Oct 15 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proponent speaker: Betsy Andersen

Opponent speaker: Andy Wasserman

Oct 14 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Garrett Keating, Former City Council Member

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

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

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

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

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

Official Measure UU – Pool Construction Bonds information

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

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

Oct 12 2020

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

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

>Submit Questions Now

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

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

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

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

Oct 11 2020

Piedmont Measure TT increases the “flat rate” property tax  on  sales of all Piedmont homes and properties. Measure TT officially states, “this measure is not a commitment to any particular action or purpose.” 

The 35% tax increase will be levied as a percentage of the property sales price adding thousands of dollars to the cost of selling a property in Piedmont.  With a low bar for passage (one vote plus 50%), if approved by a simple majority of Piedmont voters, TT will become effective on all property sales in Piedmont on July 1, 2021.  Read official details below.

Proponents and Opponents use different terms to argue that TT would or would not establish the highest transfer taxes in California. 

TT Proponents rely on the handful of California cities such as Oakland and Berkeley that have created “stepped” graduated transfer taxes based on the sales price range in their cities, and then compare the highest tax rates for the highest priced properties with Piedmont’s flat rate.  Berkeley’s median house value is 1/2 of Piedmont’s and Oakland’s median house value is 1/3 of Piedmont’s, so their steps do not fit the Piedmont range. (See Alameda County median values here). 

TT Opponents claim TT is the highest California “flat” transfer tax because more than 90% of California cities have flat rates under $2 per $1000 compared to Measure TT’s proposed flat rate of $17.50 per $1000 .  (See California city Transfer Tax rates here .)  Note: Alameda County adds an additional amount to the transfer tax.

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Proponents state the money will be used by the City of Piedmont for essential services, and the tax is comparable to some other cities. “The proposed tax increase will provide necessary funds for maintaining and improving city facilities, streets, sidewalks, and parks.”  Proponents claim that opponents are wrong to state that Piedmont would have the highest Transfer Tax.

Opponents state Piedmont will have the highest “flat” Transfer Tax rate in California and will take away homeowner profits.  “Voters must demand accountability measures before passing such a high homeowner tax.” Also, Piedmonters just approved a City parcel tax for  municipal purposes, and Measure TT does not identify specific uses. 

Click each item below to read official information on the measure, liens, bankruptcies, etc.:

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

Oct 9 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please vote ‘YES’ on UU.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Measure TT – Transfer Tax Increase on Real Property Sales

Measure UU – Pool Construction Bonds 

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

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

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

Oct 8 2020
“There are three good reasons to vote No on  Measure UU Pool Bonds.”
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I sincerely thought Piedmont learned a valuable lesson after the Hills Under-grounding debacle and the famous and equally outrageous Blair Park proposal that was thankfully averted due to its handful of determined and fiscally responsible citizens.
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Based on the estimates of a half baked design can be categorized as oversized, under-budgeted, and perhaps, can also be described as a trivial issue given the current needs of Piedmont to improve its police, fire and government buildings, combat climate change, improve roads and public transportation systems, etc., etc.
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Lastly, I hear the proponents claim it is cheap money so lets go ahead and spend it. There is no such thing as cheap money; money is only cheap when you spend others money and not yours.  Given the current use, money would be spent most wisely if the existing pool is renovated at a fraction of the proposed $19.5 million aquatics facility by competent people to continue to serve those who use the pool and perhaps limit its use only to the residents of Piedmont.
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PHS and private swim teams, middle and high school PE class, adaptive PE, the PHS water polo teams, adult fitness swimmers, and senior water aerobics do not need a new aquatics facility that costs $19.5 million, it needs a well maintained and managed functioning pool.
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Please reject Measure UU by voting No on UU.
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Sinan Sabuncuoglu
Architect and Piedmont Resident for over 35 years
Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.