Sep 7 2022

More Housing Concerns and Questions

Piedmonters have called for clearer explanations on what is proposed in the Housing Element.  Helpful explanations would include:

  • Specific diagrams of any new and safer roads near schools and in the Morago Canyon Area where housing is proposed, including cost projections for road improvements.
  • The state is looking for zoning changes to increase housing density. How is Piedmont proposing to comply with the City Charter and Piedmont voters rights on zoning changes increasing density?
  • High density housing in Piedmont is being proposed to a height of 6 stories.  This height is greater than existing buildings in Piedmont.  How does this not change the character of the city and stay in  compliance with Piedmont ordinances and design review standards?
  • Currently, a small number of dwelling units are in the Moraga Canyon area. How will services be provided including: transit, pedestrian access, monitoring of low-income and affordable rents, public safety access, etc. –  for the hundreds of new dwelling units proposed? How will the additional workload and costs be covered ?
  • The Housing Element once adopted by the City and the Department of Housing and Community Development becomes a “property use right. “ On city and private property, what are city and voter controls over development and costs after the Housing Element has been adopted by the City Council?
  • The City is not required to build the housing.  However, the use of City land is essential to meeting the large numbers of dwelling units required of the HE.  What right does the City have to participate in leasing, selling, or assisting in the use of public lands per the State Constitution Article 34 and the City Charter without voter approval of the zoning use changes?
  • Commercial developers paired with government money await the opportunity to build in Piedmont as supported locally by influencers in and outside of Piedmont.   What is the schedule to provide  Piedmont voters with their right to vote on the HE zoning changes prior to final adoption?
  • Outreach efforts by Piedmont have been clouded and confused by partial information and changes to the proposed HE.  Why isn’t or wasn’t a mailed survey sent to every residence in Piedmont to learn of voters concerns and interests?
  • What are the requirements for building high density dwelling units in Piedmont, including: height limits, density, street configurations, utilities, public safety, trees, transit, parks, sewers, water, landslides, fire protection, parking, lighting, open space, etc. ?

4 Responses to “More Housing Concerns and Questions”

  1. Concerning SB9 signed into law Jan 1, why has the implementation and related local guidance been put off for three to four years?

    Why is the City encouraging high density large scale multi-family apartment buildings rather then embracing lot splits and new small homes and ADUs/JADUs spread throughout town? The later approach retains the essential character of Piedmont; large multi-family buildings do not.

  2. It is unfortunate and leads to bad planning for Piedmont, a city with great SB9 potential. It would not be difficult for the city to include an SB9 projection. Other cities have simply used SB9 inquiries and applications from their residents since January 2022 as a basis to project SB9 units over the next the 8 years. And HCD provides guidance on how to do this. Someone should ask city staff to report how many inquiries it has received from Piedmont residents about SB9 conversions. Has any Council member asked publicly for this information?

  3. SB9 can be a Game Changer for Piedmont – How so and are actions possible now?
    This ADU discussion in the Civic Discussion Forum has much of the insight needed to help implement the opportunity of ADUs in Piedmont with respect to political support needed to develop ADUs in Piedmont and help guide the ADU discussion to help save the downtown “look and feel” of Piedmont in general. Here are a few observations that hopefully adds to the expertise here.

    First, Piedmont is essentially implementing the ministerial RHNA housing allocation without a revised Master Plan. The community knows that the math allocations do not add up to the values shared for our collective sense of “Piedmont”. We also know that fellow community members such as teachers, police, community staff cannot afford to live in our city limits. We also know we need more time to articulate a new Master Plan that implements both Piedmont’s values we share, while increasing the supply of affordable housing we need.

    Second, our Piedmont housing element acknowledges, “The 2008 General Plan Update is the first major Plan revision in 12 years. It looks ahead to a horizon year of 2025. Most of the work on the Plan update was completed over a 15-month period between April 2007 and July 2008.”; long before anyone had dreamed of RHNA or the need for affordable housing in Piedmont.

    Question: Can Piedmont comply with RHNA and timing while committing to the time commitment needed to articulate a new Master Plan with a diverse community, without abandoning value, purpose and civic sense of place of Piedmont?

    Let’s look at the RHNA math more closely.

    • The RHNA estimate is generally based on the average number of ADU building permits issued each year, “multiplied by eight (because there are eight years in a housing element cycle)”.
    • If numbers were low in 2019 but were high in 2020, 2021, and 2022, a given city jurisdiction could potentially use 2020-2022 as the baseline.
    • “A slightly larger number may be warranted if a robust, funded, and clear plan to increase production has been put in place.”

    Again, the RHNA formula allows Piedmont to multiply our ADU units by a factor of 8 if these permits and the intentions and performance are real.

    Suggested Goal for discussion
    How can Piedmont develop ADUs at the rate of 70 ADUs per year, beginning in 2022, for eight years. But let’s also look at how we achieve the outcome of permitting 250 ADU units in less time and less money than the City’s spend on consulting fees to explain the RHNA math to its citizens.

    Proposal for Discussion
    Piedmont’s permitting process is highly unusual. Most cities accept filed permits and terminate them after a very short period of time, say 18 months. However, Piedmont’s permits stay actively open indefinitely and pass on from respective home owner to home owner, until build or revised. Permits do not expire in Piedmont.

    This unique process can be used to Piedmont’s advantage to may help demonstrate and meet long-term goals for Piedmont’s ADU permitting count and show immediate proof to RHNA that Piedmont’s volume of ADUs complies with Piedmont’s RHNA quota. This approach could can demonstrate policy results and buy time for a better Piedmont Master Plan.

    If the City of Piedmont combines Piedmont’s unique permitting and permit process with a new “surged effort” to help the City enable low cost access for anyone who is considering building an ADU in the next 10 years, Piedmont can “hit its numbers”. The City needs a new operations model with a concerted, coordinated, significant, programmatic design, budgeting and mass permitting of high quality ADUs.

    Is the trade worth the hassle? Is the needed change to the City Planning Operations and focus worth the reward to save us from knee jerk “numbers game” and buy Piedmont the time needed for a new Master Plan to better coordinate the look and feel of Piedmont’s future?

    Is the New RHNA Math possible if the City of Piedmont and its Planning Department creates a programmatic approach to design, permitting in a massive coordinated effort to plan and permit ADU’s within Piedmont? Can hire or retain a prepaid pool of consulting architects and builders to provide easy massive planning access to anyone in Piedmont who wants to build an ADU in Piedmont in the next 10 years, without penalty for changing plans?

    These systems exist in other venues – is it worth the trade of the hassle here in Piedmont for the results?

    If Piedmont home owners take the time and also have access to simple resources to help develop their respective ADUs, even if it takes 10 years to save, plan and build … or sell the opportunity to the next home owner, legitimate RHNA permits are possible. The housing opportunity is real.

    Piedmont needs at a peak initiative 20 residents per week to participate in affordable designs and permits approved per week for the next 4 months to reach 250 Permitted ADU permits.

    The RHNA math only demands 70 permits to extrapolate Piedmont’s 8-year trend, but Piedmont can do better. On average, the building California City building departments provide comments to completed ADU applications in 10 days. The design standards are already set in Piedmont. Let’s change that to 30 approvals per every 10 days if the applications are among the Petition of 1,000 signatures of concerned citizens.

  4. Right, the city’s approach to utilizing SB9 to help meet the RHNA allocation is inappropriate. We are being told by the questionable consultants that to use SB9, we’d have to have a demonstrable history of public interest and action in SB9 units, i.e. duplexes and lot splits. That position is nonsensical. HCD’s Fact Sheet on how to implement SB9 only came out in March of this year. There couldn’t be any history of public activity on this subject. It’s too new.

    In spite of the publication by HCD on how each jurisdiction can acceptably implement SB9, the consultant claimed that he had had a private conversation with an unnamed HCD official, where he claims he was told that HCD won’t accept SB9 projections in spite of that agency’s published document telling cities how to do those very same projections.

    The Council should demand that this alleged conversation be confirmed in writing by HCD, not from the consultant. SB9 and ADUs can be used to meet much of Piedmont’s RHNA without significantly affecting the character of the community.

Leave a Comment