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.