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.

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

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

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

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.


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


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