Oct 17 2020

In this country and in this city, in particular, there is a significant discrepancy between the amount of money spent on private vs. public improvements. The current situation—crumbling public infrastructure—is the result of years of the community’s inability to fully commit to supporting our public facilities. I personally see Measure UU to rebuild the Piedmont Community Pool first and foremost as a simple question: whether we as a community value a pool or not?

City public improvements such as pools, parks, courts, tracks, and trails are the last remaining vestiges of what can be considered the commons—outdoor places that play a central role in both creating community and providing for the simple, nearby enjoyment of the outdoors. In an urban context, we would do well to not let our lives be limited to the experience of individual spaces, such as our cars or our homes. If we let our lives be connected only virtually by digital technologies we lose out in the richness of experience that our world has to offer. During this time of COVID, we have seen first-hand the division and mistrust, indeed the disintegration of the commons that virtual communities have fostered. A public pool in Piedmont will greatly enhance our City’s commons.

Public financing for a public improvement is appropriate. Does that mean that the City needs to have bids before agreeing on the Measure UU? Of course not. Do you go out and get bids for a bathroom remodel before you decide as a household that you need a new bathroom? No. You assess the problem, agree on the need for the improvement, limit the budget, and then hire the appropriate designers, contractors and other experts to bring your ideas to reality.

Cost, the desire to control costs, the existence of cost overruns, can always be brought up on any capital improvement project. It can always be used to shoot down an initiative, but this approach will not get us closer to a community pool. If the community can first agree on the need for a new pool to replace the now defunct facility, then Measure UU authorizes up to $19.5 million which will be overseen by a committee and issued based on the final design. Setting a bond limit now and having each household pay for the bond issue is appropriate. To be fair, I’m biased, and it is up to each of us to decide what to do with our money, particularly when it comes to benefiting the greater community. Yet, I would submit that to construct a beautiful, new, public pool facility in Piedmont in return for a bond issue that costs less than the price of a Starbucks Venti coffee per day, per household is an affordable and not unreasonable price for Piedmont residents to bear.

The cost of public work is fundamentally different and higher than the cost of private work. The restrictions (for example pay rates), qualifications (for example must have done similar public scale projects for at least 5 years), requirements (for example must be bonded to a certain level) placed on the contractors have made this type of project buildable by only a small handful of well-qualified, large, and yes expensive construction firms. They can and will deliver – but there is and, indeed there should be, a cost to that. The City’s stringent requirements (ensure the project is close to zero net energy, make no dust, no noise during school hours, protect our kids when they walk by the project) result in costs that are nearly all avoidable on a private project.

However, the project will have a cost estimator who will work in conjunction with the City, the pool committee, the design team and the contractor to carefully review priorities, and expenses. Every attempt should be made to value engineer the project given the ‘fixed’ budget as defined by the bond measure. One can haggle the details of cost, and certainly the City should hire (an additional expense!) a project manager who is vigilant about controlling costs, but now is not the time to haggle these details when the pool design has not even been finalized.

We are all concerned about global warming, acting locally to reach goals of carbon neutrality for Piedmont. Pools have negative environmental impacts, as do many activities we enjoy. However, to begin to mitigate these impacts, we have to begin to collaborate more as a community and less as individuals competing for limited resources. If we can get to a place where we can agree on the benefits of a pool, then let’s work together to drive down the costs both environmental and fiscal to a point where they balance the benefits to us all as a community.

A single public pool has less of environmental impact than hundreds of private pools when compared to the relative community benefit. A new pool also can be designed with appropriate sustainable technology to heat, filter and re-cycle the water to adequately meet the needs of users. Solar thermal panels could be used to heat or pre-heat the pool water. Perhaps hybrid photovoltaic/thermal systems installed on the bottom of the pool could be employed that capture solar radiation for pool heat or facility power. Another consideration is the use a shallow water storage tank that can retain solar heat and be used to warm the main pool in the early mornings. The ancillary facilities can be net-zero buildings with photovoltaic solar panels, as well as passive heating and cooling. Again, if we can come together as a community around common goals for a sustainable pool, solutions can be developed.

To the extent that the pool will benefit both Piedmont residents and our neighbors in Oakland and surrounding communities, I think that we are fortunate to be able to share our resources for the benefit of the greater good. Without a doubt, Piedmont residents benefit from such community resources as Lake Merritt, the Oakland Museum, the Rose Garden, and currently the public pools in Lafayette, Alameda and Berkeley albeit a long drive from home. We will not improve our community or the world by walling ourselves off from others.

Our current decrepit and undersized pool does not properly meet the needs of the Piedmont community and our schools. Furthermore, the pool does not meet health and safety standards, in particular current ADA or Universal Design requirements. The outdated facility simply can’t accommodate the community demand from individuals, families and teams. A new pool will provide for this currently unmet demand with a proper Piedmont aquatics facility.

Please join me in support of Measure UU. We can come together as a community and replace this deteriorated aquatics facility with a new pool for future generations to enjoy.

John Ware, Piedmont Resident, Architect, Engineer

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Oct 15 2020

When the City took over operation of the pool in 2011, I was asked to help design how the pool would operate.  The system we came up with generated twice as much revenue as other public pools and saved the City a lot of money.  I spent over a thousand hours in that effort.  I was motivated to do so for two reasons: I wanted to be sure the City’s operation of the pool was a success and I was concerned that, if the pool got too expensive, the City might lose interest in it.  I brought those same concerns to the discussions that led to the current pool proposal.

We need to build a pool that meets the needs of the schools as well as the rest of the community.  Under the facilities sharing arrangement between the City and the schools, the schools get to use the pool just as the City gets to use the schools’ gyms and sports fields.  We are the same taxpayers who would be called on to fund a school pool.  It makes no sense to have two pool facilities, one for the schools and one for everyone else, across the street from each other.

It’s time to have one facility that works for everyone—designed so the Piedmont swim team doesn’t have to rent additional space in other communities and spend hours a week commuting to practice; designed so the high school water polo and swim teams don’t have to practice at night or commute to other pools; designed so kids can both play and have swim lessons after school, all with lap swimmers having room to swim and finally being able to swim their laps when they get home from work at night.

It’s not too expensive.  The bond measure is about financing, not cost. You can’t bid the project until you have detailed construction drawings and no one would pay to have those drawings done until they knew they had the financing and the project would proceed.

The increased cost estimate from 2016, when the conceptual design was initially approved, simply reflects that it will be built at least six years later, and, in fact, it is in line with what we understand other neighboring communities are doing.  When you are arranging for financing, you need to build in room for interest rate fluctuations and other contingencies.  Measure UU is simply authorizing bonds.

You don’t have to issue or spend all the bonds that are authorized, but you have to be sure the bond cap is high enough to more than cover the anticipated cost, because you can’t go get more bonds approved in the middle of the project.

The City Council didn’t prioritize the pool over public safety, by putting the pool on the ballot.  The fact is our infrastructure is old and needs to be addressed.  The pool is on the ballot because there already was a plan to deal with the pool, which had been analyzed, researched, and discussed for years.

The public safety issues just came up.  We don’t know enough about them and there isn’t a plan to deal with them yet.  It isn’t a question of picking one over the other.  If Piedmont is going to be the community you moved here to live in, we have to address them both.

The question is simple: does Piedmont want a pool or not?  If we do, it makes no sense to build an inadequate pool.  It’s time to have a community pool that finally meets the needs of the whole community.

Join me in voting YES on Measure UU! 
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Jon Sakol, Piedmont Resident
Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Oct 14 2020

Click below to view the League of Women Voters Piedmont Forum on Pool Bonds: Measure UU.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2Sb1tqucBs

Proponent speaker: Betsy Andersen

Opponent speaker: Andy Wasserman

Oct 14 2020

Rick Schiller is right to raise the tax burden of Measure UU, not because of its structure but because of its substantive increase in taxes on recent and new families coming to Piedmont who already pay an inordinately higher share thanks to Prop 13.

Simply put, the longer you’ve lived in Piedmont, the less you’ll contribute to the pool. Second (my kids) and third generation Piedmonters moving back home will pay bond assessments based on assessed property values well less than $1M, while recent and new families are assessed at $2.5M and above. This is no way to fund a community pool.

The pool will triple GHG emissions and that’s with energy efficient elements.  Instead of the proposed design that uses natural gas, the pool should be all electric, using the latest technology to generate on-site power needs. Mountainview is building an all electric pool and aquatic complex at the cost of approximately $20M. Downsizing the current Piedmont design could achieve this and maybe make room for a Pickleball court in the comprehensive Civic Center.

The operational analysis for the pool is predicated on a 5% fee increase so the day use fee will likely increase.

The city considered including the pool and public safety buildings in an essential services bond measure that could be funded with a parcel tax.  Pools may not be essential services but a parcel tax would be a much more equitable way to pay for the pool. If an ad valorem assessment is the only way, then I’d support an exclusion for first generation owners with the proviso that once the property transferred within a family it would be assessed at the average Piedmont home value.

Piedmont can build a new pool without passing the tax and GHG burdens on to future generations.

Reject UU and have the city come back with a sustainable design and equitable tax structure. 

Garrett Keating, Former City Council Member

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Oct 13 2020

How did the Community Pool reach the current cost and condition YES on UU campaign hopes to cure?  

The YES campaign for UU recalls, “the Piedmont Pool has been an integral part of our community, serving children, adults of all ages, and our local schools.”  That was true through the decades it was run by the Piedmont Swim Club, which funded, built, maintained, and managed it at no cost to taxpayers.

The Piedmont Swim Club heavily subsidized the Swim Team for their use of the pool and gave the School District free pool use.  When the City took it over, much changed as the operation proved more challenging than anticipated.  In May 2013, months after the City began running the pool, the City informed the School District at the last minute that they could not use the pool that year.   

The YES on UU campaign is concerned that the pools cost the City $1,000 per day prior to the closure by Alameda County COVID-19 mandate.  They write “the current pool is failing, leaking thousands of gallons of water every day.”  For 46 years the Swim Club paid all pool expenses, including initial construction, capital improvements, major and routine maintenance,  After the City ended that relationship in order to manage the pool itself, PCA received and published the explanation of the situation that is republished below.

HISTORY: Residents assert Post’s pool facts are wrong – January 11, 2012

The Piedmont Post’s January 11, 2012 article, “Rood’s tenure as final swim club president,” gets almost all key facts regarding the negotiations between the city and the swim club wrong.  From the beginning, the club agreed to pay all pool expenses, including major maintenance and capital improvements, as it had for 46 years.  In return, it simply asked that the terms of the existing lease be continued.

We have spent 40 years negotiating complex deals, both as an executive (Bill Drum) and as an attorney and mediator (Jon Sakol).  Neither Tim Rood nor anyone else negotiated anything in public.  That is different from keeping the people you represent apprised of the status of negotiations, which the club’s board had a fiduciary duty to do to its members, who were demanding to know what was going on.  Tim Rood’s August letter and the posting of each side’s proposals was available only to those members.  At the time, the only proposal the club had received from the city left all financial obligations blank, and the club had been told there were other things the city might want to talk about, but not what.  That was still the status at the beginning of October, when Jon Sakol began working on the negotiations for the club.

The only “ultimatum” the board gave the city was that it needed an answer by the end of December, so that it would have adequate time for a massive membership drive to restore its financial viability if the lease were renewed, and the city would have adequate time for the transition, if it were not.  We twice extended that deadline because Jon Sakol believed that the City and the club had essentially reached an agreement.

In January, however, the new city attorney substantially rewrote the lease, imposing new financial obligations on the club: that the city would have the sole discretion to deny the club the use of the money the club had set aside for major maintenance and capital improvements it was contractually obligated to make and keep that money itself; that the city could unilaterally have any work performed and send the club the bill; and that the club purchase hazmat insurance (which no other pool has and the city has not bought).  When the club did not agree to those terms (which were not in the rent-free lease the city gave the new arts center three months later), it was a member of the city council, at its February 7 meeting, who said “we’re out of time.”  (The only council member who sat down with the club to understand its financial projections supported the lease.)

Bill Drum

Jon Sakol

Editors’ note: Jon Sakol has endorsed UU.  Bill Drum has passed away.  
Oct 13 2020
The existing pool is badly decayed and rehabilitation does not make economic sense. An enhanced pool complex in the Civic Center is historically appropriate. With the passage of UU and the new tennis courts already in place, there will be a comprehensive revitalization of the City Center.
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For Measure UU, the City is correctly using a progressive tax structure with a General Obligation Bond rather than creating a costly and regressive tax structure of a Community Finance District bond (also known as a Mello-Roos District).  Should Measure UU fail, we will likely see a much larger bond measure before us, as  a Mello-Roos District, with a lengthy list of expensive capital improvements.
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For retired Piedmont seniors on fixed incomes, UU is a progressive bond measure based on ad valorem value and is the fairest taxation levy.
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The pool is the largest user of natural gas in town and Greenhouse Gas; saving elements should be used with the new pool. Especially for seniors, the prior day use fee was grossly excessive and a modest cost structure for seniors should be implemented.
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While I did not use the Piedmont pool, I support the passage of Measure UU. On balance, the passage of UU is best for Piedmont.
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Rick Schiller, Piedmont Resident
Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Oct 12 2020

While support signs for UU are seen throughout Piedmont – letters mailed, opinions voiced, editorials, questions and comments opposing and supporting Measure UU continue.  For approval of the $19.5 million in 30 year bonds, 2/3rds of those voting on the pool bonds must vote yes. 

YES -Pool proponents have stated Piedmont needs a working, non-leaking municipal pool, and it is timely and cost-effective to issue the bonds to allow the designing and building of two enlarged pools and Aquatic Facilities.  Pools were costing the City $1,000 per day prior to the closure by Alameda County COVID-19 mandate.  Proponents note the new pool facility will be used by the schools, swim teams, Recreation Department, and the general public. The added operating costs of the Facility are projected to be covered by an increase in community-at-large usage. 

NO – City records show tens of millions of dollars in outstanding City financial obligations, and opponents state the City should first fund current obligations and needed Police and Fire facilities before a yet-to-be-designed expensive multi-pool Aquatic Facility.  A lack of prioritization of City needs, increased congestion next to schools, higher taxes, poor economic timing,  environmental impacts, financial money-pit, mis-management, oversized costs, and Covid -19  are noted as negatives.

Voters are encouraged to read and consider available official information linked below.

Official Measure UU – Pool Construction Bonds information

*The “City Attorney’s Impartial Analysis of Measure UU” is provided by Piedmont’s contract City Attorney.

Measure UU is found near the end of Piedmont voters ballots.

Oct 12 2020

 Endorser Forum:  Pool Bonds, Measure UU:  Wednesday, October 14, 6:00 – 6:30 p.m.

This forum will be on YouTube. The City of Piedmont is legally not allowed to use public resources for political purposes. Prior to the forum, the Piedmont League of Women Voters endorsed  Measure UU.

>Submit Questions Now

Join the League of Women Voters of Piedmont for a virtual Election Forum featuring proponents and opponents of City of Piedmont Ballot Measure UU. Measure UU authorizes the city to issue bonds to reconstruct the Piedmont Community Pool. Each side will be given two minutes to present an opening statement, followed by a question and answer session where each side will have one minute to answer each question. Submit your questions concerning Measure UU now or during the event.

  • When: Wednesday, October 14, 2020 from 6pm to 6:30pm
  • Where: Livestream on the LWVP YouTube channel
  • Who: Official Representatives in favor of and opposed to Ballot Measure UU

You may submit questions during the livestream by using the YouTube comments or anytime prior to or during the event by completing the anonymous form below or sending an email to lwvpiedmont@gmail.com.

For more information about Measure UU, review LWVP Pros & Cons.

Oct 9 2020

When I think about Piedmont, the iconic image that comes to mind is the center of town – the 4 schools, the tennis courts, Piedmont Park and City Hall.  And, in the middle – the pool. We live in a really beautiful place and the pool is a vital part.

This picture fades when you foresee the pool drained and the site pad-locked. Further, it is difficult to imagine it replaced by anything else. I can’t see, and don’t want, it “developed” for alternative (commercial) purposes. That’s not Piedmont. What belongs there is a pool. This is where our kids learn to swim. This is where my parents took me to learn to swim. Why would we take that away from our community and future residents? A cost/benefit analysis falls woefully short of responding to that question. Nobody applies that logic to the other amenities.

We rightfully take pride in our city. We should be a community that does not require a “fiscal” conclusion to support inherently valuable projects. We have parks, fields and courts for our citizens and students to pursue their athletic interests. Swimmers and water polo players deserve the same. Make no mistake, the pool augments the quintessential Piedmont “selling point” – the Schools.

Should UU fail, Piedmont High School and it’s swimming and water polo teams will be without a pool. Would some families opt for private schools that have pools? Seems likely. Replacing the pool is a great opportunity. The proposed plan ties the pool and the tennis courts together and creates a modern and attractive recreational facility. This is more than a replacement – it’s an improvement.

Think about recent projects. Does anyone regret remodeling Hampton Field? Do we wish we hadn’t spent the money to replace Havens? Of course not. All things have a lifespan whether we are talking about civic amenities or personal property. Well, the pool’s life has ended and it is our responsibility to get it replaced.

Those that oppose Measure UU because they ‘don’t use the pool’ or ‘don’t like how it will be funded’ should consider the risks of shuttering the pool. How does creating a blight improve our city? Whatever the objection, in the long-run this project enhances Piedmont, which benefits us all. Because Piedmont’s a community and not just an address, we owe it to the past and future to get this done.

Please vote ‘YES’ on UU.

Chris Hart, Current President Piedmont High School Boosters, Prior President Piedmont Baseball Softball Foundation

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Oct 8 2020

Every voter in Piedmont should have received their ballot and Alameda County Voter Information Guide in the mail.

Although many voters are marking their ballots, the Alameda County Voter Information Guide has not been delivered.  The Guide contains Piedmont candidate statements and Piedmont ballot measure arguments.  

A  Piedmont press release stated: Sample Ballot / Voter Information Pamphlet

“The Alameda County Registrar of Voters began mailing Sample Ballot / Voter Information Pamphlets to registered voters on Thursday, September 24th. You can also view your personalized Voter Information Guide on the  Registrar of Voters My Voter Profilepage. If you have not received your sample ballot by October 16th, please contact the Alameda County Registrar of Voters Office at (510) 272-6933.”

Voted ballots may be returned in a U.S. Postal Box or deposited in the Alameda County BALLOT BOX located in central Piedmont at the corner of HIGHLAND WAY and HIGHLAND AVENUES next to the Wells Fargo Bank.  POSTAGE IS NOT REQUIRED ON BALLOT ENVELOPES.

Because of issues related to mailed ballots, voters are encouraged to vote their ballots early to assure timely delivery to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters.

For your ballot to be counted, you must sign your ballot envelope. Every voters signature is carefully checked by the Alameda County Registrar of Voters.

++++++ VOTER GUIDE INFORMATION ++++++

Piedmont’s Ballot Measures TT (Transfer Tax Increase)  and UU (Pool Bonds) are found on the very last page of the ballot. Links to official information on Measures UU and TT are below.

Measure TT – Transfer Tax Increase on Real Property Sales

Measure UU – Pool Construction Bonds 

Official information on candidates for City Council and School Board are linked below.  Click on the candidate name to read their statement.

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https://piedmont.ca.gov/services___departments/city_clerk/elections/november_3_2020_general_municipal_election/2020_candidate_list

If you have questions or concerns regarding voting, contact Piedmont City Clerk John Tulloch at 510/420-3040.