Jul 9 2016

OPINION: Piedmont Public Zone Should Be for Nonprofit Uses Rather Than Commercial For-profit Uses

Following is a letter sent to the Piedmont Planning Commission regarding a proposal to allow for-profit uses of public properties.  The matter will be considered at the July 11, 2016 Planning Commission meeting.

Staff is recommending that you consider language changes to “Zone B: Public Buildings – Uses and Regulations” of Chapter 17 to allow for-profit businesses in city buildings.

As rationale, staff suggests that these businesses be “community-serving” businesses.  I recommend you direct staff to not adopt such language and if any changes be proposed, that explicit language be added to encourage the location of non-profit organizations into city buildings, specifically the 801 Magnolia Building.

First, the general requirement for Conditional Use Permits that businesses provide services used by city residents has always had little teeth and past Commissions have struggled to define what such businesses are.

Secondly, the examples of such businesses offered by staff, a newspaper and beverage stand,  need not be located in the Civic Center and are already operating within the city limits and Civic Center area.  And most importantly, such for profit businesses would block out the development of important non-profit community services that residents have been calling for for years.

For a discussion of those services, I suggest you read the 2007 General Plan Community Survey to which over 1200 residents responded indicating their preferences for policies and capital improvements in town (http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/html/whatsnew/gp_survey_report.pdf), specifically Tables 5 and 7.

Two of the highest requested community improvements in that survey are the development of more gathering spaces in the Civic Center area and the development of a teen/senior center.  The 801 Magnolia Building is the best suited of any of our civic buildings for the development of these community services and should be encouraged through Chapter 17 code revisions.

For-profit businesses, while of some utility, will not lead to optimal use of this limited space for all of the community, nor at no cost.  Space in Zone B is quite limited so leave the development of new for-profit businesses to Zone C, which also happens to be in the center of town, just across the street from Zone B, where the community can just as easily avail themselves of these for-profit services.

Garrett Keating, Former member of the Piedmont City Council

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author. 

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