Final results on Measure A from March ballot measure and previous articles
Final results announced March 23 show
pool measure captured needed two-thirds majority
Final results show El Cerrito's Measure A captured the needed
two-thirds majority, with not much to spare. City officials got the good
news March 23, though official certification of the election results isn't
due until March 27.
The measure won 67 percent to 33 percent, with 5,918 votes
in favor and 2,913 opposed.
The measure will raise funds for repair of the swimming
pool and three smaller projects.
"I'm looking forward to the opportunity and the challenges
we face now that the voters have given us the go-ahead.," said Councilwoman
The next steps for backers, said Park and Recreation Commissioner
Brenda Navellier, are to celebrate and begin planning the pool repairs.
The Park and Recreation Commission has formed a subcommittee
to recommend to the council how best to proceed with the design process
of the swimming pool renovation.
"It is our intention to get the process started immediately
since the process will take some time to complete," said Navellier.
"We want the citizens to see some result from the measure as soon
as possible. There will be a chance for public input, though the commission
held a series of pubilc meetings last summer to develop the master plan.
We now take the master plan as our guideline and move forward!"
Councilman Larry Damon said right now the city has a "rough
concept plan with an equally rough estimate of costs." Although it
will take some time for funds from the measure to reach city coffers,
Damon said the city should go ahead and use general fund reserves to get
started on the design.
" In my opinion, we should capture the momentum,"
he said. "Since
Measure A funding is now guaranteed, why not move forward to be positioned
for construction next winter?"
Votes tallied on election night showed 5,570 or 66.7 percent
in favor and 2,783 or 33.3 percent opposed. But the county Elections Office
still had to count provisional ballots and absentee ballots that were
turned in at any county precinct on election day.
A consultant team hired by the city last year said the pool
facility contains numerous deficiences, code violations and public health
The measure, placed on the ballot by a unanimous vote of
the council, creates a parcel tax, under which most homeowners will pay
the same rate, spread over 20 years. The maximum tax would be $58.46 annually
per single-family home. The maximum per multifamily residential unit would
be $45, and for non-residential property, $410 an acre.
The council put the measure on the ballot only after numerous
meetings at which it hashed over details in an attempt to create a package
that would capture the elusive two-thirds majority.
In an attempt to win over some critics, the council added
a clause to the measure to set aside funds each year in a dedicated
maintenance and capital improvement fund.
The pro Measure A campaign drew together a broad spectrum
of organizations and individuals who often find themselves on opposing
sides of issues. In the weeks before the election, city residents received
phone calls and mailed and hand delivered material in support of the
measure, while little was heard from opponents of the measure.
Council, with new members, votes to put pool repair measure on March
ballot at Nov. 29 meeting
Audience members applaud council approval of the ballot
Janet Abelson and Kathie Perka took their places on the
City Council Nov. 29 and within the hour had voted with their three
colleagues to place a measure on the March ballot to raise funds for
repair of the swimming pool and three smaller projects.
The measure approved by the council is for a parcel tax,
under which most homeowners would pay the same rate, spread over 20
years. The maximum tax would be $58.46 annually per single-family home.
The maximum per multifamily residential unit would be $45, and for non-residential
property, $410 an acre.
The measure would require that for the duration of the
tax the city set aside in a dedicated maintenance and capital improvement
fund an amount equal to the property transfer taxes collected by the
city each year minus $250,000.
Some of the toughest critics of earlier versions spoke
in support on Nov. 29, leaving council members hopeful the measure has
the support needed to get the required two-thirds vote at the polls.
The unanimous council vote was met with applause from the audience.
Abelson said from her experience working on a previous
ballot measure she knows that a high level of community support will
be needed for the tax to pass.
"What I'm seeing here tonight is that kind of support
and I'm very heartened by that," she said.
"We all know the swimming pool is an important asset
to the community," said Perka. If it were to close, she said, it
would be a daily reminder of a city's decline.
Perka added that the $5.3 million maximum of the parcel
tax "is just an estimate. I don't want us to stop here."
The estimates of the pool repair costs are based on a
general "master plan." Council members have talked about getting
more precise plans and costs for the pool before voters go to the polls
to decide the fate of the measure.
In addition, the measure includes a clause stating that
it is the council's desire that a portion of the project cost be raised
through grants and fund-raising and that any money raised through these
efforts be used to reduce the amount or term of the tax
The matter before the council Nov. 29 was one it has struggled
with at its past four meetings. The five members on the council before
the Nov. 29 final vote agreed a tax is needed to raise funds to repair
the pool, which has numerous deficiencies, code violations and public
health hazards. What the council members have struggled with is how
to write the measure to make it most likely to win voter support.
Among those speaking in favor of the final wording was
Steve Magyary of the El Cerrito Citizens Alliance, who praised the council
for its willingness to listen to critics of earlier versions. "I
hope this is a step in ending the divisiveness in the city," he
Councilman Larry Damon called the wording an "elegant
compromise" and said hearing a member of the Alliance speak in
its favor is "truly a watershed event."
Although it took the council five meetings to get the
measure written and passed, Damon said, "The easy part is putting
it on the ballot. The hard work (of getting the measure passed by voters)
is ahead of us."
While the establishment of a fund to set aside money each
year for capital improvement won over many critics, some concern was
expressed that setting up such a fund would restrict the council in
the future from paying other needed expenses.
City Manager Gary Pokorny, however, assured the council
that earmarking some funds for capital improvements would not affect
city operations "in any major kind of way." While it will
not solve all of the city's capital improvement needs, he said, it will
make a significant contribution.
According to a report prepared by Pokorny for the Nov.
29 meeting, the property transfer tax has yielded an average of $525,400
per year since its inception in 1992. The amount has ranged from $377,000
in 1992-93 to a high of $839,000 in 1998-99.
Had the proposed set-aside been in place during the past
seven years, according to the report, an average $275,000 a year - approximately
2 percent of the city's annual budget -- would have been placed in the
If passed by voters, the measure will fund:
* Reconstruction of the swim center at an estimated cost
of $4.9 million;
* Disabled access and restroom renovations at Harding,
Huber and Pointsett park clubhouses at an estimated cost of $140,000;
* Restoration of the Canyon Trail clubhouse for use as
either an arts center or as a general-purpose clubhouse and childcare
facility at a cost of $250,000.
It includes a clause allowing qualifying residents who
are 62 or older, blind or disabled to avoid or get a break on the tax
(based on the Senior Citizen Property Tax Postponement Law and the Gonzales-Deukmejian-Petris
Senior Citizen Property Tax Assistance Law. )
The ballot question will read:
Shall the City of El Cerrito impose a special tax in the
maximum yearly amount of $58.46 per single family residential unit,
and comparable amounts for multifamily and nonresidential property,
collected with the property tax, for up to 20 years, to renovate the
Swim Center, rehabilitate Canyon Trail Clubhouse, restore restrooms
at Huber, Poinsett and Harding Parks and establish a dedicated fund
with yearly and mandatory contributions from the general fund to maintain
and replace city capital facilities?
Council action on ballot measure:
Oct. 18 -- Council indicates support for an "ad valorem"
approach under which homeowner rates are based on assessed value of
the home and for the bond measure to be spread over 10 years.
Nov. 1 -- Citing the strain of the election and saying
they needed more information, Brusatori and Damon voted against moving
ahead with the ad valorum tax suggested at the Oct. 18 meeting. Because
an ad valorem tax would have required a two-thirds majority vote of
the council, that vote failed.
Nov. 15 -- After hearing residents' concerns with the
previous proposal, the council voted unanimously for a parcel tax, which
charges most homeowners the same rate, and for a 20-year term. The 20-year
term was favored because it would lower the annual bill and spread the
cost over future as well as current property owners. Opponents of the
ad valorem tax noted the great discrepancy between assessed values of
homes purchased before and after Proposition 13.
Nov. 22 -- At the urging of a citizens group that might
otherwise oppose the ballot measure, the council majority agreed to
add an amendment to establish a dedicated maintenance and capital improvement
fund. A second vote is needed for the decision to be final.
Nov. 29 -- With the two new members seated, the council
votes unanimously to reaffirm the measure as approved Nov. 22.
Janet Abelson, left, and Kathie Perka listen to speakers
at their first meeting on the council.
See articles below for background:
City Council revises ballot measure at Nov. 22 meeting;
new council will need to approve new version as well
Council also agrees to reacquire property near Moeser
Faced with the threat of organized opposition to the ballot
measure, the City Council amended its proposed measure at its meeting
Nov. 22 on a 3-2 vote. The amendment would require the city to set aside
funds over the duration of the tax for maintenance and repair of such
things as streets and public buildings.
The revision means yet another vote on the ballot measure,
which would fund repair of the city pool and four smaller projects, will
need to be taken by the City Council. The next vote is set for Nov. 29
and will be taken by a different set of council members. By then, Jane
Bartke and Norman La Force, the only members who voted against amending
the measure, will be off the council. They will be replaced by newly elected
Janet Abelson and Kathie Perka.
The council had approve an ordinance Nov. 15 to put a measure
on the March 7, 2000 ballot that would raise up to $5.3 million for the
pool and other improvements if approved by at least two-thirds of the
The proposal selected by the council at the Nov. 15 meeting
was for a parcel tax, under which most homeowners would pay the same rate,
spread over 20 years. The maximum tax would be $58.46 annually per single-family
home. The maximum per multifamily residential unit would be $45, and for
non-residential property, $410 an acre.
The Nov. 22 revisions would not change those terms, but
would add a clause that the city establish a dedicated maintenance and
capital improvement fund in the amount equal to the property transfer
taxes collected by the city each year minus $250,000.
Mayor Gina Brusatori estimated that amount would end up
being about $150,000 a year. She noted that the tax fluctuates considerably
from year to year, however, and said that is one of the reasons it is
more appropriate to put the money in a special fund, rather than use it
for more constant costs such as salaries.
The added wording was chosen carefully. While the suggestion
has been made in past discussions that the property transfer taxes be
earmarked for capital improvements, legally those taxes must go into the
general fund. In choosing the wording, the council was apparently acting
on the advice of City Attorney Howard Stern. A memo written by Stern referring
to possible language for the amendment was given to the council and was
referred to several times at the Nov. 22 meeting but was not made available
to the public. Stern told the Wire after the meeting that the memo was
being kept confidential based on attorney-client privilege.
The matter was on the council's agenda as a second reading,
normally a fairly uncontroversial move for a council since it is only
reaffirming what it voted on previously.
But several residents spoke, including Steve Magyary of
the El Cerrito Citizens Alliance. Magyary called the proposal adopted
Nov. 15 "fatally flawed" and said it would need revision to
gain support of the group. He estimated the city has another $25 million
to $30 million of pending capital improvement work and said something
needs to be done to assure voters they won't again end up in the same
bind they now face in coming up with the money for the pool. Magyary then
outlined the proposal to set aside funds each year to improve the city's
infrastructure, using the property transfer tax as an "index mechanism."
Mayor Gina Brusatori, who had previously raised the idea
of using property transfer taxes for capital improvements , said the addition of the clause will show voters that
the city is addressing other needs as well, not just the pool.
Brusatori called the money involved "a very small amount"
and noted that another tax measure a few years ago, Measure H, was actively
opposed by the alliance and failed.
La Force and Bartke argued that the council was voting on
the clause without adequate information, and voted against the revised
"I think the concept of a maintenance fund is good,"
Bartke said, but she said the time to address that is when the council
is approving the city's budget. She said it could be difficult for the
council in the future to budget for essential services with a lot of funds
labeled for specific purposes.
La Force said the council was violating the state's Brown
Act by voting on the amendment without it having been included in the
agenda and packet for public review.
He also called the wording of the amendment "a sham"
because it is essentially using the property transfer tax for a specific
purpose, rather than for the general fund as required by law. That, he
said, puts the city in danger of legal action and misleads the public.
Additionally, La Force said, "I'm not sure doing this
is really going to end opposition to this measure."
Councilman Mark Friedman agreed it would have been better
to have more complete figures but voted for the amended ordinance.
"Any organized opposition to a tax measure makes it
difficult to get a two-thirds vote," Friedman said.
He called for city staff to bring back a detailed report
for the next meeting and said the council could always change its mind
before the second approval based on that information.
Councilman Larry Damon said in past budgeting the city has
made salaries and services a priority. While those matters are important,
he said, "It's time to reprioritize and find a better balance. What
you're seeing is the first of several steps."
Damon called the request to establish the fund a "modest
request" by potential opponents of the measure.
While La Force and Bartke expressed concern about changing
the measure at the last moment, Damon said "the whole purpose of
the second reading" is to re-evaluate and refine what the council
The measure would fund:
* Reconstruction of the swim center at an estimated cost
of $4.9 million;
* Disabled access and restroom renovations at Harding, Huber
and Pointsett park clubhouses at an estimated cost of $140,000;
* Restoration of the Canyon Trail clubhouse for use as either
an arts center or as a general-purpose clubhouse and childcare facility
at a cost of $250,000.
The estimates of the pool repair costs are based on a general
"master plan." Council members, led by Larry Damon, talked at
the Nov. 15 meeting of getting more precise plans and costs for the pool
before voters go to the polls to decide the fate of the measure.
The measure also includes a clause stating that it is the
council's desire that a portion of the project cost be raised through
grants and fund-raising and that any money raised through these efforts
be used to reduce the amount or term of the tax.
It also includes a clause allowing qualifying residents
who are 62 or older, blind or disabled to avoid or get a break on the
tax (based on the Senior Citizen Property Tax Postponement Law and the
Gonzales-Deukmejian-Petris Senior Citizen Property Tax Assistance Law.
In other business, the council accepted the "donation"
of a 2.76 acre property between Moeser Lane and the PG&E transmission
lines near Seaview Avenue in exchange for the city reimbursing the owner
The city sold the parcel to the Dwayne A. Bartels Trust
in May 1997. The trust intended to subdivide the property for residential
development. But during the recent General Plan process residents expressed
disappointment that the city had sold the property, and negotiations were
undertaken to return of the property to the city.
Under the proposal approved by the council, the land would
be donated back to the city to be designated as publicly owned open space.
The city, in exchange, must return the $35,000 the trust has paid toward
purchase of the land, plus application fees, expenses from soil work and
engineering costs, and taxes, for a total of $68,639.62.
See article below for more detail on pool reconstruction.
Pool master plan OKed by council
The City Council Sept. 13 gave its unanimous approval to a master plan
for renovating the pool center and appointed a task force to look into
ways of funding the $4.9 million project.
Council and staff talked of placing a measure on the March ballot to
pay for the extensive repair and reconstruction. Council gave the task
force an Oct. 18 deadline for reporting back to the council so that the
city can meet an early December deadline for getting a funding measure
on the March ballot.
The task force is to look at just what form that measure should take
and whether it should include money for other projects such as street
The council decided the task force should be made up of council members
Norman La Force and Larry Damon and one member each from the Park and
Recreation Commission and Committee of the Whole, and one pool supporter.
The task force met jointly with the Park and Recreation Commission Sept.
29. The task force, officially know as the Public Facilities Financing
Task Force, also met Oct. 1, and Oct. 7.
Pool supporters packed the council chambers Sept. 13, and Damon said
council members had received many phone calls on the issue as well.
One of the main concerns of residents who spoke and council members alike
was putting together a funding proposal that will garner the needed two-thirds
majority to pass.
"If it can't pass in El Cerrito, what's the point?" asked resident
But most agreed the pool is in dire need of work.
"I'm surprised it's still holding water," remarked Councilwoman
"We probably could be shut down tomorrow" on health code violations
alone, said Jan Bridges, a park and recreation commissioner.
Planning Commissioner Janet Abelson told the council its violations of
the Americans with Disabilities Act could be enough to shut the pool as
El Cerrito's swimming complex was built in 1962.
The renovation plan calls for an enlarged 25-yard-by-25-meter swimming
pool, new pool center building in the existing location, new pump room,
new entry kiosk and locker rooms, a renovated wading/training pool, renovated
putting green, new concessions building, new lifeguard station, and new
The city hired a consultant team in July 1999 to analyze and redesign
The team found numerous deficiencies, code violations and public health
* Swimming and wading pool gutters are consistently flooded;
* Swimming pool shallow-end access is deficient;
* Pool filtering systems are inefficient, and drain into storm sewer;
* Main pool floor contours are inappropriate;
* Pool light junction boxes are flush with deck;
* Pool decks are deteriorating;
* Pool pump room is not ventilated properly, the ceiling is chipping
and falling, and the ramp is too steep and slippery;
* Many areas of the locker rooms and swim center building are deteriorating;
* Accessibility to the building is deficient;
* Number of sinks and toilets fall below current standards;
* Walls, roof and ceiling show mold and mildew due to poor ventilation
and roof leaks;
* Roof is in very poor condition;
* Asbestos insulation on pipes is a potential public safety hazard;
* Parking lot entrance is too small for two-way traffic;
* Number of disabled parking stalls is inadequate.
Incorporating input from a July 30 all-day public workshop, the consultant
prepared proposals for renovation. The plan unanimously approved by the
Park and Recreation Commission Sept. 1 would cost slightly more than $4.9
The plan retains the structurally sound aspects of the facility and replaces
those structures deemed to be less salvageable, while rebuilding a facility
that meets all current health, safety and building codes, according to
a report from City Manager Gary Pokorny.
In adopting the master plan, council members noted that details of the
reconstruction can be revised as the project moves forward.
Run dates: 2000-03-27 - 2000-04-27