Nov 20 2017

New Marijuana and Cannabis Laws, Denial of Home Remodel as Too Tall for Neighborhood

On November 13, 2017, I attended the Piedmont Planning Commission which meets on the second Monday of each month. On this particular date, the purpose was to discuss the laws regarding marijuana use in Piedmont, as well as to discuss plans for various homes in Piedmont.

The first big issue discussed regarded marijuana regulations in Piedmont. Kevin Jackson, Planning Director, led the discussion. Jackson expressed his desire to minimize recreational and medical use of marijuana and cannabis products in Piedmont. In an effort to maintain Piedmont’s control over the distribution and agricultural growing of the product, Jackson suggested regulations.

Jackson proposed that cannabis products could not be delivered between 9 AM and 7 PM. He also recommended that “marked cars”–automobiles that display that they are cannabis delivery vehicles– be required for deliveries of cannabis.

After Jackson finished speaking, Commissioner Susan Ode added her agreement with these regulations. She also mentioned that other forms of distribution, such as drone delivery, should be addressed in order to limit potential loopholes. The Commissioners discussed and voted, ratifying Jackson’s ordinance to regulate the time and method of delivery of cannabis.  The Commission’s recommendation on the ordinance will be sent to the City Council for their consideration.

The second large issue revolved around a review of a design for a home at 47 Fairview Avenue. The owner of the home, Elliot Brown, wished to increase the height of the home so that his family could have a home better suited for their growing children; he stated that a raised house would also create a stronger “indoor to outdoor flow.”

Eric Behrens, Planning Commissioner, expressed his lack of support for the project due to Piedmont’s desire to maintain the old architecture.

Brown’s neighbor, Dale Turner, offered his thoughts on why he is against the project. Turner mentioned his concern for the height of the home, as the new design would compromise the privacy and take natural sunlight from his residence. In addition, Turner was worried about having the value of his home decrease because of having this large home near the property line.

The last neighbor to add his thoughts was Rick Schiller. Schiller had similar thoughts as Turner, mentioning how the added story of Brown’s home could be invasive to the privacy of the neighbors. He also added that if this project were to be accepted, an undesired precedent would be set that could potentially allow passage of future proposals that would adversely affect neighbors. As an alternative, Schiller suggested that Brown look into expanding his home horizontally or downwards.

The proposal was denied by the Planning Commission.

My personal opinion is that the Planning Commision correctly denied the plan. This plan would potentially invade neighbors’ privacy as well as decrease the value of the nearby homes. There should be a way for Brown to expand the size of his home without obstructing his neighbors light and privacy.

I spoke out during the meeting at the very beginning. I suggested that a sign of some sort should be placed near a road next to my street, Prospect Avenue, to help decrease the danger of cars speeding at a place of poor visibility. The street is so steep that it is nearly impossible to see up or down it when driving. The Planning Commissioners said that they would think about the suggestion and thanked me for my contribution.

I interviewed Dale Turner. A transcript of the interview is below.

Why are you here? What difficulties and problems brought you here? What did you learn? What is your reaction to the meeting?

“I am here to oppose the plans for the remodel of the home at 47 Fairview Avenue because of the design including increasing the mass of the home to such a degree that it would decrease privacy and light in my home. I learned that prior to proposing a remodel, an individual should attempt to inform and get the approval of the neighbors so that the plan will have a higher chance of being accepted. I am satisfied with the decision of the Planning Commission.”

What next step will you take to get your particular concern addressed?

“There is not a next step for me to take, but my neighbor will be responsible for coming up with a new plan that will be accepted by me and the rest of the neighbors.”

by Will Richmond, Piedmont High School Senior


On November 13th, 2017, I attended the Piedmont Planning Commission meeting at City Hall, which meets on the second Monday of each month. The purpose of the meeting was to cover the proposed revisions of Proposition 64, which legalizes the adult use of recreational marijuana, and discuss proposed housing in Piedmont.

The Planning Commission’s first major issue pertained to the marijuana regulations. Kevin Jackson, Planning Director, expressed concern for the fate of Piedmont as a result of Proposition 64.  Jackson fears that Piedmont’s reputation as a safe community will be tainted as a result of marijuana legalization. Since cannabis would ultimately become more prevalent in Piedmont, Jackson is concerned that children in the community would be more likely to take in the second hand smoke. In order for Piedmont to regulate the distribution of the product, Jackson proposed that cannabis products not be sold between 9AM and 7PM. To better inform Piedmont residents, Jackson believes that cannabis delivery vehicles should be required to be marked clearly so one can be aware where cannabis is being delivered.Additionally, Jackson stated that a person should not be able to have more than seven cannabis plants in the home.

Edwin Wang, a Piedmont High School student in attendance, suggested that the Commission replace the word “marijuana” with “cannabis,” since cannabis is a broader term that covers more products. After discussion, Jackson’s proposals were ratified.

I agree with Kevin Jackson’s argument, because I believe it would be in our town’s best interest to do everything it can to reduce the prevalence of cannabis. Proposition 64 will harm our community, because some minors will be able to pass as 18, which will result in the distribution to middle and high school kids. Reducing the availability of cannabis is the right decision, if Piedmont truly cares about the investments in children’s futures.

The other major issue addressed was the proposed design of 47 Fairview Avenue. Elliot Brown, the homeowner, spoke about his plan to create a home to meet the needs of his family by adding another story to the home. Mr. Brown would like to increase the height of his home because he wants to move rooms away from the kitchen due to food scents.

A member of the Planning Commission, Eric K. Behrens, expressed his unwillingness to support the design due to the Piedmont tradition of preserving original architectural heritage. The architect, Bill Holland, had a compelling argument for increasing the height of the home since the front of the house is uninhabitable due to its low 6’8’’ ceilings.

A neighbor of Elliot Brown, Michelle Turner, was easily able to counter this argument because the proposed design would allow the neighbors to see directly into their third story. This would affect the Turner’s house because the window curtains would always need to be shut for privacy, and when not closed the light from Mr. Brown’s window would reflect back into their home.

After hearing both sides of the argument, Commissioner Susan Ode along with the other Commissioners rejected the proposed design due to its inconsistency with Piedmont patterns and disturbance to the neighbors.

I interviewed Dale Turner, husband of Michelle Turner.

Why are you here? What difficulties and problems brought you here? What did you learn? What is your reaction?

  • “I am here to oppose the application of plans for the neighbor’s remodel. The design mass caused a privacy issue and blocked light. I learned that anybody should inform neighbors of plans before bringing it to the City for approval. My reaction from tonight is that I am satisfied with the decisions of the Planning Commission.”

What is your name?

  • “Dale Turner.”

What is the next step you will take to get your concern addressed?

  • “It is not up to me, the neighbors are responsible for coming up with a new plan that would be approved by the neighbors.”

I spoke and advised that the City should place a stop sign at the bottom of my street at the corner of Crest and Hampton Avenues. This should be a high priority because taking an unprotected left up Crest is extremely dangerous as a driver cannot see oncoming traffic, since it is at the top of a hill. Therefore, in order to turn left onto my street, drivers must essentially guess whether it is an appropriate time to turn. Once I stated my case, the Commission thanked me and I sat down.

by Max Bekes, Piedmont High School Senior


On Monday, November 13th, the City of Piedmont Planning Commission held a meeting in Piedmont City Hall from 5PM to approximately 7PM.

The meeting began with the standard call to order, leading into a review of the items on the agenda before the Public Forum, in which people may introduce items not on the agenda in order to address the Planning Commission directly. After two Piedmont High School students proposed stop signs in different intersections, which the Planning Commission planned to pass on to the Public Works Department, the meeting’s regular agenda proceeded.

The first item on the agenda was the “consideration of an ordinance revising the land use regulations in the City Code Chapter 17 relating to cannabis” in order to address recent state legislation.

California had recently passed new laws regarding cannabis and the City of Piedmont planned to change the terms used in its ordinances to match the terminology used in state legislation.

A Piedmont High School student spoke on the issue, expressing concern that cannabis was essentially a euphemism for marijuana and requesting that it remain noted in the ordinance that cannabis is the same as marijuana, the Planning Commission responded noting that the only difference between the two was one being a broader term encompassing other forms of cannabis rather than just marijuana to be smoked.

Five other items were on the agenda in which various permits were to be reviewed, each had their own issues and some had neighbors, residents, and architects speak on the behalf of proposals. The applications for permits were regarding construction of various changes to homes including variances, designs and fences.

Oftentimes, the issues of privacy was a major concern, as when one neighbor raises the height of their home, they may block the amount of sunlight on another home and possibly give a direct view into rooms such as master bedrooms and bathrooms. Another potential issue in the approval of a permit was the definition of an uninhabitable space versus a habitable space and how it may have been possible to modify one into the other quite easily.

During one of the considerations, the designers were attempting to make it quite clear that a space was supposed to be made habitable.  However, the Planning Commission noted the ease in which one might change one from the other, changing the home in a drastic way that would be a problem for the Commission.

One such petition included a homeowner who could not make the meeting, and so, on their behalf, only those they had hired spoke.

In an interview of Bill Holland and John Hardgrove following another application in which their request for a permit was denied, they stated their careers oftentimes included presenting such applications to cities in order to do work. Although their application had been denied, they expressed their motivation to continue working and pointed out the homeowner’s willingness to talk to their neighbors, prior to presenting a new application.

When the meeting concluded, many stayed around after the meeting to discuss their next course of action, as well as many homeowners talking to their neighbors about their concerns about the changes to homes. Hopefully, these homes will, in a safe and unobtrusive way, successfully get their desired remodeling and make Piedmont a better, and safer, place for the community to thrive.

by Edwin Wang, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors.

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