Lafayette City Council Observer Reports

Lafayette City Council Observer Reports

Image of people at Lafayette City Council meeting
Type: 
News

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City Council Meeting – 11/12/20

by Bill Speir, LWVDV Observer

As with most Contra Costa Cities, the election has dominated local events in the City of Lafayette for the past several weeks. There have been some developments in the past week, however.

  • New City Councilmembers. The election results are in. Three Council seats were on the ballot November 3, 2020. Carl Anduri, Cam Burks and Gina Dawson were elected to new four-year terms.
    • Current Councilmember Cam Burks was re-elected.
    • Former Mayor and Councilmember Carl Anduri was elected after an eight-year hiatus off the Council.
    • Gina Dawson will be a new voice on the Council.
  • Cap on Restaurant Delivery Fees. In an effort to support local restaurants, on November 9, 2020 the City Council adopted a temporary 15% cap on third party delivery fees that could be charged to local restaurants. The ordinance will expire when pandemic restrictions are lifted. It had been reported by local restaurants that some companies had increased their delivery charges to the restaurant to as much as 30% of the restaurant’s bill to the customer. The urgency ordinance will affect app-based vendors such as Grub Hub, Door Dash and Uber Eats.
  • City to Sue PG&E to Stop Tree Removal. The City of Lafayette and PG&E entered into a Tree Removal Agreement on January 23, 2017. The Agreement states that PG&E and the City disagree regarding the extent of the City’s authority to regulate the utility’s removal of trees for safety and maintenance purposes. However, PG&E agreed to “provide all information required by the City’s Tree Protection Regulations” before removing trees. On November 10, 2020, PG&E informed the City that it would begin removing trees on East Bay Regional Park District property, along the Lafayette Moraga Regional Trail, beginning as early as November 16. The City believes that PG&E has failed to provide the information required by the Agreement, and on November 12, 2020, following a closed session at a special meeting, decided to sue PG&E to stop the tree removal. 

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City Council Meeting - 9/30/20

by Bill Speir, LWVDV Observer

The City Council considered budget issues on September 30, with an emphasis on the impact of COVID 19 on City finances.

Sales Tax Review. The City’s consultant presented the sales tax revenues for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020 (FY 19-20), and discussed the revenue impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic. The City receives a portion of sales tax generated by sales within the City.
  • Sales tax revenues were down 12% for the year. 
  • Restaurants and retail are the largest sales tax generators in Lafayette, and those businesses were hit hard by closures caused by COVID 19. 
  • The second quarter of 2020 is expected to be the most impacted by the pandemic. The third quarter of 2020 should be better, but still down from historic levels. 
  • The projection for FY 20-21 estimates a 4.3% decline in sale tax receipts from pre-pandemic amounts, and after that, the hope is that sales to local businesses will rebound, as will sales tax revenues to the City.

Although many City residents redirected their retail shopping to on-line vendors, the City of Lafayette does not directly receive its share of those sales tax payments.  Sales taxes collected by on-line vendors are paid to the County and distributed to the cities based on the share of traditional storefront retail sales in a particular community as compared to sales in the County as a whole. This formula results in less money being paid to Lafayette than the City’s share of sales taxes paid by residents. 

Budget Update. City staff reviewed the financial results of fiscal year 2019-2020, and presented an update to the FY 20-21 budget.
  • Revenue for the year was strong even though sales tax revenues were down. 
  • Costs were cut in Spring 2020 in response to the potential impact of COVID 19. The City implemented a hiring freeze, and City employees agreed to defer a 1.25% cost of living adjustment that would have taken effect July 1, 2020. 
  • The Council voted 4-1 (Council member Burks dissenting) to lift the hiring freeze and restore the cost of living adjustment, while keeping all other budget cuts in place.

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Housing Accountability Act compels City of Lafayette to approve controversial affordable housing project

See Housing and Land Use Observer Report

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August 2020 Notes

The Lafayette City Council has been busy.

Racial Equity/unconscious bias:

In response to residents’ calls to address racism the City Council created a Task Force to Effect Change and Action in the Area of Racial Equality.  The three city council members leading this task force, Susan Candell, Cam Burks, and Teresa Gerringer, invite wide participation.

Planning the next 20 years:

Lafayette is poised to update its city plan - this will shape the next 20 years. See the General Plan Update Intro Video for an overview, and then go to City of Lafayette CA General Plan  to learn more and weigh in!

Following the Terraces?

Monday, August 24, 2020, after another long meeting, the Lafayette City Council voted 4 to 1 to approve the building of the 315-unit apartment building. Vice-Mayor Candell dissented.

City Council has 3 seats up for election in November:

Lafayette is looking to fill three of the five city council seats in November ballot. Four candidates are running: Cam Burks (incumbent), Carl Anduri, Gina Dawson, and Farschad Farzan are on the ballot. Mayor Mike Anderson and Councilmember Steve Bliss are not running. To read about these candidates, see Voter’s Edge.

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July 2020 Notes

by Carol Murota

Lafayette’s housing remains an issue: Lafayette continues its very expensive and protracted housing battle over the Terraces of Lafayette. The Planning Commission held two meetings, hearing from residents in support of and in opposition to the project. After 7 hours, a majority of the Commissioners reluctantly agreed to approve the project, being unable to find legal cause to deny the developer’s permit.

City Councilmember Cam Burks appealed their recommendation. In response, the full City Council will hold a public meeting on August 10, 2020. If you wish to attend the Zoom call, please confirm the start time and details on the LoveLafayette website

Local Politics: The Lafayette city mayor announced his resignation. Mayor Anderson’s term expires in November, 2020.

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COVID-19 and the Brown Act - May 2020

by Carol Murota

The Brown Act protects the public’s right to attend and engage in meetings of their legislative bodies. It requires timely posting of agendas. Adopted over 50 years ago, it has become the norm, and we have taken for granted our ability to engage in meetings of our city councils and commissions. Then COVID-19 arrived.

Pre-COVID-19, residents were given time during meetings to bring their concerns and appreciations to their officials. The process was transparent and public. Now, faced with health and safety concerns, physical distancing/shelter-in-place orders were issued, and in-person attendance at meetings was suspended for everyone – both officials and the public participate in meetings remotely. This is new territory. There is no time-tested alternative to public meetings. At the most recent Lafayette City Council meeting, conducted remotely, city staff reported on a variety of systems being tried and their efficacy at screening out inappropriate behaviors. It is surprising what people do and say when they are not standing in front of a podium!

To be clear, the City Council of Lafayette has been rigorous in making sure all comments submitted are part of the public record, and they have a staff member present at their meetings to handle the technical pieces. As reported earlier,, their reflexes were tested by the obscene comments made during the first meeting. No other incidents have made it to the public recording since safety protocols were put in place. The city clerk has read comments into the public record, and almost all have been within the 3-minute limit. For many residents, the current method has been a success despite not exactly replicating in person participation.

Some Lafayette residents, however, feel strongly that there is no substitute for an in-person presentation. To address this while balancing the reality of COVID-19 requirements, the City Council engaged in a thorough discussion with council members asking follow-up questions to public comments. Recognizing the urgency to find a solution, the City Council, despite facing a significant reduction in revenues, opted to contract with a virtual meeting management company called PrimeGov to give the public a way to make comments, to screen input to prevent inappropriate comments, and, as closely as possible, to replicate the openness and transparency of pre-COVID-19 meetings.

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Previous reports: 

Lafayette Observers Report - Housing Makes National News (February 2020)

The (League Observer’s) View from Lafayette (Juy 2019)

This article is related to which committees: 
LWV Diablo Valley Observer Corps
League to which this content belongs: 
Diablo Valley