Jun 19 2022

Civic spaces and places are what makes a community.

The Housing Element is not a policy direction to explore ideas … it is focused on delivering sites for development, the feasibility of which has already been established.

Putting the Vista tennis courts where the high school students play on the chopping block, potentially jeopardizing the viability of vitally needed police and fire station retrofitting, removing the Piedmont Center for the Arts, and putting housing on the Highland Green that serves as the 4th of July parade staging area are extraordinary steps that are in the Housing Element that the community is not aware of, and potentially hugely destructive to the community fabric. The City needs to slow down process and more thoroughly analyze these proposals and get community feedback before the element is forwarded to the State.

The City can both protect its civic spaces and accommodate it housing needs in a thoughtful manner. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. By preserving our public and recreation spaces, Piedmont would also be preserving these for the enjoyment of new residents.

The Piedmont Housing Element should be set up for success, rather than failure, and include actual sites where the City can fulfill its housing needs, rather than sink time and energy into sites where housing is unlikely. While including housing as part of the Civic Center is a noble sentiment, it is impractical in the timeframe of this Housing Element planning period, as I will discuss below. The City should be aware of the following State laws and other requirements, which among others require the City Council to make certain findings at adoption time that the City would not be able to responsibly make for the Civic Center sites:

STATE LAW REQUIREMENTS TO BE MINDFUL ABOUT FOR CIVIC CENTER SITES

Demonstrate Realistic Development Capacity at Designated Sites

Where there are existing uses, “..Existing Uses — The housing element must demonstrate non-vacant and/or underutilized sites in the inventory that can be realistically developed with residential uses or more-intensive residential uses at densities appropriate  ….and evaluate the extent these uses would constitute an impediment to new residential development.”  See https://www.hcd.ca.gov/community-development/building-blocks/site-inventory-analysis/analysis-of-sites-and-zoning.shtml. The City needs to show the community the analysis used to arrive at feasible housing capacity at existing civic uses and tennis courts. E.g., there is no housing feasible where the tennis courts are. The examples cited so far are of tennis courts on top of parking structures such as at UC Berkeley, which is very different than tennis courts on top of housing, that too affordable housing. The Housing Element is not a policy direction to explore ideas … it is focused on delivering sites for development, the feasibility of which has already been established.

Required City Council Findings at Adoption Time That Existing Uses Will be Discontinued

State law states that “If a housing element relies on nonvacant sites to accommodate 50 percent or more of its RHNA for lower income households, the nonvacant site’s existing use is presumed to impede additional residential development, unless the housing element describes findings based on substantial evidence that the use will likely be discontinued during the planning period. In addition to a description in the element, findings should also be included as part of the resolution adopting the housing element.”https://www.hcd.ca.gov/community-development/building-blocks/site-inventory-analysis/analysis-of-sites-and-zoning.shtml.

Thus at the time of Housing Element adoption, the City Council will have to make findings that the tennis and basketball courts at Vista and public safety uses at the Civic Center will be discontinued during the planning period (2023-2031). I do not believe it is possible to make this finding given that there are no plans to relocate these uses to other places, unless the City does not want high schoolers and other community members to play tennis or does not want police and fire departments. If the City Council does not believe this finding can be made, it is better to drop these sites now rather than finding that we are short on sites at adoption time.

Required Rezoning for Shortfall

The City would need to commit in its Housing Element to a process and timeline to make sites it owns available for residential uses. The draft Housing Element currently lacks this, and HCD would most likely want to see this detail included. Under the Housing Accountability Act, should housing not be feasible at a site and there is a shortfall mid-cycle, the City will have to proactively undertake a rezoning program to find sites elsewhere to make up for this shortfall. This means doing a Housing Element Update and EIR all over again mid-cycle in three or four years, and tying the City’s hand in being able to proceed with rehabbing the public safety buildings until alternative housing sites are in place. Thus, In designating the Civic Center sites I believe we are just kicking the can down two or three years, rather than solving any housing problems. We should be focused on finding and delivering those alternative housing sites to meet our housing needs and obligations now, rather than five years later.

CITY CHARTER

Reclassification of zones under the Piedmont Charter requires a vote of the people. If the City Council wants to reclassify the Public zone (which allows a de minimus one house at every parcel in the city) to permit high density residential and thus make this zone Public/Residential, this should be submitted to the voters and placed on the upcoming November ballot. Lack of legal certainty will not inspire confidence on part of any developers the City may wish to attract.

PHYSICAL FEASIBILITY OF SITES AT THE CIVIC CENTER

Not finding any drawings or information in the Housing Element on methodology to determine housing capacity at Civic Center sites, I sat down over the weekend and tried to understand this for myself.

Vista Tennis and Basketball Courts

Assumption in HE: Housing at 60 units per acre, 34 realistic housing units. The courts presently fill up the entire site. It is physically not possible to vertically integrate housing and whole bunch of tennis courts and bleachers on top of a residential building without extraordinary expense, and I am not aware of any examples in the Bay Area where this has been done. Tennis courts can go on top of parking structures as they have been at Cal for over three decades and industrial and office buildings, but not residential, as the building floorplate is entirely different. Is the proposal to remove tennis courts? The facilities were just renovated a year ago for something like $2 million. This idea does not seem even physically, let alone financially, feasible.

Center for the Arts

Where is the space for the five units? Will this be razed and replaced? Again, wasn’t this rehabbed a few years ago, and didn’t the City recently sign an agreement on this?

City Hall/Police/Veterans Building

The site area for this in the Housing Element includes City Hall, and the area is counted at 60 units per acre to calculate resultant housing. Neither tearing down City Hall, nor putting housing on top of it is a credible suggestion. The eastern half of the site is about 0.5 acres, and that is where the police and veterans building are located. It would be quite a structure that includes a new police station, rec. building, and 40 housing units (which, because of the small acreage, would actually be at 120 units per acre max)  all at the same small site.  It would require razing the existing facilities and starting from scratch, and be surely several multiples more expensive than the cost to rehab these, plus the higher cost for housing building and having the civic facilities support the resultant structural weight and complexity of housing above. Theoretically it could work if the housing can be on its own pad as staff mentioned for other examples they shared at the Planning Commission meeting, but looking at our site I don’t see any area where housing can just be squeezed in without messing with the existing buildings. Rehabbing the existing Veterans Hall and Public Safety buildings will also be a lot more environmentally sustainable and emit fewer greenhouse gases than razing these buildings and building something new, when the same housing can built more sustainably and be delivered to the community at lower cost by adding say one more story to the Mulberry/BofA site across the street, where housing is already planned, and provide an additional density incentive for the property owner to develop that site.

Highland Green

The width of this parcel during most of the stretch is 30 feet. With required front setback of 20 feet in Zone A, and rear setback of 5 feet, the remaining buildable width of housing would only be 5 feet. So, these sites are also physically not feasible. The loss of five units assumed here would not be that significant.

All of these sites are impractical given the dense fully built out conditions of civic facilities and the fact that we don’t any have vacant land there, and a distraction from the real work the City needs to do to deliver feasible sites.

PRACTICAL APPROACH TO MEETING THE CITY’S HOUSING OBLIGATIONS

I believe the most practical approach for the City to meet its RHNA is as follows, in order of importance:

•       Count every housing unit (including ADUs) expected to be completed between July 1, 2022 and January 1, 2023. These units, under State law, can be counted toward both the 5th Cycle (in which we are) and 6th Cycle (starting in 2023), because of data projection period overlap.

•       Count SB 9 Units. The City does not have a trend of these because the City has not allowed these in the past. With properly development rules and methodology, the City should attempt to have these counted now to bring the remaining need down, rather than just as Housing Element success stories later. There are many cities that have successfully counted these units, consistent with HCD guidelines.

•       Consider densities that are much higher than currently contemplated at Grand and Highland avenues, while developing standards so that these are well designed, with ground level retail and cafes, and housing above. Densities of 180 units per acre with ground floor retail and four stories of residential above (60 feet building height), with structured parking may be appropriate for Grand Avenue, and 120 per acre for Highland Avenue. If necessary, the City should add a real architect with experience in doing projects like these in the Bay Area to the out-of-town planning team.

•       Add missing middle housing (fourplexes, six-plexes, etc.) and smaller-scale multifamily development in some or many existing neighborhoods. Some of the City’s rules relating to allowable densities, lot sizes etc. may need to be modified. There may, again, be some City Charter issues involved, but these would be of lower magnitude than high density residential issues in Public zones.

•       Continue counting all the remaining single family and religious sites with the good work staff has done, although it remains to be seen if HCD will buy off on allowing so many of these to be counted.

•       Anything else needed should be added after the above has been done, and this remaining need would be modest.

Rajeev Bhatia, Piedmont Resident

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 3 2022

Is more resident engagement needed for the Housing Element?

Many Piedmont residents do not understand or approve of plans for adding 587 new housing units within Piedmont’s built-out city limits of 1.8 square miles. The Piedmont City Council, unlike other City Councils in the region, has energetically and swiftly pressed to further densify Piedmont and add the 587 new housing units.  

No survey has been mailed to Piedmont residents, the most direct, useful, and inclusive means of gaining resident opinions.

Expensive banners are up throughout the city creating dismay about their meaning:  their grammar; insulting slogans; and seeming downgrading of neighboring communities.  Despite hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on staff, mailers, meetings, banners, postcards, City news releases, consultants, puzzles, preferred interest-group participation,  committee and commission presentations,  fewer than 300 Piedmonters have participated by writing to the City in the process.

 The City printed “Piedmont is home.” postcards for residents, yet sent no questionnaire or survey by direct mail to Piedmont residents to gather their input. Most outreach of the Housing Element draft was conducted during the raging pandemic via the  internet, eliminating many seniors not current with the internet.  A mailed survey would no doubt have produced far greater input.

Wait Until the New Council is Elected in November to Act on the Housing Element

Piedmont is holding its election for 3 Council seats this November, 2022.  Of the three seats, one seat is totally open (Mayor King is termed out of office.), one seat has an incumbent (Councilmember Andersen), and one seat is held by an appointed incumbent (Councilmember Long).  A citizen suggested allowing the Housing Element to be thoroughly aired during the election process and campaigns.  This would conform to state extended deadlines while allowing greater resident participation and understanding of the Housing Element.  The current Council plans are:

“Summer 2022: With the City Council’s consent, submission of Draft Housing Element to the CA Housing and Community Development Department for certification.”

“May 2023: Deadline for adoption of the final draft of the updated Housing Element, date amended due to recent state law requiring additional review and longer comment periods.”  City publicity.

Summary Information and Question Answers missing from publicity.

Most residents have no idea of how proposed changes will impact Piedmont as a whole or their homes.   Additionally, some input has been ignored by the City. While little direct information is provided to residents, notions abound and concerns persist.

  • Is safety the foundation of all proposals in the Housing Element?

  • Have safety considerations been given for high fire areas, substandard streets, overhead utilities, public safety access, traffic, parking, transit, mud slides, water, sidewalks, city staffing requirements?

  • The City Charter specifically prescribes Piedmont voters have a right to approve zoning changes.  Will the proposals require this to be ultimately taken away from Piedmont voters?

  • What zoning or land use changes are proposed?

  • How much will the expanded staffing and public safety needs cost in taxes or other sources of funding? 

  • Will the proposed changes make Piedmont a less desirable city?

  • Is loss of air and light to be considered with proposed new higher height limits for each garage/ADU living unit?

  • When will the public be allowed to provide input on building proposals in their neighborhood?

  • The Moraga Avenue Corporation Yard was chosen for high-rise buildings. What public transit is available, new streets, new electric signaling, sidewalks, water, sewer, waste?

  • Trees in Piedmont are prized. How does the proposal protect the trees on public and private property?

  • The current pandemic has pointed out the vital need for open space and air for healthy living conditions.  How has this been addressed in the proposal?

 

City News Release below:

DRAFT HOUSING ELEMENT TOWN HALL

The City of Piedmont will host a virtual Town Hall on June 7, 2022, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm to provide an opportunity to learn more about the >Draft Housing Element. [over 600 page document]

This Town Hall will provide an opportunity for community members to pose questions about the Draft Housing Element. Following a short presentation, a panel the City’s team of housing consultants and staff will provide responses to questions submitted by attendees.

The City has received over 275 written comments from community members on the Draft Housing Element via email and the Piedmont Housing Puzzle. Over 50 community members participated at the April 19th Housing Advisory Committee meeting and at the May 12th Planning Commission meeting.

You are welcomed and encouraged to participate using the following formats:

  • Computer or smart phone:

     Click on https://piedmont-ca-gov.zoom.us/j/86477811380

  • Computer or smart phone:

     Click on https://piedmont.ca.gov/government/meeting_videos

  • Telephone:

Dial (669) 900-9128 and enter webinar/meeting number 864-7781-1380

  • Television:

Watch on KCOM, Comcast Channel 27 or AT&T UVerse Channel 99

We look forward to seeing you there!

City news release below:

The City of Piedmont will host a Town Hall on June 7th at 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. to provide an opportunity for Piedmont residents to learn more about the Draft Housing Element. This Town Hall
will provide an opportunity for community members to pose questions about the document.

Following a short presentation addressing some of the issues, a panel  [names not listed] will provide responses to  questions submitted by attendees.

“We have received over 275 written comments from community members on the Draft Housing
Element via email and the Piedmont Puzzle. And have heard from over 50 community members at
the April 19th Housing Advisory Committee meeting and the May 12th Planning Commission
meeting,” said Kevin Jackson, the City’s Director of Planning & Building. “Several of those
comments included questions. We intend to provide answers to those questions and clarity on the
purpose and scope of the Draft Housing Element at this Town Hall Q&A meeting.”

Residents can participate in the Zoom meeting or watch the meeting by tuning to KCOM TV,
Comcast channel 27 or AT&T channel 99.

Housing Element Update Timeline:

June 7, 2022: Virtual Town Hall Q&A Meeting at 6:00 p.m.

June 20, 2022: City Council Consideration of Draft Housing Element.

Summer 2022: With the City Council’s consent, submission of Draft Housing Element to the CA Housing and Community Development Department for certification.

May 2023: Deadline for adoption of the final draft of the updated Housing Element, date amended due to recent state law requiring additional review and longer comment periods.

Four informational videos about the 2023-2031 Housing Element have been produced by City staff.
Please visit Piedmont’s Youtube channel at
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCX3RUnN7wcyGgnnjmYmFnXQ

or watch these videos on the homepage of https://piedmontishome.org.

Piedmontishome.org

The City has created a web site, https://piedmontishome.org, which is a one-stop shop for information
on the City’s housing efforts. This site contains information about the 2023-2031 Housing Element
process, as well as other fair housing programs.

Community members are encouraged to review the materials on the site and submit comments,
questions, ideas, and concerns to piedmontishome@piedmont.ca.gov. This email address will capture
official public correspondence about City of Piedmont housing policy work, including the 2023-2031
Housing Element Update.

2022-05-24 Housing Element Town Hall Meeting

May 19 2022

Unlike other City meetings when broadcasted videos are produced, home/remote viewers will not be able to observe the City Council and Staff as important policy and program issues are considered at the Saturday Budget Session. Interested persons must be physically present to observe the meeting.

Taxes, fees, policies, programs, and priorities involving the City budget are to be presented by staff and considered by the Council during the important Council Budget Session Saturday, May 21.

On Saturday May 21, 2022, Council Budget Session

9:00 am Emergency Operations Center in the Police Department on Highland Avenue

With transparency, equity, and inclusion touted as goals of the Piedmont City Council, accessibility to certain public meetings, including this Budget Session, continue to be difficult or impossible for many individuals. If you can not physically attend the Budget meeting, you will not be able to observe the proceedings remotely via Zoom, computers, or cable television.

During the height of the COVID pandemic, residents had the “luxury”of being able to remotely watch the Council make decisions without being physically present at a meeting.  Some of the “Zoom” meetings, although broadcast during the time of the meeting, were not preserved as a cost cutting measure.   Presentations and considerations were not preserved reducing transparency, accessibility, and accountability.

The 2022-23 Annual Piedmont Budget Session will once more follow the long -held Piedmont Council tradition and not be broadcast for remote viewing. The Saturday Council Budget Session will be moved from City Hall where cameras are installed and videos are regularly made of the proceedings.  The Budget meeting will take place in the Police Department Emergency Operations Center (EOC) on Highland Avenue where broadcasting is not done leaving home/remote viewers unable to observe the proceedings.

Ironically, during the month of May, in a prior list of  public meetings, there were 12 public City meetings.  See link below. These 12 different City meetings, Regular Council, Commission, and Committee meetings, are stated to be held either “Virtually or Hybrid”, consequently using City broadcast facilities.  Broadcasting meetings allows  interested persons to watch and observe the Council away from the meetings. The Council Budget Session is the only full Council meeting on the list to require observers physical presence.   

Under consideration and discussion at the Budget Session are:

  • How should the City Council spend City resources?

  • How much should residents be taxed or charged for sewers, municipal services, fees, use of City facilities, priorities,  programs and monetary considerations, such as broadcasting City meetings and preserving public records?

Concerns have been expressed in the past to the City Council regarding broadcasting meetings to encourage greater public access to governance, but the Council’s tradition of not broadcasting meetings remains, thus missing an opportunity to increase access, accountability, transparency, equity, and inclusion.

2022-05 Notice of Regular Meetings – Revised

> City of Piedmont 2022-2023 Budget

Agenda > City Council Agenda 2022-05-21 (Special)

  • 1. Overview of the Proposed FY 2022-23 Budget
  • 2. Review of Departmental Budgets for FY 2022-23
  • a. Police
  • b. Public Works
  • c. Planning & Building
  • d. Recreation
  • e. Fire
  • f. Administration & KCOM
  • g. Non-Departmental and Other Funds Budgets

City notice with links below:

BUDGET WORK SESSION THIS SATURDAY

The Piedmont City Council will consider the proposed annual budget for fiscal year 2022-23 at three separate meetings. A Saturday work session will be held on May 21, 2022 at 9:00 am in the EOC at 403 Highland Avenue. Members of the public are invited to participate in this meeting.

Public hearings regarding the proposed budget and the levy of the Municipal Services Tax and the Sewer Tax will be held during regularly scheduled City Council meetings on June 6 and June 20, 2022. The public is invited to attend these meetings and speak to the City Council about spending priorities for the city in the coming year. Click to visit the Annual Budgets page, where all sections of the proposed budget as well as approved budgets from previous years are available for download.

For questions on contents of the budget, please contact Finance Director Michael Szczech via email at mszczech@piedmont.ca.gov or by phone at (510) 420-3045. If you wish to write to the Council regarding the budget, please send an e-mail to the City Council at citycouncil@piedmont.ca.gov or send a letter via U.S. Mail to Piedmont City Council, c/o City Clerk’s Office, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, 94611.

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.
May 2 2022

“City Staff is asking Park Commissioners to provide feedback on the Draft 6th Cycle Piedmont Housing Element as community members and key stakeholders. The Park Commission meeting on May 4 gives the public further opportunities to learn about the Housing Element update process and to give their input and feedback.”

Numerous proposals are in the Draft Housing Element many occurring throughout Piedmont.  Density increases, removal of parking requirements, raised height limits of buildings, end to neighbor input on proposals, zoning changes, Charter change, etc.

 All proposals in the 374 page Draft Housing Element document can be read online for public comment.  See link at the end of this article.

6. Proposed Specific Plan: Page B-12, Appendix B, of the Draft Housing Element proposes to prepare a specific plan (Government Code §65450 et. seq) for the area of the Public Works Corporation Yard to accommodate new housing development, incorporate existing amenities, and modernize current city functions. The portion of the site utilized for park Page 2 of 62 and recreational uses, are intended to remain as an amenity for the proposed specific plan area, with the existing vehicle parking reconfigured, as needed.  See map on linked attachment below.

7. Blair Park: The Draft Housing Element identifies Blair Park, which is located on the south side of Moraga Avenue, as a potential alternate site for housing if the proposed specific plan for the Public Works Corporation Yard fails to yield 122 housing units (page B-13). Blair Park is 3.55 acres, with the potential for 210 units if developed at 60 units per acre.

8. Zoning Amendments: In order to meet the 6th Cycle RHNA target with Piedmont’s limited available land, the Draft Housing Element’s Goal 1, New Housing Construction, proposes to increase the allowed residential density for housing affiliated with religious institutions in Zone A (program 1.D, page (37) and increase allowed residential density in Zone B (program 1.F), Zone C (program 1.G), and Zone D (1.H).

READ the Draft Housing Element May 4 presentation to the Park Commission and Agenda, including participation information below:

> 2022-05-04 Park Agenda

Apr 25 2022

Piedmont events to celebrate Arbor Day, some lasting through the week of April 25 – 29th.

Chalk Art:

April 25-29 –  Select your favorite street tree or tree in a park next to a sidewalk, decorate the sidewalk with Chalk Art celebrating the tree. Take a photo of yourself celebrating the tree and your chalk art. Submit to nkent@piedmont.ca.gov. Fenton Gift certificates will be awarded to the  most creative art.

Gratitude Trees:

April 25 – 29 – In honor of Arbor Day, there will (4) trees designated in our parks as Gratitude Trees. During the week of April 25-29th, park visitors, students, schoolmates and pre-school classes  are invited to stop by and write their messages on tags provided at each tree. The trees will be in Piedmont Park, Dracena, Crocker and Linda Park. They will be identified  by barricades and Gratitude Tree signage.

Piedmont Community Hall, Main Park, Highland Avenue

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Heritage Tree Winners Announced:

 8pm on April 28th at Community Hall in Piedmont Main Park, Highland Avenue,  the winners of the Heritage Trees for 2022 will be acknowledge and “pinned” with the special Heritage Tree lapel pin.

Public Work Trucks, plus Ask Your Public Works Staff Questions:

8 p.m. April 28 – Public Works Department will have at the Community Hall their big trucks on display- their Sweeper, Camera Truck and Dump Truck. Come at 8 pm and see the trucks, a gator watering bag installation for your street tree, and  a chance to meet, greet and ask your Public Works staff questions about street trees, street sweeping, parks, storm and sanitary sewers, maintenance, sidewalks, and road questions!

Free Popcorn and bring your water bottle:

April 28th fill your water bottle at the Community Hall before the movie: donated by Piedmont Garden Club

Tree Raffle before the Movie: 

Cub Scout volunteers will be passing out raffle tickets in the Piedmont Main Park and the Cubs will select two lucky winners that will win  a 15 gallon  tree to take home  to plant in their garden. Devil Mountain Nursery has donated (2) Cercis Redbuds for the raffle and the Cubs will also present the winners with a handmade plaque offering to help plant the tree in the homeowner’s  garden.

Free Movie in the Park:

Starting at 8:30 p.m. -A showing of the documentary Intelligent Trees a 45 minute movie about how trees communicate with each other! Made possible by a generous donation by Tree Sculpture and Terra Landscape.

Posters and maps for Arbor Day Celebration

>Posters for Arbor Day 2022

Apr 24 2022

Piedmont is scheduled to adopt a new Housing Element to accommodate 587 new housing units in Piedmont.  You can play a role in deciding how! 

For development potential, some residents and City staff have suggested,  amongst other areas, the area around the City Corporation Yard on Moraga Avenue.  Undeveloped areas are unlikely to provide housing space for 587 new housing units leading to new units added in single family neighborhoods. 

Once the Housing Element is approved, the City will be prohibited by law from informing neighbors of certain proposed projects, potentially turning garages into housing, subdividing properties, adding new housing units on existing properties, restructuring existing homes as apartment buildings, etc. .

The Housing Element is important to all areas of Piedmont, for after parameters and requirements for housing are approved in the new Housing Element, “ministerial” permits are to be issued by the City Planning Department for all conforming proposals without neighborhood notification or input. 

The Piedmont Planning staff, along with outside consultants, have devised the new DRAFT Housing Element.  Attempts have been made by the City to involve Piedmont residents in the process.  The result is a 374 page DRAFT Housing Element document outlining conditions for approval of housing units. 

Go to the end of this article to learn how you can voice your preferences and read the DRAFT Housing Element.

TIME FOR WRITTEN INPUT TO THE PLANNING COMMISSION IS  ENDING ON MAY 5, 2022.

If you are not able or need assistance with submitting your ideas to the City, contact City Clerk John O. Tulloch at 510-420-3040 or Senior Planner Pierce Macdonald at 510-420-3050.

  The Piedmont City Council has planned a limited comment period based on an earlier State deadline for submittal of Piedmont’s new Housing Element. 

State Housing Element Update Timeline was Extended to May 2023 due to a recent state law requiring additional review and longer comment periods.

  • April 8, 2022: Publication of the Draft Housing Element > Draft Piedmont 6th Cycle Housing Element.  (374 pages)

  • May 12, 2022: Special Planning Commission public hearing, starting at 5:30 pm to discuss and consider the Draft Housing Element. Approximately one month comment period.
  • June 2022: City Council public hearing. Approximately one month comment period.
  • May 2023: NEW deadline for adoption of the final draft of the updated Housing Element, date amended due to recent state law requiring additional review and longer comment periods! 

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Special Planning Commission Meeting – May 12, 2022 – City News Release Below
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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 to the City Council 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. The Planning Commission agenda will be published on the City website and posted by May 9, 2022.
Cover of Draft Housing Element
The 374-page Draft Housing Element, shown above, includes policies to increase housing access and affordability in Piedmont.
Places to Find Draft Housing Element Online
Purple arrows identify the locations of the links to the Draft Housing Element on the homepages of the City website and Piedmontishome.org
Win $50 Gift Card To Ace Hardware!
Piedmont Puzzle Welcome Page
The web-based Piedmont Housing Puzzle supports the development of the next Housing Element by giving you the tools to imagine sites for 587 new housing units in Piedmont. Links to the Puzzle are posted here:
Over 300 Piedmont community members have already visited the Piedmont Housing Puzzle or submitted their housing plans and comments. We would like to reach more!
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Please share the City’s Facebook page at the link above, or share the link to the Piedmont Puzzle on social media or via email. People are 100 times more likely to follow a link online if it is recommended by someone they know.
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There are only 10 days left to provide comments about new housing sites through the Piedmont Housing Puzzle. The Puzzle ends Sunday, May 1, 2022.
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Win a $50 gift card to Grand Lake Ace Hardware by submitting your housing plan, email, and comments in the Piedmont Housing Puzzle. Click below to start!

How to Read and Review the Draft Housing Element

The Draft Housing Element enables construction to occur, but does not force property owners to build or otherwise change the ways that they use their property. [Notification to neighbors of certain proposals is prohibited by State law.] The organization of the Draft Housing Element begins with an executive summary and then the following four sections:
  • Introduction
  • Projected Housing Need
  • Housing Resources
  • Housing Plan: Goals, Policies, and Programs
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There are six technical appendices that provide analysis of housing law, demographics, constraints, and other issues in greater detail, including Appendix F, an analysis of compliance with AB 686 and goals to affirmatively further fair housing in Piedmont.
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Community members (everyone that lives, works, attends school, or cares about housing in Piedmont) are encouraged to review the Draft Housing Element and provide comments to City decision-makers. Comments can be made using any of the following methods:
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-Use the Share Your Voice tool on the homepage at: https://Piedmontishome.org *
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-Use the Piedmont Housing Puzzle at: https://Piedmont.abalancingact.com/housingsim
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-Mail to: Draft Housing Element, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611*
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-Attend a public meeting: Planning Commission is May 12, 2022, starting at 5:30 pm. City Council is tentatively scheduled for June 2022.
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*Comments received by May 5, 2022, will be forwarded to the Planning Commission the weekend before the first public hearing.

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The City of Piedmont wants to keep you up to date on planning-related issues regarding transportation, sustainability, housing and changes to development regulations that affect you. Community participation is key to the success of new City policies. Contact pmacdonald@piedmont.ca.gov to learn more.
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Apr 19 2022

To view the appointee list:  Click below

2022-04-19 Commission Appointments