Thursday, September 29, 2016

San Leandro Arts Gain National Attention

Truth is Beauty will soon be in San Leandro & we will have our first world class landmark. As Mayor, I had no role in selecting of Truth as Beauty as the artwork for the tech campus. That was a decision made by the developers. 

I did, however, insist in the course of the City's review and approval of the tech campus that the developers include a public art component. I advocated that every major public and private project that came before the City Council for approval should include public art. 

I was proud that the City Council in my last year as Mayor inserted supporting and celebrating the arts within its goals for San Leandro. This objective remains part of the present City Council's goals. The City Arts Commission of which I am a member is working with a consultant on a public arts master plan for San Leandro which will go the City Council for review and approval next year.

Review of San Leandro School Bond Measures A, B & M

Students at official opening of the new Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in San Leandro in June 2005.

The voters of San Leandro have passed three bond measures, starting with Measure A in 1997. It was a $53.8 million bond. The initial 12-year construction schedule was accomplished in 7 years.

Measure A served as the local match to obtain $33 Million in state grants, e.g. $33 million in free money for San Leandro schools for school construction projects including:

– New San Leandro High School Science and Technology Wing
– New John Muir Middle School Academic Wing 
– Bancroft Middle School Shop Renovation & Expansion 
– Modernization at Nine School Sites 
– District-Wide Seismic Upgrades (this was a major expense and critical to have accomplished following the Loma Prieta earthquake)
– Completely new Thomas Jefferson Elementary School (the only thing holding up walls of the original school were termites)

Measure B was approved in 2006. This was a $109 million bond that allowed the school district to receive an additional $28.5 million in state grants plus funds from other sources that brought the total program to $147 million. 

Much of the focus of Measure B was on San Leandro High School. Prior to Measure B, the high school was the weak link in the school district. Many parents would send their children to San Leandro public elementary and middle schools, but not the high school. It was gross overcrowded and filled with cars – literally – the student and faculty parking was all on campus and insufficient. 

The overriding goal of Measure B was to solve the overcrowding at the high school and make it into the flag ship school of the district that it should be. This was done by:

• Purchase from PG&E a lot next to the high school for parking and opening up space on the main campus to create the Arts Education Center with a 550-seat state-of-the-art performing art theater
• Purchase of property and construction of the Fred T. Korematsu Campus a block from the main campus
• Renovation and modernization of Career Technical Education building
• New modular classrooms for Business Academy
• Removal of a large number of portable classrooms, freeing up valuable playground space
• Expansion of library on main campus

There was also modernization work at all other schools – every deficient student restroom (which almost all qualified as deficient) was remodeled and renovated. Classrooms were painted and new lighting installed district wide. 

Measure M was a $50 million bond approved in 2010. Its focus was on athletic and sports facilities, including:

• Pacific Sports Complex and Burrell Field 
• New high school swim center, new high school track and fields
• New sports field at John Muir Middle School
• New playground equipment and sun shades at all elementary schools
• District wide fencing and security lights

You can read more about the measures at


Friday, September 16, 2016

Response To San Leandro Times False Story On School Bond Debt

The San Leandro Times published my letter in response to the paper's false and misleading story on school bond debt last week.  Here is the letter I submitted:

"'Nuclear Power Coming to SL.' That was a headline in the San Leandro Times five years ago. It was supposed to be an April Fool’s Day joke (though not published on April 1st).  I remember the story well because I was Mayor then.  Phone calls by irate residents flooded City Hall.  

Reading last week’s alarming front page article on school bond debt reminded of the nuclear power article.  It was so riddled with errors that the article is as close to reality as a nuclear power plant opening in San Leandro.

The factual premise of last week’s article was that payments we are making on Measure B, the 2006 school bond that funded the construction of the performing arts theater and Fred T. Korematsu campus at San Leandro High School, are not being allocated to pay off certain debt, called Capital Appreciation Bonds or CABs. As a result, San Leandro taxpayers, the article stated, are on the hook for a $90 million balloon payment that will be due in 2039.

This is dead wrong.  In 2039, all debt associated with Measure B, including the CABs, will be fully paid off.  That’s it.  There is no balloon payment due in 2039 or any year thereafter. 

Moreover, it’s important to understand that the CABs were issued by the school board in 2010 to complete Measure B projects only because the housing market had imploded which played havoc with traditional means of financing school construction.  Two hundred school districts in California, including Dublin, Emeryville and Hayward in Alameda County, issued CABs.

One could laugh off the nuclear power plant article.  Unfortunately, the school bond debt article is much more insidious.  Readers would have no reason to know its factual premise was false.  They may likely take a negative view toward any future school bond measure.  That is exactly what will be presented to the voters in the form of Measure J1 this November.

Our community, our schools, and our children have benefitted tremendously from the three bond measures starting in 1997 that San Leandro voters have adopted. The school district used these funds to construct new school sites, buildings, academic wings, a performing arts theater, and athletic fields and facilities, including a new football/sports complex, renovate classrooms, libraries, and restrooms, and undertake significant seismic upgrades district wide.  We should take pride in this accomplishment.

The previous bond measures emphasized the construction of new schools and buildings.  Measure J1 takes a different approach.  It will fund critically important renovation and modernization needs at existing school sites, particularly our elementary schools, some of which are over 100 years old. 

Please join me in supporting Measure J1. Strong schools are essential to having a strong city. We will all benefit through continued investment in our schools by passing Measure J1."

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Gigabit Fiber Connectivity to Homes in San Leandro: An Opportunity Lost

This week, I drove by the street I used to live on Bridge Road. It's behind Bancroft Middle School. 

A work crew for PG&E was digging a trench for laying new gas piping. It's a part of a project that has been ongoing for several months. Apparently the old gas lines have deteriorated and must be replaced for all homes along several streets.

What is not happening at the same time is the laying of conduit to connect households to Lit San Leandro, the City's ultra high speed internet. 
Lit San Leandro has been a game changer for San Leandro but it's impact will not be nearly as great as it could be if it is not extended to our residential neighborhoods. The major challenge is cost. It's very expensive to dig up streets. The fiber for Lit San Leandro has only been installed in business areas because conduit already had been laid in those areas to monitor traffic on our major streets by City engineering staff.

In 2012, the City Council adopted a San Leandro Commercial Broadband Strategy that called for a comprehensive open trench policy in San Leandro, meaning that "the goal of placing conduit [should be established] any time a street or right of way is dug into should be established." The Strategy further stated, "Conduit could be installed by telecommunications service providers or the City. The cost of doing so is relatively low, involving staff time and inexpensive materials. Similarly, information regarding construction or upgrading of wireless facilities should be shared widely to encourage joint use."  

I am very disappointed that the City has squandered a golden opportunity to bring gigabit fiber connectivity to large number of residents at a minor cost.

I also discussed this issue in an earlier blog post.

Note, I still live in San Leandro but now on Joaquin Avenue.