Sep 22 2022

OPINIONS: Housing Questions and Answers

Questions on the proposed Housing Element were posed by Garrett Keating followed by Answers from the City Planning Department, plus Interpretations.

  1. Is the relocation of the Corporation Yard to Blair Park being considered as part of the Moraga Canyon Site Assessment?

Answer:  City staff considered the broader policy issue of identifying City parkland in the Housing Element sites inventory, starting on page 157 of the Draft Housing Element. Ultimately, staff recommended a Draft Housing Element that did not include parkland in the sites inventory as a primary site. Blair Park was identified as a possible “alternative site” in the text description of the sites inventory. Dracena Park and all City parks were considered for housing sites during the development of the sites inventory in the Draft Housing Element.  On August 1, 2022, the City Council directed staff to include Blair Park in the sites inventory as a primary site as part of a proposed Moraga Canyon Specific Plan study in order to consider all of the interrelated changes that may be necessary to locate housing in Moraga Canyon and improve City facilities at the same time.

The Moraga Canyon Specific Plan study will start with a request for proposals (RFP) or request for qualifications (RFQ). The RFP or RFQ will include a project description for the types of land uses and changes to be considered.

  1. The Housing Element 102 presentation projected 82 units for the Corporation Yard.  Does that assume the Corporation Yard is relocated to Blair Park? If not, can you tell me the acreage that is available for housing in the Corporation Yard and how you arrived at 82 units for the Corporation Yard (50+32)?

Answer: Here is some background about the corporation yard site for the purposes of the Housing Element sites inventory. The corporation yard, alone, is approximately 13.6 acres. It is an approximate number because this land is also steeply sloping in some areas, and it has existing uses and facilities. Of the 13.6 acres, 3.7 acres are expected to yield 132 housing units. 100 of the 132 would be multifamily residential units at approximately 50 dwelling units per acre.  Please see Figure B-1 from the Draft Housing Element below.

On August 1, the City Council directed staff to re-distribute the housing units identified for sites in the civic center area. It is possible that some of the housing units (mainly moderate and above moderate housing units) could be added to the corporation yard site and a new Moraga Canyon Specific Plan study. These units would appear, if necessary, in the next iteration of the Draft Housing Element sites inventory this fall. Also on August 1, the City Council directed staff to include Blair Park in the Moraga Canyon Specific Plan study area.

Interpretation:  relocation of the Corporation Yard to Blair Park is currently not being considered in the identification of housing sites in the Housing Element.  The map shows that the Corporation Yard is to be maintained and staff does not indicate that they are considering it for housing.

  1. The City Administrator discussed the income levels required for new residents to be eligible for low-income housing.  The City Administrator presented income data for city/PUSD employees, citing the number of employees that fall into the 4 categories between $69,000 and $150,000. I believe she concluded that 80% of city/PUSD employees are considered low-income.  Is that correct?  The income eligibility levels are based on the income for a family of 4.  Did the city administrator’s presentation account for this – are the employee numbers she presented for employees with families of 4 (or more) or were those incomes for individuals?

Answer: To follow up the email I sent on Monday, I confirmed that the income categories described on slide 10 of the presentation on August 18, 2022, were based on a family of 4 people and that the City and PUSD employees’ incomes were evaluated against this baseline family income. The analysis did not base the employees’ income categories on the size of their actual families.

Interpretation Using individual income levels of city/PUSD employees to characterize those employees’ eligibility for different low-income family housing overstates their eligibility.

  1. The Planning Director presented a new total for ADUs of 142 and a new income distribution of 84/42/16 = 142. He attributed this new distribution to guidance from HCD and ABAG.  Can I obtain a copy of that guidance from the two agencies or can you direct me to a s source for it? 

Answer: Click on the following link to review the ADU projected income levels from ABAG guidance from June 2022:

Interpretation These new ADU allocations help Piedmont in that they count towards the city’s low-income unit target, lessening the need for low-income units elsewhere.  It should be noted the City has very little control over the actual rental or monthly rent of these units.

 Would moving the Corporation Yard to Blair Park make that side of Moraga Avenue more eligible for development.

“It is our understanding that a number of these facilities have significant capital deficiencies and that they are likely to require substantial renovation and/or replacement at some point in the near future. Because these sites are in strategic locations, it will be possible for the City to engage with the private sector to establish partnerships that would lead to the redevelopment of these facilities along with the identified housing programs.  These sites have value that the City can potentially leverage to attract private partners and to move forward on the basis of a public-private partnership that meets the community’s needs for improved facilities, along with the provision of additional housing.” From the City FAQ about Civic sites:

Both sides of Moraga Avenue can accommodate housing but on which side does the City have more leverage to improve facilities and add housing?  Working with developers, the City can certainly add low income housing to Blair Park but there are no facilities on that side of Moraga to improve, with the exception of the park.  The Corporation Yard offers multiple upgrade options. The City intends to expand Coaches Field to a 150 x 300 multi-purpose field and major reconfiguration of the space is needed.  The Corporation Yard itself is outdated – would a developer contribute to its relocation to eastern Blair Park for the right to develop the site?  The Moraga Canyon Specific Plan needs to include this analysis to achieve the best return to the community on the public land that will be converted to housing.

Garrett Keating, Former Piedmont City Council Member

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author and the City of Piedmont Planning Department.

READ PROPOSED  HOUSING ELEMENT :>  LWC_Piedmont_HEU_PRD_040822-compiledfix

4 Responses to “OPINIONS: Housing Questions and Answers”

  1. Hi PCA,

    Thank you for this post. We live on Maxwelton Rd and when we purchased our house, we knew this could be our “forever” home. A place where we will raise our 3 sons.

    As I look through this recommendation for building 132 unit, the one part that is missing is logistics and traffic management. We are a small community, with narrow streets, no sidewalks where the only way to walk around is on the streets – whether that is walking dogs or kids walking to play with their neighbors.

    While we welcome the increase in housing, the proposal is concerning on many levels:
    First – being such a small community, we are concerned with safety. We do no have the infrastructure to support ~4x the number of homes. Our streets are narrow with blind turns. There are no sidewalks, nor room to build them. With so many young kids, I am not sure how they would safely be able to get around the neighborhood or walk to school.

    Second – by increasing the number of houses by nearly 4x it would vastly detract from the tranquility and nature that brought us to this part of Piedmont. There would be increased traffic, more noise, and less green space to enjoy.

    Third – with a focus on integration of our community, this plan seems to do the opposite. Rather than integrate Piedmont, this segregates the majority of all proposed low-income housing into one neighborhood. True integration would show a better distribution of low income families throughout Piedmont.

    Again, we are in favor of increased housing, so also wanted to share some additional thoughts we feel should be considered:

    While opposed to 132 units in our immediate neighborhood, we are open to some units with better distribution throughout Piedmont. The units in our area should also be considered in Blair Park vs extending Abbott as this would minimize the traffic, congestion and safety issues in our neighborhood.

    Zones A and E should be allowed to build duplexes and fourplexes therefore reducing the number of units in any one geographical area of the city.

    Areas like Grand Avenue that currently have the infrastructure to support increased housing should be reviewed and zoning changed to allow increased housing.

  2. Staff is compiling a programmatic EIR for the Housing Element which will not address the specific issues of a project, like logistics or traffic management. I attended the discussion of the EIR and recall the presenter specifically said the EIR will not address congestion. Nor would it be addressed when a specific site proposal is put forward. So the HE is very hypothetical, as evidenced by the sites proposed for Moraga Canyon. The 50 unit site to the west (below third base) seems entirely infeasible which is why the Specific Plan should evaluate relocation of the Corporation Yard as well as the other sites.

  3. I was wondering why no one seems to be questioning the plan drawing above,from the HE which shows 50 units of high density housing to the West of the existing Coaches baseball field. If one looks at that area they’ll see a steep, deep creek canyon with an actual creek in it. I’d think that the feasibility of ever gaining approval of filling this established wetlands for development is low. Sadly, there is a magical thinking aspect to much of what we’ve been presented with (e.g. tennis courts on top of high density apartments). It seems that there may be an attempt to mislead HCD with housing availability that is unrealistic.

  4. To answer Mike’s question as to why no one is questioning the plan drawing, my guess is that it’s expedient not to, especially for the candidates.

    The draft Housing Element will have the plan drawing “under study” when it is submitted to HCD in mid-October, allowing candidates to say they have to wait and see (until after the election) if all this housing is to be placed in Moraga Canyon and specifically Blair Park.

    The likely outcome (after the election) is that the western 50 units will be found infeasible (due to EIR issues and building costs) and they will have to be placed in Blair Park. That may come to be but if the city does not include relocation of the Corp Yard to Blair Park as part of the feasibility study it’s not doing its due diligence for planning for city growth.

    Candidates should speak to this issue now to show true leadership.

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