Mar 2 2018

BIG Council Decisions: Charter Revision to Exclude Council Candidates, Special June Election, Limit on General Fund Reserves to be Changed, Short Term Rentals Parameters, New Window Replacement Controls, Changes to Building Permits, Coaches Field Changes, Labor Contracts

The City Council on Monday, March 5, 2018, will undertake consideration of a number of important and impactful decisions for Piedmont.

Issues include increasing City’s taxing potential (Charter change), exclusionary requirements for candidates to seek election to the City Council (Charter change), new expensive window replacement policy (Expenditure), up to $55,000 for a Special Election in June rather than waiting until November (Expenditure), short term rental parameters (Zoning considerations), Coaches Field study and contingency funding (Expenditures), labor contracts (Expenditure), new position for Fire Prevention (Expenditure).

The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. in City Hall, 120 Vista Avenue, and will be broadcast live from the City website and on Piedmont Cable Channel 27.  The public can address any item on the agenda and during Public Forum speak to any item not on the agenda.

Staff reports for March 5, 2018 Council meeting:

03/05/18 – Consideration of an Agreement for Development of a Master Plan for Coaches Playfield with Callander Associates in the Amount of $24,985 and an Additional Appropriation of $10,000 to Fund the Project’s Contingency

03/05/18 – Consideration of the Following Actions Related to the Possible Amendment of the City Charter

a. Approval of a Resolution Proposing Amendments to the City Charter Modifying Term Limits for the City Council, Eliminating the 25% Cap on the General Fund Reserve, and Amending Sections Related to the Filling of Vacancies on the City Council and Board of Education

b. Approval of a Resolution Calling a Special Municipal Election for June 5, 2018, Requesting the Consolidation of the Special Municipal Election with the Statewide General Election, and Adding a Measure Relating to Amendments to the Charter of the City of Piedmont 

03/05/18 – Consideration of Options Regarding a Direct Argument and a Rebuttal Argument Regarding the Charter Amendment Measure on the June 5, 2018 Ballot 

03/05/18 – Consideration of Regulatory Parameters Related to the Permitting of Short-Term Rentals 

03/05/18 – Consideration of Memoranda of Understanding with the Following Labor Groups for the Period of 7/1/2017 through 6/30/2020:

a. Piedmont Firefighters Association – Captains Unit – 7/1/2017 through 6/30/2020

b. SEIU Local 1021 – General Unit – 03/05/2018 through 6/30/2021

c. SEIU Local 1021 – Public Works Unit – 03/05/2018 through 6/30/2021

 03/05/18 – Approval of a Part Time Fire Prevention Officer Position in the Fire Department for a Two Year Period

 03/05/18 – Consideration of a Resolution Amending the Interim Design Guidelines Regarding the Recess of Windows and Making Technical Corrections

The Window Guidelines have been acknowledged as not having received generalized public input considering the impact to homeowners and staff costs.

Jan 17 2018

Commercial Businesses to be Added to Piedmont Residences as Short Term Rentals Are Wanted by the City Council Majority

Should voters decide?

There was no Council call to inexpensively add the short term rental decision to the upcoming November 2018 City ballot, allowing Piedmont voters to decide whether or not short term rentals were appropriate for the City. 

A short term rental (STR) is the rental of a living space, sleeping room, accessory housing unit, apartment, or a house for a period of under 30 days.

In a surprise rejection of the Piedmont Planning Commission and staff recommendations to prohibit short term rentals (STRs), the majority on the City Council decided the commercial use of Piedmont homes for hotel/condominium style short term rentals should be allowed.

Mayor Robert McBain stood alone on the Council in opposing the short term rentals, stating he did not believe the rentals were in keeping with the residential character of the City and agreeing with the Planning Commission and Planning Commissioner Eric Behrens, who detailed the numerous reasons to ban the STRs.

The STR matter had been pending for City Council action since 2014.  The Planning staff informed the Council that the emphasis in Piedmont planning ordinances and the General Plan had been to permit accessory housing units to meet regional demands for housing, not provide for STRs.

Stories of recent police STR problems, changes to neighborhood feel, loss of privacy as renters came and went at all hours, lack of familiarity with Piedmont standards for quiet, further parking demands proved of little concern to the Council majority who wanted to be part of the larger community and offer hotel style short term rental of Piedmont rooms, living spaces and homes.

Those in favor stated:

  • Council resignations led to a policy change
  • No studies supported resident or Planning Commission concerns
  • People should be able to rent their homes as a hotel/resort
  • No hotels are available in Piedmont for guests
  • Vacationing Piedmonters want someone to occupy their home
  • Home buyers need to offset high Piedmont taxes with STR rental revenue
  • Piedmonters had already begun to rent their homes/rooms
  • Piedmont would be elite and unneighborly if it excludes STRs.
  • Neighbors could inform the rental property owner if there were problems caused by renters.
  • Few people would want to rent their homes or rooms
  • Piedmont is not a tourist destination
  • Trying the STR system would determine if problems presented themselves

The Council majority took little heed to those opposing STRs with concerns of:

  • Commercialization of Piedmont homes
  • Costly City administrative functions to oversee rentals
  • Safety and security concerns with ever changing unknown renters
  • Prior robbery and illegal activities already on record
  • Traffic impacts from those unfamiliar with Piedmont streets
  • Loss of privacy and quiet in neighborhoods
  • Change to the character of the community
  • Inconsistency with residential zoning per the City Charter
  • Contrary to the General Plan and zoning ordinances
  • Property owner requirement to carry commercial business insurance
  • Irregular hours of clients/renters both night and day
  • Demand for more parking in many areas
  • Disruption of the fabric of the City
  • Piedmont, as a residential City, was not designed for commerce and businesses in homes with narrow, curvy streets
  • Additional demands for City services
  • Changing Piedmont focus from education to commercial activities

One Piedmonter on La Salle Avenue stated she needed the income and had purchased her home with intent to rent space and commercialize the home.  Over 80 people had stayed in her home.

Another resident complained of high taxes and the need for someone to stay in their home when they vacationed in France.

The many pleas to keep STRs out of Piedmont were not persuasive to  the Council majority, nor was the possibility of permitted accessory housing units flipped to STRs of concern.

The Council was in a quandary over what to do, because no ordinance language had been drafted to allow STRs.  City Administrator Paul Benoit stated he was getting an idea of what the Council wanted and Councilmembers could send him items to be included in a draft ordinance permitting STRs.

The Council as a whole did not want the matter to be returned to the opposed Planning Commission for their renewed consideration of draft ordinance proposals.

There was NO call for the public to submit comments or ideas on the matter, only for the Council’s input to Benoit. There was no discussion of a ballot measure to allow Piedmont voters to decide to ban or permit STRs.

Anyone interested in STRs may send a comment directly to the City Council and City Administrator Paul Benoit to the links below:

Comments may be sent directly to City Administrator Paul Benoit by clicking his link >  pbenoit@piedmont.ca.gov

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Paul Benoit City Administrator pbenoit@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 420-3042

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Comments may be sent directly to Councilmembers by clicking on their links below:

Robert McBain, Mayor rmcbain@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 547-0597 2nd Term Exp. 11/20
Teddy Gray King, Vice Mayor tking@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 450-0890 1st Term Exp. 11/18
Jennifer Cavenaugh jcavenaugh@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 428-1442 1st Term Exp. 11/20
Tim Rood trood@piedmont.ca.gov (510) 239-7663 1st Term Exp. 11/18
Betsy Smegal Andersen bandersen@piedmont.ca.gov   Unexpired Term Exp. 11/18

Read East Bay Times report HERE.

Apr 23 2017

Piedmont City Council Deferred Action on Short Term Rentals and Grand Avenue Commercial Zone

Despite concern expressed about losing the “small town feel” of Piedmont, the extensive, recommended changes to Piedmont’s zoning regulations were readily approved by the City Council. Two peripheral items were deferred for future Council consideration: short-term rentals and Grand Avenue Commercial Zone D.

    The Piedmont City Council met on March 6, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont California.  The meeting began with a motion by Council Member Teddy King, and support by the rest of the Council, to approve the first four items on the consent calendar. Having been discussed by the Council, the fifth consideration was a resolution affirming the action of the Alameda County Mayors’ Conference in passing a resolution condemning violence and hate speech, expressing solidarity with those who have been targeted, and supporting immigrants and refugees. Council members King and  Jennifer Cavenaugh both supported the resolution, agreeing that although it is purely symbolic, it has meaning and is important for opening up discussion about these topics.  Following the consent calendar was the Public Forum.

    The first item on the regular agenda was the introduction and first reading of the revisions to the City Code, including Chapter 17, Planning and Land Use.  Kevin Jackson, the Planning Director, discussed how the revisions aimed to streamline the code and make formatting improvements, along with meeting goals for short-term rentals, parking regulations, and for-profit business regulations, among others.  He also acknowledged that the zoning code is a living document, so these revisions seek only to improve on what already exists and are not necessarily a perfect solution.  Next, Eric Behrens Chairman of the Planning Commission spoke to the revisions, saying that they will be easier to follow and will benefit the Piedmont community.

    Council Member Robert McBain brought up the widespread public dissatisfaction on two issues: banning short-term rentals and Zone D, the Grand Avenue sub-area.   Due to the discord surrounding these issues, McBain proposed deferring these so there is more time to review them.  City Administrator Paul Benoit explained that this could be done by changing the wording in the revision to match the current wording, so status quo would be maintained just in those sections.  Therefore, the rest of the revisions could be approved quickly, but the Council would have more time to hear the community’s views on short-term rentals and Zone D.  Mayor Wieler and Council Members Cavenaugh, King, Rood, and Vice Mayor McBain expressed support for this compromise.

    When this topic was opened up for the public input, the Council received overwhelming support of deferring those two issues.  Many residents had prepared to speak about their concerns regarding short-term rentals and Zone D.  One woman requested that all residents in the Grand Avenue area be notified by mail of upcoming meetings so they will have the opportunity to share their opinions.  Another community member expressed concern regarding the zoning revisions, saying he grew up in a similar town that has changed greatly and lost its “small-town feel” after changes were made in the City Code.

    Although I do understand the City’s desire to prevent short-term rentals, I do not think that they should be banned completely.  As Rick Schiller asserted in a letter to the City Council, Piedmont is not a tourist destination, so short-term renters are usually people associated with residents of Piedmont.  I fully support regulations to ensure that nobody is abusing the privilege of renting out their property and protect Piedmont residents, but a blanket ban is too extreme.

    City Council meetings are held twice monthly, on the first and third Mondays.  The City Council works as the legislative body of Piedmont, working to create laws and policies to benefit and protect the citizens.

by Shannon Baack, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Nov 23 2015

Short Term Rentals to Be Considered by Council in January

The recommendation by the Planning Commission to prohibit short-term rentals will be on a Council agenda in January as announced by  Interim Planning Director Kevin Jackson.

The Piedmont City Council will hear the Planning Commission’s recommendation regarding the regulation of short-term rentals at one of their regularly scheduled hearings in January 2016. You can find more information regarding the Planning Commission’s recommendation to the Council by reviewing the draft minutes and/or video of the November 9, 2015 Planning Commission hearing. [Found on the City of Piedmont website]

To receive a copy of the 141 page staff report prepared for the Planning Commission dated November 9, 2015; ask to be added to the email notice list; or make inquiries – contact:

Kevin Jackson, AICP    kjackson@ci.piedmont.ca.us

Interim Planning Director

120 Vista Avenue,  Piedmont, CA 94611

Tel: (510) 420-3039   Fax: (510) 658-3167

Comments and opinions regarding short-term rentals may be addressed to the City Council via:

 City Clerk John Tulloch jtulloch@ci.piedmont.ca.us.\

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Interim Planning Director:  kjackson@ci.piedmont.ca.us

City Clerk and City Council:  jtulloch@ci.piedmont.ca.us

Piedmont website where draft minutes of the draft Planning Commission are posted next to the video listing of the November 9, 2015 meeting > http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/video/

Piedmont website where the November 9, 2015 Planning Commission meeting video may be viewed in its entirety > http://piedmont.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=3&clip_id=1365

Nov 5 2015

Short Term Rentals Back on Planning Commission Agenda Nov. 9

Possible restrictions of AirBnB online type rentals presented by City staff for consideration by Piedmont Planning Commission  – 

“At the direction of the City Council, the Planning Commission will consider modifications to the Municipal Code to address short term rentals of fewer than 30 days. Staff will introduce and the Planning Commission will review specific modifications to the Municipal Code. After hearing testimony from the public and a discussion, the Planning Commission will make a formal recommendation to the City Council.”

Planning Department recommendations to the Planning Commission are not published on the City website, however those interested can attend the meeting and/or contact the Planning Department for specifics of proposed actions.  The staff report is 140 pages long.

The agenda item will be considered, as follows:

1. Open the public portion of the hearing, provide all members of the public with an opportunity to be heard, and discuss the proposed Municipal Code amendments; and

2. Recommend adoption, with appropriate Code section numeration, a version of one of two proposed Code amendments to the City Council:

A. Code amendments (shown in red line) that permit short-term rentals with some restrictions as shown in Exhibit 1, pages 7 – 39, or a version thereof; or

B. Code amendments (shown in red line) that prohibit short-term rentals as shown in Exhibit 2, pages 41 – 70, or a version thereof.

The Commission may recommend adoption of Code amendments as proposed in Exhibit 1 or Exhibit 2. Alternatively, the Commission may recommend adoption of Code amendments with modifications identified at the hearing and specified in the motion for recommendation.

The meeting will be broadcast via Cable Channel 27 and also on the City website under videos.  All actions by the Commission are recommendations to the City Council who will make final decisions on the matter.

The meeting starts at 5:00 p.m., Monday, November 9, 2015, 120 Vista Avenue, in the Council Chambers.  Recently, Former Planning Commissioner Eric Behrens was appointed a regular Commissioner and Tom Ramsey is the new alternate Commissioner. 

For further information on the staff report contact:

Kevin Jackson
Interim Planning Director
CITY OF PIEDMONT
120 Vista Avenue
Piedmont, CA 94611
510-420-3039
kjackson@ci.piedmont.ca.us
Sep 20 2015

Staff Proposed Options for Regulating or Prohibiting Short term Rentals Piedmont

City staff prepared options for prohibiting or regulating AirBnB rentals for consideration by the City Council on Monday, September 21.

  • Prohibit short-term rental of the 18 Second Units developed as low income housing. Staff strongly encourages the Council to adopt this provision, pointing out that the imposed rent restrictions would limit the AirBnB rate to $25 (very low income units) to $35 (low income units) per night for the units, before AirBnB takes its cut.
  • Prohibit short-term rental of the 110 approved Second Units, which are not rent restricted. Staff notes that few are rented. Instead they are used as guest quarters or a home office.
  • Prohibit short-term rental of the 66 apartments in Piedmont.
  • No regulation of Home Swaps.
  • Prohibit or regulate with standards short-term rental of rooms in a house. If allowed, the number of allowed rental days per year could be limited.
  • Allow vacation rentals of whole houses with restrictions, perhaps limiting the number of allowed rental days per year.

Read the staff report here.

Sep 20 2015

Short Term Rentals Present Issues of Commercialism in Piedmont

Residents have expressed concerns about the influx of short-term rentals. The City Council will consider the matter including adding new laws and enforcing existing laws on September 21.

Council and Staff Encourage Second Units as a Technique for Meeting  State Housing Goals.

Adding second units on single family parcels has been heartily embraced by the City Council and staff as a method to meet State goals for more housing, particularly for low income /affordable units. Piedmont frequently allows, through variances, low income housing units with no off-street parking, even where on-street parking is difficult for neighborhood residents’ guests and service providers.

Recently, when an affordable second unit built without permits was brought to the City Council on the basis of inadequate parking, the Council held to the policy of encouraging and approving second units, despite a failure of the property owner to provide required parking in the heavily impacted neighborhood.

Issues of safety, privacy, noise, and parking from short term rentals – 

The May 16, 2015 Council meeting record states:

“Alicia Kalamas, and John Mittan each spoke against short term rentals, citing negative effects on the community, the possibility of criminal behavior, and lack of connection of the renters to the community. Tom Ferguson expressed a recommendation that there be tight regulations if they are allowed. Steve Wubbens expressed concern that affordable long term second units like his will be replaced by more lucrative short term rentals, making it difficult for divorced people like him to live in town close to his children.” 

“Mayor Fujioka explained that the issue of short term rentals was brought to the Council’s attention because of neighbor complaints, and that this is the beginning of a long discussion on the topic.”

Further negatives for short-term rentals are: ever changing transient populations, potential increased fire and police demands, parking and noise problems, administrative costs, and failure to tax the commercialized properties.  Neighborhood cohesiveness has been noted as a concern. These problems have been brought up if homes are turned into businesses generating vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

Many credit Piedmont’s desirability as a residential city to heavily supported schools and excellent infrastructure largely based on stable zoning, quiet, safe neighborhoods, and general concern for the well being of the community.

While Piedmont neighbors complain of noise, parking problems, loss of privacy and uneasy feelings as a result of short term rentals, Piedmont’s long standing law, “Home Occupation, Chapter 17B.2.” has not been enforced in response to the recent flurry of short-term rentals.

In prior years, when a  Piedmont home was identified in publications as a “bed and breakfast,” the City was prompt in sending legal notice to the owners to cease and desist the illegal use. The notices referred to limitations on “Home Occupation” under which “bed and breakfast,” use of residences in Piedmont was not allowed.

Piedmont Lacks Staffing to Oversee Current Rentals – Affordable or Short Term.

Piedmont currently has no system or staffing dedicated to verifying whether or not City approved affordable units permitted to meet State housing goals and receiving City tax exemptions and parking variances are maintained during the required time period, as an affordable unit. Additionally, once the required time period lapses for affordability, the parking variances and second units remain available to be rented at market rates or, depending on Council actions, as a short term rental.

Awards for the innovative manner Piedmont provides affordable housing by permitting rent restricted second units can, in the long term, be used for short term rentals, negating genuine long term provision of affordable housing.

San Francisco unions, land owners, affordable housing advocates and neighborhood groups unhappy with the adopted ordinance have placed an initiative on the ballot that is being heavily opposed by AirBNB and other online services. (See Related article on Prop F) No ballot measure by initiative or Council action has been mentioned in Piedmont as an option with the exception of not wanting to place a tax before the voters due to the cost of the election.  

 Taxes An Issue

Single family parcel owners are taxed per parcel rather than per residence for School Taxes.  The previous progressive school parcel tax recently changed to a flat parcel tax approved by voters requires a one-bedroom cottage on a tiny lot to pay the same school tax as a 20-room mansion on several acres. And contrary to the recently approved School Tax ballot language, people who own two parcels with one residence have been taxed as though the property is only one parcel.  Further, properties with a second (2) legal dwelling unit on a single parcel pay the same amount as properties with only one residence on the parcel.

Read the full staff report here.

You are encouraged to attend the September 21, Council meeting at 7:30 p.m. and express your opinions and ideas. Alternatively, you may watch the City Council hearing on KCOM, cable 27 or for a live webcast by logging on to the city’s website at www.ci.piedmont.ca.us: on the right hand side of the homepage under the “City Council” heading, click on the “Online Video” link, then click on the “September 21, 2015” heading, click on the “Video” or “In Progress” link, and start watching!

Written comments may be sent to the City Council, c/o Piedmont City Clerk, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611 or by email to: jtulloch@ci.piedmont.ca.us. Correspondence received by the City Clerk is considered part of the public record.

Mar 15 2015

Short Term Rentals on March 16 Council Meeting Agenda

On Monday, March 16, 2015, at 7:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers, the City Council will consider regulations governing short term rentals in Piedmont.  Numbers of Piedmonters have noted problems with the rentals and asked for prohibition. Read the  > agenda.

According to information sent to PCA, the Council can expect non-residents to be present at the meeting pleading to allow short term rentals.  The meeting is open to public participation.

The meeting can be viewed at home on KCOM Cable Channel 27 and on the City website by logging on at www.ci.piedmont.ca.us: on the right hand side of the homepage under the “City Council” heading, click on the “Online Video” link, then click on the “March 16, 2015″ heading, click on the “Video” or “In Progress” link, and start watching!

Click for > Staff report 

Click for > Prior PCA Articles

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 September 6, 2014 PCA article

 September 8, 2014 PCA article

 March 3, 2015 PCA article

Sep 8 2014

Short Term Rentals Rejected by Planning Commission

At their September 8, 2014 meeting addressing short term housing rentals in Piedmont, the Planning Commission took no formal action; however, by consensus all commissioners expressed their opinion that Piedmont should not allow short term housing rentals.  Concern focused on changing the character of the community due to parking problems, noise, and instability in neighborhoods.

Referring to short term rentals, Commissioner Tony Theophilos noted only a downside and no upside.

Planning Director Kate Black expressed concern if second units were used like a hotel rather than meeting affordable housing needs.

Other commissioners were concerned that any revenue from permits, fees, or taxes would not offset the cost of managing such a program.

Former Mayor Patti White made a statement during Public Forum requesting no approval of short term rentals, largely because of inherent safety issues for young children.

The staff will prepare a report describing the various points expressed by the commissioners.

Apr 15 2018

Ordinance to Permit Short-term Rentals Monday, April 16

On Monday, April 16, 2018, 7:30 p.m., the Piedmont City Council will consider revisions to City Code Chapter 17, Planning and Land Use to permit short-term rentals.  Read the agenda here.  Read the staff report here.

  The recommended ordinance regulates short-term rentals within the following parameters:

  1. Both hosted (rooms within a home) and non-hosted (the entire home) short-term rentals are permitted.
  2. In order to operate a short-term rental, a resident must seek and gain City approval for a permit to do so. The resident who has gained a permit from the City to operate a short-term rental is referred to henceforth as a short-term rental permittee.
  • The application is reviewed and acted upon by the Director of Planning or the Director’s designee.
  • The permit is valid for up to one year, until December 31 of the year issued, and may be renewed annually by means of a renewal application.
  1. A short-term rental permit application and renewal applications shall be subject to a fee established by the City Council.
  2. The dwelling unit being used as a short-term rental, whether hosted or non-hosted, must be the primary residence of the permittee.
  3. The short-term rental must be rented for a minimum of two consecutive nights and may not be rented more than 60 days in a calendar year.
  4. A short-term rental permit applicant who is a tenant must gain the consent of the property owner to use the dwelling unit as a short-term rental.
  5. The following dwelling units are prohibited from being used as a short-term rental:
  • Accessory dwelling units, both permitted and unintended; and
  • Multi-family dwelling units (i.e. apartments).
  1. The permittee is required to do the following:
  • Pay an annual business license tax under City Code Chapter 10.
  • Maintain general liability insurance in the amount of at least $1,000,000 during the term of the short-term rental permit.
  • Provide his or her contact information to the city, and update any change before renting the property.
  • Provide the dwelling or rooms serving as a short-term rental a smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector, fire extinguisher, and adequate egress.
  • Provide the short-term guest both electronically before the stay and in print during the stay the following information:

o   The short-term rental permittee’s contact information;

o   A diagram of exits, fire extinguisher locations, and fire and police contact numbers;

o   The city’s noise regulations (sections 12.8 – 12.12);

o   The city’s smoking ordinance (chapter 12, article II); and

o   The city’s garbage and recycling guidelines.

Enforcement includes the ability of the City Council to establish fines by resolution.