Jul 14 2018

Council would hire, but could not fire.

Facing a strong Administrative staff proposal to diminish the Piedmont City Council’s authority and control, the Council appeared confused, lacking clarity or direction.  Council members questioned issues as basic as whether the Council or the City Administrator should hire and fire the City’s top managers – Police Chief, Fire Chief, Finance Director, etc.

The City Council had paid little attention to the City Charter until there was a desire to accumulate ever greater amounts of revenue in reserve, without clear and specific purposes.

Overriding the unlimited reserve issue became the Administrative staff desire to change how Piedmont is governed. 

The review and changes to the City Charter had been pushed by former and resigned mayor, Jeff Weiler, who wanted the City to not only have a permanent, potentially escalating parcel tax, but who wanted the City to garner and retain in the General Fund Reserves unlimited amounts of revenue.

The City Council asked the Administrative staff to look at the City Charter and propose changes.   The Council was eager to allow the staff to construct their proposals independent of Council originated ideas. Individual Council members were to privately, outside of Council meetings,  submit to the City Administrator Charter changes they wanted.

The Administrative staff came up with a monumental proposed change to Piedmont’s long-held system of governance. The Charter changes proposed will significantly reduce Piedmont’s City Council’s long-held authority and Council responsibility for City services.

City Administrator, Paul Benoit, proposed that the City Council should no longer appoint top Department Heads, Police Chief, Fire Chief, Finance Director, Public Works Director, etc., he, the City Administrator, should have complete hiring and firing authority.

The Council did not totally accept Benoit’s proposal and chose to continue their long-held practice of hiring key positions.  The Council however, relented on Benoit’s proposal to allow him, the City Administrator, to be the sole individuaauthorized to fire key staff members hired by the Council.

The Council, in deference to Benoit, who is well liked by the Council, was also willing to forfeit their right as a Council to direct the Police Chief, Fire Chief, etc.  The Charter revisions as proposed will require all Council direction to go through the City Administrator, even if the Administrator position is vacated or terminated.  If there is a conflict with the City Administrator and a Council hire, the only choice the Council will have is to fire the City Administrator.

Mayor Bob McBain wanted to totally relinquish to the City Administrator the Council’s hiring and firing authority, but this was not supported by other Council members.

The City Administrator proposed governance is a form of governance traditionally found in cities with directly elected mayors who have more executive authority than Piedmont’s largely ceremonial Council-selected mayor, rotating among  their members with limited powers as set out in the City Charter. 

Council questions regarding Charter language stating the Council has authority “to direct” their appointees led to further Council confusion.  Despite specific existing language in the City Charter stating Council members as individuals are not allowed to direct staff members, Benoit argued he did not want the Council as a whole to be able to direct staff members even during Council meetings or emergency situations.

Individual Council members have been known to direct staff without the knowledge of the Council as a whole perhaps encouraged by a City Administrator.  It can be easier and faster for an administrator to gain direction from one person, a Council member, the mayor, than from a majority of the Council as required by the City Charter. 

The City Council and the City Administration, including the City Attorney, in recent years have not been attentive to the intent or language in the City Charter.  Since Piedmont’s long-term attorney retired, a great amount of knowledge on the City Charter has apparently been lost or ignored.

In considering proposals for changing Piedmont’s City Charter, the City Council has held a number of poorly attended, fragmented public meetings.  No independent committee, as in previous years, was formed to carefully consider the complex and important City Charter despite a number of citizen requests. Because of various voids in the questionable proposals, it is obvious  the entire Charter was not carefully considered nor discussed leaving many questioning the process and the proposals.

Significant current issues were never considered during the Council Charter review process. 

Some examples are:

  • requirement for voters to make zoning changes
  • borrowing money for more than one year
  • Council officer vacancies
  • bid advertisements and notifications

The Council agenda for Monday night appears to acknowledge that the Council, City Administrator, and City Attorney have not upheld Piedmont’s City Charter. 

The Council agenda items for the Monday, July 16, 2018 meeting rebuffs the City Charter when it states “Conform to Modern Practice.”  No one would want the City Charter to perpetuate unlawful practices; however, “Modern Practices” infers and confirms non-compliance with Piedmont’s long successful and practical City Charter.  Prime examples of ignoring the Charter are the usurpation of Council authority, borrowing money, and negation of voter approval for zoning changes.

The Council decided to separate the governance issue from the remainder of the Charter revision proposals after sensing the potential opposition to turning over long-held Council authority to the City Administrator.  Piedmont voters will find little transparency in the attempt to change Piedmont governance as noted in the staff report below:

Amendments to the City Charter to Clarify the Reporting Structure for Officers of the City, Clarify the Departments Responsible for Maintenance of Park Lands and Recreational Facilities, and Make Other Amendments to Conform the Charter to Modern Practice 

 Council dropped notion of unlimited General Fund Reserves.

When Kathleen Quenneville, a local authority on civic governance, told the Council that the Charter proposal to eliminate the cap on General Fund Reserves would not be supported by voters, the Council promptly removed the proposal, as it is their desire to not initiate opposition to Council proposals since a prospective voter approved future facilities bond measure is being considered.  Concern was expressed by Council members wanting to keep voters positive about Council actions and proposals, leading to the unlimited General Fund Reserves being dropped, and the separation of City Administration governance from other proposals.

This article does not describe the many other proposals suggested by the Council, however urgency does not appear to be present.  Items continuing to be of concern are:

  • Inconsistencies between the School Board and Council elections – School Board members could seek re-election after sitting out for 4 years, whereas City Council members must sit out for 8 years, unknown in other communities
  • Extension of time to fill Council vacancies from 30 days to 60 days

The Charter change matter will be considered by the Council at 7:30 p.m., Monday, July 16, 2018 in City Hall, 120 Vista Avenue.  The meeting will be broadcast live on Cable Channel 27 and from the City website under videos.

Comments can be made to the City Council 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

Below are the staff reports: 

07/16/18 – Consideration of the Following Actions Related to the Possible Amendment of the City Charter

a. Approval of a Resolution and Measure Proposing Amendments to the City Charter to Modify Term Limits for the City Council, Modify the Procedures for Filling of Vacancies in Elected Offices, and Make Other Amendments to Conform the Charter to Modern Practice

b. Approval of a Resolution and Measure Proposing Amendments to the City Charter to Clarify the Reporting Structure for Officers of the City, Clarify the Departments Responsible for Maintenance of Park Lands and Recreational Facilities, and Make Other Amendments to Conform the Charter to Modern Practice 

07/16/18 – Consideration of Options Regarding a Direct Argument and a Rebuttal Argument Regarding the Charter Amendment Measure on the November 6, 2018 Ballot

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 2 2018

Piedmont City Council to Consider Proposed Charter Changes June 4, 2018, 7:30 p.m. City Hall:

If the City Administrator’s requests to change the City Charter are approved, the City Council could take a back seat in Piedmont’s governance.

Piedmont City Administrator Paul Benoit proposed eliminating the long-time appointment power of the City Council in the City Charter. 

The City Council has always appointed and hired key administrative positions – Police Chief, Fire Chief, City Clerk, Finance Director, Public Works Director, etc. However, the Council told Benoit on April 30, 2018 they wanted to retain the Council’s hiring authority per the City Charter.  Yet Benoit apparently convinced the Council that he, the City Administrator, should be the sole individual authorized to fire or terminate key managers, taking authority away from the Council in an unusual change to Council authority.

Readers will find the administrative changes repeatedly diminish the authority of the Council forfeiting their authority to the City Administrator.

The form of government proposed by Benoit is usually termed a City Manager form of government joined by a strong mayor, which Piedmont does not elect.  Oakland has a City Manager form of government as does Alameda and Astoria, Oregon, where Benoit was employed for many years prior to coming to Piedmont. Each of these cities have a separately elected Mayor.  Piedmont’s mayor is elected from within the Council  by the five Council members. 

Many are familiar with Oakland struggles, but perhaps less familiar with Alameda’s recent troubles when the Council terminated their City Manager over a hiring situation. Piedmont has not had such disruption and the City Council has worked collaboratively when selecting officers such as the Fire Chief, Police Chief, and others.  It has been stated that it is better to have 5 members of the Council selecting  the City officers rather than one unelected person – the City Administrator – making the selections and terminations.

Despite pleas for an independent committee to study and evaluate proposed changes to the Piedmont City Charter, none was formed by the City Council.  The Administration driven proposals have moved forward following a Council Study Session.  

This PCA article points out some of the critical issues, but as with any City Charter the devil is in the details, of which there are many.  The Council, apparently, will be presenting forums after they decide what should be placed on a Piedmont  November 2018 election ballot to seek required ratification

~~~~~~~~~~~

Below are various changes noted by City staff as substantive.  Readers will note in the full draft linked below there are many other important issues.

   The pros and cons of the changes have not been presented by staff.

Important administrative changes of the Charter were listed last in the staff report linked below. The order has been changed here. 

  • ADMINISTRATIVE CONTROVERSY: Council would hire top managers, but could not fire them. In Article 3 – Administration – Council directed staff to clarify sections in this article to make clear that the City Council appoints Department Heads, but that they will be directed by and serve at the pleasure of the City Administrator.
  • The Council acted against the recommendation of the City Administrator and decided to retain their long held ability to select and appoint (hire) Department Heads per the current Charter requirement appointments for Department Heads, while letting the City Administrator be the only individual who fire the Department heads.
  •   ISSUE: The Council relinquishment of their ability to also terminate (fire) Department Heads –  the Police Chief, Fire Chief, Finance Director, City Clerk, etc. presents potential new problems for the City Council authority.
  • New positions have been added to the list of permanent City of Piedmont positions.  The number of  Department Head employeeswill be permanently placed in the City Charter potentially making it more difficult to consolidate or eliminate positions. 
  •  ADMINISTRATIVE AND POLITICAL;  NO LIMIT ON AMOUNT OF RESERVE FUNDS. 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.
  • Elimination of the amount of money the City can place in reserve, while continuing to tax property owners has been one of  the more noticed proposed changes to the City Charter.  The original goal of limiting reserves was to control taxation without a purpose. In recent years, the Council and Administration has circumvented the limitation by building up reserves in numerous specials funds presenting a bountiful amount of money stored by the millions for special purposes.   The change appears arbitrary. 
  • ADMINISTRATIVE AND POLITICAL: BIDDING and PURCHASING:  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.
  • Many City service providers are currently not obtained through a formal bidding process. Regardless of cost to the City, old friends, contractors,  and work companions often continue for years without ever going through a formal procurement process.  Some suggest Piedmont has not always performed due diligence with the millions of dollars spent for outside services and have suggested stronger language rather than more relaxed requirements. Piedmont adopted a stronger procurement, liability and project policy led by the League of Women Voters of Piedmont.  There has been no comment on the impact of the proposed Charter change to the policy. 
  •  
  •  The proposed amendments also modernize the prohibition against employment discrimination to include all classes protected under U.S. and state law. (Section 5.02)  This makes Piedmont Charter language compliant with U.S. and state law without impacting Piedmont’s current compliant practices.
  • 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. There is no validation provide for the Board of Education position on the Charter change. 

POLITICAL: LIMITING SERVICE BY FORMER COUNCIL MEMBERS.  The proposal would increase the period of time during which a former Councilmember is ineligible to run for office from 4 to 8 years after leaving office.

 Only two Council members have in the past 3 decades attempted to be re-elected following 4 years of ineligibility.  One former Councilmember was not re-elected, another was elected, but recently resigned over a scandal.  A local newspaper’s publicity for those two candidates influenced the election more than the candidates’ efforts.

POLITICAL: HOW LONG SHOULD THE COUNCIL HAVE TO FILL A COUNCIL VACANCY.   An amendment to the provision for filling of vacancies on the City Council would be extended to allow the Council 60 days rather than just 30 days to fill a vacancy.

 Recent history has proven the Council has been able to readily fill numerous Council vacancies within the allotted 30 day time period. The intention of the Charter was to expeditiously fill a vacancy for a full Council composition of 5 members rather than unnecessarily remain at 4 or fewer members. 

  • CONTROVERSIAL: WHEN TO HOLD COUNCIL MEETINGS 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.

    Change could be arbitrary. 

    Residents often plan their public participation schedules around knowing when the Council will meet  – the first and third Mondays of each month. With recent changes to the Zoning Code, not knowing when the Council will next meet to consider a matter opens up conflicting issues. From high school students to public participants, having regularly scheduled meetings, a standard for most cities,  is beneficial.  If three (the required amount) Council members cannot attend a regularly scheduled  meeting, then the meeting would fall to the next day or week. Going on the City Council is known to require certain meetings per month thus allowing the Council and public set dates for planning purposes. Scheduling of matters can be crucial to the consideration of many issues and the orderly functioning of government.  Reducing the frequency of Council meetings puts them at a disadvantage in providing the leadership the citizenry expects of their elected officials.

Amendments are also proposed to a number of other sections of the Charter to remove stated outdated provisions and modernize language. Click to read a marked up version of the Charter containing each of the proposed Charter amendments.

READ the full STAFF REPORT > HERE.

Citizens are invited and encouraged to comment 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.

Mar 14 2018

March 11-17, 2018

Throughout the United States,  it is > Sunshine Week  – a national initiative spearheaded by the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) to educate the public about the importance of open government and the dangers of excessive and unnecessary secrecy. 

 > Sunshine Week –  It’s Your Right to Know. March 11-17, 2018. Join ASNE and the Reporters Committee in the annual nationwide celebration of access to public information and what it means for you and your community.

“The American Society of News Editors launched Sunshine Week in 2005 as a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. The week-long celebration is held every March to coincide with the March 16 birthday of James Madison, the father of the U.S. Constitution.  …”

> Sunshine Week – ASNE

As part of continuing examination of threats to First Amendment freedoms and an extension of Sunshine Week 2017, The Associated Press, the American Society of News Editors and the Associated Press Media Editors have produced a package of stories focused on government attempts to promote secrecy or hinder access to information. …

> Sunshine Week – Society of Professional Journalists

The Piedmont Civic Association website provides free information online to those interested in Piedmont civic matters. There are no advertisements or subscription charges for updates. The PCA website is produced by Piedmont volunteers.

Join hundreds of Piedmonters and receive emailed updates from PCA by clicking > HERE.  

EMAIL ADDRESSES  AND NAMES ARE CONSIDERED CONFIDENTIAL AND NEVER RELEASED.

Dec 9 2017

“Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.”  Mark Twain

On Monday, December 11 at 6ish p.m. in City Hall and broadcast live, the Piedmont Planning Commission will consider an application for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) application for The Piedmont Post to relocate their offices to the City owned property at  801 Magnolia Avenue.

According to the application, the hours of operation of the office in the residential neighborhood will extend to midnight on several nights weekly and the workday will last as long as 12 hours, adding a considerable amount of activity on already busy Magnolia Avenue considering the coming and going of Middle School, high schools, Piedmont Adult School, the Recreation Center, the Aquatic Center as well as the many special events.

An independent free press should not be a creature of the government it is meant to cover, that would make it a government public relations entity.  If subsidized office space is offered to one commercial news business, it should be available to all news organizations as is the dedicated White House shared press workspace.

If the Post wanted to rent office space on Grand Avenue in Piedmont or in the Wells Fargo Building, there would be no conflict of interest and no citizen objections. The Post has never operated in commercial space in Piedmont, although its business address is a home in Piedmont on Oakland Avenue.

The City provides the building at 801 Magnolia Avenue on a subsidized basis at $1/year lease for the public benefit as an Arts Center.

The Council has the ultimate responsibility to determine what is appropriate for the use of public, taxpayer-supported property.  The Piedmont Center for the Arts was approved by the Council and pays $1 per year for their space at 801 Magnolia Avenue across from Piedmont High School.

According to information pertaining to the development of a space for The Piedmont Post, it appears there was no public advertisement of the space availability in the Piedmont Center and no other media entity was offered the subsidized office space.

The Piedmont Post started in the building at 801 Magnolia Avenue approximately 20 years ago when the building was owned and operated as the First Church of Christ Scientist.  A newspaper business in the church was not legally allowed by the City and the Post was forced to move out of the building.

Subsequently, the Church dissolved and the City of Piedmont purchased the 801 Magnolia property for just under $700,000.  The building was seldom used for years except for city storage.  A plan for an aquatics facility at the site delayed changes to the building.

Founders of the Art Center, Gray Cathrall (Editor, Publisher, and Owner of The Piedmont Post), Nancy Lehrkind (Current Vice President for the Piedmont Center for the Arts), and others saw potential in using the property as the location of cultural activities and the arts.  Beginning in 2011 the City of Piedmont granted a lease of part of the building, now the Piedmont Center for the Arts, for $1 per year for 10 years on the basis it would be exclusively used for non-profit purposes and the building would be improved – painting, heating, roofing, etc.  The City, however, has maintained the grounds and landscaping.

In the six plus years of the 10 year lease, the Arts Center has become a shining star of culture, music, drama, and graphic arts.  Interest and participation in the Arts Center has spread far beyond Piedmont borders.

In the summer of 2016, the Arts Center applied for and was granted by the City Council a change in the terms of their lease allowing the Center to engage in uses allowed in it’s zone, the Public Zone.  This lease change was evidently unnoticed by most Piedmonters.

Then in 2016, the Council approved significant changes to the zoning laws of Piedmont including allowing for-profit businesses on City property under a conditional use permit process.  The change of use without voter approval as prescribed in the City Charter, again drew little public notice and the Council changed the zoning without voter approval.

The justification for the zoning change from nonprofit to for-profit uses in the public zone was focused on allowing the Aquatic Facility to sell goggles, food, or beverages.   However, that would not have violated the zoning as it stood as long as the sales were by the Facility for the financial benefit of the Facility.  Now, the actual result allows a commercial business to profit financially with the taxpayer subsidy.

The Conditional Use Permit is on the Monday, December 11 Planning Commission agenda.  The Commission will make a recommendation  to the City Council.

It was long rumored that the goal of the Post was to move back into the 801 Magnolia building. Although the Post owner, Cathrall has been announced as termed out from the Arts Center Board, his newspaper, The Post, continues to foster and advertise the activities at the Center. Nancy Lehrkind, also a founder and Vice President of the Center Board, continues on the Board and has signed the CUP application documents.

Conflicts of interest are inherent in the leasing of public space to a single, local media outlet.

Having an office in the center of Piedmont in a public building leased for $1 a year would be beneficial to all media outlets.

There are a number of news media outlets covering Piedmont: The Piedmonter, The Piedmont Post, The Piedmont Civic Association, Piedmont Patch, East Bay News, Piedmont Portal, and others.

Piedmont residents, as with any group of people, have differing points of view on numerous subjects.  Coverage by the various media outlets often reveals these differences.

The Piedmont Post has long been viewed as the Piedmont City Administration news outlet. 

If the Conditional Use Permit (CUP) application for The Piedmont Post to relocate their offices in the City owned property at  801 Magnolia Avenue (Piedmont Center for the Arts) is approved, the relationship between City Hall and The Post will become even closer and raise new questions.  The Post and the City will have a financial relationship based on a lease and a Conditional Use Permit to use City property for a newspaper business.

Residents have raised issues in the past regarding City buildings not being appropriate for political activities nor for allowing businesses with potential conflicts of interests.

The Piedmont Post is an independently owned private newspaper supported by donors, advertisers, official City notices, and subscribers.  The for-profit business entity is currently located in Oakland on Boulevard Way. The Post, contrary to City laws, uses a Piedmont residential address on Oakland Avenue as the business address.

There is no information available as to a business license in Oakland, Piedmont, or a Piedmont Home Occupation Permit as a business location on Oakland Avenue.  There are no published documents available indicating the financial status of the newspaper. The application states a gross income of $380,000 per year.

The application indicates a need for more Art Center income to support the activities of the Center, however no documentation or audit has been publicly released to show the financial status of the Art Center.

The Commission meeting is scheduled for Monday, December 11 starting at 5 p.m. in City Hall’s Council Chambers. The Planning Commission’s Conditional Use Permit consideration will follow a number of other applications on the agenda and will likely be considered after the Commission breaks for a half hour dinner around 6:30 p.m.

Those interested can attempt to attend or observe the meeting on Monday, December 11, at 5:oo p.m.  The meeting will be broadcast live on Channel 27 and from the City website under videos.

Comments may be made to the Planning Commission:

Staff Liaison: Planning Director Kevin Jackson – kjackson@ci.piedmont.ca.us – (W) 420-3050
Council Liaison: Jennifer Cavenaugh – (510) 428-1442
Commissioner Eric Behrens  
Commissioner Aradhana Jajodia  
Commissioner Jonathan Levine  
Commissioner Susan Ode  
Commissioner Tom Ramsey  
Commissioner Clark Thiel (Alternate)

Commenters should send their correspondence to the Commission and Council via   kjackson@ci.piedmont.ca.us

Oct 25 2017

Piedmonters Unhappy about San Francisco Civic Center Station 

Piedmonters and other Bay Area taxpayers have generously agreed to tax themselves to improve earthquake preparation of the BART  track system, however during this fall cultural season they are voicing distress at the conditions they encounter at the Civic Center Station in San Francisco.  Most BART stations are serviceable and reasonably clean.  Sadly, at the symbolic core of San Francisco, Civic Center Station’s cleanliness and safety is inadequate, presenting a harsh welcome to tourists and Bay Area residents.  The track area, station, and access points appear not to have been cleaned or sanitized in years.  Security is usually nowhere to be found.  With safety concerns and maintenance problems growing, riders deserve more.

Piedmonters frequently attend opera, concerts, ballet, theater, restaurants and the Asian Art Museum in the Civic Center.  While providing much needed off-peak BART customers, riding BART from the East Bay can avoid bridge traffic and a difficult search for parking in San Francisco.  But Piedmonters are put off by the conditions in the BART/Muni Civic Center Station —and they aren’t alone in such complaints.

“I’ve been working at a job site this week not far from this station. I arrive at this station around 5:30am. Twice this week I’ve witnessed people shooting up heroin right near the bottom of the stairs that lead to Market St. and 8th.”
Sergio C, 10/4/2017 
~~~~~~~~~
“Compared to other BART stations, Civic Center station seems dirtier and it’s got more bums and panhandlers. There have been some incidents in the past seven months. In August 2016, a man was found stabbed inside the station (sfgate.com/crime/article…). Last month (January 2017), at least one person was stabbed near the station (kron4.com/2017/01/06/2-r…).”
Daniel B, 2/25/2017 
~~~~~~~~~~~~
“One thing I don’t like about BART stations in San Francisco is that they always stink. Always”
Sheila C, 2/15/2017 
 In 2014 the San Francisco Chronicle reported on the distressing state of the Civic Center Station.  Sadly, the conditions remain today:

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/A-commuter-s-bane-filthy-smelly-BART-station-5701663.php

Los Angeles offers a surprising contrast to BART.

Busy light rail/bus/Amtrak multi-mode station

Recently, a Piedmont family spent five days on LA Metro visiting a dozen museums and historic sites.  The light rail, subways and stations were clean, with cleaning crews visibly at work and elevators and escalators were all in working order, in contrast to BART, which frequently has nearly a dozen elevators and escalators out of service.  Many Los Angeles stations are bare bones, “found” or “repurposed” such as the elegant old Union Station that is now multi-modal, serving the elevated Gold Line, buses and intercity Amtrak trains.  (see photos)

Not a single coffee cup or napkin on the station floor

 

Despite offering a better experience, LA Metro public transit is less expensive than BART.  While BART has found it unworkable to offer off-peak fares to solve their problem of chronic low ridership off-peak, LA Metro buses and tracked system machines accurately deduct peak and off-peak fares from rider fare cards.

The BART Board

BART Board members (listed below) need to take responsibility for the discouraging conditions riders encounter.

 Money needs to be budgeted for:

  • Security presence and enforcement
  • Camera surveillance
  • Steam cleaning of all surfaces including the track areas
  • Working escalators and elevators
  • Clean, safe steps and access points
  • Clean trains inside and out

Piedmont is currently working on its Climate Action Plan.  Having safe, clean and appropriate modes of public transportation is elementary to reducing Piedmont’s carbon footprint.

Piedmont’s elected BART representative is > Rebecca Saltzman.

Contact numbers and links for BART Board Members are included in their summaries below.  The General Manager is also listed below.

BART Board Members and District Information

Debora Allen
District #1

(Map)

Debora Allen, Director

Stations Included: 

Concord, Lafayette, Pleasant Hill/Contra Costa Centre, Walnut Creek

Counties Included: 

Contra Costa
Joel Keller
District #2

(Map)

Joel Keller, Director

Stations Included: 

North Concord/Martinez, Pittsburg/Bay Point

Counties Included: 

Contra Costa
Rebecca Saltzman
District #3

(Map)

Rebecca Saltzman, President, Piedmont’s Representative on the BART Board

Stations Included: 

Bay Fair, Downtown Berkeley, El Cerrito del Norte (partial), El Cerrito Plaza (partial), North Berkeley, Orinda, Rockridge, San Leandro

Counties Included: 

Alameda/Contra Costa
Robert Raburn
District #4

(Map)

Robert Raburn, Vice President

Stations Included: 

Coliseum/Oakland Airport, Fruitvale, Lake Merritt, 12th Street/Oakland City Center, 19th Street/Oakland, MacArthur (partial)

Counties Included: 

Alameda
John McPartland
District #5

(Map)

John McPartland, Director

Stations Included: 

Castro Valley, Dublin/Pleasanton, Hayward, West Dublin/Pleasanton

Counties Included: 

Alameda
Thomas Blalock
District #6

(Map)

Thomas Blalock, Director

Stations Included: 

Fremont, South Hayward, Union City

Counties Included: 

Alameda
Lateefah Simon
District #7

(Map)

Lateefah Simon, Director

Stations Included: 

Ashby, El Cerrito del Norte (partial), El Cerrito Plaza (partial), MacArthur (partial), Montgomery (partial), Richmond, West Oakland, Embarcadero (partial)

Counties Included: 

Alameda/Contra Costa/San Francisco
Nick Josefowitz
District #8

(Map)

Nick Josefowitz, Director

Stations Included: 

Balboa Park (partial), Embarcadero (partial), Montgomery (partial),

Counties Included: 

San Francisco
Bevan Dufty
District #9

(Map)

Bevan Dufty, Director

Stations Included: 

16th Street Mission, 24th Street Mission, Glen Park, Civic Center, Powell Street, Balboa Park (partial)

Counties Included: 

San Francisco

~~~~~~~~~~

GENERAL MANAGER GRACE CRUNICAN https://www.bart.gov/about/gm

~~~~~~~~~~~

Members of Piedmont’s Climate Action Plan Task Force are:

Tracey Woodruff, Chair

Brett Hondorp

Margaret Ovenden

Steven Schiller

Bruce Wolfe

Aug 13 2017

No tax deduction allowed for ratepayers paying for city waste services.

Placing the cost of City Waste Services on private home garbage ratepayer billing rather than using the Piedmont General Fund Budget eliminates the tax deductibility of a legitimate municipal service, which should be covered by the Municipal Services Tax. 

How much municipal cost for waste services will be shifted from the city budget to individual residents’ in their required monthly waste removal charges? The recently received Republic Services bid provides no breakout of the cost of providing the city service that is billed to ratepayers.

Questions have also been raised about the ratepayer fees for City services without a benefit to the individual ratepayer, which may be considered an unauthorized required tax.  

Simultaneously, the City Council is moving ahead on considering a change to the City Charter to allow the city to accumulate more than the Charter prescribed maximum reserve of 25% of the annual budget. The city has been experiencing unprecedented increases in excess revenues which have been placed into various city reserve funds. Rather than using existing money for ongoing municipal services, such as city waste removal or the greatly needed pavement of substandard or damaged sidewalks, the city continues to ask for more funding from Piedmonters.

The voter enacted Piedmont City Charter states:

“The Council shall establish a fund known as the General Fund Reserve in an amount not to exceed twenty-five (25%) of the budget for the purpose of maintaining municipal services during periods of reduced revenues to the City, as well as meeting unforeseen contingencies and emergencies of the City.”

Council Moves Forward to Contract with Sole Source Bidder – 

On July 17th, the Piedmont City Council accepted the proposal submitted by Republic Services for waste collection services beginning on July 1, 2018, notably imposing huge rate increases particularly for backyard services and no rate break for seniors or the disabled.

Numerous residents have expressed dismay and shock at the cost of procuring only one bidder and the expensive end result.  It is not unusual for sole source procurement to result in unacceptably high costs. No breakout of the cost to go 30 feet into a backyard versus 100 feet or up many steep steps was offered.

Piedmont resident Alan Kong recommended “a re-procurement … with a non-responsive” penalty or  “a more stringent annual renewal cap.”

Despite the long lead time, a new less complex RFP for Piedmont property owners will not be sent out in an attempt to acquire waste removal charges in line with other communities. Detailed contract negotiations will proceed on the basis of the lone bid by Republic Services.

Concerns over the huge increase in rates for garbage collection have produced suggestions from a range of individuals.

“From what I have read in Mr. Benoit’s report may be indicative of inappropriate discussions by the proposers. In some industries such as sanitation/waste disposal, where there is limited to no competition, the eligible participants will divide territories/cities. Periodically these territories/cities will be redistributed in an RFP re-bid process. It seems odd that 2 proposers declined to bid altogether while of the remaining 2 proposers (Waste Management and Republic), there was a formal “no bid” citing safety. 

“Perhaps a re-procurement should be enacted with a qualifier that a non-responsive proposal will penalize/disqualify that party from future contract award considerations. Or implement a more stringent annual renewal cap (no greater than a legitimate index + X%, annually…and tie the contractor into a 5-10 year term contract with a stringent termination clause).

“However this is resolved, the seemingly damaged party will be the residents of the City of Piedmont. There are easy answers to this situation.” Alan Kong

~~~~~~~~~~~

“What the City has left out in its online explanation of the process and in response to Mike Rancer’s thoughtful comment, is that Waste Management, which services many Oakland streets right next to Piedmont, wanted to use a different type of cart that matched to a lift on the trucks which would reduce their concern about worker injury. Piedmont did not want to investigate this thinking backyard service would not be possible. The Jan. 17 2017 staff report included my letter and research material; that material has Oakland provider Waste Management’s rate sheet which clearly shows Waste Management providing both curbside and backyard service.”  Rick Schiller

~~~~~~~~~

“Are the City’s requirements asking for something that is far too expensive? Maybe relaxing some of the requirements would result in lower prices, and more competitors for the contract.”  Bruce Joffe

~~~~~~~~

“Maybe the problem is that Piedmont is too small to generate competitive bids or economies of scale. Given that Piedmont is completely surrounded by Oakland, and many of our streets cross the boundary into Oakland, has the city considered talking to Oakland about joining their contract and consolidating services to improve efficiency and lower our cost? It would be the height of negligence if our City Council simply rolled over and accepted this non-competitive bid. ”  Michael Rancer

~~~~~~~~

“Those are enormous rate increases – did Republic provide a quantifiable basis? They admitted they blew the last bid – you have to wonder how good this estimate is. And their flat rate for backyard makes no sense – all Piedmont backyards are not created equal. Staff’s formula may have been too complex for Republic, so make it simple – scale backyard service to lot size.

“Bad month for ratepayers – sewer, garbage and water rates all go up.”  Garrett Keating

~~~~~~~

“Rick Schiller is to be commended for the extensive research and persuasive recommendations that he made.

“I hope that the shocked ratepayers will remember this when City Council election time comes around again. As a reminder: “Hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear: Should you not fear me?”

“Politics tends to be forgotten. Writing those quarterly checks is the “gift” that keeps on giving, and giving, and giving. ” Jim McCrea

~~~~~~~~~

“July 14, 2017
Piedmont City Council
c/o John Tulloch, City Clerk

July 17 Agenda: New Republic Services refuse contract.

Dear Mayor Wieler and Council,
It is what it is: one bid from Republic Services. Regrettably the preliminary cost estimates are for substantial increases of 60% for curbside service and 120% for backyard service. Considering the considerable increases, it is most unfortunate there will be no accommodation for seniors over 70. Staff indicated such an accommodation leaves the City vulnerable to legal challenge yet, perplexingly, this specific accommodation is common elsewhere and has not been legally challenged.

The Staff Report states “backyard service would be available to disabled residents at curbsides rates.” What is the mechanism for disabled qualification?
Mr. Benoit indicated, when we spoke at the Linda Triangle opening, that the new contract would include unlimited curbside green waste. This is most appropriate in lush, expansive Piedmont with its many large lots. Unlimited curbside recycling also seems appropriate and is in harmony with Piedmont’s embrace of ecological concerns.”   
Rick Schiller

~~~~~~~~~

“I find it odd and inconsistent that Piedmont finds a senior exemption of backyard service at curbside rates contrary to State law as many Municipalities have this exemption. In Marin County Almonte, Alto, Belvedere, Corte Madera, Homestead, Marin County, Mill Valley, Strawberry and Tiburon provide exemptions for backyard service at curbside rates for (1) any age 70 Senior on signature alone that requests the service and (2) any disabled person with a doctor’s letter. The City of Berkeley has the same two exemptions and lowers the qualifying age to 62 and does not require a doctor’s letter for the handicapped exemption (form and code attached). City of Albany has both a disability exemption and an age 62 low-income discount exemption (see attached p 7). Santa Clarita has an age 60 low-income discount exemption (see attached p 7). No doubt there are many more California cities with an age based senior exemption of backyard service at curbside rates.”  Rick Schiller

~~~~~~~~

“I think that there should be a provision that someone at age 75 (or pick a comparable age) or older should automatically be entitled to backyard collection at curbside rates. Will some noses get out of joint if they are thought to be “too old” to haul the cans to and from the curb and they don’t feel that way? If so, let THEM opt out of the reduced rates. “ Jim McCrea

~~~~~~~~~~

“I have not followed the Piedmont waste issue closely, but I did have a caution that may be useful. The City of Oakland spent a great deal on staff, consultants and public time to craft a detailed and specific RFP that outlined a great number of demands and requirements. Unfortunately, their efforts were rewarded with only one responsive bid from their current provider, Waste Management. This caused no end of trouble for the city ending up with recirculation of the EGO, eventual litigation and very increased rates. The 2016 Grand Jury report covers this problem pretty well. Piedmont should not repeat Oakland’s path on this. Also, collusion between garbage companies is not unknown. ”  Michael Henn

~~~~~~~~~

“Good news- the proposed contract has significant reductions in service levels in that unlimited recycling/composting and individual curbside pick-ups are eliminated from the contract which should lower rates. These services were likely the reason rates were increased so much in the last contract so their elimination now should lead to lower rates. Likewise, the scalable backyard service formula should result in a more accurate (and higher) rate for this service, again leading to a rate reduction for curbside service, the majority of Piedmont’s service.

“Bad news – for recycling, this contract is a serious step backwards. Specifically, the contract calls for a 60% diversion rate, a rate the city had already achieved before the advent of the cart system 10 years ago. And it ignores the 75% diversion rate that council set by resolution – the stretch goal for this contract is 70% by 2028. Many other east bay cities are achieving 75 % and our city has routinely been above 70%. Staff assumes that with the reduction in unlimited recycling, green waste will go to the landfill instead and result in an underestimate of our true diversion rate – this happened in the past. But it won’t now – Alameda County has banned the dumping of green waste in land fills and green waste is now properly sorted and credited. The contract should at least adjust the diversion targets to 65, 70, and 75% at a minimum to maintain the current level of recycling in town. To do the right thing, the contract should set the target at 75% as directed by Resolution 38-08.

“General Plan Goals and Policies: the staff report lists the numerous goals and policies this contract addresses (wish that had been done with chapter 17 revisions) but many are really not related to this service contract. To make true headway with our Climate Action Plan, this contract should require the use of biodiesel vehicles – this is likely the largest source of truck traffic GHG emission generated by the city and the city could achieve major reduction by mandating this in the contract.”  Garrett Keating

~~~~~~~~

“May I suggest that a requirement be included that the carts be placed back on the curbs after emptying. When the carts are left in the street, as they usually are, they occupy parking spaces where parking is very limited to begin with. I asked the company to include this in its instructions to its drivers, but compliance lasted approximately one week. This is a minor irritation but an irritation nonetheless.”  Susan McCreary

Read prior PCA article HERE.

Read City web page on waste services HERE.

Jan 22 2017

 

Have you read the 535 page staff description of proposed changes to Piedmont’s zoning?  

Rather than simply affecting the commercial and “civic center” zones, this proposal has become a massive set of changes affecting essentially every Piedmont single family residence (SFR).

The changes appear to include:

  • reducing minimum square footage required Single Family Residence lot size by 25% 
  •  reducing frontage – reduced by 33% (90 feet to 60 feet)
  • reducing side setbacks by 50% (to as little as 2 feet (using language that falsely appears to expand the setback!)
A simple proposal for “Grand Avenue zoning fixes” appears to have expanded exponentially. If this proposal moves forward, it could potentially significantly increase the density of Piedmont’s residential areas.  It would allow substantially larger structures next to your home . . closer to your home, allow many larger lots to be subdivided, and allow much larger second homes on one lot.
Is there any description in the voluminous city documents of the total eventual impact on our city?  Will these proposals, in combination, lead to a tear down of many old Piedmont homes? Will residents only find out what’s really in this massive proposal after the Council passes it?
Unfortunately, no effective executive summary of the 535 pages is provided, nor any effective notice of specifics in this massive mission creep.
Changes having the potential to transform Piedmont should not be obfuscated within a 535 page document.  It now seems to cover everything from Airbnb rules . . to parking . . . to 4-story civic center buildings with zero (0) setbacks . . . to increasing density for virtually every Single Family Residence lot.   All important issues – and in some cases “hot-button” issues for Piedmont.

The multiple issues encompassed in this hydra-headed proposal should be dealt with separately, with appropriate opportunity for public input for each.

Staff was initially simply working on clean up language in the ordinance and a few zoning changes affecting the Grand Avenue commercial or civic area. Why have Single Family Residence changes been slipped in? Does the citywide impact on single family residences, commercial, and public property make a citywide vote necessary . . . . or at least desirable?

For those who have a few spare days to review it, the 535 page staff report is here:

http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/publicworks/docs/planning/ch17revisions/2016-11-10_report.pdf

The Council will be educated at a Council Study Session on Monday, January 23, 2017 starting at 6:30 p.m. in the Council Chamber, 120 Vista Avenue.   Live viewing will be from the City website and on Cable Channel 27. The meeting will be video recorded.

Comments can be sent to the Council as a whole at the following link:

citycouncil@ci.piedmont.ca.us.

Comments and contacts for individual Council members are as follows:

Jeff Wieler, Mayor

jwieler@ci.piedmont.ca.us

(510) 428-1648

Robert McBain, Vice Mayor

rmcbain@ci.piedmont.ca.us

(510) 547-0597

Jennifer Cavenaugh

jcavenaugh@ci.piedmont.ca.us

(510) 428-1442

Teddy Gray King

tking@ci.piedmont.ca.us

(510) 450-0890

Tim Rood

trood@ci.piedmont.ca.us

239-7663

Comments for PCA publication can be submitted at the bottom of this article.

Jan 20 2017

Did you know the City is considering big changes to what you, your neighbors, developers, and the City can construct in Piedmont? Once proposed Piedmont laws are approved, resident concerns can become moot. 

Some of the issues:

  • No surveys of Piedmonters’ preferences
  • Scant public input
  • Short term rentals recommendations (airbnb, etc.)
  • Zone use changes without citizen vote
  • Numerous building rule changes 
  • Reduction in parking requirements
  • Zero lot line construction
  • City Staff review and decisions on projects rather than control by citizen commissioners who know the community standards best
  • Building requirements for public property removed
  • No public workshops
  • Exclusion of public input in staff documents.

Study Session: 6:30 p.m., Monday, January 23, 2017, City Hall, 120 Vista Avenue.  Viewable from the City website and on cable Channel 27.

Ask your neighbor, friend, or any resident if they are aware of the zoning and building changes being considered for Piedmont and you will likely get a shoulder shrug.  Despite the fact that the Planning Department and the Planning Commission have spent enormous amounts of time reviewing Chapter 17, engagement with the residents of Piedmont has been minimal.  The mammoth amount of documents present challenges to even a hardy observer of Piedmont zoning and construction rules.

Recently, the City Council on January 11, 2017 held a “Study Session” in an unrecorded meeting in the Emergency Operations Center of the Piedmont Police Department.  The purpose of the meeting was to educate the City Council about staff driven changes to Chapter 17 of the Municipal Code. Piedmont residents could not watch the proceedings from their computers or TVs because the meeting was not broadcast or recorded. Relative few residents attended that meeting or other prior meetings.

When is the public going to be educated on the proposals? 

Were hundred or thousands of Piedmont residents expected to go to the Piedmont Planning Commission meetings and wait for hours to be heard or to learn about the proposed changes?  When was the opportunity for an open exchange of ideas between policy makers and Piedmont residents? The residents who attended a Planning Commission meeting often found the allowed 3 minute time snippet for input often ignored rather than engagingly discussed?

Some changes purport to clean up Chapter 17, the ordinance controlling construction in Piedmont, other proposals change rules: allow the City to build whatever it wants on public property, change zone uses without voter approval, increase density, reduce parking requirements, and so forth.

The changes are too numerous and undelineated to list here.  All changes have not been listed by the City in a cohesive and manageable form. The voluminous public documents overwhelm the reader. Rather than small pieces considered in an orderly manner, interested residents are faced with about 500 pages of documents to slog through.  Yet the City presses on without surveying residents or setting up workshops as done with garbage, recycling, and recreation.  No round table discussions, extensive outreach to residents, or on line surveys have been provided by the City.

One speaker at the recent “Study Session” suggested minimally sending a comprehensive and specific letter to all Piedmont residents. An announcement was subsequently sent on January 17 to all Piedmont addresses.  The City announcement is brief and does not alert or inform the recipient of the numerous significant changes proposed.  Readers are directed to the mountains of information online without issues enumerated. The “public hearings” held by the Planning Commission praised in the announcement received little publicity and little public attendance or engagement.

The City relies on unfounded legal documents, an outdated poll, and the obscure generally unknown Piedmont General Plan, which was approved following limited public input with contradictory internal statements and inconsistencies.

Public Engagement During the Election –

Public engagement was frequently mentioned during the recent 2016 Piedmont election, however thus far the public has been largely screened out of the zoning and construction change decisions by indeterminant consideration times, difficult or no broadcast of considerations, unclear documents, and confusing data.  Organization of the material for ready residents understanding has been lacking.

As of this writing, the City has planned no further actions to inform and engage the Piedmont public.  The planning staff is pushing ahead for a prompt adoption of the voluminous ordinance on March 6, 2017.

Is the public intentionally being disregarded by a lack of clarity and opportunities for meaningful involvement?

The following letter from the Planning Director was sent to those who took the initiative to ask to be informed.  The links lead to complexities difficult for most residents to sort through.   _______________________

You are receiving this email because you had asked to be notified of any activity by the Planning Commission or City Council related to revisions of City Code Chapter 17 (the Zoning Code) and/or revisions to regulations of short term rentals.

Notice

As noted on the City of Piedmont’s website, the City Council has undertaken the process of considering a recommendation from the Planning Commission regarding updates to the Planning and Zoning Provisions of the City Code, the City’s Design Guidelines, and Policies and Procedures related to Planning matters in early 2017. The Council held a study session on January 11th and will be holding another study session as follows:

Study Session: 6:30 p.m., Monday, January 23, 2017, City Hall, 120 Vista Avenue.  [This session is evidently going to be broadcast from the City website and on cable channel 27 as it is being held in the Council Chamber where video streaming is available.]

The City Council will not be taking action at the study session.

Following the study sessions, the Council is tentatively scheduled to take the first step in considering the recommendation for adoption at its regular meeting of March 6, 2017.

      Regular Meeting: 7:30 p.m., Monday, March 6, 2017, City Hall, 120 Vista Avenue

Documents on the City Website

The staff report to Council dated March 6, 2017 [It is unknown why this 522 page report has been produced and dated prior to hearing from the Council or public.], the Planning Commissioner’s Summary and Navigation Tips, and other documents related to this project are available on the City’s website at www.ci.piedmont.ca.us. The webpage also contains links to previous staff reports, meeting minutes, the General Plan, the current Zoning Code (Chapter 17) and the Zoning Map.

Public Engagement

The opportunity for public input is available throughout this process. Interested members of the public are encouraged to attend the study sessions and regular meetings at which the City Council will consider this item. Questions about the project and requests to receive email notification of activities related to Zoning Code revisions should be directed to Planning Director Kevin Jackson at kjackson@ci.piedmont.ca.us or (510) 420-3039.

Written comments to the City Council on this matter may be submitted by clicking the following link > citycouncil@ci.piedmont.ca.us  or 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611.

Please let me know if you wish to be removed from this email distribution list.

Sincerely,

Kevin Jackson, AICP, Planning Director, City of Piedmont, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611 Tel: (510) 420-3039 Fax: (510) 658-3167

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For more City produced information, click here.

Article updated on January 21, 2017

Sep 27 2016

FREE AND OPEN PRESS – Transparency and Community Engagement

The Piedmont Civic Association website is an open forum for resident exchange of civic commendations, advocacy, opinions, concerns, proposals, and ideas. Our medium, the internet, allows for extensive discussion and opinions, prompt posting of reader comments, and, if needed, corrections.

PCA’s open and free access is the only available media outlet exclusively serving Piedmont residents on civic issues.  PCA has frequently been told by readers that opinion letters sent to other media outlets and informational items were never used by other local media.

PCA attempts to print all civic information submitted by Piedmont residents.   The Piedmont Civic Association editorial policy can be found here.

While encouraging civic discourse and civil exchange of ideas on any side of civic issues, including criticisms and praise of policies, PCA does not allow personal attacks. Every attempt is made to focus discussions on policy, factual information, and civic actions.

For example, in recent weeks, controversy has arisen regarding Piedmont Unified School District employment of a full time Athletic Director responsible for high school athletic programs and scheduling of school athletic facilities.  A number of opinions have been printed here on the subject. PCA welcomes these opinions and is open to receiving opinions on all sides of this issue and all civic issues.

PCA believes that substantive discussions are part of a healthy democracy – open and free exchange of ideas. 

A PCA goal is to keep Piedmont residents involved in Piedmont civic matters: inform Piedmont residents, encourage community engagement, provide transparency to government, and engender civic involvement.

 Readers may comment below on this and every article, for below each article is a place to comment.  Readers may send an opinion, news article, or photos to PCA at the address below:

editors@piedmontcivic.org

Thank you for reading, sharing with neighbors, and commenting.

The Piedmont Civic Association is an all volunteer association of interested Piedmont residents. No dues, no lists, no ads, no exclusion, just civic information provided by Piedmont residents, volunteers who care about Piedmont.

 Comments and letters appearing on the PCA site are unsolicited.

PCA does not support or oppose specific ballot measures or candidates for public office.