Jul 31 2022

OPINION: City Charter Requires Ballot Measure Before Zoning Changes

The PCA article and Mr. Keating seem correct: the City Charter requires a ballot measure before a property zone can be “classified or reclassified.” (Piedmont City Charter, section 9.02). This rule is codified at Piedmont Municipal Code section 17.02.010 (C), which states that city zoning ordinances are “subject to the City Charter” (including section 9.02). At the end of Section 17.020.010 (C), the rule also states that Piedmont cannot “change the zone boundaries, or change (reclassify) a property from one zone to another” without a vote.

But this reclassification is exactly what the draft Housing Element (“HE”) seeks to do. Section IV.A.1.F of the HE (page 38) says that the City will allow multi-family housing (e.g., Zone C & D) on Zone B public lands. Currently, Zone B prohibits such construction. But the HE says the City plans to make zoning changes “within 3 years of Housing Element adoption” to allow this. If re-zoning requires a ballot measure, how can the City promise it to HCD? This zone “re-classification” position is hardly a solid one for the City. Can we honestly believe the HCD will miss this?

A similar situation happened to the City of Davis. The Davis HE called for re-zoning “within 3 years” to allow for developing open space and agricultural lands. But Davis has a rule (Measure J) which required a vote to do that. Sound familiar? In January 2022, the HCD rejected the Davis HE plan, in part, because the re-zoning plan was speculative due to vote requirement.

Our City Attorney and the housing consultants have all made their position abundantly clear: no vote is needed since building multi-family housing on city lands is not a “reclassification” (stated at 6/20/22 City Council meeting). Are those conclusions, and the plan to build out our city center and parks, really best for the City of Piedmont?

Mike McConathy, Piedmont Resident

Link to PCA article with comments following article:

Piedmont City Council Rejects Voter Control Over Zoning Reclassifications

One Response to “OPINION: City Charter Requires Ballot Measure Before Zoning Changes”

  1. My understanding of zoning is that there are two elements: a boundary and allowed use within that boundary. “Single-family residence” use is allowed in all five of Piedmont’s zones. Zone C: Multi-Family Residential is the only zone that adds “multi-family dwelling” as a use. While both single family and multi-family are residential, the Piedmont code clearly makes a distinction of these as two different uses; the multi-family dwelling allowed in zone C is not allowed elsewhere.

    Virtually all of the controversial sites such as Blair Park, The Corporation Yard, City Center Tennis Courts, 801 Magnolia, City Hall and Veterans Building are in zone B “Public Facilities.” The Draft Housing Element seeks to put high density housing at these sites. The City argues that no city-wide vote is needed because adding multi-family housing is not changing the boundary so no vote is required. The City argues that only density is being changed. A Multi-family dwelling is a separate use from single-family residence as codified. I believe the Charter is clear in both language and intent that a change in use requires a city wide vote.

Leave a Comment