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 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.