Wednesday, January 18, 2023

My 1.17.23 Meeting Summary

Last night the Council met to discuss and take action on several significant items:

- We established an ad hoc committee for Energy Services & Infrastructure Renewal consisting of myself and Councilmember Trupiano.  This ad hoc committee will work with Climatec, the vendor we engaged with at our 10.18.22 meeting, in order to evaluate potential opportunities for energy savings and efficiency related projects.

- We adopted a resolution in support of Our Neighborhood Voices (ONV) - an organization that is trying to advance a ballot measure in 2024 as a constitutional amendment taking back local control over housing matters.  We heard from former mayor and current councilmember of the City of Lafayette, Susan Candell, who is one of the people sponsoring the initiative proposal.  ONV is a straightforward idea - if there is a conflict between state law and local law regarding housing related matters, then local law should prevail.  Because Sacramento continues to pass housing laws each year, fighting against all of them individually is ineffective.  Instead, the approach that ONV is taking is to change the rules so that Sacramento can no longer usurp local government and force them to do whatever it is the whims of Sacramento wants in their one size fits all approach.

ONV is trying to build grass roots support across all of California on the idea that Sacramento has not been successful in its efforts to reduce homelessness, provide affordable housing, and recognize local control.  So far, over 30 individual cities, the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) which is the So. Cal equivalent of ABAG and represents 191 cities, California Contract Cities representing 80 cities, the South Bay Council of Governments representing 16 cities, over 200 individual city and county leaders, and over 25,000 individuals have already signed on in support of this movement.  I am glad to add the City of Clayton to that list.

While this effort is something that unequivocally supports and cements local control, something that all of my fellow Councilmembers purports to support, the vote to pass this resolution was 3-2, with myself, Vice Mayor Diaz, and Councilmember Trupiano voting affirmatively, and Councilmembers Cloven and Tillman voting no.  Both Councilmembers in opposition raised a combination of concerns that included that the language in the proposal was not yet finalized, the proposal may not yield a greater number of affordable housing units, and that at times local control could be wielded in unfavorable ways.  While I acknowledge that all of these are true, at the end of the day this proposal is about local control and every movement needs to start somewhere.  We, and all the other cities in the state, need to take a position and tell Sacramento that we value local control.

We may not be the tipping point, but I am glad that Clayton is able to join with others voicing our support of local control.

- We adopted the 6th Cycle Housing Element as required by law.  This is the product of over a year of effort from our Community Development Director, as well as the rest of city staff.  Because of their diligence, outreach, and community engagement, the process went very smoothly and our Community Development Director is to be commended.  The ultimate changes in zoning are reflected and discussed in my previous post for the 1.10.23 Special Meeting:  We did make changes to what was discussed at that meeting, but primarily around phrasing and wordsmithing, consistent with the what was discussed at the prior meeting.  Ultimately the increased zoning we adopted is as follows:

The units are spread out across the city:

- I'm also excited to announce that we appointed Ron Bernal as Interim City Manager to serve while we continue our search to replace the current City Manager who is leaving at the beginning of February.  When I learned that our current City Manager was leaving I reached out to a colleague who had worked for the city previously and inquired if they knew anyone who would be qualified for the interim role.  They recommended Mr. Bernal and we set up meetings to discuss the opportunity.  In talking about the role, it was clear that Mr. Bernal was well qualified, and brought extensive experience in local government most recently retiring from the City of Antioch as their City Manager. As Interim City Manager, Mr. Bernal will be able to manage day to day operations while we continue our search for a candidate to take on the permanent role.  Mr. Bernal has already begun meeting with city staff in order to effect the smoothest transition possible and I look forward to working with him.

- We formalized the working agreement with Clayton's Miscellaneous employees who have been working under a previously expired agreement.  The terms of the new agreement are largely unchanged so this was mostly a housekeeping matter.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Upcoming Meeting 1.17.23

There are several significant items that will be discussed at our next meeting.  This will be our first regular meeting with public comment up front so if there is anything folks would like to share that will be available at the beginning of the meeting.  Here is what is up for discussion:

- We are establishing an ad hoc committee related to the Energy Services and Infrastructure Renewal agreement that we executed with Climatec.  Myself and Councilmember Trupiano will engage with the vendor to facilitate faster feedback and guidance.

- We will discuss the updated Housing Element and the modifications that were made since our meeting last week.

- We will be discussing a resolution in support of Our Neighborhood Voices: .  This is a group that is sponsoring a ballot initiative to amend the California constitution taking back local control of housing matters.

- We will discuss the appointment of an Interim City Manager to step in while we continue to search for a full time candidate.  Former Antioch City Manager, Ron Bernal, was interviewed and is now being brought forward for the role.

- We will discuss brining current the Terms and Conditions of Employment for Clayton's miscellaneous employees (primarily non-police)

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

Thursday, January 12, 2023

My 1.10.23 Special Meeting Summary

Last night the Council met in special session (outside of our regular 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of the month) to conduct a study session on the latest draft of our Housing Element (HE).  We are required to approve the HE by the end of January.  The purpose of the study session was to go over in detail the draft, ask questions of staff, discuss the HE, and suggest any changes that may be desired prior to the planned adoption at our regular 1.17.23 meeting.  As such, there were several questions and discussion items which I will try to summarize below.  But first, the main point of the updated HE is to provide zoning for our allocated RHNA units of 570 across all income levels.  Our draft HE contemplated 796 units across all income levels.  The detail breaks out like this:

This image (found on page 98 of the agenda) shows the location of various sites where zoning is proposed to increase:

Three sites - Oakhurst Driving Range, Easley Ranch, and the hill sites at Eagle Peak represent approximately 43% of the total 796 units being upzoned.  Of the 312 units being upzoned for Extremely Low, Very Low, and Low Income, 27% come from just two sites, the Presbyterian Church and St. John's Parish.  Each of these sites were included to be upzoned based on discussion with property owners.

The first thing we discussed was the rationale for having a surplus.  In other words, if the requirement was to zone for 570 units, why were we proposing to zone for 796, or 40% greater than the requirement?

There were a few reasons for this that staff discussed:

- Zoning for greater units allowed a buffer so that if HCD denied our analysis of some of the units, the HE could still be approved as it would have a sufficient number of increased units included.  

- A buffer also allowed for various projects that were contemplated at a certain zoning density to actually be approved at lower densities.  If we did not have a buffer, then any project approved at a lower density would then trigger a need to go back to HCD and have our HE approved all over again as State law requires that there be "no net loss" in zoning - once units are zoned they can effectively never decrease.

- Much of the Extremely Low, Very Low, and Low income housing units required that we have provided for are a result of other sites that also have Above Moderate income units.  "Above Moderate" can be considered to be "market rate".  The majority of the surplus in zoning for the HE consists of units in the Above Moderate category as seen in the above table, and several of those developments have other income category housing units connected with them.  Without the large number of units in the Above Moderate income category we would be less likely to achieve the requirements for the other income categories.

- There was an advantage of having the HE approved more quickly - if there were a lot of back and forth then we would be forced to implement the changes contemplated in the HE more rapidly, within one year, vs. within three years if the HE is approved sooner rather than later.

Within the report sent to HCD for comment, they identified several areas that were considered to be potential constraints to housing development.  Each of these needed to be addressed by the updated HE and we spent some time discussing them.   Things like side setbacks, building height limits, covered parking requirements, length of time permits are in effect,, and public hearings for site plan review for residential improvements were all considered to be potential constraints to housing development and the HE included programs that committed to changing these rules within our city code and zoning.

HCD also requires the HE to discuss how the city affirmatively furthers fair housing, including racially concentrated areas of affluence.  Part of that discussion included a history of housing in Clayton.  The history section described how some of our current zoning came to be, saying, "... community and City Council opposition, geographic constraints, zoning limitations, and community priorities have all contributed to the current patterns of segregation seen in the City today."

To this statement I was opposed.  I did not agree that the items mentioned caused patterns of segregation in the City today and stated that including this statement assumes facts that were not in evidence.  I do think that past actions of the City have led to a bias in zoning towards single family zoning, but that alone is not sufficient to support the assertion that all of the other items mentioned have caused patterns of segregation in the City.  Many people have come to Clayton because of the housing environment that Clayton provides which is predominantly within single family zoning, and decisions of the City and its elected leadership reflect that community interest.

Councilmember Tillman described removing this language as whitewashing.  While she did not say whether she believed it to be true, Tillman asserted that there were individuals she was in contact with  that felt that Clayton was a Sundown Town - municipalities or neighborhoods that practice a form of racial segregation by excluding non-whites via some combination of discriminatory local laws, intimidation or violence.  While I acknowledged that some individuals may have that perception, the perception alone does not make it true.

We gave feedback to staff to update the language to be more objective and include primarily factual matters, along with some wordsmithing suggestions.

Our plan is to review the updated HE at our regular meeting on Tuesday, 1.17.23.  Stay tuned for an update once that agenda is published.

There was also a Closed Session in which there were no reportable actions.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Upcoming Special Meeting 1.10.23

I hope everyone had a great new years, even with the storms we've been having.  There have been several instances of fallen trees, debris, and localized flooding.  All of our city staff have been working diligently to respond as needed, including our maintenance staff and police.

On Tuesday, we will have a Special Meeting as a study session for our Housing Element update.  The Housing Element is required to be submitted by the end of January and we will use this session to discuss any questions or suggest revisions so that we can approve the final version at our regular 1.17.23 meeting.  The draft of the Housing Element that we will be discussing can be found in the agenda packet here:

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