May 12 2022

OPINION: How Atherton and Ross May Add New Housing Units

At the Planning Commission hearing on the Housing Element on May 12, 2022, the consultant from Lisa Wise Consulting stated that Housing and Community Development Department was not accepting SB9 projections to count towards a city’s RHNA housing goals.  A little web searching revealed that Atherton is preparing SB9 projections to include in its Housing Element and there are consulting firms using SB9 potential in housing element calculations.
SB9 projections are highly uncertain this early after implementation of the law, but if HCD is willing to accept these estimates then Piedmont should generate them.  Yes, such sites are unlikely to be very low and low affordable units, but the point is to claim this capacity so as to remove pressure to develop public sites like the Veterans Building and the 801 Magnolia Avenue Building, sites identified for moderate income units.  The Atherton estimate is based on 10 SB9 units (10 units since  January 2022, so 80 units over 8 years) and it remains to be seen if HCD will accept this projection.

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From “Proposal for the Town of Ross Housing Element Update” submitted by Dyett and Bhatia, Urban and Regional Planners, January 28, 2022.

“Next, we will evaluate the realistic development capacity for each site with reference to demonstrated development trends, drawing on input from the Housing Forum and the Town’s recent APRs. Documenting the number of ADUs developed in recent years and prior to 2018 will be an important consideration, as HCD guidance allows jurisdictions to project based on past trends with adjustments that account for new laws that significantly increase the potential for ADU development. Capacity calculations will also consider the potential for lot splits permitted under SB9. Based on this evaluation, sufficient sites to satisfy the Sixth Cycle RHNA for all income levels will be included on the inventory.”

Garrett Keating, Former Piedmont City Council Member and Resident
Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

4 Responses to “OPINION: How Atherton and Ross May Add New Housing Units”

  1. Thanks Garrett, that city consultant was simply wrong about a city’s right to count SB9 duplexes and lot splits toward a city’s RHNA. State HCD put out a position paper in March which even lays out the process to analyze lots for inclusion in the program.
    I have no idea why she informed the PC incorrectly, but by doing so,that denies the opportunity to put in modest infill development instead of a few megaprojects. Hopefully, this mistake will be corrected before the City Council hears the matter.

  2. To underscore Garrett’s important comment here, Atherton and Ross are both affluent, upscale communities, as is Piedmont.
    Piedmont Planning Department is on a course that seems insular to public input and what is being accomplished in other similar cities in dealing with RHNA.

  3. Thank you, Garrett. This information should have been provided by the City’s consultant. Putting over half the City’s low-income housing in one area, far from the center of town, will have unintended consequences.

  4. Hopefully the draft Housing Element can be amended with SB9 projections by its final submission date of May 2023. The information I provided above needs to be validated – have Atherton and Ross submitted Housing Elements with SB9 projections? Have other cities? The consultant from Lisa Wise Consulting said HCD is not accepting SB9 projections. Perhaps she is right, but no matter – as Mike points out, there is clear guidance from HCD on how cities can submit SB9 projections and by not doing so, the City is ignoring an important planning tool in the development of the HE. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

    SB9 development will likely not lead to low income housing, but why not? The city touts it’s award-winning deed-restricted ADU program for adding low income units to Piedmont. Could the city add incentives to its SB9 program that would encourage low income units on these properties?

    The point of SB9 protections is to prevent the need for mega projects as Mike suggests but also to distribute the moderate income units the city must develop to private land, thereby freeing up the public sites currently designated for moderate units – Veterans Hall, 801 Magnolia, and the tennis courts – so they can accommodate low and very low units. At the Planning Commission hearing on May 12, there were many comments about “envisioning” Piedmont future with equitable distribution of low income units throughout the community. That’s a very inspiring sentiment and should be a driving principle of the HE. But in a city currently acknowledging racial injustices of its past, its unfortunate that the HE puts the bulk of low income housing on the city’s border.

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