Piedmont

Piedmont is a small, affluent city in Alameda County, California. It is surrounded by the city of Oakland. The population was 10,952 at the 2000 census. Piedmont was one of the "25 Top-Earning Towns" in CNN Money Magazine's list of 'The Best Places to Live in 2007, and was also named the "Best Place To Live" in the United States in 2007 by Forbes.

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Background

Piedmont is a small, primarily residential community with fine architecture, tree-lined streets, and competitive city schools. Because of its school system, low crime rate, good weather, and high property values, it is regarded as one of the most desirable residential communities in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Piedmont is largely zoned for residential use. Piedmont has minimal commerce compared with statistically similar cities. Shopping, however, is plentiful in adjacent Oakland neighborhoods such as Piedmont Avenue, Montclair, Grand Lake, and Rockridge.

Piedmont has a small commercial district in the center of town located on Highland Avenue, which includes a gas station, three banks, Mulberry's Market, and some professional offices. A small number of commercial enterprises also line Grand Avenue near Piedmont's southwest border with Oakland.

Located in the East Bay hills, Piedmont is surrounded on all sides by the city of Oakland. Piedmont provides its own fire and police services but does not have its own public library or federal post office; these services are shared with Oakland. Piedmont's three ZIP codes are all shared with Oakland.

The relationship between Oakland and Piedmont is remarkable among American cities; although property in Piedmont is surrounded by Oakland and residents depend on neighboring communities for supermarkets and other commerce, property taxes on Piedmont real estate are not shared with Oakland. Some residents have remarked that, in a sense, Oakland's most valuable real estate and most wealthy residents are actually in the city of Piedmont.

The city is served by two local weekly newspapers: the citizen-run Piedmont Post and the Piedmonter, a neighborhood newspaper organized under the Contra Costa Times news organization.

Piedmont also has several parks and a community center.

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History

Residents originally sought incorporation in 1907. Two elections were held among the citizens of Piedmont in 1907, both of which narrowly upheld the decision for Piedmont to become a separate city, rather than become a neighborhood within the city of Oakland.

By the Roaring Twenties, Piedmont was known as the "City of Millionaires" because it had the most resident millionaires per square mile of any city in the United States. Many of these millionaires built mansions that still stand, notably on Sea View Avenue and Sotelo Avenue/Glen Alpine Road in upper Piedmont.

Piedmont became a charter city under the laws of the State of California on December 18, 1922. On February 27, 1923, voters adopted the charter, which can only be changed by another vote of the people.

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Geography

El Cerrito Ave., one of Piedmont's tree-lined streets

Piedmont's major streets include Oakland Avenue, which runs from Piedmont's small city center down into Oakland; Highland Avenue, which divides Piedmont into upper and lower sections; Moraga Avenue, which runs near the city's northern border; and Grand Avenue, which runs near Piedmont's western border.

Lots in upper Piedmont are, on average, larger than lots in lower Piedmont. A nearby shopping center on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland comes within two blocks of Piedmont but never actually enters the city's borders. No major highways run within Piedmont's borders.

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Demographics

As of the census of 2000, there were 10,952 people, 3,804 households, and 3,104 families residing in the city. The racial makeup of the city was 79% Caucasian, 1.2% African American, 0.1% Native American, 16% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.6% from other races, and 3.4% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race made up 3.0% of the population.

Of the 3,804 households, 47 % had children under the age of 18 living with them, 71% were married couples living together, 8.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 18% were non-families. 14% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.9, and the average family size was 3.2.

The population distribution was broad, with 30% under the age of 18, 3.8% from 18 to 24, 18% from 25 to 44, 34% from 45 to 64, and 14% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 44 years. For every 100 females there were 93 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $134,300, and the median income for a family was $149,900. Males had a median income of $100,000 versus $58,600 for females. The per capita income for the city was $70,500. About 1.0% of families and 2.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 2.6% of those under age 18 and 1.6% of those aged 65 or over.

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Education

A view of Piedmont Middle School and Witter Field, taken from Piedmont High School

The Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD), coinciding with the municipal boundaries, includes three elementary schools (Havens, Beach, and Wildwood), a middle school (Piedmont Middle School), a high school (Piedmont High School), and an alternative high school, Millennium. Piedmont High School matriculates a high percentage of students bound for college. Many graduates continue their education at both public and private colleges and universities.

Havens is currently being rebuilt for safety reasons, and its students take buses to a school in Emeryville.

The Piedmont Unified School District is one of a few California public school systems to achieve such success. This can be largely attributed to the dedicated population of parents who choose to pay higher prices for housing so that their children can attend Piedmont schools instead of private schools. In particular, cost-benefit analyses will reveal that, for many households, Piedmont schools make more economic sense than private schooling.

Such analyses, for example, may take into consideration real estate prices, mortgage interest rates, projected real estate value appreciation, local taxes, federal tax deductions, quality of schools, private tuition costs per student, and number of children.

Piedmont voters regularly approve bond measures earmarked for maintaining and/or improving educational facilities. For example, Witter Field, home of the Piedmont Highlanders, was rebuilt over a period of years (1996–1999), transforming it from the older facility to a newer and markedly improved one. Similar improvements have been made to the fields adjacent to the Beach Elementary School.

In 2005, Piedmont citizens voted in favor of Measures B and C with an overwhelming majority. Measure B renews the school district parcel tax, which pays for 21 percent of the district's budget, and Measure C adds an additional amount that compensates for reduced funding from state and federal sources.

In 2006, voters authorized the Piedmont City Unified School District to issue up to $56 million in bonds to improve Piedmont public school buildings so as to reduce dangers from earthquakes, to meet state and federal seismic safety standards.

The Piedmont Educational Foundation awards a number of grants for academic innovation in Piedmont schools each year, and provides a sustained source of funding for the PUSD through its Endowment Fund.

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Notable Residents

Author Jack London lived in Piedmont, and John F. Kennedy's Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara grew up in Piedmont, where his family lived on Annerley Road. Clint Eastwood resided in Piedmont and attended Piedmont schools. Country Joe McDonald resided in Piedmont in the 1970s. Actors Dean Butler (Little House on the Prairie) and Austin Tichenor (Reduced Shakespeare Company) also grew up in Piedmont.

Further, notable tennis player and coach Brad Gilbert grew up in Piedmont. Charles R. Schwab, founder of the discount stock brokerage firm bearing his name, and his family also lived in Piedmont in the early 1980s.

Other past notables include Dorothy and Robert DeBolt who rose to international prominence while raising their 20 children, 14 of which were adopted, multi-racial, and multi-handicapped, to complete self-sufficiency. A 1977 documentary of their family's story, "Who Are the DeBolts?" won an Academy Award.

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