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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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Sep 24 2022

Piedmont City Council and City Staff need to take Project Management Seriously –

“…, we have exceeded the original $15M estimate by a whopping $7.5M or 50%.” 

While cost overruns on public projects are sadly nothing new, the Pool project’s overrun before construction bids have been received and after scope reductions have been made is hard to fathom and extremely disappointing. 

With that in mind, consider that the City will soon have to face up to the State’s mandate to bring Essential Services Buildings or ESB ( police, fire and city offices ) up to State code requirements.    For comparison, consider that the Pool project is heading toward a $22-23M price tag while the ESB project costs, as compiled by the City Staff in April, 2020, was estimated to be between $80 to 100M – and that was with very preliminary plans and scope.  Without vastly better methods of cost control for the ESB projects, overruns of the scale of the pool project could easily cause a financial crisis for our small town.

A little background.   In the lead up to Measure UU, the Pool project was represented as a $ 15M project with a $4.5M Contingency added to cover latent conditions, change orders, scope changes, etc.  That resulted in the $19.5M Measure UU Bond. The $4.5M Contingency was prudent and warranted given the status of the plans at the time.

Now plans have been fully developed (and modified once to reduce the cost) and yet residents are still being asked to fund an additional $2.6M to complete the project.  There is also a separate special funding plan seeking $500K to install Heat Pumps to make the project all-electric.  So the project is currently about $3M over budget.   If we add the original $4.5M Contingency to the current $3M overage, we have exceeded the original $15M estimate by a whopping $7.5M or 50 %.   That is quite a miss and underscores my main message – that Piedmont must adopt a more rigorous and professional Project Management model.

What is that model?  It is one where the design team, the project management team and the estimating team all have equal weight and input into the project from the very early stages.  The team needs to avoid iterative design exercises – where a design is completed and then estimated and then often redesigned and estimated again.  The design and estimating processes must go forward simultaneously.  This management model is not new.  It is a model used by most major corporations or entities which have a significant building programs.  But these are top down decisions.  The Owner, in our case the City Council, must lead and require this model of Project Management if the City hopes to avoid replicating the Pool experience in the future.

Regarding the Pool project, it is up to the City Council to establish accountability for how the Pool project got to where it is.  I maintain that the issue is poor project management and definitely not hyperinflation as claimed by some.  ( Hyperinflation is defined as monthly inflation of 50% or more.- we are not experiencing that. )  No, our problem, our issue to resolve, is our current method of Project Management.   It is not serving us well.   We should not, cannot, continue to exceed our budgets and then go hat in hand to our residents to bail out our projects.

How Piedmont manages the Pool project moving forward and the ESB projects in the very near future will depend largely on the will of the City Council and City Staff to chart a different path.

Respectfully submitted,

Donald Chandler  AIA, Piedmont Resident

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Sep 22 2022

Questions on the proposed Housing Element were posed by Garrett Keating followed by Answers from the City Planning Department, plus Interpretations.

  1. Is the relocation of the Corporation Yard to Blair Park being considered as part of the Moraga Canyon Site Assessment?

Answer:  City staff considered the broader policy issue of identifying City parkland in the Housing Element sites inventory, starting on page 157 of the Draft Housing Element. Ultimately, staff recommended a Draft Housing Element that did not include parkland in the sites inventory as a primary site. Blair Park was identified as a possible “alternative site” in the text description of the sites inventory. Dracena Park and all City parks were considered for housing sites during the development of the sites inventory in the Draft Housing Element.  On August 1, 2022, the City Council directed staff to include Blair Park in the sites inventory as a primary site as part of a proposed Moraga Canyon Specific Plan study in order to consider all of the interrelated changes that may be necessary to locate housing in Moraga Canyon and improve City facilities at the same time.

The Moraga Canyon Specific Plan study will start with a request for proposals (RFP) or request for qualifications (RFQ). The RFP or RFQ will include a project description for the types of land uses and changes to be considered.

  1. The Housing Element 102 presentation projected 82 units for the Corporation Yard.  Does that assume the Corporation Yard is relocated to Blair Park? If not, can you tell me the acreage that is available for housing in the Corporation Yard and how you arrived at 82 units for the Corporation Yard (50+32)?

Answer: Here is some background about the corporation yard site for the purposes of the Housing Element sites inventory. The corporation yard, alone, is approximately 13.6 acres. It is an approximate number because this land is also steeply sloping in some areas, and it has existing uses and facilities. Of the 13.6 acres, 3.7 acres are expected to yield 132 housing units. 100 of the 132 would be multifamily residential units at approximately 50 dwelling units per acre.  Please see Figure B-1 from the Draft Housing Element below.

On August 1, the City Council directed staff to re-distribute the housing units identified for sites in the civic center area. It is possible that some of the housing units (mainly moderate and above moderate housing units) could be added to the corporation yard site and a new Moraga Canyon Specific Plan study. These units would appear, if necessary, in the next iteration of the Draft Housing Element sites inventory this fall. Also on August 1, the City Council directed staff to include Blair Park in the Moraga Canyon Specific Plan study area.

Interpretation:  relocation of the Corporation Yard to Blair Park is currently not being considered in the identification of housing sites in the Housing Element.  The map shows that the Corporation Yard is to be maintained and staff does not indicate that they are considering it for housing.

  1. The City Administrator discussed the income levels required for new residents to be eligible for low-income housing.  The City Administrator presented income data for city/PUSD employees, citing the number of employees that fall into the 4 categories between $69,000 and $150,000. I believe she concluded that 80% of city/PUSD employees are considered low-income.  Is that correct?  The income eligibility levels are based on the income for a family of 4.  Did the city administrator’s presentation account for this – are the employee numbers she presented for employees with families of 4 (or more) or were those incomes for individuals?

Answer: To follow up the email I sent on Monday, I confirmed that the income categories described on slide 10 of the presentation on August 18, 2022, were based on a family of 4 people and that the City and PUSD employees’ incomes were evaluated against this baseline family income. The analysis did not base the employees’ income categories on the size of their actual families.

Interpretation Using individual income levels of city/PUSD employees to characterize those employees’ eligibility for different low-income family housing overstates their eligibility.

  1. The Planning Director presented a new total for ADUs of 142 and a new income distribution of 84/42/16 = 142. He attributed this new distribution to guidance from HCD and ABAG.  Can I obtain a copy of that guidance from the two agencies or can you direct me to a s source for it? 

Answer: Click on the following link to review the ADU projected income levels from ABAG guidance from June 2022: https://abag.ca.gov/sites/default/files/documents/2022-06/ADUs-Projections-Memo_final.pdf

Interpretation These new ADU allocations help Piedmont in that they count towards the city’s low-income unit target, lessening the need for low-income units elsewhere.  It should be noted the City has very little control over the actual rental or monthly rent of these units.

 Would moving the Corporation Yard to Blair Park make that side of Moraga Avenue more eligible for development.

“It is our understanding that a number of these facilities have significant capital deficiencies and that they are likely to require substantial renovation and/or replacement at some point in the near future. Because these sites are in strategic locations, it will be possible for the City to engage with the private sector to establish partnerships that would lead to the redevelopment of these facilities along with the identified housing programs.  These sites have value that the City can potentially leverage to attract private partners and to move forward on the basis of a public-private partnership that meets the community’s needs for improved facilities, along with the provision of additional housing.” From the City FAQ about Civic sites:

Both sides of Moraga Avenue can accommodate housing but on which side does the City have more leverage to improve facilities and add housing?  Working with developers, the City can certainly add low income housing to Blair Park but there are no facilities on that side of Moraga to improve, with the exception of the park.  The Corporation Yard offers multiple upgrade options. The City intends to expand Coaches Field to a 150 x 300 multi-purpose field and major reconfiguration of the space is needed.  The Corporation Yard itself is outdated – would a developer contribute to its relocation to eastern Blair Park for the right to develop the site?  The Moraga Canyon Specific Plan needs to include this analysis to achieve the best return to the community on the public land that will be converted to housing.

Garrett Keating, Former Piedmont City Council Member

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author and the City of Piedmont Planning Department.

READ PROPOSED  HOUSING ELEMENT :>  LWC_Piedmont_HEU_PRD_040822-compiledfix

Sep 19 2022

Bridget Harris, candidate for the Piedmont City Council, voices, “The City Council should carefully consider applying the “Walkable Oriented Development” (“WOD”) approach to all possible locations and present the results to the community for approval before submitting any proposal for the 6th Cycle Housing Element.”

As the City of Piedmont addresses potential locations for additional housing to meet the 6th Cycle Housing Element, the following criteria should be considered:
1.      Maintain the culture and character of the City;
2.      Maintain traffic safety and security in the City;
3.      Minimize the loss of park land and open space;
4.      Offer locations that maximize the efficiency of construction and living.

A study by the American Enterprise Institute suggests that these criteria can best be met by “Walkable Oriented Development” (“WOD”).  This approach focuses development in areas within a ten minute walk of services and infrastructure. WOD focuses on the placement of multi-unit housing close to existing supermarkets, pharmacies, restaurants and public transportation.  It allows an increase in density while minimizing the need for the construction of additional infrastructure. WOD also makes it easier and less expensive for low income owners/renters to access necessary services thereby reducing traffic impact .

Piedmont doesn’t have a WOD location in the center of the City nor does it have a WOD area along Moraga Avenue.  It doesn’t make sense to force expensive and inefficient high density development in these locations.  However, Grand Avenue and Park Boulevard could become WOD areas with significantly less expense and disruption to the existing community.  The City Council should carefully consider applying the WOD approach to all possible locations and present the results to the community for approval before submitting any proposal for the 6th Cycle Housing Element. 
https://www.aei.org/wod/

Bridget Harris, Seaview Avenue

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Sep 18 2022

Dear City Administrator  City Council, and Public Works Director,

While street sweeping is conducted by a Public Works Department professional driving a very expensive street sweeping machine, our city’s street sweeping program is run like an amateur volunteer activity.  Effective street sweeping requires that the machine sweeps up fallen leaves in the gutters, otherwise those leaves wash down into our storm drains and clog them.  Yet, cars routinely park on streets scheduled for sweeping, so the machine just sweeps around them, missing most of the gutter leaves.

Why do cars remain on streets during sweeping days?

The answer is because clearing the streets depends upon an intensive and frustrating volunteer effort.  Local residents have to find out and remember when their street is scheduled for sweeping.  Then, volunteer residents have to tie or tape floppy cardboard “no parking” signs to trees or poles in front of their houses.  Then, they have to call the Public Works department to report and register that they have mounted the temporary signs.  Oh, and the report must be made three full days before the scheduled street sweeping day.  Then, on street sweeping day, the volunteer has to check to see if any cars are parked where the signs were posted, and if so, call the Piedmont Police to report a violation.  Then, this is the frustrating part, they have to wait to see if a cop will come out to ticket the violating parker.  Sometimes a parker has moved his car before a cop comes out.  Often, someone will park in the empty space after the cop has left, causing the volunteer to call the police department again to request street sweeping enforcement.

Whew!  It has taken a lot of time just to describe the process.  Most of our neighbors don’t have time to actually go through this process.  Last year, my wife, Karen, followed the city protocol – to the letter – because a lot of leaves have been accumulating.  She even raked the leaves away from the gutter into the street to help the machine collect them.  In spite of her efforts, four cars parked on the street, ignoring the signs she posted.  This is not the way to run a professional city service, and, the lack of adequate sweeping costs our city extra expense to clean out clogged storm drains.

The solution is not rocket science; it just requires looking at what most other cities do.

(1)    Establish a regular schedule for sweeping each street.

(2)   Post permanent signs saying “No Parking” on those specific dates and times.

(3)   Deploy police to enforce the regularly scheduled “no parking” rules.

(4)  Empower the street sweeping machine operator to report parkers to the police, for ticketing.

This is similar to the way Oakland conducts its street sweeping parking restrictions on Linda, Kingston, and other nearby streets in that city.

My wife and I are not going to continue performing this tedious volunteer work to aid the city’s street sweeping.  Many of our neighbors don’t do so either, because they are not home during sweeping times or because it is too much of a burden.  It is long past time for Piedmont to run its street sweeping operation professionally.

Taxpayers paid a lot of money for the street sweeping machine, and that money is wasted if the machine can’t clean the gutters because cars are parked on sweeping days.  This year, as street sweeping begins, please implement these suggestions and run our City maintenance program professionally.

Bruce Joffe, Piedmont Resident

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Sep 13 2022

Senate Bill 9 (SB9) can be a Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA) Game Changer for Piedmont.

How so and are actions possible now?

The ADU  [Accessory Dwelling Unit] discussion in the Civic Discussion Forum has much of the insight needed to help implement the opportunity of ADUs in Piedmont with respect to political support needed to develop ADUs in Piedmont and help guide the ADU discussion to help save the downtown “look and feel” of Piedmont in general. Here are a few observations that hopefully adds to the expertise here.

First, Piedmont is essentially implementing the ministerial RHNA housing allocation without a revised Master Plan. The community knows that the math allocations do not add up to the values shared for our collective sense of “Piedmont”.  We also know that fellow community members such as teachers, police, community staff cannot afford to live in our city limits. We also know we need more time to articulate a new Master Plan that implements both Piedmont’s values we share, while increasing the supply of affordable housing we need.

Second, our Piedmont housing element acknowledges, “The 2008 General Plan Update is the first major Plan revision in 12 years. It looks ahead to a horizon year of 2025. Most of the work on the Plan update was completed over a 15-month period between April 2007 and July 2008.”; long before anyone had dreamed of RHNA or the need for affordable housing in Piedmont.

Question: Can Piedmont comply with RHNA and timing while committing to the time commitment needed to articulate a new Master Plan with a diverse community, without abandoning value, purpose and civic sense of place of Piedmont?

Let’s look at the RHNA math more closely.

•       The RHNA estimate is generally based on the average number of ADU building permits issued each year, “multiplied by eight (because there are eight years in a housing element cycle)”.
•       If numbers were low in 2019 but were high in 2020, 2021, and 2022, a given city jurisdiction could potentially use 2020-2022 as the baseline.
•       “A slightly larger number may be warranted if a robust, funded, and clear plan to increase production has been put in place.”

Again, the RHNA formula allows Piedmont to multiply our ADU units by a factor of 8 if these permits and the intentions and performance are real.

Suggested Goal for discussion:
How can Piedmont develop ADUs at the rate of 70 ADUs per year, beginning in 2022, for eight years.  But let’s also look at how we achieve the outcome of permitting 250 ADU units in less time and less money than the City’s spend on consulting fees to explain the RHNA math to its citizens.

Proposal for Discussion:
Piedmont’s permitting process is highly unusual. Most cities accept filed permits and terminate them after a very short period of time, say 18 months. However, Piedmont’s permits stay actively open indefinitely and pass on from respective homeowner to homeowner, until built or revised. Permits do not expire in Piedmont.

This unique process can be used to Piedmont’s advantage. This may help demonstrate and meet long-term goals for Piedmont’s ADU permitting count; and show immediate proof to the RHNA that Piedmont’s volume of ADUs complies with Piedmont’s RHNA quota. This approach could demonstrate policy results and buy time for a better Piedmont Master Plan.

If the City of Piedmont combines Piedmont’s unique permitting and permit process with a new “surged effort” to help the City enable low cost access for anyone who is considering building an ADU in the next 10 years, Piedmont can “hit its numbers.”  The City needs a new operations model with a concerted, coordinated, significant, programmatic design, budgeting and mass permitting of high quality ADUs.

Is the trade worth the hassle?  Is the needed change to the City Planning Operations and focus worth the reward to save us from knee jerk “numbers game” and buy Piedmont the time needed for a new Master Plan? Can we do a better job at coordinating the look and feel of Piedmont’s future?

The New RHNA Math may be possible if the City of Piedmont and its Planning Department creates a programmatic approach to design, permitting in a massive coordinated effort to plan and permit ADU’s within Piedmont.  Can the City help guide or retain a prepaid pool of consulting architects and builders to provide easy, low cost planning access to anyone in Piedmont who wants to build an ADU in Piedmont in the next 10 years, without penalty for changing plans?

These systems exist in other venues – is it worth the trade of the hassle here in Piedmont for the results?

If Piedmont homeowners take the time and also have access to simple resources to help develop their respective ADUs, even if it takes 10 years to save, plan and build … or sell the opportunity to the next homeowner …  legitimate RHNA permits counts are possible. The housing opportunity is real.

By this new math, Piedmont needs at a peak initiative 20 residents per week to participate in affordable designs and permits approved per week for the next 4 months to reach 250 Permitted ADU permits.

The RHNA math only demands 70 permits to extrapolate Piedmont’s 8-year trend, but Piedmont can do better. On average, the building California City building departments provide comments to completed ADU applications in 10 days. The design standards are already set in Piedmont. Let’s change that to 30 approvals per every 10 days if the applicants are among the Petition of 1,000 signatures of concerned citizens.

John Cheney, Lincoln Avenue, Piedmont

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Aug 28 2022

Bring us all together instead of pitting neighborhood against neighborhood.

I sense growing anxiety in the community over the decisions being made of where to accommodate 587 units of new housing.

What would greatly reduce this anxiety, in my opinion, would be to have details of the suggested plans along with their locations, ie, how many stories will there be? what will the buildings look like on the outside?  will they be duplexes, attached condos, high rise apartments buildings?

Yet another way to reduce this anxiety would be to understand that for Piedmont to reach its goals, a compromise needs to be found so that the distribution of new housing will be borne by the whole community not one neighborhood. 

If our goal is to help solve the housing crises, let us be equitable with each other as well as those that need affordable housing.  Please find a mediator to bring us all together instead of pitting neighborhood against neighborhood.

Karen P Harley, Piedmont Resident

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Aug 26 2022

The following questions were posed to the Piedmont Planning Department regarding the proposed Housing Element:

1. Is the relocation of the Corporation Yard to Blair Park being considered as part of the Moraga Canyon Site Assessment?
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2. The 102 presentation projected 82 units for the Corporation Yard.  Does that assume the Corporation Yard is relocated to Blair Park? If not, can you identify the acreage that is available for housing in the Corporation Yard and how the estimate of 82 units for the Corporation Yard (50+32) was determined?  
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3. The City Administrator discussed the income levels required for new residents to be eligible for low income housing.  The City Administrator presented income data for city/PUSD employees, citing the number of employees that fall into the 4 categories between $69,000 and $150,000. She concluded that 80% of city/PUSD employees are considered low income.  The income eligibility levels are based on the income for a family of 4.  Did the city administrator’s presentation account for this – are the employee numbers she presented for employees with families of 4 (or more) or were those incomes for individual employees?
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4.  The Planning Director presented a new total for ADU of 142 and a new income distribution of 84/42/16 = 142. He attributed this new distribution to guidance from HCD and ABAG.  Can I obtain a copy of that guidance from the two agencies or can you direct me to a s source for it?
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Garrett Keating, Former Piedmont City Council Member
Jul 31 2022

The proposed changes to our city’s core, including building housing on the tennis courts, the grassy strip on Highland Avenue and the relocation of the fire department, would be a travesty and would forever change the character of Piedmont. While understanding the need to respond to the legislature’s mandate, the community would be ill-served by these proposals.

I agree with the observation that moving the fire department to the outskirts of the city would be a detriment to public safety. Additionally, the residents of housing built in Blair Park would not be any more isolated than the residents of Maxwelton Road, Abbott Way, Echo Lane, and Nellie Avenue, and traffic safety concerns would be alleviated by a traffic signal. Rezoning on Grand Avenue to accommodate multi-family housing is logical. The infrastructure already exists, and it would be situated on the only existing street in the city that could accommodate the additional traffic, particularly if restored to four lanes.

The proposal to alter the city center, which has the endorsement of individuals who are not city residents, specifically staff and the outside consultants, is insensitive. Moving the tennis courts away from the high school would be a detriment to the high school and raise its own safety issues. When I attended Piedmont High, PE included swimming and tennis at facilities across the street from the school. The school had varsity and JV men’s and women’s tennis teams. When my daughters attended PHS, the school fielded these teams as well. Is that no longer the case? How is moving these facilities away from the school a positive thing?

We are not Woodside, whose residents are seeking to avoid the construction of housing by prioritizing the needs of mountain lions. Our 1.7 square miles of land already developed. The legislature’s mandate of 587 new housing units amounts to a 15% increase in households. (https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/piedmontcitycalifornia/INC110220.)

The only discussion regarding the impact that a 15% increase in student population will have on the schools is this observation in Appendix 6 of the 6th Cycle Housing Element, published in April 2022, which acknowledged the “limited capacity of the schools” to accommodate the anticipated increase in its population due to the proposed housing plan.

Census data belies the claim that school enrollment has declined due to a reduction in children residing in the community. Fully 26.4% of Piedmont residents are under the age of 18. (Id.) Without a deeper dive into the numbers, this would suggest that there are 165 children per academic year which far exceeds that of the current high school per class population. The decline school population has more to do with quality which I found to be disappointing when my children attended the high school when compared to my experience thirty years earlier during a time when the city was far more economically diverse than it is now, so diverse that the girls were required to wear uniforms to mitigate the effects of economic disparity in the student population.

The plan also acknowledges EBMUD constraints pertaining to water and sewage but proposes no solution. I did not see any discussion regarding the impact of that a 15% in households will have on other city services, such as police and fire, in the report. I’m in favor of providing subsidized housing for school and city service employees but not at the expense of the city center.

Perhaps there is a solution that include a reasonable response to the legislative mandate which would include additional units without a major disruption to the city center. The Census Bureau reports that Oakland lost 5,526 residents in 2021 from the previous year. (https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/oaklandcitycalifornia.)

There is also a significant amount of unused and underutilized land in Oakland. Perhaps the needs of everyone would be better served by entering into a cap and trade type arrangement with the City of Oakland where the construction of new units would be subsidized in part by Piedmont taxpayers. This is not a nimby proposal; it is a pragmatic proposal intended to ensure that the character of the city center is maintained, and the people needing affordable housing get what they need.

Anne Cobbledick Gritzer

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Jul 31 2022

The PCA article and Mr. Keating seem correct: the City Charter requires a ballot measure before a property zone can be “classified or reclassified.” (Piedmont City Charter, section 9.02). This rule is codified at Piedmont Municipal Code section 17.02.010 (C), which states that city zoning ordinances are “subject to the City Charter” (including section 9.02). At the end of Section 17.020.010 (C), the rule also states that Piedmont cannot “change the zone boundaries, or change (reclassify) a property from one zone to another” without a vote.

But this reclassification is exactly what the draft Housing Element (“HE”) seeks to do. Section IV.A.1.F of the HE (page 38) says that the City will allow multi-family housing (e.g., Zone C & D) on Zone B public lands. Currently, Zone B prohibits such construction. But the HE says the City plans to make zoning changes “within 3 years of Housing Element adoption” to allow this. If re-zoning requires a ballot measure, how can the City promise it to HCD? This zone “re-classification” position is hardly a solid one for the City. Can we honestly believe the HCD will miss this?

A similar situation happened to the City of Davis. The Davis HE called for re-zoning “within 3 years” to allow for developing open space and agricultural lands. But Davis has a rule (Measure J) which required a vote to do that. Sound familiar? In January 2022, the HCD rejected the Davis HE plan, in part, because the re-zoning plan was speculative due to vote requirement.

Our City Attorney and the housing consultants have all made their position abundantly clear: no vote is needed since building multi-family housing on city lands is not a “reclassification” (stated at 6/20/22 City Council meeting). Are those conclusions, and the plan to build out our city center and parks, really best for the City of Piedmont?

Mike McConathy, Piedmont Resident

Link to PCA article with comments following article:

Piedmont City Council Rejects Voter Control Over Zoning Reclassifications

Jul 30 2022

I have lived in Piedmont 46 years. I have seen a lot of change, but nothing like what Sacramento is now forcing on communities around the state because they know better than us about how we should live our lives..

The City Charter should not be changed by a Bureaucratic decision. I believe the City’s leaders should honor the Charter and let the citizens decide this. It is painful to watch our elected leaders trying to circumvent the very citizens who elected them and paying for “outside counsel” opinions to justify it. I predict there will be expensive litigation and the only people who will benefit from this litigation — no matter how it comes out — will be the lawyers — not the citizens of Piedmont.

This is a “State’s Rights” issue on the State level. Do local communities have the right to decide the nature of their community or does Sacramento have the power to force their current fad down people’s throats by threatening economic sanctions because “they know better?” Maybe people in small communities who don’t like the heavy hand of big brother should stop paying their State income taxes and give the money directly to their local government to make up for the money Sacramento is threatening to withhold. Would the immediate loss of revenue and the cost and optics of Sacramento prosecuting hundreds of thousands of California citizens for not paying their taxes get anybody’s attention in Sacramento? I really wish I knew the answer to that question.

The population of California is headed for 40 million and we are running out of water and the State is burning — losing housing actually. So we really have a “population crisis.” But the fad in Sacramento among our progressive majority is that we have a “housing crisis” and the solution is to create more housing so the population can keep increasing. No plans to build more reservoirs or other sources of water except for the multi-billion dollar plan to transfer water from the North to the South which does nothing to increase overall water supply and merely allows the population to increase in an area where there is not enough water to naturally support that increase and prevent growth in the areas where the water is naturally located.

So Sacramento’s current fad envisioned by Scott Weiner from San Francisco, is to force ADUs on all communities or to allow people to tear down their house and build a fourplex almost anywhere — basically first steps to turn residential communities into little Manhattan’s. I’m not aware of any analysis that has been done to evaluate the ADU idea, but the typical ADU is very small and I very seriously doubt that most ADUs in small communities like Piedmont will be low cost rentals. My anecdotal observation is that only people who can afford it are building them and they are not going to be low cost rentals to complete strangers who are going to be living in the middle of their back yard. They will be used for in-laws or nannies or some other purpose. Tearing down a house and building a fourplex in Piedmont generally does not work out financially, so our Planning Department is so desperate for ADUs, building an ADU is an excellent way to get approval for anything else you want to do to your property. If I wanted to tear down my classic craftsman house and build a fourplex, I could probably get approval to put a miniature oil refinery in my back yard. (Note to Planning Department: I’m just joking.)

And so, to please Sacramento, Piedmont’s leaders want to change parks and tennis courts and pubic buildings, valuable amenities in any community, into apartment buildings. I think this is regressive for local communities.

I believe our City leaders and Planning Department should let the citizens decide and not work so hard to circumvent them and, if they decide to disagree with Sacramento, to support their citizens — not fight them. If the citizens of Piedmont vote to approve these changes, I will disagree with them, but I will accept the result because I believe in the concept of Democracy.

James Penrod, Piedmont Resident

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