May 7 2022

OPINION: Housing Element Timelines Clarified

I just wanted to clarify that the timeline for preparation of Housing Element updates is set by state law.

It is an iterative process that mandates local jurisdictions prepare draft Housing Elements, open them up for public comment and send them to the state’s Housing and Community Development department (HCD) for its review.  Once HCD has reviewed, it sends back its comments and recommendations to local jurisdictions, so they can incorporate them into revised drafts, to make sure those drafts comply with all the requirements of state law.  The final product, after all these different rounds of review, needs to be done in early to mid 2023.  So while it seems like 2023 is a long time away, the timeline is actually tight. You can find a model timeline in the website for the Association of Bay Area Governments, here:

In other words, it is not up to the City Council or the Planning Commission to extend the deadlines.  In fact, delaying the process may lead to increased oversight of the process by the state, as recently happened to the city of Los Angeles. As a result of its failure to comply with Housing Element preparation on time, LA now finds itself into a state-law mandated expedited track to approve all required rezonings within one year.  See:

The timeline, then, must be respected.  However, that doesn’t mean that the City is trying to push this forward without real opportunities for public comment.  We, as residents of Piedmont, can comment now and when HCD provides its recommendations.  We can also comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Report, which the City should be releasing any time now, and at the time of final approval.

Finally, I think we should remember that the draft Housing Element is NOT amending the Charter, rezoning the Corp Yard, or converting Veterans Hall or the City Council building to low income housing.  It is just proposing draft policies and identifying potential sites where the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), which represents the City’s fair share of housing growth, could be accommodated.  It is a high level policy document. Even if these policies were adopted, subsequent rezonings would be needed, as the draft plan acknowledges.  And even if those rezonings occurred, that doesn’t mean that automatically these sites would be developed.  Much more process would be needed, with public input and any required environmental review, and actual  projects would need to be proposed and approved.  So, it is a long process, and there will be many opportunities for public participation as we go along.

Thanks to PCA and to all of you, readers, for the opportunity to engage in this important conversation.  I look forward to more.


Andrea Ruiz-Esquide, Piedmont Resident

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.


8 Responses to “OPINION: Housing Element Timelines Clarified”

  1. Thanks Andrea. I read an earlier post by PCA that said the deadline for filing the Housing Element by the city had been extended by a recent state law. Is that correct?

    Editors’ Note: The following information came from the City website: “May 2023: NEW deadline for adoption of the final draft of the updated Housing Element, date amended due to recent state law requiring additional review and longer comment periods.”

    Contact the Piedmont Planning Department for further information at 510-420-3050 and ask for Kevin Jackson, Director of Planning and Building.

  2. Thanks PCA for clarifying. So the state extended the deadline for housing element adoption to May 2023, so the City has some leeway with its own timeline of public reviews, subject to the state reviewing the draft during that period. Sounds to me like the Council could extend the comment period on the first draft and I’d suggest they do so into the fall, so residents can become familiar with the Housing Element and Council candidates who will implement it. And give staff time to add an SB9 analysis to the draft.

    The Housing Element is more than just a policy document. There are specific recommendations with timelines that, once approved by HCD, cities would presumably be obligated to implement. For example,the current draft calls for a study of the impact of the Charter on housing development within one year of HE adoption and Council action within three. Yes there will be more meetings about this, but the Housing Element does authorize the city to commence a study of a change to the City Charter. The key question is should the Charter be amended to eliminate the requirement that zoning changes be subject to a city-wide vote?

    And the draft EIR will not address transportation impacts, specifically congestion. That’s my take from the consultant’s presentation, and others can correct me. So depending which “canyon” option is pursued, there could be 120-200 cars a day coming and going from Moraga Canyon. It will be interesting to see how the draft EIR addresses this issue and how public comments are addressed.

    There’s a great deal more to this Housing Element than those of the past because the city needs to add close to 600 housing units. It added 70 under the last Housing Element. The City should encourage more public comment, perhaps send out city-wide mailers or conduct another online survey as it did at the start of the process.

  3. To fully comprehend the 374 page plan, requires several readings…at least for me. There’s also important auxiliary documents to read in addition to “the plan”. And there’s also nearly 2 hours video archive of the May meeting to watch.

    A very low percentage of Piedmonters can drop everything to get properly informed on this topic in the short amount of time currently allocated.

    Seeing as the State has extended its deadline, it seems like it would be inappropriate, even disrespectful, for the City of Piedmont to to not also extend the time its Citizens to review and comment on the plan.

  4. I reviewed and downloaded the Housing Element timeline that Andrea Ruiz-Esquide posted above.

    The footnotes are relevant:
    1) This schedule assumes a robust community engagement strategy with stakeholder and public meetings throughout.

    2) Additionally, this timeline assumes the Housing Elements will be submitted one month before the deadline.

    I also observe that the plan is for a December 2022 submission to CA, not a May 2023 submission.

    I also observe that timeline allocates 9 months for “Rezoning and associated CEQA”…and that these were supposed to have started BEFORE the “30 day public comment period…”

    I also observe that the timeline allocates 60 days for “Hold adoption public hearings” and 120 days for “”Revise plan if needed”.

    I also observe that 120 days is allocated for “Review by California Housing and Community Development, which is 30 days more than what is allocated for Piedmont Citizens at this stage.

    Here’s what I deduce from the timeline:

    1) Too much “public review” time is allocated towards the end of the process, when it’s much more difficult to make prudent changes. Time should be shifted away from the end of the process used for public review and comment now.

    2) I see adequate time and slack in the timeline to allow at least four months of additional time for public review and comment.

    So let’s follow the instruction in the footnote of the timeline and have “a robust community engagement strategy with stakeholder and public meetings throughout.”

  5. This whole exercise is absurd! Trying to “shoehorn” another 587 living units into Piedmont is a fool’s errand. More traffic on already congested streets will just reduce the quality of life in our little city. Also, adding more sewer capacity in these overloaded streets and/or easements will further degrade them; also additions to other utilities will do the same! I vote NO!

  6. I am a little confused by Ms. Ruiz-Esquide’s comment.

    She seems to be promoting a disingenuous response to Housing and Community Development (HCD), by saying, We’ll propose some housing sites to the state. Then later, we’ll fail to rezone them appropriately so that such housing can’t occur. This is justified by saying the Housing Element is only a “High level policy document”. She means, it appears, that we don’t really have to follow through and allow housing on the sites we are now declaring to the state as being available and feasible to accommodate the RHNA.

    I think there’s a problem with this approach. It may invite criticism from housing advocates. It may not be accepted by HCD. And, I suspect, if a qualifying project is proposed for such a site, consistent with the Housing Accountability Act, that Piedmont would be precluded from denying that project.

    I think the city should only promote sites with some chance of feasibility. That’s why a greater yield of ADUs and SB 9 duplexes and lot splits should be included. The number of legitimate sites is so few.

    While Piedmont’s RHNA is not based on demographically sound data, it is what was forced on us. The final Housing Element needs to be a credible document. The downside to non-approval can be serious.

  7. Andrea, thank you for clarifying the timeline and reminding us that there is still time for public engagement and community dialogue. I definitely agree that these are topics that require robust community discussion and I hope the City will provide opportunities for this beyond the public hearing format–which doesn’t really allow for Q&A and meaningful dialogue.

    To Michael Henn’s point above–I don’t interpret Andrea’s comment as encouraging Piedmont to put up unrealistic sites. (And personally I agree that the City should not list sites in its inventory that are clearly not feasible–as you say, this would be frowned upon by HCD and is one reason why many city Housing Elements in Southern CA have been rejected by HCD.) I interpret her comment as simply pointing out that this is a multi-step process. There are at least a couple rounds of review and input. By law, the City has up to 3 years after the Housing Element adoption to do any rezoning and General Plan amendments related to it. And just because a City lists a site in its inventory – does not guarantee that it will be developed as housing. It’s just an indication that it has that capacity. That is my understanding at least.

  8. I defer to staff and the City Attorney as to whether and how to conduct the public review and meet the Housing Element timeline. I was just pointing out that the timeline is set by state law, that it has a lot of steps and opportunities for public review and comment, and that there are consequences for not complying with this timeline.

Leave a Comment