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.