Jul 26 2022

Should Piedmont adhere to the the City Charter with voter control over zoning uses/classifications or forfeit control to the City Council?

What should come first – voter approval of zoning reclassifications/use changes or City Council approval of the Housing Element (HE) requiring the reclassifications/use changes?

The question is not whether or not proposed changes are good or bad; the question is who has the right to change the zoning usage/classifications? State laws have limited control over city zoning laws. 

The currently proposed Piedmont Housing Element defeats the Piedmont City Charter.

The City Council proposes to change usage on public property to multiple family zoning via the Housing Element (HE).  Piedmont Parks, the Arts Center, City Hall, Veterans Building, Blair Park, Skate Board Park, and Corporation Yard – historic buildings and uses are proposed for change of use.

Once the HE has specified in writing the locations of the required 587 new housing units and is approved by the City Council along with the state, the City of Piedmont is required to adhere to the zoning changes specified in the HE.  The Piedmont Housing Element and General Plan are firm government commitments to to the state, commercial developers, individuals, organizations, groups, property owners to be implemented during the 8 year HE term. 

The process being utilized by the City Council makes zoning changes/reclassifications the sole authority of the City Council rejecting the language within the City Charter that  requires voter control over changes/reclassification of zones.

Will Piedmont voters have an opportunity to approve the change of use/ reclassification per the City Charter, or will the City Council put zoning changes in the HE and require voter approval of the zoning changes after the HE is approved? Piedmont’s proposed HE requires zoning use/reclassification turning parks and public property into multiple housing. 

It has been publicly stated and proposed that park land would be declared surplus property and sold or reused/reclassified without voter approval.

Piedmont’s five zones are classified as: public, commercial, multi-family, single-family and single-family Estate – with all zones permitting single-family housing.   In Piedmont, the use determines the classification of a zone.

“Classified, Reclassified, and use” are keywords within the City Charter.

Voter approval on zoning is well established in Piedmont per the voter approved Piedmont City Charter.  Only voters can change zone usage/classifications.  Adherence to the City Charter is not a matter of how much it cost to adhere to the Charter; adherence is a matter of law. 

The words “classification and reclassifications”, describe the “use” within a zone as can be seen by reading the City Charter copied below:.

City Charter ARTICLE IX. General Provision

SECTION 9.02 ZONING SYSTEM The City of Piedmont is primarily a residential city, and the City Council shall have power to establish a zoning system within the City as may in its judgement 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 may be 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 zones allow single-family development, Michelle Kenyon, Piedmont’s contract City Attorney, stated in regard to the HE’s proposed changes that multiple family housing is housing, and therefore allowed in all zones.   Kenyon has used other cities’ definitions of “classification and reclassification”, rather than relying on language found in Piedmont’s City Charter with “use” determining a classification.

City Attorney Kenyon has instructed the Piedmont City Council and Planning Commission that Piedmont voter approval of the proposed land use changes/reclassifications are not required because: no new zone is being created; no zone is  being enlarged; no zone is being reduced.  Importantly, Kenyon’s advice results in the ability of the City Council to change the use/ reclassification of zones without voter approval.

City Charter ARTICLE IX. General Provision:

SECTION 9.02 ZONING SYSTEM (Excerpt from above)

“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 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.”

As noted above, the City Charter allows property owners in the multifamily or commercial zone to rezone their property to exclusively be for single-family zoning.  The City Charter in this section informs the definition of “classification and rezoning” as “use” in the zones.  It is unknown how the Kenyon opinion accommodates the zone use/ classification  language written into the City Charter. 

Timing:

The City Council has known for over a year, there would be significant challenges to Piedmont zoning to accommodate 587 new housing units in Piedmont; while other cities have allowed voter participation, Piedmont voters have not been given a chance to act on the zoning per the City Charter, The deadline for placing a ballot measure on the November 2022 ballot ends in August. 

What if voters do not approve the HE changes?  Are voters no longer permitted to approve  or disapprove the zoning changes?  Does the City Council plan to follow outside counsel advice and eliminate voter approval?

Jul 16 2022

Many issues currently face the School Board and City Council.  Who will Piedmont citizens elect to represent them in crucial decisions and far-reaching actions on these issues? Will it be you or someone else who would be appropriate in these important positions?

Election campaigns can bring discussion, publicity, citizen involvement, and an open airing of issues.  Think about what you feel is important and either run for an office or seek a person qualified for the November 8, 2022 election.

NOMINATION PERIOD FOR CITY COUNCIL AND BOARD OF EDUCATION

JULY 18TH TO AUGUST 12TH, 2022

The City of Piedmont will hold its General Municipal Election on November 8, 2022.

The nomination period for the three vacancies on the Piedmont City Council and two vacancies on the Board of Education opens on Monday, July 18th.

The deadline for submitting completed paperwork is Friday, August 12th at 5:00 p.m. There is no cost to candidates to file for election.

The City Council and Board of Education are Piedmont’s two elected bodies and guide the operation of City government and the Piedmont Unified School District respectively. Members of these bodies may serve a maximum of 2 consecutive four-year terms.

The City publishes the Guide to Nomination and Candidacy, which provides details about the nomination and candidacy process which prospective candidates should find useful.

Prospective candidates are required to schedule an appointment to take out nomination papers with the City Clerk’s office. An appointment will also be required to submit the nomination papers once the candidate has completed their work. These appointments generally last between 30 minutes and one hour.

Residents with questions about the process or wishing to make an appointment can call the City Clerk’s office at (510) 420-3040 or send an email to cityclerk@piedmont.ca.gov.

Read the Council resolution calling for the election below:

https://piedmont.ca.gov/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=18746218

 

Jul 11 2022

At its June 20 meeting, the City Council made two preliminary decisions regarding sites for the 215 or so low-income housing units state law requires Piedmont to accommodate. The Council removed the Vista Avenue tennis courts from the list of potential sites and added Blair Park. Both choices appear at odds with recommendations made, after months of study, by the city’s professional staff as well as its paid consultants and the citizen advisory committee appointed by the Council.

The Council argued that listing the tennis courts, recently upgraded with help from citizen gifts, for low-income housing would discourage philanthropic giving to the city.  The argument for including Blair Park was that Piedmont must use or lose its share of County funding for low-income housing and that the Park provides opportunity for relatively fast development.

A moment’s reflection, however, calls both these arguments into question.  Residents have given gifts to both the city and to the Piedmont Beautification Foundation to upgrade Blair Park.  Friends of Moraga Canyon, for example, funded a landscaping plan, commissioned by the city, for the Park.  Despite the plan, the city chose to leave the Park “as is.”  Why? City staff argued, among other points, that improving the Park would attract users and that traffic engineers had not found a way to safely separate visitors to the Park, particularly children, from high-speed traffic on Moraga Avenue.

The city did, however, allow the family and friends of Barbara Peters, who dedicated four decades of service to the city and its residents, to place a bench in her memory in the Park she worked so hard to protect.  This is the bench to which a councilperson referred when characterizing Blair Park disparagingly as “just a bench.”  Is there a more effective way to discourage philanthropic giving to the city than to have councilpersons publicly disparage gifts?

The argument that Blair Park presents a more timely or attractive opportunity for developers than the tennis courts also appears less than compelling.  Time will certainly be lost when residents and environmental groups appeal the use of parkland to meet housing requirements. The State does not encourage cities to use parks to meet housing mandates and no other city has done so. Piedmont, moreover, already has one of the lowest ratios in the Bay Area of parkland to residents.

Most of Blair Park that is not steep hillside is a former landfill.  No one knows what the landfill contains other than San Francisco Bay mud, likely to harbor mercury and other heavy metals, from the construction of transbay BART tunnels.  This circumstance will lead to time consuming testing as well as expensive and contentious mitigation.  Without testing and mitigation, the city may have to indemnify developers and future managers of the apartments against claims of building defects and toxic exposure.

Building 150 or 200 apartments in Blair Park will certainly require expensive and time-consuming realignment and extension of sewer, water, and power lines, not to mention the reconfiguration of Moraga Avenue to ensure traffic and pedestrian safety.  And how long will it take to negotiate responsibility for the liability that comes with managing traffic on Moraga Avenue and its interchange with the 13 Freeway during construction?

And, of course, any prospective developer will have to assess the cost of uncertainty likely to arise because some Piedmont residents assume, with good reason, that their City Charter requires a vote of the citizens to convert parkland to residential use.  The Council may claim that loopholes allow them to avoid such a vote, but residents may see it differently and seek time-consuming redress.

The tennis court site, on the other hand, is flat, within walking distance of elementary, middle, and high schools as well as of banks, churches, the arts center, and the local market.  Piedmont Park and the new aquatics center are as close. Water, power, and sewer infrastructure is on site.  No landfill or landslide risks require mitigation. And the recent completion of nearby large school facilities shows that the traffic disruptions of construction in the area can be acceptably managed.

Given the above, why would the City Council ignore the recommendations of its professional staff, paid consultants, and citizen committee and swap Blair Park for the tennis courts? Why would the Council concentrate low-income families as far from Piedmont schools, services, and social as well as civic life as physically possible?  Is convenient access to a tennis court more important to us than the isolation of 200 low-income families?

Our predecessors brazenly used city resources to drive minority families from Piedmont. They countenanced race-based restrictive covenants. And they allowed a private club to operate a city-owned swim facility when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 required integration of publicly operated accommodations. Given this history, how will our, or a future, City Council dissuade an objective observer from judging the choice to isolate and stigmatize 200 low-income families as anything other than a continuation of exclusionary policy?

I believe most Piedmonters want the city to comply with housing mandates in a way that conveys the best of our values rather than the worst of our instincts. I urge the Council to honor those values as well as its own adopted policy of distributing affordable housing throughout the city.  Do the right thing for generations of Piedmonters – adopt the inclusionary recommendations of your staff, consultants, and citizens’ committee.

Ralph Catalano, Piedmont Resident 

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

Hello City Council:

I won’t have time this weekend (Father’s Day festivities) to review the staff report but wanted to offer up these observations and suggestions about the Housing Element (HE) for your consideration Monday. I attended the HE workshops, participated in the online surveys and have read the HE.

1.     SB 9: staff has stated at several meetings that the Department of Housing and Development (HCD) is not accepting unit projections based on this SB 9.  HCD guidance says otherwise and several cities are submitting such projections.  Please clarify why staff has not done so and direct them to conduct this analysis for inclusion in the final HE.  Not considering the potential for SB 9 to produce units in the next cycle is bad planning.

2.     Multi-family zone:  the HE makes no projections for units from this zone over the next 8 years.  This is short-sighted in that this area is a logical zone for new units and the HE increases zone density for that reason.  Staff simply needs to cite other such developments in the Temescal, Pleasant Valley Rd etc. to show that this development is highly likely. These developments are not in Piedmont but are very local and I would think HCD would understand that similar developments are likely to occur in Piedmont.  Also clarify whether the small housing policy prohibits the destruction of the small houses on Linda to the Oakland Avenue bridge.  Conversion of these lots to multi-family buildings could vastly increase the number of units.

3.     ADUs: the incentives workshop mentioned increasing ADU height from 16 to 18-20 feet. The workshop also presented the idea of garage conversions by presented to specific building height. The HE now has specific height for garage conversions (24 ft) but does not mention what the new height for ADU will be. Please clarify this point;  I asked staff but received no response.  I think the ADU projections (20/year) is an underestimate; ADU development rate these past three years was likely influenced by COVID restrictions.

4.     Extremely low/very low-income units:  the HE provide no details on where these units will occur in Piedmont, which according to HCD should be over 120 units.  I asked about this at the last workshop and the consultant could not answer.  Instead he referred to the Alameda County family of four income ($100,000) as a target for Piedmont’s low income housing.  The HE policy to prioritize housing for PUSD and City of Piedmont employees dovetails with this target – these employees will meet this income level but very low and extremely low Alameda County residents won’t.  Where will the housing be for families of these income levels?

5.     Better outreach:  the process leading up to the HE utilized several different communication/engagement methods. Now that the draft of out, those methods should be used again.  Particularly, staff should conduct an online survey of the HE and particularly focus on policies not included in the workshop or prior surveys:  ADU tax on large remodels, purchase of supportive housing by the City of Piedmont, revocation of charter elements for example.

6.     General Plan:  staff conceded it has not completed an analysis of how the HE integrates with the General Plan.  Inquire about this and what elements of the Plan staff thinks will be impacted.

Garrett Keating, Former City Council Member

Editors’ Note:  Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Jun 16 2022

While a lot of work has been done on the Housing Element, some significant changes to the sites inventory are needed to ensure compliance with State laws and community objectives. In particular, the element fails to include a single realistic site that would be available for construction of lower-income housing over the next several years.

Additionally, the City’s proposal to locate majority of its housing, including all affordable housing, on currently non-surplus public sites (as defined under State law), many actively used for civic and recreational uses (e.g., police station, Veterans Hall, tennis courts) is highly unusual, and perhaps unique among hundreds of California cities. This would encumber the City with obligations post-adoption it may struggle to meet, resulting in highly messy implementation, significant financial burdens, and potential loss of civic facilities and parks, even if this strategy passes muster with the State.

I will first start with some easy opportunities that should be captured, followed by a discussion of the some of the items raised above.

1.      COUNT ALLOWABLE SITES CURRENTLY NOT INCLUDED IN THE INVENTORY

The Housing Element currently fails to reflect housing and sites allowed to be counted under State laws, which should be included in the sites inventory, and would put some dent in remaining housing needs:

Housing for which certificate of occupancy will be issued July 1, 2022 to Jan. 31, 2023

These are not included in the current draft of the Housing Element, as it seems from the June 6th community workshop, that the City’s consultant was unaware of this provision. This stems from the difference in the Housing Element Planning Period (which starts January 2023) and the regional data Projection Period (which starts July 1, 2022). The State HCD reference to this has been provided to staff and hopefully this will be corrected in the next draft of the Housing Element. https://www.hcd.ca.gov/community-development/housing-element/docs/6th-web-he-duedate.pdf. At the current pace of development, this would likely be 12 to 15 units, but City staff should have precise building permitting data.

SB-9 Units

It’s a bit puzzling why these have been left out of consideration for housing sites. City staff mentioned at the public workshop that housing built under SB-9 would be reflected in the City’s Housing Element annual progress reports as achievements following adoption, but including this now would help the City meet a portion of its housing needs. Several Southern California jurisdictions have used SB-9 without running into issues with the State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), and Bay Area cities such as Mill Valley, Larkspur, and Ross are using these as well. SB-9 has both a lot split and a non lot-split component. However, rules (e.g., direct street access from a new lot to street) need to be spelled out by cities, and Piedmont has not done so yet. Actual yield would need to be calculated using Geographic Information Systems calculations, but a guess is that 40 to 50 units from this could result.

2.      PROVIDE MEANINGFUL LOWER-INCOME HOUSING OPPORTUNITIES

The draft Housing Element fails to make available any realistic sites for affordable housing, as required under State law. All lower income sites are located on City-owned land, none of which is surplus. I am not aware of any other city in California that is doing this, especially for the entirety of its lower-income housing program. The Civic Center sites are unrealistic (see below) and the Housing Element would require preparation of a Specific Plan for the Moraga Canyon sites, adoption of which is a discretionary City Council action, and thus there is no certainty that this will happen, and even if it does, would certainly push out site availability by several years. Thus, the City’s commitment to lower-income housing is questionable.

3.     REMOVE CIVIC CENTER SITES AS THESE ARE UNREALISTIC FOR HOUSING AND HAVE POTENTIAL TO GENERATE MASSIVE PROBLEMS FOR CITY POST HOUSING ELEMENT ADOPTION

The Housing Element has sites in the Civic Center area that are actively used for civic and recreational uses (e.g., police station, Veterans Hall, tennis courts), and Highland Green. There are no details in the Housing Element of housing will result on these sites.  There are some real practical problems – e.g., the cost to rehab and seismically retrofit Veterans Hall and the Police Building alone was estimated by the City at $15 million to $20 million two years ago, and the City decided not to place these together with pool reconstruction on the bond ballot measure at the same time. So currently there is no funding for these. If housing is built together with these facilities, these facilities will need to be replaced, not just rehabbed, at significantly higher costs, which may be several multiples of the rehab cost. The City does not have money to rehab these facilities, let alone build new ones. Housing on top of these structures would also be much more expensive to build and be unlikely for even market-rate housing, let alone for affordable housing.

Additionally, there are legal uncertainties. The City Charter does not permit reclassification of existing zones, and going from allowing one single-family unit per site in the Civic Center area to higher density housing at 60 or 80 units per acre is reclassification of Public zone to Public/Residential for all practical purposes, regardless of whether the zone title is changed. The City also cannot commit any monies to affordable housing under the California constitution, without a vote of the people (as example, Oakland has a ballot measure in place for November asking the voters to authorize this).

It should be noted that following the demise of redevelopment which provided monies for affordable housing to cities, State law was changed to allow cities to use a minimum “default density” as a proxy for affordable housing. In the Bay Area/Piedmont, this is 30 units per acre. So while housing elements may have sites at densities higher than this as having potential for income-restricted housing, in practice, it is rare for these sites get developed with affordable housing, as these require subsidies and assembling of financing packages, that are often difficult to cobble together. The higher densities do facilitate development of market-rate workforce and senior housing, so these sites do serve a useful purpose.

Because the City is the owner of the sites where the lower-income sites are shown, it would be incumbent upon the City to demonstrate how lower-income (that is, income-restricted) housing would result, in more detail in the Housing Element. The City needs to lay out this roadmap in the element to satisfy the State. Later, say when the City is ready to move along with rehabbing Veterans Hall, it would need to wait for a housing partner. The City may need to issue RFPs to attract developers, convince the State that no developers were found if that is the case, and have to find other sites to zone under new State laws passed in 2018, which means starting over.

This approach is so fraught with potential problems, that I don’t readily know of any city in California that is doing this as part of their Housing Element inventories, not even cities with a lot more dedicated staff and resources or huge commitments to housing. While this may seem like an easy way to find sites and get the Housing Element certified, the real problems will emerge and consume the City for the several years AFTER the Housing Element is adopted and certified, and present problems that the City may find hard to extricate itself from.

The City should remove these sites from further consideration in the Housing Element, especially as it is possible to meet both lower-income and overall housing needs through other methods.

4.      REMOVE HIGHLAND GREEN FROM CONSIDERATION

The City should also remove Highland Green from consideration as a housing site. This site has a total of five paltry units capacity as per the Housing Element (which is a lot less than the SB-9 units the City believes it doesn’t need to count), is used for July 4th parade staging, and is barely 25 feet deep, and unsuited for housing. Piedmont also is short on parks and recreation space, and the EIR on the Housing Element will likely show a significant and unavoidable park impact with the addition of new housing, requiring the City to undertake all feasible measures to mitigate these impacts under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

5.      REMOVE REQUIREMENT OF SPECIFIC PLAN FOR MORAGA CANYON DEVELOPMENT

A requirement of a Specific Plan as a prelude to any development in this area will delay development. This is also unnecessary, as utilities are available at the site and the City can apportion areas here easily for housing development to enable development to proceed. The City is already required under State law to prepare objective housing design standards, which could be tailored for the area.

6.      DESIGNATE ONE OF THE TWO GRAND AVENUE SITES FOR LOWER-INCOME HOUSING

The Housing Element designates Ace Hardware and Sylvan office building for moderate and higher income housing. These sites are within the acreage (0.5 acres to 10.0 acres) range that HCD recommends for lower-income housing, and should be designated for these instead of Civic Center sites. Development at these sites will likely take place by razing the existing buildings, and housing can be easily incorporated as part of redevelopment. Regardless, it will up to the market to perform development here–whether it’s affordable, market rate, or senior–rather than encumbering the City with this responsibility.

7.      CONSIDER HIGHER DENSITIES ALONG GRAND AVENUE AND HIGHLAND AVENUE TO MAKE UP SHORTFALL RESULTING FROM REMOVAL OF CIVIC CENTER SITES

The proposed densities of 80 units per acre along Grand and Highland avenues are low, and can be increased to 120 or 140 units per acre, within five stories. For context, much of the new development along Broadway in Oakland in Broadway Valdez area are at about three times this density. The new six-story residential building with a 35,000 s.f. Target store and other commercial uses Broadway/26th is at 240 units per acre, in a seven-story configuration (six stories residential above commercial). Half this much density, especially along Grand Avenue, is not unreasonable. This a great area, walkable, with access to stores, school, and amenities.

Calculation of how increase in density at Grand Avenue to 140 units per acre max. and Highland sites to 100 units per acre would result in the same number of units after removal of Civic Center sites has been provided to the City. It should be noted that were SB-9 units to be counted, the proposed Highland Avenue densities can be left as proposed in the Housing Element (80 units per acre), and Grand Avenue densities increased to 120 units per acre.

8.      ADDITIONAL ITEMS FOR CONSIDERATION

Promoting Missing Middle Housing

The Housing Element does not consider strategies to foster a greater variety of housing types (for examples triplexes, fourplexes) in some or all single-family areas. This may run afoul of the City Charter, but is a strategy worth considering, and is much less of a change from the City Charter than what is being considered for the Public zone in the draft element. The City can maintain the existing development regulations (pertaining to setbacks, heights, floor area ratios) to ensure that these blend in into existing neighborhoods.

Consideration of Walkability and Access to Amenities

The draft Housing Element has a lot of housing units (132) squeezed into a relatively small area at the Corp Yard site. This area does not have the same access to stores, services, and transit as the Grand Avenue area, yet the highest densities (80 units per acre max.) are the same in the two areas. This number should be reduced, and more housing accommodated along Grand and Highland avenues. The City may also find that less development is needed here once SB-9 sites are counted.

Rajeev Bhatia, Piedmont Resident
The above letter was sent to the Piedmont City Council.
Editors’ Note:  Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Jun 15 2022

One of the missing puzzle pieces from the Piedmont Housing Element is an analysis of the potential for Senate Bill 9 (SB 9) to add new housing to Piedmont over the next 8 years.

In short, SB 9 allows property owners with lots of a certain size to subdivide and add two units on the new lot with virtually no restrictions from the municipal authority.  There are many of these lots in Piedmont’s Zones A and E and their development under SB 9 could contribute significantly to meeting the goal of 587 units by 2031.

This type of housing growth is new and in March 2022 the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), the state agency in charge of setting the 2031 housing goals, published guidance on how cities can develop projections for SB 9 growth to include in their 2023 Housing Elements.  That guidance states:

“To utilize projections based on SB 9 toward a jurisdiction’s regional housing need allocation, the housing element must: 1) include a site-specific inventory of sites where SB 9 projections are being applied, 2) include a non-vacant sites analysis demonstrating the likelihood of redevelopment and that the existing use will not constitute an impediment for additional residential use, 3) identify any governmental constraints to the use of SB 9 in the creation of units (including land use controls, fees, and other exactions, as well as locally adopted ordinances that impact the cost and supply of residential development), and 4) include programs and policies that establish zoning and development standards early in the planning period and implement incentives to encourage and facilitate development. The element should support this analysis with local information such as local developer or owner interest to utilize zoning and incentives established through SB 9.”

SB 9 Fact Sheet

Several Bay Area cities are following this guidance and including SB 9 projections in their Housing Elements. The City of Atherton projects 80 units over the next 8 years based on limited community input and a GIS analysis of large lots in their community (see page 72 of the draft Atherton Housing Element).  Larkspur is conducting a survey of property owners to gauge their interest in developing their property ( Larkspur Property Owner Survey).  The City of Ross is also considering including an SB 9 analysis in its Housing Element  (Ross Housing Element).   Housing advocates are calling on cites to include SB 9 projections in their housing elements as well.  A letter sent to the City of Piedmont from East Bay for Everyone and the Greenbelt Alliance states:

“The Draft Housing Element states that the city plans to “Amend the Zoning Ordinance to encourage large lot splits under SB 9 by early 2027”.  Piedmont’s primary method of building new Moderate and Above-Moderate Income housing may well be lot splits and duplexes on existing lots, which makes this an unreasonable time frame. The City should go further than SB9 requires and allow for building housing in Zones A and E, such as fourplexes, six-plexes, Cottage Courts, Townhouses, and similar building styles. We believe that allowing the construction of fourplexes and six-plexes will increase the likelihood of development on each site and lower the price per square foot of the new homes, which will make them available to a wider range of people. Adding more units per lot will increase the amount of tax revenue and impact fees the city collects, which will make it easier to construct subsidized affordable housing on other sites in the inventory.”
                                                                                                            East Bay for Everyone/Greenbelt Alliance

Yet with all this evidence to the contrary, the Piedmont Planning Department insists that HCD will not accept SB 9 projections in its housing element.  The public record says otherwise and staff should explain its position in light of the HCD SB 9 guidance.   Staff does acknowledge that these SB 9 units will count towards housing goals should they develop but in so doing are losing an opportunity now to properly plan for that growth for the betterment of the community.  For example, to incentivize development, the Housing Element increases densities in the multi-use zone, thereby risking the conversion of Ace Hardware to housing.   Likewise, to develop moderate income housing, the Housing Element proposes using public sites in the Civic Center and Corporation Yard, important public spaces the city needs to modernize.  Were the Planning Department to account for SB 9 moderate income units in Zones A and E (and incentivize that as the housing advocates suggest), the City would not need to propose housing development for these essential private and public spaces.

Fortunately, there is time for an SB9 analysis to be included in the Housing Element – the deadline for the document is May 2023.  But Council will have to step up and direct staff to do so.  Otherwise, the Housing Element will fail to account for a significant source of new housing potential, which staff always reminds us is the whole point of this exercise.

Garrett Keating, Former Member of the Piedmont City Council

Editors’ Note:  Opinions expressed are those the author.
Jun 7 2022

– Imposed Housing, New School Superintendent, Police and Fire, Zoning, Taxes, Transparency, School Funding, Open Accessible Government, Safety, Utility Undergrounding, Equity, Safe Sidewalks, Recreation for All, Lower Student Enrollment, Pandemic Requirements, Budgets, Environment, Employee Selections, Teacher Retention, and more …..

Have you or someone you know thought of seeking election to the Piedmont City Council or School Board?

Now is a good time to get a campaign underway.

Filing for the November 8, 2022 Election starts on Monday, July 18, 2022 @ 8:30 AM

The races for the City Council and School Board are non-partisan.  Piedmont has historically followed a “who do you know” pattern of election with endorsements from individuals and sometimes groups for particular candidates.  With many issues to be considered during the election, certain special interest groups or individuals will coalless. 

Although John Tulloch, Piedmont’s City Clerk, has yet to publish the various deadlines and requirements for placing your name on the Piedmont November 2022 ballot, he may be contacted at 510/420-3040 for information. 

Editors’ Note: The Piedmont Civic Association (PCA) does not support or oppose particular candidates seeking elected office, but greatly encourages participatory democracy and elections.
Jun 7 2022

Elected Positions Open on City Council and School Board –

Campaign Coffee Invitation

Are you an active community leader with vast talents you would love to put to work to make our community and schools a better place to learn, live and grow? Have you ever considered running for public office but don’t know where to start?

Whether you’ve always dreamed of running for office or thought that would never be you, there’s a place and a path for everyone. Our city and schools need YOU! And we’re here to show you how and to support you on your journey.

During the November 2022 election cycle, the Piedmont Unified School District will have two openings as Amal Smith will be termed out and Board Member Megan Pillsbury is not running for reelection. The Piedmont City Council will have three openings as Mayor Teddy Gray King will be termed out, Council Member Betsy Andersen will be up for reelection and  appointed Council Member Jennifer Long will be up for election.

Please join us to learn more about what’s it like to serve your community in elected office. Tues. June 14th at 9:30 a.m. PST.  RSVP to Jen Cavenaugh (jcavenaugh3@gmail.com) for location details. If you can’t make it at this time, but would like to learn more, please contact us to set-up a one-on-one conversation at your convenience.

If you know someone you think would be great, please tell them you see their potential and send them our way.

Jen Cavenaugh, Vice Mayor Piedmont

Megan Pillsbury, Vice President PUSD Board of Trustees

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors.
May 9 2022

Special Planning Commission Meeting – Thursday – May 12, 2022

 WHERE ARE 587 NEW HOUSING UNITS GOING TO GO IN PIEDMONT?
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The City of Piedmont is moving ahead with a new Housing Element.    Few Piedmonters have trudged through the almost 400 page Draft Housing Element containing profound suggested changes to Piedmont zoning.  The proposal suggests ending the Piedmont City Charter requirement of Piedmont voter control over zoning.
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Piedmont’s Planning Commission will hold a hybrid, in-person and virtual meeting on May 12, 2022, at 5:30 pm to consider a recommendation on the Draft Piedmont 6th Cycle Housing Element. On April 8, 2022, the City of Piedmont published the Draft Housing Element for public review and comment. The Draft Housing Element is posted to the homepages of the City of Piedmont website and Piedmontishome.org. Other formats are available upon request to the City. 

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Agenda and participation information >Planning 2022-05-12 Special Meeting

 

May 2 2022

 City Proposal for Housing Element Includes: Zoning Changes, Transitional Housing, ADU Heights to 24 feet, City Charter Amendments, Converting City Hall and Veterans Buildings to Low-Income Housing, Coaches Field, Blair Park, etc.

There’s more than just numbers (587 new housing units to be exact) to the Housing Element.  There are several programs and policies in the draft that have not gotten much attention in the city workshops or outreach program, some are noted below:

Require large home remodels include an ADU in the expansion. 

• Establish a transitional home for 6 homeless individuals in a residential neighborhood. Collaborate with a nonprofit affordable housing organization to convert a home or homes to transitional housing for six persons.  This would require changing current residential zone restrictions to allow transitional housing throughout the city. (page 74),

• Create additional local housing opportunities for persons employed within Piedmont in order to reduce commuting and associated greenhouse gas emissions. A particular emphasis should be placed on transportation and on housing for municipal and school district employees, since these are the largest employers in the City. (page 75).

• Allow ADUs to be built to a height of 24 feet if the ADU is deed restricted for 10 years. (page 55).

• Amend the City Charter to eliminate the requirement that the reclassification of zones and/or reduction or enlargement of size or area of zones be subject to a majority vote at a general or special election. (page 57).

• Rezone the Corporation Yard and areas around Coaches Field to accommodate 130 housing units.  Fifty high density units would be built in the Coaches Filed overflow parking lot and 50 units on the slope below the third base line of the field.  If this plan is infeasible, develop 200 high density units in Blair Park. (Appendix B-14)

• Convert Veterans and City Halls into low-income housing (Appendix B-15).

Public comment on the Housing Element started April 6, 2022, and will run for 3 months with Council adoption expected in June 2022. Once approved by Council, the Housing Element needs to be approved by state authorities.  By statute, the deadline for state approval was recently extended to May 2023.  

City Council should take advantage of the state time extension and extend public comment on the Housing Element through November 2022. There are a number of reasons for doing so. 

  •  The plan needs work and a June hearing should still be held to address deficiencies of the current draft so that revisions can be made. 
  • The plan currently does not achieve the equitable distribution of affordable housing throughout Piedmont.
  • The plan for Coaches Field is really half-baked. 
  • There are many new programs and policies called for in the Housing Element that need better vetting with the community. 
  • By extending public comment through November, Piedmont voters can express their opinion on the draft Housing Element by seating a majority of Council (3 seats will be on the ballot).  This timeline offers residents an excellent opportunity to have their voices heard and two of the Councilmembers will likely serve for 8 years, the lifespan of the 6th Cycle Piedmont Housing Element, ensuring some continuity. 
  • Postponing consideration of the Housing Element until after the November election would engage the entire community in setting Piedmont’s affordable housing future, a legacy everyone could be proud of.  

Public comments on the Housing Element will be sent to the Planning Commission if received by May 5.  Send comments to Piedmontishome@piedmont.ca.gov.  The public can also comment on the Housing Element at the Special Planning Commission meeting, a virtual meeting on Zoom on May 12.  Read the draft Housing Element at:

https://p1cdn4static.civiclive.com/UserFiles/Servers/Server_13659739/File/Government/Departments/Planning%20Division/Housing%20Programs/Housing%20Element/DRAFT-Housing_Element-Public-Review.pdf

Garrett Keating, Former member of the Piedmont City Council and Piedmont Resident

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

Contact information:

510/420-3050 – Planning Staff

510/420-3040 – City Clerk – City Council
Ask for the email address where you can send comments.  Sending an email to the City Council is a good place to send a comment.  Written comments become part of the public record, phone calls do not. 
Go to the City of Piedmont web page for more information.