City council, Apr. 15, 2013



Next week will be busy, with a Monday night, May 6, city council meeting on homelessness in Albany, which will focus on the Bulb. Then on Wednesday, May 8, Planning and Zoning will have a study session on the new supermarket plans for the UC mixed-use project. The new supermarket will a Sprouts Farmers Market, sort of a cross between Whole Foods and Trader Joes. I visited their Walnut Creek store today, it seems like a good fit for us. Here are some short notes about the last city council meeting.


 The April 15 meeting started with a special report form Ray Chan, the city’s public works director, about the state of the city’s infrastructure. I’ve been looking around the city’s website for a copy, but I can’t find the presentation. I’ll keep looking. For now you can review Caryl O’Keefe’s write up on the Patch, which generated lots of comments (here). 

 Chan’s presentation was very clearand very disturbing. I checked-in with city staff, and our infrastructure is actually in better shape than it was five years ago. But keeping infrastructure up to date is like trying swim upstream—it takes a lot of continuous effort just to stay in the same place. How much further up steam we can hope to get will emerge during our budget process over the next few months.


 We did successfully negotiate a new contract with the Albany Police Officer’s Association (APOA). We accepted the negotiator’s recommendations, as did APOA. I think the agreement is fair and reasonable in the situation.

 It was important to get salaries closer to parity with other local police departments and with our own fire department. Because Albany is small department, our officers are more broadly trained and have a better feeling for the community than in many larger towns, and I think that makes our officers attractive to our neighbors. So unless we want to see our police department become a AA farm team for surrounding communities, we have to pay competitive wages. Staff report (here).


 With help from James Boito, our fire captain, and Ed Tubbs, our fire chief, our fire department successfully applied for grants from FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program for the purchase of an ambulance, and the joint purchase (with Piedmont) of self contained breathing apparatus. Grants have been awarded in the amount of $135,938 for the ambulance and in the amount of $136,802 for the SCBAs. Yikes! Real money. Thanks guys!


The city has successfully negotiated to purchase the 31,000 square-foot Western Forge and Flange property at 540 Cleveland Ave. The plan is to make this our new maintenance center. We currently lease the property next door, and the rent is very high.

 Note that our maintenance center had been slated to move to the SW corner Pierce St. park property. But modifying the grade of the steeply sloping land proved to be too expensive, so the city jumped when the 540 Cleveland property became available. The SW corner of the Pierce St. project is now up for grabs, and will be developed as phase 5 of the project. Staff report (here). 


The big issue at the April 15 meeting was state Assembly Bill 162, a stinker of a bill that would have severely limited the ability of local governments to control upgrades and collocations of cell sites. The bill would have cut the FCC’s (Federal Communication Commission) 90-day “shot clock” to 45 days, which we heard from staff was unworkable. The council agreed to send a letter to the legislature, a letter that was similar one circulated by the League of California Cities.

 It looks like the bill has already been effectively killed for this legislative session, although the 45-day shot clock provision had already been revised back to the 90-day federal standard. The bill was early in the sausage-making process, so it was best not got too worked up about it. Lots of bills at this stage don’t survive. For more drama, see (here).

At the federal level, President Obama has nominated the former head of CTIA (a.k.a. the Cellular Telephone Industry Association) to be the head of FCC. That sure sends a signal (here).

 The FCC is growing concerned about the transition from broadcasting to broadband. That includes reallocating frequencies from TV to cellular phone companies for building out LTE service (and whatever else comes after that). I suspect the FCC will also start asserting more authority over state and local governments on these issues. Remember where you heard it first…