Jun 18 2019

Based on a plan developed by Piedmont residents William Blackwell and Chuck Oraftik in 2009-2010, the City has been pursuing enlargement of Coaches Field on Moraga Avenue across from Blair Park that will allow use by baseball, soccer, and other field sports. 

To enlarge the playing surface the new plan calls for cutting into the hillside located adjacent to the Corporation Yard at Red Rock Road and Moraga Avenue, adding night lighting, and increasing the number of available parking spaces.

To view the staff report and the concept plan for Coaches Field produced by Callander & Associates, click below:

06/17/19 – Receipt of a Report Regarding the Concept Plan for the Coaches Field Expansion by Callander & Associates

With the acceptance of the design concept by the City Council, environmental work is being sought.  Click below to read the Request for Proposals.

06/17/19 – Consideration of the Issuance of a Request for Proposals for CEQA Services for the Coaches Field Renovation Project

May 28 2019

Letter to Piedmont Pickleball Enthusiasts:

I am thrilled to report that much progress has been made on potential renovations to the Piedmont Middle School hard court surfaces. The City and the School District have been working together to move this project forward and make it a reality this summer!   The project includes re-grading all three spaces, drainage improvements, new asphalt, new poles/nets and new striping that accommodates 6 regulation size pickleball courts with adequate space on sides and ends of each court.

I hope to bring a reimbursement and use agreement to City Council for their review on Monday June 3rd. The total cost of construction will be roughly $60,000 and PUSD will manage the project in its entirety.  PUSD will cover the costs of the new poles and netting system as well as construction management. I will be requesting City Council consider reimbursement to PUSD up to $50,000 for this project.  It would be wonderful if the Pickleball community could bring forth some private contributions to offset a portion of this $50,000 ask.  The use agreement would provide for the Recreation Department to have priority use of the space during non-school hours for formal and informal community use. That translates to plenty of open pickleball time for you all!

I am happy to take donations directly and/or you can organize amongst yourselves to collect contributions and bring them forth as a lump sum to the Council.

Checks can be made out to “City of Piedmont” with PMS Pickleball in the note and mailed or dropped at Piedmont Recreation Department. 358 Hillside Ave. 94611

Please feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions.

Thank you for your ongoing enthusiasm and support in bringing Pickleball to Piedmont!

Sara Lillevand, Director of Recreation, City of Piedmont

510-420-3070

May 16 2019

City Administrator Paul Benoit describes Piedmont’s financial state.

“Piedmont’s financial position, year over year, can be described as ‘STABLE’ at best.”

Maintaining stability requires significant discipline and focus and we have done a good job of it. In recent years we have been working hard to look beyond simply maintaining stable services, and have been exploring opportunities to meet the needs of the future and to improve both the quality and delivery of services. Piedmont is facing, and will continue to face, significant and costly challenges that will need to be addressed – and most are related to the condition of public facilities and infrastructure.

Relative to the City Budget and our ability to make needed investments, it is important to recognize that Piedmont’s General Fund is dominated by property-related taxes, which make up nearly 70% of total revenue. Property based taxes are fairly predictable, with the exception of the Real Estate Transfer Tax.

Because City revenue is derived primarily from property related taxes we are able to make long-term budget projections with a good degree of confidence; additionally, it limits our exposure to the risks associated with significant swings in revenue, such as those experienced by cities heavily reliant on sales taxes.

On the downside we have little ability to increase revenue to the City’s General Fund in any meaningful way — absent voter-approved increases in the rate of the Municipal Services Special Tax, also known as the Parcel Tax, or in the Transfer Tax.

For these reasons, we very purposely:

  •  focus on the delivery of basic services and core programs;
  •  budget carefully and conservatively; and
  •  work diligently to safeguard our financial position by mitigating, to the extent possible, the impact of rising expenses which the City has little control over – particularly CalPERS related benefit costs which constitute an unfunded liability of just over $25 million.

On this latter point, the Council has proactively established a program of pension cost-sharing with employees and has curtailed retiree medical benefits for new hires.  These two initiatives, taken together, slowed the growth rate of our Underfunded Liabilities and will save the City millions of dollars in benefit-related expenses over the years to come.

Another significant action to buffer the effects of rising pension costs was the establishment of a Pension Rate Stabilization Fund, also known as a Section 115 Irrevocable Trust Fund, with the Public Agency Retirement Services – or PARS.

To date, the City Council has approved a total transfer of $2.75 million to PARS from the General Fund. One key benefit of this initiative is that funds deposited with PARS may achieve higher earnings due to less restrictive investment policies than apply to City funds invested in Local Agency Investment Fund.

As a result of the CalPERS decision to reduce the planned rate of return (Discount Rate), the City’s annual pension contributions are projected to increase from the current $2.2 million (7.5% of City revenue) to $5.5 million (13.3 % of City revenue) by 2029. This equates to a cost increase of approximately 132%, while City revenue over this same 10 year period is estimated to increase by only 35%.

As soon as 2023, and potentially continuing through 2031, the increase in mandatory pension contributions is projected to result in General Fund expenses exceeding revenue. When we face these net-negative revenue years, the City will be in a position to stabilize the General Fund by drawing down on its PARS account to pay pension costs.

Overall, prior City Councils and the current Council, working together with staff, have applied wisdom in managing the City’s limited financial resources. Piedmont now has a modest Reserve of just under $5 million, which represents 17% of our operating budget. Absent a catastrophic event, that amount should be of significant help in responding to an emergency or addressing unforeseen circumstances.

While there are no established policies to guide what constitutes “reasonable”, the reserve for the City of Piedmont is restricted by the City Charter to no more than 25% of the Operating Budget.

To put our City’s reserve in perspective, at the end of last fiscal year Emeryville, with a population similar to Piedmont’s, maintained a reserve of $30.3 million, which equates to approximately 76% of their General Fund; Albany’s was $8.8 million, which is 45% of their General Fund; Berkeley had a reserve of $84 million or 55% of their General Fund; and Oakland’s was approximately $150 million or 24% of their General Fund.

In addition to maintaining a modest reserve, the City has been making consistent, long-needed transfers to the Facilities Maintenance and Equipment Replacement Funds, and has also made much needed investments in our IT Systems, with a goal of bringing our use of technology into the modern era.

At the start of this Fiscal Year the Equipment Replacement Fund is projected to have a balance of $2.75 million – which, assuming we continue to make the planned annual transfers from the General Fund, should be sufficient to address the schedule for equipment replacement into the future.

The Facilities Maintenance Fund is projected to have a balance at the start of the year of only $4.8 million. This amount is far short of what is required to address accessibility, life-safety, life- cycle, and efficiency issues of our city’s facilities and property.

Piedmont’s facilities, like so many of the homes in Piedmont, are old and expensive to maintain. While aesthetically pleasing, most of our facilities are in need of significant repair and renovation.

On the whole, our community facilities and infrastructure have been kept largely functional, but it is time to devote the attention and investment necessary to meet community needs, let alone current safety or accessibility standards.

  •  Miles of sidewalks and pathways are in poor condition, and our City Engineer has estimated that we could spend on the order of $11 million on sidewalk and trail repair alone.
  •  To keep the Pavement Condition Index of our streets from deteriorating will require an estimated annual paving expenditure of approximately $1.5 million – up from the current $1 million – and this is assuming a competitive bid environment. As you know, the Engineer’s estimate for the repaving of Magnolia Avenue was $1.3 million. The sole bid submitted was for $1.7 million. So, the estimated $1.5 million required to maintain the condition of our streets could actually have increased to $2 million or more.
  •  The Veterans Hall and Recreation Building are virtually in the same condition and configuration as when they were originally built 50 to 100 years ago. Bringing them to where they should be would require an estimated investment of $6 to 7 million.
  •  The Community Pool cannot remain open much longer without substantial investment. While short-term fixes may postpone the eventual closing, safety issues are significant and the pool is losing an estimated 1 million gallons of water per year via unidentified leaks. Based on the recently completed Aquatics Master Plan, the cost of a modern and safe facility that meets community needs is estimated at between $12 million and $15 million.

Our beloved City Hall has significant needs rarely seen by the public. Low, open ceilings with exposed wires, water intrusion during storms, fire safety and accessibility issues are just a few of the problems.

At times, I hear comments asserting that the City does not have the space needed to support our programs. The fact is we have the “space”. We just need to make the investment needed to address the efficiency, functionality and accessibility issues that limit program opportunities as well as use by staff, the very young, and seniors.

The bottom line fact is that many of our facilities and amenities are inefficient, have significant condition issues limiting usage, and are not where they should be relative to life, safety, and accessibility standards – let alone to where they should be for a community like Piedmont.

Like the School District’s initiatives to invest in modernizing the Elementary Schools and High School to meet 21st Century needs, it is time to apply a similar focus to improving our City facilities and infrastructure.

In recent years, under the leadership of the City Council and with the support of city staff, there has been the political and organizational will to take a fresh and realistic look at our facilities and systems and to make the initial investment needed to develop a clear understanding of the issues and the opportunities for improvement.

While we have been doing the work necessary to develop that understanding—- the reality is that the City’s financial position, in the best of times, will only support an incremental approach to completing the work that needs to be done.

Unfortunately, for many facilities, an incremental approach will not get us to where we need to be.

To summarize:

Maintaining the current condition of our street paving, addressing unsafe sidewalks and pathways, and implementing priority pedestrian and bicycle safety projects will cost an estimated $23 million.

Factoring in the Recreation Building and the basement of City Hall adds up to $7 million. To address the pool and Veterans Hall, add another $17 million. Linda Beach Park improvements are estimated to cost $7 million. Improving Coaches Field could cost up to $4 million. All together these projects total $58 million.

Looking to the future, barring a natural disaster, bringing our facilities and civic infrastructure into the 21st century will be the City’s biggest challenge and greatest opportunity for the betterment of the Piedmont community.

With attention and investment our facilities can continue to serve the community for another 100 years. Doing what has to be done will take time, focus, persistence, vision and leadership. To our good fortune, we have all the right people in place, with the right mix of vision and talent, to meet these challenges.

Paul Benoit, Piedmont City Administrator

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
May 12 2019

Recreation Commission Meeting Agenda Wednesday, May 15, 2019 7:30 p.m.

Open to the public and broadcast live.

City Council Chambers, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA

  1. Approval of Minutes – April 25, 2019
  2. Chair’s Report
  3. Director’s Report
  4. Report from Subcommittee on Skateboarding and Scootering
  5. Update on PMS PE Court Renovation Project
  6. Update on Recreation Center Tennis Court Renovations and PRFO Fundraising
  7. Update on Capital Improvement Projects Review Committee (CIP)
  8. Update on City Website
  9. Betty C. Howard Award – June 4th 6:30pm

READ THE AGENDA, SUBCOMMITTEE REPORT, AND  PRIOR MEETING DRAFT MINUTES > May 2019 Recreation Commission Packet

May 12 2019

Tuesday                  10:00 to 12:30  Linda-Beach tennis courts

Wednesday             12:30 to 3:00   Hampton tennis courts 

Thursday                10:00 to 12:30  Linda-Beach tennis courts

Friday                     12:30 to 3:00   Hampton tennis courts

Saturdays               10am – 1pm at the Piedmont Middle School (PMS) badminton courts
  (PMS requires registration + $25 fee to May 25.  Call PRD at 420-3070)

Sunday                   2:00 to 4:00   Linda-Beach tennis courts 

– Piedmont Rec Dept staff will set up/tear down nets.
– Play must stop at the times indicated.  
– Be sure to use only Rec Dept approved paddles and the City supplied Onix type balls. Do not use hard Dura-fast type balls. 
– Paddles are provided for beginners as well as an introduction to the game. 
– The Hampton Courts are in excellent condition, the Linda-Beach Courts are in very good condition and the PMS asphalt courts have multiple issues.
– Always yell “Ball on” if a ball enters your court or you hit into another court. Stop play and return the ball. Safety first. 

There is no fee required except for Saturdays at the Middle School. Email r_schiller@comcast.net to be added to the Piedmont pickleball google group.

For additional information, contact the Piedmont Recreation Department at 420 – 3070.

May 10 2019

CIP Recommendations: Yes to improvements for Piedmont Middle School courts for pickleball usage, license plate readers at all Piedmont entrances, drinking fountain in Piedmont Main Park for dogs and people – No to Blair Park and Witter Field improvements. 

The CIP Review Committee recommendations will be discussed as part of the Piedmont Proposed FY 19-20 Budget Presentation and Workshop Saturday, May 11,  9 am Piedmont Police Department Emergency Operations Center (EOC).

CIP Review Committee recommendations with respect to the 9 new 2019-20 resident proposals can be summarized as follows:

The following 3 proposals can move forward with City Council support:

-Renovation of PMS Hard-courts
-Installation of ALPRs at Piedmont Entrances
-Installation of a drinking fountain (for humans and dogs) in Piedmont Park

The following 3 proposals are recommended as meritorious but requiring additional study from public safety and/or public works:

-Two related Wildwood Gardens proposals
-Development of a landscape triangle at Blair and Calvert Court

The following 3 proposals are determined to need direction from City Council:

 – Blair Park proposals for donated fencing and parking improvements

 – Two related Witter Field proposals

READ the agenda below for the Council Budget Work Session when the Council will consider all CIP proposals and department budgets:

http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/html/govern/agendas/2019-05-11_special.pdf

READ the full CIP Review Report for 2019 below:

CIPreviewreport 2019

Minutes, broadcasts, and recordings were not made of any of the CIP Review meetings.  Staff reports were not publicized. 

Recordings and broadcast will not be made of the Saturday, May 11, 2019 Council Budget Workshop held at 403 Highland Avenue in the Emergency Operations Center of the Piedmont Police Department.  The public is welcome to attend and participate.

 

READ the full staff 2019-20 Budget recommendations including fees, permits, salaries, benefits, use of City property, tax rates, personnel, etc. – http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/finance/budget/19-20/19-20_budget.shtml

Apr 22 2019

Michael Murphy will retire from the Recreation Department after 36 years.  Murphy is well known in the community for his many years of service to Havens Schoolmate program. 

Murphy Retirement Celebration Sunday, May 5th, Hampton Field. 

1) Jackson Stearns joined the City as the new Recreation Supervisor

2) Michael Murphy, Interim Recreation Supervisor will retire on April 23rd after 36 years and a Citywide celebration for him will be held on Sunday, May 5th at Hampton Field

3) Aquatics Coordinator Victor Rivas has resigned from his position. The vacant position is posted in various locations and an existing staff member will provide 21 hours a week to serve as a short-term backup until the full-time position is filled.

Coaches Field: An RFP for environmental review is the next step in the process during the summer and lighting will be part of that.  Commissioners questioned the timeline for the environmental study, and Director Lillevand stated the conceptual design will be initially reviewed to identify areas which need further study. A determination will then be made of what level of review or additional review is needed. Commissioners recognized significant historic data showing the matter has been ongoing for some time.  March meeting draft minutes.

The April Recreation Commission meeting will take place Thursday, April 25, 2019 in the City Council Chambers, 120 Vista Avenue at 7:30 pm.  This meeting will be broadcast live on Cable Channel 27 and from the City website under videos/ Recreation Commission.

APRIL 25 AGENDA:

  1. Election of Chair and Vice Chair
  2. Approval of Minutes–March 20, 2019
  3. Chair’s Report
  4. Director’s Report
  5. Update from Skateboard and Scooter Subcommittee
  6. Update on Pickleball Trial
  7. Introduction of new Recreation Supervisor – Jackson Stearns
  8. Update on Piedmont Community Pool Closures, Repairs and staffing
  9. Consideration of 2018 Betty C. Howard Award

READ the > April Recreation Commission Meeting Agenda and  March meeting draft minutes.

Apr 19 2019

City of Piedmont

CIP Review Committee Agenda Tuesday, April 23, 2019 7:00 p.m.

City Hall Conference Room, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA

  1. Review of Preliminary CIP Wish Lists, Resident Proposals, and Criteria for Evaluating Proposed Projects
  2. Presentation of Resident Proposals
  3. Consideration of Project List for CIP Review Committee Site Tour on Saturday, May 4, 2019

The meeting will not be recorded or broadcast.  The public is welcome to attend and participate. 

Apr 18 2019

City/School Liaison Committee to Discuss Tobacco Grant Funding Possibly for a School Resource Officer or Other Purposes.

Monday, April. 22nd – 4:00 – 5 p.m. open to the public in the Piedmont Unified School District Offices, 760 Magnolia Avenue.

The Piedmont Unified School District and City of Piedmont will hold a meeting of the City/School Liaison Committee to discuss the California Department of Justice Tobacco Grant Award on Monday, April 22nd at 4:00 p.m. in the PUSD offices located at 760 Magnolia Avenue.

Liaisons are appointees chosen from the City Council and School Board. 

The discussions at this meeting will center on how Tobacco Grant funds might be used by the City and PUSD to bolster and/or develop tobacco mitigation efforts and additional health education programs focused on prevention for tobacco related issues and other student health efforts. This conversation is an outgrowth of previous discussions between PUSD, the City, and the community on the initial proposal to establish a School Resource Officer.

The City/School Liaison Committee is not a decision making body, rather it focuses on discussions of issues of mutual interest between the two agencies. The influential discussions are expected to be reported to their elected bodies for potential action and/or information.  This meeting is open to the public.  It will not be publicly broadcast or recorded. 

The agenda is available online at: http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/committees/agendas/city_school_liaison.pdf 

Apr 16 2019

Extensive New Recreation Projects May Call for a New Piedmont Tax Measure

Projects being considered by the City are the Aquatic Center with expanded new pool and facilities, Coaches Field reconfiguration and night lighting, Linda Beach Park improvements, and updating of the Recreation Building and Veterans Hall.  

Volunteers with support primarily from sports and recreation enthusiasts may be knocking on your door to learn about your funding ideas for the numerous recreation projects through a voter approved bond measure.  Door knocking, a common election tool used to estimate specific approval or rejection of potential ballot bond measures, is underway in Piedmont. 

Some Piedmont leaders have indicated gaining more knowledge about Piedmont voter preferences for recreation facilities is needed to learn where support or opposition lies. The volunteer knocking on your door may be a neighbor. 

Larry Tramutola, a Piedmont resident and widely known political consultant on taxing issues involving cities, special districts, school districts, etc., volunteered to advise on methods for approaching and convincing voters to support a new recreation bond measure.

Consultants, planners, recreation enthusiasts, commissioners, and the City Council have for years been fashioning various plans for improved or enhanced recreation facilities throughout Piedmont. The City has expended a significant amount of money and time towards the plans.

To date, no bond proposals have reached the City Council. 

Consideration of voter acceptance of a bond measure was studied by the Council over a year ago resulting in insufficient voter support by polled voters for bond funding of the recreation projects. For approval, the bond measure would require approval by 2/3rds of those voting on the measure.

New Internal Revenue Service laws may impact Piedmonters willingness to further tax themselves, as there is a recent limitation of $10,000 on deductibility of state and local taxes.