Sky Woodruff advises public agency clients on general municipal law issues, specializing in the areas of revenue and taxation, elections law, land use and environmental law, and telecommunications. Since joining the firm in 2000, he has worked with a number of cities and agencies, assisting both with special projects and with the diverse array of issues confronting local governments on a daily basis. Sky serves as City Attorney for the cities of El Cerrito and Larkspur and as Special Counsel for the City of South San Francisco. He chairs the firm’s Public Finance Practice Group.
With an eye toward preserving and enhancing local government revenue, Sky has helped several cities update and adopt development impact and other fees and has assisted with the implementation of a variety of assessments. He has also advised public agencies in all areas of elections law and has broad experience with local initiatives and referenda. He assists clients in all aspects of the election process, or with specific needs. He is frequently advises clients on:
- Developing an election strategy;
- Analyzing and providing opinions regarding the lawfulness of various measures, including those affecting land use, taxes and local government structure;
- Preparing materials for measures sponsored by local governments; and
- Successfully challenging unlawful ballot measures and defending measures proposed by local governments from such challenges.
Sky has advised his clients on parcel, utility users’, transient occupancy and other taxes within the limitations imposed by propositions 13, 62 and 218. As part of his land use practice, Sky has advised public agencies in various aspects of projects ranging from simple variances to large-scale residential and commercial developments. Sky previously served on the League of California Cities Ad Hoc Prop. 26 Committee.
This taskforce was charged with preparing guidance regarding the proposition’s implementation. The measure imposed new procedural and substantive requirements on some local fees.
Prior to joining Meyers Nave, Sky was an associate at a Bay Area law firm, focusing his practice on employment litigation. During law school, he twice clerked in for City of San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, where he worked on litigation against American tobacco companies and served on the telecommunications team.
Elections Law and Municipal Finance Matters
Oakland Zoo Parcel Tax (2012)
Sky worked with the Oakland Zoo and communications consultants to develop a proposal for a countywide parcel tax to fund zoo operations and capital improvements. In collaboration with the team, he drafted a resolution and ordinance for the proposed measure and refined the materials based on input from the county counsel’s office. The measure also includes an expenditure plan, which Sky and the team developed together based on the zoo’s needs and priorities ascertained through a formal polling process.
City of Rialto Business License Tax (Petroleum Businesses) (2012)
Based on the City of Rialto’s desire to enhance revenue from local petroleum storage and processing businesses, Sky identified several options for taxing the businesses and analyzed legal constraints. After extensive discussions with the city, Sky prepared amendments to increase the city’s business license tax as well as to integrate the necessary changes into the city’s code.
City of Santa Maria Transactions and Use Tax (2012)
Coordinating with communications consultants and City of Santa Maria staff for a of a revenue ballot measure, Sky advised on the measure’s legal aspects, prepared necessary materials to place a general transactions and use tax on the ballot, and reviewed the impartial analysis and documents for implementing tax collection.
City of Albany Transactions and Use Tax (2012)
Sky reviewed materials for a general transactions and use tax ballot measure and advised the City of Albany regarding the election process’s legal aspects.
City of Cotati Initiative Prohibiting Roundabouts (2012)
In response to the City of Cotati’s project proposing to reconfigure a major thoroughfare to replace two traditional intersections with roundabouts, residents qualified an initiative to prohibit the use of such traffic features in the city. Sky assisted the city with the initiative process in the pre-election stage. He reviewed the city attorney’s ballot title and summary, advised the city clerk on processing issues, and reviewed materials for placing the initiative on the ballot. He also worked with city staff to prepare legally permissible educational materials for the initiative.
City of Alameda Transactions and Use Tax and Related Litigation (2012)
(Williams v. City Council, Alameda County Superior Court Case No. RG12622649)
Sky assisted the Alameda City Attorney’s Office with the preparation of materials to place a special transaction and use tax measure on the ballot to fund specific capital projects. In related litigation, some members of the public alleged that the ballot materials included false and misleading statements in violation of the Elections Code and that the city was required to evaluate the capital project’s environmental impacts under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) prior to placing the measure on the ballot. As co-counsel with the city attorney, Sky successfully defended the ballot material’s content and the determination that CEQA review was not required as part of placing the measure on the ballot.
Santa Clara Valley Water District Parcel Tax Update and Renewal (2012)
With the approaching sunset of an existing parcel tax funding clean water programs and a desire to expand the programs’ scope, the Santa Clara Valley Water District undertook an effort to place before its voters a measure to renew and update the tax. Sky worked with in-house counsel, staff, and communications consultants on the measure. He helped revise the ordinance levying the tax, reviewed other ballot materials, and advised on applicable elections laws and the permissible scope of agency information communications about the measure.
City of Salinas Transactions and Use Tax Extension (2012)
Sky counseled the City of Salinas on options to maintain or increase revenue for general services. The city council ultimately decided to seek voter approval to extend an existing transactions and use tax. Sky prepared materials for the tax’s adoption and assisted with the preparation of related documents, including the ballot question, and advised the city regarding the permissible scope of city educational communications about the tax.
City of Eureka Marina Center Measure (2010)
A mixed-use development project required general plan and zoning changes and an amendment of the City of Eureka’s local coastal plan, some of which voters previously approved and therefore could only be amended with voter approval. With the Meyers Nave’s Land Use Group and the city’s staff and consultants, Sky helped craft the materials to go before the voters and advised the team regarding applicable elections law requirements. He took the lead in drafting the ballot question and worked with the city clerk on procedural issues.
City of Placerville Transactions and Use Tax (2010)
To relieve ratepayers of some of the debt needed to upgrade sewer treatment facilities to meet state and federal requirements, the City of Placerville placed before voters a special transactions and use tax. Sky worked with the city attorney to prepare the ordinance levying the tax, the resolution placing the measure on the ballot, the city attorney’s impartial analysis and other necessary materials. He advised the city regarding legally permissible educational communications with residents.
City of Concord Transactions and Use Tax (2010)
Coordinating with communications consultants and City of Concord staff, Sky assisted with the legal aspects of a revenue ballot measure. He prepared necessary materials for the placement of a general transactions and use tax on the ballot and reviewed the impartial analysis and documents for implementing the tax collection.
City of El Cerrito Transactions and Use Tax (2010)
Coordinating with communications consultants and City of El Cerrito staff, Sky assisted with the legal aspects of a revenue ballot measure, prepared necessary materials for the placement of a general transactions and use tax on the ballot, and reviewed the impartial analysis and documents for implementing the tax collection. He also collaborated with the team to develop a legally permissible informational effort to educate the residents about the measure.
City of Desert Hot Springs Public Safety Parcel Tax Extension (2010)
Facing a parcel tax’s expiration, which provided significant funding for public safety, the City of Desert Hot Springs sought voter approval of a measure for an extension. In preparing the measure, Sky revised the text of the existing ordinance to eliminate administrative ambiguities and to extend the sunset date. He worked with city staff and consultants on legally permissible educational materials regarding the measure. He also advised staff on election procedural issues.
City of Cotati Recall (2009)
Sky advised the City of Cotati staff on procedural issues to recall a city council member.
Novato Sanitary District Board Election Contest (2009)
In November 2009, the Novato Sanitary District held an election for three of the five seats on its Board of Directors. The third and fourth highest vote-getters were separated by only a handful of votes. Subsequently, some residents filed an election contest, alleging that the county registrar failed to properly provide ballots to some district residents, affecting the election’s outcome. Analyzing the facts and applicable law; Sky advised the board and General Counsel on possible defenses and litigation strategy, and the District’s participation in the election contest. Working with litigation counsel, he helped convince the court to uphold the election results.
City of Cotati Transactions and Use Tax (2009)
Sky worked with City of Cotati staff and communication consultants to prepare a ½ percent general transactions and use tax measure for a special election. Under Proposition 218, a declaration of emergency was required. He developed necessary findings for the emergency, based on information provided by city staff: the city’s reserves were depleted and critical services and staffing would be eliminated without a new funding source. He also advised the staff on election’s procedural requirements and the state law limits for city-funded communications with the public about the measure. The voters approved the tax.
Redondo Beach Utility Users Tax Measure (2009)
Like many cities’ Utility User Tax (UUT) ordinances, Redondo Beach’s does not apply the tax to the use of utilities by utility companies when they use utilities to conduct their business. Redondo Beach also has an electrical generation station that burns natural gas to create electricity; the plant owner pays no tax on the gas it uses for that purpose. Sky assisted other Meyers Nave attorneys to create an emergency ballot measure to eliminate the UUT exception, as it applies to gas consumption.
City of South San Francisco Hotel Tax Measure (2009)
To address significant declines in revenue and state borrowing of local funds, the South San Francisco City Council placed a measure on the ballot to increase the city’s hotel tax and to apply the tax to parking charges when included in the hotel bill. Based on Sky’s recommendation, the council also decided to amend the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) ordinance to address the tax’s potential under-collection for online reservations. Sky crafted the ballot question’s wording and prepared the necessary legislative materials. Subsequent to the measure’s approval, representatives of local hotels and online travel companies approached the city to discuss the application of the TOT to payments for online reservations. Sky worked with them and city staff to draft interim administrative regulations pending the litigation’s outcome over how TOT should be calculated for such charges.
City of Desert Hot Springs Utility Users Tax Increase and Extension (2009)
In the face of declining revenue, the City of Desert Hot Springs asked its voters to extend the sunset, increase the rate and approve modernizing changes to the UUT. Sky worked with staff and consultants to craft the ballot question’s wording, the ordinance amending the tax and the necessary legislative material to place the measure on the ballot. The city’s voters approved the measure. As a result, the city was able to hire needed additional police officers.
Oro Loma Sanitary District Advisory Measure (2005)
The boundaries of the Oro Loma Sanitary District and City of San Leandro overlap. Within the overlap area, the Oro Loma Sanitary District has the power to provide solid waste collection and disposal services. Historically, the district has issued a franchise to a waste hauling company to serve the residents and businesses. In 2005, San Leandro’s City Council indicated its intent to assert exclusive jurisdiction over the provision of solid waste services in the overlap area. In 2006, the district board decided to place an advisory measure before the voters in the overlap area to ask if they preferred that the district continue providing services. Sky prepared the advisory measure and a resolution to call an election. He also advised the district’s counsel on issues related to the mechanics of the election, potential litigation and other issues.
City of Desert Hot Springs Hotel Tax Increase Measure (2005)
Sky worked with City of Desert Hot Springs’ staff and consultants to prepare a ballot measure to increase its hotel tax, including tailoring the ballot question and legislative materials to the results of a community satisfaction survey. The measure received the necessary voter approval.
City of Oakland, Wood Street Community Facilities District (2005)
Sky advised the City of Oakland’s in-house counsel, staff and project developers regarding the formation of a community facilities district to fund park maintenance.
City of Salinas General Transactions and Use (Sales) Tax Measure (2004)
Facing a severe structural deficit that forced significant layoffs and closure of its public libraries in 2005, the City of Salinas sought voter approval to levy a general local transactions and use (sales) tax over the next decade. Sky crafted a resolution to levy this task on a ballot measure during an election that lacked a city council race. In accordance with Proposition 218, this required the city council to declare an emergency to justify having the measure on the ballot. Sky drafted detailed findings describing the city’s financial situation to justify placing the measure on the ballot for the first available election. He also adapted the State Board of Equalizations form ordinance for the proposed tax, prepared a detailed staff report describing the nature of the tax and the emergency, and advised the city attorney on potential litigation issues. Over 60 percent of voters approved the tax at the November 2005 election, with no challenge to the measure. Sky assisted with an additional emergency transactions and use tax measure for Salinas in 2009.
City of Pinole Utility Users Tax Extension
The City of Pinole’s voters approved its UUT with a sunset clause. In 2004, the city’s financial team determined that the city would need the tax’s revenue for an extended period of time in order to preserve essential city services. As a result, the team recommended that the city council place a measure on the ballot to extend its sunset clause. Working with a council subcommittee, the city attorney and staff, Sky prepared all necessary documents and advised on the election process for the measure, which voters ultimately approved.
City of Oakland Parcel Tax (Measure Y) (2004)
In 2004, Sky assisted the Oakland City Attorney’s Office with preparing materials for a ballot measure to create a new parcel tax and increase other taxes to generate revenue for violence prevention programs. The measure received the necessary two-thirds affirmative vote and was not challenged.
Hazzard v. City of Oakland (County of Alameda Superior Court Case No. RG 03130898) (2004)
Sky, along with a Meyers Nave colleague, successfully defended the City of Oakland’s Measure P from a pre-election challenge. The measure, which the city council placed on the November 2004 ballot, sought to remove a sunset provision to a previously approved charter amendment, as well as make other changes to the amendment. The amendment had created a mayor-council form of government and a city attorney elected by city residents. Meyers Nave also successfully defended the measure on appeal from the trial court decision.
Stockton Utility Users Tax Measures (2002-2004)
Between 2002 and 2004, Sky advised the city council, city manager and city attorney of the City of Stockton regarding two voter-sponsored initiatives to reduce the city’s UUT. Sky counseled on potential technical challenges to the measures, the single-subject rule and the retroactive application of the rate reductions. He also advised on whether one of the measures improperly interfered with administrative functions by imposing a floor on police and fire department staffing.
East Bay Regional Park District Parcel Tax Measures (2002-2008)
In 2002, 2004 and 2008 Sky and other Meyers Nave attorneys assisted the East Bay Regional Park District to prepare measures for a parcel tax to fund park programs in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Voters approved the measure in 2004 and 2008.
Santa Clara Stadium Authority v. Bress et al. (49ers Stadium)
Santa Clara Superior Court Action No. 112-CV-217730 (2012)
Sky and the Meyers Nave litigation team successfully challenged an effort to hold a referendum on agreements with the 49ers football team to construct a new professional football stadium in Santa Clara. After years of negotiation, Santa Clara and the 49ers agreed to relocate the team to Santa Clara and construct a new professional football stadium there. The terms of the deal were submitted as a ballot measure, which voters approved. Subsequently, the Santa Clara Stadium Authority approved several agreements with the team in regards to financing the stadium. A local opposition group circulated and qualified a referendum to submit the agreements to voter approval. Meyers Nave, in conjunction with 49ers attorneys, prevailed on the Authority’s behalf, arguing that the referendum was unlawful because the agreements were not legislative in nature.
City of Greenfield Services Agreement Referendum and Related Litigation
(City of Greenfield v. Linda Tulett, Registrar of Voters For Monterey County, Monterey County Superior Court Case No. M116214) (2012)
Greenfield’s City Council determined that the city could achieve cost savings and better service provision by contracting with another agency for some police services. The council approved an agreement for those services with a neighboring city, and residents circulated and qualified a referendum to submit the agreement to the voters. Sky Woodruff and other Meyers Nave attorneys advised the council and executive staff regarding the lawfulness of, options for reacting to, and public communications regarding the referendum. Additionally, we represented the city in a legal action to remove the referendum from the ballot. The council ultimately decided to rescind the agreement and dismiss the case.
Novato Sanitary District Services Agreement Referendum (2010)
Upon the conclusion of a competitive request for proposals process and contract negotiations, the Board of Directors of the Novato Sanitary District approved an agreement with a private company to take over most aspects of operating the District’s new wastewater treatment plant, including hiring most of the District employees who worked in the wastewater treatment division. Residents who opposed the agreement circulated and qualified a referendum to submit the agreement to the voters for approval. Sky Woodruff advised the board and executive staff regarding the referendum’s lawfulness, ballot question’s wording and public information about the measure. Voters approved the agreement.
City of Petaluma Solid Waste Franchise Referendum
After several years of seeking proposals and reviewing bids, the City of Petaluma’s City Council selected a preferred provider for a solid waste franchise and attempted to complete negotiations in 2005. A bidder not selected attempted to overturn the city council’s choice through referendum. Sky advised the city attorney regarding the lawfulness of the use of referendum in this situation and prepared resolutions for the city council to forestall further attempts to use the power of referendum to interfere with the franchise process. The unsuccessful bidder dropped the referendum effort.
Stockton Municipal Utility Referendum
In 2004, the City of Stockton’s City Council approved a contract with a private corporation to operate the city’s municipal water utility. Residents attempted to overturn the contract’s approval by referendum. Sky advised the city council and city attorney regarding the referendum’s lawfulness and potential strategies to challenge it, focusing on both technical issues and substantive legal defects. Ultimately, the referendum petition failed to gain enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.
Representative Matters Before The California Public Utilities Commission
City of Petaluma Caulfield Lane At-Grade Crossing Relocation
In 2006, the California Public Utilities Commission approved the relocation of an at-grade crossing of the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) District passenger rail track located in Petaluma. Upon initiating construction of the new crossing, the City noted that, because of an unusual roadway configuration, the decision was unclear as to whether the crossing of a nearby track for industrial uses would also have to be relocated. Sky obtained for the city a clarification of the decision that the industrial track crossing would not have to be relocated.
Yreka-Weed Transmission Line Upgrade Project
In this proceeding, Sky and other Meyers Nave attorneys represented a private homeowner protesting PacifiCorp’s application for a permit to construct a transmission line from Yreka to Weed. The proposed line included construction across our client’s property and through sensitive wetland and meadow habitat. Meyers Nave was involved during all stages of the proceedings before the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), including evidentiary hearings, briefing and review of CEQA documentation. We successfully convinced the CPUC that the mitigated negative declaration prepared for the project was legally inadequate. In ordering that an environmental impact report (EIR) be prepared, the CPUC adopted many of Sky’s arguments. Ultimately, based on Meyers Nave’s proposal, the CPUC approved an alternative configuration that upgraded existing lines and avoided the sensitive habitat.
Jefferson Martin 230 kV Transmission Project
In this proceeding, affecting a substantial number of communities south of and including the City of San Francisco, Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) proposed to construct a new building in the City of San Bruno that would transition electrical lines from overhead wires to underground. The selected location was on an undeveloped property at a gateway to the city, across the street from a recently approved multi-family housing project, and within the city’s redevelopment area. The city council concluded that the location would interfere with both local land use planning policies and the redevelopment plan. Sky worked with the city attorney’s office and staff to challenge the proposed substation location as well as the proposed routing of transmission lines through the city. Based upon Meyers Nave’s arguments, the project’s EIR recommended an alternative location and form for the substation, which PG&E challenged. Sky ultimately persuaded the CPUC to approve the city’s preferred form and location of the transition station, as well as to avoid the placement of underground lines at roads that the city disfavored.
Tri-Valley 2002 Capacity Increase Project
Sky represented the City of Dublin in this regionally significant electric transmission line upgrade and re-routing project. As part of the project proposal, several alternative locations for a new substation were identified. PG&E proposed a location preferred by the city, but the EIR recommend a location on property that the city planned for inclusion in a major commercial and multi-family mixed-use development. The city concluded that the substation would interfere with development of the area, undermining local land use policy. Sky worked closely with city staff and elected officials in coordinating a challenge to the proposal, ultimately convincing the CPUC to approve the city’s preferred location for the substation.
Presentations and Publications
- Contributing Author, Implementation Guide for Propositions 26 and 218, League of California Cities, 2017
- Author, "Local Minimum Wage Laws and the Challenge of Balancing Interests," League of California Cities City Attorneys' Spring Conference, 2016
- Presenter, "Revenue Options for the Menlo Park Fire Protection District," Menlo Park Fire Protection District, 2016
- Presenter, "Getting Ready for a November 2016 Revenue Measure," 2015 Municipal Finance Institute, League of California Cities (LOCC), 2015
- Presenter, "Basics Of Municipal Taxes, Assessments And Fees/Charges," League of California Cities (LOCC) Annual Conference, City Attorneys’ Track, 2015
- Presenter, "The Sharing Economy: Uber and Airbnb – Can They Exist in a Regulated World?" International Municipal Lawyers Association (IMLA), 80th Annual Conference, 2015
- Presenter, "Update on Assessment Requirements Under Proposition 218," LOCC City Attorneys’ Spring Conference, 2013
- Presenter, "The Legalities of Public Agency Participation in Elections," Association of California Water Agencies’ CLE Workshop for Water Professionals, 2012
- Presenter, "Proposition 26-Impact on State and Local Governments," 84th Annual Meeting of the State Bar of California, 2011
- Presenter, "Subdivision Improvement Security: A Potentially Untapped Source of Revenue for Local Government," Meyers Nave Webinar, 2011
- Presenter, "Planning a November 2011 Revenue Measure: How to Ask Residents for Additional Revenue During the Toughest Economy in Generations," Meyers Nave Webinar, 2011
- Presenter, "Impact of Proposition 26 on Local Governments," Meyers Nave Webinar, 2011
- Member, The State Bar of California
- Member, Public Law Section and Tax Law Section, California Lawyers Association
- Member, Bay Area City Attorneys (BACA)
- Member, California Political Attorneys Association (CPAA)
- Member, National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA)
- Member, League of California Cities Proposition 218 and 26 Implementation Guide
- University of California at Berkeley, School of LawJD, 1998
- Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign ServiceBS, Humanities and International Affairs, summa cum laude and with honors in History, 1994