May 25 2022

HOUSING ELEMENTS: STATE HOUSING REQUIREMENTS FOUND TO BE IN ERROR BY STATE AUDITOR 

How many housing units are actually needed?

The Auditor’s letter suggests a number of fundamental Housing and Community Development (HCD) failures:

– adequate consideration of all factors required by state law

– accurate use of healthy housing vacancy rates

– projection of the number of future households that will require housing units lacks supportive data

– lack of a proper study to support HCD housing numbers required of local communities

Excerpt quoted from Acting California State Auditor’s letter:

“…  In reviewing the needs assessments for three regions, we identified multiple areas in which HCD must improve its process. For example, HCD does not satisfactorily review its needs assessments to ensure that staff accurately enter data when they calculate how much housing local governments must plan to build. As a result, HCD made errors that reduced its projected need for housing in two of the regions we reviewed. We also found that HCD could not demonstrate that it adequately considered all of the factors that state law requires, and it could not support its use of healthy housing vacancy rates. This insufficient oversight and lack of support for its considerations risks eroding public confidence that HCD is informing local governments of the appropriate amount of housing they will need.

“HCD’s needs assessments also rely on some projections that the Department of Finance (Finance) provides. While we found that most of Finance’s projections were reasonably accurate, it has not adequately supported the rates it uses to project the number of future households that will require housing units in the State. Although these household projections are a key component in HCD’s needs assessments, Finance has not conducted a proper study or obtained formal recommendations from experts it consulted to support its assumptions in this area. Finance intends to reevaluate its assumptions related to household growth as more detailed 2020 Census data becomes available later in the year, but without such efforts, Finance cannot ensure that it is providing the most appropriate information to HCD.”

Respectfully submitted,

MICHAEL S. TILDEN, CPA
Acting California State Auditor

Read the complete letter here.

May 22 2022

Required low and very low income housing units appear concentrated in and around the city corporation yard in Moraga Canyon in the City proposed Housing Element.

An open letter to the Piedmont City Council,

Sadly, Piedmont has a well-documented history of using restrictive covenants to exclude non-white families, and of using city resources to force them from the community. But we now have an opportunity to redress those wrongs because state law requires California cities to find sites on which developers can build housing for low-income households.  To avoid yet again using city power to exclude, segregate, and stigmatize residents, current City of Piedmont policy is to “Support equitable distribution of affordable units across the City.” Working to comply with the law, city staff has unveiled a draft list of sites that mostly complies with the policy of equitable distribution although 100 of the 200 or so required units appear concentrated in and around the city corporation yard in Moraga Canyon. 

Your decision on whether, and how, to change the sites before sending the list to the State will reveal Piedmonters’ values to witnesses, including our children, to your choices.  Your most telling choice will be whether you comply with your stated policy of “equitable distribution of affordable units across the city.” Equitable distribution has become an issue because public comment includes the recommendation that the Council reassign low-income units from elsewhere in Piedmont to Blair Park across Moraga Avenue from the 100 units already assigned to the corporation yard.

Blair Park is a former landfill exposed to levels of noise and air pollution among the worst in the city, where pedestrians and bicyclists regularly encounter speeding vehicles with drivers whose sight corridors are limited by the curvature and slope of Moraga Avenue.  Indeed, the danger inherent in crossing Moraga Avenue proved so unacceptable that a plan to locate soccer fields in Blair Park a decade ago had to be abandoned.  No scheme, including those with pedestrian bridges and “traffic calming,” sufficiently reduced the danger, particularly for children, to warrant moving forward. The Safer Streets Plan you adopted only six months ago states, moreover, that “The Moraga Avenue/Red Rock Road location has been removed from the 2014 list (i.e., of pedestrian safety improvements) because of feasibility issues in providing adequate pedestrian access in Blair Park…”

An objective observer aware of Piedmont’s sad history and of the suggestion to locate nearly all the State-required units in Moraga Canyon, including 50 or more in Blair Park, could reasonably conclude that we had reverted to our exclusionary past.  Indeed, stigmatizing low-income families by isolating them in Blair Park would reek of a history decent Piedmonters regret.

I live in Moraga Canyon and endorse the staff recommendation that the corporation yard be made available for a large share of the low-income housing Piedmont must accommodate to comply with law.  But as a Piedmonter who believes that our shameful history compels us to act in accordance with our current inclusionary policies, I object to leaving open the possibility of reassigning units now shown elsewhere in Piedmont to Blair Park. Such a reassignment would amount to nothing more than a cynical reversion to the despicable exclusionary policies of the last century.  The Council should honor the current policy of equitable distribution and explicitly reject such reassignment.

Respectfully,

Ralph Catalano, Piedmont Resident

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

CITY of PIEDMONT’S FREE GALA FOR ALL

WEDNESDAY, MAY 18, 2022, 5:30 p.m.

The City will be hosting an awards “gala” on Wednesday, May 18 at 5:30 p.m. at the Piedmont Community Hall in Main Park on Highland Avenue to celebrate excellence in building and landscape design.

The City Planning Department is pleased to provide the 2022 Piedmont Design and Sustainability Award winners.

View the winners by clicking below:

>2022 Design Award Winners List

If you have any questions, please contact Assistant Planner Steven Lizzarago or Planning Technician Suzanne Hartman  Tel: (510) 420-3094

May 12 2022
At the Planning Commission hearing on the Housing Element on May 12, 2022, the consultant from Lisa Wise Consulting stated that Housing and Community Development Department was not accepting SB9 projections to count towards a city’s RHNA housing goals.  A little web searching revealed that Atherton is preparing SB9 projections to include in its Housing Element and there are consulting firms using SB9 potential in housing element calculations.
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SB9 projections are highly uncertain this early after implementation of the law, but if HCD is willing to accept these estimates then Piedmont should generate them.  Yes, such sites are unlikely to be very low and low affordable units, but the point is to claim this capacity so as to remove pressure to develop public sites like the Veterans Building and the 801 Magnolia Avenue Building, sites identified for moderate income units.  The Atherton estimate is based on 10 SB9 units (10 units since  January 2022, so 80 units over 8 years) and it remains to be seen if HCD will accept this projection.
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Inline image

https://www.ci.atherton.ca.us/DocumentCenter/View/10036/ITEM-17

From “Proposal for the Town of Ross Housing Element Update” submitted by Dyett and Bhatia, Urban and Regional Planners, January 28, 2022.

“Next, we will evaluate the realistic development capacity for each site with reference to demonstrated development trends, drawing on input from the Housing Forum and the Town’s recent APRs. Documenting the number of ADUs developed in recent years and prior to 2018 will be an important consideration, as HCD guidance allows jurisdictions to project based on past trends with adjustments that account for new laws that significantly increase the potential for ADU development. Capacity calculations will also consider the potential for lot splits permitted under SB9. Based on this evaluation, sufficient sites to satisfy the Sixth Cycle RHNA for all income levels will be included on the inventory.”

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Garrett Keating, Former Piedmont City Council Member and Resident
Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
May 10 2022

Garrett Keating, former member of the Piedmont City Council, evaluated parts of the Draft Housing Element being considered by the Piedmont Planning Commission at their Special Meeting on May 12, 2022. 

Click below to read Keatings letter to the Commission.

HE_comment_Keating 52022

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

I just wanted to clarify that the timeline for preparation of Housing Element updates is set by state law.

It is an iterative process that mandates local jurisdictions prepare draft Housing Elements, open them up for public comment and send them to the state’s Housing and Community Development department (HCD) for its review.  Once HCD has reviewed, it sends back its comments and recommendations to local jurisdictions, so they can incorporate them into revised drafts, to make sure those drafts comply with all the requirements of state law.  The final product, after all these different rounds of review, needs to be done in early to mid 2023.  So while it seems like 2023 is a long time away, the timeline is actually tight. You can find a model timeline in the website for the Association of Bay Area Governments, here:

https://abag.ca.gov/technical-assistance/housing-element-update-timeline

In other words, it is not up to the City Council or the Planning Commission to extend the deadlines.  In fact, delaying the process may lead to increased oversight of the process by the state, as recently happened to the city of Los Angeles. As a result of its failure to comply with Housing Element preparation on time, LA now finds itself into a state-law mandated expedited track to approve all required rezonings within one year.  See:

https://www.planetizen.com/news/2022/02/116337-las-housing-element-considered-among-californias-most-ambitious-rejected-state

The timeline, then, must be respected.  However, that doesn’t mean that the City is trying to push this forward without real opportunities for public comment.  We, as residents of Piedmont, can comment now and when HCD provides its recommendations.  We can also comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Report, which the City should be releasing any time now, and at the time of final approval.

Finally, I think we should remember that the draft Housing Element is NOT amending the Charter, rezoning the Corp Yard, or converting Veterans Hall or the City Council building to low income housing.  It is just proposing draft policies and identifying potential sites where the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), which represents the City’s fair share of housing growth, could be accommodated.  It is a high level policy document. Even if these policies were adopted, subsequent rezonings would be needed, as the draft plan acknowledges.  And even if those rezonings occurred, that doesn’t mean that automatically these sites would be developed.  Much more process would be needed, with public input and any required environmental review, and actual  projects would need to be proposed and approved.  So, it is a long process, and there will be many opportunities for public participation as we go along.

Thanks to PCA and to all of you, readers, for the opportunity to engage in this important conversation.  I look forward to more.

Respectfully,

Andrea Ruiz-Esquide, Piedmont Resident

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

 

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