March 18, 2013

San Leandro Police to Pay Their Retirement Contribution in New Contract

The San Leandro City Council unanimously approved a new Memorandum of Understanding with the San Leandro Police Officers Association at its March 18, 2013, meeting. Beginning in 2015, San Leandro Police will pay the entire portion of their retirement contribution, which had been paid in full by the City of San Leandro. The increase in PERS contribution rises gradually from three percent (3%) in April 2013 to six percent (6%) in January 2014, and nine percent (9%) in January 2015. This brings San Leandro into line with other cities in Alameda County, where most public safety employees have paid their entire CalPERS contribution for years.

In order for the City to get that concession, police employees will receive raises of four percent (4%) in 2014 and three percent (3%) in 2015 and a sixth salary step (with a 5% bump in salary). The annual uniform allowance increases from $1,050 in the previous MOU to $1,300 in the new MOU. Police continuously employed by the City of San Leandro for 20 and 25 years will receive four percent (4%) and five percent (5%) of their base pay, an increase of one percent (1%) from the previous MOU. Police employees will also be permitted to sell up to 80 hours of vacation per year.

According to the City Staff report, the new MOU saves $153,924 in 2013 and $102,939 in 2014, but will cost an additional $304,519 in 2015. Over the three-year term of the contract, the additional cost is estimated at $47,655.

The stage for the police MOU (and likely the forthcoming non-public safety contract) was set with the November 2012 approval of five-year contracts with San Leandro Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli and Assistant City Manager Lianne Marshall. Those contracts also gradually increased the employee PERS contribution paid by the employee over the term of the contract. Similarly, when San Leandro City Manager Chris Zapata was hired in 2012, his contract also required that he pay the full amount of the employee retirement contribution.

In 2011, the employee portion of the CalPERS contribution paid by the City of San Leandro totaled $2.47 million.

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March 10, 2013

Heron Bay Homeowners Association Appeals Approval of Halus Wind Turbine

Two weeks after San Leandro's Board of Zoning Adjustments (BZA) approved a height variance for a 100-foot-tall wind turbine at Halus Power Systems at its February 7, 2013, meeting, the Heron Bay Homeowners Association filed an appeal with the San Leandro City Council.

On February 7, 2013, the BZA voted 4-0 to approve a height variance for a wind turbine at Halus Power Systems at 2539 Grant Avenue. Halus filed an application to install a wind turbine that exceeds by 40 feet the 60-foot height limit for structures on properties that are zoned IG (General Industrial), which necessitated approval of a variance. BZA members Janet Palma, Thomas Makin, and Jane Abelee were not present at the meeting. Catherine Vierra Houston, who was re-appointed to the BZA by District 4 Councilmember Benny Lee just three days earlier, voted in favor of the variance. BZA members Rene Mendieta, Phil Daly, and Lee Thomas also voted in favor of the variance. Councilmember Lee has actively opposed the wind turbine and was President of the Heron Bay Homeowners Association when it threatened to sue the City of San Leandro unless an Environmental Impact Report was required.

The appeal, filed by A. Alan Berg, the attorney for the Heron Bay Homeowners Association, claims that the BZA “improperly and illegally granted a variance to Halus Power Systems,” that approval of the variance was “not supported by required findings,” and that BZA member Janet Palma's actions prior to the hearing constituted possible prejudice.

The actions of Janet Palma referred to in the appeal are comments she posted to a San Leandro Patch article about the November 2012 election. Palma's comments that mentioned Halus included “...not true that Halus has no local support, in fact just the opposite.” and “I do believe that there is support for the Halus wind turbine and that all information needs to be heard before it is considered a dead deal.” These comments were made on November 8, 2012, three months before the BZA meeting. Palma did not attend the February 7, 2013, BZA meeting and did not vote on the variance. The appeal states, “...her prejudicial comments regarding appellant and her pre-determined decision to grant the variance were published on or about November 7, is certainly arguable and possible, that Ms. Palma infected and influenced the remaining Board members and city staff well before the public hearing.”

The appeal states that “it takes no great imagination to see that the turbine will constitute an eyesore. One that damages the near perfect scenic view of the marsh, the creek and the bay.” Halus is bordered on the west by a salvage yard, on the south and east by commercial/industrial properties, and 120-foot-tall electrical transmission towers are located between the Heron Bay development and San Francisco Bay. Photo simulations showing the wind turbine were prepared by Halus, but the appeal rejects the photo simulations, stating, “the subject photos simulations are all taken from public trail and bay views. None of them are taken from the home sites of the approximately 25 homes that would be directly affected...”

Councilmember Benny Lee's letter opposing the wind turbine is cited in the appeal: “The Association is aware that Benny Lee, the president of the Heron Bay Homeowners Association, has independently sent written comments listing six separate concerns that he has with the proposed project. The Association hereby incorporates and adopts each and every point raised by Mr. Lee in his comments.”

The wind turbine is cited as a potential hazard to air navigation, with the appeal stating, “There is little doubt that should an air catastrophe occur, and should disaster be traced back to interference from the proposed wind turbine, that the City would be liable for all resultant damages as the result of their refusal to demand a full EIR...” The Federal Aviation Administration disagrees, and on June 21, 2012, issued a letter stating the wind turbine “would not be a hazard to air navigation..."

The appeal claims that “All studies of wind turbines as they relate to property values indicate that property values will decline for both permanent and temporary periods.” However, a 2009 study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory entitled “The Impact of Wind Power Projects on Residential Property Values in the United States” concluded, “Based on the data and analysis presented in this report, no evidence is found that home prices surrounding wind facilities are consistently, measurably, and significantly affected by either the view of wind facilities or the distance of the home to those facilities.”

The risk of bankruptcy is the final argument against the wind turbine, even going so far as to cite Solyndra's 2011 bankruptcy: “There also appears to be no plan in effect in the event that Halus would abandon the project and the site or file bankruptcy. This risk has certainly become more obvious is [sic] recent times as evidenced by the Solyndra disaster.”

According to city staff, there have been four appeals of BZA decisions in the past nine years. In all four cases, the City Council upheld the BZA's decision.

The appeal is scheduled for the April 1, 2013, San Leandro City Council meeting.

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March 4, 2013

The Concrete Arch Bridge over San Leandro Creek

The following article appeared in the August 27, 1903, edition of Engineering News. It is about the E. 14th Street bridge over San Leandro Creek next to Root Park near the corner of Hays Street.


By William B. Barber.

The accompanying illustrations show a concrete arch bridge which is rather interesting because of its span of 8IlA ft. built of un-reinforced concrete, This bridge crosses San Leandro Creek on the line of the county road between Oakland and San Leandro, Cal. Fig. 1 is a view of the completed bridge. and Fig. 2 shows the center and some of the dimensions of the arch ring.

San Leandro Concrete Arch Bridge 1903

The bridge is a monolithic structure, built entirely of concrete, and its total length is 192 ft. No iron whatever was used in the construction of any of the parts of the bridge. It is a five-centered, elliptical arch, with a rise of 26 ft., and a span of 81 ft. 3 ins.; the arch has. a 10° skew from a right angle and its thickness at the keystone is 3 ft. The centers as shown by the original plans were intended to rest upon sand boxes, but in the construction of the bridge wedges were substituted and were found to work very successfully.

Center and some dimension for San Leandro Concrete Arch Bridge

About two miles up the stream from the location of the bridge is a dam that impounds the water supply for the city of Oakland. During the time of the construction of the bridge very little water was in the creek, but after the footings had been set and the haunches had been built about one-third the way up on each side, the filters at the dam were cleaned and the construction work flooded. The wedges under the centerings were flooded and the ground softened. In order to make the arch self-sustaining and to allow it to carry the extra weight that was to follow, a ring of the concrete, 1 ft. in thickness, was built up and keyed. Work was then continued upon the haunches and the arch was built upon the inner ring to its full thickness, as shown in the plan. Thus it will be seen that the arch is really built of two distinct rings.

The arch spans a waterway having a total area of 1,650 sq. ft. The footings of the arch have a width of 30 ft. on each side and extend 5 ft. below the bed of the creek, resting upon a bed of clay which is slightly interspersed with gravel; the footings rest on the original clay without piles. After the second arch ring had been keyed and the fill nearly completed, a 3-ft. water main that supplies the city of Oakland burst, and, cutting its way around the south end of the bridge, flooded the arch and removed a large portion of the fill. This had no effect upon the stability of the arch.

The centers were struck ten days after the keying of the second arch ring and the settling at the crown of the arch did not exceed 1 ½ ins; The main retaining walls for the approach are built also of concrete and have a length of 90 ft.

The total amount of concrete used in the bridge was 3,384 cu. yds. Scales' brand of Portland cement was used In the footings, while above the haunches and in the crown of the arch, Alsen brand was used. The concrete mixture consisted of 7 barrels of rock of varying sizes, 2 barrels of sand; and 1 barrel of Portland cement. Two winters were allowed to pass in order to allow the fill over the arch to properly settle; and the contracts, have been let for the construction of a macadam roadway, 41 ft. wide, over: the bridge and cement walks, 8 ft. wide, on each side; a granite curbing, 10 ins. in width, separates the walks from the roadway. On each side of the bridge is a parapet wall, 3 ft. 6 ins. in height.

There were 90,000 ft. of lumber in the forms used in the construction of this bridge. The finish of the exposed surface did not receive a coat of plaster, surfaced lumber being used next to the face of the bridge. It was built in 1901 from plans prepared by the County Surveyor's Office of Alameda County, California, and the construction was under the superintendency of the same office. The bridge was constructed by the E. B. & A. L. Stone Co., of Oakland, whose contract price was $25,840.

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