Wednesday, August 18, 2021

8.17.21 Meeting Summary

Last night the Council met and discussed a few significant items:
  • We discussed two resolutions that will come before CalCities (formerly the League of California Cities).  

    The first was a push to distribute statewide sales tax more evenly throughout the state.  This applies primarily to online retailers where currently sales tax revenue is attributable to the location of fulfillment centers, not where the product is shipped to the end user.  This resolution would encourage the legislature and governor to change the formula on how sales tax revenues are allocated and base it on where products are actually delivered to end users.  If this would come to pass, Clayton would certainly receive greater sales tax revenue than it currently does.

    The second resolution was to encourage the legislature and governor to provide funding and direction to address homelessness and related challenges near railways.  Clayton doesn't have any areas that would be impacted by this.

    Both resolutions seemed to have garnered wide support and I would expect them to pass.  These are recommendations to the legislature so are not binding but at least stake a policy position.  The Council recommended that our delegate vote in favor of both of these.  Councilmember Diaz is our representative to CalCities and will be casting the votes at the September meeting.

  • We also discussed a General Fund Reserve Policy.  We first discussed this at our July 20 meeting and after that discussion suggested certain changes to the initial draft.  This item was to discuss the various updates.  Overall the edits made were positive, however I felt the policy language was still more permissive than we intended.  I suggested a few substantive changes that would increase the catastrophic reserve amount (from 50% of general fund budget to 75%), and also increasing the approval threshold to spend the reserve from a simple majority to a 4/5 majority.  There were other changes suggested such as updating the policy language to be more precise and the Council decided to have the next draft reviewed by the budget subcommittee before coming back to the full council for approval.

  • Lastly, we discussed the potential uses of American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds, of which the city is slated to receive approximately $2.9M.  There are four major categories of eligible spending:  (A) Costs incurred as direct result of responding to COVID-19 and / or addressing the negative economic impact, (B) Premium Pay For Eligible Workers, (C) Government Services to the Extent of Lost Revenue, (D) Infrastructure Investments in Broadband, Water, Sewer and Storm Drainage.  Each of these has various requirements and limits that we'll have to navigate.  The Council all agreed that prioritizing those people who live in Clayton and work at our Clayton businesses, Clayton businesses themselves, and those people who live in Clayton who may work outside of the city, but were negatively impacted by the pandemic.  These were the folks most impacted and we want to do as much as we can to provide relief and assist those who were impacted.

    The Council agreed with the recommendation that we engage a consultant to help design and administer a program to allocate ARP funds.  This would involve establishing criteria, managing the day to day activities, and ultimately distributing funds.  Program administration is an eligible use of the ARP funds as well so this would be covered by our share of ARP receipts.  We expect to bring on a consultant soon to help facilitate community outreach soliciting input on how best to design the program.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Upcoming Council Meeting 8.17.21

There are a few significant items on the next council agenda that we will be discussing:
  • The designation of a voting delegate to the League of California Cities Annual Conference.  There are two resolutions that are being presented at the upcoming September meeting.  The first is a resolution to urge the legislature to distribute sales tax receipts for online retailers in a different way.  Currently distribution appears to be weighted towards locations that have fulfillment centers and the League resolution would ask the legislature to distribute sales taxes currently attributable to those locations to a broader swatch of cities in CA.  The second resolution urges the legislature and governor to provide regulatory authority and funding to assist cities to address illegal dumping, graffiti, and homeless encampments along rail lines in the state.

  • The adoption of a general fund reserve policy.  The proposal in the agenda packet contemplates a Catastrophic Reserve equal to 50% of operating expenditures, Budget Stabilization Reserve equal to 5% of operating expenditures, and the remainder being undesignated fund balance.

  • A presentation and discussion about potential uses of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds that the city is slated to receive.  Clayton expects to receive approximately $2.9M through ARP.  This will be distributed in two stages, of which we've already received the first.  The next stage will be received in or around July 2022 and must be encumbered by the end of 2024.  Unspent funds must be returned to the federal government.  There are a number of specified categories that are eligible to use the funding.  I encourage community input on how we should direct these dollars.
If you have any thoughts of questions about the items above, please let me know.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

8.3.21 Meeting Summary

Apologies for the delay, I've been out of town.  On Tuesday 8.3.21 the Council met to discuss and take action on several items:
  • It was brought up by Councilmember Diaz that historically certain gifts paid for by taxpayer dollars were given to elected Councilmembers upon the completion of their term, among other occasions.  After investigating, it was determined that this occurred without a well defined process and at times the basis for approval was "Mayor's prerogative".  This term had been used with growing frequency in the past few years and I questioned the origin.  Since no definition was offered, we all tacitly agreed the use of this should be discontinued.

    A draft was offered in our agenda for an actual policy for gifts to employees, volunteers, private citizens, and elected officials in an effort to establish a policy.  This draft was supported by Councilmember Cloven.  I voiced my concern regarding gifts for public officials.  Given gifts are funded by taxpayer dollars, and we would be voting on it among ourselves, I felt the ethical implications of voting to give ourselves gifts of taxpayer dollars made this inappropriate.  Given there are also provisions of the California constitution that prohibit gifts of public funds, I suggested that we eschew gifts of public funds to elected officials completely.  This was updated to the draft proposal which was then passed by the Council unanimously.

  • We also discussed a previous incident where a city owned tree fell and damaged a resident's house and fence.  This incident was submitted to our insurer and the claim was ultimately rejected as the city enjoys immunity under Government Code 830(a) and 835(b).  One of the basis of the rejection was the idea that the city has a system in place for inspecting and maintaining its trees.  When we originally met to discuss this matter in late 2020, it was communicated that the city had inspected this tree.  However, after reviewing the evidence, it was clear this did not take place and the city does not have a system to inspect its trees.  I reconfirmed this during the meeting.

    Even without inspection however, the city avoids liability due to the immunity recognized in the above mentioned government codes.  I suggested that we clarify with our insurer the actual fact pattern and strive to accurate in how we communicate our processes.  Given the amount of trees the city owns, and the potential liability should they fall or suffer other damage, I was concerned about the potential precedent that accepting liability would set and ultimately the Council took no official action.

  • We updated our list of recognized cultural heritage months and other significant events to remove both Columbus Day and Juneteenth as these are federal holidays.

  • We discussed our current sign ordinances for temporary non-commercial signs.  Ultimately we made no changes to our sign ordinances.  I reiterated my comments from the previous time we discussed this issue - essentially I am not in favor of any speech restrictions and signs are speech.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Upcoming Council Meeting 8.3.21

There are a few significant items being discussed at the next council meeting:
  • Discussion on protocol and policy around using taxpayer funds for recognition of citizens, volunteers, employees and elected officials.
  • Discussion of the rejection of liability for damage caused by a city owned tree that fell and impacted a residential fence and house.
  • Discussion regarding updating the list of cultural heritage months and other significant events that the city recognizes.
  • Discussion regarding potential changes to the city's sign ordinance, specifically around temporary non-commercial signs. 

    Prior to 2019, the city had restrictive sign ordinances that limited any temporary non-commercial signs to 3 square feet per parcel.  This meant that if an individual wished to exercise their right to speech, they could only do so with a sign that was no larger than for example, 1.5' x 2'.  That was overly restrictive and upon receiving complaints, enforcement of that policy was suspended.

    The Council took up this issue at the 2.5.19 meeting.  At that time, the Council decided to update the sign ordinance to be more permissive, adopting a restriction on individual signs greater than16 sqft with no aggregate limit.  Recently some folks in town have chosen to express themselves with many signs, well in excess of the prior to 2019 limit, but consistent with the current ordinances.  Now we will discuss if modifications are necessary to address any ongoing concerns.

    I will reiterate my previous position as it remains unchanged:

    Staff discussed several cases where the issue of sign size was limited and provided overall guidance on what had previously been struck down and what had been upheld in the courts.  There was a sentiment to avoid sign blight, the city should adopt an ordinance as restrictive as possible as to size that is consistent with the law.  I took a different approach here.  I think the first amendment and speech are critically important.  The protections over speech are not necessary to express 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.  

    And while I personally would not want to see the city littered with signs of all manner, the principle of free speech supersedes my desire for aesthetics.  Ultimately the Council directed staff to come back with a draft ordinance that limits individual signs to no greater than 16 sqft, without any aggregate limit and no time based limit.  The vote was 4-1, I was opposed because I would have not imposed such a restriction.

    I look forward to the discussion, again. 

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

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

7.20.21 Meeting Summary

Last night there were a few significant items that were discussed:
  • We approved an annual levy increase of 3.8% for the Diablo Estates at Clayton Benefit Assessment District (BAD).  This affects 24 parcels east of Regency Drive primarily on Seminary Ridge and Promontory Place. The levy is to cover maintenance, landscaping, drainage, etc. for these properties and was set up originally by the builder in order to have the costs for these particular parcels pay for themselves.  Self funding districts have been a preferable method of funding improvements as the assessments are levied on new developments as they are approved. 

    The reserve of the BAD has built up over time as it is also intended to cover replacement of long lived assets - the reserve increases each year and when it comes time to replace certain assets a sufficient fund balance has been accumulated.  This same practice occurs with HOAs as well, however with HOAs a reserve study is required not less frequently than once every three years.  The purpose of the reserve study is among other things, to assess the current remaining useful life of certain covered assets.  By doing this, it could inform how much of an increase in assessment is required to be fully funded.  Because the city manages the BAD, a reserve study is not needed and each year the assessment has been increased by CPI, or 4%, whichever is lower.  This is the maximum that the assessment can be increased.  Starting in 2012, the initial assessment was just north of $3K/parcel.  Now, the assessment is close to $4K/parcel.  If the homeowners in this subdivision desire, they could conduct a reserve study in order to validate the need for these assessments.  Without evidence suggesting it is not necessary, it is likely the city will continue to raise the assessment each year to the maximum extent allowable.

  • We heard an appeal of the Planning Commission decision to grant an extension of 1 year to the Olivia Project.  The specific section of the Clayton Municipal Code under which the Planning Commission granted an extension was 17.64.030 which reads in part:
Upon showing of good cause therefore, the Planning Commission may extend the period of a permit in which it is to be exercised, used or established, for a maximum of twelve (12) months at a time or as otherwise specified on the permit. 

It was made clear that the term "good cause" is not defined, and therefore the Council had discretion on what criteria is uses to determine if there was good cause, and whether the criteria was met.  The second clause of the sentence above states that even if "good cause" is shown, the extension "may" be granted.  In statutory construction, the word "may" indicates a discretionary action.  When legislators wish to require an action, the word "must" or "shall" is typically used, with the latter falling out of favor in recent times.

I made it clear that while previously some folks may have felt compelled to take actions at a project approval stage because of various legal requirements or potential penalties, none of that existed at the project extension stage and that any action take is based on each individual's choice.  I made a motion to grant the appeal and reject the 1 year extension.  Myself and Councilmember Diaz voted to reject the extension, however ultimately it was granted on a vote of 3-2.   The builder now has until March of 2023 to pull building permits.

  • We also discussed adopting a general fund reserve policy by which a certain percent of our reserves are designated for specific purposes.  Ultimately I did not think that the policy was specific enough and it would allow easier spending down of our reserves which I am opposed to.  As drafted, it also contemplated leaving near 50% of the reserve as undesignated, which I was concerned would then lead to calls to spend it as it didn't have a specific purpose.

    I suggested stronger language to provide more constraints around what were allowable uses, greater approval requirements than a simple majority to ensure full community support, and greater restrictions around the use of undesignated reserves.  This will be updated based on feedback and brought back to Council at a later time.


Friday, July 16, 2021

Upcoming Council Meeting 7.20.21

There are a couple significant items on the agenda for the next meeting:
  • Discussion of an increase in annual levy of 3.8% for the Diablo Estates at Clayton Benefit Assessment District.  This district was created to provide funding for the maintenance, operation and improvement of the landscaping, street lighting, and drainage and stormwater treatment facilities.  The District consists of 24 parcels east of Regency Drive primarily on Seminary Ridge and Promontory Place.  Self funding districts have been a preferable method of funding improvements as the assessments are levied on new developments as they are approved.

  • Discussion regarding potential time extension of permits and project approval of the Olivia Project.

  • Discussion regarding establishing a General Fund Reserve policy.  Such a policy would inform how our unrestricted fund balance should be utilized.
If you have any thoughts of questions on these items, please let me know.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Question: Raise Taxes, Reduce Services, or Both


While we were able to balance the Fiscal Year ending June 2022 (FY22) budget with a slight surplus, we are projecting growing deficits for each year projected thereafter. The latest estimated deficit for FY23 is approximately $200K, growing slightly more than $100K each year thereafter. This is an unsustainable situation and we need to address it if we as a city wish to remain solvent.

The causes of the projected deficits are not complicated – our spending is growing faster than our income. Most of that spending is in the form of wages and in order to be competitive with the market we have had modest increases to wages over time. Wages are the largest component, but the cost of everything has risen as well. Our income as a city however, is primarily a function of property taxes and our property tax base is not elastic. Our revenues will not keep up with our spending. As a result, city staff are paid well below market and even then it is projected our costs will exceed our revenues starting with FY23.

In addition to our general fund, three of our Special Revenue Funds (Stormwater, Lighting, and Oakhurst Geological Hazard Abatement District [GHAD]) are projected to be insolvent in the coming year as well. These special revenue funds were established to cover certain costs like the streetlights and have their own dedicated revenue sources, however the amounts levied have not kept up with inflation and therefore if we do nothing, the services they provide will have to be curtailed or they will need to draw from the general fund exacerbating our budget challenges.

It is true that we have significant reserves, however using reserves to cover ongoing operational expenses would be like using a credit card to pay for groceries and not paying off the balance. That would be unsustainable and fiscally irresponsible without a long term plan that doesn’t rely on reserve spending. That’s where we are today.  And while I am typically fiscally conservative, part of good governance and stewardship is to ensure our overall finances are sustainable and we are able to continue operations as a city.


There are 26 employees in the City of Clayton, of which 12 are in our Police Department. Of the 7 Department heads, all are compensated less than the median wage across comparable cities, by an average of 23%. In the past 3 years, we’ve had four different Community Development Directors, four different Finance Directors, five different City Managers, and turned over 50% of the police force. There are a number of reasons for this, not all of which are connected to compensation, but it cannot help that as a city we are significantly under market in what we pay our employees. Our total compensation for city staff, including PERS, benefits, and other required employee related costs is approximately $4M/year. If we are 23% below median, that would represent an annual shortfall of approximately $920K.

High staff turnover is detrimental to the city in many ways. When we are short staffed, the level of service we are able to provide is reduced. Open positions puts a burden on existing staff and required work essentially gets triaged into what is most important. The impact on employee morale is also a factor, and hurts our ability to attract and retain employees. It’s difficult to have an engaged workforce when it’s a regular occurrence that a co-worker can leave to a similar job in a nearby city and get a 30-40% pay raise.

The consequences of being unable to staff our open positions are substantial. Some consequences may be more indirect - if we are unable to provide the services that our residents expect Clayton can become a less desirable place to live and we may lose our tax base as property tax revenues may decline. Other consequences may be more direct - If we are unable to remain in compliance with state mandates, we could lose funding for certain activities like road maintenance - exacerbating the deficit between what the city is able to accomplish and our residents’ expectations.  If we are unable to attract talented individuals to fill our roles, the city is more at risk to making erroneous decisions that could incur liability as a result.


It is clear to me that we need to take action. So here is the question – In order to address the structural deficits we are facing, should we increase taxes, reduce services, or both? We often want a high level of service at a low cost – an unrealistic desire. If we want a high level of service, we have to be willing to pay for it. As an elected representative, my top priorities are public safety, fiscal sustainability, and preserving home values – all things that contribute to quality of life. To deliver on these things, it requires adequate staffing and resources. Continuing with the status quo is not sustainable, therefore we need to take steps to shore up our financial position. Those steps could be increasing revenue (taxes), reducing services, or both.

1. Increase Taxes:

To ensure fiscal sustainability, the city could increase its revenue by approximately $1M/year. This amount represents the approximate difference in what we pay vs. the current market rate.  We could also target a lower rate, but for the sake of discussion I'll use this amount as a placeholder.

The two main tools we have to increase revenue (taxes) are via sales taxes and parcel taxes. Sales tax increases have the benefit of deriving a portion of revenue from non-Clayton residents who shop within the city. The largest sales tax providers in Clayton are Safeway, Walgreens, and CVS. Sales tax however, is only approximately 11% of our general fund revenue. Our current projection for sales tax revenue is approximately $585K. To achieve a net increase of $1M in sales taxes, it would require a significant increase in sales tax rate.

Property taxes represent approximately 42% of our general fund revenue and are our largest source of funding. With approximately 4,400 residential units in the city, this is a wider and more stable base of revenue that the city may draw from. To achieve a net increase of $1M in parcel taxes, it would require approximately $220/household per year. We could also put a CPI riser on this as we do with other sources of revenue to ensure long term stability.

It’s important to note that Clayton’s share of the 1% ad valorem (based on assessed value) property tax is actually quite small. Of the total amount paid in ad valorem property taxes in Clayton, the City only receives 6.6% of that. For a house assessed at $500,000, they will pay $5,000 in ad valorem property taxes, but of that amount, only $330 will be received by the City. The remainder goes to other destinations like schools, libraries, and Contra Costa County. A parcel tax however is different. If voters approve a parcel tax, 100% of that would go to the city. If a levy of $220/household per year is approved, then all of that would go to the City of Clayton.

For any general taxes (taxes without a restricted purpose), either sales or parcel, they are required to be placed on a ballot during a regular election (not special election, like a recall), and receive > 50% vote.  Special taxes with restricted purpose require > 2/3 vote.

2. Decrease Services:

Another way to address our projected deficits would be to spend less. For example, we could eliminate the stipend for Councilmembers which would save approximately $28K. On a General Fund budget of $5.2M however, that is not enough to make any significant difference.

Our two largest components of the General Fund spending are Administrative Services (department heads) and our Police. Together, these two components make up over 72% of our general fund. For a reduction to be meaningful it will necessarily need to impact those areas. That could mean deprioritizing non-emergency police services, less maintenance of the parks, or other steps to reduce costs.  As a city we operate very lean already.  At any given time, there are only two police officers on duty.  We staff as light as possible to meet our requirements.  Any reduction will be felt in the specific area impacted as well as other tangential areas. The added risk of reducing services is we make the city a less desirable place to work and live, which could have a detrimental impact on home values and quality of life.  

We can also do a combination of both of these things. As a city in California though, there are certain compliance requirements that take time and cost money and those cannot be skipped else our ability to self govern as a city could be threatened. Being a city means certain things, like having an approved General Plan with a Housing Element. Those requirements are a mandated by the state, and to prepare documents that meet those compliance requirements takes time and costs money.

Conclusion and request:

No matter what combination of actions we choose, it will take time and resources to execute. That’s why I want to start this conversation now. I think our goal should not necessarily to be competitive with other cities on compensation – we don’t have the population base or size to do that. What I think we should do is not be so far away that it is difficult to attract and retain employees in a way that is detrimental to the operations of our city. A modest parcel tax could ensure fiscal sustainability and the services we’ve come to enjoy as part of the quality of life of living in Clayton.

Soon the Council will be discussing if and how our reserves should be spent down and utilized.  To me, I think we need to focus on how to sustain our ongoing operations before we decide to spend down our savings.

I’m interested to hear your thoughts.

eta:  I realized I made an error on my initial post above.  I transposed the vote requirement for a general vs. special tax.  General taxes require > 50%, where Special taxes require 2/3 approval.  In my head I must have switched those around.  Apologies and I've corrected this in the body of this post.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

6.29.21 Meeting Summary

Last night's meeting discussed a number of significant items.  The order changed around a bit as we discussed the Oakhurst Geological Hazard Abatement District (GHAD) first.
  • We approved a GHAD real property assessment increase consistent with Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase of 3.8% for affected parcels.  The type of the parcel determines the amount of the assessment.  CPI increases were contemplated with the inception of the GHAD and approved by voters.  The GHAD does not receive sufficient funds to do significant repair or improvements.  It's function is primarily to cover the cost of monitoring soil movement, some minor repairs, and over time has the potential to accumulate funds for some larger restoration work.  Typically these would require aggregation of multiple years worth of funding.

  • Last night was the last meeting for our Finance Director and I wish him the best of luck.  We appointed a new Interim Finance Director while we search for a permanent replacement.

  • We adopted a series of increases on levies and property tax assessments in other areas that allow for annual increases related to CPI.

  • We approved the list of streets slated for repaving as part of our periodic Neighborhood Streets Pavement Preservation Project. Each year funds accumulate from various specified sources, however we tend repave every other year as we do not have enough funds in a single year to be efficient. At that time, certain streets are selected for repaving based on their Pavement Condition Index (PCI). Streets are chosen based on available funds, and their current conditions, with lower PCI streets being prioritized. The street program was supposed to happen in 2020, but was postponed due to COVID. Currently the plan is to perform the work that was originally slated last year in 2022. At that time, and again last night, the streets selected for repaving next summer are:

  • We approved the FY22 budget (city government fiscal years end on June 30).  I'm glad to see the inclusion in the budget of a few items that I've been advocating for over the past few years.  The first is the additional crossing guard in front of Mt. Diablo Elementary.  When kids are back at school in the fall, the additional crossing guard will improve pedestrian and vehicle safety around our youngest students.  This was originally requested by the then Parent Faculty Club (PFC) president and in working with the PFC the city secured a donation to cover the cost for the first year.  We have now added it to our budget and it will be a great improvement to the quality of life in our city. 

    The second item was maintenance of the dog park.  There is a dog park to the west of Diablo View Middle School that has been maintained by a combination of the City and volunteers through the Clayton K-9 Association.  This non-profit group was formed to perform various maintenance activities for the dog park.  In order to shift towards a sustainable maintenance model, the city will assume the maintenance of the facility which is appropriate as this is a city owned property.

  • There is also allocated funds to install interactive traffic signals on Marsh Creek Rd. near the middle school which will enhance pedestrian and traffic safety near the middle school.  This requires coordination with the County so will take a bit of time to come to fruition.

  • The Council approved the Oak Creek Canyon Project, a 6 unit single family development at the eastern part of town.  As one of the conditions of approval, the developer has agreed to extend a mixed use walking/biking path from the length of the development connecting to the entrance of the Community Park at Regency Parkway.

  • The Council also agreed to appeal our current draft Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) allocation. Every eight years the city is allocated a certain number of housing units that we need to zone for. In the previous cycle, that number was 141. In the upcoming cycle, the amount of housing units needing to be zoned for is 570, an increase of approximately 300%.  There are a number of factors that support our appeal, including a lack of jobs and available transportation in Clayton, the fact that Clayton is not a predicted growth area, the geological hazards related to the GHAD, and lack of water distribution availability.  And while these reasons for appeal appear compelling, the likelihood of success of our appeal is very low.  The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) controls the allocation and they are ultimately an unelected body (made up of elected officials) dominated by larger cities in the Bay Area that can impose these mandates without any available recourse.

  • We also adopted an updated salary schedule for city staff.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Upcoming Meeting 6.29.21

As mentioned in previous posts, we've scheduled a special meeting for this Tuesday, June 29 at 7pm primarily to address items that are approaching the end of fiscal year deadline of June 30.  There are several significant things being discussed including a few on the consent calendar:
  • The consent calendar this meeting includes several real property tax assessment increases based on specific areas and various Consumer Price Index (CPI) increases.  CPI for this period increased 3.8%, however several of the increases are capped at no more than CPI or 3%, whichever is less.  Staff is recommending increasing assessments to the extent allowable.
  • Discussion and approval of the FY 22 Budget that was discussed last meeting.

  • Discussion of the appeal of the Planning Commission recommendation of denial of the Oak Creek Canyon Project.  This project is proposed for six single family units at the east end of the city, at the intersection of Diablo Parkway and Marsh Creek Road.

  • Discuss whether to appeal the latest Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) allocation to Clayton.  Every eight years the city is allocated a certain number of housing units that we need to zone for.  In the previous cycle, that number was 141.  In the upcoming cycle, the amount of housing units needing to be zoned for is 570, an increase of approximately 300%.  

  • Adoption of updated salary schedule for the city.

  • The Oakhurst Geological Hazard Abatement District (GHAD) will also meet to discuss increases in real property assessments based on CPI increases.

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

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

6.15.21 Meeting Summary

Tonight, the Council took action on several items:
  • The Council voted to appoint 1 new Planning Commissioner, Justin Cesarin, and reappoint Ed Miller to fill two vacant spots.  The vote was 3-2 with myself and Councilmember Diaz voting no.  

  • We chose to cancel two regularly scheduled meetings which is typical in the summer months.  We chose the two meetings that immediately follow holidays.  The July 6 and September 7 meetings are cancelled.

  • We adopted a resolution to fly a Pride flag at the three city flagpoles throughout the month of June each year going forward.  Last year when the Council first agreed to raise the Pride flag, I voted in favor. I will reiterate comments I made last year: LGBTQ 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.

    And while the question of marriage has been answered in this country, treatment of LGBTQ 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.

  • We authorized a letter to be sent in favor of using County Measure X funds towards development of a comprehensive system where anyone in Contra Costa County can access timely and appropriate behavioral health crisis care anywhere at any time similar to a 911 emergency call system.

  • We recommended that the proposed budget be brought back for adoption at a scheduled special meeting on June 29.  Discussion about the larger looming structural deficits will take place later in the year after this year's budget is approved.  

    I'm glad to see that inclusion of a crossing guard in front of Mt. Diablo Elementary, and funding of city owned dog park maintenance were included in the operating budget.  I had advocated for both of these items.  The crossing guard was at the request and urging of parents and the Mt. Diablo Elementary PFC to increase safety for our youngest students.  The city owns the dog park, however a significant amount of maintenance is performed by a local non-profit, the Clayton K-9 Association and through volunteers from local Boy Scout Troop 484.  These groups will still be involved in volunteering and assisting I'm sure, however the small cost of maintenance will be assumed by the city.  This is appropriate as the dog park is owned by the city and is maintained as a benefit for all of our community.

  • The GHAD also met to approve annual CPI based tax assessment increases which it does each year.  Assessments are sufficiently low that the GHAD is primarily used for monitoring.  If there were serious issues discovered through that monitoring, another funding source would likely be needed for any substantive actions to be taken.

  • There was also a closed session regarding labor negotiations with the Clayton Police Officers Association.  No reportable action from that closed session.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Upcoming Meeting 6.15.21

 There are a few significant items for discussion at the next Council meeting:
  • We are interviewing three candidates for two open Planning Commission roles.  Interviews start at 6pm. 

  • A discussion whether to cancel any upcoming regularly scheduled meetings due to availability of a quorum.

  • A discussion of a resolution to authorize the Pride flag to be flown at City Hall, Clayton Library, and the Grove throughout June each year.

  • A discussion whether to send a letter to the County's Measure X Community Advisory Board in support of utilizing County Measure X funding for Community Crisis initiative intended to develop a comprehensive system where anyone in Contra Costa County can access timely and appropriate behavioral health crisis care anywhere at any time.  This could take the form of using an alternate number than 911 when mental health is the issue.

  • A discussion of the proposed FY22 City budget.  This brings to the full Council the updated budget after modifications from the previous budget subcommittee meeting.  While this budget projects a minor General Fund surplus of approximately $8K, it cannot be overemphasized that our expenses in general are increasing faster than our revenues. Projections show that following the adoption of this budget, the next year following that we will be in a deficit position. This means that our general fund revenues will not be sufficient to cover expenses. And while we have reserves we can use to cover temporary shortfalls, it is poor public policy to utilize reserves to cover ongoing operations.

    Over the next several months it will be important for we as a city to determine the levels of service we want to provide, how we will pay for it, and how we can shift to a more sustainable structure. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Update on Budget Subcomittee Meeting

Yesterday the budget subcommittee met to discuss the preliminary FY22 (June 30 fiscal year end) budget and recommended it be forwarded to the full council for discussion with a few modifications:
  • Maintain the City Engineer position as a contract role.  The first budget proposal contemplated converting this contractor position to a full time employee.  Full time employees incur significant costs relating to Cal PERS, medical benefits, etc. that contractors do not (though their rate is typically higher than base rates for employees).  There are structural challenges with the city's finances and to take on a permanent funded position incurs significant fixed costs.  Without an understanding of the big picture on how we plan to address the finance challenges facing the city I thought it would not be prudent to incur that permanent costs at this time.  We should evaluate any new position in the context of the overall financial position of the city.

  • Include funding for the crossing guards in front of Mt. Diablo Elementary in the operating budget rather than with one time funds.  This is an important item for the safety of our youngest students.  During the summer of 2019 I had worked with the the Mt. Diablo PFC President to facilitate a donation to cover the cost of this crossing guard in the FY20 budget.  For FY21, the city funded this position with one time funds, with the understanding that we would like to incorporate this into our operating budget going forward.

  • Include funding to assume responsibility for maintenance of the city owned dog park.  Maintenance of the dog park had been performed in part by a local non-profit that was established when the park was first created.  I requested this item at our 10.6.20 meeting.
In addition, there are three special revenue funds (funds that have a specific revenue source for a specific purpose) that will need to be addressed this year.  Those are Stormwater, Streetlights, and the Geological Hazard and Abatement District (GHAD).  Each of these funds were established with a cap on the dollar amounts of revenue.  Instead of tying funding to Consumer Price Index (CPI) like some of our other funds, such as the Landscape Maintenance District (LMD) or the Grove Park Maintenance, the amounts we are able to collect for these three funds is limited.  Where the LMD can increase its funding in connection with CPI increases, there is no way for the Streetlight fund to maintain its balances when costs to operate exceed the amount of revenues it collects.

Ultimately it means that the above three special revenue funds will be insolvent in short order.  The Streelight and Stormwater fund will be first, with the GHAD close behind.  
  1. If we do nothing, the impact of the Streetlight fund exhausting its resources will be that the lights on certain collector roads (not the main arterial roads) will either need to be turned off, or funded from the general fund.  

  2. Stormwater fund is a little different in that the consequence for not performing those activities is more severe.  Rather than dark streets, there are financial penalties for not performing the environmental requirements that this fund is designed to support.

  3. The GHAD serves primarily a monitoring function.  There isn't enough money to cover significant improvements so the GHAD funds are used to maintain monitoring devices designed to detect earth movement, and other small maintenance items.  As such, the impact of this fund going insolvent will have less of an immediate impact, but carries a risk that a larger problem go undetected.  There is also a larger reserve associated with GHAD activities that could support this fund for at least an additional year, or a couple years depending on maintenance needs.
To address the above three funds, we have few options.  Either we can accept a lower level of service (less streetlights, or less services elsewhere in the city), or we would need to increase taxes in order to cover the increasing costs over time.  For special revenue funds, any tax increase would require a 2/3 majority vote.  We will be discussing this throughout the year.

There is also the larger issue of our overall city finances.  Our expenses in general are increasing faster than our revenues.  Projections show that following the adoption of this budget, the next year following that we will be in a deficit position.  This means that our general fund revenues will not be sufficient to cover the expenses.  And while we have reserves we can use to cover temporary shortfalls, it is poor public policy to utilize reserves to cover ongoing operations.

Over the next several months it will be important for we as a city to determine the levels of service we want to provide, how we will pay for it, and how we can shift to a more sustainable structure.  There will likely be difficult choices ahead and I invite everyone to share their thoughts on what they are willing to pay, what they are willing to give up, and what are most important to them.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Budget Subcommittee Meeting 6.8.21

There is a budget subcommittee meeting tomorrow at 3pm to discuss the upcoming FY22 proposed budget. Typically the process is staff will bring a proposed budget to the subcommittee for review and comment. After feedback, it gets forwarded to the full council for adoption. That meeting is scheduled as a special meeting June 29. The link to the meeting is here:

There are a few significant items that are being called out at this meeting. In no particular order: 
  • Our historical expenses have been increasing at a higher rate than our revenues and we are projected to have a structural deficit in 1-2 years if trends continue unabated

  • Proposal to bring the City Engineer position in house as an employee. Historically this has been a contract position.

  • Continued recognition that certain special revenue funds (streetlights, stormwater) do not have CPI risers on them and therefore are projected to be underwater in the near future.There are many other items that will likely be discussed at the meeting. 

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

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

6.1.21 Meeting Summary

Tonight the Council discussed two significant items.

- The first was hearing the appeal of the Planning Commission decision to recommend denial of the Oak Creek Canyon project, 6 single family homes at the eastern part of Clayton.  Because both staff and the applicant requested a continuance in order to gather more materials, the Council agreed to continue this item until the special meeting scheduled for June 29, 2021.

- The second item was a request by Cloven to discuss hazard pay for grocery store workers and whether we as a council should direct staff to draft an ordinance for action at a future meeting.

I appreciate and am grateful for the work that grocery store employees performed over the last 15 months of the pandemic.  If the question is whether grocery store workers merit hazard pay for their continued work throughout difficult and sometimes hazardous conditions, I would say yes.  At the same time, that is a matter that is between a private employer and its employees.  It is not the role of government to intercede in this relationship.  It would not be the city paying this hazard pay, but rather it would be the city compelling a private organization to pay its employees more than they agreed to through their collective bargaining agreement.

Also problematic was isolating only grocery store workers.  And of all groups, grocery store workers are some of the best represented by their unions whose role is to look out for the interests of its members. There were many groups of people who were deemed to be essential workers that continued to work throughout the pandemic.  One group would be city employees, specifically our police.  It would be hypocritical to compel other groups to pay their employees more, where we as a city did not do the same.  

One issue that was raised was the timing of any ordinance.  Logistically we would first need to take action to direct staff to draft the ordinance for discussion at a future meeting.  Ordinances like this take two readings to take effect, so we would be looking at 5-7 weeks at the earliest for any hazard pay ordinance to take effect.  As the tier system, capacity limits, and mask requirements are scheduled to be discontinued in two weeks after June 15, moving forward with an ordinance now didn't make a lot of sense even from a logistical perspective.

A retroactive ordinance was discussed briefly, but as we were informed by our City Attorney that any such retroactive ordinance would likely be litigated as an unconstitutional taking (5th amendment), this made a retroactive ordinance to be even more problematic.

Ultimately the Council declined to direct staff to take any action.  There was no motion to do so and the matter was closed.  As we are aware there will likely be CARES Act funding that will be coming to the city, we felt that would be a better vehicle to target aid to those individuals and businesses in Clayton that were impacted by the pandemic.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Upcoming Meeting 6.1.21

There is one significant item on the agenda at the next meeting 6.1.21:

  • A discussion regarding potential hazard pay for people working within the city during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • There was also slated to be a hearing for the appeal of the Oak Creek Canyon Project denial (6 single family homes at the eastern part of the city), however due to remaining open questions staff is recommending we continue this item until the special meeting scheduled for June 29, 2021.

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

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

5.18.21 Meeting Summary

 Last night the Council discussed two significant items:
  • The first was whether to award a consulting contract to assist in preparing an update to our Housing Element.  Updating the Housing element is periodically required approximately every 8 years.  The City is not staffed to handle this work on a regular basis so when required we engage outside parties to assist.  As is normal with contracts of this size, we issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) inviting vendors to submit bids on the work.  Our RFP estimated the cost of this work to be approximately $235K.

    In response to the RFP, we received two responses from firms that had similar experience, approaches, and cost.  Of the two firms, the City has already engaged with one of them regarding the consulting work on the downtown lot.  It was for this reason that staff recommended selecting MIG for the newest contract.

    But rather than just the $235K, we were informed that there could be additional work necessary related to Environmental Impact Review (EIR) which may cost up to an additional approximate $180K.  The staff recommended authorizing this larger appropriation of funds.  The determination of whether an EIR would be necessary would be made by MIG.  In my view, this has the potential to create a moral hazard where the entity responsible for determining the need for additional work and compensation is made by the same entity performing the work and receiving the compensation.  In addition, if the work was truly larger by greater than 75% of what was estimated in our RFP, then the RFP was flawed and should be redone as other vendors may bid on a substantively different project.

    While I would be fine with authorizing the lower spend amount and then later evaluating the criteria by which a determination is made for additional spend, doing everything all at once may give the impression of self dealing.  As a result, I voted no.  I was in the minority and the Council awarded this contract and authorized the greater spend on a vote of 4-1.

  • The second item we discussed was more of a procedural matter.  We removed the council agenda order from our ordinances shifting to adopting these by resolution rather than in the municipal code.  We updated the language to reflect current naming conventions and proper identification of entities.  

    The last thing was more substantive.  Historically a representative from the Planning Commission (PC) would give a report to Council on their activities from previous meetings.  Because it is common for matters that come before Council to first go before the PC, in order to avoid prejudging matters we discontinued the practice of having the PC report out to the Council.  This was straightforward, however the discussion brought forward many other instances that are of a similar nature.  The PC would also do a report out to the CBCA, where Councilmembers may be in attendance.  Councilmembers are also known to attend PC meetings.  In some instances Councilmembers may attempt to sway PC decision making.  All are problematic and present risk to the City.  

    While we took action on the one part - PC reports to the Council, we did not do anything to address the other matters.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Upcoming Meeting 5.18.21

There are two significant items on the agenda for the next meeting:
  • Awarding a contract to a vendor to help facilitating the update of our Housing Element.  Updating out Housing Element is required periodically and we typically engage consultants to assist us.  Because this is work that only occurs every 8 years, and we don't have sufficient staff to do the work on a regular basis, consultants allow us to meet our compliance requirements.  We issued and RFP and received two proposals.  This item will discuss awarding the contract to one of those respondents.

  • Discussion about updating our ordinance regarding the Order of Business for Council meetings.  Currently the order of the agenda is within our city ordinances.  There is a recommendation to strike this from our ordinances and merely adopt the order of business through resolution.  

    In addition, in order to avoid the appearance of or potential partiality in hearing matters that first came before the Planning Commission, there is a recommendation to eliminate the practice of the Planning Commission giving a report to the City Council.
If you have thoughts or questions on the above items, please let me know.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

5.4.21 Meeting Summary

 Last night the Council discussed and took action on two significant items.

The first was regarding library services.  

The Clayton library is staffed by a mix of County staff for certain library services, and a host of volunteers for other activities.  Due to agreements between the City and the County, and the County's MOU with the union that the county library staff belong to, generally the volunteers at the library are not able to perform duties that would otherwise be performed by County staff.

Historically, Clayton received at no cost an amount of County supported library staff that allowed the library to be open 35 hours per week.  The City separately engaged the county to expand that amount of time to 44 hours per week, or an additional 9 hours per week and paid approximately $13K/year for this.  During various pandemic related closures, library hours were reduced and modified, but eventually was set at 40 hours per week.

Going forward and beginning in July 2021, the County has informed the City that the previous arrangement will not continue.  In its place, the County has stated they will now provide at no cost to the City, an amount of County supported library staff that will allow the library to be open 40 hours per week.  The schedule will differ from the previous schedule.  We have the option to purchase additional hours, but at a closer to market rate rather than the subsidized rate we were previously paying.  To increase the hours open by six to a total of 46 hours per week, the incremental cost to the city would be approximately $59K.

This represents a significant increase and one that our city cannot afford within our current budget.  To cover this cost would require an increase in revenue (taxes, fees, etc.), a reduction in services, or some combination.  The Council decided to accept the 40 hour allotment.  If in the future the funds become available either through the city, or through significant donation, we could update our agreement with the County and fund additional hours.

The hours that would be available are as follows:

Monday: Closed
Tuesday: 12-8
Wednesday: 10-6
Thursday: 10-6
Friday: 9-5
Saturday: 9-5
Sunday: Closed

The second was outdoor cultivation of cannabis.

State law requires that cities allow indoor cultivation of up to six cannabis plants for personal use.  In 2016, voters of the state of California approved a proposition legalizing recreational use of cannabis, where previously only medical use was decriminalized.  The voters of Clayton also approved recreational use with 54% in favor.  Subsequently the City restricted cultivation to indoors only, and prohibited all cultivation for commercial purposes.  We were asked to amend our ordinances to allow the outdoor cultivation for personal use.

Cannabis is currently a Schedule I controlled substance, which means federally, cannabis has the characteristics that include a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical treatment, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.  Other substances that meet this criteria are heroin, LSD, and Ecstasy.  There are federal criminal statutes for possession, use, and distribution of controlled substances and though the probability of federal enforcement is likely remote, residents should be aware of the risks involved when engaging in activity that while legal at the state level, remain prohibited federally.

There is also the matter of the drug free school zone laws.  Legalizing recreational use of cannabis in California did not change the restriction near schools.  These drug free zone laws exist both at the state and federal level and can carry severe penalties and penalty enhancements.  Federally, conviction under the controlled substances act may carry severe penalties which could include everything incident to felony conviction - the loss of suffrage, inability to serve on a jury, prohibition from running for statewide public office, the right to arms, certain forms of public housing and public assistance, and various state sanctioned licensure.  In addition, there are other potential consequences including increased rates for insurance, increased challenges to obtaining financing, difficulty in employment, etc. I would caution anyone who wishes to engage in this activity to be aware of the potential consequences and choose accordingly.

That being said, even though there are choices that I see as unwise, does not necessarily mean they should be illegal.  Individual liberty necessarily means that people ought to have the ability to make both good choices and bad ones.  What is right for one may not be right for another, and we each ought be able to make those choices based on our own personal circumstances.

I made a motion that we direct staff to draft an update to our ordinances to allow the outdoor cultivation of cannabis, with the restriction that it not be visible from the public right of way, for a maximum of up to six plants in aggregate indoors and outdoors.  This passed unanimously.  The ordinance is not yet changed - staff will draft a proposed update which will be brought back to Council at a later time.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Upcoming Meeting 5.4.21

 There are two significant items on the agenda for the next meeting:

  • Discussion regarding whether the City should purchase additional hours for Clayton library. 

    Historically the City has paid for costs associated with owning and operating the library, and the County provided a base number of hours of library services which was 35 hours per week.  In addition, the City has exercised its option to purchase additional hours through the County and has done so at a rate of nine hours per week bringing the total to 44 for an additional cost of $12,554 per year.  The cost has been unchanged for approximately 10 years and we have been paying a lower rate than other cities in the County.  This was also supplemented with volunteers which was coordinated via the Clayton Community Library Foundation.

    We have been informed that the base hours will rise to 40 per week.  Beginning with the next fiscal year (July-21), the purchase of additional hours will be required to be in set increments of either 6, 12, or 16 additional hours per week at a cost of $58,653, $99,686, or $187,875, respectively.
  • Consider amending City ordinance in order to allow the outdoor cultivation of cannabis.

    State law allows for cultivation of cannabis for recreational use up to six plants.  Cities are allowed to regulate how such cultivation takes place and the city has chosen to prohibit outdoor cultivation.  We will discuss whether this should be changed to allow for outdoor cultivation, or any other modification to the city ordinances regarding cannabis.
Please let me know if you have any thoughts or questions on the items above.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

4.20.21 Meeting Summary

 Tonight, there were a couple significant items discussed:

  • We adopted priority areas for the fiscal year ending June 2022.  These include Land Use and Housing, Public Safety, Financial Stability, Quality of Life, and Good Governance.  There are several sub items under each of those main priority areas.  Going forward the city will work towards establishing prioritization within those areas including allocating funding as appropriate, and implementing a reporting system to provide a regular update on achievements within the priorities.

  • We unanimously approved a series of resolutions which will enable commercial property owners to take advantage of Golden State Financing Authority Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program.  This will allow certain commercial businesses to take advantage of a financing mechanism to associate the cost of certain clean energy improvements, which typically have very high up front costs, and in exchange pay through a property tax assessment.  

One subject that has come up in discussion with residents and in the comments tonight is the recent Stop AAPI Hate rally that was organized and took place when I was away on spring break.  Apparently there was action taken trying to associate myself and an effort to hijack this event into something it was not.  I was asked to denounce various actions, etc. else I be presumed to be involved or something to that effect.  I have no interest in getting into the business of denouncing things generally.  Doing so can lead to a slippery slope where Councilmembers are asked to weigh in on all matters of the day to denounce this thing or that thing.  

Given the interest however, I want to be clear.  I had nothing to do with whatever efforts to try to use my name or public office to any end and if asked how I felt about this being done beforehand I would have objected.  My understanding is that the rally came together rather quickly during a time I was out of town and without access to internet.  If I do support something, I will say so.  This effort was around the rotation of the office of the Mayor.  As I said in my previous comments, I really do think it best for the community to move past this and focus forward.  I have no interest in further discussing the mayoral rotation, nor do I have interest in the Mayor position at all.

There are many actual issues that are important to the residents of Clayton and my focus is on city business that can make our town the best it can be. I’m glad the Stop AAPI Hate event that was organized was successful. That any person is able to express themselves and share their ideas is a testament to our country’s principles recognized and enshrined in the 1st amendment.

Monday, April 19, 2021

RHNA and the Lack of Judicial Review

Every eight years, the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) conducts a Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA), mandating that local jurisdictions plan and zone for a pre-determined number of housing units. Once that pre-determined number is approved by local planning agencies, cities have no recourse in debating its validity.

In January, the City discussed and sent a letter addressed to HCD regarding the latest RHNA allocation and methodology.  In that letter we identified areas where erroneous data and assumptions were used and we requested that HCD re-examine the RHNA figure allocated to ABAG and revise those figures.

Currently, cities and councils of government are unable to seek judicial review of HCD’s determination of existing and projected need for housing or the regional council of governments’ methodology to allocate the HCD’s housing need determination. If erroneous data or assumptions were relied on by HCD or a council of governments, cities have no legal recourse and could be unable to meet their housing allocations.

New proposed legislation, AB1258 introduced by Assembly Member Nguyen, would give cities the ability to request judicial review and seek the expertise and impartiality of the courts.  Currently AB1258 is not even set for a hearing in the Assembly Housing Committee as it is not part of state leadership’s housing package.  We as a city, ABAG as our local Council of Governments, and individuals should contact Assembly Member Nguyen to offer support so this bill may have a better chance of being brought forward.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Upcoming Council Meeting 4.20.21

There are a few significant items on the agenda at the next Council meeting:

  • Discuss adoption of City Council Priority Areas for the fiscal year ending June-2022.   In March we held a special meeting for a goal setting session.  The priority areas identified are those that came from that meeting and this action would recognize those priority areas.  This would not however actually rank the items in terms of priority, appropriate funds, or establish a mechanism to report on any of the priority items.  Each of those things would need to be done at a future date.  The five areas of priority that were identified were Land Use and Housing, Public Safety, Financial Stability, Quality of Life, and Good Governance.

  • Discuss inclusion of commercial properties with the city in the Golden State Financing Authority Property Assessed Clean Energy) PACE Program.  PACE programs, generally speaking, allow property owners to fund certain solar investments through property assessments.  This makes acquiring solar energy easier as commercial property owners, on a voluntary basis, could easily transfer the program financing upon sale of the property.  It also provides a different financing vehicle than might otherwise be available.  There is no risk to the city and in executing this type of arrangement we would also separately seek indemnification from the PACE provider.

Please let me know if you have thoughts or questions on the above.

Monday, April 12, 2021

4.6.21 Meeting Summary

 Though I was absent from the last meeting due to being out of town on spring break, I did have a chance to watch the video and read through the materials.  The council took action on two significant items as follows:

Authorized the Police Department to apply for a grant from the CA Dept of Justice to participate in the Tobacco Grant Program.  This program reimburses the city for funds spent for certain purposes and is funded by Prop 56 in 2016 which increased taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products.  The purpose of the grant is to support local enforcement efforts to reduce the illegal sale of tobacco products to minors.  If this grant is awarded, Clayton will use the funds to hire and maintain a full time police officer that would be responsible for:

  • Acting as a school liaison and provide education to students, teachers and school administrators about tobacco laws at the two schools in the City of Clayton (Diablo View Middle School and Mount Diablo Elementary School);
  • Providing education to city tobacco retailers to ensure that they understand and comply with state and local tobacco laws;
  • Conducting tobacco related enforcement operations targeting locations where minors are likely to be present such as playgrounds, youth sports events, parks, local festivals etc.;
  • Conducting minor decoy and shoulder tap operations directed at tobacco retailers, including electronic cigarettes and vaping products;
  • Conducting tobacco retailer license inspections;
  • Investigation of tobacco related violations;
  • Providing community wide education classes through the use of various platforms;
  • Using social media platforms to enhance messaging.
The Council voted unanimously to approve applying for this grant.

The other significant item was to formalize a procedure for recognizing certain cultural heritage and other significant celebrations.  There was discussion about the proposed list and a few additional recognition items were added.  The procedure will be that the first time a celebration occurs a proclamation would be brought forward at Council and for subsequent years no further action would be taken other than an informational report out each month as to which events were occurring so they could be acknowledged without the addition of a new proclamation.  The Council voted unanimously to adopt this procedure.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Meeting 4.6.21 and Spring Break

I was absent for the 4.6.21 meeting due to being out of town for spring break.  Just returned from quite a long road trip.  I'll catch up on what happened during the meeting and post an update then.  For now, this is what I was doing in lieu of the meeting:

Delicate Arch

Thursday, March 18, 2021

3.16.21 Meeting Summary

 I was not able to attend this meeting due to scheduling conflicts but I did have a chance to watch the video.

The Council took two actions:

  • Adopted an updated salary schedule that was previously budgeted.  The salary schedule was effective 1.1.21.
  • Approved the release of an RFP for vendors to assist in preparation of the next Housing Element which is a required component of the General Plan.

Regarding the Community Church project - the request I had previously made was for information regarding the process.  As this will likely come before the Planning Commission and City Council, there was not discussion of this item at this time.  The informational packet can be found on page 32 of the agenda packet.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Upcoming Council Meeting 3.16.21

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

  • Adopting an updated salary schedule.  This was on the agenda in the prior meeting but the documentation was insufficient so it is being brought back this meeting.  We've already budgeted based on the updated salary schedule however CalPERS requires that changes to the salary schedule be provided publicly.  This schedule was effective as of 1.1.21.
  • We are putting out a Request for Proposal (RFP) to assist with preparation of an updated Housing Element.  The Housing Element is a required component of our General Plan (also a requirement) and must be updated from time to time, at least every 8 years.  We have received some grant funding for this effort based on prior applications (approximately $85K), and will expect to pay approximately $150K in additional funds to be appropriated from the Rainy Day fund.

In addition to these action items, as part of the consent calendar items, Staff has drafted an informational report on the Clayton Community Church Project.  I have received a number of communications regarding this project and previously requested that Staff update the community on status and what to expect going forward.  That report is included in the agenda packet.

Due to scheduling conflicts, I will not be able to attend this meeting.  If you have any questions or comments please reach out.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

3.2.21 Meeting Summary

 Last night there were a few significant items discussed.

  • We had a mid year budget review.  There were several unbudgeted items of a one time nature that were either incurred or planned to be incurred by the end of the fiscal year June 30, 2021.  As such, we appropriated a sufficient amount of dollars from the unrestricted general fund reserves to cover these items.  They included estimates for additional janitorial services in connection with COVID-19, election services, a portion to fund the purchase of an additional police vehicle, and if schools were to re-open projected costs for additional crossing guard services.  The largest amount was to complete the prior City Manager contractual obligation.  The remaining surplus from the prior fiscal year was transferred to the Rainy Day fund.  At the end of the day, overall balance of that fund after the appropriations and transfers increased approximately $141K bringing the total to approximately $508K.

  • We discussed sending a letter to our State legislative representatives regarding SB9 which is currently being considered in Sacramento.  The letter would take an "oppose unless amended" position.  SB9's main goal is to eliminate single family zoning throughout California.  It does this in a number of ways, primarily by allowing lot splits with only ministerial approval which is no review.  This means that any single family lot could be converted to contain multiple units.  Each of those units could then develop an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU), and a Junior ADU, resulting in each single family lot being allowed to have 6 units. 

    The letter that was drafted took an "oppose unless amended" position.  The amendments sought however did not affect the main goal of the legislation - to end single family zoning. The draft was okay with all single family parcels to be split, ending single family zoning in CA, but wanted to restrict additional ADUs.  I did not feel this went far enough and signaled that we are okay with ending single family zoning.  I voted no.  The Council ultimately voted 4-1 to send this letter with only myself being opposed.

  • We set the time for a special meeting to conduct a goal setting session.  It will be at 4pm on Monday March 22.  The city has hired a facilitator to assist with discussion.  The meeting will be open to the public via zoom.

In my public comments, I also commented about the state of our schools and distance learning.  Statement is below:

I’ve looked through the last couple school board meetings and I have to say, if anything is on that agenda that isn’t related to opening schools as fast as possible, then you are doing it wrong

This has been a failure from top to bottom and those in leadership positions have forgotten their primary duty – to educate kids.  From the state level where teachers have just recently been able to get vaccinated – why they weren’t on the list from the first place is mind boggling, to the school district who is unable to do the right thing and stand up for our students, to the union who is capitalizing on a national travesty to further their own ends.

 Recently there was a survey asking MDUSD families what their preference was to return.  The District is trying to take the results of this survey, about 50/50 between returning hybrid and full distance learning, to mean something.  But this survey was a sham.  Sure it asked a question, but the choices were abysmal.  The only options offered were either full distance learning, or two days per week, two hours per day, in the afternoons only for “support” rather than actual instruction.  That was an insult to working parents and to tout those results as somehow indicative of parents desire to maintain fulltime distance learning is disingenuous.  The District should be ashamed.

I’ve looked at the demands put out by MDEA, the local teacher’s union and I find it strange that they are more restrictive than anywhere else.  They demand that the case rate be measured not by county, but by city.  And that to have kids back in the classroom, that rate be no greater than 7 per 100,000, rather than the 25 per 100,000 put out by state health officials.  Clayton has about 11K people, which means to meet that requirement our case rate would need to be ZERO. Not sure which medical school the teacher’s unions went to, but presume that they are in a better position to determine medical safety than the CDC or state and local health officials is absurd.

The more things open up, it is a given that the chance of people getting sick increases.  No risk can be mitigated to zero though.  And while that potential risk increases, we know that the actual negative impact distance learning is having on our students’ education, socialization, and mental health is real and is happening right now.

If this is your school board, send a message loud and often that their actions are unacceptable.  They work for us.  Fire them.  Recall them.  Don’t ever vote for them again. 

If this is your union, send a message loud and often that their actions are unacceptable.  Remember you don’t have to pay the dues and you don’t have to be a member of an organization engaging in activities you do not support.  In 2018, the United States Supreme Court held in Janus that compelling public sector employees like teachers to be a member of a union they do not wish to belong to, or to pay dues or agency fees against your will, is unconstitutional.   The district has raised the alarm that 1,000 out of 29,000 students have left the district.  If this is the course of action being pursued by MDEA, I would hope to see an even greater exodus from MDEA’s ranks as well.

Kids belong in school.

There have been a number of communications regarding the Clayton Community Church proposal near the elementary school.  I requested that staff assemble a few bullet points to clarify the process and what the public should expect to see as the project moves through the pipeline, as well as where they can get involved.

Councilmember Diaz requested a future discussion item about the status of outdoor cannabis cultivation.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Upcoming Council Meeting 3.2.21

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

  • A mid year budget review for FY21.  We are on a fiscal year that ends June 30 and as such the end of December is the mid point in the fiscal year.  This meeting we evaluate results to date and can make any adjustments as needed.  We'll address some one time spending needs from our Rainy Day Fund to cover costs associated with an employment contract for the former City Manager, and discuss the transfer of remaining funds to the Rainy Day Fund.
  • Discuss a draft letter in regards to SB 9 which purports to eliminate single family zoning state wide.  The current draft takes an "Oppose Unless Amended" position.
  • Set a date for our annual goal setting session which is targeted to be 3/22/21.

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

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

2.16.21 Meeting Summary

There were two significant items on on the agenda last night.

  • We started the process of recognizing various cultural heritage events including some events that may be of importance but not necessarily cultural heritage.  The plan going forward will be to identify these items and bring back to Council for concurrence, and then recognize each at their appropriate time.
  • I had requested that public comment on non-agenda items be moved up from item 6 to item 3 in the standing agenda.  Often times there is 40 minutes or more before we get to public comment and my hope was that we could increase public participation by making the public comment period earlier and at a more set time.  When we are back to in person meetings especially, I know it can be difficult for some, especially those with young kids, to be able to dedicate the time to wait just to raise an issue at Council.  This was done in hopes of making public participation easier and more accessible.  I made a motion that was rejected on a vote of 3-2 with just myself and Councilmember Diaz voting yes.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Upcoming City Council Meeting 2.16.21

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

  • A discussion regarding recognition of a series of various cultural heritage months.
  • A discussion about the order of the agenda.  This is from a request that I made previously.  Currently public comment on non-agenda items comes after consent calendar, presentations, council and staff reports.  At times these items could take a substantial amount of time and for those who come to meetings and want to raise an issue, it can be a challenge to wait an hour or more only to make a comment for 3 minutes.  By moving the public comment on non-agenda items earlier in the agenda, it would allow greater participation from community members to raise issues that have not yet been agendized.

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

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

2.2.21 Meeting Summary

 Last night the Council took a few significant actions:

  • We appointed Ed Miller to the Planning Commission.  There was a vacancy due to Peter Cloven being elected.  Mr. Miller will complete the remainder of the term through June 2021 (5 months) and then be eligible to reapply.  Congratulations and welcome Commissioner Miller.
  • We received and approved the city's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2020.  It's a lengthy document that goes into detail around all of the activities and financial position of the city.  While it may not be entirely riveting, as an accountant I find it interesting and worth a read if you have time.  The document will be posted on the city's website as soon as it is finalized.  In summary, for 2020, the city increased its unrestricted fund balance by a moderate but healthy amount of approximately $290K (this excludes certain unrealized gains on investments).  We will be doing a planning session in the next few weeks to determine best use of these one time funds.
  • We approved an 18 unit sub division towards the end of Mitchell Canyon on a currently undeveloped lot.  The builder had worked with nearby neighbors and collaborated on modifying plans to address various concerns.  The presentation was thorough, and the review by city staff and Planning Commission helped bring forward a project that will be a good fit for the surrounding area.  Below is a aerial rendering:

Friday, January 29, 2021

Upcoming City Council Meeting 2.2.21

 There are a few significant items for the next upcoming meeting.

  • We will be starting the meeting early at 6pm to interview candidates for an open spot on the Planning Commission.
  • We will be holding a hearing to consider the Diablo meadows development which consists of eighteen residential units near the end of Mitchell Canyon Rd
  • We will receive, review, and approve the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2020
If you have any questions or thoughts on these items, please let me know.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

1.19.21 Meeting Summary

At tonight's meeting there was one significant item on the agenda and that was what actions to take regarding pedestrian and traffic safety at Kelok Way.  There were a number of items discussed as I wrote about last week.  In addition, Police Chief Warren also mentioned two additional suggestions to consider including a Mosquito unit which acts a sonic repellant broadcasting a high pitched noise at a frequency only younger folks could hear.  The other item was a motion activated light that would illuminate the area if movement was detected.

One thing that did appear to be having an impact is making the entire area red zone no parking.  As a result of this, police have been able to issue 40+ citations the month or so since the curb was painted.  Police have to prioritize their activity so they aren't able to respond to calls right away all the time.  Hopefully over time making the area no parking will have the effect of reducing traffic to the end of Kelok Way. 

There was an ad hoc Public Safety Subcommittee meeting held to discuss this matter as well, but that was a few months ago and it appeared that not all interested parties were able to participate.  As such, the Council sent the matter back to the Public Safety Subcommittee to discuss with residents further and report back on recommendations.  When that is scheduled it will be communicated out so that all who are interested in participating will be able to do so.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Upcoming Council Meeting 1.19.21

 There is one significant item on the agenda the next meeting and that is to discuss traffic and pedestrian safety around Kelok Way.  Recently there was a vehicle vs. pedestrian accident and there have long been concerns from residents in the area regarding vehicle speeds and inappropriate conduct at the top of Kelok Way that impact quality of life and overall safety.

The staff report discusses 11potential items for discussion:
  1. A fence to lower the the draw to the area as a view spot
  2. Continue with the red painted curb to dissuade parking at the location in question
  3. Install physical barricades to prevent vehicles from gathering in the location in question
  4. Install speed bumps along Keller Ridge and Kelok Way to discourage excessive speed
  5. Install speed limit radar feedback signs
  6. Install flashing stop signs where stop signs already exist
  7. A permit parking program on Kelok Way
  8. A gate on Keller Ridge Dr to restrict access
  9. An ordinance prohibiting loitering
  10. Radar speed cameras similar to red light cameras to issue citations
  11. Surveillance and/or license plate readers
Staff was neutral on items 1-6, and would not recommend options 7-11.  Each may be discussed at the next council meeting.

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

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

1.5.21 Meeting Summary

Last night there were two significant actions taken.  The first was whether to send a letter I had drafted regarding RHNA overestimation.  Based on evidence documented by the Embarcadero Group and Freddie Mac, it appears that there were significant deficiencies in the methodology used to determine the housing allocation figures across the state.  The result is that the allocation to the Bay Area is likely significantly greater than is supportable.  This letter is to express concern regarding the housing figure, and to ask that HCD reconsider the number of housing units allocated in light of the new evidence.

This is part of a larger effort by many local cities and regional bodies who are taking similar action.  The hope is to contribute to that effort and lend our support as a city.

After discussion, there were some minor wordsmithing updates made and a change to specifically direct the letter to HCD, while copying other agencies including ABAG and the Contra Costa County Mayors' Conference.  We unanimously agreed to send this letter.

The second item we took action on what Councilmember Cloven's request to get more information on new housing legislation.  Staff offered two possible courses of action - Either staff could spend time assembling information, or we could engage an outside consultant to provide such services.  Councilmember Cloven clarified his request with more specificity and asked to table the matter based on the refined request.