Nov 9 2016

Big Changes to Piedmont Building and Zoning Code

Do Piedmonters understand the proposed changes impacting their property, the City’s property, or neighboring properties?

Chapter 17 of the City Code is the controlling legal document for building in Piedmont. 

Momentous changes are proposed.

Confusion and some concerns:

  • How many parking spaces are going to be required?
  • What are the new required sizes of parking spaces?
  • Who gets to decide on building applications – permits, design review and variances?
  • Are zone uses being changed without a public vote?
  • Will roofs and other buildings be allowed to extend further into side yard setbacks?  
  • Are variance requirements being changed?
  • Wireless communication requirements decided by staff?
  • Calling application requirements a permit rather than design review?
  • Planning Commission decisions on proposals turned over for staff decisions increased from $75,000 to $125,000?
  • No building restrictions on Public Property?

On Thursday, November 10, 2016, the City Council Chambers, City Hall, the Planning Commission at 5:00 p.m. will continue their work on changes to Piedmont’s building and zoning code, Chapter 17. 

The Piedmont Planning Commission has been meeting for some months on changes to Chapter 17 of the City Code with little public input. Changes to Piedmont building requirements found in Chapter 17 will have far reaching impacts.  The latest version of the changes will be considered at the November 10, 2016 Planning Commission “workshop.”

Community Engagement Requested:

A call for community workshops oriented toward expanded public input has been suggested; however, as of this writing none have been scheduled by the City.  The Planning Commission meetings have had limited public participation where comments to the  Planning Commission have a 3 minute limit, as opposed to an open exchange of ideas with the community.

The usual procedure in proposing changes to legal documents is to strike out language proposed for elimination and color or italicize new language. Following this common procedure would help Piedmonters understand the changes under consideration.  The Planning Commissioners, City Council, and public are being asked to comment on changes only hinted at in the Staff’s abstract revision table.  The revision table only notes whole sections that have been moved or deleted; but does not indicate precise changes within the sections.  

Buried in the moved sections are fundamental changes in single lines, such as moving Chapter 17.6 Zone B: Public facilities to Chapter 17.22 and adding use “by a for-profit commercial entity.” This innocuous single line is a fundamental use change not authorized by the City Charter without a city-wide vote.

The changes essentially amount to a rewrite of Chapter 17 with extensive new language not previously seen.  A city wide notification has been noted as prudent before concluding Planning Commission recommendations to the City Council.

Examples of proposed changes are:
  • – Page 45 – Chapter 17.6 Zone B changed to Section 17.22 Zone B: Public facilities Section 17.22.030 – Conditional Uses.  The following are allowed as Conditional Uses in Zone B:  A. City building used by a for-profit commercial entity.  Comment: this is not highlighted.
  • WCF (wireless communication facilities). This is one of the many topics taken up in the “public meetings” relative to Chapter 17. The proposal recommends that the City Council only review WCF in Zone B, all others in right of ways around town are decided on by the Planning Director. WCF is getting put on poles rather than towers so it is likely that many homes may see one of these out their windows. The Planning Department and the wireless company would agree WCF locations. There appears to be no mention of a process for a resident to object.
  • Control of what citizens can build on their property has migrated from the Planning Commission to decision-making by City staff as the threshold for review by the Commission increased to $75,000.  In June Planning Director Jackson suggested the cost threshold for review by the Planning Commission should be increased from $75,000 to $125,000. 

To understand where changes are being proposed to the existing ordinances, a lined through and changed version would help readers.

Staff report for the November 10 meeting can be read here. 

The volume of planning documents can be read here.

Notice regarding the meeting from the Planning Director Kevin Jackson is below:

Activity by the Planning Commission or City Council related to revisions of City Code Chapter 17, the Zoning Code.

Item 1, and the only item on the agenda for the Planning Commission’s special meeting scheduled for Thursday, November 10, 2016 is the Consideration of a Resolution Recommending Updates to the Planning and Zoning Provisions in the City Code and City Council Policies, as well as Actions to Update Planning Commission Policies.

You can find more information on this ongoing project by visiting the City’s website. It is there that you can also find links to past reports and meeting minutes as well as a link to the staff report for the November 10, 2016 Planning Commission special meeting.

You are encouraged to provide your comments on the topics under discussion by attending the meeting and/or by submitting written comments by 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. You can submit your comments to the Commission by sending an email to me, or on paper to 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611

Kevin Jackson, AICP, Planning Director, City of Piedmont

The meeting will be broadcast live on Cable Channel 27 and from the City website under videos, Planning Commission.  A video recording will be made of the meeting for future viewing.

One Response to “Big Changes to Piedmont Building and Zoning Code”

  1. There are significant revisions to the Chapter 17 code that residents should be aware, but unfortunately the final draft was available for only two weeks for public comment at the Planning Commission. A major change on the code that all residents should be aware of is a change allowing the building of ancillary structures (hot tubs, 20 by 20 patios, parking garages) within the 4 ft setback of a property. The requirement of adding off-street parking spaces when adding a bedroom has been stricken from the code. Wireless communication facilities can be installed in public right always (street poles) through out Piedmont with the approval of the Planning Department. Staff indicates that Council will take up the proposed revisions within the month. Hopefully staff will make more effort to inform the public of these changes than it has to date.

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