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.