Sep 20 2015

Piedmont Laws Generally Do Not Allow Short Term Rentals

Piedmont’s Family Oriented Zoning and Short Term Rentals will be considered on September 21 at the Council Meeting – 

Short Term  and Overnight Rentals Are Generally Not  Legal  Under Piedmont Ordinances and the City Charter. 

On September 21, 2015, the Council will consider the issue  at 7:30 p.m. in the City Hall Council Chambers, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611.

In May 2015, City staff reported to the City Council that although Piedmont prohibits Air BnB and VRBO type short-term rentals,  they are listed online on several sites. While many cities around the world have adopted regulations, oversight and special taxes on short-term rentals of apartments, homes, condos and second units, Piedmont has yet to respond as AirBNB type rentals continue to operate in violation of existing laws and the City Charter.  

Questions Regarding Voter Participation

The City Charter has in recent years been skirted by changing zoning uses and requirements without voter participation.  This has caused dramatic changes for Piedmont’s previously stable single family residential zoning.  The Charter states:

“SECTION 9.02 ZONING SYSTEM 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 thereof; provided that any property which is zoned for uses other than or in addition to a singlefamily 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.”

Piedmont Law Does Not Allow Customers to Come to a Piedmont Residence. 

The Municipal Code currently states:

“The occupational use shall not generate pedestrian or vehicular traffic or parking needs beyond that normal to the district or neighborhood in which it is located. No business invitees shall be permitted to visit the premises;”

Piedmont law further states:

“No more than one room in the residence or any structure on the premises where the residence is located shall be used in connection with the home occupation, and under no circumstances shall a garage be used in any way related to such home occupation;”

Renting a room without using another room such as a bathroom or a kitchen is improbable.

 Permits Are Required Prior to Using a Home for an Occupation –

“All of the jurisdictions, like Piedmont, report that many hosts operate their short term rentals ”under the radar”. However, unlike most communities, it is relatively easy for Piedmont staff to identify illegal short term rentals because we have relatively few of them, we have active neighbors who report unpermitted activity, and matching an advertised rental with a specific property is generally not difficult for staff.” Staff report September 21, 2015

Piedmont’s current law  requires a permitting process that includes involving neighbors as well as City determinations for business use of residences. Since customers are not allowed to come to a residence, nor can there be use of the residence for publicity, short term rentals are currently not allowed.

During the discussion and consideration by the City Council on Monday, March 16, 2015, the rental of Piedmont rooms through internet companies, such as AirBnB,  the Piedmont Municipal Code requirement for use of a residence as a “Home Occupation” was not mentioned.

Piedmont’s Home Occupation ordinance states:

“There shall be no advertising, notices, publications or other written or oral means used to connect the occupation with the premises on which it is conducted and particularly there shall be no use of the address of such premises in any way connected with the occupation, provided that this shall not prohibit the use of name cards, stationery or invoices with the address of the premises.”


a. In order to conduct a home occupation on any premises located in Zones A, B, C, and E in the City of Piedmont, an application must be made by the resident proposing such an occupational use upon a form and in the manner prescribed by the City Clerk.

b. In addition to the application form the applicant must submit a rendering of the floor plan of the house showing which room or portion of a room will be used for the home occupation. This drawing should be accurate in its representation of the premises but need not be an architectural rendering.

c. The fee for a home occupation permit shall be non-refundable as set forth from time to time by resolution of the City Council.

d. The applicant or applicant’s representative shall mail to all adjacent residences (as defined in Sec. 17.2) a notice of intent to conduct business, the form of which shall be prescribed by the City Clerk. Said notice will set forth (1) The applicant’s name (2) The address of the proposed home occupation (3) The type of business to be conducted (4) A fifteen (15) day period during which comments on the home a fifteen (15) day period during which comments on the home occupation may be directed to the City Clerk.

e. The applicant or applicant’s representative shall provide an affidavit of service to the City Clerk as proof of satisfaction of Sec. 17B.3(d) above.

f. No home occupation permit shall be issued during the 15 day notification period.

g. Upon completion of the notification period, the application and any

g. Upon completion of the notification period, the application and any comments received shall be reviewed by the Public Works Director and City 17B-3 Home Occupations 17B-4 Administrator who shall determine if a home occupation should be granted under this section based upon the fact that none of the restrictions of Section 17B.2 have been violated or will be violated due to the proposed nature or conduct of the home occupation.

h. All persons receiving a home occupation permit shall be required to have a valid city business license. Lapse of six (6) months or more in a business license shall constitute grounds for cancellation of the home occupation permit.

i. Home occupation permits shall be valid so long as there is no change in the location or nature of the business and a valid city business license is on file in the City Clerk’s office and none of the restrictions of Section 17B.2 have been violated. (Ord. No. 349 N.S., §3; Ord. No. 388 N.S., §3, Ord No. 532 N.S §3, Ord. 709 N.S. §2)” 

Read Piedmont’s Home Occupation ordinance. 


Unintended Consequence of Promoting Second Units in Piedmont –

To provide affordable and low income housing in Piedmont, City policies have promoted second units, granting variances and retroactively allowing apartments in homes. The City has sought and gained awards for this approach to providing for low income and affordable housing. However, rather than becoming rental housing for full time lower income families, these new units have proved ideal for AirBNB rentals. As online short-term rental services have mushroomed, these housing options have opened Piedmont to a commercialization never seen before and according to staff, in most cases without payment of Piedmont’s rental income tax to the City.

From the City’s view, although the one-time weekend renter does not occupy any seats in Piedmont schools or request city documents, the second units are not providing affordable or low income housing for permanent residents, as intended by City policy. Meeting goals for housing units are defeated by the transfer of housing to short-term rentals as a hotel or bed and breakfast.

As Piedmonters commercialized their properties, Piedmont’s desire for low income and affordable housing has been partially undercut by some property owners’ desire for increased income by converting their house or second unit to short time rentals.

Staff states in their September 21 report:

“Piedmont does not have the tourist draw of beaches, shopping or entertainment venues the cities with the largest problems have. In fact, based on reading reviews left by people who have rented Airbnb listings in Piedmont, they tend to be in town for local social events such as weddings and anniversaries, or regional events at UC Berkeley.”

In the staff report there is no assessment of safe, convenient, lodging near Piedmont.  For those residing in Piedmont, it is generally known that finding safe, nearby lodging can be challenging, making Piedmont homes and second units desirable and potentially in high demand for short term lodging.

Full time Landlord Duties May Be More Onerous than Occasional Weekends –

Piedmonters with second units often consider being a year-round 24- hours-a-day landlord too great a nuisance. Some have opted to rent for few days only when it is convenient through online services instead, knowing that parents bringing their students to Berkeley or Mills College won’t be doing much cooking, complaining in the middle of the night, withhold rent, or exercise the right to “repair and deduct” and they will be gone in a couple of days. AirBnB vets the renters and collects the payment for the hosts.

Express your opinions and ideas. Alternatively, you may watch the City Council hearing on KCOM, cable 27 or by logging on to the city’s website at on the right hand side of the homepage under the “City Council” heading, click on the “Online Video” link, then click on the “September 21, 2015” heading, click on the “Video” or “In Progress” link, and start watching!

Written comments may be sent to the City Council, c/o Piedmont City Clerk, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611 or by email to: Correspondence received by the City Clerk is considered part of the public record.


“Additionally, as a means of reaching as many Piedmont residents as possible, staff was directed to continue to work with the press to make sure that there was high level coverage, and to continue to send direct notices and reports to the email list of people wishing to participate in the discussions.” Staff report dated September 21, 2015.

Read the entire staff report here.

Editors’ Note:  PCA is on record requesting all City public notifications, press releases, agendas and agenda staff reports, thereby allowing PCA to inform our hundreds of readers of City news. PCA was not included on the recent notification list regarding short term rentals as were some other media outlets. 

2 Responses to “Piedmont Laws Generally Do Not Allow Short Term Rentals”

  1. This is an issue that all of Piedmont should be aware of – it does effect use of every private property. City-wide mailings can be pricey but posting a notice on the landing page of the city’s website is not. A general notice calling attention to this agenda item should be posted there. Your Editors’ note is unfortunate.

    Regarding the “rezoning” of the commercial zone to mixed-use, the City Attorney gave an opinion that this was a change in the definition of use rather than a zone reclassification. As a council member at the time I was ok with this split hair, but was assuaged by staff statements that public hearings on new design code and guidelines for the mixed-use zone would be held. That has yet to happen and staff is beginning to consider proposals for mixed use projects. A case-by-case approach to the mixed use zone is not good planning.

  2. A recent joint Council/Planning Commission hearing combined both a discussion of mixed use guidelines and a presentation by the development team of 29 Wildwood, the current Shell Gas station. Generally I support development at this site. However, much of the meeting was a presentation by the 29 Wildwood developers and not a general discussion of new mixed-use guidelines. There was little time, if any, for public input on the direction these guidelines should take.

    Essentially the 29 Wildwood Proposal would formulate the guidelines, the cart pushing the horse. Neighbors have called for a discussion of mixed-use guidelines without a developer presentation; I think this is appropriate and had been suggested by the Planning Commission two years ago.

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