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.