Dec 8 2019

Charter Cities Such as Piedmont Exempted from California Housing Affordability Act by San Mateo County Superior Court

Piedmont’s Staff and City Council have been eager to maximize increased housing in Piedmont.

Under the leadership of City staff, Piedmont has surged ahead of many California communities in prodding Piedmont homeowners to build additional housing units on their property.  Ignoring the citizen argument that Piedmont’s status as a Charter City gave it more autonomy and self-determination, State goals to drastically erode single-family neighborhoods were embraced.  Standard off-street parking requirements have been ignored, modified or eliminated.  Neighbor privacy concerns have been brushed aside along with safety and property line violations. 

Zoning laws per Piedmont’s City Charter have been forfeited in the multi-family, single-family, and commercial zones.

“An effort to take legal action against San Mateo for the City Council’s decision to reject a proposal to build a 10-unit condominium building off El Camino Real in 2018 hit a stumbling block earlier this month when a judge ruled the city did not violate the Housing Accountability Act when the council denied the project’s approval based on height differences between properties.”

Read the whole Peninsula Daily Journal article here

The San Francisco Chronicle December 5 report “California Could Lose Housing Leverage over Cities under Court Ruling” suggests Piedmont was overeager to modify its zoning regulations:

A judge’s ruling in San Mateo County is raising fears among developers and advocates for more housing construction that the state will lose its leverage for forcing cities to build their way out of California’s affordability crisis. The judge said the city of San Mateo was not obligated to follow a state law on housing approvals because it is a charter city — a system that gives local governments greater control over their own affairs. There are more than 120 charter cities in California and housing is tight in many of them, including San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose.

California Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) issued a statement against the San Mateo County Superior Court ruling exempting charter cities from the requirements to impose multi-family projects in all neighborhoods and essentially eliminate single family zoning:

“The San Mateo trial court’s ruling exempting charter cities from a key component of our housing laws is disappointing and patently ignores the very real need for more affordable housing in our communities. We want local governments to act in partnership with the state to address our housing and homelessness crisis. California has provided more than $1 billion to local governments over the past two years alone to streamline local procedures, update planning documents, and provide infrastructure financing to accompany new housing.”

Piedmonters have observed numerous changes in Piedmont’s single-family zoning with the proliferation of vehicles parked on city streets and reduced or eliminated on-site parking requirements. State requirements do not allow notification of neighbors when new housing units are added to single-family dwellings or requirements for off-street parking.

At the December 2, 2019 Piedmont City Council meeting, Councilmember Betsy Andersen enthusiastically welcomed “a good thing,” Piedmont’s receipt of an SB 2 state grant to streamline the production increase of two-family housing and multi-family housing projects in Piedmont.++

Information on SB 2 –

4 Responses to “Charter Cities Such as Piedmont Exempted from California Housing Affordability Act by San Mateo County Superior Court”

  1. When compliance with a well-intentioned and long overdue state law becomes somehow nefarious, up has become down and we are on our way through the looking glass and down the rabbit hole. And, by the way, Betsy Andersen is a lawyer, and knows as well as I do that San Mateo Superior Court has no jurisdiction whatsoever over activities of our fair City in complying with State law.

  2. This article has the vibe of opinion rather than news. “Overeager” and “surged” in a news article? Really? The news is the court decision and even then this news article is incomplete. Is it the first such decision in the state? Are there other, contrary, decisions? The article makes our hard working City Council and staff sound reckless for having Piedmont do its part to abate the Bay Area housing crisis. I must protest the NIMBY tone of this article.

  3. I would not make too much of the San Mateo case until it has completed all of the appeals processes. The Housing Accountability Act deals with the criteria that a city can use to deny certain defined affordable housing projects. The Piedmont parking and accessory dwelling units examples cited above are not in play in the HAA case.

  4. I agree with Stephen and Kathleen. Piedmont should be prodding residents to develop additional housing wherever and whenever possible. It’s both ethical and practical for us to help alleviate the local and State housing crisis.

Leave a Comment