Jan 20 2017

Editorial: Public Engagement? Few Piedmonters Know of Proposed Building Changes

Did you know the City is considering big changes to what you, your neighbors, developers, and the City can construct in Piedmont? Once proposed Piedmont laws are approved, resident concerns can become moot. 

Some of the issues:

  • No surveys of Piedmonters’ preferences
  • Scant public input
  • Short term rentals recommendations (airbnb, etc.)
  • Zone use changes without citizen vote
  • Numerous building rule changes 
  • Reduction in parking requirements
  • Zero lot line construction
  • City Staff review and decisions on projects rather than control by citizen commissioners who know the community standards best
  • Building requirements for public property removed
  • No public workshops
  • Exclusion of public input in staff documents.

Study Session: 6:30 p.m., Monday, January 23, 2017, City Hall, 120 Vista Avenue.  Viewable from the City website and on cable Channel 27.

Ask your neighbor, friend, or any resident if they are aware of the zoning and building changes being considered for Piedmont and you will likely get a shoulder shrug.  Despite the fact that the Planning Department and the Planning Commission have spent enormous amounts of time reviewing Chapter 17, engagement with the residents of Piedmont has been minimal.  The mammoth amount of documents present challenges to even a hardy observer of Piedmont zoning and construction rules.

Recently, the City Council on January 11, 2017 held a “Study Session” in an unrecorded meeting in the Emergency Operations Center of the Piedmont Police Department.  The purpose of the meeting was to educate the City Council about staff driven changes to Chapter 17 of the Municipal Code. Piedmont residents could not watch the proceedings from their computers or TVs because the meeting was not broadcast or recorded. Relative few residents attended that meeting or other prior meetings.

When is the public going to be educated on the proposals? 

Were hundred or thousands of Piedmont residents expected to go to the Piedmont Planning Commission meetings and wait for hours to be heard or to learn about the proposed changes?  When was the opportunity for an open exchange of ideas between policy makers and Piedmont residents? The residents who attended a Planning Commission meeting often found the allowed 3 minute time snippet for input often ignored rather than engagingly discussed?

Some changes purport to clean up Chapter 17, the ordinance controlling construction in Piedmont, other proposals change rules: allow the City to build whatever it wants on public property, change zone uses without voter approval, increase density, reduce parking requirements, and so forth.

The changes are too numerous and undelineated to list here.  All changes have not been listed by the City in a cohesive and manageable form. The voluminous public documents overwhelm the reader. Rather than small pieces considered in an orderly manner, interested residents are faced with about 500 pages of documents to slog through.  Yet the City presses on without surveying residents or setting up workshops as done with garbage, recycling, and recreation.  No round table discussions, extensive outreach to residents, or on line surveys have been provided by the City.

One speaker at the recent “Study Session” suggested minimally sending a comprehensive and specific letter to all Piedmont residents. An announcement was subsequently sent on January 17 to all Piedmont addresses.  The City announcement is brief and does not alert or inform the recipient of the numerous significant changes proposed.  Readers are directed to the mountains of information online without issues enumerated. The “public hearings” held by the Planning Commission praised in the announcement received little publicity and little public attendance or engagement.

The City relies on unfounded legal documents, an outdated poll, and the obscure generally unknown Piedmont General Plan, which was approved following limited public input with contradictory internal statements and inconsistencies.

Public Engagement During the Election –

Public engagement was frequently mentioned during the recent 2016 Piedmont election, however thus far the public has been largely screened out of the zoning and construction change decisions by indeterminant consideration times, difficult or no broadcast of considerations, unclear documents, and confusing data.  Organization of the material for ready residents understanding has been lacking.

As of this writing, the City has planned no further actions to inform and engage the Piedmont public.  The planning staff is pushing ahead for a prompt adoption of the voluminous ordinance on March 6, 2017.

Is the public intentionally being disregarded by a lack of clarity and opportunities for meaningful involvement?

The following letter from the Planning Director was sent to those who took the initiative to ask to be informed.  The links lead to complexities difficult for most residents to sort through.   _______________________

You are receiving this email because you had asked to be notified of any activity by the Planning Commission or City Council related to revisions of City Code Chapter 17 (the Zoning Code) and/or revisions to regulations of short term rentals.


As noted on the City of Piedmont’s website, the City Council has undertaken the process of considering a recommendation from the Planning Commission regarding updates to the Planning and Zoning Provisions of the City Code, the City’s Design Guidelines, and Policies and Procedures related to Planning matters in early 2017. The Council held a study session on January 11th and will be holding another study session as follows:

Study Session: 6:30 p.m., Monday, January 23, 2017, City Hall, 120 Vista Avenue.  [This session is evidently going to be broadcast from the City website and on cable channel 27 as it is being held in the Council Chamber where video streaming is available.]

The City Council will not be taking action at the study session.

Following the study sessions, the Council is tentatively scheduled to take the first step in considering the recommendation for adoption at its regular meeting of March 6, 2017.

      Regular Meeting: 7:30 p.m., Monday, March 6, 2017, City Hall, 120 Vista Avenue

Documents on the City Website

The staff report to Council dated March 6, 2017 [It is unknown why this 522 page report has been produced and dated prior to hearing from the Council or public.], the Planning Commissioner’s Summary and Navigation Tips, and other documents related to this project are available on the City’s website at www.ci.piedmont.ca.us. The webpage also contains links to previous staff reports, meeting minutes, the General Plan, the current Zoning Code (Chapter 17) and the Zoning Map.

Public Engagement

The opportunity for public input is available throughout this process. Interested members of the public are encouraged to attend the study sessions and regular meetings at which the City Council will consider this item. Questions about the project and requests to receive email notification of activities related to Zoning Code revisions should be directed to Planning Director Kevin Jackson at kjackson@ci.piedmont.ca.us or (510) 420-3039.

Written comments to the City Council on this matter may be submitted by clicking the following link > citycouncil@ci.piedmont.ca.us  or 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611.

Please let me know if you wish to be removed from this email distribution list.


Kevin Jackson, AICP, Planning Director, City of Piedmont, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611 Tel: (510) 420-3039 Fax: (510) 658-3167


For more City produced information, click here.

Article updated on January 21, 2017

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