Jun 15 2022

OPINION: Housing Element NOT Ready for Council: State Extension is to May 2023, NOT June 2022

One of the missing puzzle pieces from the Piedmont Housing Element is an analysis of the potential for Senate Bill 9 (SB 9) to add new housing to Piedmont over the next 8 years.

In short, SB 9 allows property owners with lots of a certain size to subdivide and add two units on the new lot with virtually no restrictions from the municipal authority.  There are many of these lots in Piedmont’s Zones A and E and their development under SB 9 could contribute significantly to meeting the goal of 587 units by 2031.

This type of housing growth is new and in March 2022 the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), the state agency in charge of setting the 2031 housing goals, published guidance on how cities can develop projections for SB 9 growth to include in their 2023 Housing Elements.  That guidance states:

“To utilize projections based on SB 9 toward a jurisdiction’s regional housing need allocation, the housing element must: 1) include a site-specific inventory of sites where SB 9 projections are being applied, 2) include a non-vacant sites analysis demonstrating the likelihood of redevelopment and that the existing use will not constitute an impediment for additional residential use, 3) identify any governmental constraints to the use of SB 9 in the creation of units (including land use controls, fees, and other exactions, as well as locally adopted ordinances that impact the cost and supply of residential development), and 4) include programs and policies that establish zoning and development standards early in the planning period and implement incentives to encourage and facilitate development. The element should support this analysis with local information such as local developer or owner interest to utilize zoning and incentives established through SB 9.”

SB 9 Fact Sheet

Several Bay Area cities are following this guidance and including SB 9 projections in their Housing Elements. The City of Atherton projects 80 units over the next 8 years based on limited community input and a GIS analysis of large lots in their community (see page 72 of the draft Atherton Housing Element).  Larkspur is conducting a survey of property owners to gauge their interest in developing their property ( Larkspur Property Owner Survey).  The City of Ross is also considering including an SB 9 analysis in its Housing Element  (Ross Housing Element).   Housing advocates are calling on cites to include SB 9 projections in their housing elements as well.  A letter sent to the City of Piedmont from East Bay for Everyone and the Greenbelt Alliance states:

“The Draft Housing Element states that the city plans to “Amend the Zoning Ordinance to encourage large lot splits under SB 9 by early 2027”.  Piedmont’s primary method of building new Moderate and Above-Moderate Income housing may well be lot splits and duplexes on existing lots, which makes this an unreasonable time frame. The City should go further than SB9 requires and allow for building housing in Zones A and E, such as fourplexes, six-plexes, Cottage Courts, Townhouses, and similar building styles. We believe that allowing the construction of fourplexes and six-plexes will increase the likelihood of development on each site and lower the price per square foot of the new homes, which will make them available to a wider range of people. Adding more units per lot will increase the amount of tax revenue and impact fees the city collects, which will make it easier to construct subsidized affordable housing on other sites in the inventory.”
                                                                                                            East Bay for Everyone/Greenbelt Alliance

Yet with all this evidence to the contrary, the Piedmont Planning Department insists that HCD will not accept SB 9 projections in its housing element.  The public record says otherwise and staff should explain its position in light of the HCD SB 9 guidance.   Staff does acknowledge that these SB 9 units will count towards housing goals should they develop but in so doing are losing an opportunity now to properly plan for that growth for the betterment of the community.  For example, to incentivize development, the Housing Element increases densities in the multi-use zone, thereby risking the conversion of Ace Hardware to housing.   Likewise, to develop moderate income housing, the Housing Element proposes using public sites in the Civic Center and Corporation Yard, important public spaces the city needs to modernize.  Were the Planning Department to account for SB 9 moderate income units in Zones A and E (and incentivize that as the housing advocates suggest), the City would not need to propose housing development for these essential private and public spaces.

Fortunately, there is time for an SB9 analysis to be included in the Housing Element – the deadline for the document is May 2023.  But Council will have to step up and direct staff to do so.  Otherwise, the Housing Element will fail to account for a significant source of new housing potential, which staff always reminds us is the whole point of this exercise.

Garrett Keating, Former Member of the Piedmont City Council

Editors’ Note:  Opinions expressed are those the author.

2 Responses to “OPINION: Housing Element NOT Ready for Council: State Extension is to May 2023, NOT June 2022”

  1. We don’t have months to do this as the element needs to be reviewed by HCD a couple of times, but Mr. Keating is right on the need to include SB-9 analysis and resulting housing units.

  2. Maybe so but staff has said repeatedly there would be more time for public comment after the first submission. I take that to mean that changes are possible after the first draft is submitted.

    For example, assuming Piedmont submitted the draft HE later this month, would HCD reject it later this year if the city appended the HE with a SB 9 projection if all other unit projections did not change? This would just add to the total unit projection, a number which is already 15% higher than the mandated 587 units. Given the unlikelihood of some of the public sites, SB 9 projections might strengthen Piedmont’s HE.

    Rajeev, you have alluded to other cities submitting SB 9 projections. Can you elaborate on that? Have you had any communications with HCD about SB 9 projections you can discuss?

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