May 7 2019

Were Neighborhood Concerns Addressed in Design Guidelines?

Residents and property owners are not aware of  what is being changed – added or removed – in the newly proposed Design Guidelines for Piedmont.

Most Piedmonters are not aware of changes impacting all Piedmonters to be made for buildings and landscaping through Design Guidelines currently under consideration by the Piedmont Planning Commission and soon by the Piedmont City Council.  Concern has been expressed that there is no executive summary provided covering the numerous pages of the proposed Design Guidelines for easy understanding by the public of the changes. 

In November 2018 the City asked those who have filed Design Review applications during the previous two years to answer questions via an electronic survey.  The questions were answered by 103 homeowners, 44 architects, 23 contractors, and 27 other persons with 88 percent indicating their project had been approved.

The following is an excerpt from a staff report presented to the Planning Commission demonstrating that neighbors and neighborhoods impacted by changes to buildings, homes, apartments, and commercial sites were not consulted during the process.  Proponents of projects, architects, certain property owners, and contractors were invited to provide feedback. The meetings formulating the proposals were for selected individuals “stakeholders,” and closed to the public. 

From the Planning Department staff report: 


The City consulted with a range of stakeholders as part of the Design Guidelines update. In September 2018, staff and the consulting team interviewed Gail Lombardy of the Piedmont Historical Society to discuss the effectiveness of the existing Guidelines in preserving the character of Piedmont’s older homes.

On September 25, 2018, the City facilitated a discussion of the existing Design Guidelines and Design Review process with five local architects. Feedback from these meetings was incorporated into the Draft Guidelines. An informational item on the Design Guidelines, including an opportunity for public comment, was presented to the Planning Commission on September 10, 2018.

In late November 2018, the City emailed a letter with a link to an electronic survey to about 700 Piedmont households (roughly 18 percent of the city). A number of local architects and contractors also received the letter.

The survey was not made public. 

Recipients included all households who had filed an application for Design Review between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2018. There were 162 surveys completed, equivalent to a response rate of 23 percent.

Survey respondents included 103 homeowners, 44 architects, 23 contractors, and 27 persons answering “more than one of the above” or “other.” About 88 percent indicated their project had been approved, including 27 percent with “minor” changes and 6 percent with “major” changes. Some 62 percent of the respondents indicated their projects were now completed, 20 percent had projects under construction, and 18 percent did not build the project or answered “other.”

Key findings of the survey were as follows:

 Respondents had generally positive experiences with City staff during Design Review. 48 percent described their experience as “excellent” and 35 percent described their experience as “good.” Only 8 percent reported their experience to be “poor.”

 76 percent of the respondents indicated they consulted the Design Guidelines as part of the Design Review process. Of this total, 31 percent found the Guidelines to be “extremely clear” and 54 percent found them to be “somewhat clear.”

 Only 7 percent of the respondents felt that the design suggestions provided by staff were “not constructive.”

 More than two thirds of the respondents rated their Design Review experience with the Planning Commission as “good” or “excellent.” About 13 percent rated their experience as “poor.” About 31 percent of the respondents felt their project had been improved as a result of the Design Review process.

 Respondents were asked to rate a series of design factors on a 4 point interval scale (not a concern, slight concern, moderate concern, major concern). The factors identified as being the greatest concerns were preserving views, preserving the historic character of Piedmont homes, homes that appeared too large for the lot, and preserving side and rear yard privacy. The factors identified as being less of a concern were retaining walls, fences and walls in front yards, and the siting and design of carports.

 About 35 percent of the respondents felt the City’s Design Review requirements were “too strict,” while only one percent felt they were “not strict enough.” Just over 50 percent of the respondents felt the requirements were “about right.”

Consideration of Design Guidelines by Planning Commission is on Monday, May 13th, 5 pm Planning Commission meeting at City Hall.  The meeting will be broadcast on Cable Channel 27 and from the City of Piedmont website under videos/ Planning Commission.

READ the staff information below >


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