Wednesday, December 2, 2020

12.1.20 Meeting Summary

Tonight was the last Council meeting for outgoing Councilmembers Catalano and Pierce.  There were a number of positive comments, reflections on service, giving of gifts, and well wishes. 

On the agenda was only one significant item and that was the annual reorganization of the Council to select a new Mayor and Vice Mayor.  Newly elected Councilmembers Cloven and Tillman joined with Councilmember Wolfe in nominating and voting for Councilmember Wolfe to become the next Mayor and Councilmember Cloven to be the next Vice Mayor.  The votes were 3-2 with myself, and Councilmember Diaz voting no.

For future agenda items I requested two things:

  1. For the Council to consider sending a letter regarding erroneous RHNA allocation region wide.
  2. For the Council to consider downzoning certain parcels near downtown on Old Marsh Creek Road.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Upcoming Council Meeting 12.1.20

With the holiday week, City staff was able to publish the agenda for next week's 12.1.20 meeting a bit early.  

There are no public hearings or action items at the next meeting, however there are significant items on the agenda. There will be a swearing in of the newly elected Councilmembers and the annual reorganization of the council where a new Mayor and Vice Mayor are chosen by the Council.

There will also be a meeting of the Oakhurst Geological Hazard Abatement District (GHAD). Also no public hearings or action items for this meeting, however the annual reorganization of the Board of Directors will occur as well.

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 17, 2020

11.17.20 Meeting Summary

 There were several significant items the Council took action on tonight:

  • In order to facilitate the review of draft audited financial statements we formed an ad hoc committee to do review prior to the statements coming back to the full Council.  Myself and Councilmember Wolfe were appointed for this role.  The city prepares a CAFR which is a type of financial report for municipal governments.  Previous CAFRs can be found at the city website.
  • We approved an update to the City's master fee schedule.  This largely followed CPI increases though in some cases moved up comensurate with the cost of staff time to administer.
  • We established a legislative policy whereby the Mayor would be authorized to sign position papers on matters that impact Clayton or are important to our residents consistent with established legislative priorities.  Each year a legislative priorities would be refreshed by the full council.
  • We appointed a new full time City Manager, Reina Schwartz.  I look forward to working with her and wish her the best of luck.  Our interim City Manager, Fran Robustelli has done an excellent job in the short time she's been with the city and I want to thank her for all of her hard work and contributions.  The transition will occur in Mid-December.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Upcoming Council Meeting 11.17.20

There are several significant items at the next council meeting:
  • We will be forming an ad hoc committee to review draft financial statements. The fiscal year ends June 30 and the audited financial statements are due by the end of December. Prior to finalization, they are typically reviewed by the Council, where an ad hoc committee functions as the Audit Committee.
  • Annual update of the master fee schedule for city services and uses
  • Adopting a legislative policy for the purpose of facilitating times where the city wishes to take a position on upcoming legislation that may affect the City. This was first discussed at the 10.15.19 meeting where the city formed an ad hoc committee consisting of myself and Mayor Pierce. Guidance from that committee went into the preparation of this draft legislative policy, which comes back to the full council for approval.
  • Execution of an employment agreement with a new permanent City Manager
The meeting will actually start early at 6pm, though this will only be for closed sessions to discuss litigation and employment negotiation matters.

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.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

The Olivia Decision, An Appeal, and A Path Forward

Unfortunately the lawsuit filed by Clayton residents was decided in favor of the developer of the Olivia project. The good news is that the group that filed the lawsuit have stated they will appeal the decision. This didn’t stop Catalano from declaring that the City was "entirely correct" in it’s decision to waive environmental review.


But not so fast. The court did in fact side with the developer, however it did not say the city was entirely correct. It couldn’t have, because the city did not take any position on whether the property was substantially surrounded by urban uses. The court called this out in their opinion:


The court then needed to decide an issue that the city ignored.  Here the court identifies the key questions:

Without a finding from the city, and with no actual definition of what "urban use" was, the court came to a decision on its own:


The court clearly identified that some surrounding parcels were rural.  However, this was not enough to yield a favorable decision.  The court reasons that even if a parcel is specifically zoned rural as it notes here, it can be considered urban.   As noted above, the residents who brought this lawsuit have stated they intend to appeal.

It would be great to see the Developer realizing the passion from the community and come to the table to see if there is a way to move forward that is a win win for everyone.  As I noted in a previous conversation a couple years back - I think most interested parties, all other things being equal, would be satisfied with a two story project.  

I'm not sure how this could come to pass, but I know that Frank Gavidia has some ideas on ways that may motivate everyone to come together.  It is an interesting idea - if other nearby parcels were to be downzoned for various reasons, I think that may get a lot of community support.  The downzoing could range from a slight reduction to medium density, or a larger reduction down to single family occupancy.  It would be a question of working with the interested parties to see what could make the most sense.  And as long as the appeal hangs out there, there is time to negotiate.  And yes, downzoning one area means that we'd have to upzone other areas.  The remaining three parcels are a combined size of 2.47 acres, which works out to a maximum of approximately 46 units that would be needed to be upzoned elsewhere.  That's doable, but only if people like Frank Gavidia and Jim Diaz join me to find these creative solutions.

And this is what Catalano and the rest of the folks who approved this project failed to see.  They talk about $4M of penalties, but that was never going to happen.  Those penalties are for improper project denial, not failure to grant environmental exemption. Catalano herself has stated multiple times that denying CEQA exemption would have resulted in delay.  Delay means time.  But for some reason, both Catalano and Pierce were in a hurry to push this project through.  They both were mayor during this time and controlled the agenda.  This was during a time where we had two interim City Managers, two interim community development directors.  Why the rush?  Perhaps it was to satisfy the goal of promoting high density housing that they had for years:

If there is a goal to promote high density housing, those that were in favor of that goal will look for ways to achieve it.  What they won't do, and didn't do, is look for ways to represent the majority of residents of Clayton who opposed this project and were looking to their elected leaders to find another way.  

The chances are certainly narrowing, but if we can elect Councilmembers like Frank Gavidia and Jim Diaz, then there still may be a chance to represent the people.  I need your help.  That's why I'm supporting Frank and am asking you to do the same.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

November 3 Meeting Cancelled

 The Council meeting regularly scheduled for Nov 3 has been cancelled.  That will be election day, please remember to vote!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

10.20.20 Meeting Summary

 There was one key item on the agenda last night and that was a discussion about what process we should engage in to determine how the open city owned downtown lot should be utilized.  There were a few options presented:

  1. Hold public meetings with the Planning Commission and City Council only (3-6 months)
  2. Community Meetings with consultant resource and public meetings with the Planning Commission and City Council.  This would work out to approximately 3 community meetings, a Planning Commission study session, and a City Council study session.  From there conclusions would be brought by city staff for final Council decision.  (6-12 months and $12K - $15K)
  3. Community Meetings and Charette Sessions with consultant resources and public meetings with the Planning Commission and City Council.  This would work out to approximately 4 community meetings, 4-5 Charrette Sessions with the intent to get maximum community involvement, a Planning Commission study session, and a City Council study session.  From there conclusions would be brought by city staff for final Council decision.   (12-18 months and $34K - $50K)
Ultimately the whole council was in favor of #3, with the caveat that it should not take 12-18 months.  I think this option ensures the maximum public involvement which is critical for the city to ensure that we hear as much input as possible before deciding how to proceed.  I raised a concern that the longer more involved process may be difficult for interested community members to participate in, but I think if we publicize the process, record it, and take feedback from all available channels, it could mitigate that risk.

We gave direction to staff to move forward with preparing an RFP for #3 with a reduced timeline of 9-12 months.

There was also a closed session to discuss the open City Manager position.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Election is Two Weeks Away - Support Frank Gavidia

I want to thank everyone for sharing in my support for Frank Gavidia. There's just a couple weeks left, but it is still important to speak with your friends and neighbors in town and let them know why Frank is the best candidate to advance the city. 

One common thread of criticism I’ve seen is this idea that myself, or Frank want to “fight Sacramento” and that necessarily means litigation. I know folks have either implied or stated this to be the case, but it's not so. I have no plans or intentions to "fight Sacramento". What I really want is for us as a city and a group of cities to advocate our interests. Many other cities do this, even nearby cities, but we don't. 

With the Olivia, my hope was to put the city and the residents on a more favorable footing for negotiation. Because the city conceded on every point that the developer asked for, it didn't give the residents or the city much room to negotiate for a more agreeable project. This is what Gavidia, and Diaz would want to do as well. We weren't able to because we didn't have enough votes both on the Planning Commission and at the Council. This is important because the Olivia developer owns multiple other adjacent parcels and seemingly intends to put similar projects there as well. We need creative councilmembers who will take the residents interests into consideration. The only way to incentivize the developer is to put the city and residents in a stronger negotiating position. I tried to do that recently by asking the city to stop defending the lawsuit brought by the residents, however the Council collectively chose to take no action. 

I've always advocated that we as a city follow the law. I also think we can take creative measures that balance the desires of residents with the need to follow the law. We haven't done that thus far but I know in working with like minded people like Gavidia we can start. So as I've said, it's not a fight against Sacramento, but a fight FOR the residents of Clayton. 

That means collaborating with other like minded cities, working with allies in the legislature, clearly taking a position on relevant legislation, joining advocacy groups that will truly represent us. In no way would I ever push for litigation because I don't think that's right for us, nor do I think it's an effective way to go. But those other steps, we don't do any of those things because the views we would argue for aren't shared with a majority of the Council. We need to change that and it starts with electing people who will represent these views.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Upcoming Council Meeting 10.20.20

For our next meeting there is one significant item on the agenda and that is to take input on what the process should be in determining the vision for the city owned downtown lot where all of the festivals are held.  The Council may then provide direction to staff in order to move the process forward.

Staff is presenting three options and approximate times and costs to complete:

  1. Hold public meetings with the Planning Commission and City Council only (3-6 months)
  2. Community Meetings with consultant resource and public meetings with the Planning Commission and City Council (6-12 months and $12K - $15K)
  3. Community Meetings and Charette Sessions with consultant resources and public meetings with the Planning Commission and City Council (12-18 months and $34K - $50K)

Time is a consideration as Sacramento is making overtures to claim unused land and force housing on it.

If you have any thoughts or questions, please let me know.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Frank Gavidia on the Olivia

 Frank Gavidia's take on why the Olivia is the most important issue this election (watch with subtitles)



Here Frank shows what the Olivia would look like right next to the neighbors, and in our downtown. One challenge with the renderings provided by the developer is that they do not show context. There are no houses present and they don't reflect the surrounding area. In order for the developer to show the project most favorable to themselves, they left out Stranahan. 

But because the developer's drawings lack context they aren't valuable in assessing the visual impact these structures may have especially on the nearby residents that will be most impacted.

A pullback rendering that is done with the actual houses shown in the picture, the actual street shown in the picture, that's valuable because it adds relevant context.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

10.6.20 Meeting Summary

Last night, there was also a great presentation by Contra Costa County Fire Protection District that talked about the work they've been doing, and things that our residents should be aware of.  I'll link to the presentation when it's posted at the city's website.

Afterwards, there were two significant items discussed last night:

We made permanent the pilot preferential parking program near Regency Gate. What was adopted last night differed than the original pilot in a few key areas:

  • Made the effective time 24/7.  The pilot program was during the day on weekends and holidays.  Due to change in patterns of utilization we felt it appropriate to expand the effective times of the restrictions
  • Increase the fine from $45 to $49 to normalize with other fines in the city and in our neighboring cities
  • Leave costs for permits the same, but change them to one time fees instead of annual therefore residents don't have to pay each year to renew.  This eases administrative burden and cost on the police department.  The fees and fines thus far has already lead to a near break even with the initial cost outlays.
  • Adjust boundaries back to what they were at original pilot inception (leaving open the bottom of Regency, and the other side of Seminary where no cars are).  We had expanded the permit area to the bottom of Regency shortly after the Shelter in Place orders were issued.  While these are still present, we felt that having available no permit parking at the end of Regency allows us to accomplish our primary goal of ensuring residents are able to park in front of their house, while still allowing general access to the trail head.  Part of the recommendation was to install a type of rubberized parking block at the demarcation point to make it clear where the permit and no permit areas are.
We  adopted a 2 year Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with certain city employees for various compensation related changes.

In addition, I requested as a future item that we discuss the city taking over maintenance of the Clayton Dog Park.  The park was originally approved in 2000.  Over the next several years, a non-profit was formed for the purpose of funding improvements to the park, including a water line and shade structure.  These were installed sometime around or after 2005.  After that time, the non-profit group has paid to replace and maintain the bark at the park and perform weed abatement, while the city has performed other maintenance items.  Given the park is owned by the city, and the costs involved are relatively low for the work that being done by the non-profit, I think it's appropriate for us to discuss the city taking over this activity.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Upcoming Meeting 10.6.20

 There are two significant items on the agenda for the upcoming 10.6.20 meeting:

  • Making permanent the pilot preferential parking program near Regency Gate.  When this program was first started it was as a pilot.  Staff is recommending we finalize this program and make it permanent with some modifications.
  • Adopting a 2 year Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with certain city employees.  Currently the city has a represented group of employees within our police force, and an unrepresented group that consists of all others.  This item is to discuss an agreement with the latter for various compensation related matters.

There will also be a closed session to discuss ongoing efforts to fill the City Manager position with a permanent person.  Currently our City Manager is serving in an interim role.

If you have any questions or comments regarding these items, please let me know.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

I'm Supporting Frank Gavidia and I Need Your Help

I’m supporting Frank Gavidia for Clayton City Council. I don’t often ask, but please share and like this post.

I’ve gotten to know Frank over the years and through his work for Clayton as a Planning Commissioner. He has a pragmatic approach to problem solving and has similar priorities as I do. If Frank were to join the Council, I know that we could work together to advance the interests of our residents and improve community relations. To do this, I need your help and I’m asking for your support of Frank. His website can be found at www.FrankForClayton.com and on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FrankForClayton. I’m also asking that you take a few steps: Like and share this post. Like and share his facebook page. Tell your friends and neighbors here in Clayton your thoughts.

Frank is a long time Clayton resident, an active volunteer at MDSA Soccer, a small business owner, a United States Marine, and truly understands the role of elected leaders in representing the public interest. Frank has a strong analytical and financial background, and wants to give back to the community. He voted "No" on the Olivia Project while serving on the Planning Commission, has donated all of his stipends from that work, and isn’t accepting any campaign donations.

Two years ago, the people of Clayton did something they had never done before. An incumbent running for reelection lost and instead you elected me to represent you. At the time, 100% of the existing Council endorsed my opponents. Past Councilmembers spoke out against me. The Pioneer for the first time endorsed candidates during the election – not me. They said I was unqualified with a dismal lack of understanding of the city’s land use process.  I am hoping that over the last two years, I have both served the people of Clayton, and demonstrated what a different approach to community engagement can look like.

Unfortunately I am only one person on a Council of five. And while I feel I have been able to push forward with limited progress on certain issues important to the people of Clayton, there are still significant areas that we have not made progress on, and others where we have actually regressed. For example:
  • The city overall has become less transparent – Prior to 2019 the city used to publish actual usable minutes from meetings. Those minutes would capture the spirit of discussions that were being held. The Council decided to cease doing this move to “action” style minutes. No longer is the spirit of discussion captured. Instead, just a recording of the votes so residents would have to slog through hours of video to be aware of what actually transpired. This is another reason I write a summary of each meeting – to inform residents.
  • Parolee housing was not further restricted – Several requests to expand restricted areas, or even undertake effort to explore alternatives were rejected by this Council. Myself and Councilmember Diaz both tried to take alternative approaches, or at a minimum gather information and explore the possibility of alternate approaches. These efforts were rejected.
  • The city did not engage in the appropriate level of scrutiny of the Olivia project. Rather than apply rigor around our review, this Council voted to approve a project that the vast majority of our residents opposed. The people who voted in favor of the 3 story, 3 separate building high density buildings in our downtown could have required actual environmental review, but did not want to burden the developer and saw environmental review as only a delay. We deserved better.
  • The city expanded its requirements forcing builders to provide for below market housing. This council expanded the low income housing requirement over rental properties even though it was not required. For all the talk of state mandates, this action was not mandated but this Council did it anyways.
  • We are no closer to updating our downtown specific plan. The most contentious issue that the city is faced with, and there has been little to no progress on it. Instead we spend time and resources on symbolic gestures that while they are laudable, will not have the same far reaching and long lasting impact as addressing our downtown would.
That’s not to say there hasn’t been advances made. In the two years since the last election:
  • The city has made significant progress in improving traffic and pedestrian safety near our schools. I pushed for pedestrian safety enhancements including an additional crossing guard in front of Mt. Diablo Elementary which will be coming in the near future as soon as materials can be sourced.
  • Quality of life improvements at Regency and Rialto. Dramatically improved the quality of life for residents around Regency Gate by implementing a preferential parking program.
  • Updated our sign ordinance so it is no longer in violation of the 1st amendment. The Council previously attempted to restrict people’s ability to speak by limiting their ability to put up campaign signs, making it harder for new candidates to seek election. Even when forced to make a change, members of this Council expressed a desire to continue with these limits if it were legal. And more recently, a member of this Council continued to demonstrate a lack of respect for the 1st amendment by seeking to stop a person expressing something that they disagreed with.
  • Legalized the keeping of backyard chickens. As part of our rural character, these should never have been prohibited. In changing the city ordinances we conformed with the vast majority of other cities in the county.
  • Taken public policy positions regarding some of the most contentious housing bills in Sacramento. For the first time in a long time, the city took a position on key matters that would affect us. We should have been doing this for years, but this Council was uninterested in doing so, ceding that influence to councilmembers working behind the scenes on regional bodies like ABAG and MTC, not representing the interests of Clayton residents.
  • Restricted the use of glyphosate by the city. We recognized the potential harm and legal liability and ceased the use of this potentially harmful chemical.
If you like the things the city has been able to do over the past two years, and are dismayed at the lack of progress in other key areas as I’ve identified, then I need your help in voting for Frank Gavidia. Like me, he is a strong believer in clear and transparent communication. Frank has the courage of his convictions as demonstrated by his honorable service in the United States Marine Corp, and more recently with his vote against the poorly conceived high density three story, three separate apartment buildings in downtown.

As other candidates speak, be aware of trite phrases with no substance. The phrase “local control” is sufficiently vague that it could mean anything. Do candidates take concrete positions on issues and do they match the rhetoric they use. For new candidates, demand to know how they would be different than the incumbents. For current councilmembers, demand that people justify their voting record – have they represented your interests?

If you consider these things, I think you will see as I do that Frank deserves your vote.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

9.15.20 Meeting Summary

Tonight there were two significant items on the agenda.

The first was considering adding "inclusion" to the "Do the Right Thing" program.  This program is primarily administered by our schools as aspirational goals for students.  This idea was brought by Councilmember Wolfe and I think it is a great idea.  Based on how resolutions and motions are brought, we didn't approve this during this meeting, but instead we directed that a resolution be brought forward at a future time.  All were supportive of this.  Related to this, the Council also spoke favorably about adopting "Do the Right Thing, Because It's the Right Thing To Do" as the city's motto.  We haven't previously had a motto before so this would be new.

The second item was related to the upcoming League of CA Cities annual meeting, whether we should send a delegate, and what position we should take regarding the one resolution that is on their agenda.  Councilmember Jim Diaz is the our designated League representative and we agreed that the small fee was worthwhile for him and any Councilmember who wished to attend.  The cost to the city this year is nominal as there is no associated travel due to the conference being online.

The resolution on the agenda is related to civil liability for content hosters (youtube, Amazon, Etsy, etc.) for content that users may post relating to illegal activity.  Currently content hosts are not responsible and immune from lawsuit for content that users may post, though there are requirements for taking down certain material if they are notified.  Because I felt this could be a slippery slope relating to restricting speech, as well as the scope of what is considered can be overly broad, I recommended that our delegate should vote no.  This resolution specifically addresses section 230 of the Communication Decency Act of 1996.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of the leading advocacy groups for free speech on the internet, has taken a position that I agree with here.  

I requested a future agenda item to discuss adopting a resolution in support of CA Citizens for Local Control.  This was a resolution that was sent to us from the City of Torrance CA.  They are soliciting support to resist and oppose legislation in Sacramento that would usurp local control.

We also had a closed session to discuss ongoing litigation relating to the Olivia project.  There was no reportable action from that closed session.

Olivia Redux - Part II

Councimember Catalano talks about chess, but there’s no strategy in simply granting everything a developer wants over the course of many years. That’s not playing chess, that’s the developer playing Heads I Win, Tails You Lose. Apparently 100% affordable housing is what Catalano is most afraid of. I must ask, why? What would be the problem with 100% affordable housing? Wouldn’t it be more inclusive to provide more housing at lower income levels?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m generally opposed to affordable housing mandates, but that’s because they are market distortionary and provide for a less efficient allocation of resources as a matter of public policy. But any individual project is not going to have market wide impacts so I don’t find 100% inclusionary housing to be a negative that must be avoided in this instance. No, the issue that I, and what I find most people who are opposed to this project had, was because it was under parked, and too dense for the space and location. If the project was 2 stories with substantially the same amount of parking, I would expect the resistance to the project would evaporate, regardless of the amount of inclusionary housing.

Catalano likes to link to a 2015 Pioneer article discussing a previous plan saying that residents rejected it. That’s misleading in several ways. First, there’s no mention of how many residents were present and voiced opposition. Second, from the folks that I spoke with, many who are currently opposed were either not here at the time, or were unaware because the city did a poor job of letting them know. Third, the only person actually on record is Kent Ipsen. The article quotes Kent Ipsen who at the time was actually in favor of the project because he saw it was reasonable. Currently Ipsen has voiced public opposition to the current plan because it is not reasonable. Fourth, the plan was never presented to the city so there was no ability for the developer to actually negotiate or to see what could really work in that space. As Catalano well knows, residents do not have the ability to reject a plan, otherwise we wouldn’t be where we are at today.

Foresight matters, so does leadership. Blaming the residents from 2015, blaming the state, that’s not leadership. Even before being elected, I engaged with the developer in trying to communicate what I thought the residents would find reasonable. If foresight matters, why didn’t this happen with our actual elected leadership? If foresight matters, then why did Catalano agree with the developer’s request to exempt this project site from the sensitive use designation that would have limited the number of units able to be built? That’s not foresight, and giving in to everything a developer asks for without seeking compromise is not leadership. It’s an abdication of the responsibility that our residents entrusted its leadership with.

Let’s look at what a reasonable compromise could be. Currently the proposal calls for 81 units, 7 of which are ‘very low income’ (blended unit rate of $2,200 market rate, and $800 very low income rate). Based on the financial information presented, that would yield about $165K/month in rents at approximately $27M in build costs. That’s the status quo.

If the number of units drops to let’s say, 60 units for a two story build, market rate would then yield approximately $132K/month. That’s less than the status quo, however if the project were to go down to two stories, the building costs would be substantially decreased. The administrative cost to the city over time would also decrease if the monitoring for inclusionary units wasn’t present. The financing cost would be lower and financing would be easier because in the current environment financing is not as easy to come by. With a lower build cost, less investors may be necessary, increasing individual return. If we also consider the potential risks that may come out of CEQA review as I’ve suggested, it becomes even more of a reasonable compromise.

We should have that discussion, but our residents are at a severe disadvantage when the Council surrenders at every opportunity. Hopefully we’ll be able to change that after the discussion tonight.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Olivia Redux, What Isn't Required by Law, and a Way Forward

I wanted to expand a bit on my thought process with the closed session at the 9.15.20 meeting tomorrow.

Those that voted in favor of the Olivia say that their vote was required by law, that they were compelled to vote to approve the three story, three separate building high density apartment complex in our downtown. Further, everyone who voted in favor has intimated that they are actually not pleased with the project and would have liked something different. I’m not sure I agree with that, but let’s say arguendo that that is true. Here is a chance to prove it.

After an appeal of the decision to approve the Olivia was rejected, a group of residents brought litigation against the City. Since the City is the one that approved the project, allegations of improper approval are properly directed against the city. The developer is considered a Real Party in Interest. At various stages of litigation, the parties must gather at various times to determine if settlement is possible. Settlement may occur because while the outcome of any litigation is uncertain, the fact that litigation is expensive is all but certain. As a result, if the parties could come to some compromise, the lawsuit may be dropped.

The stronger the position of the residents bringing the lawsuit is, the greater the incentive the developer will have to settle. If this Council truly does not like the project, this is a perfect opportunity for us to demonstrate that. The law does not require us to defend lawsuits against us. In fact, the Council could even agree to help the residents who have initiated litigation by stipulating various assertions they raise in their petition. In doing so, the position of the petitioners would be strengthened and make a settlement for something that is less out of character for our downtown more likely.

We as a Council could do this right now. The Council could direct our attorneys to stop defending the lawsuits, and file briefs with the court stipulating, essentially agreeing, with various aspects of the claims that are being made by the residents who initiated litigation. If we did that, of course the developer could continue the litigation as they are considered Real Parties in Interest. However, if we did concede various points raised by the residents, it would strengthen the position of the residents who brought the lawsuit and make a favorable settlement more likely.

If folks who voted in favor of this poorly conceived project really were against it and only voted in favor of it because they felt the law compelled them, this is a way to demonstrate that and give the residents the best chance to prevail. This is the type of creative steps that a Council may take and why I asked for an agenda item to discuss this very option. This will be the topic of a closed session because it is related to litigation. Unfortunately I will not be able to disclose anything that transpires in closed session, but if the city takes no action then the residents should be able to draw their own conclusions on where the three members of this Council who voted to waive environmental review, and roll out the red carpet for a developer, really stand.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Upcoming Council Meeting 9.15.20

There are two significant items on the agenda for our next meeting.

- The first is about adding "inclusion" as a character trait to the Do the Right Thing program. In addition, there is suggestion of changing motto of the city to "Do the Right Thing".

- The second is whether we should designate a voting delegate to the annual League of CA Cities virtual conference. Only one item is up for vote and that is regarding making sites that host user generated content (facebook, youtube, amazon reviews, etc.) liable for things their users may post.

There is also a closed session in response to my request last meeting to discuss the possibility of discontinuing our defense of the lawsuit regarding the Olivia project.

If you have questions or comments about any of these items please let me know.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

9.1.20 Meeting Summary

 Last night we discussed a few significant items:

There was a presentation by Dr. Chris Farnitano, the health Officer of Contra Costa County discussing information related to COVID-19.  It was good information that I think was worth listening to if you are able to watch the video.

We also heard from all six candidates running for City Council in this November's election.

We had a follow up discussion regarding potential traffic calming actions that could be taken in order to reduce speeds on three areas in town.  Lowering speeds is critical to being able to resurvey traffic and therefore not be forced to increase speed limits.  Background on that was in a previous post here.

The three streets we discussed were:
  1. Eagle Peak Dr from Oakhurst Dr (east) to Keller Ridge Dr.
  2. Clayton Rd from Washington blvd to Oakhurst Dr.
  3. Mountaire Pkwy from Marsh Creek Rd (south) to Mountaire Cir
Potential actions included:
  • "Road diets" (shrinking of lanes, reducing number of lanes, expanding bike lanes) in order to create a smaller space which typically results in drivers slowing down
  • Various forms of restriping that serves similar purpose of the road diets
  • Speed feedback signs which measure people's speed and display it on a sign
  • Regular speed limit signs
  • Changing signal timing to pace the actual speed limit
Of the above options, the road diets were both the most expensive, and the most intrusive.  There was not an appetite to undertake this option right away.  Ultimately, the Council took action to direct staff to do three things:
  1. Install additional speed limit signs where none exist on Eagle Peak Dr. and some other select areas in town.  Each sign has a cost of approximately $300 so this is a relatively low cost option.
  2. Reach out to the Dana Hills HOA asking them to inform the residents that if speeds do not decrease, there will be a  speed limit increase, request their residents to slow down, and to inquire if the residents would be interested in the narrowing of the 4 lane section on Mountaire Parkway (the road diet) in order to slow down speeds.
  3. Adjust the timing of all of the stoplights on Clayton Road and as it turns into Marsh Creek Rd with the primary goal of ensuring drivers do not exceed the speed limit.  As we learned last meeting, 75% of the people receiving tickets on Clayton Rd. are from out of town.  Traffic from east county typically uses Clayton Rd. because it is faster than taking Hwy 4.  I suggested several ways to deincentivize drivers from doing this, including increasing the time lights stay red, defaulting through traffic to stay on red until cars approach, and using the light at Regency and Marsh Creek to essentially meter traffic during commute hours.  We left it to staff to determine what the best options were and will explore any further action as necessary.
We adopted a proclamation declaring Sept 15 - Oct 15 Hispanic Heritage Month recognizing many of the positive contributions from our Hispanic community.

In addition to that, I requested a future agenda item to discuss whether we should direct our legal firm, Best, Best, & Krieger, to stop defending the lawsuit related to the Oliva project.  Since the city is the one who approved the project, the current litigation brought forth by a group of residents is directed at the city.  While the developer may continue to defend the litigation as a Real Party in Interest, there is no obligation for the city to do so.  We'll continue this discussion at a later time.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

SB 1120 Did Not Pass - But Not for Lack of Trying

Last week I wrote about SB1120 and asked people to communicate their opposition to the bill.

Last night was the deadline for bills to pass and fortunately did not pass.  It was only a technical victory however.  This bill was originally passed in the state senate and then went on to the state assembly.  The deadline to pass the bill was last night at midnight.  Several times over the past week, the vote was delayed likely because it did not have enough support.  Just three minutes before midnight, the assembly passed the bill, but because it needed to go back to the senate due to minor amendments, there was not enough time for the senate to vote on it.  

So while this bill failed, it's not for lack of trying.  The Senate had 40 members, and the vote was 39-0 with only one abstention.  The vote in the assembly was 44-18, with 17 abstentions.  Both of our state representatives, State Senator Glazer and Assembly Member Grayson voted in favor of this bill!  Terrible.

So why was SB1120 so bad?  SB1120 would have virtually eliminated single family zoning in the entire state.  All single family zoned lots would be allowed to build two homes instead of one.  It would have eliminated the need for public hearing or review.  In addition, it would then allow these lots to be subdivided into two lots, meaning where previously only one house existed, all the sudden there could be four houses.  Again, no review or public hearing would be allowed.  In addition, SB1120 would have exempted these actions from any environmental review.   Essentially this bill would have gutted local control and changed the utilization of millions of properties and their neighborhoods.

This bill was just the latest in an attempt by State Senator Scott Wiener to have Sacramento take over local control and end single family zoning.  He is the biggest threat in Sacramento to small cities like ours.  He has advanced plans that would cram more and more houses, eliminates local control, eliminates environmental protection, with no regard to neighborhoods.

An organization that Clayton belongs to, the League of California Cities, actually took a "support if amended" position on SB1120.  Why?  This bill was fatally flawed to begin with and no amendment would have made it okay.  The amendments that the League sought were anemic at best.  This is in contrast to other advocacy groups like Livable California who strongly opposed this bill.

We as a city should be advocating against these bad housing bills that destroy local control and would be harmful to the character of our city.  

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Upcoming Council Meeting 9.1.20

There are two significant items on the agenda next meeting: 
  • Discussion of various methods of traffic calming on the streets that were slated for speed limit increases.  Last meeting the Council did not accept the traffic survey of these three stretches (it was four, but two of them were the same street back to back so effectively three).  As a result, we asked staff to come back with options that we could undertake that would allow us to not increase the speed limit.  In addition to education and enforcement, there may be various physical changes that can be made that would reduce speeds.  Background on why this is important and how this impacts the speed limits we are able to set is in a previous post, here.

    Some of the physical changes include road narrowing, speed feedback signs being installed, road striping, increased number of speed limit signs, etc.  Each option has an associated cost, as well as the resurveying of traffic after any changes are made.    
  • We will also discuss a proclamation declaring Sept 15 - Oct 15 Hispanic Heritage Month
In addition to these agenda items, as I mentioned previously for each meeting from now till the election in November, each candidate will have an opportunity to speak for up to 3 minutes so that the community may better get to know them.  This will be towards the beginning of the meeting.

If you have any questions or comments about the above, please let me know.  Also, if you'd like to receive updates by email, you can sign up here.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Oppose SB 1120

 I sent the following letter to Assembly Member Grayson today:



Sacramento, lead by folks like State Senator Scott Wiener, continue to try and dismantle local control in an effort to upzone everywhere, without regard to local communities.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

8.18.20 Meeting Summary

 Last night there were a few significant items discussed:

We heard from each of the six candidates that are running for the three city council positions this November.  The four new candidates had a chance to introduce themselves, and the two incumbents had a chance to go over why they should be re-elected.

We discussed the latest Traffic Survey over the collector and arterial roads in Clayton.  As required by law, a traffic survey is needed every 5 years, though there is allowable one 5 year extension.  Our last was conducted just over 10 years ago so we are overdue.  Without a valid traffic survey, our police would be unable to utilize radar to measure and enforce speed limits on the collector and arterial roads in the city.

Based on the results of the traffic survey, the law will dictate the minimum speeds that are allowed to be set.  I found it quite incongruous the circumstances that result in increasing speeds.  Courts tend to dismiss speeding tickets for small amounts over. This results in people driving faster, which results in the average speed increasing, which results in a traffic survey that shows faster speeds, which then means the speed limits need to be raised.  It's like the worst game of 'if you give a mouse a cookie' and the result is we are less safe.

Overall there were three roads in Clayton that were slated for increased speed limits:

  • Eagle Peak Dr from Oakhurst Dr (east) to Keller Ridge Dr - from 30 mph to 35 mph
  • Clayton Rd from Washington blvd to Oakhurst Dr. - from 40 mph to 45 mph
  • Mountaire Pkwy from Marsh Creek Rd (south) to Mountaire Cir - from 30 mph to 35 mph

There were questions about the validity of the traffic survey as conducted.  A few that raised questions were the time window over which it was conducted - some were shorter than expected, and some the data was incomplete.  Also the collection method was via video - in previous scenarios radar was used which may have lead to more accurate measures.  The measurement period in some cases was after shelter in place orders were in effect, reducing the number of cars on the road and potentially increasing rates of speed.

We also looked at a proposal to reduce the number of lanes on Mountaire Parkway from 2 lanes in each direction to 1 lane.  Before we do this, we would want to reach out to the Dana Hills HOA and ask them to inform/inquire with their residents on the viability of that plan.

We also learned a few interesting facts:
  • We could conduct a new traffic survey at a small cost.
  • Police typically don't pull people over for speed unless they are a requisite amount over the actual limit
  • On Clayton Rd, nearly 75% of the citations issued are to individuals that do not live in Clayton
  • Other methods of obtaining reasonable suspicion in order to effect a traffic stop such as vehicle pacing, or visual speed estimation, have their own challenges and are not feasible in our environment
  • Additional police resources for more dedicated traffic enforcement would assist the police in lowering overall speeds
Overall the Council voted to not adopt the new traffic survey in the areas above that would have been impacted by increased speed limits.  Once speeds are increased, they are rarely lowered and we felt that it was worth taking the time to see if various modifications could result in a more favorable outcome on the traffic survey.  We asked staff to come back at the next meeting if possible, to discuss a 4 prong plan to do the following:
  1. Plan for reperforming the traffic survey
  2. Plan to educate our residents and other passive measures to reduce speeds
  3. Informing and inquiring with the residents of Dana hills regarding a plan to reduce the number of lanes on Moutnaire Parkway
  4. Active measures to reduce the use of Clayton Rd. as a through way for those outside of Clayton - since most of the speed violations are from folks that don't live in town, finding ways to discourage the use of Clayton as a pass through would reduce overall speeds and traffic.
We also discussed a position letter to be sent to ABAG.  There are currently two general schools of thought when it comes to allocation of housing units in the upcoming RHNA cycle.  RHNA is the process by which the state forces localities to zone for additional housing units.  One method bases the housing unit allocation on where the houses currently are.  This is the 2019 baseline method.  The other method bases the housing unit allocation on where jobs and transit are and are expected to be in the future in an effort to align jobs and housing, and reduce overall greenhouse emissions due to commutes.  This is the Plan Bay Area 2050 method.

The Plan Bay Area 2050 method would result in a significantly lower allocation to cities like Clayton.  This is the method that the city asked ABAG to implement with the letter that was sent last night.  

Mayor Pierce mentioned that there are those in Sacramento who wish to punish cities like Clayton, those with higher incomes and good schools, to force our city to zone for more and more units, including affordable units.  Folks in Sacramento have been trying to do this for years.  The language they use is "high opportunity areas"  For example, legislation like SB50 introduced by State Senator Scott Wiener which failed earlier this year contained provisions that would severely impact our city with the so called "high opportunity areas", essentially stripping local control and forcing us to allow things like duplexes, fourplexes, and eight plexes in previously single family zoned areas.  Senator Wiener is still at it with more current legislation and folks like him are part of the reason Sacramento has continually tried to assault small cities like ours.

I am hopeful that the Plan Bay Area 2050 methodology is selected, and folks like Senator Wiener get the message and are defeated at the ballot box.

I also requested two items for future agendas:
  • Currently users must register to join our Zoom meetings.  As we are required to allow anonymous commentary from any member of the public, I asked that the registration requirement be removed.  This should make it easier for people to join our meetings and comment if they wish.
  • I also requested that we advance the timeline on the pilot program for preferential parking near Regency Gate.  This has been in pilot for quite some time, and with the uncertainty of COVID-19 and its impacts, I thought adding one element of certainty for the residents there would give them additional peace of mind and improve quality of life.  I asked for this to come back to the Council as soon as possible.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Candidates for November Election

This November there will be six candidates vying for 3 spots on the City Council. They are as follows (ballot order):


While state and national news get a lot of coverage on the news, elections at a local matter often can have a greater impact on our everyday lives. I encourage everyone to find out as much as possible about who they may vote for – remember you can vote for three.  To assist with getting to know the candidates, each candidate will have time to introduce themselves and speak at every Council meeting from now until the election.

Residents should ask how any new candidates would be different or better than the incumbents. For those that have a voting record, residents should be aware of it and ask themselves if that voting record has represented their interests. Residents should know where candidates get their money, and where they spend their money in terms of political contributions and donations.

I've spoken to each of the four new candidates and am still developing my thoughts which I'll share at a later time.

I wish each candidate the best of luck.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Upcoming Meeting 8.18.20

There are a few significant items on the agenda for the upcoming Council meeting 8.18.20:
  • Acceptance of the latest traffic survey and a proposal to increase speed limits on a few key streets in town:

    • Eagle Peak Dr from Oakhurst Dr (east) to Keller Ridge Dr - from 30 mph to 35 mph
    • Clayton Rd from Washington blvd to Oakhurst Dr. - from 40 mph to 45 mph
    • Mountaire Pkwy from Marsh Creek Rd (south) to Mountaire Cir - from 30 mph to 35 mph

Countenancing faster driving through town should be taken with caution as faster speeds impact the safety of our residents.
  • Consideration of a letter to ABAG supporting Plan Bay Area 2050 baseline data methodology with respect to RHNA allocation.
If you have any questions or comments about these items please let me know and I'll get back to you.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Meeting Summary 8.4.20

There was only one significant item on the agenda tonight, and that was conforming our fire codes with updates from the County.  We keep aligned as the County is the one that provides fire protection services. 

There were a few public comments that were made that were consistent in theme - those were regarding some signage at Canesa's.  The sign on the masthead has the words "Ammo is expensive, do not expect a warning shot" with an image of a handgun.  A few people found this offensive, or threatening.  Some felt that the city should do something, that this type of speech shouldn't be allowed.  

We don't typically address public comment during the meetings, but as free speech is critically important and should be judiciously guarded, I wanted to address some of the comments made tonight.  There is absolutely nothing the city could or should do with regard to this type of business signage. City action interceding would almost certainly run afoul of the first amendment. People have the right to say what they want, even if the content may be distasteful or offensive to some.  It is important to remember that the protections over speech are not necessary when expressing views that are popular.  Free speech protections are needed for expressing views that are unpopular.  It is in protecting unpopular speech that we demonstrate our principles.  Any time speech is being restricted I would challenge the basis on which such restrictions rest upon.  

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Upcoming Meeting 8.4.20

There are a few significant items on the agenda for the next meeting:
  • One item on consent calendar is a response to Contra Costa Grand Jury report regarding police staffing levels.  The County reports annually with various findings and observations and we are obligated to respond to each.  Most of the findings the city agrees with, whereas some recommendations that were made are not realistic and therefore we did not agree with them.  Some of these included things like funding extra resources, shared training and recruitment efforts across the County.

  • We will also be doing round 2 of adopting new fire code provisions.  We did this at a previous meeting however there were some administrative hiccups so we will be doing it again.  This conforms our codes with those of the County as they are doing enforcement.
One item not on the agenda that is important: This November, there are three Council seats up for election.  For any interested candidates, the deadline to file is Friday, August 7, 2020.  Candidates interested in running need to schedule appointments with the City Clerk so that perspective candidates may be provided with the requirements and documents for filing for elective office. Appointments are available through August 7, 2020.

If you have thoughts or questions about the above, please let me know.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Meeting Summary 7.21.20

The Council took action on a couple significant items as follows:
  • Increased the real property assessments of the Diablo Estates at Clayton Benefit District 1.1% in line with CPI increases.  These are privately held homes and property and the assessment is to fund maintenance of these properties.
  • Adopted a resolution condemning racism
  • Executed a one time salary adjustment for our Assistant to the City Manager for filling in as Interim City Manager on a short term basis
  • Executed a contract with a new Interim City Manager while we continue the search for a full time person to fill the role.  Fran Robustelli will start tomorrow as Interim City Manager

Friday, July 17, 2020

Upcoming Meeting 7.21.20

There are a few significant items on the agenda for the upcoming meeting:
  • A hearing on an increase of property tax assessments for the Diablo Estates at Clayton Benefits Assessment District (BAD).  This increase of 1.1% is in line CPI and supports the original purpose of maintenance of this particular development.
  • Adopting a resolution condemning racism
  • A salary adjustment for our Assistant to the City Manager for stepping in as Acting City Manager as that position has been vacant for some time.  This adjustment is fair and appropriate in that it recognizes the additional work that has been taken on in an interim basis
  • An employment agreement for an Interim City Manager while we continue the search for someone to take the role on an ongoing basis.
If you have any thoughts or questions about any of the above please let me know.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Meeting Summary 7.7.20

Tonight we took only one significant action and that was to set a date (8.4.20) for a hearing regarding incorporating  and adopting county fire codes.  We also had a closed session regarding public employment of interim city manager.


Sunday, July 5, 2020

Upcoming Meeting 7.7.20

A little late with the update on this one.  Only one significant item is on the agenda for the upcoming meeting.  That is to adopt the 2019 updates to the fire code to align with those of the County.  This was already done at our June 10 meeting, however the notices were not completed as required so this needs to be done again.

There is also a closed session to discuss labor negotiations regarding potential interim city manager.

If you have any thoughts or questions about the items above, please let me know.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Meeting Summary 6.30.20

Tonight the Council took action on two significant items:

Formed an ad hoc committee on public safety.  The ad hoc committee consists of two members of the Council who will meet on an informal and as needed basis.  With recent actions here in town and across the nation regarding police brutality, Black Lives Matter, and our two demonstrations, there is a need to address for a venue for the city to engage with the community to enhance public safety and outreach with our residents.  

Each member of our Council expressed interest in being a part of the committee, however prior to any discussion among Council Mayor Pierce made a motion to have Councilmembers Catalano and Wolfe form the ad hoc committee.  I did express concern that as this issue was important to our community and that its members should not be the ones that are up for re-election in 4 months.  It would be counterproductive if the committee were politicized and used as a vehicle to further a political campaign.  I also found it concerning that the only two people of color who are on the Council (myself and Diaz) were excluded from a committee whose purpose is, among other things, to listen and act on issues that affect people of color.

We also approved the budget for FY21.  Producing a budget is usually a very long process and I want to commend our Finance Manager who started just a few months before the fiscal year end deadline and was able to complete the budget in time.  As part of this budget I am very glad to see that we included funding for the additional crossing guard outside the elementary school at Mt. Zion and Pine Hollow.  This was requested by the past two presidents of the Mt. Diablo Elementary PFC, and numerous parents who I worked with to garner support and ultimate inclusion in our budget.  This is a public safety item and hopefully this will aid in increasing the safety for our youngest students.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Upcoming Meeting 6.30.20

There are only two items on the agenda for the next upcoming special meeting. We are meeting again to ensure we are able to pass the budget prior to the 6.30.20 deadline.

The first is approval of the FY21 budget. As I discussed previously, we are fortunate that we have not been significantly impacted by COVID-19 from a budget perspective. There are no significant cuts and our budget is balanced.

We will be discussing the formation of a public safety subcommittee. This subcommittee would be comprised of two Councilmembers, along with the Police Chief, and would meet as needed, in a public forum, to address public safety issues in the community. Previously we discussed this as a permanent committee but on the agenda is the potential to have this as an ad-hoc committee. The difference is that the former would be subject to the Brown Act and have the same notice and meeting requirements as Council meetings. An ad hoc committee is less formal and doesn't have specific requirements around how it meets or when.

If you have any thoughts or questions on the items above, please let me know.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

6.23.20 Meeting Summary

There were three significant things discussed at last nights meeting:

Clayton Police Department (CPD) response to the 8 Can't Wait Campaign - Police Chief Warren gave a presentation responding to each of the 8 points in the 8 Can't Wait Campaign.  By state law, CA has already addressed many of the items in this nationwide campaign and we abide by all CA laws.  The chief elaborated on how we as a city approach issues such as training, de-escalation, use of force.

Discussion of options to enhance community engagement with the CPD - Chief Warren presented three possible options to enhance community engagement.  Briefly, they were townhalls, a Chief's advisory board, and a council subcommittee.  Townhalls and similar events are already being pursued in other avenues and will likely happen more organically.  The Council felt that the subcommittee would be the most effective, and could also include interested members of the public.  The focus of this subcommittee would be to facilitate discussion around issues of public safety and provide recommendations to Council.  While all members of Council were interested in participating, ultimately there would be only two slots.  We will determine the membership at our next special meeting scheduled for 6.30.20.

Discussion and setting time of budget approval for fiscal year 2021 (Jul-20 - Jun-21) - Impacts of COVID-19 to local budgets have been significant throughout the state and country.  Municipalities that have  sales tax as a significant portion of their budget have been especially hard hit.  Even more so those municipalities that have a large component of Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT, or taxes paid by hotel guests) have been scrambling on how to fill those budget deficits.  

Fortunately for Clayton, we do not rely heavily on sales tax or TOT and as a result the projected negative impacts to Clayton are relatively limited.  The biggest negative impact may be in transit funds received for future street maintenance.  Since we typically accumulate multiple years worth of transit dollars, the impact may be in future years as our ability to accumulate funds for larger projects may be reduced.  For the current year however, we are continuing to move forward with regularly anticipated maintenance of our streets.

I'm glad to see that we've included the funding of the crossing guard at the corner of Mt. Zion and Pine Hollow Rd.  I want to thank all the parents who reached out and continued to ask for this item to be included.



Sunday, June 21, 2020

Upcoming Meeting 6.23.20

This is a special meeting due to the need to finalize the budget for the upcoming year prior to 6.30.20.  In addition to the budget discussion there are two additional significant items on the agenda as well as an early start in closed session to for the upcoming meeting on 6.23.20.  The agenda as follows:

  • Closed session labor negotiation with potential interim city manager candidates
  • Updated budget discussion based on previous comments from 6.9.20 meeting
  • Clayton Police response to "8 can't wait campaign"
  • Discussion of potential options to enhance community engagement with Police department in order to:
  1. Provide a forum for information exchange and transparency
  2. Increase public awareness and education
  3. Increase trust between the community and the police department
  4. Use community input to problem solve and identify best practices
Options include: Hosting town hall or community forum, forming a Chief's Advisory Board (CAB), forming a Public Safety Subcommittee

If you have any thoughts or questions around any of the items above please let me know.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

6.16.20 Meeting Summary

Tonight there were a few significant actions taken:
  • Interview and appointment of three Planning Commissioners - There were four candidates for three spots.  I supported the incumbent Frank Gavidia, and a new applicant who had decades of architectural experience.  I did not support two of the other incumbents, Bassam Altwal and Terri Denslow, as I felt their demeanor unsuitable to represent the city.  Councilmember Diaz felt similarly. 

    Conditionally calling for the resignation of our police chief who was enforcing a curfew instituted  by Mayor Pierce without consultation from the the City Council, as well as being a self described member of Antifa, does not appear to be the right fit for a city representative. Antifa is a group that at times uses violence to achieve political ends, something that I could not condone.

    Previously when the Council was discussing Parolee Housing businesses and various available restrictions on those businesses, several ideas were offered from the community and from Council.  At the next meeting, Ms. Denslow came to the podium and likened that discussion to the enactment of Jim Crow laws, literacy tests, and poll taxes - implying that myself, the Council, and those that would oppose parolee housing businesses, were racists.  Casual implications of racism may be de rigueur, but it does nothing to advance discourse.  If we are to have meaningful conversation on race, characterizing disagreement as racism without basis is not the way forward and taints any potential for discussion.

    These reasons were not enough to prevent reappointment by Mayor Pierce and Councilmembers Catalano and Wolfe and all three incumbents were reappointed.  

  • Adopted resolutions to facilitate the upcoming November election for three city council seats.  This was a routine action but I did want to call out that the filing period for candidates begins July 13, and ends Aug 7.

  • Adopted a resolution temporarily reducing the sewer service fees paid by every residence in Clayton.  We contract with the City of Concord for sewer services and due to projected increases in fund balance, the City of Concord is reducing their rates.  We are following suit. 

  • Established a path forward for filling the vacant City Manager Position.  We will be holding closed session before next week's special meeting on 6.23.20.  We are also initiating a candidate search with the same recruitment firm previously used.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Upcoming Meeting 6.16.20

There are quite a few things that the Council will be discussing in the near future, and as a result we are having a few extra meetings this month.  In addition to the regularly scheduled meeting on 6.16.20, we will also be having a special meeting on 6.23.20 and 6.30.20.  On the agenda for the next meeting:
  • We will be interviewing candidates for 3 positions on the Planning Commission.  Interviews will begin at 6pm, and the appointments will be done during the meeting.
  • Resolutions to conduct the general election for 3 city council seats at the November 2020 election.
  • Resolution to temporarily decrease sewer collection rates due to lower anticipated costs.
If you have any thoughts or questions around these items please let me know.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

6.10.20 Meeting Summary

Tonight was a well attended meeting with a full agenda. Here is what we did:

Discussed the first pass of the 20/21 budget.  One item that I called out and that many of our residents offered comment on was the importance of adding funding for an additional crossing guard outside of Mt. Diablo Elementary.  I was glad to hear from many folks at the meeting, and via email prior to the meeting about the importance of a crossing guard at the intersection of Mt. Zion.  I am also glad that all of the other Councilmembers appeared supportive of this item as well.  We asked that an increased budget for an additional crossing guard be included in the next draft of the budget which will be discussed at a special meeting being held June 23.

Approved a suggested 10 year plan for street improvements within the city. This will serve as a guide for which streets are selected for maintenance and repair. This doesn't set in stone the schedule, but is based on information at a point in time and allows residents to get an idea of where their streets may fall in the next several cycles.

Approved the next year street maintenance program for specific streets including:
  • North Mitchell Canyon Road
  • Caulfield Court
  • Kenston Drive
  • Tiffin Drive
  • Chardonnay Circle
  • Peacock Creek Drive
  • Pebble Beach Drive
  • Mount Dell Drive
  • Herriman Court
  • Fleming Drive
  • El Molino Drive
  • Capistrano Court
Introduced a first reading adopting County fire codes.  This will come back for a second reading before becoming effective.  We rely on the County for fire protection services and need to conform with their fire codes for consistency of rules.

Discussed the potential of cancelling certain meetings this summer and ultimately decided not to as there are several significant items that will need to be addressed in short order, including budget adoption and filling vacant City Manager position.

Decided to hold closed session next meeting 6/16 to determine strategy on filling vacant City Manager position.
 
And speaking of future meetings, because there are many items that need to be resolved, we are going to be adding meetings to the calendar in June.  We expect to have meetings on 6/16, 6/23, and 6/30.  Many of these are budget related as the next year budget needs to be approved by 6/30 and there will need to be a few working sessions to get us across the finish line.

There were a few items that were brought up for discussion at future meetings.  Councilmember Catalano requested we review police polices including use of force.  Councilmember Diaz requested a series of community discussions with our police and the potential of a public safety committee.

I asked about ways we could assist those impacted by COVID-19 that do business with the City of Clayton by forgiving amounts owed to the city. We briefly talked about the potential of facilitating outdoor dining similar to what Danville has recently done, but with indoor dining being allowed beginning July 1, I wasn't sure of the efficacy of doing this given the cost of setup. I leave open the possibility if downtown business owners are interested.


Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Upcoming Meeting 6.10.20 - brief update

Reminder that there is a special Council meeting being held Wednesday (6/10) in lieu of the meeting that was postponed last week. I did a write up previously about the topics, located here: 

In that update, I hadn't yet had a chance to review the budget but there is one item I'd like to call out. I had previously asked that we include funding for an additional crossing guard in front of Mt. Diablo Elementary. In the 19/20 school year, the PFC paid for the crossing guard in front of the school. Given street safety is a city responsibility, I've asked that we include the approximate $12-14K to cover this for the 20/21 school year.

Unfortunately this is not in the first draft of the budget that is being discussed tomorrow night. I realize there are always prioritizations done when crafting a budget. I think this is worth it and would ask that people express their support of this item to be added.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Regarding the June 2, 2020 Demonstration


Background:

I’ve heard from many members of our community regarding events of the last week. It started with the protests and wide spread looting the weekend of May 29. Almost right on the heels of watching nearby Walnut Creek lose control of their downtown, the city got word there would be a protest and march on downtown on Tuesday, June 2. People in town were very concerned. I saw the people mobilize to protect our downtown businesses.

At this point, no one knew what to expect. Police were receiving warnings from the FBI that there were credible threats of violence and arson. There were death threats sent to police. Knowing there would be a protest, but not knowing the nature of it, we requested mutual aid from other departments. We have a small police force in Clayton. Crowd control is a numbers game and we do not have the numbers to safely contain a large crowd of unknown intentions.

The protest and march started peacefully. What began as about 100 people at Ygnacio and Clayton Rd. grew to 400+ heading to downtown on foot. For the most part, it was calm. Police were interacting with the crowds, handing out water since it was 100+ degrees and chatting with folks. When the curfew time came, most left. For those remaining, there were several warnings and instructions to disperse. 45 minutes and multiple other warnings passed. At this point, the vast majority of the people assembled had gone.

Remaining were less than 50 people. At some point after orders to disperse are ignored, the chance of a catalyst increases. It was unknown what this group that was refusing to obey lawful orders would do, or what others in nearby businesses would do. Given recent events in Walnut Creek, information received from multiple other law enforcement agencies, and threats received against officer’s lives, police were rightfully concerned.

The police made the call that the risk that something would occur that would result in violence or the loss of ability to protect people was increasing beyond an acceptable level. After multiple warnings, police deployed colored smoke to let people know they were serious about dispersing the crowd. As we saw on the video, someone in the crowd kicked it back at officers. Kicking smoke canisters back at police can be considered assault. The crowd continued to refuse to obey lawful commands and the police escalated with tear gas. The crowd quickly dispersed after that.

***

Our city loves our police. They are our neighbors. They help in our kids’ classrooms, they talk with the community while on patrol, they know our town. There are little to no complaints about police here in Clayton. That’s why it’s so outside the norm that when our police do their jobs - keep the peace, protect our residents, enforce the law – they get roundly criticized for doing the job we ask them to do.

If there is any officer anywhere that acts unprofessionally, or abuses the power they are entrusted with, they should be criticized and held to account. That’s not what happened here. The murder of George Floyd is a national tragedy. But to attribute blame to Clayton police based on the actions of a small subset of officers would be engaging in behavior justly condemned by the BLM movement.

I’ve received hundreds of communications regarding Tuesday’s demonstration. Many of these were asking questions, trying to understand why events unfolded the way they did. I’ll go through the common ones.

Questions:

  • By far the top concern is why the crowd was forcibly dispersed with tear gas, when the people in front of their businesses like Canesa’s were left alone?  The reason is two fold. First, when police were dispersing the crowd, they started with the largest group. There aren’t enough police to take action with everyone everywhere at the same time. Second, the people at places like Canesa’s were on private property. The curfew did not apply to private property.

  • Why didn’t the police arrest or cite people instead of using tear gas? Again, the reason is multifold. In a crowd control situation, it could take multiple officers to effect a single arrest. Given the numbers of people involved and the officers on duty, the math isn’t there. Once an officer has to put their hands on a person, it greatly increases the chance of injury for both the person being detained and the officers involved. This would be for people who have already shown a willingness to disobey lawful orders, where the chance of easy compliance gets reduced and the chance of injury increased.

  • Were rubber bullets used? No. After objects were thrown back at police, 40mm foam batons were deployed. A foam baton is less forceful than a rubber bullet, but still capable of causing injury. They are designed to be able to be used at very close range, as little as 3 feet. The persons who threw objects and were subsequently on the receiving end of a foam baton quickly left the area.

  • Why weren’t the people who were shouting offensive things addressed by the police? Freedom of speech cuts in all ways. We all enjoy the right that is recognized by the 1st amendment. That right protects people’s ability to protest injustice just as much as it does a person using their voice as a siren song of ignorance. The first amendment is designed to protect speech at the fringes. Speech that everyone agrees with does not need protection. The protection of speech applies to the most insightful the same as it does to the most inane.
***

Our police are tasked with a difficult job. When they are called upon to protect us they are often faced with difficult choices. It’s totally acceptable to question and criticize actions we may disagree with. When we put them in this position though, on the heels of out of control looting in a nearby city, credible threats of violence and arson, death threats, and a group of individuals refusing to follow lawful commands, I’m going to act with humility rather than righteous indignation and give leeway to judgment calls made in the field. I certainly wouldn’t undermine the resolve of our police department who we’ve asked to be in harm’s way by calling for the resignation of the Chief like a member of the City appointed Planning Commission has done.

Everyone recognizes that deploying tear gas to break up a protest where the only thing that is being violated is a curfew is not a desirable outcome. I support the right of people to protest. This country has a long history of civil disobedience which should be celebrated. I support the police for taking the action they did in the circumstances they were in. Simultaneously I want to pursue ways to avoid any escalation of force to the extent possible. To that end, the city curfew that was in place earlier this week has been rescinded. The county curfew has been rescinded as well. I will be out there tonight.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Upcoming Council Meeting 6.10.20 [edited to reflect new date]

There are several significant items on the agenda for the next meeting.  They are as follows:

- Review a draft FY21 Budget.  I'm still looking through the details so don't have comment yet.

- Approve a 10 year plan for pavement preservation projects.  Adopting this plan doesn't lock in the streets involved in repaving or in what order.  What it does is satisfy the requirement to have a plan in place to be eligible for certain funds to cover the repair work.  Ultimately when selecting streets, the strategy employed includes:
  • The selection of streets need to balance both preventative maintenance needs and street restoration and reconstruction needs as recommended by StreetSaver®
  • Utilize the StreetSaver® database and reporting tools to project the effectiveness of future annual pavement preservation projects.
  • Coordinate streets selection with other roadway and utility projects to be both cost effective and to minimize the possibility of damage to newly preserved roadways from future roadway and utility projects. 
  • Consider paving needs throughout the City in making recommendations on the selection of streets for any annual pavement preservation project.
  • Whenever feasible, leverage anticipated sales tax revenue in obtaining local, state and federal grants for roadway pavement, preventative maintenance and restoration.
- Transfer road funds previously designated for Pine Hollow Road work to general neighborhood improvement of streets in several areas.  The transfer is being initiated because the Pine Hollow Rd work has been delayed in order to better coordinate the efforts with the City of Concord as both cities share jurisdiction over different parts of this street.  The proposed streets for the next round of neighborhood improvement are:
  • North Mitchell Canyon Road
  • Caulfield Court
  • Kenston Drive
  • Tiffin Drive
  • Chardonnay Circle
  • Peacock Creek Drive 
  • Pebble Beach Drive
  • Mount Dell Drive
  • Herriman Court
  • Fleming Drive
  • El Molino Drive
  • Capistrano Court
- An ordinance to adopt 2019 California Fire Code with certain changes. Clayton gets fire protection services from the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District, which is overseen by the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors.  This ordinance would adopt the changes to the fire code already adopted by the District.

- Discussion of next steps in hiring an interim and permanent City manager due to resignation of the City Manager.

- I will also be asking for a future agenda item for the City to take a position requesting the County to loosen the Shelter in Place rules currently in place.  This can be by proclamation, or by communication directly to the County Health Officer and Board of Supervisors.  Specifically we should urge the Health Officer to remember that the original intent of flattening the curve was to avoid overwhelming the health care system, not to wait for a vaccine or reduce the number of cases to zero.  The population of individuals occupying hospitals in Contra Costa County related to COVID-19 is not sufficient to maintain current Shelter in Place orders.  

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

5.26.20 Meeting Summary

Tonight was a Special Meeting and there was only one thing on the agenda, and that had to do with parking near the Regency Gate entrance to Mt. Diablo. 

While we left alone the rules currently in place, in an effort to mitigate the parking issues, we did decide to open up the lower half of the parking lot at the Clayton Community Park adjacent to the middle school.  This will happen on Friday.  In addition, the designated parking lot at the Mitchell Canyon Staging Area will also reopen starting this Friday.  Hopefully those things will help alleviate some of the parking congestion until such time as we can adopt a new program at Mountaire Parkway.

Since the Shelter in Place, there had been a significant increase in vehicular traffic and parking on both sides of Regency Gate, both on Regency Dr. and Mountaire Parkway.  At our April meeting, we extended both the hours that the preferential parking program on Regency operated, and the effective areas - capturing the bottom of Regency Dr. where previously there was unrestricted parking.

We recently received a request and petition to expand the preferential parking program to Mountaire Cir.  It was signed by all residents in the proposed permit area, however that area covered only 6 houses.  Because any program would need to have appropriate street signs, if we were to move forward the installation of poles would take some time.  Also, with the Shelter in Place rules, City Hall is closed to the public so it would be more difficult for residents to actually acquire permits.  Any preferential parking program would need a fair amount of lead time.

Because of the spillover that would almost certainly occur, I recommended that the residents of that neighborhood organize together and propose a greater area.  If there is widespread support for such a program I'd support it.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Upcoming Meeting 5.26.20

We will be having a special meeting via Zoom this Tuesday, 5.26.20 at 7pm.  Access the meeting here:  https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_bxYAs6M-SdutVhj8w4jB2A

The one item on the agenda is related to parking at the end of Mountaire Parkway and Regency Dr.  We will discuss both expanding and modifying the preferential parking program.

If you have any thoughts or questions on this item, please let me know.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

5.19.20 Meeting Summary


Tonight the Council took only one significant item and that was to clarify the duties of the Trails and Landscape Committee (TLC).   The TLC was formed in conjunction with a special parcel tax approved by the voters of Clayton. This parcel tax funds maintenance of public roadway landscaping, open space and trail system improvements within the City of Clayton. As part of the approval of this tax, the TLC was formed in order to provide oversight of these parcel tax revenues and the associated expenditures.

Recently there had been questions about the roles and responsibilities of the TLC so I had requested a discussion and clarification.  We first discussed this at our 2.18.20 meeting at which time we formed an ad-hoc committee of myself and Councilmember Catalano to take a first pass at clarifying the language.

Overall my goal was to make the guidelines for the TLC more broad – to give them latitude to make suggestions as they saw fit. Councilmember Catalano and I both offered our input and the draft was brought before the full council to finalize the changes and resolve any differences we may have had.

I wanted to ensure that in our policies we recognized the importance of the TLC, and that we solicited their input.  Ultimately we cleaned up the language, and made it more clear as to what was expected and required.  I think all were in agreement and I think the result is favorable.

In addition, we took as a future agenda item a discussion about parking at the end of Mountaire Parkway.  Residents have submitted a petition to have a preferential parking program and we decided to schedule a special meeting for 5.26.20 to discuss it.

There are also three spots on the Planning Commission that are up for appointment at the end of June.  The application deadline in June 10.  More info here:  https://ci.clayton.ca.us/fc/documents/Press%20Release%202020%20May.pdf?_t=1589413070