Sep 13 2018

 Survey regarding tennis & pickleball due 9/16

 Subcommittee Will Hold Community Meetings

9/25 & 9/26
Veterans’ Hall

The Piedmont Recreation Commission Tennis and Pickleball Sub-Committee will be holding two separate public discussions regarding Tennis and Pickleball court usage in Piedmont.

  • Pickleball – Tuesday, September 25th – 7:00pm

  • Tennis – Wednesday, September 26th – 7:00pm

Both meetings will be held in the Veterans Memorial Building – 401 Highland Avenue, Piedmont

You’re invited to join in the conversation, ask questions and voice your opinion or concerns.

Residents are also encouraged to take a > survey regarding tennis & pickleball. The deadline for responses is Sunday, September 16th.

If you have any questions, please contact Steven Chavarria at 510-420-6223 or schavarria@piedmont.ca.gov

Sep 11 2018

Due to a recent Recreation Commissioner’s resignation, the Piedmont City Council will be appointing a citizen volunteer to fill the new vacancy on the Piedmont Recreation Commission.

SPECIAL NOTICE OF APPOINTIVE VACANCY 

 on the Piedmont Recreation Commission

All interested citizens must complete and return the > Commission Application 2018 – Recreation on or before the posted deadline of Wednesday, October 10, 2018.Postmarks will not be accepted.

Applications are also available on the city’s website at www.ci.piedmont.ca.us or from the office of the City Clerk, Piedmont City Hall, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, or by telephone at (510) 420-3040.

All applicants must be available for an interview with the City Council on Monday, October 15, 2018, at which time the appointment will be made.

___________________________

John O. Tulloch, City Clerk       Posted: September 11, 2018

>   Commission Application 2018 – Recreation

Learn more about the Piedmont Recreation Commission > HERE.

Aug 31 2018

2nd Reading of Ordinance 741 N.S. Updating Leash Law Provisions, Clarifying Off Leash Areas, Allowing for the Issuance of Administrative Citations, and Updating Outdated Provisions – 

Tuesday, September 4, 2018 City Council Consideration, 7:30 p.m. 12o Vista Avenue, Council Chambers.

RECOMMENDATION Take the following actions related to updating City Code provisions related to dogs:

1) Decide whether off leash hours at Dracena Park should match those of the Linda Dog Park, as recommended by the Park Commission (7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Weekdays and 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on weekends) or should match the overall hours of the park (5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily)

2) Approve the 2nd reading of Ordinance 741 N.S., Updating Leash Law Provisions, Clarifying Off Leash Areas, Allowing for the Issuance of Administrative Citations, and Updating Outdated Provisions

3) By motion, set fines for the revised provisions at $100 per violation

Read the 18 page staff report HERE.  Maps are not included in the staff report. 

COMMENTS TO CITY COUNCIL:

Robert McBain, Mayor rmcbain@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 420-3048
Teddy Gray King, Vice Mayor tking@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 420-3048
Jennifer Cavenaugh jcavenaugh@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 420-3048
Tim Rood trood@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 239-7663
Betsy Smegal Andersen bandersen@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 420-3048
Aug 23 2018

LINDA BEACH MASTER PLAN REVISIONS TO BE PRESENTED
AT JOINT PARK COMMISSION AND RECREATION COMMISSION MEETING WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 5TH AT 6:00PM

At a joint meeting of the Park Commission and the Recreation Commission on September 5th at 6:00 p.m., a progress report will be presented on the revisions to the Linda Beach Master Plan.

The first iteration of the Linda Beach Master Plan was presented to the Park Commission, Recreation Commission, and City Council at meetings this spring. The revisions to be presented at this meeting are based on the robust community feedback received, as well as direction from the City Council. Groundworks Office Landscape Architects, the consultants developing the Linda Beach Master Plan, will present a revised version for public review and comment at the September 5th meeting, which will be held in the Piedmont City Council Chambers located at 120 Vista Avenue.

You are invited to attend this meeting and express your opinion. 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/video.

Public comment is invited and encouraged this meeting.

Written comments may be submitted to the City Clerk’s Office at cityclerk@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.

For further information, contact Recreation Director Sara Lillevand via email at slillevand@piedmont.ca.gov or via phone at (510) 420-3073.

Prior PCA article on scope of Plan > HERE.

———–  Meeting agenda   ——— 

City of Piedmont

Joint Park Commission and Recreation Commission Agenda Wednesday, September 5, 2018 6:00 p.m.

City Council Chambers, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA

This is an opportunity for members of the audience to speak on an item not on the agenda. The 10 minute period will be divided evenly between those wishing to address the Council.

1. Receipt of a Progress Report on the Revisions to the Linda Beach Master Plan and Consideration of Direction to Staff on Further Revisions

Adjourn

Materials related to an item on this agenda submitted to the Park Commission and Recreation Commission are available for public inspection in the City Clerk’s office during normal business hours.

In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, if you need special assistance to participate in this meeting, please contact the City Clerk at (510) 420-3040. Notification at least two business days preceding the meeting will enable the City to make reasonable arrangements to ensure accessibility to this meeting. [28 CFR 35.102-35.104 ADA Title II]

In accordance with G.C. Sec. 54954.2(a) this notice and agenda were posted on the City Hall bulletin board and also in the Piedmont Police Department on August 23, 2018.

Aug 13 2018

The Piedmont Recreation Commission will meet on Wednesday, August 15.  Residents are invited to attend the meeting in the City Council Chambers, 120 Vista Avenue at 7:30 p.m.  The meeting will be broadcast live on Cable Channel 27 and from the City website under videos.

Regular Agenda
1.Approval of Minutes-July 18, 2018
2. Chair’s Report
3. Director’s Report
4. Summer 2018 Recap
5.Update on Schoolmates for 2018-19
6. Update from Subcommittee
on Tennis court use and Pickleball
7. Update from Subcommittee on Skateboarding and Scootering
8. Ceremonial Presentation
Read the Draft July Recreation Commission Meeting minutes to learn about interesting items the Recreation Commission is working on. 
Jul 5 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Report by Joe Creason, Journalism Intern

Jun 21 2018

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

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

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

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

Town Hall Meeting – Monday, June 25

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

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

BIG CHANGES TO THE CITY CHARTER

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

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

ADMINISTRATIVE CHANGES

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

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

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

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

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

 UNLIMITED RESERVES 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COMMENTS MAY BE SENT TO THE COUNCIL MEMBERS AS BELOW:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10. A stormwater plan will be refined and clarified.

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

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

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

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.

May 18 2018

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

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

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

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

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

by Adam Porter, Piedmont High School Senior

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Pickleball, Skateparks, and Toddlers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Aaron Jeffries, Piedmont High School Senior

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Fights Erupt as Piedmont Introduces New Linda Beach Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Paige Avagliano, Piedmont High School Senior

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Mason Barnes, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors.