Nov 27 2022

Any property in Piedmont can become the site of a new Multifamily density increasing project.

The recently released City legal opinion points to the 2017 definition of “reclassify” inserted in the Piedmont City Code that no one thought of great import.  It now seems that the new definition created for the City Code in 2017 may have been inserted for the purpose of nullifying the Piedmont City Charter specifying the zoning control designation to Piedmont voters in an attempt to reclassify Piedmont’s zones and uses without voters approval.  

Can a City Charter be nullified by a non-standard definition inserted many decades later by a City Council enacting a separate document, an ordinance, not approved by enacting voters who approved the actual language in the City Charter ?

Without voters amending the approved City Charter, can a non-standard definition retroactively replace a well-established term, “reclassify,” when the standard meaning of “reclassify” had been approved by voters and acted upon over years and years of the existence of the voter approved City Charter?

The Piedmont City Charter states:    Section 9.02 Zoning system.

“The City of Piedmont is primarily a residential city, and the City Council shall have the power to establish a zoning system within the City as may in its judgment be most beneficial. The Council may classify and reclassify the zones established, but no existing zones shall be reduced or enlarged with respect to size or area, and no zones shall be reclassified without submitting the question to a vote at a general or special election. No zone shall be reduced or enlarged and no zones reclassified unless a majority of the voters voting upon the same shall vote in favor thereof; provided that any property which is zoned for uses other than or in addition to a single-family dwelling maybe voluntarily rezoned by the owners thereof filing a written document executed by all of the owners thereof under penalty of perjury stating that the only use on such property shall be a single-family dwelling, and such rezoning shall not require a vote of the electors as set forth above.”

Since all Piedmont zones allow single-family residential buildings, the attorney’s opinion opens all Piedmont properties to multi-family high density housing without voter approval of the increase in residential density. 

Piedmont’s City Attorney determined that Piedmont voters rights outlined in the City Charter and the long history of zoning control by voters in Piedmont are not applicable to density, thus without voter approval multi-family high density housing is opened in all of Piedmont: Single-family Residential Zones, Public Zone, and Commercial Zone properties.  
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Vital now are the design standards for how these multi-family dwellings including high density housing are approved for construction in Piedmont by City staff, who will have “ministerial” control of the permitting process outside of public view and notice requirements. The staff simply refers to a check list of approved “objective design standards”, MODS, to decide if a project qualifies for a building permit.   Public hearings and neighborhood input are not a part of the permitting process. Only the staff can unilaterally determine qualification for a building permit based on the adopted standards.
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Importantly, the development of the City’s Design Standards for Multifamily Objective Design Standards (MODS) will impact all of Piedmont, since every property in Piedmont is zoned for single-family dwellings, and thus according to the City’s legal opinion makes all zones have a potential for a higher density multifamily use.  

The “Objective Design Standards (MODS)” are a response to state laws attempting to promote lower cost housing throughout the state, including Piedmont, by allowing Planning staff to make permit decisions based on adopted MODS design standards without public input.  Additional new legislation, further impacts housing in Piedmont by promoting multiple housing, yet not mentioned by the City in this proposed action.

The time to provide your input on matters such as set-backs, safety, parking, landscaping, etc. is now.

READ the draft proposal >

Piedmont Multifamily Objective Design Standards,

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City Announcement———— below.  Notations inclosed in brackets are not part of the City announcement.

Comments Sought on Draft Multifamily Objective Design Standards for Commercial and Mixed-Use Areas

[The standards will apply to all areas in Piedmont when multifamily housing is considered.]

Published October 7, 2022 by the City of Piedmont


Piedmont’s Planning & Building Department has published draft updated multifamily development design standards for public review and comment. The draft standards, officially called the Piedmont Multifamily Objective Design Standards, or “MODS,” would govern new development in existing commercial and multifamily zones.

[As Piedmont is currently proposing multifamily use in other zones, such as the Public Zone and Commercial Zone, the MODS criteria will be paramount to staff’s ministerial decisions on permitting development of multifamily structures without public input.]

[Piedmont’s City Attorney’s opinion has stated density in all zones is not controlled by voters. making these standards important for the exclusionary ministerial permitting purpose.   As applied by the City to the Commercial Zone and Public Zone, both are zoned for single-family use, as all of Piedmont, opening the Single-family Zone to multifamily high density usage ]

[ The City of Piedmont is proposing multifamily high density dwellings within Piedmont’s Public zone, which includes parklands and municipal properties, because the Public zone permits single-family residential dwellings and density can be increased without voter approval.  The design standards (MODS) would apply in all areas where housing is proposed for multifamily use. The new design standards are subject to implementation  for: Piedmont Public properties, Commercial, and Single-family zoned properties. ]

This project is separate from Piedmont’s Housing Element update and began in 2019, when the City applied for an SB2 planning grant to fund development of the standards. The purpose of objective design standards is to ensure new multifamily and mixed-use development aligns with and enhances the character of Piedmont’s neighborhoods.

[ Single-family residential zoning is contiguous to all Public, Commercial, and Multifamily use zones in Piedmont.]

These standards would apply to proposed developments in Piedmont’s Zones C and D, where mixed-use and multifamily development is already allowed. These areas constitute less than 5% of total land in Piedmont.

[The City Attorney’s opinion does not separate uses or limit residential uses in a particular zone.  The recently devised Mixed Use Zone was never approved by Piedmont voters as required by the Piedmont City Charter. The City Attorney’s opinion notes density increases are allowed because single-family zoning is permitted, announcing voters do not control density.]

The standards are intended to help maintain privacy and mitigate other possible impacts to neighbors and surrounding single-family properties. They provide specific guidelines for design elements like:

  • Setbacks, building placement, and façade design
  • Size, placement, and materials for windows and outdoor spaces like balconies and decks
  • Location and visibility of parking areas

Objective design standards are required by State laws, including > SB 35 (2017) and SB 330 (2019). The purpose of these laws is to streamline the review process for multifamily properties statewide, with the goal of easing development of housing that is affordable to both owners and renters at all income levels. Piedmont’s draft standards support this goal while ensuring new development will not compromise existing community character.

[The standards will be applied ministerially without neighborhood input.] 

The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the draft standards this winter, likely in December or January.

The timeline as set by the City Planning Department states acceptance of public comment on the draft standards through November 21, 2022. Community members can email comments to Piedmontishome@piedmont.ca.gov.

[If comments have not been sent by November 21, 2022, responders are welcome to send their comments after that date addressed to the Piedmont Planning Commission via the Planning Director Kevin Jackson, ]

kjackson@piedmont.ca.gov.

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Additionally, comments may be sent to members of the Piedmont City Council, as the matter will be considered by the Council on a future Agenda.

To send comments to the City Council as a whole, email citycouncil@piedmont.ca.gov or send via U.S. Mail to the following address:

Piedmont City Council, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, Ca 94611

Nov 19 2022

Monday, Nov. 21, 2022, City Council –

The City Charter once more is considered when adding housing units in Piedmont.  The City’s controversial Charter interpretation is presented in relation to the proposed ordinance expanding housing in Piedmont.

The City claims a recently adopted ordinance #17.02.C prevails over the City Charter, as copied below:

“CITY CHARTER The modifications to the City Code are in conformance with the City Charter, including section 9.02. No zones have been reduced or enlarged, and no zones have been reclassified. City Charter provisions are expressly referred to in City Code division 17.02.C.”

Not all Planning Commissioners approved recommending approval of the proposed ordinance.  On a 3-1 vote the ordinance was recommended to the Council. There are  6 commissioners eligible to have participated in the consideration.

Should the Council approve a first reading of the recommended ordinance on November 21, 2022, a second reading could occur as soon as December 5, 2022, and the Code amendments would go into effect thirty days after that.

Perpetuated is the unequal distribution of housing in Piedmont.  One zone (Zone E) continues to require a lot size Minimum of 20,000 square feet, subject to exception for accessory dwelling unit construction set forth in division 17.38, whereas Zone A  location of the majority of Piedmont properties  require a Minimum lot size of 8,000 square feet.

 “Objective standards in the Piedmont Design Guidelines” are required, however these are yet to be approved and are forthcoming.  These standards have the potential to impact every property and neighbor in Piedmont.

 

“B. Ministerial review. The Director shall review each application ministerially to determine if the development standards in section 17.38.060 are met, and shall within 60 days of a completed application approve or deny the application, except if the application to create an accessory dwelling unit or a junior accessory dwelling unit is submitted with an application to create a new primary single-family or multi-family dwelling on the lot, the Director shall delay acting on the permit application for the accessory dwelling unit or the junior accessory dwelling unit until permits for the new single-family or multi-family dwelling are approved. The Director will review the application without notice or public hearing. The time period for review may be tolled at the request of the applicant.”

READ the entire ordinance to be considered by the Council on Monday, November 21, 2022 by clicking HERE.

Participation and Nov. 21 Agenda > HERE.

 

Nov 12 2022

Public Input Sought: City Administrator Recruitment Survey

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

https://piedmont.ca.gov/government/city_news___notifications/city_administrator_selection_survey

Look for the “complete the survey online” link on the site.

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

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

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

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

The survey will remain open through November 30th, 2022.

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

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

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

SECTION 3.02 CITY ADMINISTRATOR

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

The administrator shall have the following powers and duties:

(1) Shall appoint all city employees.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(11) Shall maintain a system of City records.

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

Comments may also be sent directly to the Council.

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

2022-11-07 City Administrator Recruitment Survey

Nov 6 2022

” … and no zones shall be reclassified without submitting the question to a vote at a general or special election.”  Section 9.02 of the Piedmont City Charter

The City’s refusal to submit new proposed reclassified City zones to a vote by the citizens rests on the meaning of the word “reclassified” in the City Charter.   A newly released undated, unsigned legal opinion relies on a 2017 definition of  “reclassification” inserted in the City Code, but not submitted to the voters as an amendment to the City Charter. 

History shows Piedmont citizens have been urged to vote approval of  “reclassifications” of City zones at general or special elections in recent decades, yet the newly released legal opinion ignores these votes.

The City’s legal conclusions are inconsistent with the City Charter, City practices, and ballot measure history of asking Piedmont voters to approve zoning changes and Conditional Use Permit processes.

(Read the City’s legal opinion here)

Nov 4 2022

The City of Piedmont is in an untenable situation. The City failed to appeal the allotment of 587 housing units in the city under the stated mandated Housing Element. The City failed to provide options that the residents could consider and then vote upon with sufficient time to then submit a HE plan.

Requirement for a Vote before land can be re-zoned. The areas under consideration for the Housing Element include park and municipal land, such as the Moraga Avenue properties and 801 Magnolia Avenue. These properties are in Zone B. Section 17.08 of the Code of the City of Piedmont is titled “Establishment of Zones; Zoning Map; Interpretation” and provides that the city is divided into five zones. “Within each zone, certain uses of land and buildings are allowed as permitted or conditional uses, and certain other uses of land and buildings are restricted or prohibited. If a use is not permitted or conditionally permitted, it is not allowed.”  Section 17.22.020 states “The following are permitted uses in Zone B: …A single family residence … City building…Public School…Parks…Cemetery…Emergency shelter…”.Multi-family residences are not a permissible use in Zone B (Blair Park and 801 Magnolia).

Section 9.02 of the City Charter provides that “…The Council may classify and reclassify the zones established, but no existing zones shall be reduced or enlarged with respect to size or area, and no zones shall be reclassified without submitting the question to a vote at a general or special election. No zone shall be reduced or enlarged and no zones reclassified unless a majority of the voters voting upon the same shall vote in favor thereof; provided that any property which is zoned for uses other than or in addition to a single family dwelling may be voluntarily rezoned by the owners thereof filing a written document …stating that the only use on such property shall be a single-family dwelling, and such rezoning shall not require a vote of the electors as set forth above.” The Charter clearly states that the ONLY time a vote is not necessary is when property in Zones B, C, D or E is converted to a single family residence.

Requirement to submit a Plan. The state of California wants the City to present a plan showing where 587 units can be built within the boundaries of Piedmont by January 31, 2023. Failure to submit a plan by that date could result in various penalties; most of which do not apply to the city. The one penalty that could apply during a period of noncompliance is the ability of a builder to force the city to approve permits for building affordable housing. This penalty assumes there is property available for development (sale) in  Piedmont and that the cost of construction is such that the builder will reap a profit.

There have been many discussions in the city that we just submit a plan with the understanding that it is unlikely the housing will be built. However, recently the HCD responded to a plan submitted by Santa Monica that the city had to show actual timelines for construction of housing on any city owned sites. If Piedmont submits a plan that includes city owned property the state can then force the city to act on that plan. Any plan that is submitted can be enforced and by then we will have no voice in the process. Further, it will set a precedent that the zones in Piedmont are meaningless. https://smdp.com/2022/04/29/too-many-units-too-little-time/ .

The Choice. The decision is between three choices: 1) Submit a plan that includes park and municipal land without a vote to rezone those lands which is a violation of Section 9.02 of our City Charter and could result in overbuilding in the city center and Moraga Avenue as well as undermining our zoning laws or 2) Submit a plan that is contingent on a vote to rezone certain areas for multi-family housing or 3) Delay submission of a plan, provide the necessary information so the electorate can make informed decisions and schedule a special election with options so that we can decide the future of Piedmont.

If the City Administrator’s letter dated September 30, 2022 had been sent early in 2022 there would have been time for a Special Election. However, at this juncture we must decide which is less harmful to the city of Piedmont; the possibility of the Builder’s Remedy being exercise versus our right to vote on the reclassification of zones in Piedmont.

I believe we should delay submission of a plan. We must bring the matter to a vote in Piedmont which will offer us a voice in the process, resolve the conflict in the community, preserve our Charter, allow multi-family housing projects in areas zoned accordingly and prevent future litigation. The city has already spent almost a million dollars in analyzing where the units could be placed and the people immediately rejected the city center location. This time let the citizens of Piedmont decide by a vote – it will be worth the cost.

Almost two-thirds of Southern California’s cities failed to meet their state housing plan deadline. We should immediately determine locations in Piedmont for affordable housing, summarize the options in a clear format (including maps), mail the information to each residence, prepare for a special election and elect new leadership that keeps Piedmont informed and engaged with a vote.

https://www.ocregister.com/2022/07/11/southern-california-cities-get-more-time-to-rezone-land-for-housing/

Bridget Harris, Candidate for the Piedmont City Council

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Nov 1 2022

Undiscovered by Piedmont Planners and Consultants, the deadline for State approval of the Piedmont Housing Element (HE) is NOT the previously relied upon May 2023 date.  The required State and City approval date is January 31, 2023.  This recently recognized date has required great urgency to promptly submit an HE plan to the Housing and Community Development Department for their prompt consideration and comments.  The new HE is not available at the time of this publication.

Following the November 8th City Council Election, on November 15th the City Council will move ahead to authorize the revised Housing Element and submit it to the State.  The time of the meeting was not provided nor the staff report.

The Piedmont Planning and Building Department has scheduled an informational, in person, November 9, Open House the day after the City Council Election to inform the public of the revised Housing Element.  This is NOT an occasion to gather public input for the City Council.  Broadcasting for home viewing access has not been announced.

Since August 1, 2022, Piedmonters have waited to receive information on the numerous changes and answers to questions regarding the proposed Piedmont Housing Element (HE) prior to consideration by the City Council and the subsequent HE submittal to the California Housing and Community Development Department.

Changes to the prior HE proposal have been kept well away from the public and the Planning Commission.  The newly proposed HE was not found on the city website.  An exception to public direct mail was an election influencing all city mailer along with various fliers found on the City’s heavily touted website piedmontishome@piedmont.ca.gov. 

At the November 15, 2022 City Council special meeting  the City staff, Planning Consultant and City Administrator will seek City Council authorization to submit the City’s Draft Housing Element to the California Department of Housing & Community Development (HCD) for review.

The Planning & Building Department will host an informational open house on Wednesday, November 9th where community members can learn about proposed updates to the Draft Housing Element as well as timelines for submittal, certification, and implementation process.  This event is not noticed as an occasion to take public input on the proposed changes to the HE.

On August 1st, 2022, the Piedmont City Council directed staff to analyze the viability of potential changes to the Draft Housing Element, including:

• Increased reliance on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) to meet State-mandated housing production targets
• Relocation of affordable units in the sites inventory from the Civic Center area to the mixed-use zone on Grand Avenue
• Expansion of the Moraga Canyon Specific Plan area to include all City-owned property along Moraga Avenue

Staff and consultants have completed the analysis directed by the City Council and will be
presenting a revised sites inventory that reflects the results of that analysis to the City Council.

The official State deadline for cities to adopt a compliant Housing Element is January 31, 2023.  Once the City submits a Draft Housing Element for review, HCD has up to 90 days to return comments with requested revisions. Working actively to minimize any potential period of non-compliance, Planning & Building staff are in regular communication with HCD reviewers. “The City is optimistic that once submitted, Piedmont’s Draft Housing Element will move through the review process swiftly.”  Piedmont Press Release.

“Informational Open House November 9
In person community members can learn more about the proposed updates to the Draft Housing Element
and next steps at an upcoming informational open house:
Wednesday, November 9, 5-6:30pm
Piedmont Community Hall in Main Park
711 Highland Avenue”

No new information was released with the announcement.  The open house is NOT scheduled to be an opportunity to take public input on the revised HE.  Given the location in the Community Hall and general format of the meeting, it is unlikely that home viewers can participate in the Informational Open House.

At the event, Planning & Building staff will share their information and answer questions about:

• proposed changes to the Draft Housing Element sites inventory
• timelines for Housing Element adoption and implementation
• what to expect over the next three years, as the City implements the policies and programs outlined in the revised Draft Housing Element.

 Only if the City meets the deadline approval of January 31, 2023 will there be 3 years for implementation, otherwise the City would have under a year for implementation.  Implementation of HE proposals will require zoning changes and trigger the voter approval per the City Charter according to numerous informed readers of the Charter.  Voter approval of zoning changes has been denied by City officials, who attempt to convince voters they have no right to vote on proposed zoning changes, including turning parkland and all single-family zoning into multi-family high density housing units.

The open house will also provide information about consequences for non-compliance with State deadlines and how they impact Piedmont, including the process known as the “builder’s remedy,” which limits a city’s ability to deny applications for new development while its Housing Element is out of compliance.

For more information about the Housing Element update process, community members can visitPiedmontIsHome.org, the City’s online hub for housing policy issues in Piedmont.

Staff are continually updating the site as part of the City’s ongoing effort to make the Housing Element update process more accessible.  The newly revised HE proposal was not provided with the City Press Release. Interested individuals are directed toward the city website piedmontishome@piedmont.ca.gov. 

Comments about the Housing Element can be emailed to piedmontishome@piedmont.ca.gov. 

To send comments to the City Council as a whole, please email citycouncil@piedmont.ca.gov.  or send via U.S. Mail at the following address:

City Council
City of Piedmont
120 Vista Avenue Piedmont, CA 94611

READ the City Press Release below:

2022-10-31 Housing Element Special Council Meeting and Informational Open House

Oct 31 2022

If you have not already voted in the November 8th City Council election, here are some of the pressing issues, in random, not priority order, the new City Council majority will be addressing:

  • Adding 587 new dwelling units in Piedmont
  • Following the Piedmont City Charter on voters rights, zoning, budgets, loans, administrative authority
  • Hiring a new City Administrator
  • Completing the Aquatic Center on time and within budget
  • Providing transparent open and available processes by the Council, Committees, and Commissions
  • Adherence to the California Brown Act, sunshine law
  • Encouraging diversity, inclusion and opportunity
  • Protecting Piedmont’s historic architecture and character
  • Supporting Piedmont’s urban forest and sustainability
  • Improving street and sidewalk conditions for vehicles and pedestrians
  • Evaluating utility undergrounding for all of Piedmont
  • Improving Police and Fire Department facilities
  • Providing safety and protection for Piedmonters
  • Controlling costs

READ the candidate’s official statements beside their photographs.

Six candidates are seeking election to three seats on the Piedmont City Council. Voters can vote for up to three of the candidates. The election is on Tuesday, November 8, 2022. The candidates are shown below in alphabetical order with their ballot statements copied beside their photographs.

Betsy Andersen

Betsy Smegal Andersen

City Council Member

My education and qualifications are: My priorities on the Piedmont City Council have been community health and safety, financial stability, and strong city-school relations. During my time on Council, we have renovated Hampton Park and the Corey Reich Tennis Center, invested $3.75M for future pension needs, facilitated in-town COVID-19 testing, allocated funds to modernize police and fire dispatch, and maintained a balanced budget. Currently, we are rebuilding the city-owned Piedmont Community Pool, thanks to voter-approved Measure UU. As a lifelong resident, I appreciate the challenges and opportunities as we develop strategies to meet our climate action goals, address the state housing crisis, and replace aging infrastructure. Prior to serving on Council, I volunteered on the Public Safety Committee to promote emergency preparedness and chaired the Recreation Commission with a focus on improving recreational facilities and opportunities for all ages. I attended Piedmont public schools, majored in Public Policy at Duke, earned my law degree from UCLA, and practiced law for nearly two decades. My husband, Robert, and I raised our daughters here, Jane (PHS ’18) and Ellie (PHS ’21). If re-elected, I will continue to listen thoughtfully to all voices as we work together to strengthen the community we call home

Sonny Bostrom-Flemming

 

Nancy “Sunny” Bostrom-Fleming

My education and qualifications are: Once upon a time there was a chubby little rich boy who lived in a mansion. He was driven in a limousine to school where he faced name calling, shoving, pinching. His mother sang, taught him piano & knitted him sweaters. He earned two doctorates. One music, one in theology, trained as a Presbyterian minister, married, had two children, four grandchildren, & millions of stepchildren. You might be one of them. His name was Fred Rogers and he lives in your heart. He never forgot the pain he experienced when he was helpless as we all have been or will be. His sweater is at the Smithsonian. My name is Sunny. I ran before. I promoted cameras at Piedmont’s entrances that keep your family & pets safer. My father taught me to swim when I was six months old. When I went to Katrina to help I realized that African-Americans are at a great & deadly disadvantage as far as swimming education is concerned. We can start a program to promote water safety for all children in America, saving thousands of lives. The issues before us are among the most important in our histor

Jennifer Long

Jennifer Long

Appointed City Council Member

My education and qualifications are: I am running for City Council to serve our beautiful community and maintain its greatness as it grows and evolves. With an impending pool build, critical infrastructure repair (and or replacement) and housing development, Piedmont is poised to be a city with the future in mind. In these unprecedented times, our city needs leaders who understand the interests of our citizens to maintain its excellent schools and outstanding public services such as the police and fire department. My perspective as a current member of the council and my direct engagement with the Piedmont community allow me to get to the essence of what is needed to create and maintain a safe, inclusive, and fiscally-sound community. My experience as a current city council member, attorney and life coach provide me with a solid foundation to tackle the matters that lie ahead for Piedmont. Through my work in various community organizations and with my connections to a variety of community members from sports teams to schools, I have a deep understanding of what makes Piedmont the outstanding community we all love and how to make it evolve into a city we will continue to be proud of in the future.

Bridget Harris

Bridget McInerney Harris

Estate Planning Attorney

My  education and qualifications are: I seek election to the City Council to serve the community with a strong commitment to public safety, fiscal discipline, realistic growth and common sense. I believe we can improve our community’s engagement regarding the increased housing requirement imposed by California by introducing more public forums and clear accessible diagrams of what is being discussed and debated. Importantly, I would advocate that all residents should vote before any park or city land is used for multi-family units within the city of Piedmont. Another top priority is public safety with additional support for the police and fire departments; improving both facilities and funding. I would be honored to put my knowledge, work ethic, and love for Piedmont to work as your City Council member. I earned my B.S. from the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, my JD from Gonzaga University, and my Taxation LLM from Georgetown University. I have practiced tax law locally for more than 40 years. We have resided in Piedmont since 1986, raising our four children here. I serve on the Executive Boards of the Piedmont Boy Scouts and Order of Malta Clinic in Oakland, a provider of free medical care to uninsured patients in our community.

Tom Ramsey

Tom Ramsey

Architect

My education and qualifications are: Piedmont’s a great town. 25 years ago, my family moved here for the public schools, and now that our daughters graduated PHS, we stayed for the friendships, location, and services delivered by the city. I value safe neighborhoods, and I expect fiscal responsibility. Our town does have work to do. We have a pool to build as construction costs increase. We have public facilities with deferred maintenance issues. We have the difficult task of navigating the state mandates for housing density in a small town already built out and full of beautiful historic homes and civic buildings. I’m an architect, a problem solver and for over 30 years I’ve been building and leading diverse teams around the Bay Area. I’ll leverage my professional experience and my seven years on the planning commission to continue to accommodate growth while preserving Piedmont’s physical character. I’ve served on committees: Seismic Advisory, Design Guidelines, Measure A1 and I’ve worked with Piedmont’s youth through Scouting’s Community Service Crew for over a decade. I’m confident that when our town is fully engaged and works together, we can successfully resolve the issues in front of us; that’s what makes Piedmont a great town. vote4tomramsey.com

Jeanne Solnordal

Jeanne Solnordal

Broker

My education and qualifications are: I am running for the City Council to bring a much-needed perspective and balance to our beautiful city. Many voices are underrepresented, especially those residents who oppose the plan to add 587 units of affordable housing to Piedmont at a cost of around $850,000 per unit. I am well-educated, having earned a Juris Doctorate degree in 1994 after working for the IRS for 18 years. In 1994 I obtained a Broker’s license and established a property management company which I still run. My legal (landlord/tenant) and tax accounting experience will be very helpful to Piedmont going forward. I will work to prioritize the city’s needs and will be fiscally responsible with your hard earned taxpayer dollars. My family has lived in Piedmont since 2002 and our children attended Piedmont schools. I served as a Girl Scout leader, President of Millennium Parents Club, a school volunteer, and assisted in organizing the Spring Flings and Harvest Festival. Currently, I am serving on the Public Safety Committee. Piedmont is a unique and desirable place to live. Let’s keep it that way.

Oct 17 2022

City must adopt a substantially-compliant Housing Element in three months.

Piedmont is required under State law to adopt a compliant Housing Element by January 31, 2023, or the City will be subject to severe penalties, including loss of much zoning control the very next day.   I don’t think decision-makers or the community are fully tuned into the gravity of the situation.

The laws are not the same as they were five or six years ago, so this lack of awareness may stem from not having experienced this situation before. However, the world has changed. Given the lack of movement on the Housing Element, we are headed toward a train wreck, and all of the granular discussions and work on the element may be moot if the City does not adopt a substantially-compliant Housing Element in three months.

The State Dept of Housing and Community Development (HCD) just clarified 10 days ago that the 120-day grace period that we as a community have been told the City has applies only to the shortened zoning implementation period (one year vs. three years). Everything else, including the dreaded “builder’s remedy” that was enacted by the State in 2019 under which a City loses zoning control, kicks in the following day. See letter from the State to this effect regarding San Francisco here https://twitter.com/derivativeburke/status/1578070771972247552/photo/1

So, come February 1, 2023, anyone can propose any building of any height anywhere, and as long as there is a modest affordable component, they don’t need to comply with zoning regulations, and the City would have no power to deny it. It doesn’t matter what height or setbacks the proposed development has. Santa Monica has seen 4,000 non-zoning compliant housing units—many of them 10 to 15 stories in the middle of neighborhoods—approved in just the eight months their element has not been in compliance. See https://smdp.com/2022/10/12/new-15-story-project-automatically-approved-due-to-late-housing-element/ There are numerous such examples from Southern California where Housing Element deadlines were a year or two ahead of ours, and undoubtedly we will see the same happen in the Bay Area come early next year.

Even if the City has a certified element say by May of next year, if someone files a development application in April, they would be grandfathered and the City would not be able to deny these projects. They just need to get the application in. These projects are not subject to non-objective design review under State law, so nothing can hold them back.

We are already out of time to have a State-certified Housing Element by January end, given that HCD has 90 days to review a first draft and the City has not turned one in. The City can, however, still adopt a substantially-compliant element by the due date and continue to seek State certification. While ideally the City should have State certification as proof of its compliance, it can still assert substantial compliance with State laws while certification is sought. We can do this soon by using the last Housing Element draft and updating housing sites with the direction the Council provided in early summer, and then sending this for HCD review. If there are changes that result from HCD review, the City would make changes, and re-adopt.

Many community members have disagreements with aspects of the current proposal, as do I (I think densities along Grand can be much higher in five- or six-story buildings and along Highland in say four stories than what staff proposals state, numbers in Moraga Canyon should be lower as that area is not walkable or accessible to services and has steep slopes, and the City should also encourage small-plexes in existing neighborhoods). But the broader interest of the community rests on having a compliant, adopted element in place.

Some have pointed that the City Charter demands a vote on allowing multifamily housing on Public lands. They are right, and anyone with a straight reading of the Charter would come to the same conclusion. But if City rules (whether through charter or a City Council action) run afoul of State laws and the City is not able to fulfill its RHNA obligations and have a Housing Element in place in time, all that is irrelevant. Recent court cases do not favor local opposition to State rules. We are also past the time for a vote, even though technically the Charter demands it, and the City leadership should have been attuned to this much earlier. But now waiting for a vote or inaction otherwise will result in alternatives that are much worse. We are running out of time to stop someone from proposing 15-story buildings along Grand or Highland avenues, or maybe a five story-one next to your house, resulting in totally unplanned, non-cohesive development.

All cities are racing to adopt the Housing Element by the January 31st deadline. Just Google San Francisco or Oakland Housing Element and you will find dozens of articles. This should be the single highest priority in the community right now. We need THIS council to move on this now and for the NEXT Council in January to keep marching with this in the broader community interest, regardless of what happens in the upcoming elections. Not to mention our obligations under State law to meet our share of regional housing need and support housing for a diversity of incomes.

Rajeev Bhatia, Piedmont Resident

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Oct 8 2022

The Piedmont City Council is scheduling consideration of the proposed Housing Element on their agenda of Monday, October 17 .  Numerous residents have requested information of what a High Density Multi-family building might look like.

The Piedmont Planning Department has distributed a sketch of the Planning Department’s current concept of what high-density multi-family housing might look like in Piedmont.  The sketch is a 4 – 5 story building with dwelling units, shops and parking on the ground floor,

Of the 587 required new dwelling units in Piedmont, it is estimated that this configuration could possibly provide up to 40 units depending on property size. 

Draft Multifamily Objective Design Standards

On October 5, 2022, the City’s housing staff [Planning Department] and consultants published a draft new generation of the Piedmont Design Review standards, called the Piedmont Multifamily Objective Design Standardsor MODS, for public review and comment. Click here to access the draft document. Public comment can be sent to the City today until to November 21, 2022. Piedmont Planning Department

A public hearing by the Planning Commission is tentatively scheduled for December 2022 or January 2023. Email comments to Piedmontishome@piedmont.ca.gov

The draft MODS document has been developed in compliance with State law to give the community a good deal of predictability in the design of new multifamily and mixed-use development and to enhance the character of Piedmont neighborhoods. The MODS include measures to reduce loss of privacy and other possible impacts on surrounding single-family properties.

Objective design standards are mandated across California by State laws, including SB 35 and others, in effect starting January 1, 2018. They are intended to streamline the review of multifamily housing, which is often a more affordable housing type than others, for both homebuyers and renters.

Piedmont Planning Department

Oct 5 2022

Utilizing factual information and critical thinking to discuss issues allows voters to make informed decisions. Voters need to be heard and provide input on an issue that will forever change the community.

The Housing Element, while necessary, must be done with community input, excellent planning and leadership.  In the California Department of Housing and Community Development Department(HCD) “building block” of the Housing Element is “Public Participation.”

Below is an excerpt from the California Department of Housing and Community Department.

“Housing issues affect the entire community – residents, employers, and the
public and private sectors. The public participation requirement of housing
element law presents an opportunity to engage constituents in a dialogue 
defining problems and creating solutions.” Housing Element Building Blocks

Had there been better and early communication and outreach to the community, we would not be in this predicament of many citizens confused about zoning, density bonuses, and the Housing Element. Dismissing the community’s opinion without a vote is not the democracy I would like to see in this community or anywhere.

There may be a cost for a special election, yet the contribution to ensuring inclusivity by each voter in this community cannot be undervalued. As HCD recommends the following:

“While the housing element must address specific statutory requirements, it is ultimately a local plan and should reflect the vision and priorities of the community.”

We might miss the “looming” deadline. Yet, we will have done the right thing to identify the correct sites with thoughtful, measured decisions that are in keeping with the long-term strategic planning of the city along with maintaining the charm and beauty.

Saving money and time should never be a reason to remove the right and privilege to vote.

Cori Recht, Piedmont Resident

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