Nov 4 2022

OPINION: Add Low-Income Housing to Central Piedmont

Do The Right Thing: Add A Site in Central Piedmont Site To The Housing Element

Can a Piedmont resident who finds the city’s history of excluding minorities morally offensive object, in good conscience, to the proposal to house 100 or more low-income families in Blair Park? Unequivocally, yes.

A half century of research reports that concentrating and segregating low-income families in places as isolated as Blair Park creates stigmatized neighborhoods that induce oppositional culture among residents, particularly children.  Don’t believe me? Go to the Google Scholar website ( and search on “stigmatized neighborhoods low-income housing.”

Is there a better way to comply with the State’s requirement for identifying sites for low-income housing? Yes, but doing so takes courage our City Council has yet to show.  The Council needs to identify 5 sites which can accommodate about 40 units each of low-income housing.  City staff, paid housing consultants, and a Council-appointed citizens committee worked months to identify more than enough appropriate sites without listing Blair Park.  Those locations, however, included several city-owned parcels in central Piedmont where homeowner opposition quickly scared the Council from choosing a site.  The site selection process, with central Piedmont excluded and with time running out to produce a Housing Element, has become increasingly opaque and arbitrary.  The Council has now, out of apparent desperation, turned to the politically safe but morally offensive solution of segregating 100 or more low-income families in Blair Park.

At this late date, the least segregated solution for Piedmont would include: 2 sites physically integrated into the 200 or so State-required market rate units planned for the area around the Corporation Yard; 2 sites on Grand previously suggested by the city staff; and 1 site in central Piedmont.  Highland Way, which now serves essentially as a parking lot, should be decommissioned as a street and made available for 40 units of low-income housing in central Piedmont.  The height and massing of such units need not exceed that of the institutional and commercial buildings around them.  Residents of the new units would be near schools, public transit, and services.  No public facilities would need relocation.

So yes, a Piedmonter offended by the city’s exclusionary history can, indeed should, oppose the Blair Park scheme because the Council has less segregated alternatives. Implementing these solutions will, however, take courage our Council will unlikely show unless Piedmonters offended by exclusionary policies make their concerns known.

Ralph Catalano, Piedmont Resident

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

2 Responses to “OPINION: Add Low-Income Housing to Central Piedmont”

  1. Professor Catalano reminds us that the City of Piedmont,yes in the past, acted to exclude minorities from residing here. Indeed, my own property deed specifically restricts the sale of my house to anyone of the Mongolian or African races. He specifically refers to voluminous research asserting that isolation of low income minorities, such as proposed in Blair Park, would be insidious and discriminatory. What say the Council? One may agree with his proposed solution or not, but has the Council, and each Member, addressed his proposals? Finally, he challenges the Council to summon the courage to act in an enlightened and non-discriminatory manner. We are not doomed to repeat the errors of the past.

  2. To answer Aaron’s question “What say Council?”, the answer is “The Brown Act forbids me … See staff and the consultant”. Their answer is that all of Piedmont is a “high resource” area and that all benefits are distributed equally throughout town so segregation is not possible. This fulfills the HCD definition but shows little understanding of Piedmont. And HE policy stipulates that city and PUSD staff are top priority for affordable housing, not minorities.

    Catalano raises another good point – smart growth. Such growth minimizes the cost of housing and its carbon footprint by locating new development near transit/schools/services. This aspect of Piedmont’s housing growth has been absent from the HE discussion.

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