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 14 2022

With additional votes added to the totals, the elected candidates remain the same.  See updated voting totals for the City Council and School Board positions below.

City Council – Three Seats Up for Election – 3 Candidates with highest number of votes are considered elected pending final official certification.

Candidate No. of Votes
Betsy Smegal Andersen 4,679
Tom Ramsey 3,917
Jennifer Long 3,898
Bridget McInerney Harris 1,674
Jeanne Solnordal 982
Sunny Bostrom-Fleming 200

Board of Education – Two Seats Up for Election – 2 Candidates with highest number of votes are considered elected pending final official certification.

Candidate No. of Votes
Ruchi Medhekar 4.288
Lindsay Thomasson 3,946
Shirley Hooi 1,691

These results were posted to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters website at: 9:17 p.m. on Monday, November 21, 2022.

Nov 8 2022

UPDATED RESULTS NOVEMBER 10, 2022 –

This information is based upon results posted on the Registrar of Voters website.  Results are shown as of Thursday, November 10, 2022.

Results are not considered final until certified by the Registrar of Voters Office, which has 30 days to do so.

City Council

Three Seats Up for Election – The 3 candidates receiving the highest number of votes are considered elected pending certification.

Candidate No. of Votes

Betsy Smegal Andersen

2,145

Tom Ramsey

1,823

Jennifer Long

1,804
Bridget McInerney Harris 790
Jeanne Solnordal 518
Sunny Bostrom-Fleming 99

Board of Education –

Two Seats Up for Election -The 2 candidates receiving the highest number of votes are considered elected pending certification.

Candidate No. of Votes

Ruchi Medhekar

1,920

Lindsay Thomasson

1,812
Shirley Hooi 861

These results were posted to the Registrar of Voters website on Thursday, November 10, 2022.

The Piedmont Civic Association congratulates those elected to office and thanks all who sought office.  Voters are praised for their attention to this important civic responsibility.

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 2 2022

As we head towards the home stretch of the November 8th election, and for those who have not yet voted, let me share with you my thoughts of why I support and voted for Betsy Andersen, Jennifer Long, and Tom Ramsey for Piedmont City Council.

As a 40-year Piedmont resident, longtime volunteer for the City, former Mayor and City Council member, I know what it takes to effectively serve on the City Council.  Betsy and Jennifer, as incumbents, have demonstrated their ability to listen to all viewpoints, thoughtful analysis of issues, being collaborative, their leadership, and have a commendable history of volunteering in our community.  I have met with Tom and am impressed with his professional background as an architect, service on the Planning Commission for 7 years, and his many other volunteer activities, utilizing his professional experience and skills for the benefit of the community.  Tom’s colleagues and neighbors have nothing but praise for Tom’s expertise, fairness, problem-solving and decision-making abilities, and leadership.  Tom will be a strong addition to the Piedmont City Council.

John Chiang, former Piedmont Mayor

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 31 2022

If you have not already voted in the November 8th School Board Election, below are listed, in random, not priority order, some of the pressing issues the new School Board members will face;

  • Hiring a new superintendent
  • Teacher contracts – compensation and conditions
  • Open enrollment – out of Piedmont admissions
  • Student and teacher retention
  • Budgetary controls
  • Communication with parents and the community
  • Diversity, inclusion and opportunity
  • Safety on campuses 
  • Excellence in education for all students
  • Healthy learning environment
  • Counseling for all students
  • Completion of new facilities
  • Working collaboratively with the City
  • Open transparent governing

Three candidates are seeking election to two seats on the Piedmont Unified School District Board of Directors. Voters can vote for up to two of the candidates. The election is on Tuesday, November 8, 2022.

The candidates are listed below in alphabetical order along with their photographs and ballot statements.

Shirley Hooi

Shirley Hooi

Entrepreneur/Businesswoman/Mother

My education and qualifications are: COVID-related online learning has forced PUSD students to endure an unprecedented period of educational losses and mental stress. Now is a crucial period to help our students get back on track. I believe that parent, student and community member involvement in school board decisions is critical. Their opinions should be considered in the selection of the superintendent, along with issues regarding school curriculum and teacher retention/recruitment. As a product of the Oakland Unified School District, PUSD was regarded as the epitome of an exceptional public school education. Families strived to move to Piedmont to raise their children in a community in which a public school education was comparable to the local private schools. Unfortunately this has changed and PUSD continues to lose students to local private schools every year. My immigrant parents instilled in their children the belief of education and hard work as a path out of poverty. Now as a PUSD parent, it is my role to instill the same beliefs upon my children. If you support this philosophy, now is the time for me to be your voice on the school board. Get Involved: www.shirleyhooi.com

Ruchi Medhekar

Ruchi Medhekar

Healthcare Executive/Parent

My education and qualifications are: I’m running for school board for four primary reasons: i) to strengthen district academics at all grade levels, ii) to foster curiosity and creative thinking in our students; iii) to strengthen positive relationships between teachers, administrators, and parents; and iv) to provide equitable opportunities that promote students’ emotional well-being. I have benefited tremendously from a strong STEAM education – graduating from MIT with undergraduate degrees in biology and chemical engineering, and a PhD in microbiology from UCLA. Currently, I work for a healthcare IT company, responsible for product and strategy. I grew up in the Bay Area and have lived in Piedmont since 2016. My husband is a local physician, and our daughters are in kindergarten and 4th grade at Beach. I’ve volunteered in many capacities at Beach, for PUSD, and our city: as classroom parent, VP and president of the Beach Parents Organization, on the Tri-School Site Council, Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) Committee, and the district’s Budget Advisory Committee. I am on the board of the Piedmont Education Foundation and on the Piedmont Recreation Commission. These opportunities have helped me understand the needs of different stakeholders in the district, which will be invaluable in achieving my goals.

Lindsay Thomasson

Lindsay Thomasson

Parent

My education and qualifications are: As the parent of students currently at PMS, Havens, and in preschool, I have held numerous volunteer roles over the past five years, giving me a robust understanding of how our district works, its strengths and weaknesses. I served as Havens’ Parent Club President, on the LCAP Committee, Superintendent Community Advisory Committee, and Wellness Center Committee, to name a few. As a member of PUSD’s Board of Education, my priorities would be to ensure PUSD has the leadership and resources to provide students an excellent, well-rounded academic experience, including the hiring of a superintendent aligned in our goals, and attracting and retaining well-qualified, diverse, engaged educators. This will allow PUSD to truly equip students with the essential critical-thinking, STEAM, and language arts skills needed to succeed at the universities and in the careers of their choosing. I have attended California public schools my entire life, culminating in degrees from Cal Berkeley and UCSD. Piedmont schools are the foundation of our community, yet the past three years have been divisive. To move forward we must engage in meaningful community dialogue, be pragmatic and creative, ensure all stakeholders are engaged in our decision-making processes, and always put students first.

Oct 22 2022

Here’s my perspective on School Board Candidate Shirley Hooi’s Public Records request:

The school district is planning and in the process of making many changes to the curriculum and educational materials as part of anti-racist, anti-white privilege, and pro equity directives from their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Director and Director of Curriculum and Instruction.  Obviously, Shirley Hooi, or any candidate for school board, might find it useful to obtain educational materials from the school district.  Her request was a legitimate request made only a few days after announcing her candidacy.  The school district anticipates dozens of California Public Records Act (CPRA) requests throughout the year and allocates the appropriate resources to fulfill them in a timely manner.

In this digital era, where entire Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) textbooks are online, it’s reasonable to expect that the requested educational materials existed in digital format and thus would be producible via email.  Or that at least one physical copy of such materials is maintained in the district office.  So, it’s not obvious that the CPRA request was inordinately burdensome.   When Shirley became aware that her request was burdensome, she did reduce the scope of her request to just the most recent year.

There are excellent reasons why reasonable people are concerned about the quality of education at Piedmont schools. The California test scores, the state and national rankings, declines in enrollment, reports from various parent clubs, and the contents of Piedmont’s School Board meetings all indicate that Piedmont’s schools need to refocus their efforts on academics.    From my personal conversations with each of the school board candidates (over thirty minutes each), and from their presentations in various public forums, they all aim to have PUSD refocus efforts and return to the high-quality education previously produced.  The key difference among them is that Shirley Hooi believes the curriculum is delving into too many social areas that are traditionally the domain of parents.

Dai Meagher
Piedmont resident and PHS graduate

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