Dan Dillman

Dan Dillman, the owner of the Bal Theater. He has put life back into this historical theater which doubles, by day, as a computer repair shop. He is a vibrant character, who combines an unbeatable joy in life with a passion for freedom. He is currently running for San Leandro Mayor.

Aug 132014
 

These are the candidates that will be vying for elected office representing San Leandrans.  The candidate’s ballot designations are in parenthesis. Candidate statements, when available, follow the description of each candidate. Remember, all San Leandro voters get to vote for all members of the San Leandro City Council and School Board, regardless of the district/area they represent.

San Leandro Mayor

Pauline Cutter

Pauline Cutter

Pauline Cutter (City Councilmember/Teacher) is the clear favorite to win this race. She served for many years on the San Leandro School Board, and was elected Board president three times, so she has experience as the executive officer of a deliberative body. She won her seat on the City Council four years ago in a competitive race, and has experience campaigning both for herself and others. She has a good relationship with labor – teachers’ union excluded – and is likely to win the Democratic endorsement. As the clear favorite, she’s also likely to be able to fundraise the money she needs to win this race. Politically, Pauline hugs the center. She’s a workhorse and very detail-oriented. She is probably the most independent voice in the council, there have been at least a couple of 6-1 votes, where she’s the 1. If elected, she promises to be a full-time Mayor. Candidate Statement. More on Pauline

Dan Dillman

Dan Dillman

Dan Dillman (Businessman), the owner of the Bal Theater, is an amazing man. He has worked incredibly hard to renovate the theater and bring options for entertainment to San Leandro (much to the opposition of City Hall), as well as to revitalize the south area of town. He is also someone who is not afraid to speak his mind and who brings a level of love and laughter to San Leandro that make this City great. He is not a serious candidate; in the past he has failed to do what it takes to win a campaign: raise money and walk, but he will bring issues to the debate: privacy, civil liberties, freedom, that the other candidates rather ignore.  Candidate Statement. More on Dan

Diana Souza

Diana Souza

Diana Souza (San Leandro Councilmember/Businesswoman) is running for Mayor because she has termed out from City Council. Her tenure on the Council has been uneventful. She got elected with the single goal of getting a competition swimming pool built in the Manor, and when that couldn’t happen, she basically became a second vote for Joyce Starosciak first and, after Joyce left, the City Manager. Her true puppeteer is the San Leandro Police. Diana, however, has a record of not accomplishing anything beyond trying to get the Chinese flag to be flown over San Leandro City Hall. Given that her name recognition is either negative or poor, she is unlikely to present a real threat to Cutter. Candidate Statement. More on Diana

San Leandro City Council, District 1

This is for the Bay-O-Vista/Estudillo Estates/Downtown seat that Michael Gregory is being termed out of.

Mike Katz-Lacabe

Mike Katz-Lacabe

Mike Katz-Lacabe (Trustee, San Leandro School District Board of Education) starts off as the favorite in this race. He was elected to the San Leandro School Board after a competitive race, and has been elected School Board President twice. He has been endorsed by the Alameda Labor Council. Mike has high-name recognition also due to his involvement in the community. He blogs at San Leandro Bytes, is a frequent speaker at City Council meetings and is often quoted in the paper. He is perhaps best known for his work on behalf of privacy rights, but his real strengths come from his vision for the City – he’s the main proponent of turning the 9th grade campus into a High Tech High School -, his thorough understanding of how the city is run and his common sense. Mike is my husband. Candidate Statement. More on Mike

David Anderson

David Anderson

David L. Anderson Sr. (Retired Sheetmetal Worker) is a retired sheetmetal worker and former Oakland School Board member. He gained notoriety in Oakland after he tried to bribe then OUSD laywer Dan Siegel. Siegel recorded the bribe offer, and while no charges were filed, Anderson lost his re-election. Anderson ran for the District 1 seat against incumbent Michael Gregory in 2010 and lost. Candidate Statement. More on David

kenpon

Kenneth Pon

Cheery accountant Kenneth Pon (Certified Public Accountant) is the comic relief candidate for this race. Pon, who served a term in the San Leandro School Board before being ousted by now-Mayor Stephen Cassidy, is known for his bon vivant predisposition, humor and sociability. He’s very involved in the downtown business association, Rotary and other organizations. When he previously ran for office, he proved to be a very lazy campaigner. He’s likely to play the “Sara Mestas”, “Justin Hutchinson” wannabe spoiler role on this race and – he hopes – pick up votes from conservatives who don’t like Cox. Like Cox, he doesn’t speak at City Council matters much, but he did in support of Walmart coming to San Leandro. Candidate Statement. More on Kenneth

deborahcox

Deborah Cox

Deborah Cox  (Public Policy Analyst) is a fundraising dynamo. She is in the boards of many organizations and has helped raise money for schools and the now defunct conservatory theater group.  Her crowning achievement as the head of the Estudillo Estates association was to get a marker for the neighborhood.  She’s also in the Human Services Commission.  Deborah is rarely seen at City Council meetings, but she’s gone to speak against medical marijuana dispensaries and in favor of selling the former Albertson’s property for 1/3 of what the City paid for it, in order to build Village Marketplace (the new location for CVS). What Deborah is not is a public policy analyst, she works as a field representative for Assemblyman Quirk on education matters – which is a very different thing.  Candidate Statement. More on Deborah

 

San Leandro City Council, District 3

This is for the seat that Diana Souza currently occupies.

Lee Thomas

Lee Thomas

BZA member Lee Thomas (Family Services Manager) has been running for a year, so I think we can assume he’s on the lead. Thomas is a nice and jovial guy, it’s hard not to like him, but he is unwilling to commit himself to positions. For example, he was at the meeting where the Council voted to raise the Chinese flag over City Hall, but he wouldn’t speak publicly on it. He belongs to an extreme right fundamentalist church, which opposes medical marijuana. Candidate Statement. More on Lee

Victor Aguilar

Victor Aguilar

Victor Aguilar Jr. (Accounts Manager) is a young account manager at a legal discovery firm. He studied political science in college, worked as a field rep for a City Council member in LA, and is now putting roots in San Leandro. Victor is very active with LGBT rights organizations. Candidate Statement. More on Victor

Allen Schoenfeld (Salesperson) graduated from San Leandro High in 1971. He keeps a very low profile online. No candidate statement filed. More on Allen

San Leandro City Council, District 5

With Pauline Cutter running for Mayor, her seat in the City Council is now open.  This district includes the north-eastern part of San Leandro.

Mia Ousley

Mia Ousley

Mia Ousley (Financial Analyst) is the co-founder of the successful Coalition to Save San Leandro Hospital, as well as the editor of the newsletter of the Broadmoor Neighborhood Association and active MoveOn.org organizer, among other things.  She is a go-getter and has worked on behalf of issues as diverse as getting the City Council to legalize urban farming, expanding entertainment options and developing community-centric public safety initiatives.  Mia is currently a member of the Rent Review Board.  She has worked in campaigns for Obama, Pete Stark, Mayor Stephen Cassidy, Morgan Mack-Rose, Hermy Almonte  and Ursula Reed, among others.  Mia actually likes campaigning, which gives her a leg up on this race.  Full disclosure, Mia is my friend and I’m helping her with her race. Candidate Statement. More on Mia

Corina Lopez

Corina Lopez

Corina Lopez (Trustee, San Leandro School District Board of Education) is currently on the San Leandro School Board, after running unopposed in 2012. Previously, she ran against Pauline Cutter for District 5 and lost.  Before that she was in the City’s Human Services commission.  Corina serves in the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee with me and I consider her a friend.  Corina grew up in Soledad as the daughter of farm workers, made her way to Princeton and now runs an IT company with her husband.  She has been endorsed by the Alameda County Labor Council. Candidate Statement. More on Corina

Leah Hall

Leah Hall

Leah Hall (Community Organizer) is, well, one of those characters that make San Leandro such an amusing town. She’s very active online, a member of the Human Services Commission and a big lover of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report. Unfortunately, she’s nowhere as funny as her Comedy Central role models, so while her role in the race is that of comedic relief, she’ll probably leave more people puzzled than laughing. Candidate Statement. More on Leah

San Leandro School Board, At Large

Jason Toro resigned from the School Board to apply for a job as director of the new student health clinic (a job he got).  That means that his seat is open and anyone in San Leandro can run to finish his 2-year term.

Evelyn Gonzalez

Evelyn Gonzalez

Evelyn Gonzalez (Community Volunteer) is a mother of three kids that have been making their way through San Leandro Schools.  She has always been extremely involved with the schools, serving in PTAs and school councils, and helping with fundraising.  When McKinley Elementary needed a new computer lab, Mike Katz-Lacabe contacted Evelyn.  Even though her kids weren’t there, she was able to put in a fundraising plan and in no time we had the computers we needed.  Evelyn, a theologian by training, is very involved in the social justice work in her local Parish. Candidate Statement.

Monique Tate (Parent/Administrative Assistant) is an SLUSD parent who is in the LCAP Design Team.  She seems to work as an administrative assistant in the Alameda County Office of Education – which might bring conflict of interest issues.

Peter Oshinski (Child Nutrition Administrator) has lived with his partner in the Broadmoor for the last four years. They don’t have children.  Peter is a former instructor at the California Culinary Academy and now works in food services for a school district.   He does not have a history of involvement with San Leandro schools. Candidate Statement.

Elsie “Jeanne” Kinkella (Retired School Teacher) graduated from San Leandro High in 1962.  She worked for the New Haven Unified School District.

San Leandro School Board, Area 4

Several candidates are vying to replace Mike Katz-Lacabe, who is running for City Council. None of the candidates have been attending School Board meetings until recently.

Latrina Dumas  (Property Manager/Landlord) is a parent at San Leandro High.   She ran against Mike Katz-Lacabe in 2008, because of Katz-Lacabe’s vote to fire superintendent Chris Lim.  Dumas was an ardent Lim supporter.

Leo Sheridan

Leo Sheridan

Leo Sheridan (Businessman/Parent) is parent at Monroe Elementary.  He’s in the Dad’s Club and LCAP team. He works for a paint distribution company. He has refused to meet with me to answer questions as to his qualifications and plans if he’s elected. Candidate Statement.

Chike C. Udemezue (Financial Analyst/Parent) has to have the coolest candidate name in San Leandro. He seems to be a government worker.  He shares his name with a a writer of self-published Nigerian accounting books, and I can only hope they are one and the same. I have learned that he is the brother of Uche Udemezue, the Engineering & Transporation director for the City.

San Lorenzo School Board

Several candidates, including the incumbents, have filed for the two at-large seats on the Board.

Isabel Polvorosa

Isabel Polvorosa

Isabel Polvorosa (Incumbent) has been in the San Lorenzo School Board since 2002, this would be her fourth term in office.  She is a spunky lady, but as I have not followed the doings of the San Lorenzo School Board I know very little about how she’s done there.

At 89-years-old (you read right) incumbent Helen T. Randall  (San Lorenzo Unified School District Governing Board Member) is the second oldest candidate running for office in San Leandro.  She has been in the San Lorenzo School Board for 20 years.  Before that, she was a secretary at the San Lorenzo School district.

Steven Kirk

Steven Kirk

Steve Kirk (Banker/Financial Adviser) is secretary/treasurer at the San Lorenzo Village Homes Association, where he’s live since 1997.  He works in the financial services industry.  He was very involved in the campaign to re-elect Barak Obama as President. He has been endorsed by the San Lorenzo teachers union. Candidate Statement.

Ronald Joseph Pereira II (Retired Teacher)

Janet Zamudio

Janet Zamudio

Janet Zamudio (Family Program Administrator), she seems like an obvious choice for voters.  She is Director of Parent Services at Children’s Council of San Francisco, and has a BA in Social Welfare/Education from Berkeley, and and MA and EdD in Education, Leadership in Early Childhood from Mills College.  She is the mother of three kids attending San Lorenzo public schools. She has been endorsed by the San Lorenzo teachers union. Candidate Statement.

Guillermo Nevárez (Substitute Teacher) is an activity director for the city of Newark and a substitute teacher for Hayward Unified.  He is a new father and was Mark Salina’s campaign manager.

isobel Dvorsky

Isobel Dvorsky

Chabot-Las Positas Community College District – Area 2

Isobel Dvorsky (Educator), the incumbent, has been representing San Leandro in the Chabot board since 1985

Gene Judson (Higher Education Consultant).  He’s a former San Lorenzo School Board member.  A Republican Mormon, Judson lost his seat after one term in 2008.

 

Oro Loma Sanitary District Board of Directors

The Oro Loma Sanitary District board consists of five old white men, four of whom have served for at least 20 years.  Three seats are open, but only two incumbents are running. Board members receive about $1500 of compensation a month plus medical/dental insurance.

Timothy P. Becker (Director, Oro Loma Sanitary District) is the newest director . He was appointed in 2007, and then elected in 2008.   He works in environmental services.

At 91-years-old, incumbent Howard Kerr (Director, Oro Loma Sanitary District) has the honor of being the oldest candidate for office in San Leandro. He has been on the Oro Loma board for 28 years, before that he served on the San Leandro City Council.  Kerr is an “old San Leandro” guy, representing the values of what was “lily white” San Leandro.

Shelia Young

Shelia Young

This will be former San Leandro Mayor Shelia Young‘s (Business/Environmental Consultant) third attempt to get onto the Oro Loma board.  She has high name recognition, which will help her as one of the incumbents is not running. Candidate Statement.

Chike C. Udemezue (Financial Analyst) is Nigerian and the brother of Uche Udemezue, the Engineering & Transporation director for the City of San Leandro.  He’s also running for San Leandro School Board.

Dan Walters (Engineer/Business Owner) is a San Leandro resident who runs a chemical company in town.  He is quite involved with the Chamber and the Boy Scouts, and leans Republican/libertarian on his politics. Candidate Statement.

AC Transit Director At Large

Joel Young

Joel Young

Joel Young (AC Transit District Director, At Large), the incumbent,was censured by the AC Board last year for reviewing confidential AC transit legal files, to help him with a case he was handling for the private law firm for which he works.  He had descended into ignominy earlier, after allegations of domestic violence against an ex-girlfriend.  Instead of taking responsibility for his actions, Young tried to blame the young woman.  He ran for Assembly in 2012, and lost  in the primaries.  Still, this is a county-wide race with several candidates, and being the incumbent makes him the favorite.

Dollene Jones (Retired Bus Driver), a retired AC-transit driver who went on to fund a casino-bus service, ran for AC Transit board against Elsa Ortiz in 2012 and lost, she’s now making a run for the at-large seat.  Here is a video of her answering questions in 2012.

Adrienne Andrews (Paralegal/Student)

Murphy

Murphy McCalley

AC Transit, Ward 4

Covers another part of San Leandro

Mark Williams (AC Transit District Director, Ward 4) is the incumbent

Murphy McCalley (Retired Transportation Consultant)  has “served as Chief Financial Officer for two major California transit systems, and as a Consultant/Advisor to various transit systems throughout the United States.” Candidate Statement.

Karen Monroe

Karen Monroe

Alameda County Superintendent of Schools

This is the runoff from the June election, in which none of the 5 candidates was able to garner 50% of the votes. The two candidate now are:

Karen Monroe (Associate Superintendent/Educator) The current Superintendent, Shelia Jordan, designated Monroe as her successor and appointed her Associate Superintendent of Schools so she could run with that title.  Monroe is a young and dynamic African-American woman.  While her relationship with Jordan worry some, she is the favorite to win this race. Candidate Statement.

Helen Foster (Teacher/School Principal) is currently an administrator at the Hayward Unified School District and a San Lorenzo School Trustee.  Candidate Statement.

 

Races NOT on the ballot

San Leandro School Board, Area 2

Lance James

Lance James

Incumbent Lance James is a teacher in Hayward and active in the teacher’s union there. He has two children who’ve gone to San Leandro schools. He doesn’t have any competition, and therefore this race will not be in the ballot. Mr. James will be considered to be an appointed School Board member by the Education Code.

San Leandro School Board, Area 6

Appointed incumbent Ron Carey is unopposed.

Eden Township Healthcare District Board of Directors

There are 3 positions open.

Lester Friedman (Incumbent)

Roxann Lewis (Appointed Incumbent), a nurse who was very active in the campaign to Save San Leandro Hospital, was appointed to the board this month to fill a vacancy.

Thomas E. Lorentzen (Health Care Consultant) served in the Reagan, Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. administrations, including as Regional Director of the US Department of Health and Human Services.  He later worked as a private health services counselor.  He lives in Castro Valley.

AC Transit, Ward 3

Covers part of San Leandro

Elsa Ortiz, the incumbent, is running unopposed.

EBMUD, Ward 3

Frank Mellon, the incumbent, is unopposed.

May 042014
 
Mayor Stephen Cassidy

Mayor Stephen Cassidy

San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy announced today that he will not be seeking re-election for a second term as Mayor.  The news are unexpected, Cassidy had launched his re-election campaign with a kickoff fundraiser on St. Patrick’s day of this year.  Cassidy cites the difficulties of campaigning while also working full time, raising a family and performing his duties as Mayor.    Cassidy had no declared challengers at the time of his announcement.

Cassidy’s exit from the race leaves the field wide open for anyone who may want to run for the office.  With six months to go before the election, the biggest challenges will be fundraising and creating name recognition.

Two candidates are already likely to enter the scene.  Council member Diana Souza had long made the rounds trying to garner support for a campaign.  She hadn’t been very successful, but with Cassidy out of the way she has a shot.  Souza, however, was one of the candidates who voted to raise the Chinese flag over San Leandro City Hall, a very unpopular move with voters. She has, otherwise, a non-existent record of accomplishments.

Dan Dillman, the owner of the Historic Bal Theater, has also indicated he might run for this office.  Dillman ran for the District 2 City Council race in 2012, and commanded a respectful 25% of the vote despite virtually no campaigning.

Cassidy’s exit from the raise reinforces the urgency of turning the Mayor’s job into a full-time position with a corresponding salary.  It is very difficult for any person who has a full-time job and is raising a family to also successfully fulfill the responsibilities as Mayor.   And yet, some of the most competent and qualified candidates are exactly in that position.  I hope whoever is elected moves the city in that direction.

Mayor Stephen Cassidy’s statement

Dear Friends and Neighbors:

I have concluded it is in the best interests of our city and my family that I focus on serving as Mayor for the remainder of my term, which expires at the end of the year.

When I originally ran for office, I did not have the responsibility of governing. I have come to the realization that adding campaigning to my list of duties would mean the compromise of too many important existing responsibilities. I wish this was the not case. But I see no way I can meet my obligations as Mayor at a high level, as well as my work duties and be present for my young daughters, while also running a vigorous campaign for re-election.

I am proud of the renaissance that is occurring in San Leandro. The San Francisco Business Times recently reported that our city is “buzzing with a fresh technology focus.” In five weeks, the state-of-the-art San Leandro Kaiser hospital will open. Last month, the City Council unanimously approved construction of a commercial district for tech firms and other companies at the forefront of today’s innovation economy. Three, Class A office buildings will be built on the vacant lot next to the San Leandro BART station, creating nearly 2,000 quality jobs.

Much more can be accomplished this year. Again, I will complete my term as Mayor.

I look forward to working with the community and my colleagues on the City Council to place a revenue measure on the November ballot to repair our deteriorating neighborhood streets, create a commission of residents to foster and support the arts and culture in our city, and extend Lit San Leandro, our ultra high speed broadband network, to our schools.

It has been a privilege to serve you and the people of San Leandro as Mayor, and previously as a school board trustee. Thank you for enabling me to have such honors.

After my term as Mayor end on December 31, 2014, I will remain active in our community. I love San Leandro and look forward to continuing to make a positive difference for our city.

Stephen

 

Jun 302013
 

politicianThe 2014 elections are just around the corner, and I can’t believe how dismal the candidate field is in San Leandro.  Actually, “dismal” is putting it lightly.

Mayor
Mayor Stephen Cassidy will be seeking re-election. His pitch of  “I’m not as incompetent as Tony Santos” narrowly won him the seat in 2010, but he now will have to run on a record that is only marginally better than his predecessor’s.  He did balance the budget – but only because voters passed Measure Z -, and he ended up getting the police union to agree to pay into their pensions, but only in exchange for raises.    His biggest accomplishment so far was giving the green light to the Lit San Leandro project, but he handicapped it by making zoning code changes incompatible with the “live-work-play” concept he now realizes the city needs to spouse.  Even then, there is nothing scarier to anyone seeking to invest in a town than a capricious regulatory system.  Still, Lit San Leandro has potential and if it can hook in a couple of big companies into town, his chances at re-election look good.

Councilmember Diana Souza, who is being termed out in 2014, and former councilmember Surlene Grant are giddily waiting on the sidelines preparing to jump in if something handicaps Cassidy – or, more likely, if he decides he doesn’t want to go through the rigors of a second campaign in which he will have to defend himself and his record.  While neither Souza nor Grant is particularly well positioned for defeating him by herself, rank choice voting opens up the possibility that they will both run, team up, and attack Cassidy from two different angles.

Neither Souza nor Grant, however, seem likely to be much of an improvement over Cassidy.  Neither can point to many accomplishments while in office, and neither has a history of leadership while in the Council.  I was not very active in politics while Grant was in office, so I cannot totally dismiss her yet – but Souza has proven herself unable to do anything but follow directions in the 7 years she’s been in office.

I am hoping that someone else will jump into the race, but I don’t know who it could be.   Councilmember Jim Prola seems unlikely to do it at this point and nobody else in the City Council has much to offer.  The School Board is mostly made up by new members without the experience to take on the reigns of the City.  The only exception is my husband, Mike Katz-Lacabe, but he has pulled papers to run for City Council District 1.  Former School Board President Morgan Mack-Rose was just narrowly defeated on her bid for the District 2 City Council seat, so she is likely to be out of the political picture for a while.    It’s possible, however, that someone will rise up from the community – though I haven’t seen much noise from anyone who might become a serious candidate.  Dan Dillman, of course, may decide to run again and this time do it seriously.  Depending on how badly Cassidy falters in the upcoming year, he might actually have a shot.

If no one else pans out, however, I might actually consider running myself.  I’ve never had political ambitions of my own, and this would really be a last-ditch solution; I hope it does not come to that.  But I do believe that this city needs to have someone at its helm that takes the responsibilities of the Mayor and its duties towards the community seriously.  Our Police Department needs to be audited and brought under civilian control – it is unconscionable that we have narcotic officers selling drugs of dubious origins, officers with a record of brutality killing unarmed civilians without any repercussions, false child porn charges filed against established members of our community, persecution of gay men and a Chief that lies to the community and the Council and tries to manipulate the political process, without any consequences whatsoever and, of course, turning San Leandro into a surveillance state.  This needs to be a campaign issue.  There are, unfortunately, many others.

Districts 1 , 3 & 5

San Leandro has a hybrid type of district elections.  Council members must live in a particular area of town, but they are voted on by residents of the whole city.

Michael Gregory is terming out from District 1 .  So far the only person I have heard that might be running for that seat is my own husband, Mike Katz-Lacabe.  He pulled papers last November.

Diana Souza is terming out from District 3 herself, so that will also be an open seat.  Board of Zoning Adjustments member Lee Thomas has already indicated that he will run for that seat.  I tried to meet with Thomas to get an idea of his political philosophy, only to find out that he doesn’t have any.  I give him credit for his honesty in refusing to engage on policy discussions before he has spent the time to learn about the issues and figure out what he thinks (though he might have considered putting off running, until he becomes acquainted with these little matters).  But if someone is unwilling to answer the question: “on a scale from one to ten, how progressive are you? “, then I can only conclude that he either has no political views at all or that he is unwilling to stand up for them.  In either case, that’s not what I want in a City Council member.  I much rather have someone who is conservative, but who is clear and honest about his political philosophy, than someone who will decide on issues as the wind blows or his pockets are filled.

This means that I am actively looking for someone to run for that seat.  In my view, the requirements for office are intelligence, integrity and a real commitment to the public good and the democratic process.  A tall order, any day.

Finally, Pauline Cutter seems likely to seek re-election for District 5, and I haven’t heard of anyone poised to challenge her.

School Board

Just like with the City Council, School Board members run for a district but are elected at large. The School Board has 7 members, only 2 of whom faced a contested election – the other 5 just walked into the office.  Katz-Lacabe has been trying to reduce the number of members from 7 to 5, to make it more likely that those serving are actually elected, but he has gotten little traction.

Three seats will be up for election in 2014.  Lance James, who represents the north-eastern area of town will be running for re-election.  Ron Carey, who represents the area south of Davis St., east of 880 up to the first railroad tracks, has said he’s not running.  He had been appointed to that seat.  If Mike Katz-Lacabe runs for City Council, then his School Board seat (adjacent on the east side to Carey’s, extending up to East 14th.) will be open.  So far I haven’t heard of anyone interested in running for either.

If you know more political gossip, if you’re interested in running for office and want to announce here or seek my help, or if you just want to gossip, please comment here or in Facebook.

Oct 072012
 

San Leandro City Council incumbents rarely face serious competition in San Leandro.  If anyone bothers to run against an incumbent, chances are it will be someone who is doing little more than putting his or her name on the ballot.  Serious candidates usually wait until the incumbent is termed out.

School Board President Morgan Mack-Rose and Bal Theater owner Dan Dillman are hoping to beat the odds and become the second candidates in San Leandro history to unseat an incumbent.  Reed appears to be seriously concerned that Mack-Rose will.

The three candidates faced each other off at the Chamber of Commerce/League of Women’s Voters debate on September 25th.  Candidates for other districts participated as well, answering the exact same questions.  Here, I’m are the video clips from the forum, edited to only include the statement and answers from candidates for District 2.  You can see those from District 4 here.  The questions are not presented in the order they were asked or answered.

Incumbents for City Council seats tend to do better in fora because they know the job better.  This didn’t seem to be the case with respect to Ursula Reed who almost invariably had weaker answers that Mack-Rose.  Dan Dillman kept true to his platform of “changing the status quo”.  Full disclosure: he has my vote.

Opening Statements

“What are your specific proposals for raising revenue in the next four years?”

“What is your position on Measure L?”

“What will you do to help retain businesses?”

“With such high unemployment yet so much construction going on, would you support a program of San Leandro jobs for San Leandro people like Oakland’s recent initiative of Oakland jobs for Oakland people?”

“On police, fire, and employees’ pensions, should there be a top limit of $100,000 or $110,000?”

“What would you do to bring the many communities San Leandro together?”

“As an elected Councilmember, how would you assure that events like tonight have large attendance of students, especially high schools?”

Closing Statements

Jul 092011
 

But did it need it?

I have been following the controversy over The Bal Theater showing live events for quite some time, but it wasn’t until last night that I finally understood the positions of both sides: the City and The Bal’s owner Dan Dillman.  Neither side – Dillman or the City – has done a particularly good job of laying the issues on the table.  At yesterday’s Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) meeting, Community Development Director Luke Sims finally explained the city’s legal rationale for trying to stop Dillman from offering live entertainment.  I have to say, on its face it looks very weak.

The Bal Theater was built in 1946.  At that time it conformed perfectly with the current zoning laws.  It could show movies and live shows and whatever it wanted without the need of a permit.  Many decades later, however, the city changed the Zoning Code to require businesses in that area to acquire a conditional use permit (CUP) in order to show entertainment of any type. The US Constitution, however, protects the prior use of private properties against changes in zoning law.  That means that the entertainment use of The Bal could continue legally, though now it was deemed “non-conforming”.   The right to use a property nonconformingly is transferred to new owners of that property and stays with the property until the non-conforming use is abandoned.  San Leandro defines abandonment of non-conforming use as discontinuing that use for 180 days or more.

The City acknowledges that The Bal has not abandoned its non-conforming right to show movies, and that it can continue to do so without a permit.  It argues, however, that The Bal was primarily a movie theater and that it only occasionally held live events. It further argues that the latter owners of The Bal only used it for movie showing and did not hold any live events there.  Therefore they say, any-nonconforming right to show live events that The Bal had was discontinued/abandoned and doesn’t exist any longer.  The Bal, therefore, must get a conditional use permit to show live events.

There are a couple of problems with the city’s rationale, however.  First of all, while the Zoning codes of other municipalities specify that the non-conforming use of a property can be discontinued totally or partially, our Zoning code does not – merely saying that a non-conforming use that is “substantially” discontinued for 180 days cannot be re-established.  That means that the city has no legal basis for deeming  just part of a non-conforming right (in this case, the right to show live events) abandoned.  Moreover, the city’s own zoning code calls for the need of a conditional use permit for “entertainment uses” of a property, without differentiating between particular entertainment uses.  What this means is that when the Zoning code was passed, The Bal’s “entertainment uses” as a whole became non-conforming, rather than individual particular uses (e.g. showing movies, having magic shows, etc.).  Without a separability clause in the Zoning Code, the city cannot deem any particular entertainment use abandoned.  And that makes sense.  It would be absurd to say that any theater would have to show the exact same type of entertainment at least once every 6 months to keep its right to show that particular type of entertainment.

The city’s claim that The Bal never showed many live events is problematic as well.  What the city seems to be arguing is that even if The Bal has a non-conforming right to show live events, it cannot show more live events than it actually did before the Zoning Code was changed.  Under California precedent “the continued nonconforming use must be similar to the use existing at the time the zoning ordinance became effective” – but I have found no precedents to back the City’s position that a nonconforming use must be identical in frequency to the pre-ordinance use to be considered “similar” under the law.  The City has not set out the basis for this potential argument either.   Indeed, the Assistant City Attorney, Meyers Nave‘s Richard Pio Roda, remained completely silent during last night’s meeting, even when BZA members asked for clarification on legal matters.  I’m not sure whether that’s because he, himself, is ignorant of zoning law or because the City Attorney’s office understands that they are in very shaky legal grounds when asserting that Dillman does not have the right to host live events at the Bal.

Dan Dillman would not have needed to get any type of permits if he continued operating The Bal as a theater.  However, The Bal is not financially viable on its own, so Dan Dillman decided to use the building to host his Computer Repair business as well.    For that, he did need a Conditional Use Permit and applied for one.  The City granted him one, but used this permit to specify that he could not hold live events at the theater.   Basically, the city tried to blackmail Dillman into giving up his non-conforming right to show live events in exchange for being able to run his computer business.  Not only is this highly unethical, but as the city has no legal right to impose such restrictions on Dillman, those restrictions cannot be legally enforced.

Dillman re-opened the Bal and started to show both films and live events.  After a New Year’s show featuring black comedians, the City sent Dillman a warning saying that he could not show live events.  Thus started a process through which Dillman asked the city to remove the restrictions from his Computer Business conditional use permit which ended with the Zoning Board voting to grant him a new CUP to show live entertainment, albeit with frequency and time restrictions.  Now Dillman will have to decide whether he will accept the CUP as granted or just continue with the non-conforming use of the property.  While the CUP as approved last night does limit his existing rights, he risks a legal battle with the City if he continues operating without it.  It’s likely a battle he would eventually win, but legal battles are expensive and time-consuming.  The City has already been showing bullying tactics against Dillman by sending both uniformed and undercover officers to The Bal, and despite our great financial issues the City might decide to be spiteful and fight Dillman.   On the other hand, if Dillman does abide by the CUP, he risks legally abandoning the nonconforming uses of The Bal by turning them into conforming uses, now limited by a permit that could very well be taken away.

I think it’s time for Dillman to consult a good zoning lawyer.

Note: This article was amended with clarifications on California law regarding the continuity of use of a property and on Dillman’s legal options.

References:

Zoning Code, Art. 20. 4-2006
A.  Abandoned Uses Shall Not Be Re-Established.  A nonconforming use that is
substantially discontinued or changed  to a conforming use  for a continuous
period of one hundred eighty  (180) calendar days or more shall not be  re-
established,  and  the  use  of  the  structure  or  site  thereafter  shall  be  in
conformity with the regulations for the district in which it is located, provided
that  this  Section  shall  not  apply  to  nonconforming  dwelling  units.
Abandonment  or  discontinuance  shall  constitute  cessation  of  a  use
regardless of  intent  to  resume  the use. The burden of proof  in establishing
whether  a  nonconforming  use  has  been  discontinued  for  less  than  one
hundred eighty (180) consecutive days shall be upon the operator of the use
or person requesting re-establishment.