Apr 23 2017

Piedmont City Council Deferred Action on Short Term Rentals and Grand Avenue Commercial Zone

Despite concern expressed about losing the “small town feel” of Piedmont, the extensive, recommended changes to Piedmont’s zoning regulations were readily approved by the City Council. Two peripheral items were deferred for future Council consideration: short-term rentals and Grand Avenue Commercial Zone D.

    The Piedmont City Council met on March 6, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont California.  The meeting began with a motion by Council Member Teddy King, and support by the rest of the Council, to approve the first four items on the consent calendar. Having been discussed by the Council, the fifth consideration was a resolution affirming the action of the Alameda County Mayors’ Conference in passing a resolution condemning violence and hate speech, expressing solidarity with those who have been targeted, and supporting immigrants and refugees. Council members King and  Jennifer Cavenaugh both supported the resolution, agreeing that although it is purely symbolic, it has meaning and is important for opening up discussion about these topics.  Following the consent calendar was the Public Forum.

    The first item on the regular agenda was the introduction and first reading of the revisions to the City Code, including Chapter 17, Planning and Land Use.  Kevin Jackson, the Planning Director, discussed how the revisions aimed to streamline the code and make formatting improvements, along with meeting goals for short-term rentals, parking regulations, and for-profit business regulations, among others.  He also acknowledged that the zoning code is a living document, so these revisions seek only to improve on what already exists and are not necessarily a perfect solution.  Next, Eric Behrens Chairman of the Planning Commission spoke to the revisions, saying that they will be easier to follow and will benefit the Piedmont community.

    Council Member Robert McBain brought up the widespread public dissatisfaction on two issues: banning short-term rentals and Zone D, the Grand Avenue sub-area.   Due to the discord surrounding these issues, McBain proposed deferring these so there is more time to review them.  City Administrator Paul Benoit explained that this could be done by changing the wording in the revision to match the current wording, so status quo would be maintained just in those sections.  Therefore, the rest of the revisions could be approved quickly, but the Council would have more time to hear the community’s views on short-term rentals and Zone D.  Mayor Wieler and Council Members Cavenaugh, King, Rood, and Vice Mayor McBain expressed support for this compromise.

    When this topic was opened up for the public input, the Council received overwhelming support of deferring those two issues.  Many residents had prepared to speak about their concerns regarding short-term rentals and Zone D.  One woman requested that all residents in the Grand Avenue area be notified by mail of upcoming meetings so they will have the opportunity to share their opinions.  Another community member expressed concern regarding the zoning revisions, saying he grew up in a similar town that has changed greatly and lost its “small-town feel” after changes were made in the City Code.

    Although I do understand the City’s desire to prevent short-term rentals, I do not think that they should be banned completely.  As Rick Schiller asserted in a letter to the City Council, Piedmont is not a tourist destination, so short-term renters are usually people associated with residents of Piedmont.  I fully support regulations to ensure that nobody is abusing the privilege of renting out their property and protect Piedmont residents, but a blanket ban is too extreme.

    City Council meetings are held twice monthly, on the first and third Mondays.  The City Council works as the legislative body of Piedmont, working to create laws and policies to benefit and protect the citizens.

by Shannon Baack, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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