Feb 28 2021

Housing Element Update for the 6th Cycle 2023-2031

Piedmont expects a Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) 6 of approximately 587 new housing units, compared to 60 units in RHNA 5, representing a 979%  increase from the last planning cycle.

The expected allocation includes:

  • 163 very low income units
  • 94 low income units
  • 92 moderate income units
  • 238 above moderate income units
  • 587 total units

To ensure adequate inventory of adequate sites, City staff anticipates the element update will necessitate modifications to the uses and regulations for each of the City’s five zones.

The 3rd, 4th, and 5th cycle Piedmont Housing Elements were prepared by Barry Miller, FAICP, a contractor who has provided certain long-range planning services to the City since 1991. Mr. Miller has advised the City that he does not have the capacity to be the prime contractor on the City’s 6th Cycle Element, given the significant increase in the RHNA and need for a multidisciplinary team to complete the work.

While a number of important housing issues will need to be considered and addressed through the update process, the most significant work effort is expected to be meeting Piedmont’s RHNA numbers in the site inventory. To achieve that, the City expects the need to consider several approaches, including: amending the site development standards and densities for key housing opportunity sites and for one or more zones, implementing AB 1851 (a bill that allows the conversion of parking areas for religious institutions to housing development), and streamlining review of proposals for the construction and development of affordable housing projects.

Click below to READ the full staff report being considered by the

City Council at 6:00 pm, Monday, March 1, 2021. 

RFP for a Housing Element Update, a Safety Element Update, Other Related General Plan Amendments, and Related Regulatory Modifications as Required by State Law

Send comments to the City Council to> citycouncil@piedmont.ca. gov

Agenda > https://piedmont.ca.gov/UserFiles/Servers/Server_13659739/File/Government/City%20Council/Agenda/council-current-agenda.pdf

 

Feb 27 2021

Dear Members of the Piedmont City Council,,

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I was just alerted by my neighbor, Sylvia Fones, that Piedmont has evidently adopted something called Reach Codes.  I just now discovered that these are local building energy requirements that go beyond those of the state.    How has this happened?   I am reasonably well informed but have never even heard of this.  Moreover, there was apparently some survey done of the residents concerning adoption of these codes and no one I know had even heard of it, so were definitely not included in the survey.   Sounds to me like a deliberate concealing of this effort from the public.
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This is appalling to me.  This affects every resident.  How can a relatively tiny number of residents  (384 out of 11000) be allowed to provide a distorted consensus of opinion for an entire city?
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There are two issues that are very alarming.
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1) Given the small pool of participants in the survey, there apparently was an effort underway to get this concept adopted without proper input from the residents.  Where  is the democratic process?  How is a tiny cadre of “activists” able to railroad this through without even the knowledge of the whole town, much less its consent?
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2) The end result from a cursory examination of the Reach Codes issue seems to be a limiting of our energy sources, under the guise of some goal that is definitely controversial.  Of all things that require investigation and accumulated knowledge before coming to a decision, this is certainly a prime example.
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Energy is a huge and complicated issue.  Why would we ever want to limit our energy resources?  After witnessing the calamity that just befell Texas and its inhabitants, how can we possibly start down a path like this?
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Sincerely,
Joan Maxwell
Piedmont Resident
Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Feb 23 2021

Do you have the time and interest in volunteering for the City of Piedmont ?

Deadline: Wednesday, March 17, 2021

The City of Piedmont is looking for a few talented volunteers for vacancies on commissions and committees. Interested residents may view [also linked below] the Commission Description of Duties, download the Application for Appointive Vacancy, and/or apply online on the City’s web site at https://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/. 

Applications are due to City Hall on or before the deadline of Wednesday, March 17th.

Interviews with the City Council for these positions will be scheduled for the evenings of Monday, March 22nd and Monday, March 29th. Applicants will be notified of their interview date after the application period closes. No appointments will be made without a Council interview.  All interviews will be virtual. 

The vacancies are as follows:

Commission / Committee No. of
Vacancies
No. of Incumbents
Eligible for Reappointment
Budget Advisory and Financial
Planning Committee
 2 1
CIP Review Committee 1 0
Civil Service Committee 2 1
Housing Advisory Committee 4 or 6 0
Park Commission 2 2
Planning Commission 2 2
Police & Fire Pension Board &
City Investment Subcommittee
1 1
Public Safety Committee 2 1
Recreation Commission 2 0

Commission and Committee Descriptions of Duties 2021-02-17

Commission and Committee Fillable Application 2021

Notice and Procedural Details of Appointive Vacancies 2021

Residents with questions are invited to contact the City Clerk’s office at (510) 420-3040.

2021-02-23 Volunteers for Commissions-Committees

Feb 22 2021

– Piedmont Priorities –

With life as good as it is in Piedmont, it’s hard to think how it could get better. But there’s always room for improvement so in 2007 the City conducted a community survey as a prelude to updating its General Plan.

The response to the 2007 survey exceeded all expectations. Approximately 3,800 surveys were mailed out, and almost 1,300 surveys were completed and returned. That’s a 34% response rate, the highest ever response rate of any community survey of Piedmont residents.  Question 7 in the survey asked “For which types of projects would you support increases in city taxes or fees?”.  The range of responses to that question are in the table below.  

Q7: FOR WHICH TYPES OF PROJECTS   WOULD YOU SUPPORT INCREASES IN   CITY TAXES OR FEES?
Total with Opinion Response Average Strongly Oppose Somewhat  Oppose Somewhat  Support Strongly Support
Additional recreational facilities 1116 2.69 20.2% 17.4% 35.7% 26.8%
Landscaping and tree planting 1155 2.87 13.3% 15.2% 42.9% 28.6
City-owned competitive swimming pool 1124 2.59 28.3% 15.1% 25.5% 31.0%
Undergrounding of overhead utility wires 1159 2.96 18.5% 11.8% 25.0% 44.7%
A parking garage in the City Hall area 1122 2.21 37.9% 21.7% 22.4% 18.1%
More child care centers 932 2.25 29.4% 27.8% 30.9% 11.9%
A teen center 1083 2.87 17.6% 12.3% 35.7% 34.3%
Bike paths and marked bike lanes 1095 2.85 14.8% 16.6% 36.9% 31.7%
A community gathering place or plaza 1080 2.78 17.9% 16.8% 35.1% 30.3%
City arts and cultural center 1067 2.57 22.2% 20.0% 36.7% 21.1%
Wheeled mixed materials recycling carts 1003 2.63 22.1% 20.8% 29.0% 28.0%
Backyard service for recycling/ green waste 998 2.60 23.3% 21.2% 27.3% 28.2%
Free citywide wireless (WiFi) internet  1030 2.80 22.5% 13.5% 25.7% 38.3%

Now 14 years later, what has come of this community survey?

Additional recreation facilities – check.

City-owned pool? – check.

Backyard service for recycling/green waste – check.

City arts and cultural center – half-check.  The city has a classical arts and cultural center. Chamber music only.

A teen center – negative.

Creating a community gathering place or plaza – negative.

Why this lookback matters is because the city is on the verge of missing a golden opportunity to address the two negatives on the list.  A teen/senior center and community drop-in space could easily be run out of the East Wing of the building with access to the restrooms in the West Wing and the placing of city staff in the West Wing office space.  And no additional taxes required – seniors and the community don’t need to be supervised by staff.  They do need a place to freely gather and schedule meetings and an accessible East Wing would facilitate that.  

Instead, city staff has negotiated a lease for the 801 Magnolia Building with the Piedmont Center for the Arts that reduces both city use of and access to the 801 building for the next 7 years. There are significant flaws in the lease (https://www.piedmontcivic.org/2020/11/29/opinion-four-major-flaws-in-proposed-art-center-lease/) and better ideas for true community use of the space (https://www.piedmontcivic.org/2021/02/03/opinion-arts-center-founder-wants-usage-opened-up/ ; https://www.piedmontcivic.org/2021/01/10/opinion-a-false-choice-has-been-presented-for-arts-center-lease/).

So the City has two choices – hold a public hearing on the use of the 801 Magnolia building or a second reading of the flawed lease.  By all indications, city staff is proceeding with a second reading of the lease with PCA.  Unless Council steps up and calls for a public hearing, this opportunity for Piedmonters to achieve long-standing aspirations of a community space will be lost for another 7 years.   To that end, newly elected Councilwoman Conna McCarthy could honor her campaign pledge and call for public meetings on the use of 801 before any lease is approved:

“I want to be part of the leadership that encourages large conversations where all stakeholders thoughtfully plan and manage limited resources for the benefit of Piedmont now and into the future.” 

Elected Council Candidate Conna McCarthy  

https://www.piedmontcivic.org/category/new-elections/page/8/

If you want the City Council to hold public hearings on the use of 801 Magnolia Avenue, you can reach all Council members at citycouncil@ci.piedmont.ca.us.

Garrett Keating, Former Member of the Piedmont City Council

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Feb 21 2021
– On February 1, 2021, the City Council heard briefings about efforts to improve fair housing programs in Piedmont.
Topics covered at the meeting included the response to the regional housing crisis, California’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) process, the SB2 housing programs grant, Piedmont’s adopted Housing Element, and $2.2 million available to Piedmont for affordable housing in the Alameda County’s Measure A-1 bond (2016).
Piedmont residents addressed the Council and offered their perspectives on the City’s role in helping solve the regional housing crisis, including greater support for the construction of affordable housing in the Piedmont Community.
Ideas have included increasing the number of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), converting large homes into multiple housing units, rezoning single-family residential zones, reducing lot size requirements, modifying requirements in the Estate Residential Zone, building multiple housing on Grand Avenue and in the Civic Center, rezoning Blair Park for multiple housing, increasing height limits, and development emphasizing low-income and affordable housing.  Piedmont has indicated an interest in adding approximately 600 new housing units to the existing approximate 3,800 households.
After hearing feedback from residents, the City Council approved a resolution creating a Piedmont Housing Advisory Committee. The Housing Advisory Committee will consist of five to seven members to be appointed by the City Council. Application forms to serve on City committees and commissions, including the Housing Advisory Committee, will be posted to the City website soon.
To learn more about the February 1, 2021 meeting, please watch the video on the City webpage. For more information, sign up to receive housing updates in your email in-box or email from Senior Planner Pierce Macdonald-Powell.
Jan 31 2021
To the Editor: The following is a letter I sent to the Piedmont City Council
Dear Council Members:

I am writing to urge you to renew the lease for the Piedmont Center for the Arts. In a community that prides itself on promoting culture and the arts in our school curriculum, it seems inconceivable that the city council might not renew the Center’s lease.

Over the years and with countless numbers of tireless volunteers, the Piedmont Center for the Arts has become a venue for world class musical events.  It has enabled our residents to enjoy outstanding concerts without fighting the traffic and parking we face going into San Francisco and Berkeley.   Celebrated musicians from renowned companies have spoken of the venue’s lovely space, its stellar acoustics, and the magnificent Steinway piano.

The Center has become a jewel in the crown that is Piedmont, and it saddens me to think of this almost sacred space being used as a community center.  Do not let this cultural treasure slip away.  Please renew their lease.

Thank you,

Freddi Robertson, Piedmont Resident
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 I am writing in support of your extending the lease and operation of the Piedmont Center for the Arts.

I am an Oakland resident.
My first time there was for the showing of a movie about a horrible situation on the 57 bus in Oakland. (The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives )
Then I went to the center when they were part of the “Jazz in the neighborhood” program which introduced me to an intimate setting with great musicians. The volunteers had, on top of the music and nice setting, set up a very welcoming atmosphere.
Today, I received a video in commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz gas chamber camp and was blown away with emotions yet i don’t have a Jewish background.
So, for me, the Piedmont Center for the Arts is a place where i can safely see, hear, feel, a different, not commercial, art experience. It’s invaluable.
Sincerely,
Elisabeth Heidorn, Oakland Resident
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May I add my voice to the chorus of community members who are writing in support of the Piedmont Community Arts Center and the renewal of their lease! The Arts center is one of the most valuable of Piedmont’s many assets. It has become, as currently organized and managed, a wonderful place to hear music, view art and listen to lectures. The entire surrounding community benefits from this jewel of a site and its variety of offerings. Its popularity and ability to attract wonderful performers speaks to the incredible job being done by the current staff of devoted volunteers. As a former Art teacher at Piedmont High School, I only wish it had been available when I was there as it is providing all  students, not just those in a class, a place to pursue and display their art. I “second” Valerie Corvin’s fine letter, printed in the Post on Jan 20, and I implore you to please renew the current lease for the PAC and continue to support the hard working volunteers who take care of the Center and its programs.
Helen Brainerd
Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors.
Jan 25 2021
In his letter (https://www.piedmontcivic.org/2021/01/10/opinion-a-false-choice-has-been-presented-for-arts-center-lease/) Steve Schiller labeled the current discussion of the 801 Magnolia Avenue building a “false choice” between “an art center and no art center.” I agree and attribute this false choice to a false process.  City staff, and not the City Council, appears to have made the decision to open 801 Magnolia lease negotiations with the Piedmont Center for the Arts (PCA):
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“Given PCA’s investment in rehabilitating the City building at 801 Magnolia Avenue and its commitment to developing a viable gathering space, as well as its willingness to embrace changes to improve and expand benefits to the community, Staff believes it is appropriate for Council to consider PCA’s request to continue to operate an arts venue in this City facility”.  Staff Report, November 16, 2020

On its face, that sounds appropriate – staff recommending that City Council consider PCA’s request for a new lease.  However, staff appears to have instigated lease negotiations with PCA without direction from the Council.  I can find no notice of public or closed session meetings where this topic of the lease was agendized by staff to receive direction from the City Council.

This process puts the cart before the horse – the question of whether the 801 Magnolia  lease should be renewed should be addressed by the Council with negotiations proceeding as directed.  Instead, the lease was negotiated over the past months by staff and presented to the Council as a first reading of the lease ordinance, strictly limiting the questions from councilmembers and the public.  As currently drafted, the lease has substantial flaws that weaken the city’s access and use of this public facility.  (Piedmont Civic Association – Piedmont, California » Opinion: Four Major Flaws in Proposed Art Center Lease).

This process would have benefited so much from open public meetings at the Recreation Commission and the City Council.  As it stands, Piedmonters are being told that PCA will close if the lease is not renewed.  That is false and the fate of PCA is really in its own hands – PCA’s lease with the city expires June 3, 2021 with the option to proceed month-to-month after that.  PCA could operate indefinitely under those terms while the community engages in a public discussion of the use of the 801 Magnolia building.

For that to happen, Council needs to step in and give that direction and reject the second reading.   A second reading of the proposed lease is imminent and it is too late to make substantive improvements to the lease at a Council meeting.  Another oddity of this process is that the readings span the seating of a new council member.  Two council members had serious reservations about the process and lease terms at the first reading.  It would be appropriate for the new council member, not on Council at the first reading, to abstain from voting on a second reading and recommend staff hold public meetings at the Recreation Commission.

All council members can be reached by email at:   citycouncil@piedmont.ca.gov.

Garrett Keating, Former Council Member

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Jan 23 2021

Dear Councilmembers:

The Piedmont Center for the Arts is a rare gem at the center of Piedmont offering the community a local venue for top-notch visual and performing arts.  The Center has been a place of discovery- the discovery of the immense local talent within Piedmont and the surrounding Bay Area, as well as a venue for strengthening our sense of community. As a longtime Piedmont resident and former board member and President of CHIME (now part of the Piedmont Arts Fund), I find the Center to be a most worthy and cherished addition to Piedmont’s cultural life and spirit of community.

Born of local dedication, this endeavor to bring an affordable venue for high quality musical, performing, visual and literary arts to the center of Piedmont, accessible to all, has lived up to its mission and should be supported and protected by the Town.

The Center truly enriches the lives of Piedmonters by bringing a broad array of exceptional exhibits and performances to our very doorstep. Tired after a long week and not anxious to travel into San Francisco for a long concert evening? The Center affords you the opportunity to enjoy a short cultural evening at a fraction of the cost of a San Francisco performance. Want to expose your kids to exciting programs that might interest or inspire them, but don’t want to drag them into museums or travel to long performances? The Center is the answer. Stop by on a walk home from school or a Saturday at the park. Exposure to the arts
does not have to be difficult or out of reach financially.

I strongly urge the City Council to renew the lease for this exceptional community-building and well-run venue.

Sincerely,
Diana Meservey, Piedmont Resident

~~~~~

Hello all Piedmont City Council members:

PLEASE RENEW THE LEASE FOR PIEDMONT CENTER FOR THE ARTS!
The Center has been one of the most successful public/private projects that has happened in the city where I have resided for the last 26 years, and over the 40 years our firm has worked in it.  At a time when the arts in general are struggling, it’s even more important that we keep this particular flag flying.
If you were to ask the average Piedmonter whether they would consider eliminating an arts institution they would respond with a resounding “No Way!”
Thanks in advance,
Steve Nicholls, Oakland Resident

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Please renew the lease of Piedmont Center for the Arts which is a vibrant center that enhances our community. It is lovely that in this downtown area just a couple of blocks there are essential services, the paper, the rec center pool and tennis courts and also the art center, a lovely building. Why isn’t the beautification society involved to make sure the center is with us for some time to come? There are enough bookings requests to last for years. Please do the right thing in the second hearing and give them a lease!
Best,
Tabatha Thomas, Piedmont Resident
Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors.
Jan 16 2021

The Piedmont City Council will be asked to approve $106,000 to hire Paul Benoit, former Piedmont City Administrator, to Serve as Special Assistant to current City Administrator Sara Lillevand on Pools Construction.

Measure UU was the first successful capital bond measure in the City’s history. The $19.5 million bond was approved by 68.5% of Piedmont voters on November 3, 2020.  Measure UU bond funds will be used to Pay Benoit the $106,000 maximum annual cost of the proposed employment agreement.

Benoit  served as Piedmont’s City Administrator from 2014-2019 leading the process to develop the Aquatics Master Plan Conceptual Design, which was accepted by the City Council in 2016.  As a California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) beneficiary retiree, he will be subject to certain restrictions in order to avoid putting his retirement pension in jeopardy.  The City must enroll and report the hours worked to CalPERS through the system currently used to report payroll.  His initial tasks will include leading the efforts to hire project management services as well as the architectural design team.

Staff report:  Consideration of the Appointment of Paul Benoit as a Retired Annuitant to Provide Special Assistance to the City Administrator with Measure UU Projects and Approval an Employment Agreement

READ THE AGENDA HERE.

Jan 11 2021

The proposed lease for 801 Magnolia – West Wing creates a totally exclusive use of a public building by a private group.

As now President Sue Malick of the Center for the Arts, said to the City Council in March, 2011, “public buildings should be used by the public.”  And such use should never exclude citizens of our Piedmont community.

The proposed new lease contains absolutely no obligations for the Center to share the space with the community or even to spend funds on further capital improvements there.

The original, 2011 lease worked because the original Board of Directors of the Arts Center obligated themselves in that lease with the City to do specified work with private money to make this wasting asset a habitable, useful building and a gathering place for community arts & performances.

Only three of the original Board Members are still serving on the Arts Center Board; the majority of the Board members have a different vision. Since 2018, they have worked to eliminate all community events and to simply operate “an affordable venue rental.”

No-one is saying the Arts Center cannot be in this public building or that they cannot continue to rent it out for talented musical performances enjoyed by all. This is NOT about art; it is about control of a public asset—in this case a big public building!

The Arts Center proposed lease gives the Board the right to exclude anyone they want. There have been many verbal and written representations of what the Board intends to do; however, the actual proposed lease frees them from any and all inclusive community use or, in fact, any obligations whatsoever.

Once the lease is signed, the Center can do what they have been doing for the past two years, i.e. excluding all community use and just operating a rental venue for a profit.

I have struggled to find any reason for a City to completely outsource the running of a public building to a private group.

During the 8 years I was responsible for running this public building, the City of Piedmont conducted zero oversight of the building or our operations. They never checked the operation of the handicap lift installed for the City’s benefit, whether there was, in fact, acceptable handicap access, the smoke and fire alarms (which do not exist) or even if this 1905 building was safe in the event of an earthquake.  The City has attended to earthquake concerns and retrofitting with all of the other City buildings.

It was just as if the City was so happy someone else was running this “tear-down” for them, and “Hey, it’s art!,” so the City doesn’t need to be responsible. Is this negligence and considerable potential liability, now going to be continued for another 10 years?  Is that what this is really about? 

The City does not seem willing to take responsibility for the proper management and care of one of its largest public buildings, especially one they acquired to tear down. The City Council action in December 2020 revealed their intent to outsource control and liability for 801 Magnolia Avenue—and do it under the guise of supporting “the arts.”

Council members perhaps realized that the citizens would not know about the City’s negligence – people love going to arts programming there and the City Council will look great for supporting the arts! However, there is just no justifiable reason to create such exclusive control of a public building in a small town with few publicly-accessible spaces.

Giving the Arts Center Board 450 hours a year of free rental usage in the building at 801 Magnolia under Recreation Department control would certainly be a huge “support for the arts” by the City.

I sincerely hope the 2021 City Council will take time to investigate and publicly report on the safety and soundness of the 801 Magnolia building for public use, and consider alternative proposals for its use which would be inclusive rather than the currently proposed exclusive use.

The same musical performances would all continue for the town to attend and there would still be a “Piedmont Center For The Arts”.

Nancy Lehrkind, Piedmont Resident and Founder of the Piedmont Center for the Arts

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