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  Items of Interest on January 25 City Council Agenda
January 23, 2005

The City Council agenda is supposed to be available on the City’s website on the Saturday prior to each Tuesday meeting, which is, in practice, a hit or miss proposition. This week it is a miss. However, there are several items on the agenda that have been of interest to E-FORUM readers. Those who support these measures are encouraged to convey support to City Council members, or more importantly, show up at the meeting to speak in favor.


  • Item 0-1 is a memorandum of understanding between the City of Richmond and the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the preparation of an EIS/EIR for point Molate.


  • Item R-8 is a proposed amendment to the Zoning Ordinance (RMC Chapter 14.04) that enhances the City’s ability to impose Conditional Use Permit conditions on problem bars and liquor stores and provides for a list of standard conditions of approval for new Conditional Use permits for businesses selling alcoholic beverages.


  • Item R-4 in a proposed ordinance that would add Chapter 13.57 to the RMC to facilitate the establishment of Community Benefit Districts (also called Neighborhood Improvement and Enhancement Districts) that can be established by property owners in specific areas to provide services or improvements over and above those provided by the City in general. This item has been discussed by the City Council twice before this month and continued to provide an opportunity to address questions by some City Council members and the public.


Benefit assessment districts are a common means of providing public improvements and services. We are all familiar with such things as the Richmond Wastewater District No. 1 that serves 60% of Richmond residents. There are landscaping districts that maintain landscaping at Hilltop Shopping Center and along the Richmond Parkway in the Hilltop area. The reconstruction of Cutting and Canal Boulevard was accomplished with a benefit assessment district as was the parking improvements along railroad Avenue in Point Richmond.


A special kind of benefit assessment district, commonly known as a business improvement district (BID), can be created to serve business districts. Both the Richmond Main Street Initiative and the Point Richmond Business District have initiated studies for potential BIDS. Last year, the Richmond Chamber of Commerce established a Richmond Visitor and Convention Bureau, which is a benefit assessment district paid for by lodging businesses (hotels and motels).


The ordinance currently being proposed would use Richmond’s charter city status to improve the basic requirements for benefit assessment districts provided for in state law. The ordinance would reduce from 60% to 30% the number of petitioners required to initiate a study to form a district. A protest vote of 51% would still be required to overturn the establishment of a district. Reducing the number of petitioners to 30% makes a lot of sense because of normal apathy. There are about 60,000 – 70,000 people eligible to vote in Richmond but only about 33,000 of those actually registered to vote. Only about 27,000 actually voted in the last election. In off-year elections, the turnout drops to half that. In November of 2004, 16,613 voters supported the sales tax increase. This is about 28% of eligible voters. The bottom line is that due to apathy, most people simply don’t get involved, and government is elected and decisions made by those 30% of the public who care enough to vote. The 30% petition proposal and the 51% protest vote has been criticized as undemocratic, but it sets a bar no lower that that of any election. In fact, it took only about 18% of eligible voters to elect even the highest vote getter to the City Council in 2004. Another reason for the 30% petition threshold is that many property owners live outside Richmond, some even very far away. They are not involved, and they are apathetic. Tracking them down and persuading those to join in a petition would require an unreasonable effort. Ultimately, they will all have chance to weigh in on the issue when given a chance to cast a ballot.


Community, neighborhood and business oriented benefit assessment districts are a growing and successful economic development tool across the United States as well as California. I encourage you to visit some of the following websites to see what other cities are doing. What we are proposing is simply bringing to Richmond the same tools others are using successfully to improve their cities. See the web sites below for information on what other cities are doing:


·         http://www.sandiego.gov/economic-development/business-assistance/small-business/bids.shtml

·         http://www.downtownla.com/

·         http://www.springfielddowntown.com/

·         http://www.oaklandbid.org/

·         http://santa-monica.org/economic_development/bus_improvement_districts.htm

·         http://www.ci.baltimore.md.us/neighborhoods/

·         http://www.planning.org/hottopics/bid.htm

·         http://www.ci.seattle.wa.us/economicdevelopment/biz_district_guide/biz_dist_pages/pedestrian_lighting.htm

·         http://www.broward.org/urbanplanning/upi00107.htm


One argument against the proposed legislation characterized benefit assessment districts as potentially benefiting only wealthy neighborhoods, while leaving other neighborhoods underserved. Actually, just the opposite is true. The City of Richmond tends to spend Redevelopment money in underserved neighborhoods, but other areas typically have to look to themselves. An example was given that perhaps a district would pay for a branch library and then owners in the district would have a disincentive to support a city-wide library tax. You cannot assess someone unless it is a special benefit.  The City must decide, as Salinas has recently done with its libraries, what its baseline services are.  If the libraries are funded 5 days per week by the City, and the community wants it open seven days, the two extra days would be a special benefit.  Rockridge, in Oakland has a parcel assessment to do just this.


Anyone with questions is encouraged to call Marco Di Landri at New City America: Phone: (888) 356-2726, (619) 233-5009, (619) 239-7140, Fax: (619) 239-7105, Marco@NewCityAmerica.com and NewCityAmerica@aol.com.  


·         Item R-5 is an update on the creation of railroad Quiet Zones in the City of Richmond. For more information on what a Quiet Zone is, see Update on Train Horns and Long Trains, E-FORUM, July 28, 2004.


·         Item R-6 is a discussion on whether the City of Richmond should follow the lead of other cities and adopt a “Green Building Policy” that requires projects constructed by the City to be LEED certified – that is, incorporate recommendations.

The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System® is a voluntary, consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. Members of the U.S. Green Building Council representing all segments of the building industry developed LEED and continue to contribute to its evolution. LEED standards are currently available or under development for:

·         New commercial construction and major renovation projects (LEED-NC)

·         Existing building operations (LEED-EB)

·         Commercial interiors projects (LEED-CI)

·         Core and shell projects (LEED-CS)

·         Homes (LEED-H)

·         Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND)

USGBC member committees are actively collaborating on new and existing LEED standards. Check for periodic LEED updates.

LEED was created to:

·         define "green building" by establishing a common standard of measurement

·         promote integrated, whole-building design practices

·         recognize environmental leadership in the building industry

·         stimulate green competition

·         raise consumer awareness of green building benefits

·         transform the building market

LEED provides a complete framework for assessing building performance and meeting sustainability goals. Based on well-founded scientific standards, LEED emphasizes state of the art strategies for sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. LEED recognizes achievements and promotes expertise in green building through a comprehensive system offering project certification, professional accreditation, training and practical resources.

Click below to view the LEED Foundations documents:

·         LEED Committee Charters - describes the purpose and scope of each LEED Committee

·         LEED Foundations Policy Manual - describes USGBC policy for consensus based development of the LEED family of products

·         LEED Product Development Handbook - describes the operating procedures for management and administration of LEED Products