Nov 4 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bridget Harris, Candidate for the Piedmont City Council

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

READ the City Press Release below:

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

Oct 17 2022

Joint Recreation Commission and Park Commission Agenda
Wednesday, October 19, 2022     7:30 p.m.

Consideration of a Recommendation to City Council on the Use of Proposition 68 Per Capita Grant Funding for Upgrades to the Piedmont Middle School Sport Courts, including Pickleball Court Improvements and Replacement of a Pedestrian Foot Bridge in Piedmont Park near Bushy Dell Creek – 

RECOMMENDATION:

Recommend that the City Council revise the Proposition 68 Per Capita Grant Funding to include two projects: upgrades to the Piedmont Middle School (PMS) Sports Courts including Pickleball Court Improvements and replacement of a pedestrian foot bridge in Piedmont Park near Bushy Dell Creek

BACKGROUND:

On October 20, 2021, the Recreation and Park Commissions held a special virtual meeting to review the Prop. 68 Per Capita project proposal to create a new outdoor space in Piedmont Park. There was a robust discussion among Commissioners and the Joint Commissions voted 10-2 in favor of recommending the project to City Council.

Following the Commissions’ recommendation, the City Council on December 6, 2021 approved designation of the City’s share of Proposition 68 Per Capita grant funding for an outdoor Recreation Department preschool and public space near the Community Hall. Staff proceeded to finalize project costs for the grant application and worked with Coastland Engineers to develop plans and a cost estimate for the approved project. After careful evaluation of several options which included cost savings alternatives, the engineer’s estimate exceeded the grant amount by approximately $200k. With a project that substantially exceeded the grant funds, staff considered alternate projects that would be appropriate for this grant.

DISCUSSION:

The grant funds must be used as capital outlay for recreational purposes and grant recipients are encouraged to utilize the award to rehabilitate existing infrastructure and address deficiencies in neighborhoods lacking access to the outdoors. As part of the grant resolution for the acceptance of the State funds, the City is encouraged to take actions that promote diversity and inclusions in their parks.

Piedmont’s total combined grant allocation is $184,932. Because Piedmont does not qualify as a disadvantage community, the grant requires the City to contribute matching funds of $46, 233 which is 25% of the grant award resulting in a total project budget of $231, 165.

In reconsidering project designation for the grant, the Recreation and Public Works Departments reviewed projects that were shovel ready and would improve existing recreational and park facilities as well as serve multiple recreational users and park visitors.

Two projects are proposed for the grant funds:

Project 1: Additional upgrades to the Piedmont Middle School (PMS) Sport Courts including new plexipave acrylic athletic court surfacing over the existing asphalt surface, striping for pickleball, volleyball, street hockey, and badminton, new basketball back boards and padding, portable volleyball net system and a water bottle filling station.

Beginning in 2018, the Recreation Commission’s Subcommittee on Tennis Court Use and Pickleball reviewed the management of the City’s tennis facilities and programming as well as the growing interest in pickleball in Piedmont.

The subcommittee recognized the need for careful and specific planning to introduce a new recreational activity into a community with severe recreational space constraints. They performed diligent work over the course of seven months and arrived at a number of recommendations that were presented to and adopted by the Recreation Commission on January 16,2019 and City Council on March 4, 2019. Their primary recommendation for pickleball was to explore a partnership with PUSD to renovate the Physical Education (PE) hardcourt surfaces at PMS to create a first class pickleball facility with a tennis quality surface lined and painted, for use by school and public. The courts would allow for multiple uses including badminton and basketball, in addition to pickleball that could be open to the community during non-school hours.

The Capital Improvement Projects Committee (CIP) also recommended the PMS Sport Courts as one of their top three priority projects for consideration in their 2019 report delivered to Council at the May 11, 2019 City Budget Workshop. On June 3, 2019, the City Council approved a reimbursement and a use agreement with PUSD regarding Piedmont Middle School Sport Court renovations and Council approved an appropriation in the 2018-2019 fiscal year of $50,000 from the unallocated balance of the General Fund towards the removal of existing asphalt, grading and installation of new asphalt as well as installation of new net posts and nets on the three existing PMS Sport Court surfaces. Funding at the time was not adequate to include the desired “tennis quality surface” that was requested and recommended for courts of this type.

The project also included restriping the existing PE lines and the addition of striping for six regulation sized pickleball courts to be used with portable nets. Since the PMS Sport Courts were renovated and hours established for pickleball play at Hampton, Beach and PMS, the popularity and growth of pickleball in Piedmont (and nationally) has skyrocketed. Across the three sites where pickleball is played in Piedmont, approximately 1200 players use Piedmont courts each month (some playing for the first time and others playing multiple times per week).

While the interest in pickleball has expanded to all age groups, it is by far the largest older adult/senior activity offered in Piedmont. The PMS Sport Courts have provided for a highly used space for pickleball in Piedmont hosting about 700 players each month. The 6 courts also allow the pickleball group to offer tournament play twice per month, frequent clinics and a monthly community potluck. On Saturdays and Sundays, you will typically see 24 people playing and 24-32 players waiting to play.

Due to demand, PRD has recently added evening play at the PMS courts which has been well received with 3-4 courts always full. The PMS Sport Courts will continue to accommodate school Physical Education classes and activities and allow the Recreation Department to offer after school drop-in and structured programs for a variety of sports.

The loss of the Rec Basketball Courts due to the Community Pool project and requests to provide informal volleyball play near the schools will both be accommodated at the PMS Sport Courts. The improved striping and tennis court surface will provide users with a consistent surface, grip and traction while playing. The improvements funded by the grant would be managed entirely by PUSD, with the City reimbursing PUSD up to $100,000 for expenses related to resurfacing, striping, basketball backboards with padding, portable volleyball net system and a water bottle filling station. PUSD will absorb the cost of construction management and long-term maintenance.

Project 2: Replacement of a pedestrian foot bridge in Piedmont Park near Bushy Dell Creek Within Piedmont Park, a small creek tributary crosses one of the main paths near where Bushy Dell Creek enters the culvert adjacent to PUSD softball field.

A wood pedestrian bridge, estimated to be over 20 years old spans the tributary. This bridge was first identified as being deficient in 2015 and a funding source has yet to be identified. The wood decking was temporarily patched with plywood as the decking was in need of repair and in 2019, Public Works contacted several contractors and explored options for replacing the bridge. Due to the location and access, it was determined that the bridge could not be prefabricated and craned into place, but the replacement would involve a custom design to fit the site conditions.

Early discussions on bridge replacement were halted during the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2022, Public Works staff has worked with Pacific General Engineering to prepare preliminary designs and a cost estimate to replace the bridge, install new abutments and include handrails that comply with current building code. The proposed bridge will utilize steel beams and wood components for the decking and the handrail. Final design and an engineer’s estimate will be prepared by the city engineer. The new bridge installation will require adjustments to the existing path and limited landscape repair adjacent to the new structure. The grant will be used to cover the fabrication and installation of the bridge and the repair and upgrades to the landscape and path adjacent to the bridge. Grant, funding for the bridge and associated landscape improvements will be approximately $150k and will expend the remainder of the grant.

READ THE FULL REPORT AND AGENDA DETAILS FOR PARTICIPATION LINKED BELOW:

10-19-22 Joint Recreation and Park Commission Meeting

Oct 5 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cori Recht, Piedmont Resident

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Oct 4 2022

Response to Letter from City Administrator

Everyone in Piedmont received a letter from Sara Lillevand, the City Administrator, dated September 30, 2022. The City Administrator is hired by the City Council and reports directly to the City Council. Therefore, we can assume that the letter was vetted and approved by the five members of the City Council.

The letter is extremely misleading.

  1. The letter is a not too subtle endorsement of three candidates to the City Council who oppose a vote on the Housing Element;
  2. As stated in the letter, the City has been working on the issue for 18 months yet this city-wide letter was sent five weeks before the election;
  3. The letter includes the statement that any future development would have to meet Piedmont’s design standards. This is not true, see Schreiber v. City of Los Angeles and Bankers Hill 150 v. City of San Diego. Both cases illustrate that the state’s Density Bonus Law supersedes a city’s local ordinances and zoning laws. The Density Bonus Law provides developers with incentives and waivers of building restrictions for set-backs, parking and height.
  4. The letter outlines the plan to include 132 homes on City-owned land (Moraga Canyon). This land is in Zone B (Park and Public Land). Zone C is zoned for Multi-family units. The plan is a de-facto re-zone which according to our City Charter requires a majority vote of the citizens of Piedmont.  Further, once the plan is approved a developer can enforce development using the state’s Density Bonus Law that overrides Piedmont’s design restrictions thereby making development economically feasible. At that point a vote will be too late.
  5. Piedmont Municipal Code §17.08.010 provides that “[i]f a use is not permitted or conditionally permitted, it is not allowed.” Piedmont Municipal Code §17.22.020 lists the permitted and conditional uses allowed in Zone B. Multi-family units are not permitted or conditionally permitted in Zone B. To build multi-family units on property located in Zone B requires a vote to re-zone the land pursuant to §9.02 of our City Charter.

Adding 587 units to the city of Piedmont will forever change the city.  We must delay submission of the Housing Element plan until we understand all ramifications of the plan. We must review available options and then vote on those options. True engagement by the community requires a vote and the result will be a viable Housing Element plan.

Bridget Harris, Piedmont City Council Candidate

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Oct 2 2022

Why does the City not want a new City Council to consider the Housing Element?

The City is planning to have the proposed Housing Element approved prior to the November 8, 2022 Election and has agendized consideration of the Housing Element for the October 17, 2022 Council meeting.

The City is moving ahead of the City Council election to approve the Housing Element.  The regular October 3, 2022, City Council meeting was cancelled without explanation* during the contested City Council campaign when candidates and the public could have recorded their opinions at the meeting on the Housing Element or other issues.  The City Council during their regularly scheduled, but cancelled, meeting on October 3 could have amplified Housing information and made factual corrections to City positions.

Residents of Piedmont received the unprecedented City Administrator’s letter dated September 30, 2022 approximately a week before voters may begin voting in the election.  The letter disparages the positions of certain candidates and supports the positions of other City Council candidates, while claiming to provide factual information about the Housing Element. 

The City Administrator, Sara Lillevand and Mayor Teddy Kind are responsible for setting the Council meeting agendas. Lillevand has announced her retirement by April 2022 and King, is a “lame duck” and will no long be on the Council following the certification of the November 8 election.

Correction and amplification of information sent to voters by the City Administrator on September 29, 2022:

  • The Charter states the Council shall proposes a zoning plan, but where zoning is proposed to be changed as within the proposed Housing Element voters must approve the zoning changes.
  • An approved Housing Element is not just a plan to sit on a shelf, for the State requires implementation and developers and property owners gain legal rights.
  • The Housing Element once approved by voters and the Council becomes law in Piedmont with all incumbent factors, such as lawsuits, site locations, property rights, and the rule of law.
  • The City Council members and the City staff do not have the authority under the City Charter to change the zoning as proposed.  The Piedmont City Charter states clearly, “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;”
  • Only the voters per the City Charter have a right to approve the proposed Housing Element zoning changes.
  • The City owns much of the property proposed to receive a zoning change, but changes will need voter approval, if the City Council adheres to the City Charter.
  • Referring voters to the City website leads to false and incomplete information.
  • No written legal opinions on Piedmont voters rights, density, single-family housing, classifications, reclassifications, or Piedmont liability have been provided publicly, indicating legal problems, and avoidance of providing points and authorities for public consideration.
  • Despite threats to Piedmonters, the Piedmont City Council and City staff have known of the need for voter approval of proposed zoning changes and failed to date to schedule voter consideration to meet the State deadline of May 23, 2023.
  • The loss of local control by the City’s rejection of legally required voting over zoning is happening now in Piedmont, not because of Sacramento, but because the Piedmont City Council is not following  the City Charter and scheduling the required timely local election for continued voters control of zoning in Piedmont.
  • The City continues to spend well over a million dollars on banners, consultants, puzzles, incorrect flyers, staff time, and a letter thwarting Piedmont’s City Charter and voters rights, while complaining about potential election costs.
  • Sending a City letter to Piedmonters shortly before an election regarding  a contested campaign issue is legally questionable particularly by using false and incomplete factual information.
  • The City Administrator’s letter mentions nothing about the duty of the City Administrator to uphold the City Charter as requiring voter approval of the proposed zoning changes.

 For decades, a core principle of PCA is following the rule of law and upholding voters rights. 

  • UPDATE: The City Clerk announced on 10.3.2022, “The City Council meeting scheduled for Monday, October 3rd has been cancelled due to a medical emergency in the City Administrator’s family.” 
Sep 27 2022

The City Council is urged to listen to the expertise of residents and take on the challenge – to investigate, question and push back against the ABAG / HCD 587-unit requirement and demand a fair process.

Dear Mayor King and City Council Members,

At the August 1st City Council meeting, in my rush to cover several topics, I was remiss in not thanking all Council Members and Staff for all their efforts to date on the General Plan. I apologize for that omission. In my career, I have served on a few Boards and fully appreciate the time and effort required by that service. Thank you.

Given the limited presentation time available to speakers at the meeting, however, I do feel that it is important to restate my position regarding the Draft Housing Element.

When Piedmont’s Housing Element requirement was initially announced, the Piedmont Planning Staff informed the residents that, even though the requirement of 587 units was nearly 10 times the previous requirement, ‘Piedmont should take on accommodating 587 units AS A CHALLENGE’. There was no mention of Piedmont challenging the 587-unit number despite the extraordinary increase over the previous General Plan requirement (60 units). If that discussion did occur between the Staff and the Council, then those minutes should be made available to clarify the record.

It appears to me that we are at a juncture where the solutions proposed in the Housing Element and the acceptance of some of those solutions by a significant number of residents are at odds. That is why I propose challenging the premise that 587 new units can be accommodated in Piedmont.

Why challenge the State HCD (Housing and Community Development Dept.) requirement?

One reason is that the State Auditor was directed to evaluate the needs assessment process that the HCD uses to provide key housing guidance to local governments. The Auditor’s report, dated March 17,2022, concluded that the HCD does not ensure that it’s needs assessments are accurate and adequately supported.

The Auditor found errors such as; not considering all the factors that State Law requires; no formal review process for the data it uses; the HCD could not support its use of various vacancy rates.

What was the HCD’s response to these very serious findings about their processes and due diligence?

The HCD said they would review their processes over the next year, but they did not commit to reviewing or modifying any of the current cycle of projections. The HCD 6th Cycle projected a need of 2,300,00 housing units for California. However, prior to that, in August 2020, the HCD projected a need of only 1,170,000 units for the same time period – about half the current requirement.

On the Federal side, Freddie Mac’s projected need for 6th cycle housing was 1,320,00 units in February 2020. These wide variations in projected housing need coupled with the State Auditor’s findings about the HCD’s procedures converge to magnify the need to examine the HCD 6th cycle requirement with a very healthy skepticism and to institute a very serious investigation or as some other like-minded cities have done – that is to band together and legally challenge the HCD on their process and projections.

We must remember that the General Plan is on an 8-year cycle and Piedmont will need to submit a Plan again in 2031. The State will likely impose another housing requirement on Piedmont then.

How many units will be required and where will those units go in 2031? What legacy will be left for the City Council of 2031?

All that adds to the urgency in challenging the 587-unit requirement now. To work toward an acceptable compromise of this issue with the HCD, it would also be very important for the City to establish an acceptable and attainable number of units that the planners believe can reasonably be accommodated in the current 6th cycle.

In any negotiation, if Piedmont can emphasize it’s prior compliance with the HCD requirements and exhibit a good faith effort to accommodate a significant new housing increase over prior General Plans ( say a 2-fold or 3-fold increase ) it would go a long way toward establishing the seriousness of Piedmont’s position and commitment.

Nevertheless, based on the uncertainty of the HCD population projection process, it is very important that we and other cities push back and demand more transparency and accuracy from the HCD now.

Another reason – numbers matter. Many of the objections to the Housing Element come down the extraordinary means needed to try to accommodate 587 units while trying to maintain a sense of identity for Piedmont. If, for example, Piedmont’s Housing Element were only a 3-fold increase over the existing requirement and Piedmont need only accommodate 180 new units, I believe that the Housing Element would now be approved and in our rear-view mirror. This is just an example, but it makes the point that numbers do matter – and accuracy and fairness of process also matter.

Another reason – our Fair Share. In the Aug. 1 Council meeting, many residents stated their beliefs that Piedmont should provide its fair share of housing units. I wholeheartedly agree, but how is the fair share derived? I believe that it is vital that our fair share should be derived from a fair and open process given the magnitude of its impact on our City.

There should also be some recognition of Piedmont’s constraints – that it is predominantly built-out and that the City faces reconstruction or new construction of its Essential Services Buildings ( ESB’s ) which could significantly affect some of the few available parcels in the City.

Recent meetings and discussions all expose the fact that the Housing Element, the structural integrity of the ESB’s (which, in my opinion, should be Piedmont’s HIGHEST PRIORITY) and a Master Plan for the Downtown parcels are all intertwined, yet none of these issues has a solid implementable plan. That fact strengthens the position that Piedmont should not proceed with submission of a Housing Element containing 587 units. That is why I strongly urge the City Council to listen to the residents and take on the challenge – to investigate, question and push back against the HCD 587-unit requirement and demand a fair process.

Respectfully submitted,

Donald Chandler AIA Piedmont Resident

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Sep 22 2022

Questions on the proposed Housing Element were posed by Garrett Keating followed by Answers from the City Planning Department, plus Interpretations.

  1. Is the relocation of the Corporation Yard to Blair Park being considered as part of the Moraga Canyon Site Assessment?

Answer:  City staff considered the broader policy issue of identifying City parkland in the Housing Element sites inventory, starting on page 157 of the Draft Housing Element. Ultimately, staff recommended a Draft Housing Element that did not include parkland in the sites inventory as a primary site. Blair Park was identified as a possible “alternative site” in the text description of the sites inventory. Dracena Park and all City parks were considered for housing sites during the development of the sites inventory in the Draft Housing Element.  On August 1, 2022, the City Council directed staff to include Blair Park in the sites inventory as a primary site as part of a proposed Moraga Canyon Specific Plan study in order to consider all of the interrelated changes that may be necessary to locate housing in Moraga Canyon and improve City facilities at the same time.

The Moraga Canyon Specific Plan study will start with a request for proposals (RFP) or request for qualifications (RFQ). The RFP or RFQ will include a project description for the types of land uses and changes to be considered.

  1. The Housing Element 102 presentation projected 82 units for the Corporation Yard.  Does that assume the Corporation Yard is relocated to Blair Park? If not, can you tell me the acreage that is available for housing in the Corporation Yard and how you arrived at 82 units for the Corporation Yard (50+32)?

Answer: Here is some background about the corporation yard site for the purposes of the Housing Element sites inventory. The corporation yard, alone, is approximately 13.6 acres. It is an approximate number because this land is also steeply sloping in some areas, and it has existing uses and facilities. Of the 13.6 acres, 3.7 acres are expected to yield 132 housing units. 100 of the 132 would be multifamily residential units at approximately 50 dwelling units per acre.  Please see Figure B-1 from the Draft Housing Element below.

On August 1, the City Council directed staff to re-distribute the housing units identified for sites in the civic center area. It is possible that some of the housing units (mainly moderate and above moderate housing units) could be added to the corporation yard site and a new Moraga Canyon Specific Plan study. These units would appear, if necessary, in the next iteration of the Draft Housing Element sites inventory this fall. Also on August 1, the City Council directed staff to include Blair Park in the Moraga Canyon Specific Plan study area.

Interpretation:  relocation of the Corporation Yard to Blair Park is currently not being considered in the identification of housing sites in the Housing Element.  The map shows that the Corporation Yard is to be maintained and staff does not indicate that they are considering it for housing.

  1. The City Administrator discussed the income levels required for new residents to be eligible for low-income housing.  The City Administrator presented income data for city/PUSD employees, citing the number of employees that fall into the 4 categories between $69,000 and $150,000. I believe she concluded that 80% of city/PUSD employees are considered low-income.  Is that correct?  The income eligibility levels are based on the income for a family of 4.  Did the city administrator’s presentation account for this – are the employee numbers she presented for employees with families of 4 (or more) or were those incomes for individuals?

Answer: To follow up the email I sent on Monday, I confirmed that the income categories described on slide 10 of the presentation on August 18, 2022, were based on a family of 4 people and that the City and PUSD employees’ incomes were evaluated against this baseline family income. The analysis did not base the employees’ income categories on the size of their actual families.

Interpretation Using individual income levels of city/PUSD employees to characterize those employees’ eligibility for different low-income family housing overstates their eligibility.

  1. The Planning Director presented a new total for ADUs of 142 and a new income distribution of 84/42/16 = 142. He attributed this new distribution to guidance from HCD and ABAG.  Can I obtain a copy of that guidance from the two agencies or can you direct me to a s source for it? 

Answer: Click on the following link to review the ADU projected income levels from ABAG guidance from June 2022: https://abag.ca.gov/sites/default/files/documents/2022-06/ADUs-Projections-Memo_final.pdf

Interpretation These new ADU allocations help Piedmont in that they count towards the city’s low-income unit target, lessening the need for low-income units elsewhere.  It should be noted the City has very little control over the actual rental or monthly rent of these units.

 Would moving the Corporation Yard to Blair Park make that side of Moraga Avenue more eligible for development.

“It is our understanding that a number of these facilities have significant capital deficiencies and that they are likely to require substantial renovation and/or replacement at some point in the near future. Because these sites are in strategic locations, it will be possible for the City to engage with the private sector to establish partnerships that would lead to the redevelopment of these facilities along with the identified housing programs.  These sites have value that the City can potentially leverage to attract private partners and to move forward on the basis of a public-private partnership that meets the community’s needs for improved facilities, along with the provision of additional housing.” From the City FAQ about Civic sites:

Both sides of Moraga Avenue can accommodate housing but on which side does the City have more leverage to improve facilities and add housing?  Working with developers, the City can certainly add low income housing to Blair Park but there are no facilities on that side of Moraga to improve, with the exception of the park.  The Corporation Yard offers multiple upgrade options. The City intends to expand Coaches Field to a 150 x 300 multi-purpose field and major reconfiguration of the space is needed.  The Corporation Yard itself is outdated – would a developer contribute to its relocation to eastern Blair Park for the right to develop the site?  The Moraga Canyon Specific Plan needs to include this analysis to achieve the best return to the community on the public land that will be converted to housing.

Garrett Keating, Former Piedmont City Council Member

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author and the City of Piedmont Planning Department.

READ PROPOSED  HOUSING ELEMENT :>  LWC_Piedmont_HEU_PRD_040822-compiledfix

Sep 19 2022

Bridget Harris, candidate for the Piedmont City Council, voices, “The City Council should carefully consider applying the “Walkable Oriented Development” (“WOD”) approach to all possible locations and present the results to the community for approval before submitting any proposal for the 6th Cycle Housing Element.”

As the City of Piedmont addresses potential locations for additional housing to meet the 6th Cycle Housing Element, the following criteria should be considered:
1.      Maintain the culture and character of the City;
2.      Maintain traffic safety and security in the City;
3.      Minimize the loss of park land and open space;
4.      Offer locations that maximize the efficiency of construction and living.

A study by the American Enterprise Institute suggests that these criteria can best be met by “Walkable Oriented Development” (“WOD”).  This approach focuses development in areas within a ten minute walk of services and infrastructure. WOD focuses on the placement of multi-unit housing close to existing supermarkets, pharmacies, restaurants and public transportation.  It allows an increase in density while minimizing the need for the construction of additional infrastructure. WOD also makes it easier and less expensive for low income owners/renters to access necessary services thereby reducing traffic impact .

Piedmont doesn’t have a WOD location in the center of the City nor does it have a WOD area along Moraga Avenue.  It doesn’t make sense to force expensive and inefficient high density development in these locations.  However, Grand Avenue and Park Boulevard could become WOD areas with significantly less expense and disruption to the existing community.  The City Council should carefully consider applying the WOD approach to all possible locations and present the results to the community for approval before submitting any proposal for the 6th Cycle Housing Element. 
https://www.aei.org/wod/

Bridget Harris, Seaview Avenue, Candidate for City Council

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Sep 15 2022

There are 6 candidates seeking election to 3 seats on the Piedmont City Council. Voters can vote for up to 3 of the candidates. The election is on Tuesday, November 8, 2022. The candidates are shown below in alphabetical order with their ballot statements copied beside their photographs.

Betsy Andersen

Betsy Smegal Andersen

City Council Member

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

Sonny Bostrom-Flemming

 

Nancy “Sunny” Bostrom-Fleming

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

Jennifer Long

Jennifer Long

Appointed City Council Member

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

Bridget Harris

Bridget McInerney Harris

Estate Planning Attorney

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

Tom Ramsey

Tom Ramsey

Architect

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

Jeanne Solnordal

Jeanne Solnordal

Broker

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

The League of Women Voters Piedmont is holding a virtual City Council Candidates’ Forum:

When: Thursday, September 22, 2022 @ 7:30 pm
Where: online via Zoom and YouTube

Register to receive a link to join the live Zoom webinar. This event will also be live-streamed on YouTube and the recording will be available there for future viewing.

Register

Editors’ Note: The League of Women Voters and the Piedmont Civic Association (PCA) are separate community organizations. PCA does not support or oppose candidates for public office.  All candidates and the community are invited to submit information about candidates, including endorser lists to the link on left side of this page.