Jul 23 2016

ZONING: Controversy and Cleanup: Special Meeting, Tuesday, July 26

Every home, apartment, commercial property, and public property in Piedmont is potentially impacted by the broad proposals before the Planning Commission.

Changes of use in the public zone, reduced parking requirements, buildings permitted in setbacks, reduced setback requirements, new descriptions of zone uses, changes in lot coverage requirements, etc. have or will be considered by the Planning Commission as they review staff proposals prior to making recommendations to the City Council, the deciding body.  The changes proposed are entirely too numerous to be listed here; however at the end of this article is a list of official documents related to the proposals.

The proposals currently being considered by the Planning Commission call for a new description of Piedmont’s predominate zones, the single-family residential zones, A and E.

The Planning Commission thus far has undertaken consideration of proposals at the end of their regular meetings. Typically, there have been few, if any, public participants at these meetings. The proposals are lengthy, fragmented and, likely, difficult for the average resident to follow. Awareness of government requirements generally only occur when property owners attempt to build a project or when a neighbor builds or proposes a project.

Piedmont’s foundational law is the Piedmont City Charter < .  Piedmont is a Charter City, and, as such, is governed differently than California General Law cities.

Piedmont’s original Charter intent was to maintain Piedmont as an independent residential city and to control commercial development within the city. To preserve Piedmont’s residential character,  a key provision was included in the Piedmont City  Charter  < requiring any change of classification or reclassification of zones to be done only with voter approval.

The Zoning System as outlined in Piedmont’s  City 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 thereof; 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.


During planning processes and action by the City Council Zone D was reclassified by expanding its uses to incorporate the use of Zone C multiple units/apartment/multi-family units.   Zone D is better know as Piedmont’s business or commercial zone. Expanding the use of Zone D to include the Zone C multi-family usage was done by the City Council without voter approval in 2013.   An explanation or legal justification for this relaxed interpretation of the Charter requirement has not been provided.  If a legal interpretation is provided, it will be printed on this website.

The test, if any, on voter avoidance for Zone D, will likely occur only through legal action brought by unhappy neighbors to Zone D development projects. Recently, residents near the Shell Station on Grand Avenue at Wildwood Avenue objected to development proposals presented to the Planning Commission and City Council at a unique joint meeting to hear a presentation from an architect and developer of the property.  Many of the proposed regulations relate directly to this property in Commercial Zone D.

Some Piedmonters encouraged the change of use in Zone D and have accepted the lack of voter approval because of a desire for more housing in Piedmont.  Perhaps, most voters in Piedmont would agree to the change, if given an opportunity to cast a vote per the Charter language.

Zone D has always permitted single-family homes in the zone.  Based on the Council’s pre-emptive use change in Zone D, new rules are proposed.

The Planning Commission will consider changes to the Zoning Code Chapter 17 on Tuesday, July 26, 5:30 p.m – 7:30 p.m.  The meeting will be broadcast live on Channel 27 and from the City website.  

The July 26 Special meeting at City Hall in the Council Chambers will be the first meeting that is separate from routine Planning Commission matters.  This meeting includes rules for Zone D, the commercial zone and how development can be permitted on commercial properties.

Some of the recommendations for Zone D include:

  • reduction on the number of parking spaces required
  • requirements for only housing on the second floor of commercial buildings
  • zero setbacks in the zone
  • setbacks only when adjacent to Zone A the single-family zone
  • reduction on the size of a parking space
  • increase in the height of a building from 35′ to 40′
  • etc.

Read > agenda for the Planning Commission’s special meeting scheduled for Tuesday, July 26, 2016.

Read the full  >  staff report for the July 26th Planning Commission meeting.

You can submit comments to the Commission by sending an email to kjackson@ci.piedmont.ca.us or on paper to the address: Kevin Jackson, AICP Planning Director, City of Piedmont,  120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611    (510) 420-3039   Fax: (510) 658-3167

To read all of the staff produced documents, click items on the list below. These are links to various documents related to the proposals and are found on the City website. You can find ongoing information on this project by visiting the City’s website.:

Staff Reports, in chronological order:

Follow this link to find the Minutes for the above Planning Commission meetings.

City provided information is below:

“In 2012, the Planning Commission began to have discussions about revisions to Chapter 17 of the Municipal Code, otherwise known as the Zoning Code (Code). These discussions followed and were partially in response to a 2009 comprehensive update of the Piedmont General Plan, which included some goals and actions that necessitated some revisions to the Zoning Code. There are many reasons to make amendments to Chapter 17. Some revisions are mandatory in order to stay in compliance with the General Plan and Housing Element. Other revisions are voluntary but equally important to improving planning services in the city.

The first two of five planned phases of revisions were completed in 2012 and 2013. To achieve the goal of completing phases III and IV of Zoning Code revisions, the Planning Commission will be holding discussions about a variety topics related to potential revisions to the Code during its regularly scheduled meetings beginning in March 2016. Ultimately, and if things go as envisioned, the Planning Commission will be asked to make a recommendation to the City Council to adopt Zoning Code changes before the end of 2016.

During this process there will be multiple opportunities for public input, and staff will continue to try to reach out to as many Piedmonters as possible.

Staff has already assembled a list of residents who wish to receive notices and staff reports directly via email. Anybody who wishes to be added to the list may contact the planning office by contacting Planning Director Kevin Jackson atkjackson@ci.piedmont.ca.us or (510) 420-3050.

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