Oct 1 2022

OPINION: Option for Adding 587 New Housing Units

Dear Piedmont Senior Planner Macdonald,
     The requirement for Piedmont to add 587 new housing units to its current inventory of nearly 4,000 is huge and controversial.  Obviously, creating a few high density housing sites would be very disruptive to the “look and feel” of Piedmont, even in its few commercial zones.
     Is the City considering a gentler approach of slightly increasing the allowable number of units on existing properties?  Allowing more floor area and more impervious coverage of lots could be calculated to enable more ADUs or similar multi-family residences without drastically changing Piedmont’s primarily single-family look.  Is this being considered as an alternative to high density development?
     If incremental increase in housing density was offered as the solution, the next question would be how to implement actual construction.  While some individual homeowners might take advantage of incentives like tax breaks (primarily because they already desire an ADU on their property), that may not fulfill the entire 587 requirement.
Another implementation strategy might be to engage developers to design and build on the lots of willing property owners.  The developers would collect the rents and associated subsidies from those units until their investment and a negotiated profit margin were repaid.  Thereafter, the units would become the sole property of the lot owner, thereby increasing the value of the property for either its current owner or a subsequent owner.  The property owner would not be burdened with managing, financing, nor implementing the construction, but would have design veto over the project.  Again, the property tax that would accrue from the additional units’ value to the existing property could be waived for a number of years as part of the subsidy program.  Does this look like a feasible solution?
     Thank you for taking the time to consider these ideas.  I would appreciate your response when convenient for you.
I am a 44-year-long resident of Piedmont.  While retired now, I have a Masters degree in Urban and Regional Planning and worked as a GIS Consultant for many local cities and counties.
Bruce Joffe, Piedmont Resident
Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

2 Responses to “OPINION: Option for Adding 587 New Housing Units”

  1. “Does this look like a feasible solution?” That’s a question for HCD not Planner MacDonald but the Planning Department refuses to ask HCD. SB9, the new state law allowing owners to split their lots without city approval, could possibly be implemented in Piedmont as Bruce suggests. It would take some creative thinking and unfortunately that’s not going to happen before the deadline. But the city could do a very simple analysis of exiting lots that could be split within the confines of SB9 to show the potential for new houses in Piedmont. This growth potential is mostly in the estate zone (E) and would likely be moderate and above moderate income housing. Atherton has done this and projects 96 SB9 units in its Housing Element (https://www.hcd.ca.gov/housing-elements/docs/atherton-6th-draft080222.pdf).

    By not including the simplest of SB9 protections in the Housing Element (1% of Piedmont lots would be 40 units), the City is forcing increased density into other neighborhoods, particularly with the consideration of adding 5-story buildings on to Grand Avenue.

    Bruce, with your GIS experience, I suggest you offer to do this SB9 lot analysis on the City’s GIS system. Someone should.

  2. Is this really a feasible solution? Maybe; maybe not. Even if the target comes close, what happens if not attained? And then What happens eight years from now when the state demands another big demand for more units?

Leave a Comment