Required Viewing: Chief Louder Q&A with CoCo Tax

Kudos go out to ConFire Chief Daryl Louder for not only speaking at the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association, but answering a series of questions that should be required viewing for those not only serviced by ConFire, but those in East County who continue to suggest cockamamie ideas going forward.

Here are the questions asked by CoCO Tax

  1. What was going to happen with agriculture land?
  2. Emergency Response being 70% of response. Why are you in the emergency medical call business. Why does an engine show up to my medical emergency? Is there some way to transfer that responsibility and reduce cost?
  3. Had you looked at changing the system? How much does it cost to roll a truck to an incident?
  4. Senior exemption: Would you have a senior exemption?  What percentage of the parcels belong to seniors?
  5. Variety of questions on Pensions.  What about the assertion that pensions are the reason for the tax.  (14-minute mark)
  6. Can you define “de-pool” pensions?
  7. Do you want to touch on those needs (capital expenditures) and for example how long it’s been since you bought a milk & dollar fire truck.
  8. Mutual Aid: Are there plans to change your mutual aid (to East County) and are their plans to take over East County?

While I will not type out the entire 30 minutes of Q&A which Lisa Vorderbrueggen Contra Costa Times posted within her article, I will address question number two which provides a lot of information as to why leaving the engines in the stations during medical calls is a bad idea and the Chief puts to rest a lot of the misconceptions people proclaim on the blog sites.

Not mentioned in the video is for ECCFPD, it’s estimated that leaving engines in the stations saves under $150,000 per year which is very little considering the value of a life.

CoCo Tax Association Lunch Question: Why are you in the emergency medical call business? Is there some way to transfer that responsibility and transfer cost? Why does an engine show up to my medical emergency?

Louder: “The county Emergency Medical Services plan (EMS) plan calls for an integrated system. It’s not something the fire service dreamed up, it’s the county plan.  Fire service first response, then transportation and continued treatment by ambulances (AMR). If you look at our system you find out the systems complement each other. It’s not an either or, but an integrated systematic approach to medical care and patient care.

AMR has a finite amount of units that they staff every day and they depend on fire service units to get their quickly and to be able to access the patient, to be able to treat and stabilize the patient while they bring the transport unit and then if necessary to transport to the hospital. That is what the county plan calls for. AMR acknowledge that’s exactly what the plan calls for that they depend on both of our resources and responses to protect the community.

The other important thing to remember is that whenever they pick up a patient and take someone to the hospital, they are out of service for 45 minutes to an hour and fifteen minutes. By the time they treat, transport, turn them over to hospital staff, clean the unit, and restock the engine and all the stuff that it takes to do that and that fire unit that was their initially to help the patient goes back in service and take next emergency call.

The other important thing to remember, and I mentioned this earlier, is that our staffing level and our needs of one firefighter per thousand the 28 fire stations is based on fire response and fire needs. Everything we do from a medical standpoint truly is added value. It doesn’t mean we can reduce our capacity or it doesn’t mean we can reduce our units, but it allows us to enhance our service and provide additional service to the community which is already mandated for us to have those capabilities.

It is an integrated system by county policy; it is a system that compliments between ARM and the fire service. We are going to be there anyhow, we have to staff our stations for fire protection. We are providing additional service by being able to run the emergency medical calls.

It doesn’t make sense that if you have a staff unit with paramedics and EMT sitting close to that patient, and we many times arrive first, that we would be sitting in a fire station waiting for a fire call and not provide service to that community.  So that is what we are trying to do, maximize our performance, maximize our efficiency and provide the services the community needs.

People ask why we show up with a fire truck… the reality is the fire truck it is a very versatile and flexible platform for us to be able to conduct our operation.  If we respond from the firehouse to an emergency medical call, as soon as that patient is taken care of by AMR, that unit (fire engine) becomes available for the next call. If that happens to be a fire call or a rescue call our firefighters are already on a fire fighting unit and respond directly from that incident to the next incident. They don’t have to go back and switch units. They don’t have to have a single person driving a fire truck that is trying to go on an emergency response,  watch the road, talk on the radio, look at a map, and do all that type of stuff themselves. So we keep them together as a unit, they go to the calls, they get in service and they get ready for the next call and it really gives us a very efficient, flexible, platform for us to do multiple types of operations for an all hazards system.”

At the 21:30 minute mark in the video, the Chief Louder makes a solid statement that should be a real eye opener to the public.

“As fire chief, what I cannot do is lose 7-10 companies out of our community fire protection system. I can’t protect the community that way. Regardless of what delivery system you want to talk about, regardless of staffing levels or anything else. I can’t protect this community of 600,000 people with 7-10 less fire companies out there. That is just a given.

So what we try to do is balance for what we are asking the public and for also what we hope the general economy gradually improve where we can try and hold things together for a period of time and hopefully then be able to address more capital needs.

We have used the grand system to address some of our capital needs. We got a new ladder truck within the past year where it was an 80-20 split. We have a new radio system where the grants paid the majority of that.  We have a new SCBA cylinder so we are trying to leverage all the opportunities that we have out there. We are trying to hold our capital needs. Basically defer them and hold it together and focus mainly on front line service delivery and protection to the community. And yes, we haven’t addressed all those needs and yes would it be nice to have $200 from everybody, absolutely and that would address that but we are cognizant of trying to have a balance between what we are asking from the public and providing critical services,” said Louder.

Main Part of his Speech

Q&A Segment

Posted in CONFIRE, Contra Costa County, East County, Fire Dept. | 1 Comment

Bethel Island Loses Quick Response Vehicles

I heard a nasty rumor early this morning that the Quick Response Vehicles (QRV) would be leaving Bethel Island. I was able to receive confirmation that July 15 will be the last day these services will be available from the Bethel Island Fire Station.

The problem now is finding housing and a location for future services to ensure response times are effective.

QRV’s are non-transporting, single-paramedic-staffed units designed to respond as part of a first response team to bring paramedic-level services to areas without fire paramedic staffing. Essentially, it provided a higher level of service to accommodate firefighters in first response situations.  QRV’s as currently staffed, were never capable of functioning as an independent first-line medical response and never were going to shorten response times.

On a temporary basis, AMR will replace the Bethel Island CRV with a 24-hour paramedic-staffed ambulance.

Here is a copy of the Letter in PDF Form  AMR_QRV June 28


Posted in Around Oakley, Contra Costa County, East County, Fire Dept. | 7 Comments

eBART: Six Possible Station Locations

Kudos to Oakley Mayor Kevin Romick for providing information on his blog today about possible eBart stations between Hillcrest Avenue and Discovery Bay/Byron. The study will be looking at six locations.

The station sites to be evaluated are along the Bypass, and are: Laurel Road, Lone Tree Way, Mokelumne (Mokelumne Crossing of SR4) Sand Creek Road, Balfour Road, and near Marsh Creek Road.

Click to enlarge the image.

According to Romick, a public meeting will be held in Brentwood, in July while the study will be completed in Fall 2012.

Posted in Around Oakley, Brentwood, East County | Leave a comment

Volunteer Firefighter Program Wastes Money

Here is a copy of my Letter to the Editor in the Brentwood Press this week. This is not meant to be a knock on the volunteers, but rather a knock on the process and the cost burden which will not protect the taxpayer. Until there are protections on the taxpayer to recovery training costs, I can’t support this under current plan of implementation.

Volunteer Firefighter Program Wastes Money

This entire idea of a volunteer fire department is outdated and offers nothing new, as we no longer live in a time where volunteers can get to a station quickly to have an impact in an emergency situation. In theory, it’s a great idea, but the reality is: it will waste money and will further drain our reserve funds.

According to Monday’s meeting, it will cost roughly $10,500 to train a volunteer, who must put in 240 hours of initial fire training, 60 hours of medical training, 100 hours of driving emergency apparatus training and 240 hours of annual updates.

This training requirement equates to 30 eight-hour days. Or, it’s six months of training, two nights per week, three Saturdays per month and you get to do that every year indefinitely. For zero pay!

The district says it wants at least 40 “legitimate volunteers” to sign up before moving forward, while the chief stated to have a true first-out/first-in program, it would require close to 150 volunteers (50 per station).

But let’s stick with the 40; as the chief explained, there are many situations that occur after volunteers sign up. Some may not pass the medical; some are gung-ho for a few months and drop out; others get injured, while a very small percentage sticks with it over time.

Here is what may occur with our first batch of 40 volunteers as we just invested $420,000:

Five volunteers decide the 240 hours is too much time commitment and drop out. Another five decide it’s too much wear and tear on their bodies and drop out. Five more decide it’s not for them and finally five just drop out for no reason.

ECCFPD is left with 20 who completed the training, which is a 50-percent rate of completion.

These volunteers are now getting calls at all hours. After a while, it takes a toll on not only the volunteer, but their families. Another 10 drop for various reasons over the first few months as the excitement wears off with all the additional required training.

ECCFPD now has 10 good volunteers left out of 40. Within a year, five of them get hired full-time by other fire districts and leave. Now we are left with five firefighters in a volunteer program that began with 40 at a cost of $420,000.

Now repeat the cycle four times in a year and that is roughly $1.68 million in training investment while we can only hope we get 25 good volunteer to stay long term. This model outlined does not even include the ongoing training costs required each month.

While some may argue that 70-80 percent of the country uses volunteers, that example doesn’t fly anymore, as East County is not rural Nebraska or Wyoming. The other reason why it doesn’t fly is that California has different training requirements.

Service level will also be a problem, as not everyone lives by a station or works in East County. Some would have to travel 30 to 40 miles away when response times should be six to seven minutes. Will employees let volunteers leave work three to four times a day to respond? Will businesses shut down? I doubt it.

I don’t want to hear this volunteer program nonsense anymore. Our guys in the field need real support instead of these Mickey Mouse gimmicks that are a distraction at best.

This is an unwise investment for the taxpayer, as there is a reason why the volunteer program failed in 2002 and will fail again.

According to page 188 of the LAFCO MSR, “the program lacked the support of the local community, did not achieve service level improvements or economic benefits, and had resulted in a severe degradation of the morale of the paid, on-call firefighters within the Oakley Reserve Division.”

Should this board move forward with a volunteer program, it’s irresponsible behavior and does nothing to protect the taxpayer. It is not a good investment with our tax dollars since there is no accountability for volunteers we train.

The district is actually better off spending the $1.68 million each year in hiring full-time firefighters if given the choice.


Posted in Contra Costa County, East County, Fire Dept. | Leave a comment

ECCFPD Recap: Much Talk, Little Action

Last night’s ECCFPD meeting offered a lot of interesting discussions where the Board could have acted, but chose to be cautious for obvious reasons. The board did decide to look into the community interest for a volunteer program while while the idea of an elected board may prove to be to costly given the budget and it may turn out to be board members handpicking their own replacements.

Receive Overview of a Volunteer Firefighter Program

The difference between a volunteer firefighter program and a paid on-call program is that within a paid on-call program, the firefighters are paid per hour for training and emergency responses while volunteer is what it is, a volunteer and unpaid.

Volunteers would have to go through 240 hours of initial fire training, 60 hours of medical training, 100 hours of driving emergency apparatus training and 240 hours of annual updates—it would essentially cost the District $10,500 per volunteer in training.

Jim Frazier: How many volunteers are we talking about? The chief explained about 40-50 volunteers but if a true first out-first in program was set up, it would need to be 40-50 per station (150 total).

Jim Frazier followed up asking how many have volunteered since Measure S failed? The chief responded he got a couple calls, but zero have volunteered.

Jim Frazier asked if implemented, would this be used a stepping stone for other districts? Since we are paying for training and making the investment, what is the investment and commitment to us upon completion? The chief responded there is no commitment as he explained you are going to have your group of people who stay long term, others drop midway through training, some only like it for a few months and drop out—essentially, it’s a big mix of situations where it fades over time.

Steve Barr asked if the safety equipment belongs to the district? The chief responded yes it does. If someone leaves we can re-use it, but it would have to fit a new volunteer. He explained firefighters now are given two sets of equipment, but volunteers would be given one. Equipment is good for 10-years.

Steve Barr wanted to confirm that if we take away equipment, its $4000 in training cost? The chief confirmed Director Barr was correct in that assumption.

Gill Guerrero stated today I am a captain and as of Saturday I will be demoted. He urged the board to take into consideration the level of training is so difficult and different than other districts. He stated if this is the direction the board wants to take, the firefighters won’t stand in the way but the district needs to be clear in what this program is. Stated he was a Paid On Call (POC) and knows the demand of the program and how its changed as people cannot get to the stations in time anymore.

Bob Mankin stated he appreciates the volunteer program, but there are a lot of caveats that go along with the program and urge the board to consider it before making a decision.

Jim Frazier stated we should see the level of interest the community has prior to a decision. We should put out a call and see who signs up.

Kevin Romick asked the chief to explain where this was going. The chief responded based on Jim Frazier’s comment, could you put out an advertisement to start the process which would take about 30 days.

Steve Barr suggested a minimum number to move forward and a quota should be reached. He agreed with the Chief that 40 should be the minimum.

Pat Anderson explained just because they sign up doesn’t mean they understand all it entails. It needs to be clear so they understand what they are signing up for.

Jim Frazier opposed this number as being too low and suggest 60 as once they signup, they may decide it’s not for them and those who sign up may not even want to move forward. Suggested if the number drops to low, it should be cancelled.

Bob Kenny stated he has done the volunteer thing in the past and no one showed up. Stated before we make a commitment to them, they need to make a commitment to us

Motion passed for a quota of 40 by vote of 6-3 with Anderson, Frazier and Kenny voting no.

Process for Changing from Appointed to Elected Board

It was confirmed that this will be a two-step process if the Board was to go to an elected board. First, it would have to be on November Ballot for voters to approve the change followed by an election in June of 9-members. The cost was a concern to the Board where it was between $100-200k in anticipated costs for November plus any sort of setting up districts within the District for an election.

Kevin Romick asked if the City Council could appoint their replacements since the board of Supervisors already appoints two at-large board members from rural East County. It was explained to the board by legal that the statue would allow for this to occur.

My impression is rather than spend the money, the Board seemed like this would be the cheapest and best way to go forward, but were hesitant to move forward without discussing it at the City Council.

Erick Stonebarger stated, “I want to get to an elected board sooner rather than later. My recommendation would be for the council to appoint citizens”. He further explained he wanted to accelerate the process.

First off Mr. Stonebarger, appointing citizens does not make it an elected board, but I do agree with him it’s time to get councilmembers off the board. Also, accelerating the process may not be a good thing if it’s not thought out. This is essentially a one-shot attempt or moving to an elected board won’t happen as the funds are not there going forward (if ever).

Pat Anderson suggested she wants the council to discuss it and then come back to the board.

I agree with Ms. Anderson that its best to get council thoughts prior to a decision as the way it’s set up now is for Council to replace other councilmembers. If a change was to occur with citizen appointments, it may require need some change in language to allow it to occur.

Adopt Preliminary Operating Budget for Fiscal Year 2012-2013

The preliminary FY 2011-12 Operating Budget identifies anticipated expenses under the following staffing model:

  • 27 full time fire suppression personnel
  • 3 stations: staffed with three personnel
  • 4 management positions
  • 1 administrative position

Essentially, for the upcoming year the district is running in the red by -$45,000 while reserve funds will cover this loss with a remaining reserve balance of $759k.  According to the Chief, the budget does not account for the 20% reserve policy.

Jim Frazier asked if there has been any discussion if CONFIRE is called for mutual aid, will they be billing us for calls? The chief said no discussion yet.

Erick Stonebarger explained we should seriously consider not renewing the month to month lease and put the administration in an empty station (Savings of $40k or so).  He explained the District should be very concerned with retirement costs. He also reiterated his support of a 4-station hybrid model while struggling to support the budget.

Jim Frazier asked about the Sunshine Station and if that gives us 4-stations. If that is the case, can we pull resources from CALFIRE from that station? The chief explained that for six months in the winter, they could technically pull those resources over to this side of the District.

Steve Barr said he was concerned with the Accessed Assumptions as he didn’t see anywhere it was flat. He urged the District to tweak the model so that there is at least one year of flat revenue before seeing an increase.

Robert Brockman said the budget did not include the potential cost for volunteer training

Jim Frazier chimed in that due to Mr. Brockmans comment, the budget also does not consider the cost for an elected board. He urged the District to look into ways to consider implementing sources of re-occurring income.

Approve Year-End Fiscal Year 2011-12 Operating Budget Amendments.

The budget amendment was approved 9-0.

The total expenditures are estimated at $11,560,791.  During the fiscal year ending June 30, the District will have used $3,350,515 in reserves to cover its expenditures.  As of July 1, 2012, the District’s projected fund balance, including remaining reserves, will be $804,070.

Jim Frazier asked the Chief for a ballpark number if the district did not respond to medical emergency what would be saved? The chief responded with less than $50,000 because you are paying for staff already and all that would be saved is fuel and wear and tear on vehicles and equipment.

Approved by vote of 8-1 with Stonebarger being the “no” vote.


Public Comments

Christine Thresh (Bethel Island): Stated that July 1 will be a scary and sad day when the Bethel Island station closes. Stated that with the building closed she would like to work towards making the station a historical building and file the appropriate paperwork that would allow a volunteer group who will be supervised by a contractor to go in and fix the building. The purpose was the station is needed as a staging area.

My thoughts on this is it’s a great idea in theory, but now you are asking the District to spend resources on this pet project when the focus should be on providing resources for fire services. Where was this volunteer help when the station was open and our firefighters were living in a FEMA trailer? Why was their never this effort when the station was open to preserve the station for actual firefighter use? No disrespect to Ms. Thresh or others, but where was this effort when you actually had a station?

Gary Steinberg (Discovery Bay): Stated he would like the Board to reconsider the 4-station model based on geography stating “we can get the job done with two-man crews”. He explained the more crews the better and go that direction based on calls being mostly for medical.

Carissa Pillows (Brentwood): She stated her disappointment with the failure of the Yes on S campaign. She explained that Brentwood needs its second station because they pay 48% of the District and will be receiving 33% of the services. She thought the 4-station hybrid model was a solid option. She went on to explain that the District should stop responding to medical calls as firefighters should be fighting fires while AMR should handle medical. She stated she realized she was asking the District to drop 90% of their service calls. She moved onto to discussion about not wanting funds going towards an elected Board and how it should be a citizen appointed committee while instead of a volunteer firefighter program it should be invested in a volunteer first response service.

My thoughts on Ms. Pillows comments could take hours to respond with data that proves she is dead wrong on her opinion. More to the point, the District is not set up for a “return to source” because it’s a District, not Brenwtood so her argument of paying 48% for the 33% for services doesn’t fly. Not to be blunt, but this whole idea of not responding to medical calls is flat out stupid if you ask me. According to the Chief, by not responding to medicals you are saving on fuel and wear and tear on vehicles (around $50k)—I believe saving a life is more important than fuel and vehicle tear. According to Bob Mankin, he did the research and it’s about $45k per station.

More importantly, by not responding to medicals, you are essentially paying firefighters to sit in big comfy chairs and watch TV or play poker waiting for a fire. Imagine the public relations nightmare if little Timmy is 7 years old dies by choking on a hot dog and the firefighters could have been there but didn’t respond because they no longer respond to medicals.

The media asks, “What were you doing?” The captain responds, “Nothing, we were waiting to be called on a fire call and couldn’t risk using our resources for a medical call in case there was a fire”.

Meanwhile, little Timmy is dead when it could have been prevented had the District continued to respond to medical calls. This way of thinking is dangerous and now more than ever it’s time to consider changing its marketing from a Fire Department to an All Emergency Response Department because that is what it technically is.

As for Ms. Pillows, shame on her for suggesting the board to put thousands of “Little Timmy’s” in immediate danger while allowing AMR to increase their bottom line as they are a “for profit” company.

Ronald Leon (Bethel Island): Explained that Bethel Island will soon have a tragic event because this board closed their station and hopes they can sleep at night with this guilt. He said he will go to Federal Court to prevent this from happening because he claims that citizens can sue if county fails to provide services.

Posted in East County, Fire Dept. | 9 Comments

Tonight’s ECCFPD Board Meeting Preview

The East Contra Costa Fire Protect District (ECCFPD) will hold a very important meeting tonight which has three major topics of discussion which includes potentially moving towards an elected board, provide an overview of a volunteer firefighter program, while they Adopt Preliminary Operating Budget for Fiscal Year 2012-2013

Each of these topics could take hours to discuss but I’ll try and hit you with the talking points as prep for tonight’s meeting. I’d encourage many in East County to show up to se the board in action.

Elected Board Discussion

I wrote about this in detail on June 23 and I believe this will be a great thing; however, it’s a two-step process with the public having to approve the change in November with elections of new board members next June.

What should be interesting here is the discussion that will take place on how to break up the future board. Will they decide to select an “at large” model which means the top 9 candidates out of the entire District create the new board. Or, choose a model similar to the current makeup of the board which is done by Districts by way of population. Currently, the board is made up of 4 members from Brentwood, 3 from Oakley and two from the rural parts of the District based on population. Personally, I’d prefer the current make up of Districts based on population.  It ensures a fair representation based off population and the deck can’t be stacked in favor of a single area.

It should be noted that looking at the budget, it’s a now or wait a while decision as it appears the money is there now and will not be available going forward.

Overview of a volunteer firefighter program

For months now, there have been cries from the public that the District should move towards a volunteer based District. While I am all for a volunteer program, it should be noted there are costs involved as its not free and I firmly believe it should only be used as a subsidy at best to our current firefighters as we need full-time career firefighters.

According to the Staff Report:

A volunteer firefighter program would consist of members of the community that live or work within the District.

The difference between a volunteer firefighter program and a paid on-call program is that within a paid on-call program, the firefighters are paid per hour for training and emergency responses.

The following steps would be needed to implement a volunteer program:

  • Recruitment:  30-40 days of advertisement, accepting applications
  • Selection Process:  Application review, interviews, background checks, medical review
  • Training:  240 hours of initial fire training, 60 hours of medical training, 100 hours of driving emergency apparatus training; 240 hours of annual refresh/updates
  • Safety Equipment:  One set of structure firefighting turnouts, one set of wild land firefighting gear, self-contained breathing apparatus mask, personal medical safety bag, uniforms
  • Workers Compensation Policy:  A separate policy for volunteers is required by the District’s Workers Compensation insurance carrier.
  •  Costs:
    • $1000 – Recruitment (per each recruitment process)
    • $1500 – Selection Process (per volunteer)
    • $1500 – Training (per volunteer)
    • $6000 – Safety Equipment (per volunteer)
    • $ 500 – Workers Compensation Policy

Timeline would be to have first volunteers completely trained and ready to implement within 180 days of the beginning of the process.

Implementation of a volunteer program is not currently included in the preliminary operational budget. It would need to be budgeted in September 2012 when the Operational Budget is approved.

What jumps out to me first is doing the math as it costs $10,500 per volunteer which isn’t much, but it’s also not exactly free like some in East County have proclaimed.

But what is not clear within the staff report is how many volunteers are needed for a successful volunteer program. According to an email from Chief Henderson, the goal is 40-50 volunteer firefighters (it’s unclear if this is per station or for the entire volunteer program).

If the District was to hit this goal of 50, the total cost for this program set-up is roughly $525,000 which isn’t exactly free.  In a best case scenario, the volunteers could begin working in the District come Jan/Feb 2013 according to the Chief.

But here is the kicker; the District could put the investment forward in resources and its still volunteers. Meaning the District can’t make them show up.  More to the point, this isn’t the 1970’s where stores shut down and workers are right around the corner, it’s just not the reality anymore as people cannot simply get up and leave.

Imagine a Home Depot clerk getting the call and having to leave. Imagine a mom and pop store owner getting a call with customers inside, they are not going to close down. More to the point, we live in a commuter area where most volunteers will be working 20-30 minutes away at best.  By the time they get back to the area, the emergency/fire is larger or it’s over.

Adopt Preliminary Operating Budget for Fiscal Year 2012-2013

According to the staff report, on June 11, 2012 the Board received various staffing scenario options and their estimated associated costs for a Balanced Operating Budget for FY (fiscal year) 2012-13 and directed staff to prepare a preliminary Operating Budget based upon a 27 suppression personnel and 3 station staffing model.

The preliminary FY 2011-12 Operating Budget identifies anticipated expenses under the following staffing model:

  •  27 full time fire suppression personnel
  •  3 stations: staffed with three personnel
  •  4 management positions
  •  1 administrative position

This one is a real eye opener and bit scary at the same time considering the layoffs and closed stations will have occurred and the District will still be running at a small deficit. This will be covered using what little reserve funds are available. The revenue over (under) expenditures shows a deficit of $45,012 for 2012-2013 with reserves of $759,059 remaining.

In 2013-2014, the bottom line jumps to a projected deficit spending of -$325,418 with reserves dropping to $433,641. After that, in the 2014-2015 project budgets the reserves are gone and the entire district is underwater with a deficit of -$241,512.

The Agenda and staff report for tonight’s meeting can be found on the ECCFPD website.

Posted in Around Oakley, Brentwood, Contra Costa County, Discovery Bay, East County, Fire Dept. | 4 Comments

Oakley To Push Back Against ABAG Mandate

The City of Oakley is prepared to take on the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABG) and is preparing to approve sending a letter at this Tuesdays City Council Meeting which outlines many concerns of the city and is urging a reduction mandate of low and very-low income housing.

Kudos to the City, the staff, and the council for taking this much needed action as this mandate is not realistic nor is it even needed in Oakley.

In May 2010, ABAG provided a Draft Regional Housing Need Allocation which the numbers below are what is suggested be added to the City of Oakley via mandate–keep in mind, ABAG is decided for Oakley what we need based on a formula that doesn’t apply to us rather than the city making this determination for ourselves.

2014-2022 Regional Housing Need Allocation for Oakley

Very Low 0-50% – 311
Low 50-80% – 171
Moderate 81-120% – 171
Above Moderate 120% – 598
Total – 1,163

2007-2014 RHNA Total – 775
1999-2006 RHNA Total –  1,208

Background and Analysis
The City of Oakley is requesting revisions to the DRAFT Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) and Methodology that was recently approved by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) on May 17, 2012. Oakley is concerned with the high number of overall units allocated to the City, specifically the high number of low and very-low income units. The methodology does not take into account several factors that include the intent of the Oakley PDA areas was to create job and employment centers, the lack of rail transit within Oakley, the number of existing jobs within Oakley, the current RHNA performance relating to the construction of low- and very-low income units, and lastly the State’s recent elimination of Redevelopment Agencies.

Staff has prepared the following letter (STILL IN DRAFT FORM) that addresses all of the issues mentioned above. This letter would be forwarded to ABAG and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission prior to the July, 19, 2012 ABAG Executive Board Meeting.

SUBJECT: City of Oakley Comments and Request for Revisions to the DRAFT Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) Methodology and Preliminary Subregional Shares for the fifth cycle: 2014-2012

Dear Mr. Heminger and Mr. Rapport:

The City of Oakley is requesting revisions to the DRAFT Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) and Methodology that was recently approved by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) on May 17, 2012. Oakley is concerned with the high number of overall units allocated to the City, specifically the high number of low- and very-low income units. The methodology does not take into account several factors that include the intent of the Oakley Priority Development Areas (PDAs) was to create job and employment centers, the lack of rail transit within Oakley, the number of existing jobs within Oakley, the current RHNA performance relating to the construction of low and very-low income units, and lastly, the State’s recent elimination of Redevelopment Agencies.

When reviewing the draft RHNA and the methodology used to derive the draft allocation, it appears that Oakley has several unique conditions which should necessitate a reduction in the overall number of units that have been preliminarily allocated to Oakley. As stated in previous letters, a majority of the entitled units in Oakley are not located within PDAs. With this said, Oakley’s housing projections become misleading, specifically within Oakley’s three PDAs. In short, many of the units that have been approved and are not located within PDAs seem to be assumed within the PDA areas by the methodology. Although Oakley still feels it is important to reduce target emissions through a comprehensive regional strategy, there are several unique conditions to Oakley that need to be reconsidered when looking at the draft RHNA.

The Oakley City Council would like to offer the following comments:

  • The objective of the Sustainability Component is to concentrate new development in areas to protect the region’s natural resources and reduce development pressures on rural outlying areas. While the City agrees with this objective, it is not applicable to Oakley because Oakley’s General Plan already accommodates areas suitable for residential development to accommodate the total household projections in the Jobs-Housing Connection Scenario and Strategy. The original intent of the Oakley PDAs was to designate areas in which employment centers would be created. The need to accommodate more residential development in PDAs is undermining this goal.
  • A majority of 798 acres that make up the Oakley “Employment Area” PDA is not suitable for residential development. A large .portion of the PDA encompasses 378 acres of land owned by DuPont, in which approximately 170 acres are occupied by wetlands. Other portions of the DuPont property are located within a floodplain, are being remediated and are not currently ready for any type of development, and other portions are designated for Light Industrial land uses. Another portion of that PDA is occupied by 78 acres of land and governed by the River Oaks Crossing Specific Plan. A long-standing deed restriction and the Specific Plan do not allow for residential land uses. The remaining areas in the PDA are either designated for Light Industrial or Business Park land uses which also do not permit residential development. The requirement to provide 70% of the RHNA allocation within the ‘{Employment Area” PDA would create a situation where the City would have to amend the Oakley 2020 General Plan and Rezone hundreds of acres of land to allow for residential land uses. As stated within the first bullet, the intent of the PDA was to create jobs that have been envisioned within the General Plan since 2002 to help support the City’s existing, entitled and designated housing.
  • The draft RHNA allocated the maximum number of units to Oakley, meaning we have been preliminarily allocated 1.5 times the current  RHNA cycle allocation. This seems to go against the Fair Share Component’s objective. Based on the Fair Share Component’s objective, several factors should have been taken into account when determining the allocation
    • Oakley does not have a strong transit network. While the City does have ambitions to one day have a strong transit network, there is currently a lack of existing infrastructure for direct rail transit. This should have resulted in a lower Fair Share score.
    • There is also a strong desire to bring jobs into the City. This is evident by the City’s desire to have three PDAs. However, Oakley is not currently a job rich city and, therefore, we should have received a lower Fair Share score.
    • Lastly, the methodology does take into account the most recent RHNA performance, rather the 1999-2006 RHNA cycle was used in the Fair Share scoring. The City of Oakley incorporated in 1999, and did not adopt a General Plan until 2002. Subsequently, a Housing Element was adopted in 2005 for the 1999-2006 cycle, and another Housing Element in 2009 for the current 2007-2014 cycle. The City has been committed to not only making land available to accommodate the RHNA allocation, Oakley has already built almost all of the current cycle’s allocation, including exceeding the number of low- and very-low income units required. This past performance should be taken into account and should result in~ Oakley receiving a lower overall score.
  • Oakley is not currently served by direct rail transit. The need for an increased job growth is a priority for Oakley. As previously stated, the PDA areas are intended for jobs, which would ensure the residents of Oakley would not need to commute to inner Bay Area job locations, thereby reducing unit and GHG emissions. The draft RHNA allocations do not take into account that Oakley is predominantly made up of single-family residences, and is an area where that lifestyle is preferred over higher-density development. Almost as important is the fact that Oakley has successfully produced low- and very-low income units to satisfy the current RHNA cycle. This shows Oakley’s commitment to provide housing for all income levels. As stated by other East Contra Costa County cities, job growth should be a priority for East Contra Costa County and a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as meeting the housing preferences for the region.
  • The recent elimination of Redevelopment Agencies further financially burdens local agencies that are already facing fiscal concerns due to the current economy. Oakley is very apprehensive with the draft RHNA allocation as it relates to the economy as it suggests multiple acres of land will need to be rezoned to accommodate a large number of higher density units that might never be built and would occupy land needed to create jobs.

The City of Oakley City Council hopes these comments will be considered and that the draft RHNA for Oakley will be reduced accordingly.

Bryan Montgomery
City Manager

C: Oakley City Council
Senator Mark DeSaulnier- 7th District
Assembly Member Joan Buchanan -15th District

Posted in Around Oakley, City Council | Leave a comment