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

http://www.sanleandro.k12.ca.us/cms/lib07/CA01001252/Centricity/Domain/22/Exploration_of_a_Future_Bond_Measure_041310.pdf

http://www.sanleandro.k12.ca.us/cms/lib07/CA01001252/Centricity/Domain/22/BRD_MTG_08_21_12_savings_and_schedule.pdf

and

http://www.sanleandro.k12.ca.us/cms/lib07/CA01001252/Centricity/Domain/22/BRD%20MTG%2006%2016%2013%20Bond%20Projects%20Final.pdf

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.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Response to Questionnaire from City Council Candidate Ed Hernandez

Last month, I sent the four candidates for San Leandro City Council a questionnaire asking for their positions on local issues and information on their background.  Only Ed Hernandez responded.  He is running for City Council District 2, the seat currently held by Ursula Reed who terms out this this.  Bryan Azevdo, also running for City Council District 2, informed me that he would not be responding.  Likewise, Benny Lee and Pete Ballew, who are running unopposed for other district seats have not responded.

Below are Ed's responses. You can learn more about him at http://www.edhernandezforcitycouncil.com/

Policy Questions
1. What is the most pressing issue facing San Leandro and how would you
address it?

The most pressing issue facing San Leandro, and the entire Bay Area is a
lack of housing for all income levels. To address the housing needs of San
Leandro we must ensure that any development at BART, in our Downtown,
and along our transit corridors are mixed-use developments.

Additionally, it’s important to have a dialogue on the affordable housing set- side
for new development, and expanding the first time homebuyers
program while ensuring renters have a say in the process as well.

2. What are three other significant issues facing San Leandro and how would
you address each one?

My core vision for San Leandro, and its residents, is a thriving city full of
opportunity. I want long-term fiscal stability so we can fully fund public
safety, safeguard our neighborhoods and reduce emergency response
times, improve our schools, enhance retail and housing options throughout
our neighborhoods, revitalize Bayfair, repair our streets, fix potholes and
reduce traffic and enhance safety-net programs.

For the past five years, I have been active member of the Planning
Commission with various projects for housing and jobs (the Village
Marketplace, San Leandro Tech Campus, Marina Redevelopment, Marea Alta
and the Bayfair Specific Plan). In addition, I have been an active participant
in the General Plan Update to include sustainability elements such as ‘street
diets,’ increasing modes of transportation such as walkability, nonmotorized
vehicles, Transit Oriented Development and leveraging the 2013
Next Generation Workplace study to humanize the Industrial Area in San
Leandro (less trucks, storage of stuff).

I have served for five years on the Planning Commission, and currently
serve as Chair. I’ve been an integral part of the progress San Leandro has
made recently through the years of planning. I bring the professional
experience, skills and education to serve on Council while we implement
our long range plans for the City. I want to ensure we work together to seize
opportunities and tackle our challenges while we shape San Leandro’s
future.

3. How do you intend to gather community input and involve the community in
making decisions on significant matters?

It is important for the community to be involved in the public process. We
can increase participation by holding additional community meetings,
optimizing our social media presence and reaching out where people
congregate. As opposed to waiting for constituents to come to us we need
to go to them.

4. Over the preceding 12 months, how many City Council meetings and/or work
sessions have you attended?

I have attended a majority of the City Council meetings, at least 2/3 of the
meetings and work sessions in the past 12 months, and every Planning
Commission meeting.

5. The San Leandro school district has placed a $104 million construction bond
on the November ballot to fund a wide range of modernization and renovation
needs at school sites. Do you support or oppose the bond measure?

I support the Measure J1 to invest our school’s necessary improvement and
infrastructure to ensure the environment where our students learn is a safe
and productive environment.

6. The City of San Leandro has placed three taxes measures that will allocate
funds to the City’s general fund to be spent, if adopted, as determined by the City
Council in its budgeting process. Do you support or oppose these tax
measures? How best should the City spend the revenues the new taxes will
generate should they be adopted by the voters?

I support Measures MM, OO and PP. The best investment we can make with
the revenue from these measures is to first fund critical public safety
services, fix our streets, repair the potholes and fund safety-net programs.

7. Do you support the City’s business development objective of transforming
San Leandro a new center of innovation in the San Francisco Bay Area? If yes,
how would you advance this objective while ensuring our City maintains the
unique qualities of its residential neighborhoods?

Absolutely! Through collaborative efforts with staff, elected officials, and
the business community, we can enhance our ecosystem to attract high paying
jobs of advanced manufacturing and technology oriented
businesses like Type A 3D Printing into San Leandro.

8. How would you ensure San Leandro is a sustainable city and safeguards its
environment, open spaces/parks, and natural resources?

To be sustainable, we must work together to identify the current needs and
uses of the community, ensure balance within the environment, provide the
open areas to enjoy nature and ensure we protect our vital and natural
resources. Through public input, investments in sustainability from
government, local businesses and our community, we can work together to
ensure we leave San Leandro a better place than we found it.

9. Do you support or oppose limitations on annual increases that landlord can
impose on San Leandro residential tenants? Please explain your position.

It is important to balance the needs of the community and those of the
residents, owners and renters, to maintain the sense of character in our
community. The recent efforts to mitigate the exorbitant increases in rent is
a good step, however the need (and focus) to provide additional housing for
the current and future population of San Leandro is vital to providing the
necessary shelter for those most likely to be impacted by changes to their
living standards and costs associated with those needs.

10. How would you keep San Leandro safe?

We must fully fund public safety give our first responder the training and
tools they need, enhance safety-net programs and engage our youth in
appealing programs in their neighborhoods.

11. How would you work to promote diversity and tolerance and combat racism
and discrimination in San Leandro?

I recently attended the Unity in the Community meeting where I suggested
we form a Diversity and Inclusion Commission that could be a sustained
effort supported by the city to erase racism in the City of San Leandro.
Through this and possibly a Chief Diversity Officer, we could attract a
diverse workforce at City Hall that could outreach to all community
members and build trust/rapport with our local leaders.

Personal Background
1. Are you retired or working? If working, what is present occupation and
employer? If retired, what was your last occupation and employer?

I am a Real Estate Operations Manager for Robert Half International for the
past year where I support the existing needs of the business as well as
support the adoption of technology to improve the work/life balance of their
employees while minimizing the footprint of the real estate portfolio.

I have their full support of my efforts to be a candidate and hopefully a
member of the City Council.

2. What skills and life experiences do you possess that make you uniquely
qualified to serve on the City Council?

I have served for five years on the Planning Commission, and currently serve
as its Chair. I’ve been an instrumental part of the remarkable progress San
Leandro has made recently in the recent years. I bring the professional
experience, skills and education to serve on Council while we implement
these years of planning for the community. I want to ensure we work together
to seize opportunities and tackle our challenges while we shape San
Leandro’s future.

3. Do you have a degree from a college or university? If yes, please state the
degree(s), year of graduation, and educational institution from which you obtained
the degree(s).

I received an MS, Organizations Development from University of San
Francisco in 2012, an MBA, Strategic Management from Cal State East Bay
in 2001 and a BS, Financial Management from Cal State Long Beach in 1999.

4. Please list any elected offices you have held or City of San Leandro Boards or
Commissions on which you have served.

I am in my fifth year on San Leandro’s Planning Commission, a Commission
I currently Chair.

5. Please list any community, faith based, labor, business, or nonprofit service
organizations of which you are a member and any leadership positions within
these organizations that you have held.

I am the Dad’s Club Treasurer at my daughters’ school, previous Pastoral
Council Secretary at Assumption Catholic Church, and a member of the San
Leandro Democratic Club.

6. Please list any advocacy, professional or issue-based organizations of which
you are a member and any leadership positions within these organizations that
you have held.

Until deciding to run for City Council I served on the San Leandro Chamber
Board of Directors. I am a President Emeritus of the National Society of
Hispanic MBA’s (now Prospanica) and a member of the Urban Land
Institute.

7.    Have you ever been arrested as an adult (21 and older)?  If yes, please
 describe the circumstances of the arrest(s) and outcome of the legal proceedings.

No.

8. Have you ever been accused of or investigated for defrauding others, financial
misconduct, conflict of interest, taking bribes and/or accepting illegal gifts? If yes,
please explain the allegations made and outcome of the investigation or
proceedings.

No.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Yes on San Leandro Schools Measure J1!



I am proud to serve as the co-chairperson of the Yes on Measure J1 campaign committee. We are a group of parents, teachers, administrators, students, and friends who recognize the critical importance of strong public schools to San Leandro.

What is Measure J1?

Measure J1 is a bond measure on the November 8, 2016 ballot to fund critical facility upgrades and improvements for San Leandro schools.

Why is Measure J1 necessary?

The State of California pays for the costs of running a school district, e.g. salaries for teachers and staff and school supplies.  But state tax revenue is not given to school districts for major construction projects to renovation and modernize school sites. These are called capital improvements and raising the funds for capital improvements falls on each community served by a school district.

Thanks to the generous support of San Leandrans, significant improvements have been made to our schools. New facilities have been built, and seismic safety upgrades have been completed. Substantial needs remain at our elementary schools, however, and they are the focus of Measure J1.  

What projects will Measure J1 funds support?

Measure J1 will:
• Repair or replace leaky roofs, old rusty plumbing, and faulty electrical systems where needed;
• Upgrade classrooms, libraries, and science labs, to keep pace with technology;
• Provide the facilities and equipment needed to support high quality instruction in math, science,
engineering, arts, and technology;
• Improve student safety and campus security systems, including security lighting, emergency communications systems, fire alarms, and sprinklers;
• Install heating and ventilation systems at each school to prevent classrooms from being too hot in the fall and summer and too cold in the winter; and
• Replace aging portable classrooms that are expensive to repair and maintain, with modern classrooms.

Learn more about San Leandro Schools Measure J1 on our facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/YesonJ1/

Monday, August 22, 2016

New San Leandro Zoning Code Back At City Hall For Review

This Thursday, August 25th, at 7 pm in the City Council Chambers, the San Leandro Planning Commission will review and perhaps make recommendations to the City Council on the final San Leandro 2035 General Plan, final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and related Zoning Code and map changes (Zoning Update 2016). The City Council is set to review these documents on September 19th.

The Planning Commission agenda packet including staff reports are available on the City website at https://sanleandro.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx.

Of interest to residents on the north end of town: City planners originally proposed re-zoning of properties between the fire station on Estudillo and Bancroft Avenues as Downtown Area 2 (or DA-2) properties from their present designation as Professional Office Buildings (or P).  

DA-2 zoning would have allowed 5-story mixed use multi-unit residential complexes (including one planned for the property on Bancroft Avenue opposite the middle school). The proposal reflected a lack of awareness of how many would view properties of such height and density next to and in a residential neighborhood.

Following strong objections from neighbors, Mayor Cutter set a work session in July for a discussion of the zoning of Estudillo and Bancroft Avenues as well as other zoning changes.

At the July work session, City staff did not to include the re-zoning of properties along Estudillo and Bancroft Avenues in their presentation.

When questioned by Council member Reed and Mayor Cutter as to why these properties were excluded from the presentation - which was myself and 20+ members of the community came to City Hall that evening - staff responded that the zoning map for these properties was not being changed as the code for these properties will remain P.

The statement itself was true but omitted critical information so as to make it false and misleading.

A zoning code in its most basic form consists of a map of properties and designations or codes (e.g. DA-2 or P) defining the land uses of the properties.  Change the designation of particular properties on the map OR alter the definitions of the designations or codes for the properties and you have changed the zoning code.

While the zoning map for Estudillo and Bancroft Avenues remains unchanged under the new staff recommendation, a significant alteration in the definition of P or Professional Office Building properties is now part of the staff proposal (which was not included previously)  Staff is asking for the Planning Commission and City Council to approve the change.

No longer are P properties largely to be office buildings.  Instead, the new definition allows for mixed-use, multi-family residential developments (though retaining the current maximum building height of 30 feet for properties zoned P).

Changes in the codes and their impact on nearby residential neighborhoods should have been part of staff's July presentation and discussion by the City Council.

Not including in presentations on development and land use issues that staff and the Council know are of significant concern to the community undermines the confidence and trust of the community in staff.  It also leads to confusion by community members as to what is being proposed and feeds suspicion that developers/landlords have inside access and special influence at City Hall.

I support greater density and development in our downtown area.  I also want the unique characteristics of our residential neighborhoods preserved.  I appreciate that compromises may have to occur to balance these interests in the present and the future.  This balancing act will only be successful, however, if City staff operates in a transparent manner and the community is given an opportunity to provide its feedback before significant decision are made.  Likewise, each and every member of the City Council must hold staff and themselves to this standard.

Finally, at the request of Mayor Cutter, City staff recently published a FAQ on the Professional Office Building area.  I have cut and pasted the text below.  I provides further details on what is being proposed.  I hope you have the opportunity to review this document and offer your views on it to the planning commission at the meeting on Thursday night.

-----------
Source: http://www.sanleandro.org/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?blobid=25699

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: PROFESSIONAL OFFICE (P) ZONING DISTRICT

What is the Professional Office (P) Zoning District?

The Professional Office (P) zoning designation accommodates business and professional offices as well as similar supporting businesses such as cafes, restaurants, neighborhood and specialty food markets, pharmacies, and other limited retail service businesses. The location of properties zoned Professional Office (P) are identified on the City’s Official Zoning Map.

Properties with the Professional Office (P) designation are primarily found along Estudillo Avenue
near Bancroft Avenue. Many of the properties currently zoned for Professional Office (P) are located adjacent to existing residential multi-family properties.

What types of uses are currently allowed in the P District?

Permitted Uses
Brewpubs Offices, Businesses
Business Services Pharmacies
Caf├ęs Restaurants, Full-Service
Financial Institutions, Retail Retail Services
Medical Supply Stores Travel Services
Neighborhood/Specialty Food Markets Utilities, Minor

Uses requiring Administrative Review (Staff Approval)
ATM Machines Parking Lots
Day Care Wireless Antennas, co-located & integrated with architecture

Conditional Uses – Requires approval from the Board of Zoning Adjustments
Bed & Breakfast Inns Hospitals
Commercial Parking Facility Laboratories
Convalescent Facilities Massage Therapy
Cultural Institutions Mortuaries
Emergency Health Care Public Safety Facilities
Farmers’ Market Schools, Public or Private
Group Housing New Telecommunications, Wireless Antenna Facilities & Towers
Health & Fitness Centers Utilities, Major

What additional uses are being proposed in the P District?

As part of the 2016 Zoning Code amendments, the City is proposing to add Multi-Family Residential and Mixed Use Residential for up to 24 dwelling units per acre as Conditional Uses in the Professional Office (P) Zoning District.

Any new Multi-Family Residential or Mixed Use Residential project would require review and approval at a public hearing by the Board of Zoning Adjustments which includes noticing of properties within 500 feet. All new multi-family residential developments will be required to provide adequate on-site parking, which is 1.5 spaces for each one-bedroom and studio unit, 2.25 spaces for each two-bedroom unit, and 2.5 spaces for each three-bedroom unit.

How do the proposed changes differ from what was originally recommended?

The previous proposal included a recommendation to rezone the approximately 20 Professional Office (P) zoned parcels on Estudillo Avenue and Bancroft Avenue to Downtown Area 2 (DA-2) which would have allowed residential development of up to 40 units per acre, increased the height limit to 50 feet and reduced the parking requirement. Based on community feedback, a rezone of these properties is no longer being recommended.

What are the development standards for the P District?

New development in the Professional Office (P) Zoning District is limited to 30’ feet in height and must be setback 10’ feet from the front and corner streets. New buildings are also subject to San Leandro’s Daylight Plane standards to reduce the impact of building massing when adjacent to other zoning districts.

Maximum Building Height: 30’

Setbacks: 10’ Front, 10’ Corner Side, Zero Setback at Side and Rear

Floor Area Ratio (FAR): 0.3 (The Floor Area Ratio is the ratio of a building's total floor area to the size of the piece of land upon which it is built). The Planning Commission or Board of Zoning Adjustments has the authority to approve an increased FAR of up to 0.2 for proposed projects with underground parking.

Maximum Lot Coverage: 50%

Minimum Site Landscaping: 5%, in accord with landscaping plans approved through Site Plan Approval

What is the Daylight Plane standard and how does it apply to the P District?

A Daylight Plane is an angled building height limitation that regulates the massing and design of taller buildings constructed next to residential properties. The Daylight Plane standard in the Professional Office Zoning District begins 8’ feet above grade at a side or rear property line and extends at an upward 45° degree angle, which limits the height and massing of buildings proposed next to residential properties.

Can a project that doesn’t conform to the above standards still be built?

The Zoning Code establishes precise development standards and limitations and also allows a public process to enable developers limited flexibility as long as they conform to the City’s established policies, such as those identified in the General Plan. A Planned Development is a process that could enable developers increased density, modifications to setbacks or parking requirements in recognition of unique features of the project, parcel or opportunities based on the size of the parcel.

Planned Developments require public vetting before the Planning Commission and City Council and include notification of all properties within 500 feet. As noted, any new multi-family housing development would require a Conditional Use Permit which includes a public hearing before the Board of Zoning Adjustments.

How can I find out more?

Additional information on Zoning Update 2016 and the proposed changes to the Professional Office (P) zoning designation is available on the City’s website at www.sanleandro.org/zoningupdate2016. The website includes maps, and information on the allowable uses and development standards in each zoning district. This information can assist you in determining how these changes may affect your property. To speak with someone directly, contact Andrew Mogensen, Planning Manager, at (510) 577-3458 or amogensen@sanleandro.org or visit us at the City’s One Stop Permit Center which is open Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8am – 4pm and Wednesdays from 8am – 3pm.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

San Leandro's Electoral System: Time for Reform?

For those new to San Leandro, or voting for the first time this November, please vote on all city and school ballot measures. That way you will truly have an impact on our community. Races in San Leandro can be close - some seats and measures have been decided by 1 or less percent of the vote.

As background, the City of San Leandro is run by a Mayor and six City Council members. Together, they
 form the City Council.

The Mayor is the presiding officer of City Council meetings and serves as the spokesperson for the City. However, the Mayor has no more authority than a City Council member when it comes to voting on matters - the Mayor has one vote as does each Council member.

The Mayor and City Council members are limited two consecutive, four year terms. Unlike at the state level, the City's term limits are not a lifetime restriction. A person could serve two terms, leave the Council for four years, and then run again. 

For the upcoming election, there are four candidates for 3 council seats. In 2018, the Mayor's seat plus 3 council seats will be on the election ballot.

Even though 4 candidates are running for 3 council seats this November, there will not be contested races for 2 council seats because of San Leandro's unique district council system.

Councilmember Benny Lee has no opponent. He will automatically be re-elected to another four year term to represent Council District 4.

Peter Ballew, a candidate running for the seat held by Jim Prola (who is terming out), also has no opponent. He will walk onto the City Council and represent Council District 6.

The sole contested race is in District 2, the seat currently held by Council member Ursula Reed, who is terming out. Two City Commissioners are running for the seat - Bryan Acevedo and Ed Hernandez.

If all council seats in San Leandro were at large, all four candidates would have to compete in the upcoming election and seek the support of the voters. The top three voter getters would serve on the Council. This how many City Council elections occur in Alameda County and across the state.

San Leandro has a hybrid electoral system that is unique in California.  We all vote for the candidates regardless of the district we live in (as occurs in at large elections) but the candidate must reside in the district he or she is running to represent.

The purpose is to ensure neighborhood diversity on the Council, e.g. Council members reside across the City and can not live in one area. I don't deny this has value but it comes too often at the expense (in my opinion) of something far more important - a healthy local democracy.

Government (at any level) only works when the candidate must compete for office. That will not happen in 2 of 3 City Council races this November. And it has repeatedly occurred in past elections. 
 
Please feel free to share with me your opinions on the matter.  Should San Leandro 

(a) keep its current electoral system,
(b) scrap it and have all Council members elected at large, or
(c) keep district seats and have only voters within each district vote for their Council member (this is another possibility which would lower the cost of running for City Council and thereby may encourage more candidates)?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

San Leandro City Council Questionnaire

I have sent all candidates running for City Council in San Leandro (including the ones without an opponent) a series of questions. I wish to make an informed choice in deciding whom to support. I have told them that their answers will guide my endorsement decisions. I believe their answers will also be of interest to the community. 

Candidates for office regularly complete questionnaires from
 labor, business and issue groups. Their answers, however, are kept confidential. The public has no knowledge as to what the candidates stated or promises they made. We are only told what the candidates want to tell us - often in the form of short, simple statements that border on slogans, not solutions to the issues we face. I want to change this process for our city. We, the voters, should also be able to ask candidates questions and receive answers as part of our due diligence in evaluating them and deciding whom to support. 

I will post the answers to my questionnaire after I receive them. I requested responses by September 1, 2016. 

Here are the questions I sent to candidates running for the City Council for the first time: 

Policy Questions 
1. What is the most pressing issue facing San Leandro and how would you address it? 

2. What are three other significant issues facing San Leandro and how would you address each one? 

3. How do you intend to gather community input and involve the community in making decisions on significant matters? 

4. Over the preceding 12 months, how many City Council meetings and/or work sessions have you attended? 

5. The San Leandro school district has placed a $104 million construction bond on the November ballot to fund a wide range of modernization and renovation needs at school sites. Do you support or oppose the bond measure? 

6. The City of San Leandro has placed three taxes measures that will allocate funds to the City’s general fund to be spent, if adopted, as determined by the City Council in its budgeting process. Do you support or oppose these tax measures? How best should the City spend the revenues the new taxes will generate should they be adopted by the voters? 

7. Do you support the City’s business development objective of transforming San Leandro a new center of innovation in the San Francisco Bay Area? If yes, how would you advance this objective while ensuring our City maintains the unique qualities of its residential neighborhoods? 

8. How would you ensure San Leandro is a sustainable city and safeguards its environment, open spaces/parks, and natural resources? 

9. Do you support or oppose limitations on annual increases that landlord can impose on San Leandro residential tenants? Please explain your position. 

10. How would you keep San Leandro safe? 

11. How would you work to promote diversity and tolerance and combat racism and discrimination in San Leandro? 

Personal Background 
1. Are you retired or working? If working, what is present occupation and employer? If retired, what was your last occupation and employer? 

2. What skills and life experiences do you possess that make you uniquely qualified to serve on the City Council? 

3. Do you have a degree from a college or university? If yes, please state the degree(s), year of graduation, and educational institution from which you obtained the degree(s). 

4. Please list any elected offices you have held or City of San Leandro Boards or Commissions on which you have served. 

5. Please list any community, faith based, labor, business, or nonprofit service organizations of which you are a member and any leadership positions within these organizations that you have held. 

6. Please list any advocacy, professional or issue-based organizations of which you are a member and any leadership positions within these organizations that you have held. 

7. Have you ever been arrested? If yes, please describe the circumstances of the arrest(s) and outcome of the legal proceedings. 

8. Have you ever been a party (plaintiff or defendant) to a civil lawsuit? If yes, please describe the allegations of the complaint and outcome of the legal proceedings? 

9. Have you ever been accused of or investigated for defrauding others, financial misconduct, conflict of interest, taking bribes and/or accepting illegal gifts? If yes, please explain the allegations made and outcome of the investigation or proceedings.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Estudillo/Bancroft Avenues Re-Zoning Update

Here is an update on the re-zoning issue along Estudillo and Bancroft Avenues that I have mentioned in earlier posts.

As background, City staff originally proposed to re-zone about 20 properties from their current designation of P or Professional office space (limited to 30 feet in height) to DA-2 or Downtown Area 2 (which includes mixed-use housing of up to 50 feet in height) in conjunction with the City's General Plan Update.
Many of us objected to the re-zoning as inappropriate in height, use and density for properties in or close to a residential neighborhood. Mayor Pauline Cutter heard our concerns and took action. As a result, staff modified their recommendation. 

In a memo to the City Council that was shared with the public last week, Cynthia Battenberg, the City's Community Development Director, stated, "Following community input, staff is recommending that the P Professional zoning for the Downtown East area (the approximately 20 parcels on Estudillo Avenue and Bancroft Avenue) not be changed to DA-2 Downtown Area 2. The proposed changes to the Professional Use Regulations would allow multi-family and mixed use residential at a density of 24 units per acre as a Conditionally Permitted Use (CUP) and the existing 30 foot height limit would remain. The staff report and tonight’s presentation has been updated accordingly."

I wanted to better understand the process that would unfold should a developer wish to demolish an office building on one of these 20 parcel and replace it with a multi-family, mixed-use residential building.  I sent an email message to Ms. Battenberg asking if a developer would have to take his/her plans to the Board of Zoning Adjustments (BZA) - with notice provided to the community - for a hearing at which the BZA would approve, deny or modify the plan? Such a review process is critical to ensuring the neighbors are aware of and their views are taken into account before any project is approved.

Ms. Battenberg's answer to my question is "yes." This is specifically what she stated:

"Multi-family development in the P Professional District is a conditionally permitted use ["CPU"]. Projects that require CUPs are presented to the Board of Zoning Adjustments for approval/denial. The BZA would also approve Conditions of Approval for a project. Project notification is sent to all properties within 500 feet of the site and interested parties. 

In the case of 1300-1380 Bancroft Avenue, notification would also be sent to the interested parties list that we have established that includes individuals who have provided input on the proposed Zoning Code revisions. Prior to the Public Hearing to approve/deny, a BZA work session would be held in order for the developer to present the project and hear feedback from the BZA and community. Notification would also be provided for the work session."

Thank you again to Mayor Cutter and everyone that stepped forward and spoke up concerning this matter. 

I recognize that some may continue to object to the revised staff recommendation. You have the right to speak out and let the City Council hear your views at upcoming meetings. I am supportive of the revised recommendation, though ideally I wish the property would be developed as for sale townhouses. 

You can learn more about the General Plan Update and review key documents at http://www.sanleandro2035.org 

The City Council will be reviewing the General Plan and Zoning Code changes at two meetings in July, starting on July 5th. The vote on whether to adopt the General Plan and Zoning Code changes will occur in the Fall.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Grand Jury Report On Eden Township Healthcare District


The Eden Township Healthcare District (ETHD), which covers San Leandro, no longer owns or operates any hospitals. It is running ads on social media claiming that we are in danger of "losing our vote." I don't know what vote the ETHD is referring to. All it does today is manage medical office properties and distributes some community funds. But it doesn't provide any healthcare services. 

The ETHD is running the ads because there is a bill in Sacramento (AB 2471) from Assembly member Bill Quirk to dissolve it. There is sound justification for the bill. This comes from the latest Alameda County Grand Jury report
ETHD spends 88% of its resources managing its real estate holdings and only 12% on mission-related activities. With this balance of resource allocation, the district struggles to deliver (directly or indirectly) adequate healthcare services for all residents. There is minimal evidence of active, informed citizen participation in district affairs. Agency officials do not solicit district-wide feedback or input from other healthcare organizations to evaluate and plan for greater mission effectiveness. Equally troublesome, there is no meaningful strategic planning in place to correct these matters.

The district’s original purpose is no longer relevant since ETHD no longer owns and operates a district hospital or other direct care assets to deliver acute healthcare solutions. Unless ETHD has a clear vision and a defined strategic plan to be relevant, it should be dissolved. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

How To Follow The Money In San Leandro


Want to know whom gave campaign contributions to a local candidate? You don't have to file a public records request. State law allows anybody to view election documents, such as campaign statements or financial disclosures, by walking into a city clerk’s office and asking for them. 

Even better, thanks to the work of the San Leandro Clerk and IT staff, you can access these records online at http://www.sanleandro.org/depts/cityhall/election/cc/pp.asp

Honoring the Orlando Victims in San Leandro


Let's say no to hate and discrimination, honor those who perished in Orlando, and say yes to love and respect for our LGBTQ neighbors and friends on Saturday, June 18th, at 6:30 pm at Root Park in San Leandro (located at East 14th Street and Dan Niemi Way).

Follow up:  Thank you Brandon Brock, Council member Corina Lopez, Mayor Pauline Cutter, SFPD, the other organizers, and everyone that attended yesterday's rally/memorial for the victims of the Orlando massacre. It was San Leandro at its best!



Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Let's Not Shoot Ourselves In the Foot - New Zoning Proposals Will Backfire on San Leandro

To those that say wouldn't it be good if the City assisted in the creation of new, market-rate housing that would attract new residents and thereby generate demand for greater retail, shopping and dining options in San Leandro, my response is - yes, we can have this and without bringing Downtown San Leandro right up and into our residential neighborhoods on the northeast side of the city,


The maps show that city planners are seeking the re-zoning of multiple sites in the core of Downtown San Leandro - many of which are close to the BART station.

That is fine with me. I support new housing in our downtown. In fact, there is one development in Downtown San Leandro well advanced in the planning process that will bring in 60 high-end apartment units within walking distance of BART. There are also vacant lots within eyesight of the BART tracks that would support dense, new housing.

The City expects 15,000 new residents will live in San Leandro by 2040, with 7,000 of these new residents residing in Downtown of San Leandro.  Source:  Land Use section of New General Plan, page 3-38. 

Let's make sure these new residents don't all need to have their own car to get to their jobs. The only way to do this, as set forth in the 2007 Transit Oriented Plan, is to channel new housing in Downtown San Leandro within walking distance of the BART station.

We should not - as now proposed by city staff - redefine/expand the boundaries of Downtown San Leandro by eliminating the zoning of properties along Estudillo Avenue from the fire station to and across Bancroft Avenue as commercial and professional sites and re-zoning these properties as part of Downtown San Leandro.

We would be shooting ourselves in the foot if a large percentage of the 7,000 new residents the city is planning on living in Downtown San Leandro were actually located outside of Downtown San Leandro, beyond walking distance to BART, and thus had to rely on cars for commuting to work.

This sounds absurd but it is entirely possible if the City Council adopts staff's recommendations on the re-zoing of properties along Estudillo Avenue. Unless we speak up and offer reasoned arguments based on the facts against what is being proposed (and not play upon fears or prejudice), I expect that the City Council will approve staff's proposal. 

If your concern is the "wrong" people will move into San Leandro, or other code words for racism, I categorically reject your viewpoint.  Please move out of San Leandro.  The San Leandro of 2016 is a diverse and tolerant community welcoming to all persons. This is the San Leandro I am raising my family in and the San Leandro I will fight to sustain and grow. 

This Thursday night, June 16th at 7 p.m., is our first opportunity to do so at a public meeting of the Planning Commission. The meeting will take place at City Hall in the City Council Chambers. The Planning Commission can make recommendations on the zoning code proposals to the City Council.

The next meeting, however, is one that really counts - the City Council will be reviewing the proposed zoning code changes on July 5th at 7 p.m., again at City Hall. I wish that the City Council was not conducting such an important meeting on a date in which many are away on vacation. There is no reason why the meeting has to occur on July 5th and it is in the power of the Mayor and City Manager to change the date of the meeting.

If you can't make the July 5th meeting, please share your views with the City Council by contacting them via email at citycouncil@sanleandro.org  

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Proposed Changes To San Leandro Zoning Code Expand Downtown San Leandro To Residential Neighborhoods

We need to have a community conversation on the degree of development that should be permitted outside of San Leandro’s downtown.  Specifically, should buildings appropriate for our downtown be built next to residential neighborhoods?

For context, in 2007, after a multi-year process with extensive public input, the City Council adopted a Transit Oriented Development (“TOD”) Plan to "guide new development in downtown San Leandro for the next 20 to 30 years."  The plan’s objective is to channel the majority of new residential growth to downtown San Leandro, within walking distance of BART, thereby lessening residents’ dependence on cars.

As shown in this map at page 35 of the TOD Plan, a buffer of lower density professional, commercial and multi-unit housing was created between downtown San Leandro and the residential neighborhoods on the northeast side of the city.  


The buffer is reflected in the City's current zoning code (below).  Dense development, marked as Downtown Area 2 or DA-2, is to occur close to East 14th Street.  Less dense development, including office space for professionals (dentists, doctors, accountants, lawyers, etc.), marked as P, was to remain along Estudillo Avenue between the downtown and residential neighborhoods starting at Bancroft Avenue.



Today, as part of updating the City’s General Plan, staff has proposed changes to the zoning code which eliminate this buffer.  Over 20 properties along Estudillo Avenue from the Estudillo Fire Station to Bancroft Avenue are to be re-zoned to allow for mixed-use apartment complexes that can reach 50 feet or 5 stories in height in stead of their present designation as P or professional office building.  

Here is the new zoning map for the area, reflecting staff's proposed changes:







Over time, the professional office buildings will be demolished and replaced with mix-use apartment complexes that yield a much greater profit for the property owners than if the sites remain zoned exclusively for office space.  

This violates the City's Transit Oriented Development Plan which calls for future residential growth to be channeled into the core of Downtown San Leandro near the BART station thereby lessening resident's dependence on cars.


A developer has already purchased one site at 1300 and 1380 Bancroft Avenue, which consists of two office buildings at the intersection of Estudillo and Bancroft Avenues immediately opposite Bancroft Middle School.  Although the site is zoned exclusively for office space, the developer intends to demolish the existing buildings and replace them with a 47-foot tall, mixed-use 51-unit apartment complex.

What is Next?  How Your Voice Can Be Heard

Neither the Planning Commission nor City Council have voted on the zoning changes.  The Planning Commission will be reviewing them on June 16th.  The City Council will examine the zoning changes on July 5th

Both meetings are at City Hall and start at 7 p.m.  The meetings are open to the public and public comments will be taken.  If you cannot attend the meetings, please contact the Mayor and City Council at CityCouncil@sanleandro.org and share your views.  

Background Information on the General Plan and Zoning Code

The City is updating its General Plan, which is required by state law.  The General Plan covers a wide variety of concerns and issues, including land use.  

The proposed General Plan Update would replace the City’s existing General Plan, which was last comprehensively updated in 2002. Along with the General Plan Update, the proposed project also includes Zoning Code amendments to implement the proposed General Plan.  

The General Plan is a narrative document.  It doesn't define the use of specific properties.  That is what a Zoning Code does.  The City is also looking at its Zoning Code and making certain changes in conjunction with the General Plan update.  

In a nutshell, a zoning code tells everyone how a property can be used.  Zoning codes create predictability and regulate land use.  If a site is zoned to be an office building which can be 250 feet tall and someone buys that site and wants to build a new, 250 foot office building, the city has to approve the project.  The city can't say no. If neighbors don't like having a tall office building next to them, that doesn't matter.  The zoning code permits construction of the building. Staff would have to issue the permits to authorize the project to proceed.

However, if the developer wanted a housing complex, e.g. not a permitted use for that property under the zoning code, then city could say no.  

The city could also say yes, allowing a variance to the zoning code.  Prior to that decision being made, notice would have to be given to neighbors and community.  There would be an opportunity for the public to weigh in on the matter at a public hearing. The decision whether or not to grant the variance would be made by a public body (in San Leandro's case the Board of Zoning Adjustments with the potential for appeal to the City Council).  

To understand Zoning Code maps, you need to know what the zoning codes stand for.  Relevant to the discussion above are the following codes:

DA-2 (Downtown Area 2). To implement specific provisions of the Downtown San Leandro Transit-Oriented Development Strategy by providing for designated areas on the periphery of the Downtown core where new development shall be sensitive to and of a scale consistent with adjacent Residential Districts and where mixed use developments are allowed and encouraged but not required.

P Professional Office District. To provide opportunities for offices at appropriate locations, subject to development standards and landscaping requirements that prevent significant adverse effects on adjacent uses. Retail activity is not appropriate.

RS Residential Single-Family District. To provide opportunities for single-family residential land use in neighborhoods, subject to appropriate standards. 

RD Residential Duplex District. To provide opportunities for two-family housing at appropriate locations.

RM Residential Multi-Family District. To provide opportunities for multiple residential uses, including town houses, condominiums, multi-dwelling structures, or cluster housing with landscaped open space for residents’ use, and apartments. Single-family and duplex dwellings are permitted uses in these districts. Four (4) types of multi-family districts are established:
  • RM-3000 District, where the density is 14.5 dwellings per gross acre.
  • RM-2500 District, where the density is 17.5 dwellings per gross acre.
  • RM-2000 District, where the density is 22 dwellings per gross acre.

  • RM-1800 District, where the density is 24 dwellings per gross acre.

Conclusion


Many people, city staff, the City Council, Planning Commissioners have worked long and diligently on developing the City's new General Plan. There is much as that is positive in the document. However, certain zoning code changes proposed in conjunction with the new General Plan will, if approved by the Planning Commission and City Council, have a significant, negative impact on our neighborhoods.