Apr 4 2015

Piedmont Housing Report to City Council

Piedmont was the most successful city of all Alameda County cities reaching its housing goal within 98%. 

While some complain, some encourage, some dislike and some applaud, Piedmont’s zoning changes to meet housing goals.  

Piedmont’s method of increasing affordable housing has been based on building second homes on a single family lot or inserting second units into houses within the single family zone.  This technique has been done rather than re-zoning land areas in Piedmont for multi-family dwellings.

Piedmont’s housing increases have stemmed from State requirements for cities to provide planning processes that allow increased housing, particularly affordable residential units under specific conditions determined by individual cities.

While some homeowners have welcomed the income from rentals, neighbors’ primary objections to the second unit plan have been streets clogged with parked cars, loss of parking for service people and visitors, increased noise, and loss of privacy and light and air. Some community members have objected to the loss of a neighborhood feeling, ever changing renters, and a fragile zoning system not conducive to maintaining and improving residences.

Piedmont’s planning staff has consistently recommended allowing increased density and affordable housing through second units in the single family zone as preferable to rezoning small areas for multi-family residential housing. Any rezoning per City Charter requires approval of Piedmont voters, although in recent years this requirement has been skirted, and in one instance, conceded by the City Council.

The allocations of housing needs in the Bay Area are determined by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG).  Piedmont has been extremely diligent in meeting the allocation goals, despite the fact there is no penalty for failure to build the number of allocated residences, as numerous cities have not been penalized for not meeting their goals.  Failure to comply with State laws can befall a city if they have not provided laws and mechanisms allowing increased housing. Some community groups interested in additional affordable housing have sued cities that have not set in place laws giving affordable housing a chance to be approved through their planning processes.

Compliance with State laws and housing allocations refers to a city taking action to allow increased housing. The number of houses actually built relates to the goals rather than compliance. The Piedmont Planning Commission considers housing unit proposals that do not automatically meet the conditions set out in the City Code for second units.  The Commissions decisions on proposals typically involve variances, compatibility with a neighborhood, parking, safety, privacy, light, air, etc. 

City Administrator Paul Benoit’s report to the City Council notes the outstanding success of Piedmont’s compliance:

“a recent report from the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) that compares the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) progress of Alameda County jurisdictions during the period of 2007 to 2014. As you can see, Piedmont was the most successful city of all Alameda County cities with a 98% compliance level.

“Because Piedmont has the lowest number of affordable homes in the County, the numbers above reflect the highest requirement of affordable units on a percentage basis of any Alameda County jurisdiction.

“Rather than up-zone areas of Piedmont for multi-family redevelopment to include affordable apartments, the City instead focused on second unit approvals as a means of obtaining affordable housing without changing Piedmont’s single-family character. The Code was developed to provide incentives aimed at the creation of affordable units.

“The Planning Commission worked hard in their encouragement of second units, while making sure that there would not be adverse impacts on neighborhoods. Their efforts and the City’s success in the second unit program led to a simplified and inexpensive Housing Element Update process and quick certification by the State Department of Housing and Community Development in December 2014.”

READ the entire staff report.

The Council will consider the progress report on Piedmont’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation at their Monday, April 6, 2015 meeting in City Hall. The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. The housing item is not first on the agenda.  The meeting will be broadcast and live streamed.

One Response to “Piedmont Housing Report to City Council”

  1. I think it is ironic — or sad — that, at a time when California has a population of 38 million people and is running out of water, our public policy leaders (elected, appointed and employed) are all rushing headlong to increase the housing supply and the necessary water hookups to accommodate an ever increasing population. Has anybody ever stopped to think and ask “Where are we going with this?”

    When I first came to California in 1964 with the U.S. Navy, the population of California was 9 million — second to New York at 11 million. In the last four decades, the population of California has more than quadrupled. Is that our goal for the next four decades? I hate to think what traffic will be like for our grandchildren when the population of California is 262 million. They will probably have to adopt the principles followed by the people of “Dune” (the iconic science fiction novel by Frank Herbert) who excoriated any person who cried because tears were a waste of water.

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