Jul 28 2016

OPINION: Proposed Zoning Changes Give Away the Farm

Objections to proposed zoning regulations are voiced in letters to the Piedmont Planning Commission by Piedmont resident. 

Subject: 7/26/16 Planning Commission Study Session

My name is Don Dare. My wife, Dianne, and I live at XXX* Wildwood Avenue, and have done so for the past thirty four years. Our Zone A property shares a boundary with the Zone D property which currently is the Shell station at 29 Wildwood Avenue. I and a group of my neighbors attended the Planning Commission Special Session held on 7/26/16 to discuss City Code Chapter 17 modifications. We were, and continue to be concerned about the proposed modifications to the Zone D regulations, specifically those concerning building height, lot coverage, and parking space requirements. These modifications propose a 40’ height limit, no lot coverage restrictions, and a severely reduced parking space requirement.

At this meeting, Planning Director Kevin Jackson stated that there were 19 parcels in Piedmont that are in Zone D. He said that of these 19 parcels, only one would be a likely candidate for mixed use development in the years or even decades to come. That is the parcel at 29 Wildwood Avenue. He also stated that under the existing code, the mixed use development proposal for this site, submitted for discussion last year, (by ex­ Planning Commissioner David Hobstetter and Shell owner Jeff Hansen), could not be built. It therefore appears to me that the proposed modifications are being made to accommodate these would-be developers and their project, as no other mixed use development is anticipated for some time, if ever.

Mr. Jackson displayed photo examples of mixed use development on Grand Avenue and Lakeshore Avenue in Oakland, and Solano Avenue in Albany. These photos depicted streets which for a block or more were lined with retail on both sides. These examples in no way compare with the site at 29 Wildwood, a stand­ alone triangular parcel that either abuts or faces Zone A single family neighborhood homes on two of its three sides.

As the discussion concerning these modifications proceeded, Commissioner Theophilos said that there should be no modification to the existing code, and if need be, the General Plan should be modified to remove the need for any such modifications. He stated that this type of development should be constrained. Alternate Commissioner Jajodia expressed the opinion that the proposed modifications were “giving away the farm.” Commissioner Zhang pointed out that the Grand Avenue and Civic Center locations are unique, and not easily covered by one set of regulations, and suggested creating code for each. Commissioner Behrens found the various lot coverage scenarios confusing. Commissioner Ramsey expressed the need to minimize the impact on adjacent neighbors. Full support for the modifications was given only by Commissioner Ode, who stated that this was not a one property issue, (which it actually is), and eagerly supported all modifications without reservation.

Despite the obvious lack of consensus among the Commissioners and the repeated and ongoing protests by property owners who live in the immediate neighborhood, it appeared at the end of the meeting that the proposed Zone D modifications were given back to Mr. Jackson largely unchanged. The Commission’s discussion of these modifications included little or no reference to concerns expressed by the public. The concerns and issues expressed by Commission members appeared to fall victim to time constraints, as 7:30 p.m. came and went and became time to wrap it up.

I would urge you to continue discussion of this difficult and complex topic at your next meeting. Giving away the farm is not the best solution when the perceived motivation is to accommodate the financial viability of a specific project for a specific developer at a specific site.

Thank you, Don Dare, Piedmont Resident

Comments ­ Part 2

My name is Don Dare. My wife, Dianne, and I live at XXX* Wildwood Avenue, and have done so for the past thirty four years. Our Zone A property shares a boundary with the Zone D property which currently is the Shell station at 29 Wildwood Avenue.

At the subject Study Session, it was established by comments from Kevin Jackson, Planning Director, that the proposed changes to Chapter 17 Zone D regulations were being made primarily to accommodate mixed use development of 29 Wildwood, as no other Zone D parcels were likely candidates for development for many years or even decades.

Per the Piedmont Post article printed following the 7/6/15 Study Session regarding the proposed mixed­ use development at 29 Wildwood, Investor David Hobstetter claims his project can’t proceed without assurances from the City that they will grant variances that far exceed the code for anything currently existing in Piedmont. Mr. Jackson confirmed this at the 7/26 Study Session, saying that under the current code, the proposed project could not be built. Jackson therefore proposed an increased height limit to 40’ and removal of all lot coverage restrictions.

I have included a photo representation of the impact that a 40’ tall building covering the lot to the sidewalk would have for me. The photo was taken from my front porch and is looking southwest. Aside from the obvious negative aesthetic impact and loss of view, this wall would deprive me of several hours of direct sunlight every day for the 6 months a year that the sun would set behind it.

I am hard pressed to imagine how the Planning Commission can reconcile approval for such a monstrosity, or the code which would allow it, with providing me the protection to which I am entitled under Zone A code. To further assist your decision making regarding the proposed Zone D code modifications, I have included quotes by David Hobstetter, a well­ regarded proponent of the positive effects of daylighting and natural light who is also an ex­ Planning Commissioner, and a principal in the proposed development.

Thank you for your consideration, Don Dare, Piedmont Resident        Date: July 28, 2016

Dare’s further comments: ______________

Let The Sun Shine in: The Value of Daylight    Excerpts..
By Susan Bloom

According to David Hobstetter, a Principal at San Francisco ­based KMD Architects, “Regular contact with daylight promotes circadian stimulation, regulating physical and mental function through our natural responses to the rhythms of light,” and helps to minimize the incidence of “cardiovascular problems, immune dysfunction, cognitive and functional deterioration and depression. Exposure to full­ spectrum sunlight further enables us to synthesize vitamin D, which promotes strong nerve and muscle functioning as well as cell growth regulation.”

He adds: “Optimizing the use of daylight also has enormous potential to provide energy savings—electric lights can be turned off when sufficient daylight is available, cutting lighting and cooling costs dramatically.” For example, he shares, “The CEC estimated that incorporating skylights with automatic daylight sensors into all new educational buildings would save the state of California up to $7 million dollars in energy costs each year.”

Overall, Hobstetter concludes: “Windows that admit daylight and provide an ample and pleasant view can dramatically affect mental alertness, productivity and psychological well­ being.”

*Address numbers have been removed in the interest of privacy.

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

One Response to “OPINION: Proposed Zoning Changes Give Away the Farm”

  1. I support Don Dare and his neighbors. Once the zoning is changed, it will expand in the future, this is a fact. There will be more of the same “development” in that area. Houses will be removed.

    My area (below Grand) grew to be the City’s dump for multi-family units (apartments and condos). In the 37 years I have lived here, the single family community has been significantly impacted in parking, culture, noise and deterioration of street surfaces. And these will be ignored by the City, just check out the street surface of the 100 block of Olive.

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