Tuesday, April 21, 2020

4.21.20 Meeting Summary

We met this evening again via Zoom due to shelter in place rules.  A few significant items were discussed:
  • Our new Finance Manager gave an update as to the expected timing of a draft of the FY21 budget.  This is especially important because due to position vacancies, we did not engage in our regular mid year budget review where we assess how the city is doing with respect to plan. 

    In addition, the following year budget is typically prepared a bit earlier.  The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is uncertain and we would expect to see significant downward pressure on sales tax and gas tax revenues.  The current plan is to present a draft FY21 budget at the first meeting in June.
  • The council voted unanimously to issue a proclamation recognizing June as LGBT Pride month and fly the Pride Flag at at least 3 city owned flagpoles around town.  I was happy to support this.  Gay rights are civil rights.   I support all civil rights.   Issuing a proclamation and raising a flag is the smallest of gestures, but these gestures could go a long way to communicating a message of inclusiveness that all members of our community are welcome and I'm glad to do it. 

    The right to love whom one chooses is fundamental to our sense of ordered liberty. In 1959, Hannah Arendt wrote against the idea of miscegenation "The right to marry whoever one wishes is an elementary human right compared to which 'the right to attend an integrated school, the right to sit where one pleases on a bus, the right to go into any hotel or recreation area or place of amusement, regardless of one's skin or color or race' are minor indeed. Even political rights, like the right to vote, and nearly all other rights enumerated in the Constitution, are secondary to the inalienable human rights to 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness' ... and to this category the right to home and marriage unquestionably belongs."

    And while the question of marriage has been answered in this country, treatment of LGBT community members still has distance to go. Raising the Pride Flag is a small step towards making sure that every member of our community is treated with dignity.
  • The Council also voted unanimously to expand the preferential parking permit program near Regency Gate extending the program from Saturday and Sunday 8am-6pm to 24/7 seven days a week during the Shelter in Place (SIP) order.  According to the SIP order, while exercise is exempt from the order, people are to be discouraged from traveling in order to exercise.  Allowing parking in this area facilitating large groups to travel to hike from Regency Gate is contrary to the SIP order.   At this time, there are at times hundreds or more people congregating towards Regency Gate to hike and this causes all the problems the preferential parking program was meant to alleviate, as well as increased overall health risks in connection with COVID-19.

    The area covered by the permit program was also expanded to the bottom of Regency Dr. since there are no residences in that area and the same rationale applies.

    I was concerned about the quick action here, new temporary signs have been ordered and are expected to be installed tomorrow.  I encouraged the Chief of Police to exercise discretion over tickets issued to residents who inadvertently violate the parking ordinance and get cited based on a change in the rules.
I also requested a future item to explore the potential of increasing the fine for parking at Regency without a permit.  Currently the fine is set at $45 and it appears that some are choosing to simply pay the fine as the cost of parking.  Rather than trying to get revenue, the fine is primarily meant to create a deterrent so people would choose not to park there.  If the fine is set sufficiently low it does not serve that purpose.  I asked our City Attorney to explore the potential of raising the fine with the objective of increasing it to the maximum amount allowable, not necessarily the safest least objectionable amount.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Upcoming Council Meeting 4.21.20

Once again we are meeting remotely via zoom due to shelter in place guidelines.  To join electronically, please follow this link:  https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_JsVoHvfnQaWkXCZkcgm0zQ

If you'd like to make public comment but are unable to join via zoon, you may email public comments to the City Clerk, Ms. Calderon at jcalderon@ci.clayton.ca.us by 5pm on the day of the council meeting. Public comments of no more than 3 minutes will be read into the record by staff. To be read into the record, e-mail must contain in the subject line “Public Comment – Not on the Agenda” or Public Comment – Agenda item #.”

There are a couple significant items on the agenda:

  • Consideration of options for the City of Clayton to recognize LGBT Pride month in June
  • Amendment of the preferential parking program near Regency Gate to expand the time the parking restrictions are effective from weekends 8-6pm to all days and all times until the Shelter in Place order is lifted
If you have any thoughts or questions about either of these items please comment or contact me and I'll do my best to respond or find out more and report back.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Bill Walcutt on The Olivia

Former 3 term Councilmember and Mayor, Bill Walcutt recently reached out to me.  He had written an editorial regarding the Olivia project and sent it to the Pioneer.  Unfortunately, the Pioneer rejected his piece, telling him they only publish guest editorials that they invite.  The Pioneer then printed an editorial written by Councilmember Catalano who voted in favor of the project.

Mr. Walcutt served on the Clayton City Council starting in 1990.  He was elected again in 2000, and in 2004.  Below is the editorial that he submitted to the Pioneer that was rejected:


Thank you Vice Mayor Wan and Councilmember Diaz for representing the interest of Clayton residents and voting against the atrocious 3-story development in our historic downtown. As a former Clayton Councilmenber and Mayor, I am appalled that our majority, pro-growth, Council members voted to approve a project that will completely destroy the historic rural ambiance of our historic downtown forever. The developer should be ashamed.

I am really disappointed in Mayor Pierce, who along with me and many other former Counilmembers, Planning Commissioners and citizens spent hours in community meeting and public hearings developing the Town Center Specific Plan. A plan that was developed to protect our historic downtown and Clayton's small town rural character. Pretty sad day for Clayton

I read with reproach the response from our land use attorney Councilmember. I wish she would have used all her attorney land use skills and knowledge to develop findings (reasons) to deny this atrocious development instead of excuses for approving it. A development she said she had mixed feelings about. And then to say if you do not like our decisions you can file a lawsuit. I guess I would expect that from an attorney. In addition, she has warned us that more is to come this year because the State is going to require cities to rezone underutilized land. Sounds like a done deal. A zoning change is a legislative act and can be challenged through the referendum process unless the state has also taken that right away from us.

I am really getting tired of the stale argument that we need all this high density development in Clayton so our kids, teachers, fire fighters, and police officers can live hear. The police offices, fire fighters and teachers that live in my neighborhood would not want to downsize to live in an apartment.

High density development makes no sense in Clayton. It should be located near mass transportation hubs and job centers. Clayton has limited transportation and it does not have a job center. Every home we build puts 2 more cars on the road each day which adds to more congestion, more carbon emissions-something Sacramento said they want to reduce. Hypocrisy.

It is ironic that California can choose to violate federal law and file lawsuits against the federal government for everything the federal government does they do not like, but them require the cities and counties in this state to abide by all their draconian rules, regulations and laws. Cities are just roiling over. Clayton has Councilmembers on the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and California League of Cities-both are very powerful lobbying groups. I wish they would use their political clout to fight for the sovereignty of our cities and counties. If the state is going to run our cities, then we certainly do not need all the expense of local government.

Moreover, building affordable housing in California and Clayton is a joke. Sacramento is attributing housing affordability to the cost of a mortgage or rent while at the same time doing everything in their power to increase the cost of living in California- making living in California less affordable. Hypocrisy. Mortgage payments and rent are only one aspect of housing affordability.

California has the highest construction cost in the nation, the highest property taxes, highest insurance rates, most costly entitlement process, highest building material cost, highest water and electrical meter hookup cost for new construction, highest construction equipment cost because of CARB regulations, highest labor cost, highest utility cost, highest water rates, highest gas tax, highest gas prices (because California requires a special formula CARB gas), highest income taxes, highest vehicle registration cost, highest sales tax, and on and on. Guess who is responsible for all of this--Sacramento. They are not addressing any of these cost and, in fact, they are contributing to this self induced crisis. And then they want the taxpayers to subsidies their destructive living cost policies. Hypocrisy at its best. I guess this is why people are leaving California.

I wish our city council would use their skills, knowledge and political clout to fight for the protection of our little town.

There is currently litigation filed in connection with the project. A thread discussing it is here.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

4.7.20 Meeting Summary

Last night for the second time, the Council met amid the COVID-19 crisis, and all of met remotely over Zoom.  For the first time using video conferencing with Zoom and all of us being remote, I think it worked pretty well.  There were two significant items the Council took action on:

1.  We authorized the spend of approximately $70K to improve pedestrian safety near our schools. These funds will cover improved striping and interactive stop signs near Mt. Diablo Elementary, interactive stop signs in one intersection downtown, and making the intersection outside of Diablo View Middle an all ways pedestrian scramble. The pedestrian scramble was specifically requested by Principal Bannister when I met with her on this issue back in April of 2019.

The catalyst for making some of these changes was a vehicle/pedestrian incident back in March 2019.  When we got report of this incident, I quickly asked my fellow councilmembers what we could or should do in response.  I sought to have this item be discussed as an agenda item so we could take public comment, solicit feedback, and take action if necessary.  I made appointments with each of the two school principals and discussed what ideas they had regarding improved student safety.  I continued this discussion for the following year, each time seeking input from our school principals as the matter came back for discussion before Council.

There will be further investigation around the possibility of having interactive 'prepare to stop' signs in both directions outside the middle school as well. These could greatly assist in preparing drivers to stop when the light is about to turn red.  It will take time to investigate if this is technologically feasible and we would expect to hear back in a couple of months.  The other improvement items above will move forward and hopefully be complete before the beginning of the upcoming school year.

Separate but related to the above, - I made an argument in favor of funding the elementary school crossing guard at the corner of Mt. Zion.  This year, the Parent Faculty Club (PFC) donated funds sufficient to cover the cost of this crossing guard.  In discussion with both the current and past PFC presidents, this was of great value to the young students and parents.  I would like to see the crossing guard continue, and made the point that the City, rather than parent donations, should be responsible for funding this service.  Ultimately pedestrian safety on our public streets is the responsibility of the city and it is more appropriate that this cost be borne by the city.  I'm hopeful that my fellow councilmembers will feel similarly when this item is part of a larger budget discussion.

2.  The other item the Council took action on was to authorize the sending of a letter regarding a scoping discussion of the proposed reclamation plan amendment for the CEMEX quarry.  Contra Costa County is the ultimate decision maker here, but we may have some influence as Clayton is most impacted by the operations of the quarry.  This topic of this particular comment period was rather limited - it's designed to focus only on what the scope of the review the County should engage in with regard to the proposed reclamation plan amendment.  

Even with that narrow focus, I thought it important to give voice to many residents' concerns who live in the area - that relocating the ingress/egress points closer to their homes is detrimental to Clayton residents, that the proposed change in reclamation is not good for the city in that it leaves a gaping pit to be filled in with water over 50 years, and that more action needs to be taken in regard to mitigating dust that is generated by quarry operations.

Council agreed and there will be some minor modifications in that spirit before it is sent within the next week- it won't come back to Council to review since the deadline for the filing period is prior to our next meeting but the letter will be submitted within the comment period.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Upcoming Council Meeting 4.7.20

Due to current shelter in place rules, the next Council meeting will again be held via video conference.  To view the meeting live, the city has setup a Zoom meeting.  People can follow the meeting online via this Zoom link.  I hope everyone is managing and staying safe.

There are a couple significant items that are on the agenda:

  • Allocating approximately $70K to be spent towards traffic and pedestrian safety near our schools.   I had requested this as a previous action item at the 4.2.19 meeting and the Council discussed a number of items at the 5.7.19 meeting.  At that time the Council directed staff to pursue a number of options and to report back periodically on progress.  During our 2.18.20 meeting, we received additional information about what was planned, asked for a few modifications, and asked staff to come back with dollar estimates for the Council to approve.

    These funds will cover improved striping and interactive stop signs near Mt. Diablo Elementary, interactive stop signs in one intersection downtown, and making the intersection outside of Diablo View Middle an all ways pedestrian scramble.  The pedestrian scramble was specifically requested by Principal Bannister when I met with her on this issue back in April of 2019.

    There will be further investigation around the possibility of having interactive 'prepare to stop' signs in both directions outside the middle school as well.  These could greatly assist in preparing drivers to stop when the light is about to turn red.
  • We will also be discussing sending a letter to Contra Costa County in connection with the CEMEX Clayton Quarry Reclamation Plan Amendment, asking them to expand on their evaluation of project alternatives to better understand the impacts of what they are considering. 
We will also be welcoming two new members to the City staff for the positions of Finance Manager and Community Development Director.  These positions have been vacant for some time and have had various interim folks filling in.  

One thing that has been deferred is the mid year budget assessment as well as some action around preparation of next year's budget (FY21 begins in July).  One item I've requested as a budget priority related to pedestrian safety near our schools is the continuation of the crossing guard directly outside of Mt. Diablo Elementary.  

Last year I worked with the PFC president to facilitate the PFC paying for this crossing guard out of their funds, using an existing city contract.  As vehicle and pedestrian safety is within the scope of the City's responsibilities, it would be more appropriate for the City to pay rather than ask parents to donate and cover the cost of this crossing guard.  The approximate total cost is $12K per year.  

When speaking to my fellow Councilmembers, please encourage them to also make funding this crossing guard a priority - otherwise this may fall by the wayside and leave a busy intersection without a dedicated crossing guard.