Sep 14 2021

Planning Commission Makes Recommendation to City Council Regarding Use of Measure A-1 Funding –

“(Our community) needs time to understand and explore what this means… Development is more successful with community support behind it.” 

On September 13, 2021, the Planning Commission recommended that the City Council direct staff to continue developing an affordable housing program using Piedmont’s share of Alameda County Measure A-1 funding. The Commission supported the three-step approach for the funds recommended by the Planning Commission’s Ad-Hoc Subcommittee on Measure A-1.

The Commission recommended the City Council explore ways to: 1) Establish a Piedmont Affordable Housing Fund; 2) Launch a low-interest loan program for affordable housing, such as scattered site single-family homes, ADUs and JADUs, conversion of commercial land, small houses, and shared housing; and 3) Preserve $2.2 million in funding in the form of a low-interest loan for the development of an affordable housing development of up to 40 housing units on ½ to 1 acre of land in Piedmont.

The reason behind the Commission’s recommendation of a sequential use of the Measure A-1 funds, first for the low-interest loan program that then transitions for use towards a traditional multifamily development as the loans are repaid, is that the County’s timeline does not allow for the time necessary to successfully identify and analyze a site for a multifamily project and carryout robust community engagement for the General Plan amendments and zoning ordinance revisions that would be necessary to attract a developer.

Planning Commission Chair Rani Batra stated, “(Our community) needs time to understand and explore what this means… Development is more successful with community support behind it.”

Commissioner Tom Ramsey stated, “All of us support a traditional affordable housing development… Where we have discussion is how we get there.”

In making its recommendation, the Planning Commission determined that the development of a multifamily affordable housing project on City-owned land would have a greater chance of attracting a developer and gaining entitlement once the City had completed its update to the Housing Element, the related zoning code revisions and environmental review. That process is not expected to be completed within the constraints of the County’s timeline for receipt of Measure A-1 funds.

The City Council’s receipt of the recommendation for the approach for the use of the funds has not been scheduled but is expected to occur in October or November.

During the meeting, the Planning Commission heard comments from eleven community members. Many urged the Commission to recommend that the City Council approve the 2023- 2031 Housing Element update and associated changes by November 2022 so that the Measure A1 funding could be used towards the development of affordable housing in Piedmont within the faster timeline requirements set forth by Alameda County.

In 2016, Alameda County residents voted to adopt Measure A-1, a $580 million property tax revenue bond for affordable housing. The City of Piedmont is allocated $2.2 million in Measure 2 A-1 funding in the form of a low-interest (3%) loan program administered by the Alameda County Department of Housing and Community Development (County HCD). Piedmont’s Measure A-1 allocation must be used for the development of affordable rental housing or site acquisition.

State requirements have challenged City officials to find sites and policies to promote the construction of 587 new houses and apartments by 2031. Earlier this year the City Council engaged the services of Lisa Wise Consulting to assist the City in preparing a Housing Element update that facilitates the production of this allocation of housing units, and the services of Rincon Consulting to perform the related environmental review required by the California Environmental Quality Act.

At 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, September 29th, the Piedmont Planning Commission and Housing Advisory Committee will hold a joint study session about the basic requirements for Housing Element updates in California.

Senior City Planner Pierce Macdonald-Powell

For more information and project updates, please visit the City of Piedmont’s web site at http://piedmont.ca.gov

Jul 31 2021

$691,230  plus $252,619 ($943,849) for housing consultants – 

Piedmont city staff recommends that the City Council approve a $252,619 Agreement  for services related to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for the City’s 6th Housing Element Update covering the period 2023 through 2031.  The  Piedmont City Council, unlike numerous similar Bay Area cities, has acceded to the suggested new housing to be built in Piedmont.  City expenditures are being made now in an effort to expedite the construction of 587 new housing units.  Piedmont currently has approximately 4,000 housing units. 

The consultant recommended by staff for approval by the City Council is Rincon Consultants, Inc. (Rincon).  An Optional Task (see Exhibit A in the report) is a Study of Piedmont Sewer Capacity.

Read the report & agreement here.

On May 3, 2021, the City Council approved an earlier consultant agreement addressing the 587 new housing unit allocation in the amount of $691,230 with Lisa Wise Consulting, Inc. (LWC), to provide for professional services to update the Housing Element and prepare for the additional Piedmont housing units

The consultant agreement will be considered by the City Council on Monday, August 2.  Participation and timing details can be found on the City Council Agenda linked here.

Jul 1 2021

Paul Benoit, Piedmont’s prior City Administrator, has partially stepped into the role of Sara Lillevand, Piedmont’s current City Administrator.  Lillevand has taken a leave of absence, utilizing her vacation and other time off to attend to family matters.

Benoit, already under contract with the city to advise on the new Municipal Pool project, was granted by the City Council an increase in his hourly compensation from $111 to $116 per hour with a maximum additional amount of $4,800.   Staff report > https://piedmont.ca.gov/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=17755781

The Council did not give Benoit the full authority and power afforded the City Administrator under the Piedmont City Charter, as he will be assisting Lillevand.

While assisting Lillevand, Benoit will be residing in Piedmont.

Dec 8 2020

Piedmont Council Chooses Mayor Teddy Gray King, Divides Term of Vice Mayor

Discussion on the City Council Resulted in a Split Decision 

The election of the Mayor by the City Council had proceeded routinely on Monday, December 7, with a 4 – 0 (Rood briefly absent) vote for Teddy Gray King, but then the meeting strayed into unfamiliar territory. 

Mayor King suggested deferring the selection of a Vice Mayor to the next meeting to allow the presence of Council member Tim Rood, who had informed King he wanted to be present for the discussion and regretted his temporary absence for business matters. 

Discussion led to moving ahead with the selection of the Vice Mayor and Council member Jennifer Cavenaugh was nominated to be Vice Mayor by Council member Betsy Smegal Andersen and seconded by Cavenaugh herself.  Then Mayor King nominated Council member Tim Rood to be Vice Mayor, seconded by Council member Conna McCarthy. 

Cavenaugh believed in a “tradition” of allowing the candidate with the highest number of votes and most tenure to be selected to become the Vice Mayor with the Vice Mayor rotating upward to become the Mayor two years later.  Andersen argued that a long held tradition should be adhered to until the Council considered a different tradition.

King and McCarthy supported Rood as Vice Mayor, with McCarthy pointing out Rood would be the first openly LGBTQ Vice Mayor.  King emphasized that she and Rood had essentially been tied for top votes and thought Rood should become the next Vice Mayor, and he had told her he wanted the position.  McCarthy noted that Piedmont voters were never informed that their votes would indicate the next Mayor or Vice Mayor.

Assistant City Administrator John Tulloch stated the more recent selection “tradition” had been started in the mid-eighties.  Previously, Mayors and Vice Mayors were selected on a different basis.

With two Council members nominated for Vice Mayor,  City Attorney Michelle Kenyon informed the Council that the first nominee, Cavenaugh, had to be voted upon first.  If her nomination failed the next nominee would be voted upon. After additional Council discussion, the Cavenaugh nomination failed, being supported by only two Council members, Cavenaugh, herself and Andersen.

More discussion was held and a vote was taken on the Rood nomination, which also failed to achieve 3 votes, with only King and McCarthy supporting the nomination. Rood remained absent.

Council member Andersen offered a compromise motion to make Rood Vice Mayor for one year and Cavenaugh Vice Mayor for the second year.  This motion was approved by Andersen, King and McCarthy with Cavenaugh voting no and Rood absent.

The tradition of who is mayor and vice mayor has changed over the decades.  An older “tradition” held that the Mayor dropped back to become the Vice Mayor.

The City Charter does not prescribe how the Council shall select the Mayor and Vice Mayor.   The Council may attempt to solidify an actual policy in the future.  Some considerations are: tenure, number of election votes, length of Mayor and Vice Mayor terms, rotating the Mayor to become Vice Mayor, qualifications, dedication, involvement, etc.

The Mayor and Vice Mayor serve at the pleasure of the Council and after setting the matter on an agenda, the Council can change their selections.

Editors Note: PCA welcomes newly elected Mayor Teddy King and  alternating Tim Rood and Jen Cavenaugh as Vice Mayors.  The positions are voluntary with no compensation.  Piedmont is fortunate to have well educated and caring individuals to serve our city.

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
Jan 30 2020

State laws ending single-family zoning have a great impact on Piedmont’s parcel tax system and method of supporting city services.

Piedmont, one of California’s most heavily taxed cities, proposes and taxes three housing units on single-family parcels as though there was just one household  – with no commensurate parcel tax to cover the public service needs (parks, recreation, library services, police, fire) of the additional families.

On March 3, 2020, Piedmonters have a renewal of the City parcel tax on their ballot, Measure T,  found at the end of Piedmont ballots.  As written, Measure T does not distinguish between a one family dwelling unit on a single-family parcel and a parcel that has two or three dwelling units on a single-family parcel. 

New State laws impacting “Single-family” residential parcels are intended by the State of California to result in many new dwelling units in former single-family zoned housing by adding one or two units – up to three residential units – on a single parcel.  The March 3rd parcel tax, Measure T, does not reflect this new reality as parcels will be taxed on the basis of one residence on a parcel in the “Single-family” category.

Piedmont is financially impacted by the new housing requirements made at the state level increasing densification. Piedmont’s system of supporting itself has for decades been based on taxing single-family properties in Piedmont containing one single-family residence/household on a parcel.  

Many California cities have increased their sales taxes to gain needed revenue.  Piedmont, zoned primarily for “single-family” residences, has relatively little commercial property and thus very little opportunity for increased sales tax revenue. Voter approved parcel taxes in Piedmont, property transfer taxes, and increased property valuations have allowed Piedmont to prosper.  

Those parcels with the newly allowable 3 housing units on their property will pay no more for the densification of their properties despite windfall income without additional  taxes for the service needs of additional families.

READ the Measure T Tax Tables for Piedmont Basic Municipal Service>HERE.

Increasing the number of households in Piedmont will require additional services – street safety, parking, fire protection, public schools, city administration, public open spaces, police services, etc. – without commensurate increases in revenue. 

Push for more affordable housing in California.

In 2019, the population outflow from the State of California was more than 200,000 citizens relocating to other states.  The figure reported by the US Census Bureau is 203,414.  While California is expected to lose a Congressional Representative after 2020, Texas may gain three Congress persons due to dramatic population increase.

“In the 1970’s citizen activists [in CA] created urban growth boundaries and land trusts to preserve open space and delicate coastal habitats.” Following Prop 13, “Cash hungry cities opted to zone for commercial uses, which would generate sales taxes, instead of affordable housing.” (New York Times 12/1/19)

With the press of political demands for more housing, the State of California has taken a dramatic step to remove restrictions on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).  When ADUs are added to single-family zoned parcels, many requirements have been eliminated: setbacks, floor area ratios, view protections, parking, owner occupancy, public participation, notification, and other factors.

School taxes.

In November 2019, Piedmonters voted overwhelmingly by over 82% to tax individual parcels.  Every parcel has the same tax basis of approximately $2,700. An additional tax based on square footage of living space is also added to individual parcel taxes.  The taxation needs for the school parcel tax were based on expected student populations.

READ the approved 2019 Piedmont School Parcel Tax Measure HERE.

Unlike San Mateo, the Piedmont City Council accepted the new State laws and has shown no effort to enforce the City Charter which gives Piedmont voters the right to have a say in what happens to Piedmont’s zoning.  Further, the Piedmont City Council took no action or policy position on the various housing initiatives put forth in Sacramento that take away local laws even though the legislation was contrary to Piedmont’s City Charter.

Piedmont’s Charter was written to guarantee Piedmont voters the right to control many aspects of the City including elections, finances, budgets, police and fire departments, public schools, public borrowing, zoning, etc.  

 Charter cities in California have lost significant local authority over land use and public participation in decisions. 

The recent court decision in a San Mateo County Court to uphold and acknowledge San Mateo’s City Charter regarding a housing project could eventually impact Piedmont.  The San Mateo Court decision does indicate a judicial act protecting Charter City rights.  

The Piedmont City Council per the City Charter has the responsibility of enforcing the City Charter and putting before Piedmont voters recommended changes to zoning – single-family, multi-family, commercial, and public zones, yet nothing has been placed before the voters.  Other City Charter changes and amendments were on a recent ballot and approved by Piedmont voters.

Piedmonters for over a century held control over land use decisions, police and fire services,  public schools, parks, etc. through the City Charter.

Affordable housing in Piedmont

In Piedmont, the abandoned PG&E property on Linda Avenue next to the Oakland Avenue Bridge, was noted in Piedmont’s General Plan, as an optimal location for affordable housing – close to schools, transportation, stores and parks.  Disregarding Piedmont’s General Plan and Piedmont’s City Charter, the City Council permitted a number of market-rate townhouses to be built on the former PG&E site without including any affordable housing and illegally rezoning the property from public usage to the multi-family zone without a citizen vote on the rezoning, as required by Piedmont’s City Charter. 

Jan 29 2020

Feb. 10, 5:30 pm. Planning Commission, City Hall

The Planning Commission and City Council will soon consider changes to bring the City’s regulations regarding Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and Junior Accessory Dwelling Units (JADUs) into conformance with new state laws.

On February 10, 2020, the Planning Commission will hold a public hearing to consider amendments to the Piedmont Design Guidelines to establish objective architectural and landscape standards for ADUs and JADUs.  AGENDA >February 2020 PC Agenda 

The City Council is tentatively scheduled to review the proposed amendments to the Piedmont Design Guidelines at a public hearing on Tuesday, February 18, 2020.

The proposed changes to the Piedmont Design Guidelines are intended to do the following:

  • to ensure that new ADUs and JADUs match the architecture of the primary residence;
  • to protect street trees and the public right-of-way; and
  • to ensure that the architectural design of ADUs and JADUs preserve privacy between neighboring properties.

Per state requirements, the new design standards for ADUs and JADUs in the proposed amendments to the Design Guidelines are objective, measurable, and prescriptive.

The staff report and agenda for the February 10, 2020 Planning Commission meeting can be read > Planning-ADU-Report-2020-02-10.  

Background   On January 21, 2020, the City Council introduced the first reading of a proposed ordinance to establish a ministerial review process for ADUs and JADUs in compliance with state law.

The City Council will hold a public hearing to adopt the proposed ordinance on February 3, 2020. On January 1, 2020, new state laws came into effect which limit a local jurisdiction’s ability to regulate ADUs and JADUs.

The provisions affected by the changes to state law include, but are not limited to:

  • ministerial review of all ADU permit applications,
  • off street parking requirements eliminated,
  • unit size limitations,
  • application approval timelines,
  • owner occupancy, 
  • the allowance for junior accessory dwelling units (JADUs), ADUs on multi-family properties
  • ADUs that must be approved by-right.

Local laws which do not conform to these new state standards are preempted and cannot be enforced. City staff has developed a proposed ordinance and amendments to the Design Guidelines which will be considered by the Planning Commission and the City Council to conform Piedmont’s ADU and JADU regulations to the new state law.

Public Engagement: The opportunity for public input is available throughout this process. Interested members of the public are encouraged to attend the public meetings:

    The Planning Commission meeting is on February 10, 2020

    The City Council meetings are on February 3, 2020 and February 18, 2020

These meetings will be televised live on KCOM-TV, the City’s government access TV station and available through streaming video on the KCOM meeting video page.

Written comments regarding the proposed ordinance may be sent to the City Council and Planning Commission via email to: citycouncil@piedmont.ca.gov.

Comments intended for the Planning Commission’s consideration should be submitted by 5 p.m., Thursday, February 6, 2020.

To send comments via U.S. Mail, please use the following address: Piedmont City Council c/o City Clerk, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611.

If you have questions about the proposed ordinance, please contact Planning & Building Director Kevin Jackson by email at kjackson@piedmont.ca.gov. Any correspondence sent to the City will be considered a public record.