Aug 11 2013

State Housing Needs Continue to Press Piedmont

Very low income housing units top the list –

At the Council meeting on August 5, the Council approved an agreement with Barry J. Miller in the amount of $34,780 for preparation of an update to the City’s Housing Element of the General Plan.  The planning costs for compliance with the state law continue to rise.  State laws require all cities to update their General Plan Housing Element every 7 years. Piedmont’s element needs to be updated in 2014.

Allocation of housing is based on State and regional determination of projected needs. This process is ongoing as population growth in the State and out-of-state migration results in increasing numbers of California residents. The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) apportions specific new housing and jobs requirements for each city and county within its nine county Bay Area jurisdiction. 

Piedmont has struggled to meet ABAG’s requirements in the past because of the lack of available sites for new businesses and housing. As a fully built-out city with no opportunity to expand borders or annex properties, the City faces a dilemma every time the housing needs are allocated. Piedmont has argued against the allocation by demonstrating the problems associated with providing the housing units, specifically pointing to the City’s Charter, limited land area, costs, and zoning restrictions.  After a protracted process of negotiations and revised drafts, Piedmont achieved State certification of its Housing Element in 2011. (Read consultant Miller’s recitation of the months of rejections and revisions.) The Housing Element is the only part of a city’s general plan that is subject to State certification.

The Piedmont staff report states:

“As the Council is aware, one of the goals of the Housing Element is to define how the City has planned for its Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) – the amount of new housing units the City must show the State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) it can accommodate.

Under the existing Housing Element, the City was required to accommodate 40 new units, but the new RHNA allocation for the 2015-2022 Housing Element is 60 new units broken down by income category as follows:

Very Low Income  –  24 units
Low Income –  14 units
Moderate Income – 15 units
Above Moderate Income –  7 units

*The income levels are expressed as percentages of Alameda County median income”

As a primarily single family residential city, Piedmont has long attempted to maintain its character through zoning and planning. Piedmont has addressed prior allocations through encouraging second units and infill of vacant lots.  New second units in Piedmont have frequently avoided parking requirements by agreeing to provide the units to very low income individuals for a ten year period.  A question has been raised about what happens to Piedmont meeting low income housing needs when the original ten-year period for the units has elapsed. Voter approval of zoning changes would be necessary to significantly increase Piedmont housing units.

To some, increased population is beneficial and indicates the desirability of the State’s strong economy. Advocates of infill and densification hope open space will be spared if people are housed in existing urban areas.

Opponents of infill and densification have described the imposition of housing unit allocations in urban areas as “the Manhattanization of California” changing the character of cities.

Compliance with State laws require a General Plan Housing Element that includes how a city will provide for the increases in housing units.   As of January 1, 2008, an amendment to the State Housing Element Law, mandates that cities strengthen provisions to respond to the housing needs of the homeless by identifying a zone or zones where emergency shelters are a permitted use without a conditional use permit.

For now, there is no penalty for not providing the prescribed number of units.  Piedmont currently has an approved Housing Element meeting all State requirements.  

Read the staff report.

2 Responses to “State Housing Needs Continue to Press Piedmont”

  1. Will this absurd, unfunded, mandate from the State ever end? Not likely, so long as cities like Piedmont just continue to cave into this demand and the consultant(s) continue to accept our money.
    And requiring that the Housing Element be updated every 7 years? How does 2011 to 2014 equal 7?

  2. There must be a name for creating unnecessary work for cities.
    This situation is absurd. Piedmont has shown there is no space to build very low cost housing, low cost housing, or any other housing let alone new businesses. A stop should be put to this continually spiraling state mandate. Is there no one in government with a brain?

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