Feb 1 2020

SAFETY of Accessory Dwelling Units: Mon. Feb. 3 City Council

Is the cart getting in front of the horse ? Adopt the Ordinance then its requirements ?

Council plans to approve an ADU ordinance on Feb. 3, and some time later consider what the “objective” standards for approved ADUs will be, therefore leaving both applicants and neighbors without clear and specific requirements regarding safety and other issues.

Concerns over regulations have arisen over applications for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) being exclusively and “objectively” considered by staff.  

Before completion of the Piedmont ADU approval requirements – Design Review and safety regulations – the Piedmont City Council is being pressed  to act promptly on adopting a new ADU ordinance on February 3, 2020 at 7:30 pm in City Hall.

Major components of an “objective” review by staff have been shown to be incomplete. Items such as Design Review specifications, safety regulations etc. have not been put forward for Council consideration prior to the proposed second reading and adoption of the ADU ordinance.

A key, legally, allowed, qualification for ADU approval is safety – traffic, pedestrian, access for public safety services, distance from roadways, fire safety, terrain, etc.

Fire Safety:

With climate changes increasing fire conditions in California, fire safety in Piedmont requires prevention of barriers to fire fighting.  Strict avoidance of challenging conditions that would interfere with controlling fires is  necessary for protection of all in the move to densification of our small city. 

 The practice of asking the Fire Chief or Police Chief to determine safety issues appears not to be an identifiable “objective” practice.

The following is the staff suggestion for fire safety standard:

“5.03.03 FIRE SAFE CONSTRUCTION 1.Construction of any ADU or JADU shall be designed to meet fire safe construction and vegetation requirements as determined by the Piedmont Fire Marshal.”

Should Piedmont require ADUs to meet California Fire Code, and National Fire Protection Association Standards?  Piedmont has self-excluded certain fire safety standards.  Will the Piedmont Fire Marshal accept the California Code and National Standards?  Has the Council considered any exemptions?

What document will an applicant for a new ADU receive upon arrival at the Public Works counter in City Hall?  

Planning Commissioner Jonathan Levine pointed out, when voting no on the proposed ordinance, that no applicant document /checklist had been provided to the Commissioners during their consideration of the ordinance. Also, no such document has been provided to the City Council.  Viewing the document informs the Council and the public how the ordinance will be implemented and allows consideration of its objectivity.

Is the approval criteria objective?

Staff has pointed out the necessity of  “objective” criteria for new ADU applicants; however, while seeking approval of an ordinance requiring  compliance by ADU applicants the material provided by the staff to the City Council does not supply a full criteria package. 

 February 3, 7:30 pm – Council consideration of the ADU ordinance. See staff report below.


The Planning  Commission is scheduled to initially consider the specific requirements on February 10, 2020, leaving open time between the adoption of the ADU ordinance and the completion of the requirements. The Planning Commission staff report and agenda on ADUs Design Review fall after the February 3 Council proposed final adoption of the incomplete ADU ordinance. 

The proposed “Design Review” process to be considered by the Planning Commission is linked below:


To make comments to the City Council, click > citycouncil@piedmont.ca.gov

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