On the agenda: Richmond City Council to address electric building incentives, election reform, sidewalk vending on July 2

On the agenda: Richmond City Council to address electric building incentives, election reform, sidewalk vending on July 2

The Richmond City Council has a busy agenda on July 2. Key items include incentives for all-electric buildings in new construction, ballot placement for election reform, and setting fees for sidewalk vending permits. 

A couple of interesting items are tucked in the consent calendar, including a settlement agreement with local car dealerships and information about the launch of the Community Crisis Response Program.

Measure U settlement

A settlement has reportedly been reached between the City of Richmond and Hilltop Auto Mall dealerships in a dispute over Measure U business taxes.

Measure U compromise: Richmond reduces business taxes for Hilltop auto dealers
A settlement has been reached between the City of Richmond and Hilltop Auto Mall dealerships in a dispute over business taxes. It is set for approval at the July 2 city council meeting. Six Hilltop Auto Mall dealerships filed suit in 2022, claiming the rate structure under Measure U Gross Receipts Business Tax approved by voters in 2020 led to an unconstitutional 8,000 percent increase in taxes.

Two vans for Community Crisis Response Program

The Community Services Department is requesting $108,200 to purchase two Ford Transit Vans for the Community Crisis Response Program. CCRP staff need the vans to conduct site visits, bring food or water to those in need, and escort individuals to other resources such as a homeless shelter. Councilmembers have promised the August launch since last year. The launch is now described as a “soft” one.

Richmond recently hired Michael Romero to manage the city’s soon-to-be-launched Community Crisis Response Program. Romero was previously part of the Huntington Beach mobile crisis response team.

Richmond selects program manager for Community Crisis Response Program
The City of Richmond has hired Michael Romero, who was part of the Huntington Beach mobile crisis response team, as manager for the city’s yet-to-be-launched Community Crisis Response Program. According to a biography supplied by the City of Richmond, Romero oversaw operations for the Huntington Beach 24-hour a day,

Romero told Grandview last month that the crisis response program won’t necessarily get buy-in from everyone, but residents should watch them work because it is going to be awesome.

“Up until this program came along, you had the three entities that you call. Outside of that, there was nothing else,” Romero said. “It has been exciting. I’m motivated about it for the community, the team, for police and fire, and for the folks we are going to serve.”

It's electric

The council wants to explore incentives to encourage all-electric buildings in new construction. Richmond adopted natural gas bans in newly constructed buildings modeled after Berkeley’s natural gas ban. 

The California Restaurant Association sued Berkeley, and a court ruled that the  Energy Policy and Conservation Act and state law preempted the ordinance banning natural gas piping in new buildings.

After the ruling, many cities, including Richmond, are no longer enforcing their natural gas bans and are exploring alternative strategies.

Sidewalk vendor permit to cost $103.66

Richmond wants to charge an even $103.66 for a sidewalk vending business permit, which is $103.66 more than vendors are paying now. 

At the last meeting, the council introduced an ordinance to add a new form of business permit needed for sidewalk vending operations and new administrative fines for violations of Richmond’s Sidewalk Vending Ordinance, including fines for operating without permits.

Richmond City Council moves to regulate sidewalk vending, create food hub
The Richmond City Council unanimously agreed to move forward with an ordinance to regulate sidewalk vendors and establish a food hub.

According to the staff, the council desires to ensure it can serve the public by issuing the new form of business permit needed for sidewalk vending and wishes to set reasonable fees for such efforts in compliance with state law. 

The costs associated with administering the sidewalk vending permit program have not yet been determined. 

Mayor Eduardo agrees to be Public Bank representative

Mayor Martinez has agreed to be the representative from Richmond, replacing Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin, and he will keep the city council updated on progress as the bank continues to move forward.

New Public Bank East Bay CEO makes appearance at Richmond council meeting
Public Bank East Bay representatives stopped by the Richmond City Council meeting to introduce their new CEO, Richmond-born Scott Waite. Vice Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, who also serves on the Public Bank East Bay Board, used her councilmember report time at the beginning of the meeting to introduce the newly hired

Approval of residential rental housing fee 

The Rent Board has recommended  $239 per rent-controlled unit and $136 for non-rent-controlled units for Fiscal Year 2024-25. 

Staff says the rental housing fee is the only source of revenue for Rent Program operations, and the fiscal impact to the city will depend upon both the dollar amount of the fees adopted by the council and fee payment compliance rates. 

City to provide $440k subsidy to Richmond Rent Program to cover cost pool allocation
The City of Richmond will provide a $150,000 subsidy this year and a $290,390 subsidy next year to the Richmond Rent Program to cover services to the program provided by the city. The city allocates a portion of charges for liability insurance and administration charges for services provided

Public hearings for sewer rates

The sanitary sewer rates include a 7 percent increase, which the council approved on June 2, 2020. Due to an error that occurred when Ordinance 09-20 was adopted, the rates for single-family residents will remain the same at $1,121 for the fiscal year 2023-24 

The resolution allows for $32,750,000 in wastewater revenues and $1,975,000 in stormwater revenues to be collected with the 2024-25 property taxes. These funds are used to pay all expenditures related to the operation and maintenance of the wastewater and stormwater services including debt services on existing wastewater bond obligations.

Instant Runoff Voting Election Reform Act public hearing

The council will hold a public hearing on an initiative to amend the charter to replace its current plurality voting method with instant runoff voting and authorize the City Attorney’s Office and staff to finalize any necessary documents relating to the ballot measure.

Richmond City Council weighs different election reform measure
Fresh off the Richmond Election Reform Act petition certification, the Richmond City Council will now consider placing its own election reform measure on the November ballot. Voting reform organization California Ranked Choice Voting will present a report on instant runoff voting to the council at the April 30 meeting. Cal

Five million pennies for your thoughts

The council will contemplate allocating $50,000 toward community polling to gauge sentiments regarding a bond measure for the November 2024 election. The bond would be for constructing a public safety building, upgrading fire departments, expanding and enhancing the main library, and upgrading community centers.

Richmond Police Station’s current lease costs taxpayers $3 million annually and expires soon. The city may have to sign a multi-year lease worth millions and pay for upgrades to a building we don’t own.

According to a staff report, building a new Public Safety Building is needed to be fiscally responsible, and spending millions of dollars in rent and upgrades is counter to what most residents want. 

Again, with the nepotism concerns

The nepotism ordinance is back. Its aim is to prevent nepotism during the appointment process for Richmond boards, commissions, committees, and task forces and limit participation to one city body at a time. 

According to an agenda report, individual city council members or executives may obtain undue influence over the city’s boards, commissions, committees, and task forces without nepotism prevention. 

Richmond City Council battles nepotism
Soccer fields, farmer’s market, more money for SOS, a public land disposition policy, plus two council members battle nepotism on the March 19 Richmond City Council agenda. A draft Soccer Field and Park Amenities Assessment presentation is back on the agenda. The item was continued from the last meeting.

The proposed ordinance would prohibit the appointments of currently seated appointees. The council appears to agree that these appointees should be permitted to serve out their current terms. Mayor Eduardo Martinez, District 3 Councilmember Doria Robinson, and District 4 Councilmember Soheila Bana have relatives serving on boards.

Business associates of currently seated council members, the city manager, or city department head to city bodies would also be unable to serve.

Business associates may be defined as: “Any person who receives income, whether from investments or as compensation from the same entity, whether it be a commercial or non-profit entity, as a currently seated city council member, city manager, or city department head.”

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