Nov 19 2017

The City Council will convene a Special Meeting in the Emergency Operations Center, 403 Highland Avenue, which will begin in open session at 5:45 p.m., Monday, November 20, 2017.

  1. At 5:45 p.m. in the Emergency Operations Center, Interview of Candidates for the Recreation Commission Vacancy to be Followed by Possible Appointment to the Posted Vacancy (Interviews and appointment consideration are open to the public.)
  2.  At 7:00 p.m. Closed Session in the Emergency Operations Center, 403 Highland Avenue for CONFERENCE WITH LABOR NEGOTIATORS (Govt. Code §54957.6) Agency Designated Representative(s): Janae Novotny  (This item is not open to the public.)  All Represented Labor Groups: (Piedmont Firefighters Assn; Piedmont Police Officers Assn; SEIU Local 1021 (General and Public Works Units). Unrepresented Employees: City Administrator; City Clerk; Finance Director; Confidential Employees; Public Works Director; Professional, Technical & Supervisory Employees; Planning Director Parks & Project Manager; Building Official; Police Chief; Police Captain; Police Support Services Commander; Fire Chief; Fire Captains; Recreation Director; Recreation/Childcare Employees)

At 7:30 p.m. – Regular City Council Meeting, City Hall, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA

 AGENDA :  November 20, 2017 < Click for Special & Regular Meeting Agenda – Items are open for public input.

To read the staff reports, click on the underlined reports below:

Private Underground Utility Districts’ Bond Refinancing – 

11/20/17 – 2nd Reading of Ordinance 736 N.S., Authorizing a Refinancing of Limited Obligation Bonds Related to Undergrounding Assessment Districts

Mosquito Abatement District Appointment

Nov 14 2017

On November 6, 2017, I attended a City Council Meeting which addressed the third quarter reports of the Piedmont Police Department and the authorization of limited obligation bonds linked to Undergrounding Assessment Districts. New technologies utilized by the Police Department were also discussed.

The meeting began after the Council recited the pledge of allegiance, which is a custom at the beginning of every meeting. Before Chief of Police, Jeremy Bowers, was called to present his report, the City Clerk called for any persons to address a matter not present on the Agenda.

I went to the podium and discussed my gratifications towards the recent developments and improvements to Hampton Park. I expressed that the changes were a great benefit to the City and that it was nice to see brand new turf and foundations. The Council members seemed very pleased with my remarks, giving me happy nods and cheerful smiles.

After my address, the City Clerk called Roy Connors to the podium. Roy expressed his deep feelings about the benefits of constructing telephone lines throughout the area. Roy went on to say that, “I believe that the construction of these lines would greatly improve cell reception and provide reliable phone connections to areas of Piedmont.” The Council members unanimously nodded there heads in agreement and Roy stepped off the podium.

Lastly, a man approached the podium and discussed the recent implications of the disastrous Napa fires and how Piedmont residents should prepare for an event like this. He proposed to the Council the benefits that would be included with fire insurance being provided to residences. The Council agreed that further steps should be taken in order to prepare for a situation like the Napa fires.

After the clerk called for any last comments, the Chief of Police gave his address on the 3rd Quarter crime rates.  Chief Bowers began his address by stating that crime rates have dropped by 15% compared to this time last year. He cited that there were 176 reported crimes last year compared to the 146 crimes reported this year. The Council commended this statistic and he continued by saying that “Robberies have declined from 11 to only 1,” which met with even more praise. Chief Bowers attributed these downward trends to technology, officer awareness, and citizen reports.

Chief Bowers went on to explain how new technologies such as camera’s were providing the identification of wanted criminals. He described a situation which involved the brandishing of a firearm as a means of road rage. The suspect was later identified after he was reported, thanks to the use of high optic cameras installed at the intersection where the scene occurred.

After Chief Bower’s debrief on crime statistics, he delved into the topics of underage drinking and smoking. Bower’s emphasized that the Piedmont Police were not serving to punish kids, but were merely attempting to protect them from the harm that ensues from drinking and smoking. He went on to explain the repercussions of marijuana use and how the police department is cracking down on kids smoking in Piedmont Park.

Underage drinking was also briefly discussed.  Bowers stated, “Recently two girls had to be transported to a hospital for acute alcohol poisoning. The Police Force cares about the short term and long term effects of these kids’ health.” This statement prompted Council member Jen Cavenaugh to commend Chief Bowers on all he was doing to suppress the problems of underage drinking and smoking.

Once Chief Bowers had concluded his report, the City Clerk asked the Council members if they had any questions they wished to discuss. Council member Tim Rood, appreciated the recent decline of car collisions, which has decreased by 20% since last year.

Mayor Robert McBain noted the issue of car thefts stating that, “It is important that we reduce the thefts involving cars.” The Mayor suggested that people should hide any valuables in their cars. McBain concluded his remarks by re-affirming to the public that, “The Piedmont Police are here to help us and protect us.”

I believe that Chief Bowers is doing a tremendous job of reducing the criminal activity in Piedmont and also spreading awareness about the dangers of drinking and smoking. These changes will ultimately benefit Piedmont and new technologies will also contribute even more to a decrease in crime rates. Regarding Bower’s address on kids health, I believe that it was very powerful for him to say that the Piedmont Police Department truly cares for every single Piedmont Unified School District kid. The Police only seeks to enlighten us on the dangers of underage drinking and smoking and are not here to incarcerate any teenagers.

At the end of the meeting, I interviewed a local resident of Piedmont, Lisa Gros. Mrs. Gros attended the meeting with her son who was a Boy Scout, as he was required to attend a City Council meeting. She was intrigued about the topics of drinking and drug awareness and seemed optimistic that her son would never partake in such activities.

I then asked Mrs. Gros how she would take action on the issues of underage drinking and smoking to which she replied, “I will be a role model for my kid and give him the right guidance when the time is right, but for right now I just hope that being openly against underage drinking will be enough to dissuade these kids from partaking in these detrimental activities.”

The City Council meets on the 1st and 3rd Monday’s of every month to address community issues and to hear community input from local residents and officials.

By Kevin Mead, Piedmont High School Senior

~~~~~~~~~

I attended a Piedmont City Council meeting at the Piedmont City Hall on November 6, 2017. The main topic on the agenda at the November 6 meeting included the Police Quarterly report presented by Piedmont Police Chief Jeremy Bowers. The Police Quarterly Report dominated the majority of the meeting as recent crime reports and specific criminal incidents in general were addressed.

Bowers said that the crime rate is continuing to decrease in the past two years. Bowers also was concerned with recent incidents of mail being stolen from citizens, and suggested that citizens should shred old mail.

A big issue was the recent incidents regarding parties in Piedmont where two girls were hospitalized for alcohol poisoning. Police intend to be vigilant for parties and be on the lookout for alcohol consumption among teenagers simply in concern of their long term health.

Councilwoman Jen Cavenaugh asked Bowers if the Police Department tracks who hosts these private parties. Bowers responded by saying that the police do take note of that yet try to educate residents about the City of Piedmont ordinances regarding parties.

Another topic in the police report was the policy on marijuana use by young people. Bowers spoke of two officers from the Piedmont Police who went to Colorado to study how the legalization of marijuana has affected the state, and how it will work in California when it is legalized.  Bowers said the Police Department wants to educate young people on the effects of  marijuana use as opposed to taking a strictly punitive approach.

Councilwoman Cavenaugh asked if the police would still enforce the laws and punish young people caught with marijuana, and Bowers responded by saying that they would while emphasizing education and would also increase police controls in the Piedmont Park as that is an area where marijuana use is prevalent.

I appreciate this approach by Bowers as it is important for people to know what they are doing wrong and why it is harmful as opposed to being locked up without learning more about the crime they committed.

After the meeting concluded, I interviewed Bryan Gros, who attended the meeting with his son who is a Boy Scout and must attend a City Council meeting in order to earn his communication merit badge. Gros went there to support his son and he “learned a lot about the Piedmont Police Department.” In terms of his reaction to the police report, Gros said he “appreciated the way that the Police Chief thinks the best way to handle issues is in the community.”

At the beginning of the meeting, there was an opportunity for citizens to speak to the Council regarding any issue. I spoke about the recent protests in front of City Hall regarding the installation of new cell phone towers throughout the City. I said that the cell phone towers were necessary because the service in areas such as Hampton Field is quite bad and is inconvenient and could pose as a safety risk if someone needs to make an emergency call but cannot due to poor service. I also said that cell phone towers themselves do not cause harm to anyone and the protestors are misinformed on the effects of the towers.

The Piedmont City Council meets on the first and third Monday of each month at 7:30 p.m. The Piedmont City Council addresses issues of public safety and budget issues for the City including various aspects of the City. including the Police and Fire Departments.

by Roy Connors, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors. 
Nov 1 2017

“Something’s got to change” –

Last week, Captain Chris Monahan and I had the opportunity to attend the Consent Assembly held at the Alan Harvey Theater on the Piedmont High School campus. I had heard about the assembly, which features student actors portraying real-life accounts of teen sexual assault and sex related themes told by former students, and was appreciative to have been invited by a PHS teacher but was not prepared for how impactful the delivery was to be. Standing in the theater, listening to the traumatic experiences of sexual assault that were conveyed by students on the stage, I experienced the hair on the back of my neck standing up and a mix of sadness, anger, and familiarity. These feeling arose from my experience as a former sexual assault detective and with the victims I tried to obtain justice for.

I learned that the assembly has been a tradition since 2006 and had the feeling that as impacted as I felt, the students in the building must have been even more so since it was their classmates they saw up on stage as the conduit for others’ experiences. I also left the assembly asking myself, “Why, with this tradition of impactful delivery, does the Police Department continue to get the reports of sexual assault that it does?” One answer was provided by a Millennium High School student I talked with about the assembly a day or two after. I asked her the same question and the answer she provided was brilliant and simple. She believed the increase in awareness, and the need to do something about it, was the reason I might be receiving more reports. I think she may be right.

Fresh off last week’s high school-wide introspective, two separate parties were held at private residences in town this past weekend, both of which resulted in a high school-aged female being taken by ambulance to a hospital for excessive alcohol consumption. Both heads of household seemingly had the best of intentions and put measures in place that they thought would deal with uninvited guests, prevent alcohol and other illegal substances from being used, and that would generally keep a close eye on activities to ensure a healthy and safe environment. Unfortunately, despite these measures, two young people went to the hospital, and the scary thing is, they got off easy compared to what could have happened. Thinking back to last week’s Consent Assembly, impairment due to alcohol or other substances was a significant factor in the victimization that was depicted.

As a parent, is a party with 40 to 50 kids necessary? If the answer is yes, then be realistic about what you’re inviting. If you are going to allow or host a party with a large number of teenagers, understand that they will more than likely try to bring alcohol or drugs with them. The level of adult oversight at a party goes beyond “just being there”. Depending on the size of the party and number of kids in attendance, multiple adults need to not just be in attendance, but they need to be actively paying attention and be present to observe what’s going on. Talk to your child about the guests they want to invite and take the initiative to manage the guest list. Check backpacks and any containers that are being brought. I understand that these measures may embarrass your child and take you a couple notches down on the cool meter but unless that happens you should expect bad results.

I’ve heard the philosophy that parents want to provide a “safe place” for teenagers to do their thing because “they’re going to do it anyway”, but that reasoning is flawed for the simple fact the kids aren’t going to be staying at the party location. Inevitably they leave to walk or drive home, to a friend’s house, or who knows where. Let me be unequivocal for those parents or guardians who may be of the mind to be complicit with allowing or providing alcohol or other illicit drug use, you will be held criminally accountable by this Police Department. Officers will also be assessing the individual dynamics of parties they are called to and will be using existing city ordinances when appropriate, including the use of administrative fines. We are not taking this stance to be punitive or overly authoritarian. This is about the welfare and safety of this community’s children.

I am working through these issues as well, as I have children and understand the need to allow them to grow, let off steam and learn to deal with real-life, adult, situations. None of us have all the answers on how to navigate these issues in the safest manner, but together, with continued dialog and a sense of purpose, we can get better at helping our teens and each other navigate these dynamics.

Jeremy Bowers, Piedmont Chief of Police

Nov 1 2017

What did students observe at the School Board meeting of October 25, 2017? 

The Piedmont Unified School District Board meeting on October 25th took place at City Hall, beginning at 7:00 pm, one of the bimonthly meetings that take place on the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month.

Upon arriving fifteen minutes early, no seats were to be had and the room was packed with people lining up in the hallway and scrambling for seats in the overflow rooms. This meeting was so popular because of the unofficial topic on the schedule, sexual harassment allegations about a Piedmont High School teacher, Mr. Mark Cowherd.

The meeting opened up with Gabe Kessler, a core teacher at Piedmont Middle School and the President of the Associated Piedmont Teachers [APT], expressing his support for the teachers’ aides and their fight to receive higher wages as they negotiate their contract. Mr. Kessler also talked about the challenges of deciding on an instructional calendar for the 2018-2019 school year, as each calendar works better for different students.

After the meeting, I talked to Mr. Gabe Kessler about this, and he said that it “was one of the harder things because there are elements of every calendar that work and elements that don’t.”  He also said that he wants to continue to show his support for the teacher aides and will continue to do so as the President of the APT, and as a teacher who is supported by the aides. Lastly, he said that he was also there to better understand what the community was feeling about Mr. Cowherd, although it would be inappropriate for him to comment on that further.

Mr. Kessler was followed by Ms. Ford, a third grade teacher, who also demonstrated her support for teachers’ aides, listing multitude reasons why they are essential in the classroom. For example, in one lesson, an aide will be listening to the lesson, picking the essential parts of it, modifying the lesson for the student they’re working with, and helping them understand. All of this done simultaneously. Finally, Ms. Ford said that these aides cannot afford to stay and live in Piedmont because they aren’t being paid enough even though they are most important.

After Ms. Foster spoke, Teris Alzer, a teacher’s aide, spoke on behalf of the CSEA and other teacher’s aides about their contract negotiation and what concerns aides have. She said that they want to be able to provide for families and kids and want to be cared for as employees. David Brobali and Jeffrey Verdano, both teacher’s aides, also spoke and said that they want to continue to work in Piedmont, but can’t even afford to live here on just this salary and sometimes work extra jobs.

The School Board then decided to move to the items not listed on the agenda, as there were so many people gathered to speak and support those talking about the sexual harassment allegations against Mr. Mark Cowherd.

First to speak was Lisa Sherman, the parent of Natalie Stollman, one of the students who filed a complaint against Mr. Cowherd. Ms. Sherman described how her daughter had the courage to say something, yet after receiving a letter that said Mr. Cowherd was being welcomed back to school after three weeks of administrative leave, she felt ignored and disregarded. She also said that there should have been a counselor to check in on her and other students, making sure she felt okay. Finally, Ms. Sherman expressed concern over how the student body views Mr. Cowherd’s return, for it can be inferred that what he did wasn’t wrong or that they won’t be listened to when they bring up a concern about a teacher.

Esther Rogers, also a parent to Piedmont students, followed Ms. Sherman, stating that she was there to support Natalie and her mother. She said that she sent out an email the night before telling people about the School Board’s decision and actions and wanted to rally support for this meeting.  Ms. Rogers also raised concerns about the impact this decision has on boys in the classroom, as the teasing sets a bad example. She wondered what we, as a community, are saying when we allow a teacher to remain in the classroom when it has been concluded that he does tease and people are uncomfortable with that.

After Esther Rogers, eight more people stood up and spoke to show support, each telling of a time when their son or daughter felt bullied or uncomfortable in Mr. Cowherd’s class. Most notable was Kim Hunter, who is an Alameda County District Attorney, who said that the community needs to take a stand and can’t ignore these stories. Additionally, Ms. Hunter said that even a seventeen year old is still a child and when you ignore this, you perpetuate the idea that this is okay.

As everyone finished speaking, Ms. Rogers asked those attending the meeting to show their support for Natalie to walk through the main hall.

After most people left the meeting, Michael Brady gave an H1 update, a bond that is discussed at every School Board meeting. H1 aims to fix the gaps in the education system. At this meeting, new ways to name and build new buildings and facilities were discussed, with a full description found on the District website.

Then, Mr. Booker began to talk about CAB refinancing and the two page summary that was put out to the community and can also be found on the District website.

Amal Smith said that she had received eight emails about switching from CAB to SIB. A member of the audience who did not state his name also talked, saying that if they refinanced the CAB in 2032, 22.89 million dollars would be saved later, as opposed to refinancing now, which would only save 19 million dollars now. He said that this point wasn’t very clear in what was sent out to the community and he was worried the community wasn’t aware of this. He was also disturbed that CABs were put back on the table when the majority of the community wants SIBs. He was also worried about a recent tax increase of about 1,000 dollars on many Piedmont homes.

At this point, all of us students there were completely lost and had no clue what was being said around us, so I asked what all of that meant. Mr. Booker explained that when the District rebuild Havens, they borrowed money and that CABs and SIBs were ways to pay back the loan and that they were looking at which was the better one.

After explaining CABs and SIBs, Mr. Booker went on to discuss an open hearing for APT and opening a hearing on the contract to discuss benefits, retirement and disability benefits found in Article 10 and Article 6 that can be found online at the District website. He also invites the community to email the Board Members about this.

The Board then voted on the 2017-2018 working budget, which passed, and the Board gave their reports and announcements, essentially reporting to others what they had done in the community since they last met, and what they were planning on doing.

Overall, this School Board meeting was intense, but hopeful, as the community rallied together around each other to reach a common goal, I have no doubt that the School Board will take the feedback into consideration and respond accordingly.

by Emma Ziegler, Piedmont High School Senior

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

On October 25th, 2017, the School Board met in the Council Chambers at City Hall for the School Board Meeting, that occurs twice a month. The official purpose of this meeting was to discuss teacher aides, the CSEA wages, the future of named facilities at Piedmont High School, and refinancing bonds. Additionally, many members of the community brought forward their concerns and grievances regarding History teacher, Mr. Mark Cowherd.

The first major issue brought up was wage of teacher aides. Alaleh Ford, a third grade teacher at Beach School, described her experience with teacher aide and how integral teacher aides are. Ms. Ford’s teaching style is dependent on rotations, where she teachers two-thirds of the class and her teacher aide teaches the other third. Ms. Ford’s teacher aide also helps go over the successes and mistakes on tests, with each student individually. This same teacher aide “does yard duty, lunch duty, goes to 3 other teachers in a day… [and] stays longer after school.” Despite their hard work, Ms. Ford feels teacher aides are undervalued and cannot afford to stay, with many aides leaving only after a few years.

The next issue brought up was the California School Employees Association (CSEA) contract negotiations. Terra Salazar, the president of Chapter 60 CSEA, felt their workers were not treated fairly or respectfully. She was suported by Gabriel Kessler, David Pinvolly, and Jeffrey Dreadon. She pointed to the job descriptions that had not been changed for over a decade, despite the changing educational environment.

Maureen Rhodin, the District Data Coordinator, added that the CSEA had not been assigned any Board liaisons, despite there being 2 liaisons for the Association of Piedmont Teachers and 7 for Parent Clubs and Organizations.

Ms. Salazar stated “we have been pressured to do more with less and we’ve done it… [because] our students need us”. While Ms. Salazar acknowledged the budget was looking “bleak”, she still believed that their workers deserve higher wages.

The biggest issue discussed was the offensive conduct of a Mr. Mark Cowherd, a Piedmont High School history teacher. Many parents, such as Lisa Sherman, Esther Rodgers, Cara Michaels, Hope Salzer, Janice Sheldon, Pamela Grewal, Carol James, Guy Van Guano, and Vincent Vasulo, as well as an Alameda County District Attorney, Kim Hunter, were fearful of how this would set the wrong example for Piedmont students, and felt that Mr. Cowherd should not have been let back into the classroom. Ms. Sheldon and Ms. James both claimed Mr. Cowherd’s conduct has been an issue for a long time, with Ms. Sheldon calling a parent about Mr. Cowherd three years ago.

One of the major problems was the tone of the letter sent after Mr. Cowherds return to school. Many of the parents say that it “welcomes him back.”  Ms. Sherman, the parent of one of the students that brought forward evidence against Mr. Cowherd, believed this would discourage girls from speaking up against sexual harassment, while teaching boys that there is no punishment.

In an interview, Jamie Pehanick, a concerned Piedmont parent, believed that the regulations at school should be changed. She, like many others came, to the meeting to show her support for the parents as well as the students who spoke out against Mr. Cowherd, specifically Lisa Sherman. She personally disapproved of both Mr Coward’s actions and the letter that welcomed him back. Overall, she was “pleased with how [the School Board Meeting] turned out.”

    In another topic, Michael Brady, the Bond Program Coordinator, discussed the naming of school facilities. Mr. Brady stated the Board of Education has all rights to naming facilities. This includes renaming facilities and adding new names. A facility could be trees, memorials, buildings, or even parts of buildings. New facility names may come from donations or they may be generated by the community, and given to the Board for consideration. In the upcoming construction of Piedmont High School, memorials will be preserved. However, there may also be requests to remove some memorials, such as the removal many past eagle scout projects. This topic was mainly covered to give the Board information, for future feedback.

    The last major topic covered in the meeting was the refinancing of bonds. There were two options a Capital Appreciation Bond (CAB) to a Current Interest Bond (SIB) or a CAB to CAB (CAB and SIB are to different types of bonds). Estimates project a higher tax savings if the Board waits to refinance. However, this is assuming interest rates continue the trend of going down. If the Board chooses to wait, they may save $40 million dollars, instead of the $24 million dollars if they refinance sooner.

    In my opinion, the problems the parents had did not lie in Mr. Cowherd’s case, but the laws and regulations dealing with the case governed the case.  Much of Mr. Cowherd’s actions were spread by word of mouth, or through unofficial documents, which only added fuel to the fire. The Board should have had more power to deal with the issue, such as revealing more information on the case or clearing up any misunderstandings. Parents should not have to go to City Hall to call for further action.

by Lyndon Torio, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors.
Oct 27 2017

TRUNK OR TREAT !

BRING THE KIDS TO greet Piedmont’s

POLICE OFFICERS

and TRICK-OR-TREAT out of the trunk of a patrol car.
WHERE: Piedmont Police Department

Highland and Vista Avenues
When: Halloween, Tuesday October 31, 2017

Time: 3 – 6 p.m.

 

Oct 25 2017

Reports on the Oct. 16th City Council Meeting –

On Monday, October 16, 2017, five of my fellow classmates and I attended a City Council meeting. The Council convenes twice every month in the Council Chambers of Piedmont City Hall.  At the beginning of the meeting, Betsy Andersen was sworn into the council as a newly appointed council member.

Following this, City Council called the Piedmont Chief of Police and then the Piedmont Fire Chief to discuss the recent Sonoma County fires and give thanks to those who contributed to relief for the victims. The Fire Chief explained that after the fires broke out, the Piedmont Fire department was able to send two fully staffed fire engines to the north bay while still being completely staffed back home. Both the Police and Fire Chiefs also explained how monetary donations to the Red Cross were the best way to help victims of the fires.

Next, the Mayor called for the approval of the consent calendar which unanimously passed. This motion then led straight into the Public Forum in which three of my classmates spoke.

Mira Tellegen spoke first in an eloquently delivered speech detailing her upbringing in Piedmont and how city representatives, law enforcement and residents have affected her life for the better.

Following Mira, Abby Wilson expressed her interest in making Piedmont a sanctuary city in which city law enforcement does not enforce federal immigration and deportation laws, and a statement against the current anti-immigration policies implemented by Congress and the President. Abby referenced how many other U.S. cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego have declared themselves sanctuary cities in similar protest to U.S. immigration policy.

Closing out the public forum, Alec Opdyke gave a heartfelt thank you to the Piedmont police force for making him, and the rest of Piedmont, feel safe in comparison to the actions of the Los Angeles police force where Alec spends many weekends.

Following the Public Forum, the council introduced a new City Hall employee, Mark Anito, who was chosen out of 70 applicants to be an employee of the Department of Public Works.

The continuing controversy over the implementation of the Crown Castle Wireless Communication facilities was addressed.

Next, began the discussion for the consideration of the many wireless communication networks that Crown Castle had proposed to be set up throughout Piedmont. The first site to be discussed is located at 352 Jerome Avenue. At this time Betsy Andersen recused herself in discussing this specific site as the site lies very close to her own home.

The council started by making clear that no member of city staff selected any of the sites for wireless communication facilities proposed by Crown Castle and that although staff did give suggestions for certain sites, none of them were included in the final proposal. After much discussion surrounding the potentially dangerous radio waves emitted from each facility and their incredibly close proximity to households in Piedmont, the council moved to deny the application set forth for the site at 352 Jerome Avenue.

After similar discussion and ultimate denial for applications at four other sites (located at 150 Highland, 303 Hillside, 1159 Winsor and 428 El Cerrito) public commentary was allowed in which 6 employees of Crown Castle spoke in response to the issues raised against the applications for their facilities.

The government relations manager for Crown Castle explained how the plan for these facilities had been developed over two years and had undergone many revisions to accommodate both Piedmont residents and city staff. He expressed his disappointment in the council’s decision to deny the applications; then brought up the Crown Castle attorney who discussed many of the same points but also touched on the allegations of noncompliance with city noise ordinances.

Finally, Morgan Hunt, the manager of engineering for Crown Castle spoke on the antenna size and coverage. In his speech, he referenced Palo Alto’s use of smaller antennas on every street block but didn’t add any real argument for why Piedmont should do the same thing.

I personally thought the arguments on behalf of Crown Castle were extraordinarily weak. Both the Government relations manager and the Crown Castle Attorney did not especially make any real effort to prove the need for these sites or disprove any of the allegations against them. Instead, they chose to appeal to the council through continued references to the amount of work they personally had put into the project and how hard they had tried to make ends meet for us, as though the council and the city of Piedmont were inconveniencing them with this decision. Needless to say, the council did not reverse any of their decisions.

It was at this point at about 9:00 p.m. that school policy requires us to not be at events required for school, so my fellow students and I filed out of City Hall. We would find out the next morning that the meeting adjourned just before 1 a.m., due to the number of community members who spoke as well as the time spent by the council addressing more Wireless Communications sites.

As we exited, we encountered a group of adults waiting for discussion of a different issue regarding preferential parking on Rose Avenue which is partly in Oakland and partly in Piedmont. Tanya Liv and Sebastian Liv felt that because the preferential parking district affected citizens in Oakland, they and all Oakland citizens living on the 5 Piedmont-Oakland border streets, should have a say in Piedmont city government.

David Weiner intended to speak on the same issue and said that the first step they needed to take was to get a proposal passed that limited preferential parking districts to only apply between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. Although they hope to get rid of preferential parking districts altogether, they hoped that the passage of this first proposal will be a step in the right direction.

by Reece Proctor, Piedmont High School Senior

~~~~~~~~~~

At the October 16, 2017, Council Meeting, the Piedmont City Council primarily discussed the eight-new cell towers proposed by Crown Castle and citizens’ concerns regarding the towers. This is the second meeting to discuss this, the first being two weeks earlier, and the next meeting concerning the towers will take place on Oct. 30. In addition to the main topic, the City Clerk swore in a new member, Betsy Smegal Andersen, and discussed the new preferential parking spots adjacent to the intersections of Kingston, Linda & Rose in Piedmont.

Acknowledging Betsy Smegal Andersen, a member of the League of Women Voters spoke giving congratulations to Mrs. Andersen, and telling the audience how proud she was that there were three females on the Piedmont City Council again.

Then three students spoke on the Public Forum, Mira Tellegen, Abby Willson, and Alec Opdyke. Mira Tellegen spoke about how influential Piedmont has been in shaping her life and who she is today. Abby Wilson talked about how the Piedmont City Council should turn Piedmont into a sanctuary city, following other nearby cities (Berkeley, Oakland, Etc.). Finally, Alec Opdyke thanked the Piedmont police for keeping Piedmont safe, comparing police involvement in Piedmont to police involvement in Glendale, California.

Moving onto the main subject of the meeting, the council members started off the cell tower discussion by saying that they had no part in deciding where the five towers were to be placed. They went on to discuss how Crown Castle has changed their building plans to try and satisfy all residents.

Representatives from Crown Castle came up to defend their locations and their reason to build them, but were not able to gain support from the crowd. Six Crown Castle representatives spoke about how they were able to make the poles shorter and move the power supplies underground, but were not able to make the sound emissions under 60 decibels (Piedmont City Law says that it must be under 50 decibels).

While Crown Castle had addressed some problems, sixteen members of the public still came forward to voice their opinion against the towers. Their complaints ranged from the risk of cancer increasing around the poles, to their property value decreasing because of the polls. By the end of the discussion, the Council had decided to not approve five of the sites, leaving the decision for the other three sites until October 30.

The last topic that was the new permitted parking spots for five proposed blocks. The local residents talked about how hard it was to park around their homes because people who work in the surrounding area took spots in front of their houses, therefore they needed parking restrictions on non-residents. The Piedmont City Council decided to try a six-month trial period where local residents would have permitted parking between 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.

At the end of the meeting, I interviewed David Weiner who was at the meeting to discuss the parking issues. The reason he was there was to “discuss the times proposed (10pm-7am) on the parking permit signs” and how all of the five blocks being considered should have preferential parking, including those parts outside of Piedmont in Oakland. He said his next steps are to extend the times on the signs, and in the long-term to find permanent parking for the Kaiser Permanente employees, who are the primary ones taking parking in front of their homes.

By Alec Opdyke, Piedmont High School Senior

~~~~~~~~~

    On Monday, October 16th, the Piedmont City Council met at City Hall. The meetings of the City Council, open for public viewing and comment, occur twice a month at 7:30 p.m.

    The City Council, once called to order, began the meeting by swearing in a new member of City Council, Elizabeth Andersen. Andersen has two daughters at Piedmont High School, senior Jane and freshman Ellie.

    Following Andersen’s swearing in, the Council formally thanked the Piedmont League of Women Voters for the work they do each week to present information on the agenda for the City Council meetings.

    The Council then welcomed Fire Chief Warren McLaren and Police Chief Jeremy Bowers to update activities on the Napa Fires. The Piedmont and Alameda County mutual aid programs allowed the Piedmont government to send law enforcement officers and firefighters along with two fire engines to aid those in the Napa and Sonoma areas.

    “[The fires] were devastating to so many people and will take years to recover from,” Bowers said.

    McLaren said that the aid sent to the fires did not prevent the Fire Department from responding to their usual call volume in Piedmont.

    “At no time were we short staffed here in Piedmont,” McLaren said.

    Mayor Robert McBain then addressed the audience as to the importance of the “AC Alert” program, which sends messages to subscribers in times of crisis. Those interested can sign up on the City webpage, McBain said.

    “Please take advantage of AC Alert,” McBain said.

    In the Public Forum section of the meeting, senior Abigail Willson advocated for Piedmont to take on the status as a sanctuary city and senior Alec Opdyke spoke in support of the police’s efforts in the city. I, senior Mira Tellegen, spoke about how Piedmont as a city and the programs the City Council supports shape children and adolescents in the area, and how the transition to college life will be laced with sadness as the graduates leave the haven of Piedmont.

    The City Council next addressed an application for wireless communication service facilities, or cell towers, in Piedmont, an issue a crowd of citizens had been protesting outside City Hall before the meeting.

    “At no time did any member of City staff select a site or design a facility,” a member of the Council read. “To do so would be unethical, and we hold ourselves to a high ethical standard.”

    The Council considered sites at 340-370 Highland Avenue, 740 Magnolia Avenue, 799 Magnolia Avenue, 150 Highland Avenue, 303 Hillside Avenue, 428 El Cerrito, 352 Jerome Avenue, and 1159 Winsor Avenue. They approved none, and will discuss further at the meeting on Oct. 3o.

    Crown Castle Government Relations Manager Sharon James said that Crown Castle has spent two years planning to install wireless service in Piedmont and redesigned the plan to consider the concerns of the community.

    “Opposition is very strong and unusual,” James said. “Good for you, you have a strong community.”

    James said that Crown Castle’s goal is to provide extra wireless capacity for the city.

    “It’s not about now, it’s about down the road,” James said. “It’s not about kids streaming videos, it’s about being able to contact public safety.”

    James said that whether the push comes from Crown Castle or a different company, the issue of wireless service facilities will continue to be pushed in Piedmont.

    “I’m very disappointed,” James said.

    A member of UC Berkeley Physics Department and Piedmont citizen Peter Harvey said that the current site plan is more intrusive than previous proposals, especially to the environment.

“They should be checking for tree health,” Harvey said.

Other citizens spoke out about concerns over the property values, the health concerns of electromagnetic energy, and the negative effects on Piedmont historical sites like the Park and Community Center.

Outside City Hall, Piedmont and Oakland residents waited together to speak on the issue of preferential parking, as some streets affected contain both Piedmont and Oakland addresses.

“We are trying to make sure that everyone is treated with equity,” Piedmont resident Dawn Margolin said. “We don’t feel that it’s okay to leave people that are on the Oakland side of the street out of this whole equation, without a voice.”

Lake Avenue resident David Weiner said that the issue of parking is not new.

“People have been talking informally for a long time,” Weiner said.

Margolin said that civic engagement is essential in any community.

“I am at City Hall because I believe that we are responsible for our own government,” Margolin said.

    The Oct. 16 meeting adjourned shortly before 1 a.m., and the full agenda can be found on the Piedmont Civic Association website.

by Mira Tellegen, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors.
Oct 22 2017

The commercial proponents of extensive installations of “small” cell towers in Piedmont have stated that health issues cannot be considered when the City Council acts on the installations.  In support of their position, they refer to government regulators’ statements that the towers do not present a health issue and excluding health impacts from the permit process discussions.

More than one public person has come forward to state that the radiation emitted by the towers will present a health hazard to them because of their current medical conditions. Professionals from Piedmont have stated publicly on the record likely damage to humans, trees, insects, animals, and vegetation in cell tower areas.

CNN has been running a series of information programs providing data and evidence on the cell towers and cell phones as a potential health hazard.  To view programs, click below:

https://www.smart-safe.com/blogs/news/cnn-program-on-wireless-radiation-and-microwave-sickness-vital-signs-with-dr-sanjay-gupta

Oct 22 2017

Monday, Oct. 30th – 7:30 p.m.  City Council Chambers.  This meeting will be broadcast on Channel 27 and from the City website videos.

At its regular meeting of October 16, 2017, the City Council denied Crown Castle’s applications for Wireless Communication Facilities Permits and Variances for five of the sites included in the application: 150 Highland Avenue, 303 Hillside Avenue, 428 El Cerrito Avenue, 352 Jerome Avenue, and 1159 Winsor Avenue.

The Council continued consideration of three additional sites (near 340-370 Highland Avenue, 740 Magnolia Avenue, and 799 Magnolia Avenue) to a special meeting on Monday, October 30, 2017 and directed staff to prepare resolutions that would enable Council to deny these applications. The Council will make its decision on whether to approve or deny these applications at the October 30th Special Council meeting.

The final site, 314 Wildwood Avenue, will be considered by the Park Commission and will come back to Council for consideration at a later date.


City report below:

Crown Castle and Beacon Development filed applications in November 2016 for nine Verizon distributed antenna system wireless communication facilities, located generally around Piedmont Park and Piedmont High School. Crown Castle is a company that builds wireless communications facilities and then leases them to wireless service providers, such as AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon.

The projects consist of five installations on the tops of existing utility poles, three installations on the tops of existing street light poles, and one installation on a new light. The applicants have proposed that ground equipment related to the pole top antennas be located in various locations including cabinets shaped like mailboxes, behind shrouds mounted on poles and street lights, and in underground vaults in the sidewalk.The proposal will require final approval from the City Council. Click to read more information about the application and the review process.

The Piedmont Park Commission considered this application at its regular meeting of June 7, 2017. The Piedmont Planning Commission considered this application at its regular meeting of June 12, 2017. The staff reports for these meeting are available on the Planning Department web page.

[Five applications were denied by the City Council at their October 16 meeting.  The denied cell towers are located at or near 150 Highland Avenue, 303 Hillside Avenue, 428 El Cerrito Avenue, 352 Jerome Avenue, and 1159 Winsor Avenue.]

A Piedmont Planning Department staff report prepared for the October 30, 2017 Council meeting is not yet available, however when made available, it will be published on this site.

Contact information for City Council:

Robert McBain, Mayor rmcbain@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 547-0597 2nd Term Exp. 11/20
Teddy Gray King, Vice Mayor tking@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 450-0890 1st Term Exp. 11/18
Jennifer Cavenaugh jcavenaugh@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 428-1442 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 Unexpired Term Exp. 11/18
Oct 20 2017

The City of Piedmont and the Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) are making “Piedmont Stands United Against Hate” signs available to all residents.

In a joint project, the City of Piedmont and the Piedmont Unified School District have purchased “Piedmont Stands United Against Hate” signs, which are available to residents to show their support of Piedmont as an inclusive community.

These signs are the latest action taken by the City and the PUSD to demonstrate the commitment of Piedmonters to be an inviting, equitable, just, and safe community for everyone and to condemn, in the strongest possible language, the totalitarian impulses, violent terrorism, xenophobic biases, and bigoted ideologies that are promoted by hate groups.

“These signs are a visible way for Piedmonters to show their support for inclusivity and respect,” said Mayor Robert McBain. “We are pleased to be able to partner with the School District to help residents take a visible stand against intolerance and injustice.”

“The Piedmont Unified School District has instituted curriculum this year to provide training in equity, diversity, and social justice for staff, students, and the Piedmont community,” said Board of Education President Sarah Pearson. “We are pleased to partner with the City on this important endeavor.”

A group of residents are mobilizing to distribute signs to those who request them.

If you are interested in obtaining a sign, please contact Conna McCarthy at > 

mccarthycraigie@gmail.com.  

A limited number of signs will also be available at City Hall and the PUSD District Office.

The above press release is dated October 20, 2017. 

 

Oct 16 2017

At the October 16, 2017 Council Meeting, the matter of Crown Castle cell tower installations were considered.

Errors in the cell tower applications, hazards, incomplete information, safety, aesthetics, tree preservation, property value reduction, need, fire hazards, and noise were some of the issues raised in the over 3 hour public hearing with numerous impassioned speakers opposing approval of the cell towers. 

The Council voted unanimously to deny approval of five applications which are located at or near 150 Highland Avenue, 303 Hillside Avenue, 428 El Cerrito Avenue, 352 Jerome Avenue, and 1159 Winsor Avenue. 

Concerns expressed by three of the Council members, King, Cavenaugh, and Andersen led to their voting no to motions by Councilmember Rood and seconded by Mayor McBain to conditionally approve three proposed sites at or near 340-370 Highland Avenue, 740 Magnolia Avenue, and 799 Magnolia Avenue.  

Without the required 3 approving votes, the motions failed leading to a decision to continue further consideration of the 3 remaining sites noted above until a Special Council Meeting at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, October 30.  

Staff was directed to bring back additional information on noise factors and detailed descriptions of proposed vaulting and other potential areas for denial.