Jan 16 2023

Hello City Council:

I’ve reviewed the staff report and draft RFP for the Moraga Canyon Specific Plan (MCSP) and submit the following comments and questions. Hopefully you can delve into them.

The MCSP is good planning, but clearly the RFP is being developed to expedite a City application for Measure A funds by 2024.  Perhaps for that reason, the RFP is short on explaining how the plan addresses important city policies.  Table 2 list these policies but the RFP states that these policies “may” be considered and only stipulates that the consultant team will demonstrate “professional experience and knowledge of the personnel general principles and background law applicable to specific plans, land development and affordable housing development requirements”.   There are important sustainability policies outlined in the General Plan and Climate Action Plan and the City should stipulate this a credential it seeks on the consultant team.  Does the team have a sustainability expert like our City does?  Traffic safety is another core credential that should be requested.

The staff report and RFP suggests that additional environmental review beyond the programmatic EIR will be conducted based on the impacts of the specific projects in the MCSP.  That makes sense but is predicated on a robust programmatic EIR which has yet to be released.  Without the programmatic EIR being public at this time, the generalities of that assessment may be used to gloss over specific impacts of the projects at a later date.  One way to alleviate this concern is to assure that the programmatic EIR will have a response to comments process as a project specific EIR does.  Staff should confirm this publicly.  Subsection m. in scope of services should clarify this point as well.

One important EIR consideration is whether an assessment of GHG emissions will be undertaken in the MCSP.   This assessment may occur in the “built out” programmatic EIR so this may not be a factor but without that document, who can say?   To resolve this question, staff should clarify whether these GHG emission calculations are being conducted as a part of the programmatic EIR.  According to state guidance, GHG emissions are to be part of a CEQA analysis: CEQA GHG.  However, based on certain criteria, affordable housing projects under 100 units are exempt from CEQA and staff should clarify this as well CEQA Housing. Indeed, staff should clarify whether CEQA is applicable to all the projects being considered in the MCSP, particularly the low-income housing projects.

The staff report and RFP do not clarify whether the relocation of the Corporation Yard will be studied as part of the MCSP.  The only possible reference to this is that “replacement” of the Corporation Yard be considered.  The City should clarify this in the RFP so as to provide consultants the widest latitude to develop creative proposals for the canyon.  Indeed, this latitude may provide for the subdivisions of parcels and development standards that are attractive to builders of housing at all income levels. As staff envisioned with civic center sites, the City could leverage better housing for the project if the Corporation Yard is moved to less desirable building site in the canyon.

Following are more specific comments/questions to the RFP:

The project timeline on page 5 of the staff report is particularly short on detail.  The City seems not to have identified the type of public process it intend to conduct. 

Under “Specific Plan for Success” there is no mention of field lighting as part of the recreational facilities to be developed.  Is it the intent of the City and this Council not to proceed with the installation of lights at Coaches Field?  There is some precedent for this.

The landscape plan makes no mention that it is to comply with the City’s municipal Bay Friendly Landscape Ordinance which has specific criteria for vegetation and water use.

Garrett Keating, Former Piedmont City Council Member

Moraga Canyon Plan Consultant 1.17.23

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Jan 15 2023

Another Consultant is proposed to be hired at an unspecified cost to produce a Moraga Canyon specific plan.

The RFP does not set a price, but … [in 2019]  … the preparation of a specific plan cost an average of $544,237.”  according to ABAG.

On the Council Agenda, Tuesday, January 17, 2023 the City of Piedmont returns to the previously unexamined, controversial legal opinion of the Piedmont City Charter when the City Attorney dismissed the specific language within the Piedmont City Charter of requiring voter approval of proposed zoning changes. Agenda > >council-agenda 1.17.23

 This program requires an amendment to the City’s General Plan and the preparation of a specific plan to accommodate the density and create development standards for the unique site conditions. The required amendments would be reviewed by the City Attorney for conformance with the City Charter and other legal requirements. If it is determined that it is infeasible to develop this site during the planning process, the City will consider utilizing other City-owned properties as alternative sites (see Appendix B).

Funds generated by General Plan Maintenance fee instituted by the City on July 1, 2019 will provide significant funds for General Plan costs – plans and zoning changes. 

Currently, the fee is $0.013 x the construction cost valuation on building permits. The fee  generated $427,000 in FY 21-22 and the City expects a similar amount this fiscal year. The funds must be spent on updates and amendments to the General Plan and other auxiliary  documents (e.g., Climate Action Plan, Zoning Ordinance, Hazard Mitigation Plan, and a  specific plan). The City Council might consider increasing this fee to help cover the rising costs of land use planning.

READ the full staff report in the link below:

Moraga Canyon Plan Consultant 1.17.23

Stay Informed about the Moraga Canyon Specific Plan

After the City adopts a 6th Cycle Housing Element, a key piece of the implementation process will be the creation of a Moraga Canyon Specific Plan. This initiative will study all City-owned land in Moraga Canyon with the goal of creating a detailed plan for how to maintain and improve existing amenities while also incorporating new housing in the area.

The City expects to issue an RFP in late January seeking professional services to lead this process. Stay informed by subscribing to our Moraga Canyon Specific Plan email list.

Jan 15 2023

Piedmont Pool Complex Costs Continue to Rise Beyond the Bond Package Fund Approved by Voters –

The Piedmont Recreational Facilities Organization (PRFO) is seeking $2.1 million additional funds for the project.  The City Council will receive an update on the fundraising campaign and authorize staff to develop naming agreements for contributions of $250,000 or greater to the project. Consideration will be at the Tuesday, January 17, 2023 Council meeting. council-agenda 1.17.23

Staff report linked below:

1.17.23

Jan 15 2023

Will the Council revert back to not recording, broadcasting, or archiving video recordings of certain public meetings?  The cost of transparency via video broadcasts has proven to be minimal given the City budget. On the council-agenda 1.17.23

The California Brown Act has been amended and provisions changed.

NEW REQUIREMENTS:

If members participate remotely using the just cause or emergency provisions, the following additional rules apply:

• The legislative body must provide a way for the public to remotely participate in the meeting and must provide notice of how to access the meeting and offer comments

• The public must also be permitted to attend the meeting in person

• The body cannot require public comments to be submitted before the meeting but rather must be allowed in real time.

• Remote members must participate through both visual and audio (i.e. cameras and microphones on)

• Before any action is taken, remote members must disclose whether any other people over 18 years old are present in the room at the remote location and the general nature of the member’s relationship with the individual

 

Editors’ Note:  The Piedmont Civic Association has long advocated maximum adherence to Brown Act applicable public meetings such as commissions, committees, and City Council.  The Piedmont City Charter prescribes these meetings are to keep minutes, which has not been adhered to for even critically important Council appointed committees such as the Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee. 

The Public Safety Committee during the COVID protocols was newly recorded and live streamed.  Some meetings, the Annual City Budget Workshop and the interviewing of candidates for City Council, commission and committee appointments have historically not been recorded, broadcast, or archived leaving access to only those present at the meeting.

Transparency and accountability are important to the public and should be maximized by the City Council by improving the archiving of recordings, providing minutes, and live streaming of public meetings.

READ the staff report linked below:

Changes to Brown Act and Next Steps 1.17.23

League of California Cities – report > https://www.calcities.org/news/post/2022/12/15/brown-act-changes-are-coming-to-cities-in-2023.-here-is-what-to-expect

Dec 21 2022

Attached is a press release providing anticipated key dates for the City’s Housing Element update in January. Staff expect to bring Piedmont’s 6th Cycle Housing Element to the Planning Commission for review on January 12, 2023 and to the City Council for adoption on January 30, 2023.

Additionally, staff intend to issue an RFP in late January seeking professional services to lead the preparation of a Moraga Canyon Specific Plan. Once a consultant has been selected, the Specific Plan process is expected to take 18-24 months to complete. The City has created an email list community members can subscribe to for updates about the Specific Plan. Also attached is an informational poster about the Moraga Canyon Specific Plan that we shared with community members at the Housing Element Open House in November.

12.22 Poster+3+Moraga+Canyon+Specific+Plan+Study  Map

Morga 2022-12-20 Housing Element Update Key Dates in January Press Release

Dec 21 2022

City of Piedmont Fair Housing Bulletin

Housing Element Update: Key Dates in January

Planning & Building staff expect to bring the City’s proposed 6th Cycle Housing Element to City Council for adoption at a special meeting on January 30th, 2023.

Adoption of the Housing Element will mark the culmination of a public engagement process that began in Spring 2021, as well as the beginning of a new chapter as the City implements the policies and programs outlined in the Housing Element over the next three years.

Moraga Canyon Specific Plan

A key piece of the implementation process will be the creation of a Moraga Canyon Specific Plan.

This initiative will study all City-owned land in Moraga Canyon, including Blair Park, Coaches Field, Kennelly Skate Park, and the City’s Corporation Yard, with the end goal of creating a detailed plan for how to maintain and improve existing City facilities, open space, and recreational amenities in this area while also incorporating 132 units of housing, 60 of which would be available to lower income households.

Map of Moraga Canyon Specific Plan study area

The City expects to issue an RFP in late January seeking professional services to lead the preparation of the Moraga Canyon Specific Plan. Staff will bring the draft RFP to the City Council for authorization at the January 17th, 2023 meeting. Once a consultant has been selected, the Specific Plan process is expected to take 18-24 months to complete.

Robust public participation will be critical to a successful Specific Plan process. Throughout the process the City will conduct significant and ongoing public outreach, hold community meetings and workshops, and provide a variety of options for community members to weigh in and help shape the Specific Plan.

Community members can stay informed by subscribing to the City’s Moraga Canyon Specific Plan email list.

Important Dates and Next Steps ……………..

January will be a busy month for Housing Element followers. Key tentative dates include:

  • January 8, 2023: Comments due on Housing Element Initial Study-Negative Declaration
  • January 12, 2023: Planning Commission review of proposed Housing Element
  • January 17, 2023: City Council consideration of RFP seeking a consultant to develop the Moraga Canyon Specific Plan
  • January 30, 2023: Special Meeting of the City Council to consider adoption of the Housing Element
  • January 31, 2023: State deadline for cities to adopt a Housing Element or face penalties

The City submitted the Draft Housing Element to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) for review on November 18th, 2022.

After the City Council adopts the Housing Element, the City will have three years to implement a substantial number of the proposed programs and regulatory changes outlined in the document. This process involves additional environmental review, which is already underway – the City is currently in the process of preparing a programmatic EIR that studies the impacts of the new homes and residents that could come to Piedmont once implementation is complete.

A wealth of information about the Housing Element update process is available at PiedmontIsHome.org, the City’s online hub for the Housing Element update and housing policy. For questions about the Housing Element process, write to PiedmontIsHome@piedmont.ca.gov.

Do you have questions about the Piedmont Housing Element update? The City has produced short informational videos, which are posted to the City’s Youtube Channel and at Piedmontishome.org. Watch the videos by clicking here.

Sara Lillevand and Kevin Jackson

Subscribe to Piedmont Fair Housing News and Updates

Dec 15 2022

Much of the land in Moraga Canyon is unsuitable for development.

Publicly-owned land is designated for low-income housing in the Piedmont Housing Element (HE) because it provides the City with the greatest potential to develop such housing – the City owns the land and can work directly with developers to see that affordable housing gets built on it.  The publicly-owned sites in Piedmont are in Moraga Canyon, swaths of land around Coaches Field and the Corp Yard and all of Blair Park.  Sixty low-income units and 73 above-moderate income units are proposed for >Moraga Canyon.   A > depiction of this area shows that housing types are proposed to be dispersed throughout this canyon area.

Anyone familiar with Moraga Canyon will know instantly how unsuitable much of this land is for development.  The sites east and west of Coaches Field, initially designated for low-income housing, are steep sloped and would require a massing of building to generate the proposed density and parking.  The area to the west is particularly prohibitive for building; the required storm water permit is infeasible and would likely not be granted given the proximity of the site to the adjoining wetlands on cemetery property. As for the other Coaches sites, both are very steep, probably prohibitively so for the construction of low-income housing and would probably eliminate what little public parking is now available at Coaches.  Unfortunately, the feasibility of these sites for housing has never been publicly addressed at the Planning Commission or City Council since the draft was released in April, 2022.

The Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) will conduct this feasibility analysis, especially for the low-income sites, and find the draft HE deficient.  This is the direction HCD gave to Atherton regarding the publicly-owned sites in its HE:

“Publicly Owned Sites: The element identifies multiple publicly-owned sites including the Public Facilities and Schools District, the Menlo School, and Cal Water Bear Gulch Reservoir sites. The element must include additional discussion on each of the publicly owned sites identified to accommodate the RHNA. Specifically, the analysis should address general plan designations, allowable densitiessupport for residential capacity assumptionsexisting uses and any known conditions that preclude development in the planning period and the potential schedule for development. If zoning does not currently allow residential uses at appropriate densities, then the element must include programs to rezone sites pursuant to Government Code section 65583.2, subdivisions (h) and (i).”

Piedmont will most certainly receive this same direction in the HCD response letter to its first draft.  The highlighted text suggests fundamental considerations of the canyon sites that should have been presented months ago. Instead, between now and May 2023, as part of the Moraga Canyon Specific Site Plan study, the City will likely conclude that one if not both of the low-income sites at Coaches are not compatible for housing and conclude that Blair Park be used for the 60 low-income units and some fraction of the above-moderate units.

The City should include relocation of the Corporation Yard to Blair Park in the Moraga Canyon Specific Site Plan so as to improve the quality of low-income housing in the canyon.  The Corporation Yard offers the only flat housing site on the north side of Moraga Avenue and, on a square foot basis, provides better sites amenities than Blair Park.  Judging by similar densities staff assigned to the Coaches sites, 60 housing units could be located at the Corporation Yard.

But beyond the housing goal, relocation of the Corporation Yard could dovetail with General Plan goals of building walkable neighborhoods, preserving open space and others as well.    There are broad planning questions that should have been raised well before the site plan analysis but the General Plan has been virtually absent during the HE process.  The HE proposes three uses for the canyon – housing, city operations and recreation.  How best should these be dispersed to achieve General Plan goals?  Housing and recreation on the Coaches side with city operations in Blair Park?    HCD does not care about these goals but our Planning Department and City Council should and, depending how they conduct the Specific Site Plan analysis, could achieve a “win-win” for Piedmont with the HE.

Garrett Keating, Former Member of the Piedmont City Council

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Dec 15 2022

Draft Housing Element

Submitted to State HCD

On November 15, 2022, the City Council authorized staff to finalize the draft sites inventory and submit the Draft Piedmont 6th Cycle Housing Element to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). On November 18, 2022, City staff sent the Draft Housing Element to HCD for its 90-day review. The Draft Housing Element sent to HCD is posted to the homepages of the City website and Piedmontishome.org.

After each city submits a Draft Housing Element for review, HCD has up to 90 days to return comments with requested revisions. HCD has until February 16, 2023, to return comments on the Draft Piedmont 6th Cycle Housing Element.

The official State deadline for cities to adopt a compliant Housing Element is January 31, 2023. Working actively to minimize any period of non-compliance, Planning & Building staff are in regular communication with HCD reviewers. The City is optimistic that Piedmont’s Draft Housing Element will move through the review process swiftly.

Dec 7 2022

Groundbreaking Ceremony for New Community Pool Saturday, December 17th, 11 a.m.

Construction is expected to begin in early 2023, and the new pool could open as soon as summer 2024.

The City of Piedmont invites community members to a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Piedmont Community Pool on Saturday, December 17th at 11am. The ceremony will be held on the grounds of the pool site at 777 Magnolia Avenue.

…………………

The Piedmont City Council voted unanimously to award a contract for construction of the new pool to Wickman Development & Construction at their December 5th, 2022 meeting.

Construction is expected to begin in early 2023, and the new pool could open as soon as summer 2024.

“It took the collective effort of hundreds to reach this point, including current and former Councilmembers, City staff, Commission and Committee volunteers, consultants, and most important – the community advocates who have tirelessly pursued the vision for an aquatics facility that truly meets Piedmont’s needs, some of whom have been working towards this goal for over two decades” said City Administrator Sara Lillevand. “I hope many community members will join us on December 17th to celebrate this monumental milestone.”

Originally opened in 1964, Piedmont’s now-shuttered pool had exceeded its useful lifespan and had long lacked adequate space to meet the community’s diverse aquatic athletic and recreational needs. Although there have been several efforts to explore feasibility of a new facility over the years, work on the pool replacement project began in earnest in 2015, with the development of the Aquatics Center Conceptual Master Plan.

This vision drew closer to reality in November 2020 with the passage of Measure UU, which authorized the sale of $19.5 million in general obligation bonds to fund the new facility. A sharp rise in construction costs beginning in 2020 further threatened the project’s feasibility, leaving a gap of more than $2 million between project cost estimates and available funds even after the City Council scaled back the original design to include only essential components.

To close the gap, the City has partnered with the Piedmont Recreational Facilities Organization (PRFO) to raise $2.1 million for the completion of the new community pool as designed. This capital campaign, which began in August 2022, looks to build on the success of previous PRFO fundraising in support of Hampton Park and the Corey Reich Tennis Center.

As of December 5th, 2022, PRFO is nearly halfway to the fundraising goal of $2.1 million. The City of Piedmont and the Piedmont City Council remain grateful to the community for their ongoing support for the new community pool project.

For more information on the project, visit piedmont.ca.gov/newpool.

For information on the PRFO capital campaign, visit prfo.org/piedmont-community-pool.

Nov 28 2022

Public Input Sought via City Administrator Recruitment Survey

Comments are to be made by Wednesday, November 30, 2022 using the City survey > > https://piedmont.ca.gov/government/city_news___notifications/city_administrator_selection_survey

Residents are invited to help shape the selection process for Piedmont’s next City Administrator by completing a brief online survey.  The City is not collecting names or any other personal information from respondents to this survey.  The survey asks community members to share their thoughts regarding the recruitment:

• the most important challenges and opportunities the new City Administrator will face

• what skills and experiences are the most critical in a new City Administrator

• what management and leadership attributes should the City Council look for

• how the new City Administrator should interact with the community.

The City Council will use the input gathered in this survey to help guide its decisions during the selection process. Piedmont’s City Administrator is appointed by the City Council and is responsible for overseeing day-to-day City operations and addressing the priorities established by the City Council.

City Administrator Sara Lillevand intends to retire in Spring 2023 or after the City Council has appointed a successor. Lillevand was appointed City Administrator by the City Council in 2019, after spending five years as Piedmont’s Recreation Director.

The Piedmont City Charter states the role of the City Administrator as follows:

SECTION 3.02 CITY ADMINISTRATOR

The City Council shall appoint a City Administrator for an indefinite term and fix his/her compensation. The administrator shall be appointed on the basis of executive and administrative qualifications. The City Administrator shall be the chief administrative officer of the city and shall be responsible to the City Council for the administration of all City affairs placed in his/her charge by or under this charter.

The administrator shall have the following powers and duties:

(1) Shall appoint all city employees.

(2) Shall discipline, and, when deemed necessary for the good of the City, suspend or remove City officers and employees except as otherwise provided by law, this Charter, or personnel rules adopted pursuant to this Charter.

(3) Shall supervise the administration of all departments, offices and agencies of the City, except as otherwise provided by this Charter or by law and except further that the internal administration of each department shall remain with each department head.

(4) Shall attend Council meetings and shall have the right to take part in discussion, but may not vote.

(5) Shall see that all laws, provisions of this Charter and acts of the Council, subject to enforcement by him/her or by officers subject to his/her supervision, are faithfully executed.

(6) Shall prepare and submit the annual budget to the Council and shall supervise its administration after its adoption.

(7) Shall submit to the Council and make available to the public a report on the finances of the City each fiscal year.

(8) Shall make such other reports as the Council may require concerning the operations of City departments, offices and agencies.

(9) Shall keep the Council fully advised as to the financial condition and future needs of the City and make recommendations to the Council concerning the affairs of the City.

(10) Shall administer the personnel system of the City and, in particular, those matters involving the City’s personnel classification system and employee benefit and retirement plans.

(11) Shall maintain a system of City records.

(12) Shall perform such duties as are specified in this charter or may be required by the Council. (Charter Amendment 11/06/2018)

Comments may also be sent directly to the Council.

To send comments to the City Council as a whole, send an email to citycouncil@piedmont.ca.gov.

2022-11-07 City Administrator Recruitment Survey