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:  https://www.jeffwanforclaytoncitycouncil.net/2023/03/32123-oakhurst-geological-hazard.html

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.