Tuesday, December 17, 2019

12.17.19 Meeting Summary

Tonight the Council took a few significant actions:
  • Considered notice of 6% annual rate increase from Contra Costa Water District
  • Approved engaging a consultant to fill in on a temporary basis as Community Development Director. Interim Community Development Director David Woltering will leave his position as of December 20, 2019. The contract position will bill on an hourly basis and continue until such time the position is filled full time.
  • We reviewed and approved City Council ad-hoc committee, inter-governmental and regional board assignments for 2020.  Significant changes are that I am taking point as the liaison to the Trails and Landscape Committee, and the Clayton Library Foundation.
During requests for future items, I inquired about appealing Planning Commission resolution 05-19 which found the Olivia project statutorily exempt from CEQA.  Because action on appeal would take a 4/5ths majority of the Council within 10 days of the final determination being filed, it was determined that a special meeting would need to be called.  Given the holidays however, upon polling of available Councilmembers, there would not be sufficient numbers available for a special meeting within the 10 day time window which is expected to start on December 20.  If PC resolution 05-19 is going to be appealed, it will need to be done by a member of the public.  Questions about the process should be directed to city staff.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Upcoming Council Meeting 12.17.19

For the last meeting of 2019, there are a couple of significant items on the agenda:

  • Annual Contra Costa Water District rate increase of 6%
  • We are engaging a consultant to fill in on a temporary basis as Community Development Director.  Interim Community Development Director David Woltering will leave his position as of December 20, 2019.  The contract position will bill on an hourly basis and continue until such time the position is filled full time.
  • Reviewing and updating City Council ad-hoc committee, inter-governmental and regional board assignments for 2020.

If you have any thoughts or questions about any of these items please comment or contact me and I'll do my best to respond or find out more and report back.

If you'd like to receive updates by email, remember you can sign up on the left hand side, or by going to this link and entering an email address.  Updates will be automatically sent whenever I post anything new.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Planning Commission Opening

Currently there is a vacancy at the Planning Commission due to a mid term resignation.  Terms are two years, so the current opening is to fill the remainder of that term, from January 2020 through June 2020.

Last night, the Planning Commission met and voted on two resolutions relating to the Olivia Project, three separate three story high density rental apartments adjacent to the Post Office in our downtown.  The first resolution was whether or not to recognize a CEQA exemption thereby bypassing an Environmental Impact Review.  This passed 3-1 with Commissioner Frank Gavidia the lone nay vote.  The second resolution was whether to grant concessions and waivers and approve the project.  The vote for this resolution was 2-2 with Commissioner A.J. Chippero joining Commissioner Gavidia in voting nay.

As can be seen, the Planning Commission plays a vital role in reviewing projects and land use matters in the city.  If these issues are important to you, and you feel that you can add value to the Commission, then I encourage you to apply.  More information can be found here:  https://ci.clayton.ca.us/fc/agendas/planning/Press%20Release%202019%20November.pdf?_t=1573255683

The Planning Commission is comprised of 5 members appointed by the City Council, normally for two-year terms. The Planning Commission advises the City Council on land use matters, including General Plan and Zoning Ordinance amendments. The Commission also makes decisions on project development, Site Plan Reviews, Use Permits, Subdivisions, and Variances. Planning Commission meetings are open to the public and its decisions can be appealed to the City Council.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

12.3.19 Meeting Summary

There was only one item on the agenda tonight and that was the annual reorganization of the Council.  Each year the Council chooses among ourselves who will serve as Mayor and Vice Mayor.  Tonight Julie Pierce was appointed as Mayor and I was appointed as Vice Mayor.  The vote for each was unanimous.

This was also the last meeting for our interim City Manager, Joe Sbranti. Mr. Sbranti filled in on an interim basis for the past five months while we searched and recruited for a person to fill the role full time.  I want to thank Mr. Sbranti for his service to the City of Clayton.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Upcoming Council Meeting 12.3.19

There are a couple significant items on the agenda for the next meeting:

  • Informational item regarding a 2.7% rate increase (90% of Consumer Price Index [CPI] increase of 3%) from Republic Services for trash and recycling services.  This is consistent with the city's agreement with Republic Services.
  • Annual reorganization of the Council.  We will conduct an election among the Council to choose a new Mayor and Vice Mayor.

If you have any thoughts or questions about any of these items please comment or contact me and I'll do my best to respond or find out more and report back.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

11.19.19 Meeting Summary

Two significant items were discussed at tonight's meeting:
  1. On the consent calendar, the second reading of an ordinance legalizing the keeping of hens.  There are some guidelines that need to be followed, but 30 days after tonight the ordinance will be in effect and chickens will be allowed in Clayton.
  2. We also discussed updating the Town Center Specific Plan.  This was added to the city's goals earlier this year and I continue to think it's an important task to ensure that the plan aligns with the goals of the community.  Right now, the plan that was drafted in 1990 still reflects zoning and plans that are likely at odds with what the majority of the community would desire.

    The proper way to address these changing priorities is to amend the plan - starting with a process of community outreach.  The process will likely cost a significant amount of money and we will be working to prioritize this along with other goals of the city at the next goal setting session.  This will take place after the new city manager comes on board, and shortly after the new year.

    The full council agreed that this should remain a one of our goals.  We will need to establish scope, process, and ultimately allocate the resources to make this happen.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Upcoming Council Meeting 11.19.19

A few significant items are on the agenda for the next meeting:
  • 2nd reading of ordinance allowing the keeping of chickens (hens) with some limitations.  Given this is the second reading and the first was passed unanimously, this is being placed on the consent calendar.
  • Consideration of establishment of ad-hoc committee to work on updating Town Center Specific Plan.  This would consist of approving RFPs to go out to various vendors.  Revisiting the Town Center Specific Plan for potential updates was one of the Council goals for 2019.  While an RFP does not result in any cash outlays, if we were to move forward on any actual updates there would likely be a significant cost.
To clarify a bit on the second item, the Town Center Specific Plan is a specific plan that covers primarily the downtown area. A specific plan has many elements, including land use, design, municipal services, etc. The most current plan was developed in 1990, and amended several times since then to address various items. Here's a link to the previous document: http://ci.clayton.ca.us/fc/community-development/planning/long-range-planning/town-center-specific.pdf 

Because updates to the plan happen so infrequently and there are a great many laws that govern what can and cannot be included in a plan like this, the city is not staffed to handle this type of work with existing resources. As a result, if the City wishes to update this plan, it will likely have to engage in outside consultants who have professional expertise in this area. 

To engage outside vendors for a project of this nature, we would send out a Request for Proposal (RFP) which gives guidelines and asks respondents to propose services to the city.   Upon reviewing the responses, the level of services offered and an approximate price, the city may make a decision on whether or not to engage those services. 

It would be a long process and involve significant staff time and public input and discussion. Doing something like this could be the first step in collectively deciding what the vision for our downtown will be. I was glad to be a voice advocating for this to be included as one of the Council goals this year.

If you have any thoughts or questions about any of these items please comment or contact me and I'll do my best to respond or find out more and report back.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

First Land Use Sub Committee Meeting - Accessory Dwelling Units

I'm a bit late in my summary of a meeting held late last month.  I mentioned this in my Council report at last night's meeting, but wanted to write a bit more on it.

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) were the topic of the first Land Use Sub Committee meeting that was held on October 29.  The Sub Committee was formed at the 8.20.19 meeting for the purpose of providing feedback to staff in a less formal environment to assist in drafting policy and to give feedback to developers interested in projects within the city.  Myself and Mayor Catalano serve on the sub committee along with the Chair and Vice Chair of the Planning Commission.

Here is what we learned:

In 2019, AB 881, SB 13, and AB 68 were passed.  These three laws significantly change the ADU environment:
  • AB 881 prohibits minimum lot size for ADUs, makes maximum side and rear setback requirements four feet, and limits reasons for restricting ADUs to only adequacy of water and sewer services and traffic flow.  It also voids any parking requirement for ADUs if located within 1/2 mile of public transit like a bus stop.
  • SB 13 prohibits any maximum size on ADUs less than 850 sqft, or 1,000 sqft if the ADU has more than one bedroom.  No limits are allowed based on lot coverage, floor are ratio, open space, etc. if they would prohibit at least an 800 sqft ADU that is at least 16 feet tall with 4 feet setbacks.  This bill also allows for 5 year delay of fixing code violations as long as the violation is not jeopardizing health and safety.
  • AB 68 allows any place that has one ADU, to have a second junior ADU.  This means that every property in CA can now have up to three individual residential units placed upon them, even if they are zoned for single family use.
Together, these bills make it much easier for people to build ADUs.  Because ADUs would be authorized in all single family zoning, the effect of these bills is to eliminate single family zoning in all of California.  People would be able to build at least two ADUs per lot, as close as 4 feet from the fence line, with a 16 foot tall structure - everywhere.

The city has very limited options in any type of restrictions that apply to ADUs.  Clayton could adopt a local ADU ordinance regarding the architectural, landscaping, zoning, and development standards of ADUs.  These standards would need to be objective in nature and are subject to review by HCD.

This is another step in the tearing down of local control that folks like State Senator Scott Weiner and State Assemblyman David Chiu continue to push.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

11.5.19 Meeting Summary

Tonight there were a few significant items discussed:

  • The Council voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance to allow the keeping of chickens within the City of Clayton.  This applies to hens only - no roosters.  There are various limitations, like a maximum number based on lot size up to a total of 10, and restrictions on the placement of coops, and the height of coops.  This was the first reading of the ordinance so after approval of the 2nd reading and the requisite amount of time, chickens will be permissible to keep in Clayton.
  • The Council also approved a proclamation declaring November 17 through November 23 as United Against Hate Week.  This is in conjunction with other municipalities in the Bay Area as a step towards bridging divisions, building inclusivity, and strengthening our community.
  • The Council also approved an employment agreement to fill the position of City Manager.  Ikani Taumoepeau will join the City of Clayton as its next City Manager beginning December 9.  The process for selecting candidates, interviewing, and ultimately selecting Mr. Taumoepeau was conducted in closed session as appropriate.  It was a rigorous process with spirited discussion from the entire Council.  I think we made the right choice and am excited to have Mr. Taumoepeau join the City of Clayton.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Upcoming Council Meeting 11.5.19

There are a few significant items on the agenda for the 11.5.19 meeting:

  • A proposed ordinance to allow the keeping of backyard chickens
  • Considering participating in United Against Hate Week
  • A proposed employment agreement for a new City Manager

If you have any thoughts or questions about any of these items please comment or contact me and I'll do my best to respond or find out more and report back.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

10.15.19 Meeting Summary

Tonight there were a few significant items discussed:

  • In the consent calendar, we approved a bid to update and replace equipment at the North Valley Park off of Keller Ridge Dr.  This includes shade structures, surfaces, and various playground equipment.
  • We established an ad-hoc legislative committee to develop guidelines that are consistent with the goals of the city for the purpose of directing staff to respond more quickly to ongoing legislative matters.  This is important because state legislators want to hear from cities, but the city can't typically act without direction.  Setting out priorities in advance will both allow the city to act and respond more quickly, and it will add more transparency in what the Council determines its priorities are.Myself and Vice Mayor Pierce will serve on this ad-hoc committee to draft city policy for full council approval.
  • We banned glyphosate (Round Up) usage by city staff.  Given the changing landscape with many other municipalities banning or restricting the use of glyphosate, in addition to the staggering legal judgments that have recently been awarded based on harm caused by the product, the Council thought it was prudent to eliminate its use by the city.  I first raised this issue back in the Feb-19 meeting.  At that time, we went over the practices of staff, and made sure use was limited to non-public areas (hillsides, road medians, etc.) and wanted to find out more information.  Given the recent developments with litigation, I'm glad the rest of the Council agreed that this was an appropriate course of action to ban the use of glyphosate.  

In addition to these items, we continued to have positive discussions in closed session regarding selection of a new City Manager.  I will share more information when possible.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Upcoming Council Meeting 10.15.19

There are a few significant items on the agenda for the 10.15.19 meeting:

  • Awarding a contract for equipment at the North Valley Park off of Keller Ridge Dr.  The equipment will include new shade structures, surfaces, and various playground equipment.  The current equipment is around 20 years old and in need of repair, though due to age the parts are no longer available.   Target completion of removal and installation of new equipment is June 2020.
  • Discussion regarding whether the city should establish a policy regarding state legislation that may affect the city.  There are often bills in the state legislature that could have impacts on Clayton, and establishing a policy regarding pending legislation could assist the city in taking a proactive approach to help influence policy.
  • Discussion of the use of Glyphosate (Round Up) by the city.  There have been recent developments that merit additional discussion from our Feb 5 meeting.  If the city ultimately ceases use of Glyphosate, the trade off could be greater presence of weeds.
If you have any thoughts or questions on any of these items, please comment or contact me and I'll do my best to respond or find out more and report back.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

10.1.19 Meeting Summary

Even though there weren't any public hearings or action items on the agenda, there were a few things that were important to Clayton.  Two items related to our Clayton Police:

  1. Recognition of Sergeant England's retirement while the city thanked him for his service to the people of Clayton
  2. A ceremony promoting Rich Enea to Sergeant
Congratulations to both!

As part of our City Manager's report, he indicated that he intended to send letters to Governor Newsom in regard to legislation that is on his desk awaiting his signature.  While I agreed with the spirit of the letters that were intended to be sent, I questioned whether that was prudent given it is not consistent with our past practice, and the Council hasn't had the opportunity to discuss what the position of the city should be. 

Creating a process for the city taking positions on future legislation will come back as an agendized item so the Council can discuss how it wants to proceed.  I certainly believe that if the city does take a position, each Councilmember should voice their views so that the residents of Clayton are aware of the positions of those that represent them.

In addition, myself, and Councilmember Wolfe had requested that we re-look at the use of glysophate in Clayton.  That is targeted to be on the agenda at the next meeting, 10.15.19.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Upcoming Council Meeting 10.1.19

At the upcoming Council meeting there are only Consent Calendar items - no scheduled Public Hearings or Action Items.

The Council will be swearing in Officer Rich Enea as our newest police sergeant. There will also be recognition of outgoing Police Sergeant Daryl England in appreciation and recognition of his service to the people of Clayton.

There will also be presentations recognizing the city's Do the Right Thing program.

That same evening, we will have closed session prior to the public meeting to discuss selection of interview candidates for the open City Manager position. The following Friday, October 4, we will be interviewing candidates for this position.

If you have any thoughts or questions on any of these items, please comment or contact me and I'll do my best to respond or find out more and report back.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Update on Housing Related Legislative Items - Four Things Bad for Clayton

Now that the legislative session is over and bills have gone to the governor, for him to sign or reject, I think it’s worthwhile to look back at the CASA Compact that we discussed earlier this year to see how we ended up. It had 10 elements that collectively the City Council says they were opposed to because it took a one size fits all approach, and in many ways usurped local control.  Well now the legislature has passed four bills that are sitting with the governor (AB1482, SB330, AB1487, and SB5), and they are all bad for Clayton.

  1. The first two elements of the CASA Compact were rent control and just cause eviction – that is now sitting with the governor with AB1482. AB1482 - Another bill by State Assembly Member Chiu implementing Bay Area wide rent control, making rent increases of more than 5% + CPI illegal. It was amended recently to incorporate rules that prohibit eviction without certain limited allowed reasons. Rent control is a decades old failed policy that nearly every economist agrees on. As Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman wrote, “The analysis of rent control is among the best-understood issues in all of economics, and -- among economists, anyway -- one of the least controversial. In 1992 a poll of the American Economic Association found 93 percent of its members agreeing that ''a ceiling on rents reduces the quality and quantity of housing.''

    The voters of CA soundly rejected the idea of expanding rent control as recently as 2018. Proposition 10 in 2018 would have repealed limits on rent control, allowing cities to enact policies similar to what Chiu is proposing with AB1482. Voters rejected this statewide by over 20 points and now the legislature passed what the voters rejected and AB1482 is now sitting with the governor.
  2. Element six was dubbed “good government”, and took shape in SB330. It prevents cities from denying building projects under most circumstances, limits number of meetings, and caps and freezes fees.This bill also attempts to fast track project approvals by limiting the number of hearings allowable even if the nature or scope of a project changes over the years. This includes any public hearing, workshop, or similar meeting conducted by the city or county with respect to the housing development project. For example, any meeting of the newly formed Land Use Subcommittee. It was approved by the legislature and is now sitting with the governor.
  3. Element ten was a new regional housing enterprise to put a whole host of taxes on the ballot, the one where even the ABAG lobbyist that was here said no one was in favor of. It’s now in front of the governor with AB1487.

    Ultimately, we heard that ABAG's support of AB1487 was conditioned on three specific changes to the bill. One of those conditions was that ABAG control the money of course. ABAG conditioned their support position on them being the lead agency in raising and distributing funds.

    In the latest updated AB1487 language, Chapter 3, Section 64650 (b)(1) states that the allocation of regional housing revenues must first be approved by the Executive Board (ABAG), then by the Authority Board (MTC). However, if MTC takes an action that differs from ABAG, then ABAG must approve what MTC chose.

    All this talk about needing to have a seat at the table didn’t amount to much – the conditions upon which ABAG rested their support didn’t come to pass, and the bill moved forward anyways. I’d much rather stand for principle and say no, then compromise core values and get kicked in the teeth anyways. And even though the senate ultimately passed the measure, I’m glad Senator Glazer actually stood for principle, local control, rather than just lip service while conspiring with those that would see local control torn down. This is what MTC and ABAG did when they supported this bill, and what Assembly member Grayson did when he voted in favor of this bill. AB1487 was approved by the legislature and is now sitting with the governor.
  4. One of the wish list items from the CASA Compact was a return of redevelopment. This took the form of SB5. Previous redevelopment activity was ripe with problems. Inefficient spending, for the benefit of developers, siphoning state funds that crowded out education and ultimately didn’t produce the intended results. Jerry Brown was right to kill these programs back in 2011 that allowed cities to play fast and loose with taxpayer money, claiming to build affordable housing, while enriching developers, and diverting property tax dollars that should rightfully be going to our schools. Unfortunately, SB5 is was approved by the legislature and is now sitting with the governor.
If you have thoughts on any of these bills that are with the governor, I encourage you to reach out to his office and make your opinion known.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

9.17.19 Meeting Summary

Last night there were a few significant items discussed:
  1. There was a presentation by Contra Costa County Fire Protection District regarding their efforts and things that homeowners can do to reduce the risk of fire.  In addition to home maintenance and creating defensible spaces, the strong recommendation was for people to sign up for the Community Warning System at www.cwsalerts.com.  This is useful in receiving information in the case of emergency, especially for folks who no longer have a landline.  Additional information about what residents can do can be found at www.cccfpd.org.
  2. There was a presentation by Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) regarding a newly proposed Transportation Expenditure Plan (TEP) that calls for additional sales taxes.  CCTA is asking for all local governments to approve the plan, after which the County will need to approve it.  At that point, it would be placed on the ballot in March 2020.  Sales tax increases requires voter approval with a 2/3 majority supporting.  Because the benefit to the residents of Clayton was indirect, and some of the most impactful things that would hep Clayton residents may never come to pass, I did not feel the increase in taxes was justified.  The Council ultimately voted to support the increase in sales taxes to fund the TEP.  The vote was 4-1 with myself opposed.
  3. There was a request by Clayton Valley Charter High School asking the City of Clayton to support the renewal of the school's charter.  The current term of the charter ends in 2020.  There was discussion around the across the board academic success of the students of the school, and what a great asset to the community the school provides.  Ultimately I was glad to vote in favor of supporting the charter renewal.  The rest of the Council was also supportive of the charter in the community and the vote was unanimous.
  4. We also had closed session to discussion the City Manager Selection of Interview Candidates.  I am not at liberty to discuss what occurs during closed session.  I can say that the process continues to move forward.

Additional thoughts below:

Regarding the TEP:

In 2016, Measure X was a similar transportation sales tax proposal that did not ultimately pass.  The residents of Clayton voted in favor 53%.  This is down from the previous transportation tax Measure J in 2004 which the voters of Clayton were in favor 70%.  Much of the funding for these measures benefit regional projects.  Transportation is often a regional issue.  But over time as taxes have continued to increase, it becomes more important for the use of those taxes to benefit our residents.

Some of the biggest transportation related problems faced by Clayton residents is commuting on Ygnacio Valley Rd. and Treat Blvd.  Other cities like Walnut Creek purposely throttle traffic at certain intersections like at Oak Grove.  The traffic lights there are designed to restrict the flow of traffic, ultimately creating bottlenecks for Clayton residents, among others.  And while the TEP does talk about local roads and traffic light synchronization, there is no way to force cities like Walnut Creek to stop throttling our residents.

With nebulous direct benefits, and previous rejection of similar sales tax increases by Clayton residents, I could not support increasing the tax burden on our citizens.

Regarding Clayton Valley Charter High School:

I understand there have been concerns about financial matters and the Executive Director of the school spoke at length around changes they have made to increase transparency, strengthen internal controls, and restructure the oversight of the school all in an effort to ensure that the financial mismanagement and abuse that occurred previously could not happen again.

In addition to the regular independent financial audits that regularly take place, the school took it upon themselves to conduct detailed forensic audits to help guide them in making additional changes.  All recommendations of the independent forensic audit, as well as the examinations conducted by the district have been implemented, or are in the process of being implemented.

I did have a chance to review the detailed audit documents, findings, recommendations, and responses to those recommendations.  I found them to be thorough, and the actions being taken by the school to be in the right direction.  The school has made great strides and I look forward to seeing it continue to be a valuable asset to the community.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Upcoming City Council Meeting 9.17.19

A few significant items are on the agenda for the 9.17 meeting:

  • A discussion around the Contra Costa Transportation Authority Transportation Expenditure Plan (TEP).  This plan contemplates a 1/2 percent sales tax for 35 years to fund various transportation projects around the County.  Details of the plan can be found here.    It appears to be similar to previous taxes like Measure C and Measure J.  For illustrative purposes, the plan at that link contains this diagram:

  • A discussion around the upcoming Clayton Valley Charter High School renewal of their charter and whether the city should offer its support
  • A discussion whether to designate voting delegates to the League of California Cities meeting being held in Long Beach.

I'm really interested in peoples' thoughts around the TEP.  For the TEP to be placed on the March 2020 ballot, it needs to get approval from the County Board of Supervisors and City Councils, representing in aggregate a majority of the cities in Contra Costa County, as well as a majority of the population residing in the incorporated areas of the county.

If you have any thoughts or questions on any of these items, please comment or contact me and I'll do my best to respond or find out more and report back.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

AB1487 - New Regional Taxes and Debt

State Senator Glazer has asked for feedback regarding AB1487. AB1487 is a regional bill that would enable the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) to raise billions of dollars in taxes and new debt to fund the production, preservation, and protection of affordable housing. AB1487 is a bill authored by State Assembly Member Chiu and coauthored by State Senator Weiner.

In response, I wrote a letter that I'd like to share:

If you have comments or concerns, please let me know, or respond directly to your local elected representatives.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Ongoing Legislative Update - ACA1 and new taxes

I have been following a few ongoing legislative items that may be relevant to folks around town.

Very telling regarding the direction that some of our state legislators are heading. Co-authored by State Assembly member Chiu and State Senator Wiener, ACA-1 proposed to make it easier for the legislature to raise taxes. Our own State Assembly Member Grayson also voted in favor of this.

If passed, it would provide an exception to the 1% base property tax if the money is used for affordable housing, among other items, allowing the state to levy even greater property taxes to fund affordable housing. Possibly even more egregious, ACA-1 would reduce the threshold of voter support needed to raise and create new taxes. Currently it takes 2/3 voter approval, but Chiu and Wiener want to lower that threshold to 55%.

State Assembly Member Chiu and State Senator Weiner are the same folks who, with AB1487, want to create a new quasi governmental entity to place new bond measures and taxes on the ballot to fund affordable housing.

In one hand, they want to be able to place new bonds and taxes on the ballot, and in the other hand they want to make it easier for those new taxes to pass. If these items come to fruition, folks in Clayton and all across the region will pay more to benefit the folks in San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose. This is what stacking the deck looks like.

If this is of interest to you, reach out to your local elected state legislators and let them know what you think.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

8.20.19 Meeting Summary

There were four significant items discussed at last night’s meeting:
  1. Downtown planter box repair and replacement project
    The Council awarded a low bid contract to repair and replace 12 planter boxes on Main St., including removing six trees that have outgrown and damaged the planter boxes and adjacent sidewalks.

    Despite widespread appreciation for the many trees on Main St., the council heard compelling reasons for why this project should move forward. The root systems of some of the trees were not conducive to the planter boxes and were damaging them and the adjacent sidewalks and streets. This damage resulted in risks to public safety. Each of the 12 planter boxes on Main St. (this does not include Center St.) will be repaired or replaced, with the goal of having them look consistent. 6 Chinese Pistache trees will be removed and replaced with Crepe Myrtles.  This work should conclude by the end of the year.
  2. Structure of minutes
    I requested that the minutes capture a summary of Council discussions in an effort to increase transparency. The rest of the Council did not support this and felt that the video recordings combined with the minutes that only capture Council votes was sufficient. I also suggested making the minutes text searchable for ease of finding information and the city is currently implementing that functionality.
  3. Traffic and pedestrian safety
    We received an update on various efforts around town including installing new barricades at the intersection of Mitchell Canyon Rd. and Four Oaks Ln., the same location where a pedestrian/vehicle collision occurred. In addition, the police have committed to being a more visible presence when possible around both the middle and elementary schools during drop off and pickup times.

    I’d also like to recognize that the PFC at Mt. Diablo Elementary funded an additional crossing guard which should aid in traffic safety.

    The city is continuing to look at grant funding to facilitate various efforts including pedestrian traffic beacons, flashing stop signs similar to the ones at Pine Hollow and Pennsylvania Blvd., as well as improving pedestrian crossing in front of the middle school.
  4. Land use subcommittee
    A sub committee of two Planning Commissioners and two Councilmembers was formed to provide both city staff and developers more comprehensive and timely feedback on potential developments and land use policies. Myself and Mayor Catalano will represent the Council, and the Chair and Vice Chair of the Planning Commission will represent the Planning Commission.

    I was concerned about the risk to the city in communicating in a way not appropriate, as well as the potential of setting certain expectations at these initial meetings that may not ultimately come to fruition. In addition, given the direction the rest of the Council decided to go with minutes and the lack of video at these meetings, it will be a challenge for the public to stay abreast of the actions of this committee. It seems like this role is more appropriately performed by the Planning Commission, however there is potential value in having some conversations up front to provide feedback early on.

    I was concerned whether it should be a goal of the city to expedite development projects, as was the stated purpose of this subcommittee. As long as we comply with the law, I’m comfortable with the city having a rigorous land use approval process to ensure projects conform with applicable requirements

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Upcoming City Council Meeting 8.20.19

In an effort to provide more time to read agendas and prepare questions in advance, the city is attempting to publish agendas for City Council meetings approximately 1 week in advance, instead of the Friday prior to the Tuesday meetings.  A few significant items are on the agenda for the upcoming 8.20.19 meeting:
  • A discussion about the format of minutes for Council meetings.  In the past the city prepared summary form minutes.  This means a summary of key discussion points were documented along any actions taken, and the final tally of any vote.  Recently the city moved to what is called Action style minutes where only the final vote of any action is recorded and there is no summary of discussion presented in the minutes. 
  • An update on various traffic and pedestrian safety efforts that have been taken since I requested this item at the 5.17.19 meeting.  At the previous meeting there were several informational inquiries about potential actions the city could take and there will be an update on some of those items.
  • A proposal to form a land use sub-committee in order to provide developers and staff more comprehensive and timely feedback on ongoing land use matters, including setting land use policies.  This sub-committee is proposed to be comprised of four individuals: two City Councilmembers appointed by the Mayor, and the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Planning Commission.

One other item on the consent calendar is an approval of a bid for renovation and rebuild of some of the downtown planter boxes.

If you have any thoughts or questions on any of these items, please comment or contact me and I'll do my best to respond or find out more and report back.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

7.16.19 Meeting Summary

There were a few significant items discussed at last night's meeting. A brief summary as follows:
  • A series of real property tax assessments were approved based on CPI increases
  • Appointment of Joseph Sbranti as Interim City Manager.  Mr. Sbranti recently retired as the City Manager of Pittsburgh for over 7 years and is a Clayton resident.  He has a civil engineering background and is familiar with both the roles of City Engineer and Community Development
  • Continued discussion of Contra Costa Transportation Authority's Transportation Expenditure Plan that is targeting the March 2020 ballot.  This plan contemplates a 30 year increase in sales tax to fund various transportation related projects in the region
One item not on the agenda was discussed as well.  AB  1487 received a lot of attention, with three of the councilmembers (including myself) mentioning it during the council reports.  This was element 10 of the CASA Compact that would create a new quasi governmental body to raise, administer, and allocate funding for affordable housing preservation and production, and tenant protection in the Bay Area.  This Housing Authority would do this by placing tax measures on the ballot.  

The ABAG Executive Board is scheduled to discuss AB 1487 at their July 18 meeting, and MTC is scheduled to discuss it at their July 24 meeting.   If you have thoughts on this bill, and whether it should move forward, communication can be sent to ABAG and MTC reps as follows:

Fred Castro, Clerk of the Board, ABAG at fcastro@bayareametro.gov
Rosy Leyva, Clerk of MTC at rleyva@bayareametro.gov

At the Oakhurst Geological Hazard Abatement District (GHAD) meeting there was substantial discussion about the activities of the GHAD, what it is responsible for, and whether these responsibilities were being met.  The GHAD covers routine maintenance and geological monitoring in order to protect public infrastructure from future damage due to geologic hazards.  It does not insure private property.  As the GHAD covers an area comprising approximately 1/3 of all the residences in Clayton, ensuring proper maintenance of the public infrastructure is a matter of widespread interest.

I also requested two items to be added to future agendas:
  1. A discussion around the minutes of meetings.  The city recently switched to Action Style minutes which eliminates capturing councilmember comments or the gist of discussions leading up to any actions and simply records the result of the actions.  I would like to explore ways to capture more information regarding discussions at our meetings while at the same time recognizing the administrative burden that our prior process imposed. 
  2. A discussion around ways we can capture the activity of the GHAD to give comfort to the nearly 1/3 of Clayton residents that live within the boundaries of the GHAD that the activities are being performed to a satisfactory degree.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Upcoming City Council Meeting 7.16.19

The consent calendar this meeting includes several real property tax assessment increases based on specific areas and various CPI increases.  Other than the consent calendar items, there are a few significant items on the agenda:

  • An increase real property tax assessment for the Diablo Estates at Clayton Benefits Assessment District in line with CPI increases
  • Hiring an interim City Manager to fill the upcoming vacancy while we pursue a permanent replacement.  The appointment is the former City Manager of the City of Pittsburgh
  • Ongoing discussion of CCTA Transportation Expenditure Plan to be placed on the March 2020 ballot as tax increases need voter approval

If you have any thoughts or questions on any of these items, please comment or contact me and I'll do my best to respond or find out more and report back.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

6.18.19 Meeting Summary

There were a few significant items discussed at last night's meeting.  A brief summary as follows:

  • PGE gave a presentation about their overall Community Wildfire Safety Program, including efforts to reduce incidence and magnitudes of wildfires and conditions for when they would execute a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS)
  • Onsite parking waiver extension was passed after the 2nd reading
  • Two incumbent Planning Commissioners were re-appointed for an additional 2 year term
  • The preferential parking program for certain affected areas near Regency Gate on a pilot basis was approved.
  • I asked for a future agenda item to discuss relaxing animal control ordinances regarding backyard chickens

More detailed thoughts below:

I appreciated hearing about PG&E's plans for reducing wildfire risk.  Especially given recent events it's especially important that everyone is aware of potential risks, steps for mitigation, and preparedness in the event of a fire.  PG&E mentioned that they at times have difficulty in gaining access to certain properties to do their tree and vegetation maintenance.   I would encourage everyone to provide access when requested to facilitate needed maintenance.

I'm very glad that we were able to get the pilot parking program approved.  The intent was always to strike a balance between quality of life of the residents, accessible parking for all, and resource constraints of the city.  I'm hopeful that this pilot does that and after we gather more information we'll learn more about what works and what doesn't.

One of the things that came out last night regarding backyard chickens is that of the 19 cities in Contra Costa County, all but three (including Clayton) allow chickens in some fashion. Contra Costa County recently passed (Jun-18) an ordinance allowing backyard chickens with certain guidelines.  Since many cities simply adopt the County rules and the County allows them, then those cities allows them. We'll have more discussion around this item when it comes back as an agenda item.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Upcoming City Council Meeting 6.18.19

Other than the consent calendar, there are a few significant items on the agenda:
  • 2nd reading of the downtown parking waiver program extension
  • Preferential parking program in certain affected areas near Regency Gate on a pilot basis
  • Appointment of two Planning Commission slots that are expiring at the end of June
  • A placeholder to discuss the Contra Costa Transportation Authority's potential expenditure plan which includes plans to place a sales tax increase on the March 2020 ballot
In addition to these items, there will also be a presentation from PG&E regarding their program to shut off power during certain high fire danger times.

If you have any thoughts or questions on any of these items, please comment or contact me and I'll do my best to respond or find out more and report back.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

6.4.19 Meeting Summary

There were several items discussed at this meeting.  A brief summary as follows:
  • A new method of recording minutes was adopted - closely resembling an Action Style.  This omits summary of actual Council discussion and only lists the final vote tallies.  This is a move towards less transparency.
  • The FY20 budget was adopted with a general fund operational budget of $4.774M.  This was approved unanimously.
  • The downtown on-site parking requirement waiver was extended for three years.  This waiver is intended to encourage and facilitate downtown retail development by easing on site parking requirements.  This was approved unanimously.
  • A contract with a recruiter was executed in order to assist in filling the upcoming City Manager vacancy.  The contract is not to exceed $25K.  This was approved unanimously.
  • A one year 4.25% adjustment to the salary ranges of certain undesignated miscellaneous city employees was approved.  This does not include police who are members of a separate union.  This was approved unanimously.
  • The retainer for legal services of the City Attorney was increased 11.4% from $8,500/month to $9,470/month and an automatic annual increase based on CPI was also approved.  I was opposed to the automatic increase based on CPI, however the vote was 4-1.
  • The July 2 and August 6 regularly scheduled meetings were canceled.
More detailed thoughts below:

Regarding changes to the minutes:
Omitting comment summaries of Council discussion certainly saves time.  The City Clerk previously compiled minutes with detailed notes, and re-watching video, in addition to various rounds of editing. By only focusing on the final result, this makes taking the minutes less labor intensive.  The argument put forward by other members of the Council is that video is available should anyone wish to find out what was actually said, and that more people prefer video anyways.  I disagree.  

Previously, I could review the entire meeting minutes in about 15 minutes.  This was a great source of transparency in the actions of the Council.  By eliminating these summaries, it would take a person much more time to review and familiarize themselves with the discussion that transpired.  During the campaign last year, I familiarized myself by reading through the previous 4 years of minutes.  I was able to do this because of the summaries in the meeting minutes.  Without these summary minutes it's unlikely I would have been able to gather enough information to conduct a successful campaign.

Part of the reason I write these summaries is so that people can be aware of what was discussed, in a quickly digestible format.  Of course the video is available, but it's quite common to be able to read many times quicker than spoken dialogue.  I'm disappointed in this move towards less transparency.  I will continue to offer summaries of meetings as I think it's a valuable way for residents to be informed.

Regarding downtown on site parking waivers:
The way the downtown parking waiver works is that the City designated 200 on site spaces as available to be waived in order to promote development.  Without this waiver, a place like the Flora Square property (where Subway is) would need to provide parking on the property itself.  Because of the small size of the property, that would constrain the footprint of the actual commercial building, and a development like Flora Square would be much more difficult to execute.

The Development Director monitors the overall utilization of the parking waivers.  To date, there have been three properties that have utilized these waivers.  Those are the aforementioned Flora Square, the Bocci Courts, and the Creekside Terrace development that has been entitled (approved plans) but not yet executed by any developers.

Regarding recruitment for upcoming City Manager vacancy:
The outside agency assisting with filling the upcoming City Manager vacancy is CPS HR.  They are a quasi governmental joint powers authority. Vice Mayor Pierce mentioned that the same firm and assigned individual also helped place the new Executive Director of MTC.  The plan is for the recruiter to work to gain an understanding of the ideal candidate, through direct interviews with the Council, city staff, and interested members of the public.  They indicated they will also be creating online surveys to solicit feedback on what the residents are interested in in the next City Manager.  The timeline was projected at 4 months, however I suspect that is on the low end.  If the position is not filled in time for Mr. Napper's retirement at the end of July, it is likely there will be an interim City manager appointed.  Look for more info as its available.

Regarding increasing certain city salary scales:
When the budget sub-committee met to review the proposed city budget, we knew that the current MOA with certain city staff was expiring shortly.  In previous years, the undesignated miscellaneous city employees had 3 year agreements.  Given a new City Manager will onboarded quickly, it was the opinion of Mr. Napper that it would be more prudent to not constrain the next City Manager with multi year agreements.  Ultimately the 4.25% increase was approved unanimously.

It is difficult to pay competitive wages in a town our size.  Due to several factors including in large part to state compliance requirements, there is a certain base level of work required from staff regardless of our small size.  As a result, we have a smaller tax base, but none of the scale of a larger city.  The result is that some of the workload of staff is the same as if we were a large city, but they tend to get compensated less because there is less money to go around, compounded by the fact that there are less people to perform those tasks.  This could make working for other nearby municipalities attractive.  We are experiencing that in a way right now.  The City Manager, Finance Director, Development Director, and Code Enforcement officer have all left or announced their leaving their employment with the City of Clayton.

Regarding increasing legal retainer and adding automatic annual increases:
Generally I'm opposed to automatic increases in compensation.  Periodic review of rates is a catalyst for discussion about quality and level of service.  By making the increases automatic, it doesn't prompt this type of transparent discussion.  I voiced opposition but did not have the votes.  This passed 4-1 with only myself opposed.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Upcoming City Council Meeting 6.4.19

Other than the consent calendar, there are several significant items on the agenda:
  • Adoption of the FY20 budget
  • Discussion of a waiver of on site parking requirements for the downtown area
  • Discussing engaging an outside recruitment firm to assist in filling the upcoming City Manager vacancy
  • Consideration of an adopting a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the city's undesignated employees instituting a 4.25% increase to salary ranges
  • Consider increasing the rate paid to retained outside general counsel, and an automatic increase in rate over time
  • Discussion of whether any regularly scheduled meetings during the summer should be canceled due to potentially not having a quorum
If you have any thoughts or questions on any of these items, please comment or contact me and I'll do my best to respond or find out more and report back.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

5.21.19 Meeting Summary

Last night there were three significant items discussed:

  • As the sewer system of Clayton flows through the sewer system of Concord, we discussed a rate increase of $45 per year for each of the next four years to cover increased cost of operations and maintenance in parity with increases that have just been adopted at Concord.  These charges are collected through property taxes.  Because we contract with the City of Concord, Clayton is obligated to pay the increased sewer charges to the City of Concord regardless of whether the rates to homeowners is adjusted or not.  As seen in the next item, the City's budget surplus is sufficiently tight that this would not be possible to absorb without significantly reducing services.  The Council ultimately approved the increase by a vote of 4-1 with Councilmember Diaz opposed.  
  • We discussed the FY20 budget and went over the key revenue and expenditure categories. This year's budget reflects an overall tighter operating surplus of approximately $40K. The general fund budget reflects expenditures of just south of $4.8M, half of which is related to our police force which has been relatively consistent year over year.
  • After the last meeting regarding the small cell wireless ordinance (for 5G), I posed several questions, observations, and requests which were included in the agenda packet.  Staff took time to do research and addressed each of these, incorporating my suggested changes into the ordinance that was approved last night.

More detailed thoughts below:

Clayton has a long standing agreement that the city will pay an amount per single family home equal to what the Concord pays per single family home.  Because Concord raised its rates in response to increasing charges from Central Contra Costa Sanitary District, Clayton is obligated to pay Concord this amount regardless if we chose to raise the amounts property owners are assessed.  The city budget could not support absorbing this cost.

Unfortunately we don't have many options on the sewer charges. We're not large enough to maintain all the main lines so we contract out with Concord. Since they are effectively the only game in town, we don't have alternatives to their services. They in turn contract out portions as well. It's certain that the rates will rise over time due to inflation, maintenance, etc.

My overall concern was whether the overall increases were reasonable. Using single family homes as a proxy, Clayton has approximately 10% of the housing units that Concord has.  Based on the flat nature of the charge (an amount per property), this inherently has proportionality built in.  One way there could be uneveness in the charges is if one city had a disproportionate amount of volume as compared to the total number of properties.  Unfortunately there is no measurement as to the amount of volume that originates from Clayton that travels through Concord's sewer lines so this evaluation could not be made.

I did ask about historical rate increases and it appeared that this amount was fairly consistent year over year, and is expected to continue for the next several years beyond the current four year time frame.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Upcoming City Council Meeting 5.21.19

There will be 3 significant items on the agenda for the meeting this Tuesday:

  • While the City of Clayton owns its sanitary sewer system, we contract with the City of Concord to perform certain maintenance activities.  In turn, the City of Concord contracts with the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District for their proportionate share of maintenance, operation, and capital improvement costs.  Based on recent analysis, a rate increase is necessary to adequately fund these activities.  The current proposal is an increase to the minimum sewer charges of $45 per year in each of the next four years, combined with additional lesser corresponding charges.
  • Adopting the FY20 City of Clayton budget. The budget sub committee (myself and Councilmember Diaz) met on on April 23 to review the proposed budget.  This item is for the full Council to approve the budget.  This year's budget reflects an overall tighter operating surplus of approximately $40K.   The general fund budget reflects expenditures of just south of $4.8M, half of which is related to our police force which has been relatively consistent year over year.
  • The second reading of the small cell wireless ordinance that was discussed at the last meeting.

If you have any thoughts or questions on any of these items, please comment or contact me and I'll do my best to respond or find out more and report back.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

SB50 Put on Hold until 2020 and Clayton's Response to CASA

The good news today is that SB50 has been tabled until 2020 by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Previously I wrote about the CASA Compact, and it's journey through the state legislature.  One of the more troubling aspects of the Compact was upzoning near transit and job rich areas - this was represented by SB50.  In addition to greater density, higher structures, and reduced parking requirements, this bill would have essentially eliminated single family zoning across the state by allowing up to fourplexes everywhere.

Of course the bill could be reintroduced next year, and it's unknown if Senator Weiner would seek to take away even more local control impacting the character and value of our neighborhoods, but for now this bill has been set aside.  There are many many more housing bills currently in the legislature that could negatively impact Clayton.

I drafted a letter in response on behalf of the city. At our last meeting, the Council agreed to send this letter in response to the CASA Compact, including our general principles and things that we are opposed to - such as SB50.  Here is the signed letter:

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

5.7.19 Meeting Summary

Last night there were actually three significant items discussed, not the two that I had previously indicated.  The discussion around small cell wireless units was more involved than I had previously thought.

  • The Council approved an urgency ordinance (takes effect immediately) adopting local design regulations and standards for small cell wireless equipment in the public right of ways.  These devices would support new wireless 5G broadband networks.  This technology would be a great benefit to the residents of Clayton and we are trying to balance the desire to have this available with general health and safety, and aesthetic concerns.
  • The Council took comments, questions, and suggestions regarding traffic and pedestrian safety around our schools.  Overall there were a lot of ideas and we asked Staff to look at each and return with information about cost, feasibility, and viability of each.  Staff will also look into ways they may find to assist with overall safety.  We'll continue to have this discussion at future meetings as I'm sure there are things that are easier than others.
  • The Council reviewed the draft letter that I had prepared regarding the CASA Compact.  Overall the draft was received favorably.  There were some slight modifications suggested, the largest of which was to omit the attachment that undertook a detailed assessment of each of the 10 CASA elements.  Because legislation is fast moving, it did not seem productive to hash out our differences over specific items within the attachment.  Overall the general principles as described in the letter were agreeable to all and that will move forward.

Opening day of he Farmer's Market in downtown Clayton is scheduled this Saturday, May 11th from 9am - 1pm.

More detailed thoughts below:

Small Cell Wireless
I think 5G technology will be a great benefit to our residents so I want to balance any regulation we impose against the desire to see the technology move forward.  When I first reviewed the proposal I had thought it too strict, and I didn't want to run afoul of rules to that effect.  However there are provisions included in our ordinance that allow for waiver of any provision should it be determined they conflict with applicable law so that assuaged my concern that the city could be at risk.  As a result, I was in favor of adopting the urgency ordinance so that we would have some standards established should we receive an application for these utility devices.

We simultaneously adopted a regular ordinance that requires a second reading.  At that time, I expect a more robust discussion with greater detail around sizing, locations, and other detailed questions that we didn't get to at this meeting.

Traffic and Pedestrian Safety:
I really appreciated everyone coming out and sharing their experiences.  Those comments help ground the discussion in what is my top priority - public safety.  There were a lot of ideas shared and ultimately we asked the City Engineer and Traffic Engineer to look at them and report back to the Council.  Some of the areas of focus included:
  • The marginal cost of additional crossing guards and potential locations
  • The cost of an additional "no pedestrian crossing" barrier to replace the one that is missing at the Four Oaks and Mitchell Canyon intersection
  • Painting the intersection to make the prohibition on crossing more visible
  • Restricting west bound turns onto Four Oaks similar to how currently east bound turns are restricted
  • Sidewalks around the elementary school in frequent transit paths where currently there are no sidewalks
  • Some kind of traffic calming immediately north of the stop sign for south bound Mitchell Canyon Traffic at Pine Hollow
  • Logistics of restricting traffic flow onto Pine Hollow as a commuter route
  • Making the intersection in front of Diablo View Middle (Clayton Rd. and Marsh Creek Rd.) an "all ways" pedestrian crossing intersection, including adding signage for no right turns on red facing all directions, painting the diagonal cross walks, etc.
  • Adding some kind of visible indicator of the traffic light at that same intersection in front of the middle school when traveling east bound
  • The general cost of adding pedestrian beacons at various crosswalks
  • Increasing police presence at peak times in certain areas.
Ultimately the goal of this was to seek larger input to determine if there are options available that we haven't considered or should reconsider.  These are just some of the ideas that were proffered and we also asked staff to make their own assessment.  I look forward to hearing back after Staff has done their diligence so we can discuss what is the best way to ensure the overall safety of our residents.

CASA Compact Letter:
I prepared a drafted a letter in response to the CASA Compact and it was included in the agenda packet.  The draft reflected the sentiment expressed by each of us at the last meeting – voicing concerns over a loss of local control, the one size fits all approach, and the lack of attention to infrastructure like transportation, education, and city services that goes hand in hand with housing. 

I also drafted principles of a preferred approach when crafting housing legislation – that approaches should be made holistically considering housing, jobs, transportation, and infrastructure together.  That local control is critical and that legislation should differentiate between what may work in some cities and not others due to local context.  I also included comments about avoiding net losses of local funding, as well as cautioning against actions that would crowd out a city’s capacity to utilize local tools to fund services and infrastructure.

There was also an attachment that detailed specific discussion about each of the 10 elements of the CASA compact.  Of course there have been changes to the legislation packages as they move through the various machinations – like SB4 being combined with SB50, or the http://mappingopportunityca.org/ site identifying parts of Clayton as a High Opportunity Area – but that emphasizes the importance of focusing on general principles rather than detailed specifics that could be mooted at the next legislative revision.  As such, the Council was hesitant to include the attachment that detailed specific objections to the ten CASA Compact elements.  

Because I think time is of the essence and the sooner we are able to take a position the more impact it will have, I thought it was fine to omit the attachment and focus on the overall principles as described in the body of the letter.  I will make the minor suggested edits and the letter will be sent on behalf of the City.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Upcoming City Council Meeting 5.7.19

Two significant items will be on the agenda for Tuesday's meeting:
  • At our last meeting, the Council agreed that we should draft a letter addressed to all of our state and local representatives. This letter would communicate our guiding principles stating our position as a city, what we are in favor of and provide constructive commentary on what we are opposed to.  I took point on drafting the letter which is included in the agenda packet.
  • At a previous meeting I requested a public hearing to discuss potential improvements to traffic and pedestrian safety around our middle and elementary schools. I've invited the principals at both Mt. Diablo Elementary and Diablo View Middle to share their thoughts and ideas they may have as well.
If you have any thoughts or questions on any of these items, please comment or contact me and I'll do my best to respond or find out more and report back.

Monday, April 29, 2019

CASA Response Draft

At our last meeting, the Council agreed that writing a letter to the legislature in an effort to influence future housing legislation was a good idea.  Since I raised the issue initially, I was glad to take point on crafting the initial draft to be presented at the next meeting. 

Because I find engagement so valuable, I am seeking comment and feedback on the initial draft before it gets circulated to the rest of the Council (we're not allowed to discuss among ourselves outside of public meetings).  The response letter as well as attachment is below:

Response letter:


Please send me comment or suggestions.  Not all comments will be incorporated, but I will consider everyone's feedback before presenting the draft.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

4.16.19 Meeting Summary

Last night there were a few things discussed, the largest of which was housing related to the CASA compact.  A brief summary of what transpired:

A second reading of a new sign ordinance regarding non-commercial signs following a previous discussion on 2.5.19 and 4.2.19.  I reiterated my previous opposition restricting speech  and didn't see a need to rehash previous arguments.  The ordinance passed 4-1 with me voting no.

I gave a presentation regarding the CASA Compact:

CASA was formed to address the housing crisis in the Bay Area. Through a series of proposals, CASA recommends raising money in all the ways that governments can raise money, except for actually printing it. If executed, CASA would:
  • Create a new unelected quasi governmental body that could
  • Levy and collect additional taxes
  • Issue debt
  • Impose fees on just about everyone.
With this money, the unelected regional quasi governmental body would seek to:
  • Override local zoning eliminating single family zoning in many Bay Area neighborhoods
  • Provide financial incentives to builders
  • Push for public land to be used for affordable housing
  • Reduce environmental review for new developments
  • Impose rent control
  • Fund tenant litigation
  • Force landlords to pay for tenant relocation
After much discussion, and because many of these things would be implemented through state legislation, the Council agreed that we should draft a letter addressed to all of our state and local representatives.  This letter would communicate our guiding principles stating our position as a city, what we are in favor of and provide constructive commentary on what we are opposed to.  

I will take point on drafting this letter for Council discussion and present it at our next meeting.

The Council also agreed to engage with an executive search firm to replace our City Manager who announced his upcoming retirement.  Mayor Catalano and Vice Mayor Pierce sought to create an a sub committee to shepherd that process.

More detailed thoughts below:

When I asked for this item to be placed on the agenda so we could discuss, I simultaneously asked if we could have a representative from ABAG or MTC join us and share information about this important topic.  At the time, I was told that there either wasn't time, or that they are doing outreach through other channels.  So when I learned that Vice Mayor Pierce invited Brad Paul, the Deputy Executive Director, Local Government Services of MTC, I was pleasantly surprised.  Mr. Paul gave an update on the current status of many items, and encouraged the Council to make their voice heard so as to influence upcoming legislation.  The only unfortunate thing was that the Council did not take action sooner - CASA has been in the works for nearly 2 years.

There was also the implication that the information presented may have contained errors.  Granted the material is quite complex with many moving parts, it's entirely possible.  Because the outreach by MTC and ABAG was insufficient as they characterize it, much of the information presented needed to be obtained by reading through the hundreds if not thousands of pages of presentation material, news articles, watching committee meetings, reading proposed and pending legislation.  If there are actually any errors, I welcome the feedback so that I can update anything that warrants correction.

The problems I identified with CASA took three main flavors:

  1. Loss of local control
  2. Applying a one size fits all approach to large and small cities
  3. Lack of attention around transit and other infrastructure related to increased housing

Each member of the Council expressed their support for local control, and spoke against a one size fits all approach.  Other comments from the Council alleged that the presentation was meant to be divisive, however with the overall agreement on the main ideas above, it's hard to see the division.  In the marketplace of ideas, disagreement is not divisive.   It certainly is not divisive to seek to understand where our elected officials stand on issues that matter to the community.  And given the scope of what is being proposed I think a presentation on this important matter is long overdue.

These proposals that are in front of the legislature right now have the potential to impact everyone in Clayton, the Bay Area, and the state.  Things like increasing sales taxes, parcel taxes, gross revenue taxes, are serious matters and should be discussed as information is available.  We should not wait until a final bill is presented or even passed to have that conversation.

The effort to override local zoning, encouraging 75 and 85 foot towers in single family residential zones that could be adjacent to existing homes could have a dramatic impact on neighborhoods.  Providing an exception to environmental review for development projects could have significant unintended consequences of the sort that environmental protections are supposed to guard against.  Making things more expensive for homeowners with increased parcel taxes, more expensive for businesses with gross receipts and head taxes, and more expensive for everyone with increased sales taxes and issuing debt - could have significant downstream impacts that are difficult to address after the legislation is enacted.

As is always the goal, mine is transparency, engagement, and making sure our elected leaders hear and listen to their constituents.  To that end, after I draft a letter that describes the city's overall position, I will offer it here and seek input.  Look forward to a future post with a draft and please subscribe via the link on the left to receive updates as they are published.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Upcoming Council Meeting 4.16.19 – Housing is back on the agenda

At a previous meeting, I requested a future agenda item regarding the CASA Compact that was endorsed recently by both the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and it will be coming up at our next meeting on Tuesday. The CASA Compact is a mechanism to address the region's housing affordability crisis by identifying and unifying behind bold, game-changing ideas.

This will certainly have an impact on everywhere in the Bay Area and we will be discussing what that can mean for Clayton.

If you have thoughts or questions on this, please comment or contact me and I’ll do my best to respond or find out more and report back.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

4.2.19 Meeting Summary

As mentioned previously there were two substantive issues discussed at the meeting last night. A quick summary:
  • A first reading of a new sign ordinance regarding non-commercial signs following a previous discussion on 2.5.19 as well as discussion at the Planning Commission. I reiterated my opposition to restricting speech except in very rare and limited instances. I did note that the staff report from our City Attorney indicated that the current sign provisions being proposed did carry some risk, as does any restriction on speech. I also noted it was interesting that some members of the Council seemed comfortable with known risks restricting speech but were not okay with risks in other areas like restricting parolees. 
  • A discussion about the content and parameters of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in response to recent changes in state law that nullified Clayton’s rules around ADUs. There are a number of areas in which the state has legislated and eliminated local discretion. The discussion at this meeting concerned areas that the city did have discretion around and what direction to provide staff so that they may draft a new ordinance. Mostly there was agreement, but there were a couple key areas where I disagreed with others regarding setbacks and number of ADUs per property. Please see below for a more extensive discussion. 
For future agenda items, I requested a public hearing to discuss potential improvements to traffic and pedestrian safety around our middle and elementary schools. While myself and Mayor Catalano are members of the MDUSD sub-committee, safety on the roads including traffic and pedestrian safety are not within the purview of the school district, rather they are the responsibility of the city itself.

Our City Manager, Gary Napper also announced his upcoming retirement to be effective at the end of July.  In the short time I've worked with Gary I've really appreciated his knowledge, guidance, professionalism, and patience.  He's been with the city a long time and it will be very difficult to fill his shoes.


More detailed thoughts about ADUs below:

It’s important to remember that the reason we are addressing ADUs is because state law changed. If the city did nothing, then the new state law would control. In order to preserve some areas of local control, there are certain areas that the City has discretion to act in and the discussion tonight was to provide direction to staff in order for them to draft a new ADU ordinance. In general, the Council agreed in a number of areas. Those included: minimum and maximum ADU sqft, maximum ADU height, requirements for own occupancy and establishing a formal appeals process.

We did not come to consensus on the number of ADUs that should be allowable per lot and whether full kitchen and bathrooms should be required.  The area where there was most disagreement however, was regarding setbacks.

Setbacks are an area that the city has discretion in requiring. I advanced the idea that setbacks for detached units should follow the same rules as the primary residence. If an ADU were to be built, they shouldn’t get special treatment different than the primary residence. Other members of the Council disagreed. They thought that in order to encourage more building, reducing the interior setback to five (5’) was acceptable. 

In my view, a structure that is up to 16’ tall and only 5’ away from the side fence line is intrusive enough to reduce quiet enjoyment and quality of life. The setbacks were originally created for a reason and these ADUs are not in substance different than the primary residence. People and families can live in the main house and people and families can live in the ADU. Except one could have one required setback, and the ADU could have a much smaller setback. That inconsistency doesn’t seem right and it’s not what residents bought into when they got their homes.

Ultimately because these residences are serving the same purpose, in the same way, I think the setbacks should be consistent no matter what type of habitable dwelling is being considered. As long as the setbacks for ADUs are consistent with the primary residence, then we will limit the impact these structures may have on surrounding neighbors, while still providing an avenue for increased housing per state requirements.

Given the direction provided by the Council, staff will bring back a draft ordinance at a future date.  It will then be discussed, sent to the Planning Commission, and then return to the Council before any ordinance is enacted.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Upcoming City Council Meeting 4.2.19

Other than the consent calendar, (approving prior minutes, the regular financial demands of the city, awarding a low bid contract to upgrade police dash cams, and recognizing the library and its many excellent staff and volunteers) there are two substantive things on the agenda for the upcoming 4.2.19 City Council meeting:
  • A first reading of a new sign ordinance regarding non-commercial signs following a previous discussion on 2.5.19 as well as discussion at the Planning Commission. 
  • A discussion about the content and parameters of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in response to recent changes in state law. This was continued from the 3.5.19 meeting where we had ran out of time. 
If you have any thoughts or questions on any of these items, please comment or contact me and I'll do my best to respond or find out more and report back.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

3.19.19 Meeting Summary

As mentioned previously, there was one substantive item on the agenda last night.  A quick summary:

The council heard many residents discuss the current proposed permit parking program near Regency Gate.  Most were generally in favor but wanted time to make modifications to certain aspects so as to better align with the overall goals of the program.  Because any action that implements a pilot program would take time to execute, and the first step being going out to bid for the actual work, the Council decided to start that process. 

The Council directed staff to prepare and send out for bid the work necessary to erect the required signage for the permit parking program.  In addition, staff will gather more robust information around the related costs for all other known aspects of the program so when we later evaluate the plan details we will have a better idea of actual costs rather than rely solely on internal estimates.

While the project is going out to bid (a process that will likely take at least 2 months or more), the ad hoc committee and residents will have time to discuss and align on more specific program details.

More detailed thoughts below:

Police Chief Warren and City Engineer Alman did the legwork on drafting the proposal that was presented.  There were two options outlined, differing only in the geographic area covered by the proposed plan:

The key facts of the plan presented as follows:
  • Pilot program for 12 months
  • Parking restrictions in force only on weekends and federal holidays, from 8am to 5pm.
  • Any resident that lives within the permit zone would be eligible to participate
  • Up to two (2) Resident permits available per household. Permits only issued for vehicles registered to the resident at the resident address
  • Up to two (2) Guest permits available per household
  • Special event permits available four (4) times per year and would include up to ten (10) guest permits
  • The cost of the first Resident permit would be $75. The cost of any additional resident permits would be $55.
  • Any vehicle cited in violation of the program would be fined $45.
There were also various options presented to issue non resident permits, or temporary one day permits, however after discussion these did not seem like something we wanted to pursue.

I’ve spoken to many many residents at length on this matter and I don’t take this kind of action lightly. Given it’s new activity for the city, it’s especially important to tread carefully. I want to focus on the idea that this is a pilot. We have the ability to move forward to gain additional information, find out if it is effective, and make changes based on that analysis. This proposal is in effect only on weekends between 8-5pm. Nothing will restrict evening gatherings on the weekends, or gatherings at any time during the week.

Overall I’d like the least intrusive way to accomplish the goals of the program. Those goals are to alleviate the surge parking that occurs in front of people’s house effectively crowding out all other available parking. Based on discussion and public comment, there are a few tweaks that I think we can make that would make the program more workable for everyone:
  • Reduce or eliminate the fees after some requisite period of time should the pilot program be adopted on a permanent basis. The fees should gradually cover the costs of the program and with more data we'll understand that timeline better.
  • Base the number of Residential permits allowable on the number of registered vehicles. Have the requirement be that the vehicle is registered to the resident, even if the vehicle is registered to another location like a business address.
  • Increase the number of guest passes available. This allows the occasional larger gathering without a lot of increased hassle. I suggested that number be increased to eight (8).
  • By increasing the number of guest passes, we eliminate the need for special event tracking and passes so that portion can be scratched.

There was some resistance to the idea that we could be issuing more guest passes than the overall number of spaces available on the street. I verified with city staff including the City Attorney that this is allowable. In talking with the residents, this also isn't a significant concern. It would rarely happen that all the residents would be having an event at the same time, and even if that were to happen, they would be no worse off than they are now.

So while city staff moves forward with getting estimates and bids on the required work, the ad hoc committee and the residents will gather to come up with some modifications that would be more workable to the residents. At that point the matter will come back to the Council for a vote.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Upcoming City Council Meeting 3.19.19

Other than the consent calendar, (approving prior minutes, the regular financial demands of the city, awarding a low bid contract, and a resolution extolling the 2020 census) there is only one substantive thing on the agenda for the upcoming 3.19.19 City Council meeting:
  • Draft proposal for a preferential parking program near Regency Gate.  This issue was first discussed at the 2.5.19 meeting.  At that time the Council directed staff to draft a preferential parking permit to bring back to the Council consistent with the guidelines presented by the ad hoc committee.  This agenda item is the result of that direction.
If you have any thoughts or questions on any of these items, please comment or contact me and I'll do my best to respond or find out more and report back.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

3.5.19 Meeting Summary

As mentioned previously, there were three substantive matters on the agenda last night.  Due to the length of time discussion took, we only got to the first two items and continued the last item for a future meeting.  Those were:
  1. A presentation regarding the Contra Costa County Reentry Network by the Office of Reentry and Justice. This is related to the County's actions with regard to parolees.  Representatives from the ORJ gave a informative presentation on the program from the County perspective.  There were statistics around the target population, the amount of funding available and where some of that funding has been spent.  There was a discussion of the vendors that the ORJ engages with to assist in providing various services.  There was also discussion about recidivism, mass incarceration and prison populations, and the types of criminal activity that fall under the auspices of AB109.  The ORJ representatives also graciously took and addressed a number of questions from the Council.
  2. Revisiting the parolee housing ordinance that was passed last year.  The Council decided to take no action on this matter.  By a 3-2 vote, the Council rejected Councilmember Diaz's request to examine in greater detail some of the existing parameters of the ordinance.  By a 4-1 margin (not a vote because my motion did not receive a second), the Council rejected my request to make a determination on whether the Oakhurst Country Club would be considered a business licensed for on or off sale of alcohol as described in the parolee housing ordinance and therefor trigger the sensitive use buffer distance requirement.
  3. A discussion about the content and parameters of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in response to recent changes in state law. - This was continued (pushed out to future meeting).
I requested as a future agenda item, a discussion of the CASA compact that was recently endorsed by both MTC, and more recently ABAG. After which the city should take a position on whether it supports or opposes the CASA compact in its current form.

More detailed thoughts below:


My key takeaways from the presentation were as follows:
  • AB109 does not impose any requirements on cities.  AB109 is focused on counties.
  • Counties are not able to impose any requirements on cities as they attempt to handle the influx of prisoners redirected from state prisons under AB109.
  • Contra Costa County ORJ has not allocated any funds in their budget specific to Clayton.
  • There is no set reimbursement rate per person receiving assistance from the County.
  • If the city refused to allow the ORJ to operate or fund parolee housing in Clatyon, the ORJ would not feel it necessary to litigate (other groups may).
  • The ORJ targets areas that can provide a continuum of services, and they consider any area that has access to public transportation a viable area.  The only public transportation available in Clayton with any regularity is the bus.  It may be worth considering if it's worth having the bus line as existence of this line also forces the city to cede control of a number of other housing related items.
The target population of AB109 were "non, non, non" folks.  Those convicted of non serious, non violent, non sexual crimes.  When we explored this matter in more depth however, that is very misleading in two ways.  First, this categorization only looks at the most recent conviction.  A person that had been previously convicted of a violent, sexual, serious crime but whose most recent criminal conviction was burglary, would be considered a non, non non person under AB109.  

But that doesn't tell the whole story either.  Even if we only look at the offenses that are considered non-violent that fall under AB109, these are essentially only non-violent because of how the state has defined the term.  Lots of things that colloquially would be considered violent have been defined in the law as non-violent.  For example:
  • Brandishing firearm at person in vehicle 
  • Second degree burglary 
  • Bring/possess weapon on grade school grounds 
  • Battery of a peace officer with injury 
  • Threatening to injure a public or school employee 
  • Threats against witnesses 
  • Removal of officer's firearm while resisting arrest
These are all considered "non-violent" under AB109.  There's a much longer list.  Here I discussed it previously.  The ORJ representatives agreed that there are items on the AB109 eligibility list that many people would consider violent or serious but they are using the definitions created in the law.  In my view, unlawful transfer of a firearm to a minor is a serious offense, but AB109 doesn't consider it to be.  There's several hundred other offenses like this too.


Councilmember Diaz had previously requested this item be placed on the agenda for consideration to direct staff action.  In his request, he focused on three things:
  1. Consider expanding the 1000' buffer zone.  He suggested staff take another look at what distance would be most appropriate.
  2. Consider including private parks in the sensitive uses described by the ordinance.
  3. Consider a formal outreach program to assist residents in targeted areas.
In addition to these items, I requested that the Council direct staff to determine whether the Oakhurst Country Club would be considered a business licensed for on or off sale of alcohol as described in the parolee housing ordinance and therefor trigger the sensitive use buffer distance requirement.

Ultimately Councilmember Diaz's motion did not pass and was voted down 3-2.  I was in favor while Wolfe, Catalano, and Pierce were opposed.  My motion also did not pass.  It did not receive a second so there was no official vote.  I was able to raise a number of points during discussion which I will try to summarize below:

Regarding Oakhurst:  The current ordinance reads "A parolee home shall be located a minimum distance of at least one thousand (1,000) feet from any public or private school (preschool through 12 th grade), licensed daycare, library, public park, hospital, group home, business licensed for on- or off-sale of alcoholic beverages, youth center, emergency shelter, supportive or transitional housing when measured from the exterior building walls of the parolee home to the property line of the sensitive use."

The definition of "business" per the municipal code is: "Business" means any sole proprietorship, partnership, joint venture, corporation, association, or other entity formed for profit-making purposes. For purposes of this chapter, the term "business" also includes a nonprofit entity."  

Given that Oakhurst is a business licensed for the sale of alcohol, and can do so at their structure at the end of the 9th hole, and from their mobile cart, I believe this qualifies under the provision in the code as a business licensed for on-or-off-sale of alcoholic beverages.  I sought a determination on this matter but Pierce, Catalano expressed reservations about finding out more information if that would lead to an actual ban.  I am generally of the mindset that more information is better.

Regarding more detailed information on sensitive uses: There are also a number of items that would trigger a sensitive use that we did not fully explore, things like licensed daycares, utilizing our database of business licenses on file, group homes licensed by the state, etc.  Because of this, I thought it would be useful if we could accumulate this more detailed information and do a more robust analysis of where the buffer distances would actually exist so we could get a better understanding of the ordinance as written.  

Pierce responded that this would take effort and would be hard.  My response to that was that just because something was difficult, doesn't mean we shouldn't do it.  Doing the right thing can be difficult, but if it's the right thing to do then we should expend the time and effort to do so.  Continuing with the theme of the evening, the rest of the Council led by Catalano and Pierce did not want to take any action on this.

Regarding additional requirements to Parolee Homes:  I also inquired about additional requirements that we may be able to impose on parolee homes.  Currently on site supervision is required but there is no qualifications for that supervision other than it shall not be a parolee.  I believe we could impose greater requirements on who is performing the supervision, or the number of people performing supervision.  I also raised the idea of a requiring a bond, of say, $10M for each parolee home in the event of some form of non-compliance.  Again, continuing with the theme of the evening, there was no appetite from the rest of the Council to take any action in these areas.

Regarding the level of diligence engaged when the original ordinance was passed: I've read through the record in great detail. When this issue came to the Planning Commission in May of 2018, they were advised by counsel that the ordinance before them was the most restrictive that was legally defensible. That ordinance had 300 feet as the buffer distance. The Planning commission didn’t feel they had enough information and voted to not recommend approval by the Council.

Then when the Council first acted on this issue last July the Council was then advised that 500 feet was the greatest buffer distance that was legally defensible. And then a month later in August, the Council was advised that nay, 1000 feet was now the largest buffer distance legally defensible.

The difference between 300 feet and 1000 feet may seem like a small difference. It’s important to note that the buffer distance describes a radius, not something linear. A 300 ft buffer over a single sensitive use yields 283K square feet in area. At 1000 ft however, a single sensitive use yields 3.1M square feet in area, over 1000% more, or greater than an order of magnitude. Given the magnitude of change over such a short time period, I’m not clear that the level of resources used to investigate this matter was commensurate with the importance of this issue to the residents of Clayton.  This is consistent with the theme of the evening that there was no desire to take further action or perform more diligence.  

Regarding prognosticating on what the State would do in response to a ban:  We heard the refrain when this ordinance was originally adopted of, “if every city in California banned parolee housing then what would the state do?” This idea was also raised by Mayor Catalano last night.  I don’t know what the state would do. But I do know we should act in the best interests of the residents of Clayton now, and if the laws change at a later date then we should continue to act in the best interests of the residents of Clayton then. But that doesn’t mean that we should hamstring ourselves now in anticipation of a change in the law in the future.

Both Pierce and Catalano intimated that the only course of action they would entertain would be to make the ordinance more permissive - allowing parolee housing in more areas of the city.

Regarding regulating or prohibiting businesses:  To be clear, what the city is talking about are businesses.  If an individual parolee chooses to live in Clayton there is no restriction on that nor should there be.  People can choose to live where ever they want - they can buy, or rent, or live with friends or family and no one has a problem with that.  This is an important point and it's worth repeating and keeping in mind when considering this issue.  Cities have wide latitude in regulating businesses that operate within the city.  During last night's meeting I read the following:
Also important to consider is that there is no state law that mandates that cities accept this type of business within their borders. As a result, cities have latitude to make and enforce, within its borders, “all local, police, sanitary, and other ordinances and regulations not in conflict with general laws.” This inherent local police power includes broad authority to determine, for purposes of the public health, safety, and welfare, the appropriate uses of land within a local jurisdiction's borders, and preemption by state law is not lightly presumed.

For example, some communities are predominantly residential and do not have sufficient services or space to accommodate” parolee homes. Moreover, these facilities deal with a population that presents a heightened risk to the health, safety, and welfare of the community. Thus, parolee homes may pose a danger of increased crime, congestion, blight, and drug abuse, and the extent of this danger may vary widely from city to city.

Thus, while some cities might consider themselves well suited to accommodating parolee homes, conditions in other cities might lead to the reasonable decision that such facilities within their borders, even if carefully sited, well managed, and closely monitored, would present unacceptable local risks and burdens.
This language was lifted from the CA Supreme Court case, City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patients Health and Wellness CenterThis case wasn't about parolee housing specifically, but it did deal with a city regulating or prohibiting a business within the city.  I replaced some key words for applicability, but the idea expressed in the above could apply to our situation as well.

Regarding the political nature of this issue:  Mr. Napper did mention, and I agree, that ultimately this is a political issue.  The Council has the ability to take a number of different actions, but they do so only on a majority vote.  If the residents of Clayton desire a different outcome, then they can either persuade their elected officials to act differently, or change their elected officials.