May 29, 2011

Violent Crimes Drop in San Leandro for 4th Consecutive Year

With new crime statistics showing violent crime in California decreasing 6.4% from 2009 to 2010, San Leandro showed a 16% drop in the same period. Violent crime and violent crimes per capita have been dropping in San Leandro since 2006 (see chart below).

San_Leandro_violent_crime_rate_2004-2010.png

San Leandro's violent crime rate of 4.11 violent crimes per 1,000 residents is lower than neighboring cities of Oakland (15.3, the highest in California for large cities) and Hayward (4.51), but higher than Fremont (2.37). Oakland had the highest crime rate in California and the sixth-highest crime rate in the United States for cities with more than 100,000 people. The table below compares violent crime rates of some cities in Alameda County:

CityViolent Crime Rate in 2010
Oakland15.3
Berkeley5.19
Hayward4.51
Newark4.49
San Leandro4.11
Fremont2.37
Alameda2.34

Violent crimes are defined as murders, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults.

When asked about the drop in violent crime in San Leandro, Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli said, "Crime in San Leandro is at a 30 year low..." Spagnoli attributed the drop in crime to community involvement in crime prevention, proactive policing practices, relentless follow up on serious/ violent crimes, technology such as cameras, and specialty units, like traffic and the tactical unit.

Spagnoli noted that "Benicia had a similar drop in violent crime," although the nature of the crimes committed was becoming more violent.

The drop in crime nationally has experts puzzled. Many have predicted that crime increases as unemployment increases, but that has not happened in recent years. James Q. Wilson wrote in the Wall Street Journal that "greater incarceration can explain about one-quarter or more of the crime decline." Wilson also speculates that a change in police focus from making arrests to reducing crime, a decrease in blood level levels (since leaded gasoline was banned in 1974), decrease in cocaine use, and finally a change in culture have all contributed to the decline in crime. He dismisses Steven Levitt's (Freakonomics) explanation that legalization of abortion has contributed significantly to the drop in crime.

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May 19, 2011

Wide Support for St. Rose/San Leandro Hospital Merger at Town Hall

Supporters of San Leandro Hospital came out in force to a Town Hall meeting held on May 17, 2011, at the San Leandro Senior Center. Speakers included California State Senator Ellen Corbett, St. Rose Hospital CEO and President Michael Mahoney, Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy, Vice Mayor Michael Gregory, and Eden Township Healthcare District Director Carole Rogers.

Under the proposed plan, St. Rose and San Leandro Hospitals would merge operations and be owned by Eden Township Healthcare District. Details on the finances of such a move have not been released and Sutter has not indicated whether it would support such a plan.

If you missed the meeting, here are the speeches, courtesy of Mia Ousley:


California State Senator Ellen Corbett


Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan


Carole Rogers, Eden Township Healthcare District Director


San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy


Michael Mahoney, St. Rose President and CEO

More speeches after the break


Nurse Carol Barazi


Michael Gregory, San Leandro Vice Mayor


Miles Adler, former Eden Medical Center Chief of Staff


Vin Sawhney, Eden Township Healthcare District Director


John Kalafatich (Big John)

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May 17, 2011

Balanced Budget for 2011-2012 Presented to San Leandro City Council

San Leandro's first balanced budget in three years, according to City Manager Steve Hollister, was presented at the May 16, 2011, meeting of the San Leandro City Council.

According to the presentation, the budget for fiscal year 2011-2012 (July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012) maintains current levels of service, except for the addition of the operation of the Senior Community Center.

Finance Director Tracy Vesely noted that the revised California state budget still includes a public safety realignment plan and the elimination of redevelopment agencies, but the final outcome remains unknown.

The general fund budget of $71.76 million is an increase of 3% from last year's adopted budget of $69.98 million. A portion of the growth in the budget comes from an annual increase of $852,759 in the City's contribution to the CalPERS pension fund and an increase of $490,000 in employee costs from new contracts that were approved in December 2010. The budget increase is largely supported by an estimated $3.5 million from Measure Z, the quarter-cent sales tax passed in November 2010. The COPS grant for five police officers is the reason that city staff will increase by nearly 5 employees to 409.2 FTEs (full-time equivalents).

Police make up $26.1 million or 36.2% of the total City budget. Fire accounts for $16.2 million or 25.25% of the budget. The next biggest expenditures are $4.7 million for library services, $4.1 million for public works, and $3.8 million for recreation and human services. Debt service is $3 million or 4.15%.

Although the current budget is balanced, projections for the next three years show structural deficits increasing from $125K in 2012-2013 to $1.86 million in 2014-2015. Those projections do not include any salary increases for city workers.

The special fund for the shoreline is expected to end 2011-2012 with a $116K deficit. All other funds are projected to end the year with a positive balance, with the gas tax fund and business improvement district funds showing deficits the following year.

The City isn't planning to spend any general fund money on its roads next year, but will receive money from Alameda County's Measure B funds that will be used for rehabilitation and street sealing. San Leandro's roads currently have a Pavement Condition Index of 58, which is considered "at-risk" and is tied for the worst pavement conditions in Alameda County with Oakland.

Mayor Stephen Cassidy promised not to take his salary of $35,370 until San Leandro's budget was balanced. The San Leandro City Council looks set to make that happen in June, when it votes on whether to approve the budget. Cassidy said last night that even when he starts receiving his salary, he will voluntarily contribute his portion of the 8% CalPERS pension contribution. That sets the stage for future contract negotiations, in which employees will likely be asked to pay their portion of the employee CalPERS pension contribution. San Leandro is one of two cities in Alameda County that pays the entire portion of the employee retirement contribution for non-safety employees and one of four cities that pays the entire portion of the employee retirement contribution for police.

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May 12, 2011

Sewer Lateral Issue Will Likely Impact More Areas of San Leandro

Residents of the Beverly/Dowling/Dutton Triangle area of San Leandro are likely just the first residents to face replacement of sewer laterals that run through backyards and under existing houses and other structures.

A map prepared by the City of San Leandro shows five areas where residents may be faced with a similar issue. Those areas are shown below:

area1_sewer_laterals.jpg
Area in Council District 5 bounded by Kenilworth, Dutton, Durant, E. 14th St., Breed, and Broadmoor.

area2_sewer_laterals.jpg
Area in Council District 2 bounded by Sybil, Bancroft, San Rafael, and San Leandro High School

area3_sewer_laterals.jpg
Area in Council District 1 bounded by Benedict, View, and Sandelin

area4_sewer_laterals.jpg
Area in Council District 6 bounded by North, Donovan, Virginia, and O'Donnell

area5_sewer_laterals.jpg
Area in Council District 6 bounded by Davis, Maria, Kelly, and Cherry Grove Park

At the April 12, 2011, meeting of the Facilities and Transportation Committee of the San Leandro City Council, a presentation noted that "23 miles [of sanitary sewers in San Leandro] are located in backyards of over 900 residential properties."

City staff have re-iterated on numerous occasions that homeowners are responsible for the cost of reconnecting their sewer laterals when the City moves the main sewer. Estimates of the cost of moving a sewer lateral range from $4,000 to $8,000, according to the City presentation, but could range up to $10,000 or more for each affected property owner.

Residents of the Beverly/Dowling/Dutton Triangle area are threatening to sue if they are forced to pay for moving their sewer laterals. The issue will likely appear soon on a future City Council agenda.

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County to Adopt Negative Declaration for San Leandro Creek Hazardous Tree Project

sl_creek_tree_areas_small.jpg

In a notice sent out on May 11, 2011, the Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District stated its intent to adopt a mitigated negative declaration for the San Leandro Creek Hazardous Tree Management Project. This means that the "significant effects of the project noted in the attached Initial Study have been eliminated or mitigated by revisions to the project so that the potential adverse effects are reduced to a point where no significant effects would occur."

The notice is the start of a 20-day period in which members of the public can review and comment on the Initial Study. The review period ends at 9am on May 31, 2011.

The project has been scaled back from earlier proposals and now involves the removal of 17 trees, pruning of 15 trees, and trimming back two trees in a total of three areas of San Leandro Creek near Huff Avenue (location 1), Cary Drive, Haas Avenue and Bancroft Middle School (location 2), and St. Mary Avenue (location 3). The Initial Study includes photos showing what the areas would like once the project is completed (pages 18-25).

More information about the project previous community meetings can be found at http://www.acgov.org/pwa/SanLeandroCreekTreeHazardous.shtml

If you disagree with the Initial Study's conclusion that there will no "significant adverse impacts," email your comments to jimb@acpwa.org or send them to:

Mr. Kwablah Attiogbe, Environmental Services Manager
Alameda County Flood Control & Water Conservation District
399 Elmhurst Street
Hayward, CA 94544
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May 6, 2011

City to Appeal Faith Fellowship Case to US Supreme Court

At a closed session meeting of the San Leandro City Council on May 5, 2011, the City Council voted 5 to 2 to appeal the Faith Fellowship case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Councilmember Pauline Cutter and Mayor Stephen Cassidy voted against appealing the decision.

The U.S. Supreme Court has denied hearing similar cases involving land use and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) in Board of County Commissioners v. Rocky Mountain Christian Church,( Docket No. 10-521, cert. denied 1/10/2011), Lighthouse Institute for Evangelism v. Long Branch, NJ, (Case No. 07-1111), and Greater Bible Way Temple v. City of Jackson, MI, (Case No. 07-1080). Steve Clowney at the PropertyProf Blog speculated that the reason the US Supreme Court is declining to hear these cases is because they may not believe that "land use rules need to be consistent from state to state."

thumb_hamilton_marci.jpg The San Leandro City Council also decided to retain Professor Marci Hamilton to assist with the appeal to the US Supreme Court. Hamilton successfully challenged the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), has written extensively about RLUIPA (see The Circus That is RLUIPA) and believes that RLUIPA is unconstitutional. A video interview of Ms. Hamilton can be found on YouTube. Hamilton represented the Borough of Roosevelt at the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and New Milford at the Second Circuit. Hamilton won both of these cases because the religious institutions had not gone through all of the procedures and appeals before they filed a lawsuit. Hamilton is also assisting the Borough of Litchfield (Connecticut) in an RLUIPA lawsuit, in which the US Department of Justice has sided with Chabad Lubavich of Litchfield County, a conservative Hasidic group.

When asked by San Leandro Bytes why the Supreme Court would hear San Leandro's case, when so many other cases have been denied certiorari, Hamilton replied, "The issues in this case are ripe for Supreme Court review, because they have been percolating for a number of years, there is a split among courts over the issues, and the issues are very important to every city and land use authority." Hamilton also said that she handled other relevant RLUIPA cases, including League of Residential Neighborhood Advocates v. City of Los Angeles, 498 F.3d 1052 (9th Cir. 2007), Grace United Methodist Church v. Cheyenne, 451 F.3d 643 (2006) and Congregation Kol Ami v. Abington Township, 309 F.3d 120 (3rd Cir. 2002). In Volume 2 of the 2009 Albany Government Law Review, Hamilton penned an article entitled, "The Constitutional Limitations of Congress's Power Over Local Land Use: Why the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act is Unconstitutional," in which she concludes, "Section 2(a) of RLUIPA is a repudiation of the Supreme Court's jurisprudence of respectful deference to state and local land use decisions in the absence of discrimination and a takeover of the states' well developed systems of judicial review of local land use decisions."

If the US Supreme Court decides to hear the case, San Leandro will become part of a landmark decision, but that may be a long shot, since the Supreme Court accepts less than 1% of appeals.

The report out of closed session is as follows:

At its closed session meeting on Thursday, May 5, 2011, the San Leandro City Council authorized the City Attorney to file a petition for certiorari to the United States Supreme Court on behalf of the City in the matter of International Church of Foursquare Gospel v. City of San Leandro.
(vote: 5 ayes- Councilmembers Starosciak, Reed, Prola, Souza and Vice Mayor Gregory. 2 nays: Mayor Cassidy and Councilmember Cutter)
The Council further authorized the retention of Professor Marci Hamilton of Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law to provide specialized legal services in connection with the Petition.
(vote: 5 ayes- Councilmembers Starosciak, Reed, Prola, Souza and Vice Mayor Gregory. 2 nays: Mayor Cassidy and Councilmember Cutter)

In addition, the City also issued background on the case, which can be found after the break:

Source: City of San Leandro

Church of the Foursquare Gospel v. City of San Leandro
FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Case Background:

In June 2007, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel (Faith Fellowship Church) filed a lawsuit against the City and individual named City officials contending that the City violated the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and the Church’s constitutional rights by not agreeing to rezone certain industrial land in San Leandro as a relocation site for the Church in a community where it has resided and thrived for several decades.

U.S. District Court Judge Phyllis Hamilton granted the City’s motion for summary judgment and rejected all of the Church’s claims and found that the City had acted fairly and lawfully in all of its actions. The District Court held that “RLUIPA does not require cities to grant churches preferential rights over other property owners;” and further noted that the City had expanded the areas zoned to allow church uses and found no evidence of religious discrimination on the part of the City.

The Church appealed the District Court decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeal was heard by a three judge panel consisting of Judge Noonan, Judge Paez and Judge Duffy, a District Court judge sitting by assignment from the Southern District of New York. This past February 2011, in a published opinion authored by Judge Duffy, the Court reversed the granting of summary judgment by interpreting RLUIPA broadly and in conflict with other circuit courts addressing similar issues. The appellate court did NOT find that the City had violated RLUIPA but only that the District Court should reexamine whether the City’s denial of the Church’s rezoning request placed a “substantial burden” on the Church under the federal land use law, which provides benefits solely to religious landowners.

On March 15, 2011, the City filed a petition for rehearing which was denied on April 22, 2011. The City has ninety (90) days from that date in which to file a Petition for Certiorari (review) to the United States Supreme Court. After careful consideration, on May 5, 2011, the San Leandro City Council authorized the City Attorney to seek review by the United States Supreme Court on what the City believes to be an incorrect interpretation and application of RLUIPA with respect to San Leandro’s land use policies.

In addition, the City Council authorized the retention and association as co-counsel of Professor Marci Hamilton. Professor Hamilton is a constitutional law scholar and member of the faculty of Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, where she holds the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law and specializes in church/state issues, particularly issues involving religious organizations and individuals in conflict with the law. During the Court’s 1989 Term, Professor Hamilton clerked for United States Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Professor Hamilton represented the City of Boerne, Texas, in its successful constitutional challenge of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”), which is the statutory predecessor of RLUIPA. She has successfully represented many cities, towns, and neighborhoods in important religious land use litigation. Prof. Hamilton will join the City’s legal team led by Meyers Nave principal and litigation specialist, Deborah Fox.

Case History and Timeline:

June 12, 2007 - Original Complaint filed against City alleging RLUIPA/civil rights violations

June 30, 2007 - ICFG seeks Preliminary Injunction against the City on asserted RLUIPA/civil rights violations

October 2, 2007 - U.S. District Court Judge Phyllis Hamilton denies requested preliminary injunction

October 26, 2007 - Plaintiff files Amended Complaint alleging RLUIPA, 1st Amendment and civil rights violations

December 12, 2008 - Judge Phyllis Hamilton grants City’s request for Summary Judgment on all claims

July 7, 2009 - ICFG files appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal

February 15, 2011 - Ninth Circuit reverses and remands case to District Court for trial on “substantial burden” issue

March 15, 2011 - City filed a petition for rehearing and rehearing en banc to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal

April 22, 2011 - Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal issued Order and Amended Opinion denying City’s petition for rehearing and rehearing en banc

May 5, 2011 - City Council authorizes filing of a Petition for Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court

July 21, 2011 - Deadline for filing Petition for Certiorari

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May 4, 2011

Few Residents Attend City Manager Selection Town Hall

In a sparsely attended Town Hall to invite public input into the qualities desired in a City Manager, Mayor Stephen Cassidy and Councilmember Diana Souza heard from less than a dozen residents.

Mayor Cassidy explained to the audience that the ad-hoc committee for the selection of the City Manager had narrowed down the "more than 30" candidates to five. Cassidy would not get into specifics about the candidates, but did say that "we do have a diverse group." The ad-hoc committee consists of Cassidy, Souza, and Councilmember Ursula Reed. Reed was not present at the meeting because her speaking schedule at an event had been changed and conflicted with the meeting.

Souza explained that the goal of the process is to have the new City Manager on the job by July 1. She described the City Manager "is like the CFO of a company. They are in charge of everything." Souza later corrected herself, noting that the City Council directs the City Manager.

According to Cassidy, people who have answered the questionnaire said that the most important qualifications for a city manager were "public finance skills, business and economic development skills...live in our community communications skills....focus on the community and participation in the community as well as a long-range perspective."

Craig Williams, the first speaker, said that the city manager should have a "strong backbone" and said that one of the problems facing the city manager is the property tax scam that allows commercial properties to be sold without being re-assessed.

Harold Perez argued that San Leandro residents should be able to vote for the City Manager.

Mia Ousley asked if the City Manager candidates were aware of San Leandro By Design and noted that there was little recourse for citizens if the City Manager failed to perform well except to vote a few Council member out of office every few years.

Audrey Albers, a proponent of preserving boats at the marina, wanted the City Manager to recognize that there is more to San Leandro than business, referring "to the crown jewel of the marina."

Charles Gilcrest, a former member of the Board of Zoning Adjustments and former candidate for City Council, noted that the City Manager comes up for review more frequently than members of the City Council. The new City Manager should have a strategic vision, noting the discrepancy between David Irmer's presentation on downtown development and the transit-oriented development strategy. The City Manager "should be very responsive to you [City Council] and also interested in communicating with the community."

The City Council will meet in closed session on Thursday, May 5 to discuss the hiring of the City Manager. Interviews with City Manager applicants will be held on Saturday, May 7.

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Michael Gregory is New Vice Mayor

The San Leandro City Council voted unanimously for Michael Gregory as San Leandro's Vice Mayor at its meeting on May 2, 2011.

After a motion by a motion by Vice Mayor Ursula Reed and a second by Councilmember Jim Prola, Gregory was elected Vice Mayor without further comment.

According to the City Charter, "In the absence of the Mayor, the Vice Mayor shall possess and perform the powers and duties of the Mayor." This typically means representing the City and chairing meetings of the City Council in the Mayor's absence.

From 2000 to 2008, Vice Mayors had served for at least two terms. That ended with the selection of former Councilmember Bill Stephens, who served one year as Vice Mayor after a failed substitute motion by Councilmember Diana Souza to elect Councilmember Starosciak as Vice Mayor. Last year, Reed was elected Vice Mayor after a failed motion by Gregory to elect Prola Vice Mayor. No councilmembers from Districts 3 or 6 have served as Vice Mayor for more than 12 years. Below is a recent history of San Leandro's Vice Mayors:

  • 1998 - Gordon Galvan (District 1)
  • 1999 - Gordon Galvan (District 1)
  • 2000 - Bob Glaze (District 4)
  • 2001 - Bob Glaze (District 4)
  • 2002 - Bob Glaze (District 4)
  • 2003 - Bob Glaze (District 4)
  • 2004 - Orval "OB" Badger (District 1)
  • 2005 - Orval "OB" Badger (District 1)
  • 2006 - Surlene Grant (District 2)
  • 2007 - Surlene Grant (District 2)
  • 2008 - Bill Stephens (District 5)
  • 2009 - Joyce Starosciak (District 4)
  • 2010 - Ursula Reed (District 2)
  • 2011 - Michael Gregory (District 1)
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May 1, 2011

Ellen Corbett Address the 2011 California Democratic Convention

On the second day of the California Democratic Convention, California Senator and Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett talked about the continuing fight for the "California dream."

Corbett criticized California Republicans for not allowing voters to decide on a special election for tax extensions. "Republicans say the people don't have the right to vote on the solution. I guess we now know how the party of Honest Abe has become the party of Donald Trump. And isn't that ironic? Because you know, in last year's election, California voters told Republicans, 'You are fired!'"

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