Sep 20 2015

Short Term Rentals Present Issues of Commercialism in Piedmont

Residents have expressed concerns about the influx of short-term rentals. The City Council will consider the matter including adding new laws and enforcing existing laws on September 21.

Council and Staff Encourage Second Units as a Technique for Meeting  State Housing Goals.

Adding second units on single family parcels has been heartily embraced by the City Council and staff as a method to meet State goals for more housing, particularly for low income /affordable units. Piedmont frequently allows, through variances, low income housing units with no off-street parking, even where on-street parking is difficult for neighborhood residents’ guests and service providers.

Recently, when an affordable second unit built without permits was brought to the City Council on the basis of inadequate parking, the Council held to the policy of encouraging and approving second units, despite a failure of the property owner to provide required parking in the heavily impacted neighborhood.

Issues of safety, privacy, noise, and parking from short term rentals – 

The May 16, 2015 Council meeting record states:

“Alicia Kalamas, and John Mittan each spoke against short term rentals, citing negative effects on the community, the possibility of criminal behavior, and lack of connection of the renters to the community. Tom Ferguson expressed a recommendation that there be tight regulations if they are allowed. Steve Wubbens expressed concern that affordable long term second units like his will be replaced by more lucrative short term rentals, making it difficult for divorced people like him to live in town close to his children.” 

“Mayor Fujioka explained that the issue of short term rentals was brought to the Council’s attention because of neighbor complaints, and that this is the beginning of a long discussion on the topic.”

Further negatives for short-term rentals are: ever changing transient populations, potential increased fire and police demands, parking and noise problems, administrative costs, and failure to tax the commercialized properties.  Neighborhood cohesiveness has been noted as a concern. These problems have been brought up if homes are turned into businesses generating vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

Many credit Piedmont’s desirability as a residential city to heavily supported schools and excellent infrastructure largely based on stable zoning, quiet, safe neighborhoods, and general concern for the well being of the community.

While Piedmont neighbors complain of noise, parking problems, loss of privacy and uneasy feelings as a result of short term rentals, Piedmont’s long standing law, “Home Occupation, Chapter 17B.2.” has not been enforced in response to the recent flurry of short-term rentals.

In prior years, when a  Piedmont home was identified in publications as a “bed and breakfast,” the City was prompt in sending legal notice to the owners to cease and desist the illegal use. The notices referred to limitations on “Home Occupation” under which “bed and breakfast,” use of residences in Piedmont was not allowed.

Piedmont Lacks Staffing to Oversee Current Rentals – Affordable or Short Term.

Piedmont currently has no system or staffing dedicated to verifying whether or not City approved affordable units permitted to meet State housing goals and receiving City tax exemptions and parking variances are maintained during the required time period, as an affordable unit. Additionally, once the required time period lapses for affordability, the parking variances and second units remain available to be rented at market rates or, depending on Council actions, as a short term rental.

Awards for the innovative manner Piedmont provides affordable housing by permitting rent restricted second units can, in the long term, be used for short term rentals, negating genuine long term provision of affordable housing.

San Francisco unions, land owners, affordable housing advocates and neighborhood groups unhappy with the adopted ordinance have placed an initiative on the ballot that is being heavily opposed by AirBNB and other online services. (See Related article on Prop F) No ballot measure by initiative or Council action has been mentioned in Piedmont as an option with the exception of not wanting to place a tax before the voters due to the cost of the election.  

 Taxes An Issue

Single family parcel owners are taxed per parcel rather than per residence for School Taxes.  The previous progressive school parcel tax recently changed to a flat parcel tax approved by voters requires a one-bedroom cottage on a tiny lot to pay the same school tax as a 20-room mansion on several acres. And contrary to the recently approved School Tax ballot language, people who own two parcels with one residence have been taxed as though the property is only one parcel.  Further, properties with a second (2) legal dwelling unit on a single parcel pay the same amount as properties with only one residence on the parcel.

Read the full staff report here.

You are encouraged to attend the September 21, Council meeting at 7:30 p.m. and express your opinions and ideas. Alternatively, you may watch the City Council hearing on KCOM, cable 27 or for a live webcast 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.

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