- Place measures on the November ballot to repeal all voter mandated programs, including Measure OO/D Kids First, Measure Q and Measure Y. This is necessary to restore discretion in our budget process. We have enough existing revenues to provide core city services. We are just being forced to use them in ways that do not meet core objectives such as public safety and maintenance of infrastructure;
- Develop a prioritization of core city services with a focus on public safety, infrastructure, and revenue generating enterprises. A safer, cleaner and better maintained city will attract middle and higher income residents and shoppers to Oakland, thereby, generating more tax revenue. We need to increase the volume of taxes not by taxing the middle class out of Oakland, but by growing businesses and attracting new residents;
- Stop using a budget process that mandates across the board cuts equally. Not all services are equal and not all services are necessary in times of budgetary crisis. Whole programs should be cut if they do not fall within the core services provided by local government. Cut all other city services that do not meet the descriptions identified in number 2. We cannot continue to be all things to all people during a budgetary crisis;
- Personnel expenditures are the single biggest cost in the city. City employees have some of the highest salaries in the state and country for comparable sized cities. Require all remaining staff to take a 20% furlough and eventually renegotiate 15-20% permanent reductions in pay scales and freeze any cost of living adjustments for the next four years when union contracts are due.
- Re-negotiate benefit packages when the union contracts are due to create a second tier retirement program for new staff that is no higher than 2% at 55, requires an 8 year vesting time period and requires existing staff to pay an additional 5% towards their retirement benefits;
- Institute pay for performance measures to ensure taxpayers actually get their money's worth from city employees. This would include courteous and prompt service to all city residents. Fire employees who do not perform to well-defined metrics. This will create incentives for all employees to better perform their assigned job duties.
- Require that all elected offices take a 20% funding cut. Yes, this even includes the City Auditor.
- Establish strict guidelines and protocols for travel and training that applies to all city staff and all elected officials. This policy should mirror the per diems the state of California has adopted including strict controls on out of state travel.
- Require the City establish a rainy day account for future economic crises.
Monday, March 29, 2010
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Once We Fight Blight adequately addresses and resolves the remaining blighted properties, our next step is to focus on public infrastructure by cataloging all failed and deteriorated streets, sidewalks, benches, parks, bus stops, streetlights and any other public infrastructure and requesting the City repair and remediate the blight pursuant to their own Blight Ordinance. Understandably this may be challenging under the current budget crisis as this requires an investment in public infrastructure by the City itself and it will likely not have any money. Our final step will be a push for major street tree planting and median planting through a public private partnership, property owner investment and donations.
Despite the recent economic downturn, we have witnessed many positive changes in North Oakland and South Berkeley. Houses are being refurbished and remodeled, new restaurants and cafes are opening, the Ed Roberts Campus is almost done, homes are selling at a brisk pace, more families are moving into the community, and crime seems to be down. We like to think our efforts have helped in some small way to bring about some of these changes though we recognize many of these changes are subject to larger macro-economic forces and the cumulative decisions of many individuals. In the short-term we will continue the fight against liquor sales at the Nic Nak. Spring brings renewed hope in our community and marks an opportunity for positive changes in North Oakland and South Berkeley. We hope you join our efforts in making North Oakland and South Berkeley a better, safer place to live.
Friday, March 12, 2010
Thursday, March 11, 2010
The intent of the deemed approved program for non-conforming liquor sales is to allow such uses to continue under very limited circumstances but to eventually bring such uses into conformance with the current City regulations or eliminate them altogether as an undesirable land use. To remain a deemed approved use the requirements for liquor stores include not creating nuisances and/or not having a lapse in continuous alcohol beverage sales for more than 90 days. In Nic Nak's case it was shut down for more than five years, well beyond the 90 day requirement. The Nic Nak's owners, the Pannells, even surrendered their state Alcohol Beverage Control license during this time. The Nic Nak was originally considered a non-conforming use because it was not consistent with the revised City regulations governing alcohol beverage sales that preclude liquor stores from being located within 1,000 feet of each other. The Nic Nak was not alone in being a non-conforming liquor store. Such non-conforming liquor outlets are abundant throughout the City of Oakland. The City's fundamental goal has been to reduce the over-concentration of liquor stores in Oakland.
The City Council adopted new regulations restricting liquor stores because of the demonstrated nuisances created by such uses including public drunkeness, public urination/defecation, littering, increased violent crimes, and public disturbances. It has been shown through peer reviewed studies at the local, state, national and international level that the problems associated with liquor stores are amplified when there is a concentration of liquor stores in any particular area.
Because the Nic Nak ceased operations for greater than 90 days its deemed approved status was terminated by the City. In seeking to sell liquor again, the Nic Nak is considered a new land use and therefore is required to obtain a Major Variance and a Major Conditional Use Permit. The Major Variance is required because of the 1,000 foot rule--the Nic Nak is 80 feet from another liquor store. The Major Conditional Use Permit is required because liquor sales are considered to be a potentially problematic land use that requires site specific conditions to restrict such uses and ensure they are not a nuisance to the community.
The Planning Commission approved a Major Variance allowing liquor sales at Nic Nak using an unprecedented and legally suspect rationale that "historical relevance" is equivalent to a physical site constraint. Never before in the history of the City has such a rationale been used to approve any variance for any land use. We cannot find any precendent for such rationale in any other local jurisdiction. In the City of Oakland a variance is warranted when there is a unique physical or topographic site constraint with the property--such as an irregular lot size, unusual topogrpahy, or significant natural feature such as a large rock outcroping that other properties do not suffer from--that prevents the property owner from meeting the intent of the Oakland Planning Code. An economic hardship is not a legal basis for approving a variance. The Planning Commission asserted that because Mr. Pannell had owned the Nic Nak property for many years it would essentially create a hardship for him to move his liquor sales to another location that was consistent with the Oakland Planning Code because it would severe ties to his historic customers. This was the case even though the Nic Nak had been closed for more than five years and the Pannells had already voluntarily severed his ties with his historic customers by closing the store and surrendering his liquor license.
A great percentage of non-conforming liquor stores with a deemed approved status have historical ties to their physical location. That is the very nature of most deemed approved, non-conforming liquor uses throughout Oakland. Allowing the Nic Nak to re-open contrary to the requirements of the Oakland Planning Code would open the door for any other liquor store in Oakland with a deemed approved status that ceases operations for greater than 90 days to re-open under the suspect rationale of "historical relevance". This would substantially weaken the City Coucnil intent of ensuring that non-conforming uses either operate consistent with the requirements of the deemed approved status program or are eliminated. The policy for eliminating non-conforming liquor stores that violate the deemed approve status requirements and the imposition of the 1,000 foot rule was approved by the City Council to address the over-concentration of liquor stores in Oakland. There are already 20 off-site liquor sales within 1 mile of the Nic Nak. Allowing the Nic Nak to re-open removes a significant tool from the City's toolbox for addressing liquor stores in Oakland.
Allowing the Nic Nak to re-open and sell liquor is a bad precedent for the City of Oakland. If you don't want your neighborhood suffer the same fate, please make sure you express your views at the City Council Hearing.
When: Tuesday March 16, 6:30 pm Oakland City Council Chambers, City Hall Agenda Item 9.1
Speakers can also sign up on-line by going to http://www.oaklandnet.com/ On the home page there is a heading for City Council with a choice of Meetings and Agendas. Click on that: to the left of that is a choice to "Speak at Council". Click on that and follow the simple instructions. Speakers cards for the March 16 meeting can be filled out after 12:00 pm on Friday March 12, right up to 5 pm March 16.