Alameda City Council roundup
SunCal wasn’t the only item of note on Tuesday’s City Council agenda. Here’s how a couple of other pieces of city business shook out during the council’s four-and-a-half hour meeting series:
Sunshine. Members of the council-created Sunshine Task Force came to the council to ask for a few more months to put together a sunshine ordinance aimed at making city government more open and accessible to the public. The task force will now have until September to create the ordinance. Separately, the council decided to have staff assemble ordinances to regulate lobbyists and institute campaign finance reform. The council debated for nearly an hour – more time than the task force spent together in its entire first meeting – about whether it should address the council’s open government priorities or take input from members of the public about what they’d like to see done. City Attorney Teresa Highsmith repeatedly told council members that it is her job, and not the job of the task force, to write the city’s laws.
RV parking. The council started the process for addressing some of the blowback caused by is recent enactment of an ordinance prohibiting RV, boat and trailer parking on city streets. The effort follows a complaint by an RV owner who told council members at an earlier meeting that the new law is a problem for him because he uses his RV as his vehicle. Police said they have gotten just a handful of complaints since the new rules went into effect in February, and that they have towed or ticketed fewer than two dozen vehicles. They also said they have been granting one-day permits to RV, boat and trailer users who take their vehicles out of storage overnight for next-day use. Separately, the council directed staff to amend a city ordinance that prohibits people from parking in the first 20 feet of their driveways. The decision came after Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant was ticketed for parking her vehicle too close to the end of her driveway.
Design review. The council took some preliminary steps toward simplifying the city’s design review process Tuesday night when it took its first crack at some proposed changes. The new rules would create stronger public notice of proposed design changes, and would eliminate staff design review of some smaller projects, including in-kind replacement of existing features, solar panels and certain rear yard additions of 200 square feet or less. Additions to the front or side of a home, changes to parking lots that are visible from the street and replacement of a window, door or porch that is not consistent with the original or existing home design would require review. City staff is also generating handouts intended to make the process easier to understand. (One helpful hint: Do Not Use City Staff to Design Your Project for You.) The changes were proposed following a slew of complaints about inadequate notice on construction and renovation projects and inconsistent answers on how to proceed on said projects from planning staff, and to help the city save money on staff time expended on the process. Any person would still have the right to appeal a design review determination. The council will vote on the changes at a later date.