Jun 10 2021

Equitable Distribution of New Housing Allocations?

As Piedmont attempts to find housing locations to meet its Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA ) of 587 new housing units within 1. 7 square miles in our built-out city, other Bay Area cities are being questionably assessed fewer housing units.

Atherton, certainly a fine city and one that adds significantly to the Bay Area, has over 4 square miles with a very low housing density of 7,168 high income people.  Yet, it is being assessed to provide only 298 new housing units, while Piedmont is being assessed to provide 587 new units.

For this cycle, the town [Atherton] is required to plan for the development of 298 new housing units. Some 74 would need to be very low-income housing, 43 low-income, 51 moderate-income and 130 for above moderate-income, according to the report.

Atherton is in the midst of Silicon Valley where housing demands have rapidly multiplied,  especially for hotel maids, restaurant dishwashers, gardeners, office cleaners, and other low income workers.  Why is their assessment less than Piedmont’s? This is merely one example of the questionable methodology being used when assessing and allocating housing units to various cities and communities.

Many cities, as Piedmont, have barriers to safe and appropriate increases to population including: open space, roadway widths and designs, infrastructure, limited public transit, fire safety issues, pandemic impacts, etc.  Yet, these factors appear not to have been considered when the Association of Bay Area Governments assigned allocations.

Cloverdale, CA’s population before the pandemic in 2019 was 8,754,  three-quarters the population of Piedmont.  It’s proposed RHNA for 2023 -2031 is only 278,  less than half the allocation to Piedmont despite Cloverdale’s available open space  (more than 3 sq miles compared with 1.7 sq miles).

The New York Times May 30, 2021 reported that 36,000 people moved out of San Francisco in the final quarter of 2020.  Many moved several hours away from the Bay Area, especially east to the Sacramento area or the Sierras or north to wine country or beyond. 

The LA Times wrote that Fresno is the hottest real estate market in the US, and rents are skyrocketing .   A new 255 unit rental development opened in 2020 and all units were taken within months, despite it’s high rents “one-bedrooms go for as much as $2,600 a month — a price rivaling those in Los Angeles beach communities.”  Since 2017, average rents in Fresno have increased nearly 39%, the fastest in California.   Read the Los Angeles Times article here

Fresno’s population is reported as 525,010 as of 2019.  In 2020 Fresno had 11 units of affordable multi-family rental housing constructed, falling 503 units short of its RHNA allocation.  An enormous shortfall in the current assigned housing production to be completed by next year.   Read Report here.

Piedmont resident Michael Henn points out that Oakland created an Area Specific Plan that “protects” Rockridge from high densities, despite its excellent walkability to  the BART station and major bus lines. 

3 Responses to “Equitable Distribution of New Housing Allocations?”

  1. Great reporting as usual. The approach cited smells of bias and lack of leadership.

  2. I agree that there has been a pretty arbitrary process in allocating housing needs by jurisdiction. The California Housing and Community Development Department (HCD) arbitrarily assigned some 441 thousand units to the 9 county Bay Area. Then ABAG was tasked with distributing this number between the 100 or more local jurisdictions. A methodology committee established criteria for this distribution. Given the examples cited above, there has been a dubious rationale for the numbers assigned. The Atherton example is pretty extreme. Given that city’s low existing density, and location in job rich Silicon Valley, Atherton’s RHNA should be substantially higher than Piedmont’s.

    There is a RHNA appeal process but I haven’t heard whether the Piedmont City Council is considering an appeal. I believe the deadline to appeal is July 9th. If we were to appeal, besides the city-to-city inequities pointed out above, the HCD 441,000 dwelling units projected need is really suspect. It appears that past growth rates have been merely projected into the future, ignoring real constraints like water supply, traffic congestion, protecting open space, fires and air quality. Additionally, there are market uncertainties like the relocation of technology companies to other areas and the probability of another great recession at some time. Furthermore, there is evidence of statewide political pushback developing including a proposed state constitutional amendment (ACA 7) to stop state land use mandates. Given these considerations Piedmont may want to take some action to question the RHNA allocation.

  3. Much thanks to PCA for again covering this important issue. And thanks to Mike Henn for his professional expertise. The City Council should consider an appeal concerning the RHNA mandates and support ACA-7.

    Another option is to reduce the single family lot size from 8,000 sf down to 4,000 sf. This will allow significantly more affordable single family homes.

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