

The Piedmont City Charter specifies expenditures, revenues, budgeting, decisions to be made by the Council, decisions to be made by voters, personnel roles, zoning, loan mechanisms, etc.

City staff actions are subject to Council direction and Council action in many instances is subject to citizen approval of major issues such as zoning, taxation, borrowing, and reserve fund limits.  Some staff members over the years have resisted  the requirement of gaining Council approval in a public forum before taking action on policy matters.  The result has led to some policy actions taken without Council authorization.

The City Council has exceeded its authority in some instances, supporting a reinterpretation of the City Charter diminishing voter controls.

Recent issues questionable under the City Charter reinterpretation have been:

  • Election process for selecting a mayor following a resignation
  • Loans taken out without voter approval
  • Refusal to allow a citizen vote prior to making zone use changes

City Administrator form of government evolving toward City Manager form of government –

Piedmont has for generations benefited from its City Administrator form of government, giving citizens and their elected representatives the primary authority and responsibility over numerous governmental actions.  The proposed Charter changes in a number of instances would alter this authority.

Unlike the proposed changes, the City Council, rather than the City Administrator, currently has the responsibility to appoint the top administrators of the City.  Some of these positions include:

  •  Police Chief
  •  Fire Chief
  •  Public Works Director
  •  City Clerk
  •  City Engineer
  •  Finance Director

The process for changing the Piedmont City Charter, foundation of Piedmont governance, will receive consideration by the City Council on Monday, February 5, 2018, on how to proceed with review and any updating of the Charter.

Residents interested in following this issue can attend the meeting, observe the Council live on Cable Channel 27 or from the City website under videos. This item is last on the agenda.

Read the staff report regarding Charter changes HERE.

Read the agenda HERE.

Feb 1 2018

The City of Piedmont is seeking resident input on three concepts to be included in a master plan for Linda Beach Playfield and Park, which were presented to the public at a Community Workshop on January 18th. The City and its consultant, landscape architecture firm Groundworks Office, have developed a survey to gather resident input on the proposed designs.

Take 5-10 minutes to complete > the Linda Beach Playfield Master Plan Survey. The City is asking that all comments be submitted by February 8th.

The City of Piedmont engaged the services of landscape architecture firm Groundworks Office for development of the Linda Beach Playfield Master Plan. The intent of the project is to create a logical, cost-effective, and flexible conceptual plan to meet the present and future needs of the City of Piedmont within the context of the neighborhood, the needs of the community and the constraints of the existing site. With the exception of the field itself, all areas from the Oakland Avenue Bridge to Beach School and between Howard and Linda Avenues will be on the table for possible enhancements, improvements and renovations.

The City invites any and all interested community members to engage in this exciting opportunity to examine an existing park with fresh eyes. The City wants to hear the communities ideas.

Read previous article on three concepts for Linda Beach Playfield and Park here.

Jan 26 2018

Linda Beach Field Redevelopment: To (B)each His Own

    A chance to remake Linda Beach Playfield.

Community members gathered to discuss the latest proposals on use of the land in between the existing field and the school.

    The City of Piedmont is currently seeking to redevelop the area around Beach School. After learning about the desires of the residents at a previous meeting, the redevelopment team put together three proposals for people to debate. In the meeting, each proposed plan was explained before we broke up into smaller groups to generate feedback on each plan.

    The meeting fell under the umbrella of the Piedmont Recreation Department (PRD), as PRD is in charge of the Linda Beach facilities. The goal of the meeting was to determine what the community thought about the three concepts presented and which aspects were most and least favored. Since this project is a one-time contract, the meetings do not occur with regularity.

    The contracted firm, Groundworks Office, showed three initial ideas for Linda Beach Playfield, named the “Sports”, “Nature”, and, “Hybrid” designs. The first two were intentionally constructed to fall on extreme opposite ends of the spectrum, while the “Hybrid” version attempted to walk a middle ground.

    The “Sports” concept increases the size of the tennis courts to regulation size, and adds a skate park, expands Schoolmates, and adds lighting. PRD employee and Bay Area resident Daniel LaForte expressed concern about the current, smaller size of the tennis courts, saying, “I won’t play at the Beach courts, because it’s simply too dangerous. I’ve had injuries before.” He supports the expansion of the tennis courts, citing the high demand which has forced him to, “start playing on the other side of the tunnel,” adding that, “The good players won’t play there [Beach],” due to the irregular size.

    After reviewing this proposal, I helped present the group’s feedback. There was a valid belief shared by some of our group members that two regulation tennis courts would occupy too much valuable space, but ultimately, it was clear that the space would definitely be used all the time. Personally, I agreed with the notion that courts would make effective use of the space, especially considering the other options for it.

    The next proposal, “Nature,” featured an event space that would take up most of the area between Schoolmates, which would be expanded, and the large playfield nearby. This proposal sought to create a relaxing, soothing vibe, complemented by the addition of hammocks to existing trees near Howard Street. It sounded cool, but I was afraid the event space might get wasted, especially since there is a nearby picnic area.

    Finally, the “Hybrid” model contains some ideas from each of the other proposals. It has a slightly smaller event space, plus an exercise area, bocce and pickleball courts. Some of the people in attendance were familiar with the government committee that would ultimately decide this issue, and they believe the committee would end up taking the Hybrid proposal, no matter what.

By David Yu, Piedmont High School Senior

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City Planning to Redesign Area Adjacent to Linda Beach Playground

Piedmont is a beautiful City that benefits from the thoughtful city planning and design decisions that are implemented.  The Linda Beach area is currently undergoing a redevelopment plan, which we hope will be no exception to Piedmont’s high standards.  The Groundworks Landscape Architecture firm and the City of Piedmont are working together to redesign the space around the Linda Beach Playground with a shared belief that the space has great potential.

    On Thursday, January 18, a public meeting was held, including resident attendees, to consider three design plans for the area and solicit community input on the redevelopment ideas for further design refinements.  A few of the goals for this project are:  (1) to improve the identity of the park, (2) breathe community life into the Oakland Avenue bridge space, and (3) improve site access and connections to the park for use by people across varying demographics.

     This meeting was the second public forum held for the Linda Beach Project.  There will likely be subsequent meetings during the design process.

    The major issue addressed and discussed at the January 18th meeting was the purpose of the new development and how it would be used.  There were three plans presented during the meeting.  They were: a Sports Plan, a Nature Plan and a Hybrid Plan.

    The Sports Plan proposed two regulation size tennis courts, a boardwalk near Howard Avenue, a skateboard park under the bridge along with plans to incorporate public art elements into the structure, terraced seating along the edge of the field, new storm water drain systems, an expansion of the Schoolmates building, a redeveloped tot lot with art incorporated into the structures, and two restrooms on either side of the site.

   The Sports Plan received positive feedback from team members or their families who currently use the space for sports-related activities.  There were some doubts raised about this plan’s ability to satisfy the diverse needs of those other than just parents and their young children, and also concern over the space feeling crowded.

    Some argued strongly against having a skateboard park, because of concern over noise.  While others suggested that a skateboard park would create a safe designated space for skateboarders to stay off the street and practice their sport, given it is illegal in many public areas where signs are posted prohibiting the sport.

    The Nature Plan proposed as its main concept, open programming space.  This entailed the removal of both tennis courts with replacement by a multi-purpose space.  This proposed space would include planted terraces, easy access, improved storm water solutions, and be made from natural material and plants to establish a lush organic environment.

    The Nature Plan focused more on the aesthetic value the space could present by incorporating many elements from nature as well art to welcome the public. This plan faced the most criticism because many people were upset about the removal or reduction of the sports facilities that are currently available to them today, such as the tennis courts and a reduced size tot lot.  This concern was mainly expressed by families who use this space often for their children and people who grew up playing sports on these facilities, who had an emotional connection to the activity environment.  These residents would have to give up their current use of the space in exchange for a nature park.  Many were not happy about that possibility.

    The final plan proposed was called the Hybrid Plan.  This plan incorporated aspects from both the sports and the nature plan.  The Hybrid Plan maintained one tennis court, the tot lot relocated to the south end of the site, an exercise plaza located under the bridge, public event/park space near the tennis court, an extension added to the existing Schoolmates building, and one restroom.  This plan was praised for its ability to act as a space for people with different interests and seemed to achieve broader support as a compromise.  However, the exercise plaza of this plan was criticized for fear it would be underused.  Many people liked the fact that there was only one tennis court.  A tennis player who attended the meeting even stated they would rather have one regulation size tennis court, than the two non-regulation courts there today.

    After the presentations of the three plans, we all turned to our tables with print copies of each plan, including images used to help establish a feeling for what each plan might seem like if implemented.  A representative from either the City or the Groundworks Office sat at each of the tables and listened to questions and critiques about the plans from residents.  Each table group then generated their ideal plan and presented their idea at the end of the meeting to all attendees.

    My table group discussed and agreed on our ideal plan.  It included one tennis court, a public space that could be used for either socializing or events, a relocated and renovated tot lot, two restrooms, a skateboard park under the bridge and ample space throughout for sitting and relaxing.  I thought our twist on the Hybrid Plan seemed ideal because it incorporated spaces for activities across a variety of ages and interest groups.

    After each of the groups presented their ideas, the meeting was dismissed and I spoke with Etienne Fang, a former designer and Piedmont High School graduate (class of ‘94).  She attended this meeting with her children so they could learn about the design process.  Etienne attended Beach Elementary School and her children currently attend Beach today.  She believes that the current plan is a poor use of the space.  She said the tot lot is over-utilized, the tennis courts are usually empty, and there is a useless dirt path behind the field that has been there since she went to Beach that has a lot of potential.  Etienne was confused by the presentations of design plans for the Linda Beach space because she was unsure of their underlying vision for the space.  After the meeting, she said that people want to practice different activities and that the space should be inclusive.  She plans on attending future meetings to provide her inputs on the project.

    This meeting was intended to help the City and Groundworks Office understand first-hand, the wants, needs and concerns about the proposed Linda Beach redevelopment area.  While I was able to participate in voicing my opinion among my neighbors, importantly, this meeting demonstrated to me that city planning is definitely a difficult job, especially when the public has so many conflicting opinions about what should be included in a redevelopment plan.

by Hanna Scoggins, Piedmont High School Senior

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The Linda Beach Face Lift

On Thursday, January 18, I attended a city parks and projects meeting about the reconstruction of the Linda Beach Park space.  There was a meeting prior to this one where people voiced what sort of things they would like to see in the design.  This meeting was all of those suggestions put together into three different plans.  Each plan –Nature, Sports and Hybrid — had a difference stance.  All three designs were intended to be the extremes of each idea.  For example, the Sports design was heavily based on activities and how many fields/ courts they could fit into the space.  Whereas the Nature had no sport courts and primarily focused on a community relaxation space, and Hybrid was a mix of the two. 

After the initial presentation of these three options we broke off into table groups to come up with our own ideal Linda Beach Park.  My group wasn’t a big fan of any of the three options and decided to cut out certain things from each and create our own model.  The model we came up with was essentially another hybrid model with heavy influence on interactive light sculptures, skatepark, relaxation space and viewing areas of the sport courts. 

Everyone then shared their own creation of the park but there were major concerns about safety, noise, traffic and usage that might come with a skate park or relaxation space. 

This meeting was primarily to see the options of the people who would be using it, and the designers plan to make a fourth and final design based on this meeting and the suggestions that came from it. 

After the meeting was over a few of my friends and I interviewed and discussed ideas with Etienne Fang.  Mrs. Fang is a designer and came to this meeting to show her kids what the design process looks like along with her own interest in the development.  This project was not only important to her kids, who currently attend Beach Elementary School, but she herself attended Beach and wanted to see the possibilities for the space. 

Mrs. Fang thought that the park was in desperate need of a remodel, saying that “some of the bushes there today were there when I was a kid, and they still haven’t grown!”  She liked the idea of having sports influence the development, but liked the idea of art having a bigger role in the design so that kids are exposed to a broader horizon, rather than just sports. 

The overall outcome of the meeting was very positive, everyone was given the opportunity to have their voice heard which will lead to a successful development of the Linda Beach Park.

by Ty Ozsoy, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors.
Jan 15 2018

Planning for the Linda Beach Playground will be discussed with the community 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 18 in the Piedmont Community Center, in Piedmont Main Park , 711 Highland Avenue.

All interested community members are encouraged to attend and participate.

Read the announcement by clicking below.

LBMP Community Meeting 2 Announcement

Nov 13 2017

All interested community members are invited to meet with Groundworks Office, landscape architects, at:

Beach Elementary School Auditorium

100 Lake Avenue 

Thursday, November 16

6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Nov 13 2017

Linda Beach Playfield Master Plan and problems with the wireless communication installation – 

The Piedmont Park Commission met on November 1, 2017 and the major issues were “Approval of Park Commission Minutes for September 6, 2017 and October 4, 2017,” “Consideration of a Recommendation to City Council regarding Proposed Wireless Communication Facilities Permit Installation in Piedmont Park across from 314 Wildwood Avenue,” “Update on the Linda Beach Playfield Master Plan,” “Update and Discussion on a Heritage Tree Program for Trees in Piedmont Parks and Open Spaces by Park Commissioner Jim Horner,” “Monthly Maintenance Report: Park, Open Space and Street Tree Update for the Month of October.”

I stayed for three hours, but I was only there for the first two subjects and a couple minutes of the third subjects.

Eileen Ruby and a few other members of the Commission were upset and confused with Planning Director Kevin Jackson’s opening statement, because they had just been given information at 10 a.m. that morning and asked to decide on it that night. The first topic discussed was anger and confusion expressed by the Commission at the late notice and demands of Kevin Jackson’s new agreement on a wireless communication facility located on City property.

The second topic was heavily discussed for the majority of  time I was there. Basically, there are wireless communications towers trying to be put around Piedmont, but they haven’t been meeting City regulations.

Laura Mazel, a long time Piedmont resident who lives on Wildwood Avenue spoke up to argue against the tower being put up outside the entrance to the dog park near Witter Field. She argued that there was research showing that the radiation coming from the towers would harm wildlife, especially the ancient redwood trees. She also expressed concern about the narrowness of the street and if trucks would be on the street doing work on the tower that would create a problem for drivers.

A former physicist from Berkeley also expressed a lot of concern with the damage the radiation can do. He cited multiple studies and said that flies and bees also can be destroyed by the radiation, soil is affected negatively as well, and birds would have to move nests.

I agree with Laura Mazel and the physicist in that these wireless communication towers are not necessary and they do more harm than good.

The Commission after long discussions and a great amount of staff input hesitantly and with concern made a recommendation to the City Council to approve the communication site while adding new conditions to any approval.

Moving onto the third topic, the City is developing a new Master Plan for the Beach Playfield that involves fixing up the bathrooms and drinking fountains, as well as making the tennis courts full sized. An informational meeting about Beach Playfield will include both parents and kids.

My classmate Jessica Xiong spoke and said it was a good idea to have both adults and children in the meeting because kids are going to be the ones primarily using the field.

I spoke as well and reflected on my younger years as one of the kids playing t-ball and soccer on Beach Field. I remembered how gross the bathrooms by the Field are and let them know that the kids would definitely appreciate a renovation there. I think the plan is a good idea, because it will let kids play and exercise, which is extremely important.

I interviewed Patty Dunlop, a member of the Park Commission. The difficulties she encountered were trying to figure out if the plans for the cell towers were “in harmony with the City Code.” She has learned about the government elements of the cell towers and protocols (making complicated motions), and the delegation of responsibility between the Park Commission and the City Council. The next step concerning her is paying more attention to applications coming forward for additional cell towers/cell antennas, because she thinks they will be coming.

The Park Commission of Piedmont California meets monthly on the first Wednesday at 5:30. They make recommendations to the City Council about the beautification of public parks and the street tree improvement program.

By Emmett Reed, Piedmont High School Senior

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    On Wednesday November 1, 2017, I attended the Park Commission meeting at Piedmont City Hall. The Park Commission meets monthly, on the first Wednesday of every month at 5:30 p.m. The Park Commission meets to discuss issues relating to the public parks of the city and manage the street-tree improvement program, and make recommendations to the City Council relating to these topics.

I attended the meeting from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.; and during that interval, the Park Commission discussed two major topics. The first topic discussed was on behalf of a design plan made for a light post and wireless communication installation “in Piedmont Park across from 314 Wildwood Avenue.” The second topic, which I was only able to stay for the beginning of, was regarding an update of the developing Linda Beach Playfield Master Plan.

To start off the meeting, Kevin Jackson, Piedmont Planning Director, discussed the proposed plans for a lamp post. Crown Castle, the applicant, is a telecommunications contract service based in San Jose.

Jackson wanted the Park Commission to recommend the design and placement of the proposed lamp post, which is proposed to be located in Piedmont Park across from 314 Wildwood Avenue. He revealed that the initial plans were denied due to the fact that it was not consistent in the design of the lamp post and city planning. If the city doesn’t take action by a certain date, the plan will be deemed approved.

Eileen Ruby, a member of the Commission, inquired about the lightpost and its practicality, suggesting that the light post should be in a position to illuminate a pathway or add something of significance in the Park, rather than just a small patch of greenery.

I absolutely agree with Eileen Ruby on this particular topic. It seems like it would be a waste to use these resources and money on a purely decorative utility. The light post should be both practical and nice to look at.

The color of the light post was also discussed by Jim Horner, member of the Commission.

I believe that, in order to fit in with the “look” of Piedmont, it should be dark green or black in order to blend in with the foliage.

Ruby also questioned if the plans were different than those that were originally planned to be discussed, to which Jackson responded that they are in fact new plans from that morning at 10:00 a.m. Jackson reminded that the Park Commission makes the recommendations, and City Council takes action.

Pierce MacDonald Powell, a representative for Crown Castle, told those present that the light fixture is to be decorative, and listed specific conditions that the plans must meet in order for the light post to be approved and built. For example, light pollution and the sound of the light post was a major concern.

Betsy Goodman and Patty Dunlap, both members of the Commission, asked about sound from the installation, what the requirements are, and how to meet them.

Then, a few members of the audience went up to the podium to speak on this issue. Sharon, who was there on behalf of the light post, commented that the reason for the last minute design was due to new options proposed. Their new proposal was based on the lumieres at ‘Ole Miss.

Chairperson Jamie Totsubo shared that she finds this news very frustrating as they spent so much time on the planning already. Commissioner Betsy Goodman shared her concern about the location of the vault, because it is located at a handicap area of the park in the plans. She also requested that the deadline of the Commission’s recommendations be moved to a later date due to the last minute plans.

Sharon from the audience responded that it is very unlikely that this would happen. Then, another member from the audience shared his opinion for the energy vault. He believes it should be above ground, such as a mailbox design, in order to cut the issue of the sound.

Commissioner Jim Horner asked the man about the mailbox design, and if it completely gets rid of the noise issue. The response was yes; it does so because the design will make it allow the heat to be removed.

Peter Harvey, another audience member, spoke on behalf of the environmental impacts of these new installations, sharing previous data that the microwaves produced negatively impact flora and fauna surrounding it. Additionally, he noted the microwaves have affected both the behavior and development of animals.

I agree that this is an issue that must be considered when drafting any new installation plans. Since Piedmont prides itself on its beauty, the City must keep in mind the impact their plans will have on the beauty and wellbeing of the City’s natural surroundings.

Laura Menzel stepped to the podium and stated that she does not want cell phone towers located on Wildwood Avenue, as the road is already very tight and she does not want the beauty of nature around it to be diminished.

The Commission’s consensus was that the vault must be moved to a different location.

City Planner MacDonald proceeded to reiterate the Commission’s recommendations from the notes she made during the discussion. The Commission moved that the light should illuminate the path, have a single arm, be similar to the design of the lights on Oakland Avenue Bridge, be relocated outside of the pedestrian path, and be a dark color. The vote was unanimous on the first motion.

The second motion, to consider communication equipment at an alternative location, and be concealed was not unanimous, but it still passed.

After a short intermission, the meeting moved to the next topic, Linda Beach Playfield Master Plan. Nancy Kent, the Commission Staff Liaison, shared the developing plan and stated that it is fairly new. They have ideas to redo the bathrooms at the Field as well as hold a Public Forum with both children and adults to learn about their opinions and suggestions on what to do.

The Commission asked if anyone from the audience would like to speak on behalf of the Linda Beach Playfield Master Plan. At this time, I went up to the podium to share my thoughts on this particular topic. I commended them on their plan to hold a public forum, because kids are going to be the ones primarily using the field, so having both them and their parents along with other adults participate and give input in the plans is very essential. I also pushed for the remodeling of the bathrooms, as they are barely used since they are not in great condition. Additionally, I also shared that I think they should install more water fountains on the field, as it is used for sports and recreation.

Fellow classmate Emmett Reed went up to the podium and spoke about the Field, and how he agreed with me on the topic of the water fountains and bathrooms. He also shares that he believes having such a place for kids to play is beneficial. After the audience statements, I left the meeting.

During the intermission, I interviewed Betsy Goodman, the Vice Chair of the Piedmont Park Commission. She stated that she was interested in ” the hearing of Resolution PHS 09, which had to do with a telephone antennae, light fixture, and vault at the 314 Wildwood location.”  She noted that since the vault was located in the handicap ramp, the Commission had to come up with an alternative location. There were also sound issues regarding the vault which needed to be resolved. Goodman shared that in this meeting, she learned about the procedural work with the City Council, and how they need to “effectively make recommendations and motions and findings…through a long process to get there.” Goodman revealed that this meeting was a “complicated process” that they must consider in order to meet the requirements of the City and to be able to make the “best recommendation.” Goodman stated that the Commission must always try to do what they believe is “fair and necessary” for the community. In order to get their next concern addressed, Goodman and the Commission will hold further discussions with the City staff to ensure that they have a clear understanding for taking the next steps when making recommendations.

by Jessica Xiong, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note:  Opinions expressed are those of the authors.