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The following letters and other commentary express only the personal opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Piedmont Civic Association.

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Jun 29 2020

Recreation projects should be separated from fire and police measures.

Because of COVID- 19, ballot measures in November will not allow for full community discussion of City projects and needs.

Letter sent to the Piedmont City Council:

Based on the survey results and the limitations to public participation brought on by the pandemic, November 2020 does not seem like an appropriate time to put these two initiatives on the ballot, especially the facilities matter.

Every indication suggests a second wave of the pandemic will occur in the fall and these questions should not be put before Piedmonters under constraint.   “Robust resident education will be needed” – that will be a very difficult undertaking during the pandemic and should not be rushed or forced.  The typical forums available for voter education like League of Women Voters, house parties, clubs – won’t be available or will see reduced participation.

And, if put on the ballot, can the public outreach activities staff had planned before the pandemic go forward – it gives the appearance of city staff campaigning for the ballot.  Council should do as it did with the public safety contracts – postpone these ballot questions until more normal conditions return. Two years from now has the added advantage that three council seats – a majority – will be up for election, allowing for the community to send a clear signal of whether it supports these initiatives.

The polling results indicate that well over 60% of Piedmonters consider facilities as excellent, good or average.  The City Administrator concluded that Piedmonters do not clearly understand their facility needs but is that true?  Piedmonters are familiar with the facilities they use and see – recreation and park facilities – and not with the ones they don’t – the police and fire buildings.  The polling results indicate that most Piedmonters like what they see and it’s really up to the city to explain why these facilities need replacement.  Piedmonters understand the maintenance issue with the pool – it has been studied and discussed for years.  The proposals for the pool, Linda Beach and Coaches are for replacement, not maintenance, and looked at this way, the results could indicate that residents do not want these replacements.  To determine if that is the case, it would be better to have the public safety facilities and recreation facilities presented as separate ballot initiatives.

Finally, at a Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee (BAFPC) meeting I attended, the Assistant City Manager/City Clerk indicated that General Obligation bonds might require two votes under the City Charter. The BAFPC suggested a way to avoid two votes would be to establish a Community Facilities District (CFD). I think the staff report is inaccurate when it states the BAFPC “favored” CFD bonds, though it did support a parcel-based tax assessment compared to an ad valorem one:

“The Committee recommends pursuing a parcel-based tax assessment. This is preferable to an ad valorem tax given that the facilities to be funded include primarily (or potentially exclusively) essential public services buildings benefiting all Piedmont residents.”

I think it is inaccurate to conclude that the facilities to be funded are primarily “essential public services”.  While I’ve enjoyed the recreation facilities in Piedmont, it is clear that not all residents utilize these facilities, especially so over the next 30 years as Piedmont “ages in place”.  Police and Fire are, of course, essential, so again, consider placing the public safety facilities and recreation facilities on separate ballot initiatives.

Garrett Keating, Former Member of Piedmont City Council

Jun 23 2020

Piedmont is the highest taxed of comparable Bay Area cities.

The City Council is considering a raise to the tax when a Piedmont home is sold.

The City Council is currently considering a proposal from the Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee (BAFPC) to raise the real property transfer tax (RPTT) the tax buyers and sellers pay when buying a home in Piedmont.  The current rate is  $13/$1000* of the sales price and increases of 3, 3.5 and 7% are being considered.  The rationale given is to raise $850,000 annually to pay for facility maintenance.  Historically the RPTT has been $2.8M and revenue above that has been dedicated to facility maintenance. Over the past 10 years, RPTT has averaged $3.25M and with that excess, the Facility Maintenance Fund now stands at $5.8M.   An analysis of RPTT growth over the past 20 years shows a very consistent increase in revenue, the one outlier being the years 2008 to 2010 (Figure 1.)  Using the RPTT growth rate from the past 20 years shows that by 2030, RPTT revenue will be $4.5M.
Why this matters is that Council must choose a tax increase to put before the voters in November 2020, and should not raise taxes unless necessary.  An analysis by BAFPC shows that Piedmont is the highest taxed of comparable Bay Area cities (http://piedmont.hosted.civiclive.com/government/commissions___committees/budget_advisory___financial_planning_committee December 2019 report).
The City Finance Director estimates that the RPTT will be $2.2M next year and using that as a baseline justifies a 7% increase in order to raise the $850,000 for facility maintenance (Table 1).   If the preceding 10-year average of the RPTT is used, a 3% increase will rise enough for facility maintenance (400,000 + 805000 = $1.2M).  Assuming Piedmont home values continue to increase, no tax increase is needed – the steady increase in real estate values will raise more than enough for facility maintenance ($1,200,000)
Garrett Keating, Former Piedmont City Council Member 
*Updated: 6/25/2020
Jun 17 2020

“Piedmont is the highest taxed city in the area.”

Letter to the Piedmont City Council regarding increase in Piedmont taxes.

Table 4 of the Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee (BAFPC) report provides scenarios of increased property transfer tax (RPTT) revenue based on alternative increases to the tax.  The analysis looks backward and provides you with increased revenue the city would have received over the past 10 years had these rates been in place.  That’s an understatement and I recommend you give direction to staff to conduct a fourth scenario that forecasts RPTT growth under the current tax rate that will occur based on the growth rate of the past 10 years.  This is very easy to do and will provide you with information to select the appropriate tax increase, if indeed one is needed at all. 
Three reasons: First, as the BAFPC analysis shows, Piedmont is the highest taxed city in the area and adding more taxes to that burden should be factually considered. Second, the Facilities Maintenance Fund is fully funded.  Third, as the Public Works Director said at your last meeting, facilities maintenance is on pace and substantial deferred maintenance has been achieved under current RPTT revenue.  As you know, the past 5 years have seen record RPTT receipts even in a period of declining sales so there is good reason to analyze whether the a tax increase is needed.

I have some questions for staff:

City Administrator:  the BAFPC recommended city staff dialogue with PUSD officials about how increases in city taxes might impact the District’s need for additional funds.  Can you elaborate on these discussions?

Finance Director:  even in the midst of the pandemic, you recently stated the real estate market is “robust”. Can you elaborate on your projection that revenue will drop by 29% in 20-21,  yielding a RPTT of $2.2M.  Is that due to a drop in the number of sales or home prices?

Assistant City Clerk; You stated that under the City Charter, a bond initiative might require two votes.  Can you elaborate on that and any conclusions?  If that were the case, some have suggested a facilities district as a way to avoid 2 votes. I recommend Council abide by the Piedmont City Charter.

Garrett Keating
Former Member Piedmont City Council 
Link to Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee report > Receipt of a Report from the Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee on Financing Options for Improvement of City Facilities
May 17 2020

What are Piedmont’s priorities? Schools, Community Pool, or other items?

Surveys on the way?

Resolution No. 21-2020 from the April 20, 2020 Piedmont City Council meeting directed the Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee (BAFPC) to “complete a comprehensive examination of potential funding mechanisms for city renovation projects,” which on its May 7, 2020 agenda, the BAFPC defined as a “Discussion of Potential Financing Options for Improvement of City Facilities.” 

Which is it – funding mechanisms or finance options?

While this may seem like semantics to some, the method matters. A funding mechanism can be any number of things – reallocation of city funds, grants applications, public-private partnerships – while financing means one thing – bonds and new taxes to pay for them. The BAFPC is looking only at bonds and a new 0.15% tax to raise anywhere from $30 to $70M for new projects over the next 30 years.

https://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/government/commissions___committees/budget_advisory___financial_planning_committee

That’s too bad because the city has several other tools at its disposal to come up with creative, long term funding mechanisms to pay for these improvements – a pension fund surplus of over $12M, an expiring sewer replacement program and well over $10M in other funds to re-allocate to other improvements. That would take some creative thinking on the part of BAFPC, but as the committee is progressing to have its recommendation to the City Council in time for the November 2020 ballot, that thinking is likely not going to happen. But before it makes bond recommendations, BAFPC has recommended the City talk with the School District to coordinate taxation on City residents.

BAFPC rightly asked what additional debt does the School District need to take on in the near term to address other school needs. As of May 7, those discussions between the City and the District appeared not to have happened and really should in light of the Governor’s recent proposed cuts to education. The School District’s long-term financial projections are much more dire than those of the City.

And what will be built? Council says “renovation”, BAFPC says “improvement.” Same thing? Maybe, but take a look at the pool for example. The City had a pretty good Community Pool lo these many years, the only problem being scheduling between lap swimmers and the high school and competitive swim teams. Now the city is proposing an Aquatics Center with accommodations for these two groups, at a much greater cost to build and operate.

The squeaky wheel gets the oil, but is it too much to ask that the pool improvement be a 50/50 public/private partnership? That’s not a question that BAFPC can answer, but for Council and the community to answer.

Council directed staff to hire a consultant to conduct outreach and education in Piedmont on the renovation projects and options for paying for them, so be on the lookout for computer and phone surveys. Get your 2 cents in now, because the “back of the envelope” cost for this bond initiative is $1000/household.

Zoom into the BAFPC meeting 7 p.m. Thursday, 5/21 to learn more.

Garrett Keating, Former Council Member

MEETING DETAILS FOR THURSDAY 5/21 > 2020-05-21 Budget Advisory & Financial Planning Committee

Apr 22 2020


Dear Editor,

What can be learned from the coronavirus pandemic? 

  • Preparing for epidemics before they happen saves lives.
  • Responding to epidemics at the first signs of outbreak saves lives and reduces damage.
  • Denying there is a problem enables the catastrophe to accelerate.
  • Delaying response causes preventable deaths and costs uncountable fortune.

The cost of early preparation, prevention and response is substantial.

The cost of early preparation, prevention and response is very low, compared to the cost of doing nothing. 

Can we apply these lessons to the global climate crisis?
We are suffering early signs: hurricanes are more powerful and damaging; droughts are more severe and flammable.  Some people, regrettably in political leadership, deny there’s a problem.  Delaying response enables the crisis to accelerate; climate change feeds itself and may soon become unstoppable.  The cost of changing from our oil-based energy economy is large, but the cost of not changing will become catastrophic. 

With commerce largely shut down by coronavirus, and the price of oil sinking into negative numbers, we now have a special, one-time-only opportunity to switch to non-polluting, renewable energy sources to avert the climate change catastrophe. 

Sincerely,
Bruce Joffe
Piedmont

Mar 18 2020

March 18, 2020

Dear Fellow Piedmonters:

This is an unprecedented time in our lives. It is imperative that we work together as a community to try and keep our residents from contracting (Coronavirus) COVID-19.   As Mayor of Piedmont, I implore each and every one of you to follow the Alameda County guidelines to shelter in place, and only leave your homes for essential needs – groceries, pharmacy, gas, banking, and of course walking your furry housemates.

We know Piedmont is a social place, but we ask that all residents, no matter what age, practice social distancing and avoid gathering for social purposes. This is also true at our dog parks and includes distancing your pets. It is not rude to stand 6 feet away, it is the most polite and thoughtful thing you can do for the next three weeks.

This virus is not obvious. It is spreading throughout Alameda County and likely already spreading within Piedmont. It is possible to be contagious without symptoms. Our job as responsible citizens is to do everything in our power to slow down the spread of this virus so we do not overwhelm our healthcare system.

We have many seniors living in our community. Please look out for your neighbors as you would during any emergency. And if you are older than 60 years or have underlying health conditions, please ask someone else to help you take care of your essential needs.

Our city staff is working hard to keep our City website up to date with information and resources and of course our Police and Fire Departments are fully staffed and working to respond to any emergency calls. We need to keep our first responders safe and healthy as well.

You should also have confidence in your neighbors. We are a community of smart, resourceful and compassionate people. With those collective strengths, I am confident we will persevere and meet the challenges in the days ahead.

If we look out for one another, and prioritize our collective health, together we will get through this, one day at a time.

Sincerely,

CITY OF PIEDMONT

Mayor Robert McBain

Click below to read signed letter:

McBain- Letter from the Mayor to the Community – Covid19

Feb 20 2020

On Feb. 18, 2020 a three to one vote with Councilmember Jennifer Cavenaugh voting no, the new  (Accessory Dwelling Unit) ADU design rules were approved by the City Council. The Council discussion lacked clarity on many issues.  Landscaping in front of garage conversions, translucent windows, fencing, parking, and notice to neighbors were discussed.  Fire safety, driveway access for emergency vehicles, street impacts, enforcement of required landscaping, etc. were not discussed.

Knowledgeable Piedmonters repeatedly asked the Council to require ADU applicants to notify neighbors even with staff having sole authority to make the determination on approval or disapproval.  Required notice of an ADU applicant was rejected by City Attorney Michelle Kenyon as potentially troublesome and a questionable practice while she acknowledged State laws do not prohibit notice to neighbors by ADU applicants.

Some Piedmonters had desired notification to encourage cooperation between applicants and their neighbors, thus allowing opportunities to work out concerns.

The Council majority of McBain, Andersen, and Rood did not require notice.  Cavenaugh voted no.

Importance of adopting appropriate ordinances and requirements

State laws require applications to be acted upon by staff ministerially within 60 days from the date of a completed application.  Ministerially means there will be no public participation and only city staff can make the decision, which spotlights the need to have appropriate objective criteria for ADUs.

City Attorney Michelle Kenyon presented different information. 

Reversing the Planning Director’s no appeal admonition to the Planning Commission, Kenyon stated that although neighbors cannot appeal a Planning staff decisions,  the applicant could appeal a denied application to the City Council thereby opening up an entirely new avenue of consideration previously denied by the Planning Director.

There were numerous areas of  concern not reviewed.  The Council majority ultimately supported having the new ADU Design Guidelines approved rather than having none in place.  It is expected changes and additions will be made in the future. The issue of irreversible legal matters incurred from the time of new rule adoption and subsequent ADU approvals was not discussed.

According to Planning Director Kevin Jackson numerous ADU inquiries have been made since the beginning of the year.

Comments:

  1. My recommendation for story poles was somewhat facetious but given that the city won’t alert neighbors with a simple 3 x 5 postcard, what’s a neighborhood to do?

    This requirement to not notify neighbors of ADU applications comes from City Attorney Kenyon and not planning staff. Kenyon said there is no legal prohibition to notify neighbors but in her opinion it would be “Draconian” to do so. Instead she implied the community would be better served through direct neighbor to neighbor communication. That position is logically flawed – such dialogue is best established through notification and without that requirement many of these neighbor to neighbor exchanges won’t happen and if they do, it will be after the fact.

    More likely her position is self-serving – City Hall doesn’t want to take the phone calls from neighbors about these projects. Recall Maxwellton. No doubt it will be frustrating to have to deal with irate neighbors who aren’t aware of the ministerial ADU process, but that comes with the job. City Hall prides itself on customer service, but maybe it should think more about public service when it comes to ADUs.

    Thanks to Councilwoman Cavenaugh and Planning Commissioner Levine for pushing for public notice.

  2. A thanks to both Councilmember Jen Cavanaugh and Planning Commission Chair Jonathan Levine for their efforts to bring a wider community involvement to this important issue and resident notification.

    My takeaway is based on the comment by City Attorney Kenyon near the end of the ADU Council discussion last night when Jen’s request for minimal resident notification was shot down. City Attorney Kenyon replied that the City is now in compliance. Is Piedmont the last out of compliance City? Highly doubtful. The State ADU Housing Guidelines, assuming the recently passed series of ADU legislations, is only a month away. (City Planner Mike Henn presented this information to Council last night.) Being out of compliance might bring a State letter, but Piedmont is far away from being sued by the State and would have everything in place to immediately pass ordinances to be in compliance once the compliance criteria are known.

    I would like to have more resident notification and involvement with a Town Hall type meeting for the new ADU ordinances and guidelines. Council indicated they will treat the new Chapter 17 modifications and ADU Design Guidelines as living documents that can be amended as needed. Hopefully this will be done with the same swiftness as the very recent ADU implementations have been.

Jan 28 2020

Reminder of Meetings on January 29, February 12 and 26:

Hello Friends:  Passing on this notice for a public workshop this Wednesday, January 29 at 6:30 pm in Community Hall. [See video produced by the City of Piedmont HERE.] Long story short – the city is looking for ideas on how to reduce natural gas usage in town as part of its Climate Action Plan.  The basic concept is to make it easy for residents to electrify their homes – add solar panels, replace NG appliances with electric ones, facilitate installation of EV charging stations. Staff has some very specific proposals that while good, won’t apply to many homes in town.  So come learn about the latest in home electrification technology and bring your own ideas.  Mine – I want a curbside charging station and a solar-panel hot tub!   Can’t do that in Piedmont unless we implement these 21st century codes so now is the time to be creative.
Can’t make it Wednesday?  There are more workshops in February (read below).
Did you know that one-third of Piedmont’s climate impact comes from gas in our homes?
Did you know that the City is exploring ways to reduce this impact – through REACH codes, which can help us make collective progress toward reducing gas usage? 

About 30 Northern California cities have already adopted REACH codes to address emissions from buildings. REACH codes mainly focus on converting appliances to high-efficiency, electricity-powered ones, and encouraging solar and energy efficiency measures. Thanks to East Bay Community Energy, most of us are already purchasing electricity that is from 100% renewable sources. But now we need to actively encourage the replacement of conventional natural gas-powered furnaces and water heaters with high-efficiency electric heat pumps, gas stoves with induction ranges, gas-powered clothes dryers with efficient electric dryers, and so on. Building codes will have a role in this, as well as education, incentives and other policies.

The Piedmont Reach Codes implemented this year will set the tone for Piedmont’s commitment to taking action during this critical decade in the effort to prevent the worst effects of climate change, and we could end up being a leading role model for other small, residentially-dominant cities.

Will you be part of the solution? Decisions will be made over the next few months – join the conversation and spread the word!

The City is hosting a series of workshops, and we’re hoping this will be an opportunity for residents to speak up in support of taking strong action, both with the building reach codes and, more generally, with moving urgently towards full implementation of Piedmont’s Climate Action Plan 2.0. Please come weigh in on what you think would be a good path forward for Piedmont, one that balances the needs of residents and commercial properties with the imperative of phasing out the use of natural gas and other greenhouse gas emitting substances.

A Community Forum aimed at residents, on Wed., Jan 29th from 6:30-8:30 pm at the Community Hall (711 Highland Ave).  Staff will present code suggestions that they think would be good to implement. This presentation will focus on the need to make Piedmont a low-carbon, resilient community and the ways these codes might help us get there. Please join and spread the word!

Two workshops aimed at building industry professionals (same workshop repeated twice) on Wed., Feb 12th from 1:30-3:30 pm and 6:30-8:30 pm at the EOC (Emergency Operations Center) conference room at 403 Highland Avenue. If you know any green-minded industry professionals, please encourage them to attend!

Two workshops for residents (same workshop repeated twice) on Wed., February 26th at 1:30-3:30 pm and 6:30-8:30 pm at the EOC conference room, which will be more of a deep dive into the proposed code.  Connect encourages residents to attend both the January 29th event and this workshop, if possible.

P.S. If you haven’t already, please make sure to join the Piedmont Climate Challenge: piedmontclimatechallenge.org

Garrett Keating, Former Piedmont City Council Member

Jan 26 2020

In the face of the deepening climate crisis, I’d like to draw readers’ attention to three important City-wide workshops here in Piedmont.

While building codes may seem like a dry topic, California cities can play an important role in reducing our carbon emissions by adopting local codes that “reach” beyond the basics of the California building codes. As a primarily residential community with no industry and few businesses, Piedmont will not be able to meet California’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets without developing policies that promote the decarbonization of our existing housing stock.  This means encouraging and, in certain cases, requiring the conversion of appliances that are currently powered by fossil fuels (especially natural gas) to high-efficiency appliances powered by electricity, as well as encouraging and sometimes requiring solar and energy efficiency measures.

Thanks to East Bay Community Energy, most of us are already purchasing electricity that is from 100% renewable sources. But now we need to actively encourage the replacement of conventional natural gas-powered furnaces and water heaters with high-efficiency electric heat pumps, gas stoves with induction ranges, gas-powered clothes dryers with efficient electric dryers, and so on. Building codes can have a role in this, as well as education, incentives and other policies.

Please come weigh in on what you think would be a good path forward for Piedmont, one that balances the needs of residents and commercial properties with the imperative of phasing out the use of natural gas and other greenhouse gas emitting substances.

The events are:

1) A Community Forum aimed at residents, on Wednesday, January 29th from 6:30-8:30 pm at the Community Hall;

2) Two workshops aimed at building industry professionals (contractors, real estate agents, etc.), on February 12th from 1:30-3:30 pm and 6:30-8:30 pm (the same workshop repeated twice) at the Piedmont Emergency Center  (EOC) in the Police Department on Highland Avenue; and

3) Two workshops for residents (same workshop repeated twice) on February 26th at 1:30-3:30 pm and 6:30-8:30 pm at the EOC. This will be more of a deep dive into the proposed code.

The Piedmont Reach Codes implemented this year will set the tone for Piedmont’s commitment to taking action during this critical decade in the effort to prevent the worst effects of climate change, and we could end up being a leading role model for other small, residentially-dominant cities.

Margaret Ovenden, Member of Piedmont Connect Steering Committee 

piedmontconnect

P.S. If you haven’t already, please make sure to join the Piedmont Climate Challenge: piedmontclimatechallenge.org

Jan 20 2020

Safety, traffic, transit, parking –

Mayor and City Council

City of Piedmont

120 Vista Avenue

Piedmont, CA 94611

Subject: Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) -Revisions

Dear Mayor and Members of the City Council

As a planner, I have long supported allowing more ADUs when they were virtually outlawed by most cities. However, it now seems like the State may have overreached in taking away cities’ rights to regulate ADUs.

Piedmont may be rushing action on a revised ADU ordinance when the state law only became effective three weeks ago. I have checked with several other jurisdictions and they are just beginning to study the issue and have not yet began public hearings. There is a lack of urgency because the State Housing and Community Department has not yet published its implementation guidelines.

Our premature actions may necessitate subsequent otherwise unneeded revisions when the HCD guidelines are issued.  Also, if Piedmont does not have its own local ordinance in place, then there would be no impact on the potential production of ADUs, because the state’s rules would apply by default, until we adopted our own. So there is little real urgency and there is time for proper study.

What is being proposed largely precludes the normal community discussion which Piedmont residents are used to. In particular, just following the law and accurately measuring the half mile walking distance from bus stops will require some time. And if we were to provide for street-safety thresholds, also consistent with the law, additional time would be required for analysis.

I have including pertinent sections of the newly adopted state law to illustrate the following concerns:

66582.2  (a) A local agency may…

(A)Designate areas within the jurisdiction of the local agency where accessory dwelling units may be permitted. The designation of areas may be based on criteria that may include, but are not limited to, the adequacy of water and sewer services and the impact of accessory dwelling units on traffic flow and public safety.

(Presumably this section means that the jurisdiction may designate areas where accessory dwelling units may not be permitted, or, there should also be latitude to allow ADUs but with some minimum of off-street parking provided)

66582.2 (d)Notwithstanding any other law, a local agency, whether or not it has adopted an ordinance governing accessory dwelling units in accordance with subdivision (a), shall not impose parking standards for an accessory dwelling unit in any of the following instances:

(1)The accessory dwelling unit is located within one-half mile walking distance of public transit.

66582.2 (j) (10): “Public transit” means a location, including, but not limited to, a bus stop, or train station where the public may access buses, trains, subways, and other forms of transportation that charge set fares, run on fixed routes, and are available to the public.

(This definition would preclude counting mere proximity to a bus route where there is no designated bus stop) 

66582.2 (o) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1, 2025, and as of that date is repealed.

Analysis

Transit Availability: Some of the restrictions on cities’ powers largely apply to homes within a half mile, by foot, from a bus stop (66582.2 {d} {1) The staff report declares that every part of Piedmont is within a half mile of a bus stop. While largely true, that conclusion was apparently based on a crow-fly review since it’s not entirely true. For example, I took well-known Wildwood School as a starting point, and using my admittedly less accurate car’s odometer, I have checked the distance along streets, (not crow-fly distance), and found that it is at least a half mile to the nearest bus stops for AC Transit Lines 29, 12, 33 and P.  Because of curving streets and a few cul-de-sacs, there are probably several other areas which are beyond a half mile. Also Line 33 above the central area has only weekday commuter service with no midday or weekend service. These transit deficiencies are important because the statute’s justification for not providing any new parking for an ADU, is that convenient transit is available. Where transit is not available, some relief seems justified.

Traffic and Emergency Vehicle Safety: There are a few existing, seriously impacted and unusually narrow streets where on-street parking is already extremely impacted, and emergency vehicles may already have trouble getting through. The extremely narrow stretch of Scenic Avenue comes to mind. The new state law (66582.2 {a}) allows a city to designate areas not suitable for additional ADUs for safety reasons. To be objective and defensible, I’d suggest language like: The City has determined that certain existing streets which are of insufficient width according to accepted Fire Protection standards, and such streets already allow on-street parking, and accordingly, the provision of one parking space per ADU is required, and such spaces may be open and tandem: (street names to follow).

Correction of Existing Code Violations: As I am sure you all know, there have been a lot of historic or even recent conversions of garages to living quarters for the primary dwelling unit. This is distinct from cases where a parking deficiency is legally non-conforming (grandfathered). If such a residence were now to further worsen the on-street parking demand by adding one or even 2 ADUs, that would add to the existing on street parking conflicts. Without violating the new law’s prohibition on requiring any parking for the ADU, the city could ask/require that existing zoning/building violations regarding parking be corrected. This would mandate that a parking analysis be done in concert with the ADU review. Merely suggesting that the building inspector will catch past violations is unrealistic.

Summary: In crafting the legislation, the legislature made some concessions for where transit was not conveniently available and for valid public safety reasons. I would expect that a good faith effort that is tailored to the unique nature of a city and supports its specific exceptions with a logical nexus to traffic safety and emergency vehicle access would escape much criticism. A Planning Commission member has suggested finding a legal way to provide notice of new construction to neighbors, but not deter from the ministerial approval requirement. There can be a lot of good ideas to protect neighborhoods, but not if the new ordinance gets rapidly approved as written.

We can ask, How can we work within the law, but tailor it to the uniqueness of Piedmont? I of course agree that most of Piedmont can and should accommodate additional ADUs with little impact. However, areas where most of the once existing one-car garages have already been converted to living quarters, and where the narrow streets are already jammed with parked cars, really shouldn’t have to accept more units with no new parking or even correcting past violations.

Therefore, I urge the Council to take a step back and allow the normal community involvement to take place. A citizens’ committee could assist the staff in reviewing the options and look at how other jurisdictions have looked at the issue.

Thank you for your consideration,

Michael Henn, Former Piedmont Planning Commissioner