Oct 13 2013

Significant Zoning Changes Proposed

– Re-subdivision of property, reasonable accommodation for the disabled, Conditional Use Permit permanence, mixed use in the Commercial Zone, parking requirements for Second Units, very low to low income requirements, multiple unit housing, parcel size requirements, etc. – 

On Monday, October 14, 2013, the Planning Commission will hold a hearing late in the meeting to consider potential changes to the City’s Zoning Code. The proposed changes are intended to facilitate increased housing density, clarify definitions, implement requirements by the State or Federal government, and reduce ambiguities.

The meeting agenda starts at 5:00 p.m. in City Hall. The zoning changes will be considered last in the meeting after all other items.  The Planning Commission will take a dinner break at 6:30 p.m., The time of the hearing on the numerous proposed changes to the City Zoning Code Chapter 17 is unknown. The Chapter 17 zoning changes are under Item #13. 


All parcels in Piedmont are subdivided.  Changes in boundary lines are considered a re-subdivision.  Currently, to build on a substandard lot requires a variance approved by the Planning Commission. The proposed changes appear to dismiss the 10,000 and 20,000 square foot requirements in the Residential (A) and Estate (E) zones and negate voter approved requirements because of conflicting language.   The current Zone E minimum lot size of 20,000 square feet is proposed to be eliminated in Section 17.9.2 of the City Code. The explanation offered for this change is the need to be consistent with the reduction in residential subdivision lot size to a minimum of 8,000 square feet in proposed Section 17.10.2 applying to Piedmont’s Zone A (Residential Zone). However, in the existing Section 17.14.2 the required minimum lot size of 20,000 square feet in Zone E is not eliminated, leading to some confusion.

In Zones A (Residential),  C (Multiple Family) and D (Commercial) the minimum lot size is eliminated for single family residences (17.5.2, 17.7.2 and 17.8.2 ). The stated explanation is to eliminate the perceived need to obtain a variance to build a single-family residence on a lot with fewer than 10,000 square feet and to simplify the language of the Code.

The Piedmont Charter states:


The City of Piedmont is primarily a residential city, and the City Council shall have power to establish a zoning system within the City as may in its judgement be most beneficial. The Council may classify and reclassify the zones established, but no existing zones shall be reduced or enlarged with respect to size or area, and no zones shall be reclassified without submitting the question to a vote at a general or special election. No zone shall be reduced or enlarged and no zones reclassified unless a majority of the voters voting upon the same shall vote in favor hereof; provided that any property which is zoned for uses other than or in addition to a single family dwelling may be voluntarily rezoned by the owners thereof filing a written document executed by all of the owners thereof under penalty of perjury stating that the only use on such property shall be a single-family dwelling, and such rezoning shall not require a vote of the electors as set forth above. (Emphasis added.)”

PROPOSED LANGUAGE: 17.5.2: Permitted Uses. The following principal uses are allowed as permitted uses in Zone A: (a) Single-family residences on a minimum lot size of 10,000 square feet, together with accessory structures located on the same lot or parcel of land, subject to the provisions of the City Charter, this, and other sections of the City Code. 

(Strike outs are eliminations in  proposed code language.)

Staff Report notes = Purposes: 1) to eliminate a perceived need to obtain a variance to build a single-family residence on a lot with fewer than 10,000 square feet; and 2) to remove unnecessary and archaic language. 

Similar elimination language referring to the City Charter  also applies to other zones.

Eliminating the language mentioning the City Charter or changing square footage requirements for the zones has not been accompanied by a staff ballot measure recommendation.

The proposed changes to Chapter 17 of the City Code will allow re-subdivision of an existing single family lot if there is a lot in the neighborhood below the current minimum standards.  A lot that is 16,000 square feet (or more) with 120 feet (or more) of frontage on a public or private street may be re-subdivided into two lots (or more) if it is within 500 feet of a lot containing 8,000 square feet or less and a lot with frontage that is 60 feet or less.  The neighboring substandard frontage and lot area may be in two different lots. That is, within 500 feet in any direction there can be a lot that is more than 8,000 square feet with a frontage of less than 60 feet and a different lot that is less than 8,000 square feet and has a frontage of more than 60 feet.

Each re-subdivision puts more lots within 500 feet of qualification. The areas of Piedmont that would be excluded from potential re-subdivision under the proposed revisions to Section 17.10.2 and 17.10.3 are those with lots of less than 16,000 square feet or less than 120 feet of frontage. 


It is envisioned that over time, as commercial properties redevelop, the new provisions would create economic opportunities to allow the inclusion of housing. An example of this is the Grand Avenue Shell station, which could be redeveloped with ground floor retail and upper level housing. To encourage mixed commercial/residential developments, fees for mixed use projects would be reduced as much as the fees for affordable housing.

Section 17.2.43B: Mixed Use Commercial/Residential. Mixed Use Commercial/Residential means a development that combines commercial and residential uses and having both (a) ground floor retail, office or service commercial uses which will primarily serve City residents; and (b) a multiple dwelling at a minimum density of one dwelling unit per each 3,600 square feet of lot area, but not exceeding one dwelling unit per each 2,000 square feet of lot area. This establishes a minimum 12 units per net acre. The stated purpose is to provide clarity that single-family residences with a second unit are not considered or regulated as multiple dwellings.

The Planning Commission at the September 30 meeting wanted “different regulatory/development standards for the City’s Grand Avenue commercial district from that of the Civic Center commercial zone to reflect the fact that the Grand Avenue district is more “regional” in character than the Civic Center. ”  The Commission also wanted to allow senior housing development in Zone D (commercial zone)

To encourage multifamily housing in both zones, structure coverage limit is proposed to increase from 25 percent to 50 percent in Zone D and from 40 percent to 50 percent in Zone C.  A minimum density of 12 units per net acre is proposed for new multifamily and mixed use developments.


Units of 700 square feet or less need only provide one covered parking space instead of the current two covered parking spaces.


The proposal for Section 17.2.2B: Affordable Unit. “Affordable Unit” means a dwelling unit for sale or rent that meets the California State Department of Housing and Community Development standards of income eligibility and affordable rent levels for Alameda County. (Health and Safety Code sections 50052.5(h) and 50053.)


Laws require that a Conditional Use Permit runs with the property making a breach of the original conditions approved by the City Council the only mechanism for revoking a CUP, unlike the current practice of routine reconsideration of a CUP.


To provide a diversity of housing stock available, a new provision in Chapter 17 17.22.4(b) will discourage applications for a variance for floor area ratio for residences of 1,800 square feet or less.  The purpose of the provision is to give direction to staff with the intent of maintaining smaller homes or cottages for first time home buyers and housing for seniors desiring smaller homes. Many smaller homes in Piedmont have been changed from two-bedrooms with one bath houses of one story to three-bedrooms, two bath, two story houses.


“Reasonable Accommodation” means providing disabled persons flexibility in the application of land use and zoning regulations and procedures, or even waiving certain requirements, when necessary to eliminate barriers to housing opportunities. It may include such things as yard area modifications for ramps, handrails or other such accessibility improvements; hardscape additions, such as widened driveways, parking area or walkways; building additions for accessibility; tree removal; or reduced off-street parking where the disability clearly limits the number of people operating vehicles. Reasonable accommodation does not include an accommodation which would (1) impose an undue financial or administrative burden on the city or (2) require a fundamental alteration in the nature of the city’s land use and zoning program. (Govt. Code § 12927(c)(1),  1. and § 12955(l); 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(B); 28 C.F.R. § 35.150 (a)(3).)

There are many other items under consideration not mentioned in this article – bicycle racks, cameras used for surveillance, temporary shelters, etc.


The Commission will hear comments from the public on the proposed changes and make their own comments.  The Commission may continue consideration of the proposed revisions to a future meeting or they may finalize recommendations to the City Council, in which case future hearings by the City Council will be scheduled.

First and second readings of the proposed code amendments are required by the City Council. Should the Commission take action to recommend approval of the Code Changes at this October 14th meeting, the recommendation will likely be heard at the November 18, 2013 City Council meeting.

Draft minutes of the September 30 Planning Commission meeting describing previous considerations of the changes.

Staff report prepared for September 30 meeting.

Staff report on changes to Chapter 17 for the October 14 meeting.


Earlier in the meeting starting at 5:00 p.m., the Planning Commission will be given a presentation on the consultant Barry J. Miller’s proposed scope of work and scheduled work on the Housing Element of the Piedmont General Plan to be completed prior to the January 31, 2015 State deadline.  This agreement is for the 2015 -2022 Housing Element update, the next seven year period mandated by the State.  This agenda item is considered a public hearing open for public input.  

Residents are encouraged to attend the meeting and express their opinions and ideas.  The meeting will be broadcast on KCOM, cable 27 and streamed live on the City’s website. To view the meeting via the internet go to  www.ci.piedmont.ca.us. On the right hand side of the City’s website homepage under the “City Council” heading, click on the “Online Video” link, then scroll down under the “Sections on this Page” heading, click on the “Planning Commission” link, then on the “October 14, 2013”, click on the “Video” or “In Progress” link, and scroll down to Agenda #13 and start watching!

Email comments to kblack@ci.piedmont.ca.us and they will be forwarded to the Planning Commissioners and the City Council.  Contact Kate Black, City Planner, with questions and comments at 510-420-3050 or kblack@ci.piedmont.ca.us.

2 Responses to “Significant Zoning Changes Proposed”

  1. Oct. 14, 2013

    Piedmont Planning Commission
    c/o Kate Black

    re: Chapter 17 Modifications

    Dear Commissioners,
    Piedmont will likely not allow a tattoo parlor or half-way house in the commercially zoned areas in town. On the other hand, Ace Hardware is a large retail outlet that has a regional following and well serves Piedmont residents. Many in town consider Ace Hardware a necessity. Encouraging appropriate retail establishments, especially along the mixed use Grand Ave corridor, is desirable as it will be of benefit to Piedmont residents. The Dress shop serves a limited segment of the community; upscale retail of various specialties and perhaps a restaurant/coffee shop would be welcome additions. I encourage the Planning Commission to not impose undue restrictions on further commercial expansion in the mixed use zone(s).

    The Zone changes allowing sub-division to 8000 square feet on lots of 16,000 or larger in Zone A is unrealistic and will have limited benefit because of the unrealistic numbers used in providing additional housing. If the desire is to maintain an open feeling in Piedmont, long rectangular lots with a small frontage on the street maintain the current uncongested view of Piedmont whereas a subdivided lot with two houses both with street frontage creates more density. A lot with narrow frontage requires a shared driveway and the front house masks the rear house so that there appears to be in most cases a single unit. I suggest that the wide frontage requirement of 120 feet be eliminated.

    Many homes in Piedmont, in the more densely populated areas of zone A, are on lots of 5,000 or less. There are homes in Piedmont on lots of 2,000 and 2,200 square feet (31 and 35 Blair Ave.) I suggest making the minimum residential lot size 6,000 square feet in Zone A. If 6,000 square feet is used, a restriction on too large a footprint for new homes is desirable on these lots.


    Rick Schiller

  2. At last night’s Planning Commission, staff addressed some of the reporting about these proposed changes. First, changing the minimum lot size in a zone does not constitute rezoning, which would require a vote of the community. For example, Zone A is still residential although lots sizes requirements are being eliminated. And lot sizes are “archaic” as staff suggest – median lot size in Zone A is 6500 sq ft so most lots are below the 10,000 ft standard. Can’t recall what staff said about Zone E – this agenda item did not start until midnight!

    The issue of development standards for the Zone D commercial districts (Grand Ave and Civic Center) will be addressed in the coming year but I would not characterize the COmmission’s position as wanting ““different regulatory/development standards ” for the two districts. This concept was raised in public comment and staff seemed to think it has merit but the Commission did not vote on this concept at these meetings.

    Another issue that has come up about the commercial district is how much hard scape coverage should be permitted . The chapter 17 proposals call for 80% maximum (as directed by the General Plan) but there has been testimony that it should be 100% and the Commission will be undertaking an analysis of this. Parking will also be an issue for discussion – will converted properties in these district be required to provide off-street parking?

    The video of last night’s meeting can be seen at “http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/video/ – go to the Planning Commission archives.

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