Wednesday, September 20, 2023

My 9.19.23 Meeting Summary

Last night the Council met and discussed a few significant items:

- We had a discussion regarding outsourcing our process and administration for business licenses.  Currently this process is handled internally.  With approximately 1100 business licenses in the city, maintaining records, taking payment, processing renewals, and even pursing compliance is a time consuming task.  HdL is a company that specializes in these activities and has done this at scale at many other jurisdictions.  While we have 1100 active business licenses in Clayton, based on some preliminary analysis HdL believes that figure could increase to near 2000 after compliance efforts are undertaken.

In addition, outsourcing this function will free up significant amounts of staff time allowing them to focus on other duties.  The Council approved this agreement and expect a launch of this product in approximately two months.

- We reviewed a draft of a City Sponsored Special Events policy.  The draft described an approximate budget and potential criteria for which events could be included.  The Council discussed the proposal and agreed that the Concerts in the Grove, Clayton Classic Car Show, and the 4th of July Parade should remain city sponsored events.  We were also interested in having a 60th anniversary event next year as well.  There were open items regarding the Memorial Day event traditionally held by the VFW, and the Pride Parade.  In order to resolve those open questions, and make edits to the draft, we formed an Ad Hoc Special Events Policy Committee consisting of Councilmember Trupiano and myself.  We will have discussions and make appropriate updates to bring back to the full Council for adoption.

- We discussed the need to develop a strategic plan.  Staff had prepared a proposal that included hiring a consultant to conduct public outreach, and an all day working session with Council and individually at a cost of $20-25K.  The Council was divided on whether the cost was worthwhile, and discussed other aspects including methods of community outreach and the length of time that is truly needed.  The Council directed staff to take a second pass at a proposal that would be less costly and explore different ideas to reduce the amount of time needed, as well as identify specific deliverables or objectives that would be achieved.

As a reminder, I will be having a townhall on September 27 at 6:30 pm at Hoyer Hall.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Town Hall 9.27.23 @ 6:30pm at Hoyer Hall

I will be hosting a town hall meeting next week, 9.27.23 at 6:30pm in Hoyer Hall.  

Typically during regular Council meetings we are not able to engage in back and forth dialogue as only things that are on the agenda may be discussed, and discussion with audience members is limited.  At the townhall I'd be glad to discuss and address any questions from participants.

I look forward to seeing you there.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Upcoming Meeting 9.19.23

There are a few significant items we will be discussing at our next meeting:

- Discussion regarding agreement with HdL Companies for business license administrative services.  This would outsource the record keeping, maintenance, and administration of the City's business license program including onboarding, renewals, and collection of payment.

- Discussion of a City Sponsored special events policy

- Discussion of strategic planning session.

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

Monday, September 11, 2023

Special Meeting 9.7.23

The Council held a Special Meeting last Thursday, 9.7.23 in response to anticipated litigation related to the Olivia project (3 story 3 building high density apartments in and around downtown).  Because of the nature of the topic, the only item on the agenda was a closed session to discuss with legal counsel.  The discussion and anything that occurs during closed session is not allowed to be shared so I do not have any updates from this meeting to report.

If there were at any point information able to be shared I will do so.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

My 8.15.23 Meeting Summary

Last night the Council discussed several significant items:

- We received a presentation from the Contra Costa Mosquito and Vector Control District regarding their scope of services and tips on reducing the risk that certain pest insects and animals present.  As part of the District, the City of Clayton is able to appoint one Trustee to sit on the Board of the District.  Currently that seat is vacant.  If any are interested in learning more or applying to be a Trustee, please contact the City Clerk.

- We received a quarterly update on the City's investment portfolio.  This was also discussed at our Budget and Audit Committee meeting the previous day.  We are experiencing higher yields with some of our more recent buys, however the portfolio continues to be weighted with lower yield CDs that were purchased years ago.  We will be doing an analysis whether it makes sense to sell those at a loss in order to utilize proceeds for higher yield products, but it is unlikely that the return would make that worthwhile.  Overall we still have opportunity to move more liquid cash  into higher yielding investments and the Budget and Audit Committee consisting of myself and Councilmember Trupiano directed staff to do so.

Our current practice has been to concentrate in CDs which are not a liquid product, and are limited to buys of $250K.  With an investment portfolio north of $16M, this means that staff needs to monitor a long list of investments.  The Committee asked Staff to prepare an investment plan that describes the laddering targets so that we can reduce the overall number of investments while still maximizing safety, liquidity, and yield. Overall the City recognized approximately double the investment earnings in FY23 than anticipated due to some of these moves.

- We held a public hearing to adopt an updated Master Fee Schedule. This concludes the process that began several months ago and updates our fees to ensure the City is recovering its costs when it performs certain services. In addition, when a portion of the City is being rented as a venue for an event, the City has the right to collect a fee in exchange for that use.

As large events in our downtown create a disproportionate use of staff time and resources that isn’t well captured in a line item fee schedule, a Special Events Fee was added to our Master Fee Schedule that is tiered based on the size of the event. This is analogous to a park or other facility rental on a larger scale. For many years, the City’s downtown has been the venue for many commercially successful events. And during that time, the City chose to waive substantially all fees associated with the rental of its facilities.  The updated fee schedule does offer a discount on Special Event Fees to non-profits in order to recognize the value they bring.

There were several speakers extolling the virtues of the CBCA at this meeting.  On that front, I agree.  The organization adds a tremendous amount of value to the community, and I commend the generosity of both the organization and its volunteers. These activities however, do not exempt anyone from have to pay for use of City facilities. Fee waivers or discounts represent taxpayer funded subsidies and should be made judiciously. To the extent that the City does not collect fees that it is able, taxes from residents must make up the difference.  

Earlier I made a proposal that could lower or waive fees even further in exchange for an arrangement where the CBCA and the City enter into a revenue sharing agreement.  This should be familiar to the CBCA since they also engage in a revenue sharing arrangement with the vendors that come to their events.  For example, a portion of gross revenue from food sales that take place at events like Art & Wine are paid to the CBCA from the food vendors themselves.  In addition, each vendor pays the CBCA for the privilege of renting space on City streets, those same streets that the CBCA has had their fees waived for the past 15 years.

Unfortunately this proposal was rejected by the Board of CBCA without discussion or any exploration on what was possible.  There was no counter proposal made.  It appears that the position of the organization is that the only acceptable option is to be able to continue to use City facilities for free.  That would not be a prudent position for the City to take and it would be unfair to the residents of this community.

Councilmember Cloven raised a question about the legality of charging a Special Event Fee.  This was addressed squarely by our City Attorney that in fact the Special Events Fee is permissible.  To add more context regarding that discussion, I made a post specifically about the laws surrounding municipal fees here:

We adopted the updated fee schedule on a vote of 3-2 with Councilmembers Cloven and Tillman voting no.  The fee schedule becomes effective in 60 days.  Given events can be booked up to one year in advance, this means that should the organization choose, they can reserve events through 2024.  This would be 1.5 years after we terminated the MUA.

- We directed staff to include instructions with how to use ClearGov to review payment obligations (check register).  Traditionally payment detail has been on the consent calendar at each regularly scheduled Council meeting.  At the next meeting this will continue, with instructions on how to access ClearGov to view the same data.  After that a link to ClearGov will be included in each agenda packet.

- We designated a voting delegate (Trupiano) and alternate (Diaz) for the upcoming September CalCities annual conference consistent with the committee assignments that were approved back in Dec-22.

Prop 26 and 218 and Municipal Fees

This is a longer post about the law surrounding municipal fees.  The short version is that our City Attorney confirmed that Special Event Fees are not subject to limitations of Prop 26 during our 8.15.23 meeting.  The long version is as follows:


There is an argument being made that charging a Special Event fee is somehow prohibited based on Prop 26 and Prop 218.  For reference, here is the Cal Cities Prop 26 and 218 Implementation Guide (Guide).  The Guide describes several examples and details out the application of both propositions.

Essentially, CA voters passed propositions over the past several decades defining what is considered a tax, and requiring voter approval of such taxes.  Some of these requirements were added to the State constitution, specifically in Article XIII C.  Here is how a Tax is defined in that Article:

(e) As used in this article, “tax” means any levy, charge, or exaction of any kind imposed by a local government, except the following:

(1) A charge imposed for a specific benefit conferred or privilege granted directly to the payor that is not provided to those not charged, and which does not exceed the reasonable costs to the local government of conferring the benefit or granting the privilege.

(2) A charge imposed for a specific government service or product provided directly to the payor that is not provided to those not charged, and which does not exceed the reasonable costs to the local government of providing the service or product.

(3) A charge imposed for the reasonable regulatory costs to a local government for issuing licenses and permits, performing investigations, inspections, and audits, enforcing agricultural marketing orders, and the administrative enforcement and adjudication thereof.

(4) A charge imposed for entrance to or use of local government property, or the purchase, rental, or lease of local government property.

(5) A fine, penalty, or other monetary charge imposed by the judicial branch of government or a local government, as a result of a violation of law.

(6) A charge imposed as a condition of property development.

(7) Assessments and property-related fees imposed in accordance with the provisions of Article XIII D.

If a local government is getting money in any way, it is a tax, unless it falls into one of the 7 exceptions above.

The argument some are making is two pronged and goes something like this:  Prong 1 - The Special Event Fee is a tax, and therefore subject to voter approval.  Prong 2 - Even if the Special Event Fee is not a tax, then a local government is limited to only recovering its costs, and since the Special Event Fee is greater than actual costs, it is somehow prohibited.

This argument is easily rebutted, and it is the CA constitution itself that rebuts it. Section (e)(4) above lists as an exception from the definition of "tax" to be "A charge imposed for entrance to or use of local government property, or the purchase, rental, or lease of local government property."  As the Special Event Fee is a charge for the use of government property (i.e. streets, parks, sidewalks, etc.), it clearly falls under the exception to the definition of a tax in (e)(4) above.  Therefore, Prong 1 fails.

To rebut Prong 2, we need to look at the other provisions of section (e) above.  Looking at (1) - (3), each contains the phrase 'reasonable costs'.   The Guide discusses that the language of this section of the State Constitution is from Prop 26, and mirrors previous language contained in Prop 13, which imposes a burden on local government to prove that the amount is no more than necessary to cover the reasonable costs of the governmental activity, and that the manner in which those costs are allocated to a payor bear a fair or reasonable relationship to the payor’s burdens on, or benefits received from, the governmental activity.  In other words, history and courts have essentially defined "reasonable costs" to be actual costs, with some leeway for calculation and distribution of the fees.

But if we look at item (e)(4), this exception to the definition of what constitutes a tax is different than the ones before it.  It does not contain the phrase "reasonable costs".  This is important because there is a canon of statutory interpretation that says, casus omissus pro omisso habendus est.  This generally means that if something is omitted, it is considered to be done intentionally.  SCOTUS's rules for statutory interpretation say that "Every word within a statue is there for a purpose and should be given its due significance."  "Where Congress includes particular language is one section of a statute but omits it in another ..., it is generally presumed that Congress acts intentionally and purposely in the disparate inclusion or exclusion."

Because the section in the Constitution from Prop 218 that talks about charges for the use of government property omits any reference to reasonable costs, courts have read this as the authors intended - renting government property is not subject to this limitation.  This is also described in the Guide, "in Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association v. Bay Area Toll Authority (2020) 51 Cal.App.5th 435, review granted October 14, 2020, S263835, the Court of Appeal held that the reasonable cost limitation does not apply to charges imposed for entrance to or use of state property or the purchase, rental, or lease of state property. The California Supreme Court has granted review of both cases."  The Guide was published in Aug 2021.  Subsequent to that, the California Supreme Court let stand the case which means that the Court of Appeal's ruling stands.  As a result, Prong 2 of the argument fails.

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Upcoming Meeting 8.15.23

There are several significant items we will be discussing at our next meeting:

- We will receive the quarterly report regarding the City's investment portfolio.

- We will hold a public hearing to update the City's Master Fee Schedule.

- We will provide direction to staff regarding the elimination of payment information from the regular  agenda packet.

- We will discuss the designation of a voting delegate for the Cal Cities annual conference.

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

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Common Ground and a Win/Win for Special Events

Recently the Council gave direction to staff regarding the proposed update to our Master Fee Schedule. As such, I wanted to share my thoughts on why this was an important action for the City to take. There were three main principals at play:

Ensure full recovery of costs – Historically the City did not recover the full cost of providing services or renting facilities. The rates for each did not include a fully burdened rate for staff charges, including administrative staff and police, and they hadn’t been updated beyond a perfunctory CPI increase in many many years. By focusing on a full recovery method, the City ensures it is recovering the actual cost it incurs for these services and facilities.

Fairness to the Taxpayers – Money is fungible. As such, fee waivers or discounts represent taxpayer funded subsidies and should be made judiciously. We offer discounts in a variety of ways throughout the fee schedule - typically for those that reside in Clayton vs. those who do not, or to promote certain activity. Endeavor Hall offers a steep discount for residents and non-profits as the intent of Endeavor is to be a community meeting place of residents, and to support the Arts - the uses of which do not typically generate net income.

Generate revenue – The City’s tax base is relatively small, and somewhat inflexible. There are few opportunities for the City to generate additional revenue. As I stated during my campaign and multiple times afterwards, a tax increase should always be a last resort, and only after all other options are explored. It is appropriate that City’s charge a fee for use of City property. Many cities do this via rental charges or Special Event fees, and Clayton is no exception. The updated fee schedule recognizes that large events that generate significant revenue or support for event sponsors have the ability to pay for use of the City as a venue.

There has been a high level of interest in the updated fee schedule. This update that applies broadly to everyone needed to be in place prior to any discussion with the CBCA. The Council is setting policy for the City as a whole, not just for one organization. A baseline must be established that ensures the City is adequately compensated for staff time and use of its facilities. Now that we have given staff direction on how to move forward, with the actual update to the Master Fee Schedule targeted to be heard at a Public Hearing on August 15, it is appropriate that we renew discussion with the CBCA on ways we can continue to work together.

Under the prior Master Use Agreement (MUA) between the City and the CBCA that waived virtually all permitting fees and did not reimburse the City for actual costs incurred by staff, the interests of the two parties were not always aligned. The CBCA had an interest in successful events to further their mission. The City had an interest in generating greater revenue to support the financial health of the City. In this rubric, the City did not receive the full benefit from events as we were not recovering our full costs. The time spent by City staff (maintenance and police) was not fully invoiced, and staff were overall more burdened as there was a net increase in workload. Combine that with the waiver of fees for renting things like the streets and the Grove park, near $5K-$7K per event, and even the small amount of sales tax generated did not nearly make up for the burden to the City.

Recently I had a conversation with the President of the CBCA. I conveyed that because our interests were not always aligned, it could appear that activities between the two organizations were more adversarial than they actually were, or intended to be. In an effort to find what could be a win/win, I suggested that there may be a way that we could work together in partnership – come to terms so that when the CBCA is successful, so is the City. Depending on the details, I would be open to the idea of reduced or waived fees in exchange for a revenue sharing arrangement. This would be mutually beneficial for all parties, including the taxpayers of our City. The more financially successful the events are, the better it is for everyone. It would then be in the City’s interest to assist as much as possible, and the CBCA could have a predictable cost structure like any other cost of supplies. For the larger events the outcome could be about the same as what is in the current proposed update to the Master Fee Schedule, but for smaller events the fees would no longer be an impediment to their overall viability.

I hope that we could come to terms on an arrangement like this and I look forward to working with the CBCA on ways that we could continue working together.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

My 7.18.23 Meeting Summary

Last night the Council met and discussed several significant items.  As we only had one meeting this month, and we will only have one meeting next month, this agenda was quite full and the meeting went till about midnight.

- There was a public hearing where the Council adopted the annual levy of real property tax assessments at the Diablo Estates Assessment District.  This is an annual process whereby the city administers certain functions for the group of homes similar to an HOA manager and the assessments cover those costs.  The City is allowed to raise the assessment each year by CPI, however this year due to the activities of the district the assessment was held flat.

- There was a public hearing where the Council adopted the East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservation Plan/Natural Community Conservation Plan Mitigation Fee Audit and nexus study and to update the related mitigation fees.  This study supports the calculation of developer impact fees associated with development in the region and their environmental impact to the area.

- We approved the new franchise agreement with Republic Services for solid waste collection.  Due to changes in state law, the cost for service has significantly risen and the new agreement incorporates the new state compliance requirements.  Fees for service will rise a little south of 20%, though the actual dollar increase will be between $6 and $10 per month, depending on the size of the garbage container residents use.  Most other provisions of our service agreement remain unchanged - residents will still be able to use multiple recycle and organic bins at no cost, there will still be the same number of "spring clean up" type events for recycling, garbage, and organics, and we are still able to have large items (appliances, furniture, mattresses) taken by Republic Services at no cost.

The new law requires quite a bit of change around how organic materials are collected.  The state has seen fit to dictate what color everyone's bin needs to be, at least the lid portion.  As a result, over time the bin lids of residents will incorporate the new required color scheme whenever bins are replaced through attrition.  In addition, the state is now requiring that haulers (like Republic Services) examine what people are placing in their bin and document their findings, including noting when the non conforming materials are placed in certain bins.  The state requires their be provision for fines as an enforcement mechanism should this cross contamination occur too frequently.  There are also new rules for documentation and tracking, as well as forcing cities to purchase a certain level of recycled materials over time.

- We approved a funding agreement with CCTA in order to upgrade traffic signals at four locations along Clayton Rd: Washington Blvd, St. Bonaventure, El Camino, and Mitchell Canyon Rd.  CCTA is funding a regional effort to update to Smart Signals and was looking for a matching commitment of 11.47%, which amounts to approximately $56K from the City.  This amount was included in the most recent budget that was adopted.

The Smart Signals do a number of things some of which include safety enhancements.  By using a combination of cameras and radar, the signals are able to detect vehicle at a greater distance, and dynamically adjust timing of lights.  For example, if a light turns yellow and the signal detects a vehicle approaching at a certain speed, the length of yellow light could be extended to allow the vehicle to more safely cross the intersection.  In addition, the technology used is more cost effective than the physical cabling that is currently used beneath the streets for the same purpose.

Another aspect of the Smart Signals is that they allow CCTA or potentially another agency to remotely control the signals in order to smooth traffic flow during certain events.  It is unclear who has access to take control, who has access to the video, who has access to the data logs, and under what circumstances these things can be used.  All of these are intended to be defined in an Operating Agreement, but that has not yet been drafted.  I thought it was odd to ask for funding before the operating agreement which defines what we are signing up for was complete.

A concern I voiced that I have stated in the past, is that through traffic to and from east county on Clayton Rd. is an issue during commute hours.  To the extent greater traffic is routed through Clayton Rd. it has an impact on Clayton residents.  To the extent less traffic is routed through Clayton Rd. that has a benefit on Clayton residents.  If CCTA or another agency is allowed to make this route more appealing to drivers by utilizing signal control, that would not be in the interest of the City.

As a compromise, CCTA agreed to delay requiring any payment until June 2024.  This should give sufficient time to review the Operating Agreement after it is finalized and determine if we want to exercise the termination clause in the funding agreement.

- The Council also gave direction that staff may pursue opportunities for cell tower leases in the City as a source of additional revenue and increased service coverage for our residents.

- The Council renewed its service agreement for on-call tree service with Waraner Brothers Tree Service.

- We approved the acquisition and implementation of Granicus Agenda Management software which should add efficiency and streamline processes, while making access and usability easier for users.

-The GHAD Board met after the regular Council meeting and directed staff to pursue an additional levy of GHAD households in order to fund the scope of work that is in the controlling document.  The GHAD Plan of Control document describes what activities the GHAD should be doing, and how frequently.  Because the GHAD is severely underfunded, it does not have the ability to perform even a small portion of the work described in the Plan of Control.  I wrote about the challenges that the GHAD faces back in April:

This is a multi step process, including updating the Plan of Control, engaging in outreach with GHAD households, and ultimately preparing an analysis of what the GHAD should be doing and how much it takes to do that work.  The small amount of budget in the GHAD that was slated to be used for monitoring will be repurposed towards this effort.

Friday, July 14, 2023

Upcoming Meeting 7.18.23

There are several significant items we will discuss at our next meeting:

- There will be an informational presentation by Save Mount Diablo.

- A public Hearing on real property assessments for the Diablo Estates Assessment District.

- A resolution regarding the East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservation Plan/Natural Community Conservation Plan Mitigation Fee Audit.

- We will discuss an updated franchise agreement with Republic Services for solid waste collection.

- We will discuss the County wide Smart Signals project with CCTA

- We will discuss opportunities for cell tower leases within the City.

- We will discuss renewing the on-call service contract with Waraner Brothers Tree Service.

- We will discuss implementing Granicus Agenda Management software

- The GHAD Board will also meet to discuss direction on a future assessment increase on GHAD property owners in order to cover the scope of services as described in the GHAD operating agreement.

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

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

My 6.26.23 Special Meeting Summary

Yesterday afternoon the Council met for a Special Meeting (off cycle) in order to address questions from Council regarding the Master Fee Schedule proposed update directed towards our consultant who was unable to attend the previous regular meeting when this item was agendized. Approval of the proposed fee schedule was not on the agenda as any change to our Master Fee schedule requires a regularly scheduled publicly noticed hearing at least 14 days in advance with the proposal more fully fleshed out. This meeting was for Council to ask questions, discuss, and provide direction to staff.  We are targeting the approval of the update to the fee schedule to take place on August 15.

Due to time constraints regarding retaining a quorum of the Council, public comment was limited to 1.5 minutes instead of the usual 3 minutes. In addition, because this meeting was off cycle, our regular meeting place was unavailable, therefore we met in City Hall.

Questions posed by Council were largely the same as had been asked previously. During our 6.6.23 meeting when we last discussed this, our City Manager stated multiple times that certain questions being asked were matters of policy that the Council sets, not questions of law or process, and that the consultant would largely give the same answer. That is in fact what happened and rather than focus on the actual policy, a significant amount of time was spent asking questions regarding who asked who to do what and who talked to whom, or why during edits of drafts did certain words change and who asked for those changes.

Ultimately the Council engaged a consultant to assess the adequacy of our Master Fee Schedule and propose changes to do two things:

1. Ensure the fees were based on a full recovery method, including direct costs such as salaries and benefits, indirect costs such as departmental administration costs, and citywide support costs such as accounting, personnel, data processing, vehicle maintenance, and insurance.

2. Bring forward a proposal for fees for Special Events including a discount for Clayton based non-profits. 

The proposed update to the Master Fee Schedule did both of these things.  Fees for various services like a tree removal permit, or a building permit were adjusted to reflect actual costs. In addition, a new category of fees for Special Events was created. This would be applicable for a large event that would require streets to be closed, such as Oktoberfest or a parade. For those types of events with 100 participants or greater, a daily Special Event Fee was proposed that would be based on the number of participants, with the smallest tier at $700 for up to 499 participants, and $10K for events with 5,000 participants or greater.  Based on our last  direction at the 6.6.23 meeting, staff also included in this proposal a Special Event discount suggested at 20% for Clayton based non-profits.

Any discount off of stated rates is a policy decision that Council can make.  Discounts represent taxpayer subsidies and should be made judiciously.  We offer discounts in a variety of ways throughout the fee schedule - typically for those that reside in Clayton vs. those who do not.  Endeavor Hall offers a steep discount as the intent of Endeavor is to be a meeting place of residents, and to support the Arts - the uses of which do not typically generate net income.

For the past 15 years, there has been a Master Use Agreement (MUA) between the City and the CBCA whereby virtually all fees for using public property and facilities were waived during Special Events.  Earlier this year the City terminated this MUA, effective July 1, 2023.  The City's regular practice allows permits and reservations to be made up to 1 year in advance locking in the fee method at that time.  Prior to the expiration of the MUA, the CBCA pulled permits for the next year's worth of events, locking in the waiver of virtually all City fees, as is their prerogative under the City's practice and the MUA that is set to expire in a few days.

As an example of the magnitude of figures that are relevant:  for Art and Wine 2022, BBQ 2022, Oktoberfest 2022, and Art and Wine 2023, this portion of direct staff charges paid to the City were $9,888, $6,676, $10,369, and $9,075, respectively.  The fees waived under the MUA for each event represented approximately $5K - $7K.  In comparison, the revenue for the first three events were $284K, $95K, and $281K, and after associated expenses inclusive of the staff time noted above, net income of $137K, $24K, and $115K.

During discussion, Vice Mayor Diaz suggested a two tier discount methodology offering a greater discount to Clayton based non-profits, and a smaller discount to non-Clayton based non profits.  Councilmember Cloven suggested a 50% discount which the majority of the Council felt was too large.  Councilmember Tillman suggested a 40% discount as a compromise which was higher than the majority of the Council was comfortable with.  Ultimately the Council directed staff to update the proposed fee schedule increasing the discount for Clayton based non-profits from 20% to 30%, and to add a 15% discount for non-Clayton based non-profits.  The vote was 3-2, with Councilmembers Cloven and Tillman voting no.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Upcoming Special Meeting 6.26.23

On Monday, we will be having a Special Meeting to discuss updates to the Master Fee Schedule.  This is a follow up to the discussion that was had at our 6.6.23 meeting.  At that meeting, our consultant was unable to attend so there were questions raised that were not addressed.  This meeting is specifically to address any open questions regarding the proposed update to the Master Fee Schedule.  We will not be approving any update to the Master Fee Schedule at this meeting as that can only be done at a regularly scheduled meeting and requires a 14 day Public Notice.  This meeting is intended to address open questions and give direction to staff in order to prepare the required Public Notice for an expected August 15 meeting date.

This meeting will be different than others in a few ways.  Because it is a Special Meeting that is off schedule, our regular meeting place at Hoyer Hall is not available.  As a result, we will be meeting in the third floor of City Hall and the meeting will start at 4:30pm.  Also due to time constraints, the meeting will end at 6:00pm.  Due to the limited time, and because this meeting is for a specific topic, we will limit public comment to 1.5 minutes rather than the usual 3 minutes.

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

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

My 6.20.23 Meeting Summary

Last night the Council met to discuss several significant items:

- We conducted interviews for two open Planning Commissioner seats and appointed Bretten Casagrande and Joseph Banchero.  Congratulations to both and thank you to Ed Miller and Justin Cesarin for their service whose terms are ending at the end of the month. 

- We heard a presentation from the City of Concord regarding sewer rate increases.  Clayton utilizes a sewer system administered by Concord, and as a result of increased costs for maintenance and repair, the rates that Clayton residents pay will be increasing.  The Council approved the increase that was already approved at Concord in the amount of 6% per year over the next four years.  The actual amount of increase may vary depending on the needs and actual costs incurred.

- At our last meeting, we discussed the need to appropriate $125K from the City's Pension Rate Stabilization Fund in order to balance the budget.  Pension expense has increased significantly over the past few years and this fund was intended to act as a buffer to the budget when that occurred.  As we also removed $40K from the prior budget proposal, it was expected that that $125K would be reduced to $85K, however it appears that due to certain administrative oversights the actual figure was only reduced to $114K.  

There was discussion regarding whether a revenue assumption of $36K for increased fees related to the Master Fee schedule update should be included in our budget.  This budget is inclusive of assumptions made across multiple revenue and expense categories, including those relating to our Master Fee Schedule that we are set to update in the August timeframe.  It does not however, include any increase related to Special Events as that fee category is net new and we haven't finalized those parameters.  The vast majority of other fees that are being increased are commensurate with the fee schedule that already exists and as such an assumption of increases was appropriate.  Any increased revenue from Special Events fees will have a favorable impact to the budget.

Several of the Special District funds are either in deficit, or are consuming resources from other available funds, or both.  We will need to develop a strategy to address these as we stabilize operations within the City.

We approved the FY24 budget on a vote of 4-0-1 with Councilmember Tillman abstaining.

- We approved the FY24 Capital Improvement Plan and related CIP appropriations.  Some of the projects that were approved were related to ADA curb compliance, street paving, downtown raised pedestrian crosswalks, traffic signal upgrades, and other items.  Each of these are funded by a mix of city funds and grant revenues.

- We approved a new employment agreement with our Miscellaneous Employees, as well as separated the Police Chief's position from this agreement and formed a separate agreement for that role.  As part of the agreement with the Miscellaneous employees, we included a 5% COLA for FY24, and a 3-5% increase for FY25 based on CPI.  In addition, in recognition of much of the staffing vacancy this year, we included a retention incentive of 5% for those that remain employed over the next year.  In part as a result of the current year vacancies, the City experienced favorable results compared to budget and the Council decided to utilize some of that savings to recognize those employees who continued to perform the work required during a time of significant vacancy.

Monday, June 19, 2023

4th of July Parade! Volunteers needed

Come enjoy Clayton's Annual 4th of July Parade on July 4th at 10am!  The Clayton Valley/Concord Sunrise Rotary is holding their annual Pancake Breakfast starting at 7am at Endeavor Hall as well.

For more information, see this link:

If you want to be IN the parade, please fill out a registration form by June 29, 2023:

If you can volunteer to help guide traffic, monitor a traffic barricade, or have a convertible vehicle to loan that will be featured in the parade for City Council members, please contact Sandy Johnson:

Upcoming Meeting 6.20.23

There are several items we will discuss at our next meeting:

- Appointment of two Planning Commissioners.  There are three applicants for two available seats.

- An update to the City's annual sewer service charges.  The City of Concord administers a Sewer Enterprise to provide for maintenance, repair, and operation of their sewer collection system, and Clayton utilizes this service.  The update to the annual sewer service charges are a reflection of the rate increase for this service and are approximately 6% per year for the next four years.

- We will discuss an update to the budget proposal as directed from our previous meeting 6.6.23.  At our last meeting, we discussed the need to appropriate $125K from the City's Pension Rate Stabilization Fund in order to balance the budget.  Pension expense has increased significantly over the past few years and this fund was intended to act as a buffer to the budget when that occurred.  As we also removed $40K from the prior budget proposal, it was expected that that $125K would be reduced to $85K, however it appears that due to certain administrative oversights the actual figure was only reduced to $114K. 

In discussion with Staff, it appears that the staff report published had some additional administrative oversights and we will discuss the actual figures during the meeting.

- We will discuss the City's capital improvement program and FY24 CIP appropriations

- We will discuss an update to the terms and conditions of employment for Clayton's Miscellaneous Employees and separating the position of Police Chief into its own employment agreement apart from the Miscellaneous Employees group.

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

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Update on Master Fee Schedule (6.6.23 Meeting)

At our marathon meeting on 6.6.23, we discussed the proposed update to the City's Master Fee Schedule.  Any change to the fee schedule requires a public hearing that is properly noticed at least 14 days in advance.  As such at this meeting we were not poised to make any changes, rather the purpose was to give guidance to staff so they could come back with a refined draft that could be properly noticed and acted upon.  Unfortunately our consultant from GovInvest was unavailable at this meeting so several questions regarding the proposal were tabled to our next Special Meeting tentatively scheduled for June 26.

Much has been said about fees and the rules around fees both before and during this meeting.  When Prop 26 and 218 were passed, they created rules around what types of fees could be charged, and how much those fees could be.  Fees for service (those fees that may be charged for a specific service for the benefit of a specific person), like a building or tree removal permit, are limited to the cost of performing that service.  The City has not performed an analysis of its fees in many years, so long that no one can remember when it was last done. We know costs have risen over time in both materials, and the compensation for those performing the work.  Without an actual analysis it is likely that the City was not recouping the full costs of performing various services. 

For certain fees, those for entrance to or use of local government property, or the purchase, rental, or lease of local government property, the same prop 26 and 218 limitations do not apply.  These types of fees are set on a market basis - an agreed upon price between a willing seller and a willing buyer.  Many special events that are held in town would fall in this category.

In order to assess the adequacy of our Master Fee Schedule, the City engaged GovInvest for approximately $15K to assess and make recommendations on any potential updates to the Master Fee Schedule.  In performing this assessment, the Budget and Audit Committee gave direction to GovInvest to review the entire schedule and among other things:

1. Ensure the fees were based on a full recovery method, including direct costs such as salaries and benefits, indirect costs such as departmental administration costs, and citywide support costs such as accounting, personnel, data processing, vehicle maintenance, and insurance.

2. Bring forward a proposal for fees for Special Events.   

The proposed update to the Master Fee Schedule did both of these things.  Fees for various services like a tree removal permit, or a building permit were adjusted to reflect actual costs.  In addition, a new category of fees for Special Events was created.  This would be applicable for a large event that would require streets to be closed, such as Oktoberfest or a parade.  For those types of events with 100 participants or greater, a daily Special Event Fee was proposed that would be based on the number of participants, with the smallest tier at $700 for up to 499 participants, and $10K for events with 5,000 participants or greater.

Historically the majority of events that would be subject to the proposed Special Event Fee were those sponsored by the CBCA.  Under the Master Use Agreement that will end at the beginning of July, the fees for the Grove rental, temporary use permit, noise permit, special event permit, amplified sound equipment use permit, and the street closure fee were all waived, and the only costs recovered by the City were for some but not all direct labor for police and maintenance, and materials usage.  

For Art and Wine 2022, BBQ 2022, Oktoberfest 2022, and Art and Wine 2023, this portion of direct staff charges were $9,888, $6,676, $10,369, and $9,075, respectively.  The fees waived for each event represented approximately $5K - $7K.  In comparison, the revenue for the first three events were $284K, $95K, and $281K, and after associated expenses inclusive of the staff time noted above, net income of $137K, $24K, and $115K.

After an extended discussion, the Council was largely okay with the fees for service.  The Council gave feedback to Staff regarding the Special Events fees and asked them to bring back the following for our next discussion:

- Provide examples of a few common use cases for facility rental and illustrate what that cost would be.
- Define what counts as a participant for Special Events and what would be included in the Special Event fee.
- Include a non-profit rate for Special Events

We are tentatively scheduled to continue our discussion at a Special Meeting on June 26.

Separately there have been questions regarding certain City sponsored events, such as Concerts in the Grove and the Classic Car shows, and why these events pulled permits and fee waivers in the past.  It's unclear why this was our practice but in discussion with Staff and our City Attorney, this was never necessary and as such we will be discontinuing this practice so as to avoid confusion and eliminate unnecessary administrative burden.  City sponsored events do not require permits to use City facilities, and are not subject to any fees.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

My 6.6.23 Meeting Summary

Last night the Council meeting started at 6pm and went until about 2am.  There was quite a bit of information presented and discussed:

We received a presentation from Fire Chief Broshard from the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District regarding an update on activities of the District.  There was a lot of useful information, some of which included discussion around changes to fire threat maps as well as a reminder for residents to stay vigilant in steps they could take to help protect against fire risk, and various alert systems available (  More information available at

- We received a presentation from the Clayton Valley/Concord Sunrise Rotary Club regarding the activities of the Club, including an upcoming Inaugural Father's Day Run.  The Club has long held the annual 4th of July Pancake Breakfast at Endeavor Hall, among other fundraising events in order to support their mission, including a recent donation to the City of Clayton to help fund the Clayton Community Park playground equipment refresh.  For more information about the 5k run:

- We received the Engineer's report on the Streetlight Assessment District and the proposed assessments for FY24.  We approved the assessment for FY 24 at the same rate as prior year.  This assessment remains flat each year as the City has not pursued an increase in assessments since inception.  While the annual cost of operating streetlights have gone up over time due to rising costs including inflation, with assessments not increasing this special district assessment district is and will continue to be in deficit and subsidized by the General Fund.

- We received the Engineer's report for the Diablo Estates at Clayton Benefit Assessment District and noticed a public hearing to levy the FY24 assessments.  This District operates like an HOA for a limited number of residents and this is an annual process to collect assessments for the following year.

- We had a first reading of an ordinance regarding speed limits in town.  Back in 2019 the City conducted a speed survey and based on the results it was recommended that we increase speed limits at that time.  Myself, and others on the Council were not in agreement with that recommendation and we declined to do so.  The law has since changed and now cities are allowed to preserve their existing speed limits in certain circumstances even if a speed survey would indicate otherwise.  To do so, we need to update our City ordinances to contain certain language and this is what we did last night.  There will be a second reading next meeting before the new ordinance takes effect.  As a result, no speed limit in town will be increasing which is a benefit to traffic and pedestrian safety.

- The GHAD Board also met to discuss the FY24 levy and budget.  Given the shortfalls in the GHAD that I have discussed previously, we discussed what strategic approach for the budget going forward.  The GHAD receives approximately $49K in assessment revenue each year.  Baseline expenses for administering the GHAD is approximately $28K.  There remains existing fund balance from historical legal settlements, but that figure is not large at approximately $76K.

The GHAD Board was presented with three budget approaches ranging from using current and prior funds on multiple inspections to conducting no activity and retaining all funds.  Ultimately we gave direction to the GHAD District Manager to prepare a budget that has some monitoring and inspection, with funds set aside for work necessary to pursue a local ballot measure for residents within the GHAD by mail.  Increasing the GHAD assessments is the only way that the GHAD will be able to be self sufficient and conduct the activities it was intended to do.  If we are unable to increase the assessments of the GHAD, then we will likely modify the actions that are conducted from the GHAD.  We will be discussing the logistics of a potential increase in assessments at a future meeting.

- We adjusted the salary schedules for certain leadership positions, and unleveled one existing position in order to be more competitive in recruitment and retention of talent.  While we recently brought on a new Finance Director, they left employment with the City unexpectedly without notice.  We continue to recruit for this position however it is likely that we increase our chance of attracting talent with this increased salary schedule.


We discussed the proposed FY24 budget which reflected a surplus in the General Fund of approximately $7K which was inclusive of a transfer from the Pension Rate Stabilization fund in the amount of $125K. Pension expense has increased significantly this year and this fund was established for this purpose. Largely this budget holds the line as the City has a number of complexities primarily around vacant and new staff, and it will take time to work through onboarding before a realistic steady state can be determined.

Several of the specific funds reflect a deficit as well.  Streetlights, Stormwater, LMD, the Grove, and the GHAD all reflect deficits to some degree.  For some of these (Streetlights, Stormwater), we will be repurposing Gas Tax revenues to cover eligible costs within these funds.  For others (LMD, GHAD) we will be rebuilding the budget with the available funds as a constraint so we can assess what that level of service delivery that will look like.

While the current General Fund budget for FY24 reflects a modest surplus of $7K, a few items will add context to this figure.  It does not include any impact of current contract negotiations with the City's Miscellaneous employee group - any increase in compensation will have an unfavorable impact on the General Fund.  It includes $40K of one time spend related to technology projects that have not yet been identified and will be carved out which will have a favorable impact to the General Fund.  It includes additional fee revenue of $36K for user charges, but it does not include any fees that may be earned for special events held in the City.  Any fees earned from special events will have a favorable impact to the General Fund.

When the FY23 budget was approved, it was done so with an approximately $127K deficit.  Based on current projections we will end FY23 with an operating surplus of approximately $408K - representing a favorable swing of $535K.  This is due to a combination of greater than expected revenues, staff vacancies, and other savings.  Much of the discussion leading up to the current budget being adopted was around structural deficits, with negative projections for every year available.  This negative outlook has been utilized to support a narrative that taxes need to be increased.  As we can see with the current fiscal year, this significant deficit did not materialize for a variety of reasons calling into question prior predictions. 


I will separate discussion of the Master Fee Schedule in its own post.

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Upcoming Meeting 6.6.23

There are several significant items we will be discussing at our next meeting:

- We will start early at 6pm with a closed session to discuss labor negotiations with the City's Miscellaneous employees.

- We will receive a presentation on the proposed update to the City's master fee schedule.

- We will be adjusting certain salary ranges in order to be more competitive in recruitment.

- We will receive the City Engineer's report and proposed assessments regarding the Streetlight Assessment District.

- We will receive the City Engineer's report and declare an intent to levy and collect assessments for the Diablo Estates Benefit Assessment District for FY24.

- We will discuss an ordinance amending the Speed Limits section of the Clayton Municipal Code in order to preserve the existing speed limits.

- We will also be having a meeting of the GHAD in order to receive the annual report and set a future public hearing to consider the GHAD levy of assessments.

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

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Memorial Day at the Grove

At 10am this Monday, May 29 in the Grove Park, the VFW Post 1525 and its Auxiliary and Blue Star Moms will be holding a Memorial Day ceremony.

Unfortunately I will not be able to attend but want to thank the VFW for hosting this event.  Vice Mayor Diaz will be in attendance representing Clayton.  It is vital that we honor and remember those who sacrificed for our country and our freedom.

Monday, May 22, 2023

On City Events and Car Shows

At our last meeting there was a concern raised by Councilmember Cloven regarding the Classic Car Show series that the City has been sponsoring for many years.  Apparently there was confusion as to whether or not it was a City sponsored event, and if not, why did the Car Show not pay the same fees for use of City property as other privately sponsored events. 

Given the City is the one entering into contracts with vendors (2019 electronic draft, executed copy on file with the City), the City is the one soliciting donations and collecting receipts, it is clear that the Car Shows are City sponsored events.  In fact, here are the minutes from 2015 that show the discussion around the City taking on the event.  In addition, as it is a City sponsored event, the City is the one paying invoices.  All of this should have been known to Cloven, as he was the one who signed their checks last year.

The City does not charge itself for use of its own facilities.  The attempt to draw some kind of equivalency between a City sponsored event and a privately sponsored event is baseless.  It's unfortunate that rather than look for ideas on ways the City could balance its budget, time is spent on frivolous political theater.

While Cloven should have known all of this, I could see how members of the public may have misunderstood who was putting on the Classic Car Shows.  This is because historically in an effort to document the activities that would transpire, permits were pulled for certain City sponsored events. There is no requirement to pull permits or pay city fees for City sponsored events, but because it is important that the scope of each event is clear, the existing permitting process was used as a convenience.  Later this year the City will adopt a comprehensive City Events Policy to add clarity to the overall process. 

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Thoughts on BBQ and Brews Cancellation

Recently the CBCA announced that they have cancelled their BBQ and Brews Festival for 2023. They stated in their announcement: 

"The driving factor behind the cancellation is the uncertainty of potential city fee increases, in conjunction with higher overall costs and expenses.

The CBCA has put Clayton on the map in the BBQ world and we have decided to focus our efforts and resources on 2024 to make more educated decisions regarding the venue and possible changes necessary to ensure a successful event."

This has been construed to mean that the cancellation is a result of the City is re-examining its fee structure.  While it is true that the City is in process of updating its master fee schedule, this cannot be the reason for the cancellation.  Once the event is booked, the fees for permits, closing streets, using parks, and using city services are locked in and currently that would utilize the existing fee schedule.  The current master fee schedule is on the front page of the City's website - there is zero uncertainty regarding what those fees are.  There may be several reasons why the CBCA decided to cancel their event, but citing the uncertainty of fees is unfounded.

Any organization can make an evaluation regarding whether or not an event will be worthwhile.  It is not the City that makes this determination nor is the City preventing any event from taking place using City resources.  As I described in my update on ongoing discussions with the CBCA earlier this year, after the updated Master Fee schedule is approved by the Council, we will continue discussions in order to pursue a new Master Use Agreement.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

My 5.16.23 Meeting Summary

Last night there were two significant items discussed:

- We received the annual reports for FY21 and FY22 from the Trails and Landscape Committee.  The reports had been delayed due to the Committee changing over during COVID and other staffing constraints.  The two annual reports reflected expenditures less than budget due to previous drought conditions and limited staffing during COVID.  While there remains a fund balance, much of that was projected to be used towards repair of the Cardinet Trail.  We will be discussing budget allocation for this work during the larger budget discussions throughout May and June.

- We discussed the status of the GHAD, its funding, and prioritization of work.  This is the culmination of many years of requests to determine the scope of work the GHAD should be performing, and what it should actually be doing given the resource constraints.  I wrote in greater detail about the first round of this discussion here:  

In summary, the GHAD receives approximately $50K in funding each year from assessments levied against the approximately 1400 properties in the district.  Required baseline expenses for administering the District including the cost of the levy itself are approximately $28K.  This leaves only $22K per year for all things that GHAD is responsible for.  Our GHAD General Manager indicated that it would take approximately $500K in revenues each year to adequately fund the GHAD for its activities and build a reasonable reserve.   The GHAD severely underfunded and as a result can only perform activities it can fund.

Unless the residents of the GHAD agree to an increase in assessments, this will continue to be the case and the GHAD will need to prioritize what it does, though with the current level of funding it will likely be minimal.  We asked the General Manager to come back with a few different budget proposals that contemplate prioritizing different activities and what that would entail.  That should come back later in June when we finalize the overall budget.

- There was also a meeting of the Budget and Audit Committee to go over the newly proposed master fee schedule.  The agenda with that information can be found here:  Next Monday (5/22) the Budget and Audit Committee will meet again to review the entire FY24 budget that should incorporate that information, as well as several other suggested changes from our last working session.  The lead up to this has been long, from working through investment policy, incorporating potential savings from Climatec, additional information from our solid was collection agreement, reviewing periodic pension cost fluctuation, as well as the previously mentioned Master Fee Schedule.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Upcoming Meeting 5.16.23

There are two significant items we will be discussing at our next meeting on 5.16.23:

- We will receive and discuss the FY 21 and FY22 annual report from the Trails and Landscape Committee.  This is the citizen oversight committee as provided by the parcel tax approved by voters in 2017.  Due to COVID related issues, the Committee faced challenges in meeting during some years so we are receiving multiple years of reports to catch us up.

- There will be a follow up meeting of the Oakhurst Geological Hazard Abatement District (GHAD) regarding the scope of services, cost for those services, and prioritization of activities given the limited funds of the GHAD.

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

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

My 5.2.23 Meeting Summary

Last night the Council met and discussed a few significant topics:

- Both Councilmember Cloven and Tillman asked that Council guidelines be brought back for discussion specifically around how items are placed on the agenda, and how the Mayor is selected.  In response to this request, I drafted updates to the existing Council guidelines which were discussed during the meeting.  Other than non-substantive changes for formatting and wordsmithing, several redundant items and items that may present Brown Act challenges were removed.

Councilmember Cloven expressed a desire to require that prior to anything being added to the agenda it must be raised at a public meeting in order to inform the public on what is coming in the future.  While this idea may seem reasonable in concept, this adds additional bureaucracy and constrains efficient operation of the City.  The City complies with the requirement to have agendas publicly posted at least 72 hours prior to any meeting.  In addition, I post an update on this website, as well as other social media forums, previews of what will be discussed before each meeting so the public may be informed.  

It has always been the case that agenda items can be added at the discretion of the City Manager and the Mayor.  All past Mayors have been able to utilize this ability to facilitate the smooth operations of the city, including Councilmember Cloven.  For example, at my request for this meeting, we discussed the status of prior requests for future items (Agenda item 8. (b)).  This was thematically consistent with the guidelines discussion, and since some of the requests for future meetings had to do with guidelines, it made sense to revisit those at this meeting.  Through discussion with the City manager in the planning for this meeting, we realized that having this placed alongside the other items being discussed made sense so we did so.  I did not announce that we would be doing this at a prior meeting and there was no issue raised regarding it.  If we followed Cloven's desired rule, we would not have been allowed to do so and that is less efficient.

Councilmember Cloven also wanted the guidelines to be changed such that a Councilmember who is absent during a regularly scheduled meeting would have the power to table an item scheduled for discussion.  This approach is unrealistic and unworkable.  The development of an agenda item is a process that could involve several members of City staff  and may take a significant amount of time to prepare for.  Having a single Councilmember able to table an item because they are absent is contrary to the Rules of Order that we follow, and would allow items to be pushed from discussion all together.  Requests to table items can always be made and can be accommodated if appropriate, which is the status quo. 

Councilmember Cloven expressed an interest in restricting the possession of personal devices during meetings and suggested the City could provide laptops or other electronic devices in their stead.  We already have in our guidelines restrictions on use or receipt of digital communication regarding an agenda item during meetings.  The ability to refer to informational resources, personal notes, as well as being reachable by family regarding other real life events is far more important than the nannyism reflected in this request.  It is incumbent upon each Councilmember to comport themselves in a way that is consistent with what they believe is right.

Councilmember Tillman had previously asked that a discussion of how the Mayor is selected be had.  We went over the current practice and all were comfortable with what was in place already.

Ultimately the only substantive change that was made to Council guidelines was regarding future agenda requests.  In the updated guidelines, I made clear that staff does not prepare a detailed report until directed by the City Manager or the Council as a whole.  In the past, there may have been confusion regarding what actions are taken as a result of Council requests so this addition clarifies what should already be done in practice.  I also included in the guideline the requirement that a brief written summary of a request be provided to reduce the burden on staff preparing the agenda reports.

The guidelines were updated on a vote of 3-2 with Councilmembers Cloven and Tillman voting no.

- We then discussed the outstanding Council request items and pulled various items that had already been discussed, been mooted, or were not deemed a priority from the original requestor.

- We then talked about the need to do an overall evaluation of existing contracts the City has with various groups and directed this review be performed in conjunction with the work being done by the Budget/Audit Committee.

- There was a closed session discussing our Miscellaneous employees with no reportable action.

This was our last meeting with Ron Bernal as our Interim City Manager and I want to thank him for his willingness to step up and help the city while we have been searching for a full time replacement.  His knowledge and experience have made the transition much smoother than it could have been, and he has added a great deal of value to the city in the time that he has been here.

Monday, May 1, 2023

Upcoming Meeting 5.2.23

There are a few significant items we will be discussing at our next meeting:

- An update to the City's Investment Policy is included in the consent calendar.  This draft aligns the policy to focus on more periodic report outs, shorter duration investments, and clarifies the types of investments allowed focusing on risk mitigation.

- We will be discussing Council guidelines and procedures.  Previously both Councilmember Tillman and Cloven requested this item come back for discussion, regarding the mayoral selection, and how items are agendized, respectively.

- We will discuss the status of all prior requests that have been made by Councilmembers to determine if they are still applicable, need to be modified, and discuss overall priority

- We will discuss Councilmember Tillman's previous request to review existing vendor agreements.

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

I also wanted to draw attention to a post I made last week regarding the status of the Oakhurst Geological Hazard Abatement District (GHAD) (  In it, I detail some of the current issues facing the GHAD with some historical perspective on what has already occurred.  We will likely be discussing this further at our 5.16.23 meeting.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

3.21.23 Oakhurst Geological Hazard Abatement District Meeting Summary

Normally I do not separate the summary for the Oakhurst Geological Hazard Abatement District (GHAD) meetings, the meeting we had in March had been a long time coming and there was quite a bit of useful information presented.  What we learned at our 3.21.23 meeting appeared to present a potential serious risk to certain areas within the GHAD.  All of the detail is in the agenda packet (  starting on page 165 of the PDF) and I won't reproduce it here. I wanted to highlight some key takeaways and share my thoughts.
  • The GHAD is distinct from the City of Clayton, though the Clayton City Council serves as the Board of the GHAD.
  • The GHAD assesses a levy on approximately 1,400 parcels within the City of Clayton, with different tiers based on the type of home (single family, multi-family, duet).  The purpose of this assessment is to fund the activities of the GHAD.
  • The total assessment has a Consumer Price Index (CPI) riser so that the assessment may increase each year by an amount correlated with CPI.  The current revenues the GHAD assessments yield is approximately $47K/year.  Most of this amount is consumed by various program administration activities, and less on any actual monitoring or maintenance.
  • The level of assessment was set pre-Prop 218.  Prop 218 made increasing the assessment subject to voter approval.
  • The duties of the GHAD are outlined in the Plan of Control document.  These duties include maintenance of drainage facilities (V-Ditches, etc.), inspection of drainage ditches for cracking, sliding, or other damage, debris removal, repairs, cleanout of drains, measurement of movement and water pressure using inclinometers and piezometers, evaluation of erosion control effectiveness, identification and locating of various geological hazards, etc.
  • The revenues the GHAD receives are substantially lower than what would be required for the GHAD to perform all of its required duties.
  • Over time, many measuring devices that are used to monitor and measure movement have been damaged or are no longer operable.
  • There are several areas where movement is highly likely, however due to lack of monitoring equipment, the GHAD does not have any information as to the magnitude or existence of such movement.
  • If there is significant geological movement, it has the potential to cause severe damage to nearby homes.
  • Our City Engineer, who also serves as the GHAD General Manager, engaged with a Certified Engineering Geologist and Geotechnical Engineer (BSK Associates) to perform evaluation of the area and to make recommendations.
Here is a timeline of the GHAD:

Now onto more detail:

First, this is the area that is covered by the GHAD:

The GHAD area is shaded above.  There are three distinct areas of the GHAD that are surrounded by dotted lines, and each has specific risks associated with those areas.

In the open spaces in the GHAD, there are several drainage facilities, including V-ditches, catch basins, and various ways to collect and route water away.  This is important as build up of water, or water running over the surface in large amounts over time can cause erosion, and can build up underground causing landslides of various magnitudes.

In several areas, the City has installed inclinometers.  These are devices that are bored deep into the ground at various depths.  They are set in place, and by measuring their relative position periodically, we can determine how much the earth is moving at a specific depth.  This is a key detection tool that is available to us.  If there is movement detected, then engineers can determine the best course of action in terms of mitigating slides and reducing risk of slides.

For many years, our Engineers and firms the city has hired to monitor these inclinometers have recommended that we install additional units to replace those that have become inoperable over time.  Many of these devices have not been measured since 2016, though the requirement is to be measured quarterly.  Because of the lack of available funding, replacement or additional measuring devices were not purchased or installed.

BSK examined the areas with the GHAD at different points in time.  First in Oct-22, again in Dec-22, and then again in Mar-23.  They were able to detect movement both before the large storms in December and January, and movement again afterwards.  BSK indicated that if there are heavy rains after periods of drought or lack of rain, that often accelerates movement.

Here are a few examples they found:

In the above picture, water has eroded its own pathway adjacent to the V-Ditch designed to capture that water.  This will be exacerbated over time and will increase risk of further slide activity.

In this picture, damage to a V-Ditch is apparent and repairs should be made. There were many examples of this type of damage.

In this picture, a catch basin was overrun with dirt and debris, possibly exacerbated by clogs in various drains or other debris preventing the flow of water.

There are several areas that need repair, else they will not function as intended and additional water flow has the potential to cause more damage.

This is a diagram of the Pebble Beach Dr. area.  On the left it shows the neighborhood map and a solid line.  The line represents an area that is displayed on the right which would be a cross section of the same area.  The font is small, but it shows locations of previously installed inclinometers, depths where they are no longer functional, and where others are recommended to be installed.  From this, we can see that underneath certain homes there exists the potential for movement, but the GHAD does not have the ability to monitor it.

In addition to the above specific examples, there are several areas where slides are visible at the surface.  It is clear that movement is occurring, but what is not clear is the magnitude.

When I first joined the Council (and the GHAD board), I read through the reports and even back then it was indicated that more work needed to be done.  In 2019, I requested that a detailed scope of work of the GHAD to be discussed, as well as the timing and funding of that work.  This information is the result of the years of requests and the report is thorough.  The above images are only a subset of what is shown in the full report.  There are areas that if there were slides or movement, they could impact many homes in the area.

I've asked staff to come back with answers to several questions, but the main ones are these:
  1. What is the one time costs necessary to bring the GHAD current on anything that was previously deferred?  That includes new inclinometers, piezometers, repairs, etc.
  2. What would be the ongoing operational costs necessary to conduct the required activities including monitoring and maintenance?
  3. What is a healthy reserve amount that the GHAD would need to maintain in order to address emergencies or situations as discovered by such monitoring?
After staff is able to come back with this information, the residents that live within the GHAD will have some decisions to make.  The current level of funding for the GHAD is clearly insufficient to support the activities that the GHAD requires.  If the GHAD funding is not increased, then it will be severely limited in the actions it will be able to make. Simply doing the analysis necessary to produce the report that this post is based on exceeds the funding available for the GHAD in a given year.  

On an ongoing basis, there is insufficient funds to even conduct the monitoring, much less install monitoring devices themselves.  Without knowing if any movement is occurring, it is impossible to craft a plan of action to mitigate impacts of such movement.  I did find this Pioneer article: ( published in May 2004 (page 14) that indicated the GHAD went to the voters three times in an attempt to raise assessments and each of the three times the increase did not pass.  I did a review of all voting records for Clayton from 1997-2004 (oldest date available online) and could find no record of any vote regarding GHAD assessments, however it could have occurred before this time or via some other means.  In any event, if the residents within the GHAD are interested in having the actions of the GHAD performed, they will almost certainly need to agree to fund it via GHAD assessments.  

I will share more as the City gathers information about the above details.  We plan to have the GHAD back on the agenda at our 5.16.23 meeting.