Jul 5 2018

On the afternoon of June 19, 2018,  a City Council/School Board Liaison meeting was held.  Members of the School Board, City Council, and their staff members met at the Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) Administrative Offices on Magnolia Avenue to discuss various issues, which included: upcoming summer facilities projects, H1 Bond projects, solid waste management education, recreational renovations, and school safety.

Present at the meeting were School representatives: Board Vice President, Amal Smith, Board Member, Andrea Swenson, Superintendent Randall Booker, Director of Facilities, Pete Palmer, and Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Cheryl Wozniak. Representatives from the City were Mayor Bob McBain and City Administrator Paul Benoit.

The meeting began with Booker introducing the agenda and starting off the conversation with updates on the H1 Bond measure and the issue of the various District Summer facilities projects.  These projects include climate control renovations to elementary school facilities and the rebuilding of the 30’s complex at Piedmont High School for the high school’s new STEAM building, with construction beginning in June of 2019 as part of the H1 Bond measure.

During the April 2019 Spring break, the real projects begin removing the Alan Harvey Theater and drainage work on Witter Field.

“We’re starting these summer renovations at Havens Elementary, where five classrooms on the top floor can reach as high as 90 degrees while teachers are instructing students,” said Palmer. “The new climate control systems we will be installing are some of the most efficient units available on the market.”

Palmer explained that the same climate control systems would be installed in certain classrooms at Beach and Wildwood Elementary schools that are also at risk for reaching high temperatures.

“These new highly efficient systems will allow us to cut energy costs, which means putting more money right back into schools and facilities,” said Booker.

The High School’s new STEAM building will have 7 new classrooms, expanding the capacity of the school’s computer lab facilities. Booker stressed the importance of adding these new classrooms and computer facilities because 50 students had to be turned away from the school’s computer program during the previous school year due to insufficient class space.

“It’s great that we have so many students interested in computer science; however; right now we just don’t have the space.  With these new facilities, we will be able to accommodate everyone,” said Booker.

Booker noted the School District was exploring options to install a new computer system that would cut down on the purchasing of expensive Computer Processing Units (CPU) by allowing as few as one control CPU unit to feed many students’ computer monitors without the need for them to have their own CPU unit.

Palmer related a break in the waterline under Wildwood Schoolmates, requiring a temporary waterline and the closing down of El Cerrito Avenue, as well as P.E Hill, in order to fix the break.

Witter Field will be closed during the installation of new LED field lights, which would be more directive, project less light on neighbors, and be better for player safety visibility. Palmer stated the installation should go quickly unless the current light structures are revealed to have rusted bolts or fixtures, in which case they would need to be cut and repaired during renovation.

Booker discussed the High School Master Plan beginning construction in March 1, 2019, when the closure, salvage and abatement of the Alan Harvey Theater will occur,  along with the closure and drainage renovation of Witter Field.

An inspector from Division of State Architects (DSA) will come to survey the Witter Field area and check its Americans with Disability Act  (ADA)  compliance.  Witter Field has areas of concern, such as the Wildwood steps leading down to the field, which are not ADA compliant, according to Booker.

A passing inspection regarding the ADA and approval from the state are necessary prior to construction, as clarified by Vice President Amal Smith.

City Administrator Paul Benoit addressed the issue of solid waste management.

“We only received one bidder for Piedmont’s solid waste contract. Waste Management as a firm did not want to do backyard service, and Piedmont doesn’t want to give up backyard service. We’ll be continuing to work with Republic Services as our contractor,” said Benoit.

In addition to the City’s new contract with Republic, Abbe and Associates, a green education and waste management consultant, will aid the community, including the schools, in environmental awareness and sustainable living.

When Vice President Smith raised questions as to expectations with Abbe, Benoit replied that the consulting firm’s community-wide involvement will be collaborative with no set expectations or requirements.

Mayor Bob McBain stated that Abbe would work in situations managing waste from City events like the Harvest Festival and everything Abbe does should be constructive leading to reduced waste and proper disposal.

“It’s not gonna work, if it is a burden to everyone,” McBain said.

There are pending renovations and resurfacing of several tennis courts.   Linda Beach Tennis courts are desired by Pickleball players. Pickleball is a hybrid game of tennis and ping pong. The Piedmont Pickleball Association rents the Linda Beach courts on certain weekdays from 9 a.m. to 12 noon for $12 an hour according to Benoit, and will continue to do so until school begins on August 13th.

Mayor McBain stated there is the possibility for the City and the Piedmont Pickleball Association to work together in order to resurface the Middle School courts to be used for the sport when not in use by the schools.

Benoit introduced the topic of School Safety which he stated was a big topic.  While School Safety was talked about at the staff level, thus far it had not received extensive discussion at the Council level. School Safety has risen in salience as the national climate around school shootings has intensified at an alarming rate.   There are uncertainties on how to move forward with this initiative in Piedmont, according to Benoit.

Superintendent Booker brought up the implementation of onsite security personnel in Piedmont schools.

“From experience and time spent with Albany High School, I found the presence of a police officer on campus an extremely effective and beneficial resource,” said Booker.

Booker went on to explain that the presence of a security person on campus at the High School, such as one on-duty soft uniform officer from the Piedmont Police Department, would be helpful. These resource officers in soft uniform, meaning they are wearing uniform pants and Piedmont Police Department polo shirts instead of a full patrol uniform, would receive very specific and intensive training to acclimate them to a campus environment. The resource officer would carry the same equipment that other police officers do on their belts, including a firearm.

“I would consider myself a strong advocate for the resource officer as a solution to school safety, as in my experience they are incredibly effective at communicating safety,” said Booker.

The resource officer would report to the Piedmont Chief of Police and the hope is that the officer costs would be paid half by the City and half by the School District.

McBain emphasized the need for the City to find the money for the resource officer and introduce the idea to the community.

Benoit informed the attendees that the City is actively recruiting for a new Fire Chief.

Report by Joe Creason, Journalism Intern

Jun 21 2018

PIEDMONT CITY COUNCIL TO HOST TOWN HALL MEETING ON POSSIBLE AMENDMENTS TO THE PIEDMONT CITY CHARTER

Monday, June 25, 2018 at 6:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers

Comments in this article are in response to the City’s public notice and were written by the Piedmont Civic Association aggregating some of the comments by Piedmonters knowledgeable and concerned about the proposed Piedmont City Charter changes. 

The City’s meeting notice was provided by Piedmont City Administrator Paul Benoit and  John Tulloch City Clerk /Assistant City Administrator, a recently created position,   

Town Hall Meeting – Monday, June 25

“The Piedmont City Council will hold a town hall meeting on Monday, June 25, 2018 at 6:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers to receive public input on possible amendments to the City Charter, which may be placed before the voters at the City’s General Municipal Election in November 2018.”

“The discussion of possible Charter amendments began in June 2017 and Council has subsequently discussed the issue at meetings on February 5, 2018, March 5, 2018, April 30, 2018, and June 4, 2018.”

BIG CHANGES TO THE CITY CHARTER

The proposed City Charter changes were devised by the City Administrative staff and the Piedmont City Council to potentially be voted upon by the Piedmont electorate at the General Election in November 2018. For the proposed changes to take effect, Piedmont voters must approve the changes.   All portions of the Charter were not considered in the Charter review.  For instance, Piedmont’s method of borrowing money was not taken up, nor was a clarification on the controversial zoning language in the Charter.  Also, when a mayor recently resigned, the Council  arbitrarily created a new position outside of the Charter called an “Acting Mayor.”   These items and others were not addressed in the proposed changes.

A number or Piedmonters and the Piedmont League of Women Voters had asked the Council to involve the community in the City Charter changes, however all considerations were made at the Council level garnering little public participation and no input from City commissions, committees, or a special committee charged with assessing potential City Charter changes.

ADMINISTRATIVE CHANGES

Administrative changes, although de-emphasized in the City’s  presentations on proposed Charter changes, represent the greatest alterations to Piedmont’s form of City Administrator government.  Piedmont has had the City Administrator form of government for generations, and most would agree Piedmont has done well during those many years under the City Administrator form of government. As will be read below, authority historically held by the City Council is being transferred to the City Administrator.

The proposals to change the City Charter would take authority from the City Council and transfer it to the City Administrator.

The Council would retain authority to hire Department Heads, such as the Police Chief, City Clerk, Fire Chief, Finance Director, but the Council could not fire their appointees.  The Department Head termination authority would be granted solely to the City Administrator, presenting a new and different complexity to Piedmont  governance.

The City Administrator in Piedmont, by the current Charter language, has the responsibility for the administration of the City – the day to day operations and administration of the City. The City Administrator reports to the Council on employee performance.  The current Charter language states the Council can direct top managers, however the Charter also makes it clear the Council members are not administrators and  as individuals cannot act to “direct” the managers or the City Administrator.

Taking the authority to direct Department Heads from the Council, as a whole, and bestowings the authority solely upon the City Administrator, is governance commonly considered a City Manager form of government with a directly elected mayor, which Piedmont does not have,.   In Piedmont, the Council appoints from their members an individual to be Piedmont’s Mayor.  Piedmont’s mayor has essentially the same authority as the other four Council members other than what is allowed by the Charter or granted by the Council.  In recent years, Council observers have noted more authority has been given by the City Administrator to mayors than the Charter allows without consideration by the  Council as a whole.

 UNLIMITED RESERVES 

The original idea for reviewing the City Charter arose at a Council meeting when it became apparent Piedmont revenues greatly exceeded the Annual Budget 25% limit in the General Fund Reserve. One or more Council members wanted to accumulate larger amounts of money in the General Fund Reserve.  The Charter limit on reserves was intended to stop Councils from excessively taxing Piedmont property owners.

Much of the increase in Piedmont revenues stems from the sale of property resulting in transfer taxes and a higher basis on Piedmont property taxes.  To retain the excess revenues  when the 25% General Fund Reserve limit had been met, the Council has directed the excess  revenue into various newly established reserve funds,  At the same time, the City Council has continued to levy the full voter approved property tax, plus an annual percentage increase regardless of the windfall tax revenues.  The practice of placing excess revenues into special reserve funds has been put into practice without changing the City Charter.

The following language in quotes is from the City notice followed by PCA comments:

“At its June 4th meeting, the City Council directed staff to schedule a town hall meeting in order to allow residents an additional opportunity to review the changes that have been discussed at previous Council meetings. This is an opportunity for residents to ask questions and express their opinions on the proposed Charter amendments prior to the Council placing a measure on the November ballot.”

Unlike past reviews of the City Charter, there has been no comprehensive look at the entire Charter nor an independent committee focused on the pros and cons of the proposed Charter changes.

Presumably, the Council does not want to put something on the ballot that is likely to be rejected by Piedmont voters.  Yet, the Town Hall Meeting comes after Council decisions have essentially been made regarding proposed changes to the City Charter. The Council must now decide if their proposals will be accepted by Piedmont voters and if it is timely to place the proposals before the voters.  Each time the Charter is placed on a ballot, it incurs cost for the City.

“Because the Charter is effectively the City of Piedmont’s constitution, the City Council wants to receive as much resident input as possible on the proposed amendments.”

The Town Hall meeting will not include a comprehensive discussion and exchange of ideas on the Charter changes – the pros and cons – for each public speaker is typically given only 3 minutes to address even this voluminous subject. Decisions were made by the City Council and staff on the proposals to be considered at the meeting.

Depending on citizen input on the proposals, the Council may or may not decide to place the changes on the November ballot.  The Council could defer action pending further consideration of unintended consequences and/or benefits to Piedmont. 

Some of the proposed amendments to the Charter are as follows: [The order of the City changes has been changed here to prioritize important issues first. The most significant proposed changes were previously placed by the City staff toward the end of their announcement, which might lead readers to assume the administrative changes are minor.] 

  • ” In Article 3 – Administration, several changes are proposed to clarify reporting structure for the Officers of the City (Department Heads). At the April 30th meeting, Council directed staff to clarify sections in this article to make clear that the City Council appoints Department Heads, but that they are directed by and serve at the pleasure of the City Administrator.”

This is one of the most important, if not the most important change being proposed to the City Charter. The above statement by the City hints at the split authority of the Council.  For example, the Council would appoint Department Heads, but the Council could not dismiss problem Department Heads, creating confusion and potential problems for the City Administrator, who would be the sole authority in dismissal, “serve at the pleasure of the City Administrator.”

Department Heads in Piedmont have always served at the pleasure of the City Council and could be directed by the Council as a whole, but not by individual Council members.  For example, the Council might direct the Police Chief to step up night patrols: the Council might direct the Finance Director to find ways to save the City money; the Council might direct the Recreation Director to develop more programs for senior citizens. The Department Heads were held accountable to the City Council with advice from the City Administrator.

In meeting identified needs of citizens, the change proposed totally eliminates the Council’s authority to direct Department Heads.  The Council authority would  be transferred to the City Administrator.

Piedmont, as a small city, has thrived under the City Administrator form of government; the City Manager form of government found in other, many larger, cities, with a directly elected mayor, has the potential for creating new problems regarding Council authority and responsiveness to citizens.

  • ” In Section 4.03, the limit on the General Fund Reserve of 25% is proposed for removal. In addition, an aspirational minimum for the General Fund Reserve of 15% of the General Fund operating budget is inserted.”

The General Fund Reserve limit of 25% originated from concern to not levy more taxes than was necessary to operate the City while providing an emergency reserve during an economic slump or great emergency.  The City Council and City staff in recent years have  diverted excess revenues from the significant property and transfer tax windfall into various fund reserves.  There is no language proposed to limit the Council’s ability to tax property owners.

  • ” In Section 4.11, bidding requirements are changed to remove a low threshold for costly formal bidding requirements, rather leaving it to the Council to set the thresholds for formal bidding by ordinance.”

Bidding requirements are one way to publicly open up the procurement of public services, consultants, contractors, and other City needs rather than continuing with current contractors on a long term basis without going through an open bidding process.  Most  cities and the state encourage open bidding to benefit taxpayers and the community at large.

  • “The Council also directed staff to prepare amendments to several other sections of the Charter to remove outdated provisions and modernize language.”

This part of the City Charter proposals presents many questions for it is largely unidentified.  What  provisions and what antiquated language?  Why not list the outdated provisions? New Department Head positions have been added with no general public notice.  Is Piedmont’s bureaucracy inadequate to serve our small community? Once new positions are added to the Charter, employment cost can be greater and more permanent.

  • ” A modification of City Council term limits to lengthen the period of time during which a former Councilmember is ineligible to run for office again from four to eight years after leaving office. (Section 2.03)”

The change listed above is of little impact for the City Council has only had two Council contenders seeking re-election after a 4 years hiatus. One contender was elected, the other was not.  Changing this in the Charter is of debatable value.

  •  “An amendment to the provision for filling of vacancies on the City Council to allow the Council sixty days to fill a vacancy. If the Council doesn’t act within those sixty days, a special election would be called to fill the vacancy. Under current provision, the Council has thirty days to make an appointment and if it doesn’t act, the Mayor can make an appointment. (Section 2.05(c))”

A thirty day period in which to fill a vacant Council seat is common for elective bodies.  Waiting 60 days to fill a vacant seat potentially leaves the Council vulnerable to inaction on important civic issues when there are only four members of the Council and a split vote occurs.  There has never been a time when the Council could not fill a vacant seat during the mandated thirty day period.

  • ” A requirement that the Council hold two regular meetings per month is eliminated. The proposed language would require the City Council to hold meetings on a regular basis. (Section 2.07 (a))\”

Councils throughout the area hold two or more regular Council meetings per month. Language could be proposed to accommodate changes in schedules. 

  • ” The proposed amendments also modernize the prohibition against employment discrimination to include all classes protected under U.S. and state law. (Section 5.02)”

Prohibition against employment discrimination is the law and does not require a Charter change.  Including the proposed language in the Charter will make no change to how Piedmont handles employment discrimination because Piedmont honorably and consistently follows state and federal laws barring discrimination.

  • ” The provision for filling vacancies on the Board of Education is changed to match the proposed amendments for the City Council, as described above for Section 2.05 (c). Staff consulted with the Piedmont Unified School District which agreed that this amendment, along with one other technical amendment to Article 7 should be included in the proposed amendments.”

The Board of Education must take a position on the City Charter changes by resolution. The details of the proposed changes are not noted here.

  • “A marked up version of the Charter containing each of the proposed amendments is available on the City’s web site at http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us.   Pursuant to section 9.07 of the Charter, any proposed amendments must be presented to the qualified voters of the City for approval.”

The marked up version has been difficult to follow, making the sweeping changes difficult for the public to understand.

  • “Public comment is invited and encouraged at this meeting. Written comments may be submitted to the City Council at citycouncil@piedmont.ca.gov or by US Mail to City Clerk, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611. All comments submitted will become part of the public record.
  • The meeting will be televised live on KCOM-TV, Channel 27, the City’s government TV station and will be available through streaming video on the City’s web site www.ci.piedmont.ca.us.For further information, contact Assistant City Administrator/ City Clerk John O. Tulloch via email at cityclerk@piedmont.ca.gov or via phone at (510) 420-3040.”

The full staff report for the meeting can be accessed > HERE.

COMMENTS MAY BE SENT TO THE COUNCIL MEMBERS AS BELOW:

Robert McBain, Mayor rmcbain@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 420-3048 2nd Term Exp. 11/20
Teddy Gray King, Vice Mayor tking@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 420-3048 1st Term Exp. 11/18
Jennifer Cavenaugh jcavenaugh@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 420-3048 1st Term Exp. 11/20
Tim Rood trood@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 239-7663 1st Term Exp. 11/18
Betsy Smegal Andersen bandersen@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 420-3048 Unexpired Term Exp. 11/18
Jun 19 2018

City staff together with Groundworks Office, outside consultants for the Linda Beach Plan, have developed a framework to guide the next iteration of the Linda Beach Plan.

Based on robust feedback from the community, Park Commission, Recreation Commission and City Council on the 35% Linda Beach Master Plan Concept, City staff together with Groundworks Office has developed the following framework to guide the next iteration of the plan.

1. The Skate Spot will be removed from the master plan and a subcommittee of the Recreation Commission will study other spaces in Piedmont to potentially serve this need.

2. The Tot Lot will:
a. be designed to primarily serve children under the age of 5
b. be similar in size to the existing facility
c. keep kids contained in a safe area
d. have natural shade
e. be readily accessible by stroller with adequate stroller parking
f. have access to restrooms and changing tables

3. How and where to best serve the emerging desire for Pickleball in Piedmont will be studied by a Recreation Commission Subcommittee. In the meantime, Pickleball will be removed from the master plan.

4. Two Tennis Courts will remain in the plan but not at full regulation size. North-South orientation is preferred but not necessary.

5. Multi-age recreation opportunities (eg. bocce ball) will be explored for incorporation in the park.

6. Design will emphasize Linda Avenue as the main entry to the park including moving ADA access from Howard Avenue to Linda Avenue.

7. We will continue to examine opportunities for indoor recreation program space.

8. The park will include picnic tables and an area suitable for small gatherings like birthday parties.

9. Significant landscape buffers will be included along Howard Avenue.

10. A stormwater plan will be refined and clarified.

11. The park will be designed such that it can be closed and secured at night.

12. The Master Plan will acknowledge sensitivity to existing trees clearly identifying trees that will remain as well as conceptually noting replacement trees.

The City staff and Groundworks staff are currently working on adjustments to the Linda Beach Park project schedule, but tentatively, the next iteration of this plan is scheduled to be presented at a joint meeting of the Park and Recreation Commissions on September 5, 2018.

May 19 2018

Higher Parcel Taxes for Piedmont Services and Sewers –

The Piedmont City Council will meet at City Hall, 120 Vista Avenue, on Monday, May 21, 2018, 7:30 p.m. to consider the items on their AGENDA. The meeting will be broadcast live on Channel 27 and from the City website under online videos. 

05/21/18 – 2nd Reading of Ord. 744 N.S. Amending Chapter 9 (Garbage) of the City Code to Conform to the New Collection Services Agreement

05/21/18 – Presentation from Boy Scouts of America, Piedmont Council

05/21/18 – PUBLIC HEARING Regarding the Proposed Budget and Fee Proposals for FY 18-19 and the Levy of the Municipal Services Tax and Sewer Tax

Parcel taxes for City services and the Sewer Fund Tax are proposed to be increased. 

a. Presentation of Report from the Budget Advisory & Financial Planning Committee

b. Report on the FY 18-19 Budget Proposal

Majority of Piedmont’s costs are for personnel. Excerpt below:

“While continuing the cost-sharing agreements and significantly reducing our future obligations for retiree medical, the new contracts approved by the City Council include adjustments to base pay designed to bring employee compensation to within -3% of the median for comparable cities in our region.

In addition, employees will receive compensation adjustments in each of the next three years designed to result in a 3% annual net pay increase. These compensation changes, after almost 7 years of declining net pay, bring our employees closer to median a result in an overall 9% increase in salaries as compared to the prior year budget, which conservatively assumed a 2% salary increase. In addition, as compared to the prior year projection (2017-18), the most significant changes in personnel costs are as follows:

 Health Insurance – Increasing $266,400 over last year primarily due to an estimated 10% increase in medical premiums and the conversion of two positions from non-benefited to benefit eligible. Premiums are adjusted by health care providers on January 1, 2019 and any increase above the established baseline will be shared equally between the City and employees.

 Retirement – Employee retirement costs are increasing $248,900 over last year. After a 4- year phased approach to benefit cost sharing, all City employees have assumed the full cost of their “Employee Contribution” in 2017-18. In addition, employees will continue to contribute a portion of the Employer’s Contribution. In 2018-19, CalPERS will begin phasing in the lowering of the discount rate from 7.5% to 7.0%. As a result, the City expects its contribution and unfunded liability payments to increase by 10%. In total, the City expects to pay approximately 18.3% of salaries in 2018-19 compared to 17.0% in the prior year.”

05/21/18 – Consideration of the Default Electrical Service Option for East Bay Community Energy Residential Customers

Piedmont’s proposed environmentally focused electrical energy program will impact all Piedmont PG&E ratepayers. The City Council action being considered is an effort  to lessen the use of energy sources determined to harm the environment, such as gas, oil, and coal.

 READ the report above for an explanation. 

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To send comments to the City Council as a whole, and/or regarding a City Council agenda item, please email citycouncil@ci.piedmont.ca.us. <CLICK

To send via U.S. Mail, please use the following address:

City Council
City of Piedmont
120 Vista Avenue
Piedmont, CA 94611

May 18 2018

At 7:30 p.m. on May 7th, 2018, there was a City Council meeting at Piedmont’s City Council Chambers about the Linda Beach Master Plan. The details of the current plan were laid out and many residents voiced their opinion. Many people who live close to Beach had great concerns about the plan. The point of these City Council meetings is for the citizens to address the Council on any subject.

The Piedmont City Council meets on the first and third Mondays of each month. Though the main focus of this meeting was the Linda Beach Master Plan people were there for a variety of reasons.

One woman named Andrea Zombrona attended the meeting to keep pushing to “make Piedmont a Sanctuary City.” She had already written to the City Council, met with them, and had started a petition with the Chief of Police.

The main focus of the meeting was on the master planning and the biggest issue with that was whether to put in pickle ball courts or not. Many people love pickle ball and wanted the courts to play on, but neighbors of Beach knew that this would create a lot of noise, not only because pickle ball itself is loud but also because a nearby bridge helps reflect the sound.

I don’t think they should put in the pickle ball courts, because if I were living nearby I know I would be upset if there was so much noise. Another concerned citizen named Adam Porter had an idea to make the big turf field grass because it is better for the environment and studies have shown that kids who play sports on turf fields have higher rates of brain cancer.

by Adam Porter, Piedmont High School Senior

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Pickleball, Skateparks, and Toddlers

    Piedmont’s May 7th City Council meeting saw the introduction of the 35% Linda Beach Master Plan. The new plan originated with a suggestion from the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Committee. The goal of the project is to get more residents to use the park, therefore making Piedmont’s investments in public parks more worthwhile. At the time of the City Council meeting, the plan for the park was at an early, “35%” stage.

There are several parts of the plan that have inspired residents to speak out strongly against them, such as the pickleball courts, the reduction in size of the toddler area, the addition of a skate park, and even changing the orientation and size of the tennis court.

Starting with the pickleball courts, there has been a sharp increase in interest for pickleball over the past couple years in Piedmont. The last two pickleball events organized in Piedmont both attracted dozens of players of all ages, prompting the group to ask the Park Commission to include pickleball courts in the new Linda Beach plan.

While there are dozens of players in favor of this addition, many residents and rival tennis players see this as a nuisance because of the “extreme” noise of pickleball games, and the removal of a tennis court to make way for the pickleball court. One rival tennis player’s rebuttal to the praise given to the pickleball court plan proved to be too much for one pickleball player, who became very annoyed and spoke out from his seat while the tennis player was still talking.

One resident of forty years, Lisa Nubble, had no problem with making the tennis courts regulation size, or at least close to regulation size, but said that the pickleball courts were “too much.” Instead of focusing on additions, she said, more attention should be given to maintaining the park better. She attended to see how these new plans would affect her neighborhood, since she lives right across from the park.

One of the other controversial additions to the park is the skate park. Many residents also saw this as an unacceptable source of noise, and don’t want it near their homes. They say that skate parks are placed in “undesirable areas” for a reason, and that the people that skate parks attract “shouldn’t have business in Piedmont, especially at night, because they bring trouble.”

I see the skate park as a something that could positively impact young kids in their search for hobbies and sports. I have friends, especially one friend, for which skateboarding is one of the most important things in his life. He’s been doing it for more than ten years, and it’s honestly amazing to see him continue to be so dedicated to the sport.

Even though I don’t skateboard and I wouldn’t use that part of Linda Beach Park for myself, I want that opportunity to be given to other kids in the area. I’d also like to add that I find it distasteful and selfish when I see Piedmonter so quickly saying “Piedmont is for us, not them.” Piedmont is a public place, our parks are public, and they are open to everyone. Anyway, I wanted to be helpful to the park planners, so I suggested adding an irregular surface to the Oakland/Linda Bridge, similar to the walls in audio recording studios, so that less noise is reflected and amplified towards homes.

A City Council member replied that the plan was in an early stage, so details like that haven’t been figured out, but I hope that the Parks Commission does find a way to prevent noise from being a problem so the skate park can be approved.

In this new plan, the area available to toddlers will be cut in half, which is proving to be a big problem with this plan. For many people in the neighborhood, the toddler area is very helpful to them as it helps keep toddlers active and occupied. Cutting the area for toddlers could affect the area’s effectiveness at keeping all those kids occupied at the same time.

Other changes for the park include revising the entrances to increase or decrease foot traffic, depending if they are in residential neighborhoods or not; making the entrance at Howard ADA accessible; and the addition of an outdoor classroom.

I’m in favor of most of the proposed ideas. I think that having a skate park in that area could land the City of Piedmont in a sticky situation if residents decide to sue because their property values go down, etc., but I think there should be another skate park in Piedmont. The existing one is comically out of the way and has restrictive hours. It’s also intimidating for people new to the sport. I think an outdoor classroom area is a great idea, more ADA accessible entrances is always good, and a better tennis court layout will please the tennis players. I’m excited to see how this plan develops in the coming weeks.

by Aaron Jeffries, Piedmont High School Senior

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Fights Erupt as Piedmont Introduces New Linda Beach Plan

    Last week, at the government meeting at Piedmont City Hall, issues regarding the Linda Beach project were discussed. People had passionate opinions on every single aspect of the plan.

    The meeting was held by the City Council, with the intention to present the new Linda Beach plan. The plan allowed for many new additions to the existing area. Some new ideas the plan included were: a skate park, “tot lot” to bring toddlers to while watching baseball games, etc., pickleball courts, more tennis courts, and a different layout for schoolmates.

The major issue that many people had was with the addition of pickleball courts. Several families with kids spoke out about how the noise would be too loud for their children to sleep at night. Many old couples said that they would not have bought a house here if they had known that pickleball would be added to their neighborhood.

The most entertaining feud between two speakers was with one man playing a pickleball sound recording while talking, to prove his point of how loud it was, and the next man who brought in genuine pickleball paddles and balls to show that the sound isn’t as loud as the first man’s recording showed. Overall, the majority of people were against pickleball.  Most of the speakers on the pickleball situation were homeowners nearby Linda Beach.

Regarding the issues, Councilmember Jennifer Cavenaugh and City Administrator Paul Benoit answered most questions and concerns asked by the speakers.

 In my opinion, pickleball courts should be built at Linda Beach Elementary, because these homeowners chose to live near a school with existing tennis courts and other sports fields, which already create noise on their own.

On the way out, I stopped Lisa Nubbel to ask a few questions on her stance. I asked why she attended the meeting, and she told me that she comes to these meetings to oppose pickleball. She lives a block away from the sports field at Beach Elementary, and is already frustrated with the noise that comes from there.  She said she is planning to keep coming back to the City Council meetings to prove her point and fight against the idea of pickleball.

I spoke out at the meeting because I noticed that at the beginning, the Council members stated that there were no funds yet for the plan to take action. I asked how they were planning to raise the money and they were hesitant to respond, and replied that they were not yet sure, but will eventually tax Piedmont residents to acquire money.

It looks like Piedmont will have difficulty getting this plan approved by everyone– some people will remain opposed to pickleball and other new additions.

by Paige Avagliano, Piedmont High School Senior

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On the night of May 7th, 2018, the City Council of Piedmont, CA called into session a meeting with the soft, yet sharp pounding of a small gavel.  After hasty formalities by the Council, Erica Pastor, CPA began her presentation about the recent audit. She described her role as an auditor, and what she was doing in Piedmont. Pastor said that the task of auditors is to give an independent opinion on financial statements in the city. The main items that she was looking into were cash receipts, cash disbursements, and payroll. Pastor’s presentation was thankfully not extensive, as MUN CPA’s had found no “material weaknesses, deficiencies, or compliance exceptions.” The fortunate, yet abrupt end of the presentation brought not only relief to the City Council members, but to most of the residents as well, as they seemed to be more focused on another issue that had yet to be discussed. This issue, was  the redesign of Linda Beach Park.

Park designer, Will Smith introduced many conceptual ideals and landscapes that might be in the park. While there have been no concrete decisions made in this process of the design, Mr. Smith says he will strive to follow “seven guidelines of design process” when designing the new park: park identity, circulation and access, green space, stormwater management, multi-purpose space event space, and public arts.

In addition to Mr. Smith’s presentation, Sara Lillevand, Piedmont Recreation Department Director also came forward to answer the Council’s questions regarding the Linda Beach Master Plan. Lillevand admitted that the project was “no small task at all,” but that the City was listening to the residents, and nothing was final yet.

Many of the residents who had volunteered to speak seemed eager to address their problems and needs for the new park. Piedmont mother Amy Bauer was disappointed to see that the tot lot had been reduced in size by nearly 50%. She said even the current tot lot “is full most of the time” and that this reduction in size will make it harder for parents to find a place to play for their young children.

Most residents were concerned about the noise that the new redesign would cause. The addition of pickleball courts, as well as a skate park, would create so much noise, that it would bother neighbors, and depreciate the value of some homes. Most residents spoke against the addition of the courts, with one man playing a recording of pickleball over a loudspeaker.

Grace Neufeld, Executive Director and Lead Case Manager of American Neighborhood Solutions, Inc, was interviewed about her profession and why she had attended the City Council meeting that night. Neufeld said that a community member had come to her door and told her about the additions of pickleball courts, and skate ramps next to Beach Field. Even though she is not a resident of Piedmont, Neufeld came because she believes that “people who live in neighborhoods should set the standard for living” and how she would like to organize the community in order to stop this “blight” from being brought into their neighborhood.

The plan to redesign Beach Park is only about 35% finished, according to Lillevand, and the entire team is extremely willing to listen to what Piedmonters have to say about the park, she stressed that the park would evolve and change with what the community wants.

by Mason Barnes, Piedmont High School Senior

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

What Should Be Done?

Pickleball? In My Neighborhood?

Residential neighborhoods are always looking for improvements to where they live through parks. Most residents find joy in seeing young children playing in the parks, or old friends coming together for a game of tennis. The residents near Linda Beach Park seem to want a noiseless neighborhood, despite the fact that they live just off a busy avenue.

On Monday, May 7th, I attended a City Council meeting to look over a 35% completed conceptual plan for the new Linda Beach Park remodel. This plan started in October and since then, the Groundworks team of Berkeley, led by architect and landscaper Will Smith, has met with the community multiple times to gather insight from the residents near Linda Beach Park about what they would like to see added or remodeled. The meeting last Monday was the second in a series of five meetings to perfect the plan.

Residents of Piedmont, specifically those who live near the park, all watched while the Groundworks team shared their plan and then one by one, shared their own ideas in front of the Council. I had to watch from the completely full overflow room because so many residents were interested in this new plan.

One topic that was widely discussed was the new pickleball courts the City was planning to implement in place of the tennis courts. Jim Landes, the head coach for the varsity tennis teams and a tennis coach for younger kids through his clinics, expressed his concerns for getting rid of the tennis courts at Linda Beach Park.

As a tennis player on the team, I spoke out with my support for keeping the courts at Linda as I have some memories of when I was younger playing on those courts and how the extra space to play is useful to all ages of players.

Some other residents spoke of their concern against the pickleball courts for the noise. One man brought in a stereo and presented his points over the sound of a pickleball game, which all could agree made it extremely difficult to hear him. There were few residents in support of the pickleball courts, but the ones who were there were extremely passionate about their sport. I believe the pickleball courts at the Middle School are more than adequate and with fewer residents surrounding the Middle School making them the optimal place for pickleball.

One of the other major topics was the tot lot. The current tot lot is a fun area with lots of structures for toddlers to play and be safe while their parents watch. In the new plan, the tot lot would be moved behind the field so parents could watch their toddlers while their other children play a sports game, however the new tot lot would be half the size of the previous one.

One concerned resident was Piedmont High senior, Samantha Fanger. Fanger has a younger brother who is a huge fan of the tot lot and her concerns, along with other residents, was that so many kids in the one area would be detrimental to the children because of the tiny space and the popularity of the tot lot.

I believe that the new location of the tot lot is an improvement, but the size needs to be close or equal to the current one to accommodate everyone.

The last major topic was the skateboard park that was to be placed right next to the Oakland Avenue Bridge that goes over Linda Avenue. One resident stated, “I would not have moved to this area if I had known a skatepark and pickleball courts would be right next to my house.” Others were concerned for safety of the skateboarders near the tot lot as there is no curb or anything stopping a stray skateboard in the plan.

I believe that there is no other place in Piedmont for this skateboard park given that the one at Coaches Field has limited hours and limited access. Also, given the fact that the skatepark will be right next to a bridge, I would hope that there could be something implemented to absorb the sound. Most of the government officials did not speak in support of or against any idea but instead, thanked everyone for voicing their concerns and for coming to the meeting.

After the meeting, I interviewed Barbara Love, an avid tennis player, pickleball player, and a past resident of the Linda Avenue neighborhood. She was at the meeting to support the new plans for Linda Beach Park and to encourage the two tennis court plan and to oppose the one tennis court plan. She was surprised so many people were against the pickleball courts and had learned more details about the plan that she was previously known of  before. She was shocked by how many people were there in opposition to the plan. Her next step would be to spread the word around to the community to support the plan and put the plan further into action.

I would like to acknowledge the City Council’s efforts in beautifying Piedmont and continuing to do what is best for the citizens. I feel optimistic that the Linda Beach Park will benefit all and will be an excellent feature of Piedmont.

by Kate Gustke, Piedmont High School Senior

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Have you ever tried to use the bathroom at Linda Beach Field? Have you seen the rundown, empty space next to the Oakland Avenue Bridge?

These are two of the issues concerning the Linda Beach Park area that are  being addressed by a new master plan for renovation of the city property.

The Linda Beach Park changes are an important part of the plan, yet would negatively impact some nearby residents. The Piedmont City Council meeting on May 7, 2018 addressed the Linda Beach Field Master Plan content completed so far.

The Piedmont City Council serves the City of Piedmont  by reviewing the city’s department budgets, deciding how to spend the City’s budgets and overseeing City projects.  The Council meets on the 1st and 3rd Mondays of each month.

The Master Plan is being created by an architectural design team, and is in early stages of development. For this process to move forward, an audit team must make sure that Piedmont is financially able to complete the renovation.

As the City Council meeting began, a member of the outside audit team gave a presentation about the City audit. She reported that the audit went smoothly, and Piedmont is in good shape, however there are insufficient funds currently available for the Linda Beach Field project.

A member of the architectural design team came to the podium to give a presentation on the Master Plan. He led off by saying that the plan is only a 35% conceptual design. Many adjustments are expect to be made to the plan. So far, the field will be left as it is, the tot lot will be moved to the current location of the bathrooms, the tennis courts will be given more space within the fences, and bathrooms will be put on both ends of the Park. Pickleball is a growing sport in the community of Piedmont, so they planned to create eight pickleball courts within the tennis courts. There is also a plan to build a skatepark at the base of the Oakland Avenue Bridge.

The major issues with the plan are the pickleball courts and the skatepark.

While I stated in the meeting that a skatepark would be a cool addition since I enjoy skateboarding, I learned that not everyone would believe that the skatepark would be an improvement for Piedmont.

Many residents complained that these two facilities, pickleball and skateboard,  will create constant noise. The Linda Beach area is at the bottom of a valley with a concrete bridge that amplifies sound. More than three residents came up to the podium to talk about how much these new facilities will pollute their homes with the awful sound of pickleballs being struck and skateboards constantly rolling around. Multiple residents said that they would not have purchased their property had they known that these two changes were planned to be installed.

I believe that installing pickleball courts would cause a constant piercing noise that would echo through the valley and disrupt the lives of all of the neighbors. Installing the courts would be in blatant disregard of the neighbors that live nearby.

I interviewed Dave Johnson, who is a resident that had recently purchased a home on the hill above Linda Beach Field. He had been hearing about the possibility of a renovation project and attended the meeting to learn more about the problems that could be created, and speak about them. He says that he does not know a next step for addressing his issue other than attending the next City Council meeting on the issue and speaking his mind.

This City Council meeting was very informative on the Master Plan for the Linda Beach Field renovation, and gave the people of Piedmont a great opportunity to speak their minds about what could be built in the Beach Field area. The plan holds many improvements for the area, but there are many residents that could have problems with the noise created. I look forward to what is coming in the future for the Beach Field renovation project.

by Grant Keating, Piedmont High School Senior

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Remodelling Linda Beach Park: The Battle Against Noise

On May 7, 2018, the Piedmont City Council met, like they always do on the first and third Mondays of the month, to discuss the early iteration of the plans for the makeover of Linda Beach Park. At the meeting the current plans were shown and critiqued by the Council members, but the most important part of the meeting was the feedback given by Piedmont citizens attending the meeting. It became clear that there is a large divide on how the citizens of Piedmont would like the construction process to go; it is an issue that the City Council will have to take into deep consideration as the process goes forward.

The presentation of the potential plans began with a short recap of Piedmont’s past two audits, which were completed and presented by Auditor Erica Pastor. To summarize Erica’s work, over the past two years Piedmont’s financial record has been relatively clean and in her words: “There were no material weaknesses, no deficiencies, and no major downfalls, meaning that there are no financial worries as the city enters this process.”

Following Erica, the entire 35 percent plan for the Linda Beach Park was presented. The developers wanted to emphasize from the beginning that there would be no additions onto the Linda Beach school buildings, schoolmates, or Linda Beach Field itself, but rather the areas surrounding them. This means they desire to change the tennis court, the tot lot, bathroom, and possibly even add a skating area on the south side of the lot next to the bridge on Oakland Avenue.

The developers then presented their seven areas of focus, or as they called them “guidelines,” for the Park. They told the Council that they want to focus on: park identity, circulation and access, green space, stormwater management, a multi-purpose space, event space, and public art. The intended purpose of these items is to provide a public use, and for the parts of the list which are already incorporated on the lot, like green and event space, they want to expand on those capabilities and maximize the uses of the lot. To accomplish the goals, there will be major changes done to the North and South ends of the lot, while the middle of the Park will remain nearly unchanged since most of the space is taken up by the turf field.

For the North side, there is a large public following of Pickleball, so there will be Pickleball lines added to the Tennis courts, as well as a whole new multi-purpose space and a small plaza filled with public art. As for the South side, the plan is to add a skateboard area and new bleachers facing the turf field allowing parents to comfortably watch their kids play.

There are currently also plans to add new tot lots on both sides of the Park as well as new bathrooms on both sides, so parents don’t have to cross the entire lot and take their kids with them if they need to use the restroom. Following this presentation, citizens of Piedmont were invited to give their input.

Before the meeting began, I interviewed a man named Daniel who was attending the meeting to voice his concerns about the project. Daniel told me that he was worried about the amount of noise that he would be hearing throughout the construction process, as well as after the construction. He was upset with the ideas of adding Pickleball courts and a skateboard area, stating that the noise would be too overwhelming for the area’s residents, as they already deal with the noise of tennis, baseball, and the dog park.

Daniel also disliked the idea of having to suffer through another period of construction since the area had just endured the construction of the townhouses on Linda Avenue. He told me until he gets the peace and quiet he desires, he will continue to attend City Council meetings and relentlessly fight for his side.

Daniel’s thoughts on the matter reflected the ideas of every other resident around Linda Beach Park, as citizen after citizen came to the podium complaining about the constant noise.

However, there were a few avid Pickleball players who were in great support of the addition of the Pickleball courts. These players stated that the public’s desire to play this game that is quickly gaining popularity outweighs the burden of some noise, and they added that the amount of noise being told by the residents was over exaggerated.

During this public section, the Council members showed no preference to either side of the issue, but in the future they will likely be on the side of the Pickleball players, as they have a larger number of supporters.

I believe that it is in the city’s best interest to move ahead with this construction. However, I do understand that the amount of construction and noise is far too high being familiar with residents of the area.  They have spoken about the noise waking them up early and keeping them awake late, and it makes them want to pull out their hair. But, after seeing the final product of the Hampton Field remodel, I would have to side with the Pickleballers, and say that a renovation of the Park would be a great thing for the City of Piedmont, and the City Council should move forward with this plan.

by Ryan Addiego, Piedmont High School Senior

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Potential Linda Beach Project Draws Big Crowd to Piedmont City Council Meeting

The Linda Beach Playfield is a hot topic these days around Piedmont, California.  Its future is currently being decided, and many Piedmont citizens voiced their opinion on the topic on May 7th at the City Council meeting.  The Piedmont City Council meets every first and third Monday of each month. It provides citizens with an update on what the City of Piedmont is currently dealing with, as well as an opportunity for citizens to express their own personal opinions, issues, or advice to the City Council members.

 I attended the May 7th City Council meeting, and before the Linda Beach Playfield was discussed, there was a presentation made about the June 30, 2017 audit that a company had performed on Piedmont.  According to the report, the City had great financing, and quickly after the presentation, the audit report was voted on and accepted by the City Council.

The Council then moved on to the topic of plans for the Linda Beach Playfield.  It was announced that an architecture firm had produced a 35% plan for the changes that would be made to the field. The firm emphasized that they were very early in the process of making changes to the field, and that nothing would be voted on that night.

A representative of the architecture firm gave a presentation that displayed the plan. The main changes proposed were to move and reduce the size of the tot lot, increase the size of the tennis court area and add pickleball courts, build a skatepark near the Oakland Avenue Bridge, and build an additional play area where the tot lot used to be.

The City Council members asked clarifying questions, and participated in the discussion with the citizens, but did not give an obvious opinion for or against the plan.  However, the citizens expressed strong opinions both for and against the proposed changes. Those who supported the new plane argued that the addition of the sport of pickleball would benefit the community by providing another healthy outdoor activity that people of all ages can enjoy.  One citizen brought up a recent pickleball clinic, in which more than eighty Piedmont residents of all ages showed up. He argued that this demonstrated a large amount of interest in the sport of pickleball.

What seemed to be the biggest argument against the plan was the increase in noise that would be created with the addition of pickleball and a skatepark.  One citizen used a speaker to play the sound of a pickleball game, in order to demonstrate how disruptive and intrusive it would be. Another citizen who recently purchased a home near the park, explained that he would not have bought that house had he known about the proposed plans.  Many of the people who were concerned about the noise strongly suggested that the city perform a sound study on the potential effects of the plan.

Before the meeting began, I spoke with Richard Benton, who lives very near the park.  We discussed the proposed plan, and while he was not completely opposed to making changes to the park, he felt like the current plan had many flaws.  He expressed concern about the noise, traffic, and the reduced size of the tot lot. “I have a deck right near the tennis courts, and pickleball would just be too noisy,” Benton said.  At the time, Benton’s plan of action consisted solely of expressing his disapproval of the plan at the meeting.

    While I understand both arguments, I personally believe that the City should listen to the concerns of the homeowners who live near the park.  Living in an area that is noisy is very unpleasant, and could drive away current and future homeowners and devalue the property surrounding the park.  I am in favor of improving the park, but not at the expense of the surrounding families.

by Ben Fujita, Piedmont High School Senior 

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

On May 2, 2018 in the Piedmont City Council Chambers, the Park Commission met to discuss current and future issues with our public parks and properties. As the crowd slowly filed in, the Commission Chair announced that the meeting had officially started and the small crowd in attendance went silent.

This meeting covered topics in the parks and recreation sector of the government. The main purpose of this meetings was to inform the Commission and public of problems in their parks, take public input, hold discussion, and make recommendations to the City Council and hopefully solve problems. This meeting  happens once a month.

Topics that arise in these meeting are citizen complaints, new park ideas, solutions, and information on the prior month from the Public Works Supervisor, Dave Frankel.  Mr. Frankel talked about what his team has accomplished and provided details on their current projects.

The Commission started the meeting discussing a problem that has occurred on Pala Avenue of residents illegally pruning the trees outside their house. A  couple of residents and their gardeners were caught illegally pruning trees.  They were fined, but they did not accept the fine without a fight. Pruning a tree can kill the tree if not done correctly and can also kill the vibe of the block as the tree is not nearly as beautiful.

Apparently the residents complained that the trees were growing too high and  obstructed their view which they felt could decrease their property value. So the commissioners discussed the possibility of planting new trees on Pala Avenue that would not obstruct the residents view. Dave Frankel suggested  purple plume trees should be planted, because they do not grow above a certain height and would stay out of the way of residents views. All of the commissioners agreed to look into the possibility of new plantings on Pala Avenue in order to satisfy the residents. No one from the crowd spoke for or against this topic.

The other main topic discussed was the trash in Piedmont Park that is left by high school students. This topic was brought up by Lena Flescher, a student speaker, and the topic ended up being one of the main points of the meeting. She told the commissioners that punishment must be enforced in order for students to finally pick up the trash. Nancy Kent, lead staff to the commission, agreed with Lena.  Ms. Kent spoke about this issue as she has already been involved with teachers to try and fix the trash problem. Kent also encouraged the students in attendance to contact her with ideas on ways students can become more involved in the process.

In speaking to Mr. Frankel, I learned he was there because he is required to do a report at the end of each meeting on how his sector of the government is doing and to discuss any problems that he may encounter. They may also call on him in the middle of a meeting to give his professional opinion on something such as which tree would work best in a location. Mr. Frankel did not have any crazy reaction to the meeting as he has sat through many of them and knows exactly what to expect. As for addressing his concerns, Mr. Frankel said he and his crew are going into the park the next day to remove all of the trash.

 by Carson Gerhardy, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author. 

May 13 2018

Piedmont Recreation Commission meeting Wednesday, May 16, 2018, 7:30 p.m., Piedmont City Hall, 120 Vista Avenue. 

The meeting will be broadcast live on Channel 27 and on the City website under videos for the Recreation Commission. Members of the public can attend and participate in the meeting. 

Agenda includes:

  1. Update on Proposed Schoolmates Staffing Model for 2018-19
  2. Update on Linda Beach Master Plan
  3. Consideration of the Re-Establishment of a Subcommittee on Tennis Court Use, Including Pickleball
  4. Consideration of the Establishment of a Subcommittee on Serving the Needs of the Piedmont Skateboarding Community
  5. Update on Capital Improvement Projects Review Committee (CIP)

READ the full agenda and prior meeting minutes > May Recreation Commission Meeting Packet

May 12 2018

Students Observe Piedmont’s Active Park Commission 

Did you know that it is against code to prune a street tree, and you can be subject to a fine for doing so? Or that our Liquidambars are being slowly replaced by Purple-Leaf Plums, or that one hard working team of individuals is single-handedly saving the paws, ears, and noses of Piedmont dogs? These are things I learned during the May 2 Piedmont Park Commission meeting in the Piedmont City Council Chambers.

While Piedmont residents see the benefits of their work every day, few know of the Piedmont Park Commission, which meets once a month to discuss the flora we place near our streets and in our parks, as well as renovations to Piedmont parks.

    This month, the Piedmont Park Commission met to discuss the replanting of trees in our parks and on our streets, Arbor Day, the Linda Beach Master Plan, and the installation of a new bench. The meeting started with a discussion of the replacement of Liquidambars with Purple-Leaf Plums, and the potential problems that the Liquidambar root systems could cause during removal. The commissioners wanted consistency, and wanted to ensure that the plum was the designated tree for replacement. A commissioner pointed out that using plums would restrict the view of residents less, and a discussion about whether residents and gardeners can prune city-owned trees ensued (They cannot, and can be subject to a fine should they be caught pruning).

    The commissioners then acknowledged the Piedmont Garden Club’s donation to insert strip lighting into a public building. The commissioners commented on its expert illumination of the deck and its both contemporary and traditional aura.

    Moving on from this, the commissioners discussed a new meeting about renovations to the Linda Beach Park. They wish to hold that meeting in the Beach Auditorium, and wanted it to reach specifically the neighborhood near the park as they would be the most affected by the changes. PHS student Lena Fleischer spoke out about this issue, saying that the installation of a new skate park and other attractions would not have too much of an effect on the residents’ quality of life, as they are used to noise from Beach Elementary. The commissioners wanted to encourage walking rather than driving to the park and discussed how an added parking lot would affect these numbers.

    PHS students Katherine Irving and Isa West spoke about the planting of non-native species in Piedmont parks, emphasizing the need for more local plants. PHS student Natasha Yskamp-Long spoke about littering in Piedmont Park, and a discussion ensued about how to best keep students from littering.

     Public Works Supervisor Dave Frankel then gave his monthly maintenance report, in which he discussed the ongoing battle against weeds. In particular, he pointed out that since his team does not use herbicides, they must do all the weeding by hand. I discussed this point with him later, and found that his team is responsible for removing as many foxtails as they can from the dog parks, which reduces the risk of dogs getting infections from embedded foxtails in their paws, ears, and even noses.

     A family I know recently had a dog die from a foxtail, which reached the dog’s brain, so I know firsthand how dangerous these plants can be, and am infinitely grateful for the hard work Frankel and his team put into hand-weeding the parks.

    Frankel then went into further detail about the planting of plums and the replacement of American Elms with London Planes. He then discussed the 5 phases of the removal of American Elms, and that they now have only 4 elms left to remove and replace with London Planes. The Commission then ended with announcements concerning the date of the next Linda Beach plan meeting.

    I interviewed Supervisor of Public Works Dave Frankel. Frankel was not here to speak out on a specific issue.  As supervisor, his job is to give a monthly brief of his team’s work at every Park Commission. This month he brought up the issues of hand-weeding, and how it is taking them a lot more work and time than it would with the use of chemicals. Frankel will be back next month to give another briefing, and will presumably be back for every other Park Commission as well, to inform them of the latest on the removal of trees, replanting of new ones, and destruction of weeds. Frankel thinks the meeting went well.

by Katherine Irving, Piedmont High School Senior

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 Illegal Tampering with Trees Causes Concern

On Wednesday May 2, the Piedmont Park Commission held their monthly meeting in the Piedmont City Council Chambers. The meetings are held to discuss and receive updates on parks, plants and other environmental aspects within Piedmont.

The meeting started off with a report of three damaged trees at 426 Pala Avenue by Nancy Kent, Parks and Projects Manager. It was noted that the trees were decaying and  concern for branch failure with their poor structures. Jim Horner, member of the commission, recommended observing the trees across the street, which are liquidambar styraciflua and are located just underneath the street’s power lines. Horner also recommended removing those three trees now and place them elsewhere. He finished by saying that the planting should be protected when they are being removed.

The first speaker on this issue was Dave Frankel, the Public Works Supervisor, who said that the trees on Pala Avenue were left as they were found and that there was evidence of illegal pruning and topping by previous residents. The neighborhood block contains a large number of liquidambar styraciflua trees, all planted in tight spacing, which has caused decay and water sprout branch tear outs. Frankel recommended that all of the liquidambar trees be replaced with fruitless plum trees because they won’t impact the views from homes like the liquidambar trees do.

The next topic was the acknowledgement of the installation of new LED lighting around the Tea House. In 2016, the Piedmont Garden Club made a generous donation to the city to upgrade the lighting around the Tea House. Unfortunately, when the mature oak tree near the house died and was removed, the small downlights that hung from the tree’s branches were lost. This made the area feel quite dark and lifeless but the recently installed new lighting was made possible thanks to the collaboration with Thomas Skadski of Lumen Works, in which they designed LED lighting that could be mounted underneath the benches to provide a warm glow to help revitalize the edges of the Tea House decks. Finding the right contractor for this was difficult until the staff began working with Schulkamp Electric to install the Community Hall pole lights, where they then discovered Lumen Works.

The last and final topic of the meeting had to do with an update on the Linda Beach Playfield Master Plan. The city had held a neighborhood meeting on April 25 to hear from residents about their opinion of the Linda Beach Tot Lot Master Planning project. The attendance was an impressive 50 residents plus and the preferred 35% master plan, site analysis and existing condition plans were posted around the auditorium for review. The audience was encouraged to voice their concerns and other comments to become a factor in the summary of public opinion, which was presented to the City Council on May 7.

When the meeting concluded, I spoke with Dave Frankel. He is the Park Supervisor and he gives a monthly maintenance report to the Piedmont Park Commission. He wants to inform the Park Commission of the activities of public works staff during the prior month.  He has recently learned of different American Elm trees that he may need remove and to start planting new street trees. He has much respect for the volunteers who are on the Piedmont Park Commission and the amount of time they put in because they aren’t getting paid for doing what they do.  They are taking time out of their lives to help make Piedmont a better place. Frankel will continue doing his job including reporting monthly to the commission as well as now taking into account the concerns that were addressed by students at this meeting.

by Dylan Bradsby, Piedmont High School Senior

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From Trees to Rebellious Pruners, and Everything in Between 

    Upon stepping into a Piedmont Park Commission meeting, it becomes quite evident that this is unlike other government meetings. The sound of impassioned debaters and fiery homeowners all pushing for their beliefs is replaced by the quiet discussion of which trees to plant in the coming year, and updates on the work of Piedmont’s maintenance crew. This government body, which meets once a month in the City Council Chambers, comes together to discuss the parks and plants throughout Piedmont, and any changes or improvements to be made to them.

This particular meeting, on May 2nd 2018, lasted an hour, from 5:30 to 6:30 and had a total of zero disagreements among its participants. The meeting commenced with a discussion about the replacement of dying trees throughout Piedmont, but particularly on Pala Avenue. All of the government officials agreed that an effort needs to be made to ensure the consistency of street trees throughout the neighborhood, so Purple Leaf Plum trees were designated the new street tree for Piedmont. It was decided that these trees would also eventually replace many Liquidambar trees that would soon begin to obstruct views, and will also face issues as they are growing underneath power lines. The Plum Tree were chosen due to their ability to be easily planted amidst Piedmont’s hilly topography, and their low height, which ensures that they do not obstruct any views.

A brief statement was then made about the success of Piedmont’s Arbor Day this year, as well as the success of the LED lights that were donated by the Piedmont Garden Club for the Tea House Bench, which are now installed.

A quick mention was made surrounding the illegal pruning of street trees by residents.  To the surprise of all attending, it was discovered that those caught performing this daring act could be fined, and have been.

Commission Chair Betsy Goodman brought up the hot topic in the meeting -the Linda Beach Park. A meeting was recently held at Egbert W. Beach Elementary School in order to hear the opinions of residents regarding this park renovation. Staff Liaison and Manager of Parks and Projects, Nancy Kent, expressed her enthusiasm regarding the meeting, stating that it was very helpful. Most of the complaints made were surrounding issues with parking, the importance of the tot lot to the neighborhood residents, and issues with the amount of noise a park will attract from people playing sports, skating, and the like.

Piedmont High School Senior and Beach neighborhood resident Lena Fleischer addressed this issue, stating she believed a park would be great for a lot of the local families and children to have a place to play. In addition, she claimed that there was already so much noise coming from Beach Elementary School that a park could hardly turn this neighborhood from a quiet one to a noisy one, when it is already quite noisy.

Next, the issue of trash in Piedmont Park was addressed by Piedmont High School Senior Natasha Yskamp Long. As a frequent user of the park, she has begun to notice high amounts of trash littering it, and even “mountains of hundreds of plastic water bottles.” She credits this increased volume in trash to the lack of follow through regarding the Piedmont Administration’s threat to ban off-campus lunch or get the police involved in the issue.

Student Lena Fleischer then returned to the podium and pitched the idea of hanging up painted signs throughout Piedmont Park to remind students not to litter. Nancy Kent in particular appeared very excited by this idea, and plans were made to discuss it further.

As a Piedmont High student and a member of Piedmont Environmental Club, Natasha’s method, in my opinion, would prove far more effective in eliminating littering in Piedmont Park. I have a more cynical view of the intentions of many of my classmates, and think that handing out detentions to future perpetrators would be much more impactful on the students than signs would be.

Throughout my high school career, I have been a member of two environmental groups, both of which received the fewest number of visitors of any club on club day and have an average turn out of three people during weekly meetings. Although there are many members of the Piedmont High community that care about the environment, the majority do not consider it a high priority, and handing out punishments, such as detention, could have a direct impact on them personally and would show a lot better results.

The last topic brought up at the meeting was that of maintenance. The Piedmont Supervisor for Public Works Dave Frankel updated the room on the extensive and time consuming hand weeding projects that would soon begin in an attempt to avoid using pesticides. In addition, the crew has begun mulching and will soon start planting more London Plane Trees through Piedmont. The staff will begin performing Spring Pathway maintenance and have already fixed a sidewalk and removed a liquidambar tree from Magnolia Avenue.

The Public Works Department has dealt with a couple of Acacia trees that fell down in Piedmont Park, and have pushed back their paving project due to bad weather.   The staff has started their five phase plan for the removal of almost all of the American Elm Trees in Piedmont due to a disease that has impacted most of the trees. There was talk of past replacement of these trees with purported disease resistant Liberty Elm Trees, but this proved to be ineffective as the Liberty Elm Trees were soon infected as well.

After the meeting, I interviewed the aforementioned Piedmont Public Works Supervisor, Dave Frankel, regarding his attendance at the meeting. He said that he attends the Park Commission meetings because it is his job to inform the Parks Commission of the activities of the Public Works Department for the month. He stated that “my concerns are resident concerns.” While he often informs his crew of issues that he sees that need to be taken care of, most of his work is based off of the needs of Piedmont’s residents. Piedmont, it turns out, is a more eventful place than one would think, with Dave Frankel “fielding about 50 calls a day.”  According to Frankel, a big issue he is currently working on is the level of trash in Piedmont Park. Sadly, his team is there almost everyday picking up the trash that should have been disposed of by the students of Piedmont High School. Hopefully, this problem will soon be dealt with by the school so that our helpful public works crew will not have to spend their valuable time picking up after teenagers.

by Isa West, Piedmont High School Senior

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Park Commission: Complaints about Trees Obstructing Views; the Supervisor of Public Works and Students Discuss Park Litter

Last Wednesday, May 2, 2018 at 5:30 pm, the Piedmont’s Park Commission held its monthly meeting in the City Council Chambers. The meeting discussed many things, from the status of specific trees to the Linda Beach Master Plan.

The meeting began with a discussion of the compromised/dying liquidamber trees on multiple streets in Piedmont. Members of the Commission discussed replacing them with purple leaf plum trees due to their greater ability to latch onto the soil. Parks and Project Manager, Nancy Kent, mentioned that “A lot of tree problems that you deal with are at the sidewalk level.”

Supervisor of Public Works, Dave Frankel, informed the Commission that Piedmont Public Works has completed the majority of their tree removal/replanting for the year and is making very good progress. The Commission also discussed some aspects of the process, wherein Frankel informed them that the Public Works team takes pictures of the trees that are removed so that they can be put back in the exact same way. He also mentioned that some trees planted in the last few years have not taken well to their environment and which species of trees would be better for planting in the future.

Member Nancy Kent chimed in regarding resident complaints about their views being obstructed by tall trees. Frankel stated that replacing liquidamber trees with leaf plum trees would help solve that problem because liquidamber trees grow to be extremely tall, while leaf plum trees do not grow beyond a certain height. Frankel also said that residents have been illegally pruning trees. A commissioner asked him what the protocol was in that situation. Frankel explained that residents have been fined for illegally pruning trees in the past, although it is rare because the only way to catch someone doing it is when a neighbor calls into report it.

Students, Katherine Irving and Isabella West, spoke during public comment on the need for local species of trees to be planted instead of foreign trees. They explained that local trees are better for the ecosystem. I agree that planting local trees is better than planting foreign trees. Local animals such as birds and rabbits will be able to live better in the environment that they are adapted for.

The Commission also discussed the Linda Beach Master Plan. Student, Lena Fleischer, gave her thoughts on the project. She mentioned the idea of having a mural painted by local residents on the bridge facing Beach Park.

The Commission wrapped up the meeting by discussing the issue of trash being left by Piedmont High School students at the park. They brainstormed ways of encouraging students to throw away their garbage. The commission reasoned that there are plenty of trash cans so it is not a problem of accessibility.

In an interview with Frankel following the meeting, he explained that his job is to “inform the Parks Department of the Public Works Department’s work they have done in the prior month.” He stated that “my concerns are resident concerns” and his team receives “about 50 phone calls a day.” Frankel also mentioned that he has taken pictures of the park after lunch and sent them to Piedmont School District Superintendent Randall Booker in order to provide evidence of the trash left behind by Piedmont High School students. Frankel urged students who attended the meeting to voice their concerns to Booker by email or in person.

By Max West, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors. 
May 5 2018

 City Council agenda Monday, May 7, 2018, 7:30 p.m. Piedmont City Hall, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont. The meeting is open to the public and will be broadcast on Channel 27 and from the City website under videos. 

Staff reports for the May 7th meeting are below:

05/07/18 – 2nd Reading of Ord. 742 N.S. Amending Chapter 17 – Planning and Land Use of the City Code Regarding Short Term Rentals and Approval of a Resolution Settings Fines and Fees for Short Term Rentals

  1. Both hosted (rooms within a home) and non-hosted (the entire home) short-term rentals are permitted.

  2. In order to operate a short-term rental, a resident must seek and gain City approval for a permit to do so. The resident who has gained a permit from the City to operate a short-term rental is referred to henceforth as a short-term rental permittee.

  • The application is reviewed and acted upon by the Director of Planning or the Director’s designee.
  • The permit is valid for up to one year, until December 31 of the year issued, and may be renewed annually by means of a renewal application.
  1. A short-term rental permit application and renewal applications shall be subject to a fee established by the City Council.
  2. The dwelling unit being used as a short-term rental, whether hosted or non-hosted, must be the primary residence of the permittee.
  3. The short-term rental must be rented for a minimum of two consecutive nights and may not be rented more than 60 days in a calendar year.
  4. A short-term rental permit applicant who is a tenant must gain the consent of the property owner to use the dwelling unit as a short-term rental.
  5. The following dwelling units are prohibited from being used as a short-term rental:
  • Accessory dwelling units, both permitted and unintended; and
  • Multi-family dwelling units (i.e. apartments).
  1. The permittee is required to do the following:
  • Pay an annual business license tax under City Code chapter 10.
  • Maintain general liability insurance in the amount of at least $1,000,000 during the term of the short-term rental permit.
  • Provide his or her contact information to the city, and update any change before renting the property.
  • Provide the dwelling or rooms serving as a short-term rental a smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector, fire extinguisher, and adequate egress.
  • Provide the short-term guest both electronically before the stay and in print during the stay the following information:

o   The short-term rental permittee’s contact information;

o   A diagram of exits, fire extinguisher locations, and fire and police contact numbers;

o   The city’s noise regulations (sections 12.8 – 12.12);

o   The city’s smoking ordinance (chapter 12, article II); and

o   The city’s garbage and recycling guidelines.

  1. Short-term rentals may not be rented for commercial purposes other than for dwelling, sleeping or lodging.
  1. Enforcement includes the ability of the City Council to establish fines by resolution.

05/07/18 – 2nd Reading of Ord. 743 N.S. Making Technical Corrections to Chapter 17 – Planning and Land Use

Parking space size and specifications

Requiring 12 inches between the side of a parking space and the nearest wall or similar obstruction so that drivers and passengers have adequate room to maneuver into and out of a car parked in a garage or carport.

Sign Design Review Permit

Reinstituting a design review permit and design standards specific to signs on private nonresidential properties.

Parking requirements related to Accessory Dwelling Units

Making Piedmont’s Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance consistent with state laws by deleting the prohibition of replacement parking spaces within the 20-foot street yard setback. The City may require replacement parking for the primary dwelling when a garage or carport is demolished for or converted to an Accessory Dwelling Unit.

The scheduling of City Council hearings after a Planning Commission recommendation

Allowing for expeditious processing and thorough preparation in response to appeals, appeals are to be scheduled at least 45 days after the filing of an appeal but all other matters are to be scheduled for the next available regular City Council meeting.

The definition of Floor Area

Clarifying what areas within a building’s envelope are considered floor area and would be subject to the floor area ratio limits so that new additions to buildings do not circumvent the City’s regulatory goals of limiting the bulk of a house in relation to the size of the lot and encouraging development within the existing envelope.

05/07/18 – Receipt of a Report on the Timeline for the November 6, 2018 General Municipal Election

05/07/18 – Approval of a Resolution to be Presented to Volunteers at the Annual Volunteer Reception for 2018    May 15, 2018.

05/07/18 – Receipt of the FY 2016-2017 Audited Financial Statements

05/07/18 – Receipt of a Report on the 35% Conceptual Design for the Linda Beach Master Plan and Possible Direction to Staff

05/07/18 – Update on the Service Options Offered by East Bay Community Energy

05/07/18 – Receipt of the Police Department Quarterly Report for the 1st Quarter of 2018

05/07/18 – Introduction and 1st Reading of Ord. 744 N.S. Amending Chapter 9 (Garbage) of the City Code to Conform to the New Collection Services Agreement

05/07/18 – Consideration of Agreements with Pacific General Engineering in the Amount of $35,660 and Mark W. Shulkamp Electric Company in the Amount of $52,340 for Installation of New Street Lighting on the Oakland Avenue Bridge

05/07/18 – Consideration of the Third Amendment to the Employment Agreement between the City of Piedmont and Paul Benoit