Nov 9 2016

Big Changes to Piedmont Building and Zoning Code

Do Piedmonters understand the proposed changes impacting their property, the City’s property, or neighboring properties?

Chapter 17 of the City Code is the controlling legal document for building in Piedmont. 

Momentous changes are proposed.

Confusion and some concerns:

  • How many parking spaces are going to be required?
  • What are the new required sizes of parking spaces?
  • Who gets to decide on building applications – permits, design review and variances?
  • Are zone uses being changed without a public vote?
  • Will roofs and other buildings be allowed to extend further into side yard setbacks?  
  • Are variance requirements being changed?
  • Wireless communication requirements decided by staff?
  • Calling application requirements a permit rather than design review?
  • Planning Commission decisions on proposals turned over for staff decisions increased from $75,000 to $125,000?
  • No building restrictions on Public Property?

On Thursday, November 10, 2016, the City Council Chambers, City Hall, the Planning Commission at 5:00 p.m. will continue their work on changes to Piedmont’s building and zoning code, Chapter 17. 

The Piedmont Planning Commission has been meeting for some months on changes to Chapter 17 of the City Code with little public input. Changes to Piedmont building requirements found in Chapter 17 will have far reaching impacts.  The latest version of the changes will be considered at the November 10, 2016 Planning Commission “workshop.”

Community Engagement Requested:

A call for community workshops oriented toward expanded public input has been suggested; however, as of this writing none have been scheduled by the City.  The Planning Commission meetings have had limited public participation where comments to the  Planning Commission have a 3 minute limit, as opposed to an open exchange of ideas with the community.

The usual procedure in proposing changes to legal documents is to strike out language proposed for elimination and color or italicize new language. Following this common procedure would help Piedmonters understand the changes under consideration.  The Planning Commissioners, City Council, and public are being asked to comment on changes only hinted at in the Staff’s abstract revision table.  The revision table only notes whole sections that have been moved or deleted; but does not indicate precise changes within the sections.  

Buried in the moved sections are fundamental changes in single lines, such as moving Chapter 17.6 Zone B: Public facilities to Chapter 17.22 and adding use “by a for-profit commercial entity.” This innocuous single line is a fundamental use change not authorized by the City Charter without a city-wide vote.

The changes essentially amount to a rewrite of Chapter 17 with extensive new language not previously seen.  A city wide notification has been noted as prudent before concluding Planning Commission recommendations to the City Council.

Examples of proposed changes are:
  • – Page 45 – Chapter 17.6 Zone B changed to Section 17.22 Zone B: Public facilities Section 17.22.030 – Conditional Uses.  The following are allowed as Conditional Uses in Zone B:  A. City building used by a for-profit commercial entity.  Comment: this is not highlighted.
  • WCF (wireless communication facilities). This is one of the many topics taken up in the “public meetings” relative to Chapter 17. The proposal recommends that the City Council only review WCF in Zone B, all others in right of ways around town are decided on by the Planning Director. WCF is getting put on poles rather than towers so it is likely that many homes may see one of these out their windows. The Planning Department and the wireless company would agree WCF locations. There appears to be no mention of a process for a resident to object. http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/publicworks/docs/planning/ch17revisions/2016-08-30_report.pdf
  • Control of what citizens can build on their property has migrated from the Planning Commission to decision-making by City staff as the threshold for review by the Commission increased to $75,000.  In June Planning Director Jackson suggested the cost threshold for review by the Planning Commission should be increased from $75,000 to $125,000. 

To understand where changes are being proposed to the existing ordinances, a lined through and changed version would help readers.

Staff report for the November 10 meeting can be read here. 

The volume of planning documents can be read here.

Notice regarding the meeting from the Planning Director Kevin Jackson is below:

Activity by the Planning Commission or City Council related to revisions of City Code Chapter 17, the Zoning Code.

Item 1, and the only item on the agenda for the Planning Commission’s special meeting scheduled for Thursday, November 10, 2016 is the Consideration of a Resolution Recommending Updates to the Planning and Zoning Provisions in the City Code and City Council Policies, as well as Actions to Update Planning Commission Policies.

You can find more information on this ongoing project by visiting the City’s website. It is there that you can also find links to past reports and meeting minutes as well as a link to the staff report for the November 10, 2016 Planning Commission special meeting.

You are encouraged to provide your comments on the topics under discussion by attending the meeting and/or by submitting written comments by 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. You can submit your comments to the Commission by sending an email to me, kjackson@ci.piedmont.ca.us or on paper to 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611

Kevin Jackson, AICP, Planning Director, City of Piedmont

The meeting will be broadcast live on Cable Channel 27 and from the City website under videos, Planning Commission.  A video recording will be made of the meeting for future viewing.

Sep 27 2016

REPORT: Stop Signs, Mosquitoes, Zoning, Beach and Coaches Field Considered by Council

“Council discussion of zoning was difficult to understand” –

On the evening of September 19 at 7:30, after the Pledge of Allegiance and a brief introduction, the Council approved meeting minutes, approved a contract with Miracle Playsystems Inc. to replace the protective surfacing at Dracena Park, and approved a replacement license plate reader unit for the Police Department.

Next, the Council opened the floor for public comments and opinion. The hot topic of the night was stop signs; specifically the 16 newly added stop signs across town. Some were in favor and spoke for the “pros” of stop signs because they reinforce safety as a priority. However, there were others who were bittersweet on the new traffic signs. “Is 16 too many?” One community member asked, “I think a study is necessary.”

One community member enlightened the crowd on the effect stop signs have on the environment. Brake dust and emission is emitted with every break and go. Therefore, the more stop signs means the more brake-and-gos which ultimately mean more pollution. The man suggested a traffic engineer come and inspect.

I personally believe the stop signs are a great addition to the community. I live on Mountain Avenue and have found the new stop signs located at Hampton and Seaview avenues to be highly effective and impactful.

Next was a ceremony to honor departing planning staff member Matt Anderson for the work he has done with Piedmont on environmental studies to enhance environmental awareness and conservation. Anderson has encouraged Piedmont to install more solar panels, make street lights more efficient, and reduce greenhouse gases.

Then there was a personally unexpected presentation on mosquitoes by the Alameda County Mosquito Abatement District. The audience was taught the biology of mosquitoes, mosquito management in Piedmont, and effect of disease carrying mosquitoes. Prior to this meeting, I had no previous knowledge on what helps regulate the number of mosquitoes in Piedmont.

The Council then went into discussing zoning provisions. In addition, they talked about an agreement with the local government commission for the Civic Spark Internship Program; costing a total of $5,000. It was at this point in the meeting where I wish I had done some homework. I can honestly say I do not know anything about “Zoning” or the “Civic Spark Internship Program” and the Council members were throwing around numbers and unfamiliar words making it very difficult to understand the issue and conclusion. The council also spoke about working with Coastland Engineers for property assessments of City Hall, the Veterans Hall, the Recreation Center, and the Community Hall.

I think the major properties in Piedmont such as the venues listed above should be a priority for the city because they are so popular and so widely used.

 Next on the agenda were announcements, old business and proposals for future agenda items. There were several speakers, however, the focus of this cluster seemed to revolve around the Shell Gas Station located in the center of town. With hopes of new development and maintaining Piedmont’s residential character, alternatives such as a cafe were discussed. Yet, the Council reminded the public that no plan has been proposed and right now this idea is simply nothing more than an idea.

Then the council transitioned into the topic of Beach and Coaches Field. Two men came and proposed a plan that costing $35,000 for Beach and $25,000 for Coaches Field. The goal is to improve the venue and use it for more events and functions. Jen Cavanaugh, a woman running for City Council, spoke out and said “I think this is a great opportunity to partner with the school.” Similarly, Council Member Teddy King said “I think it is time to move this project forward.”

Although I was pleased to see the city trying to improve local fields and playgrounds, I was amazed by the large sum of money that was being spent in less than 10 minutes!

Unfortunately there were times when the meeting was a bit hard to hear. If possible, I would love to see more effective microphones or speakers so that the public can clearly hear everything that is being said.

The meeting wrapped up with a cheerful “this is a big weekend for Piedmont.” Festivities such as the movie in the park, the Fall Fest 5k, and the Harvest festival will all take place in the center of town.

Afterwards, I had the privilege of speaking with Acting Mayor Jeff Wieler. I began by telling him my opinion on the new stop signs. He graciously thanked me for attending the meeting and for relaying my reaction to the stop signs. Then I asked him “What’s your favorite part about being Mayor?” He responded, “I get to set the agenda and have paper instead of iPads.” We then talked about how he got involved in politics, specifically the City Council. He said that before he ran for a seat on City Council, he was part of many committees and saw the council as a place to apply what he knew. He admitted “things are running pretty well here in Piedmont,” but one particular concern Acting Mayor Wieler would like to see addressed is the Piedmont swimming pool. He believes the pool is undersized for its use and that we need to have a pool that “better serves the people of Piedmont.”

   Overall, it was a great experience to get a closer look into Piedmont government. I encourage the public to sit in or participate; even if it is just one time! City Council is a great medium to see how government is run in Piedmont and speak for or against certain issues in the community.

Every 1st and 3rd Monday of each month, the Piedmont City Council congregates in the Chamber of City Hall.

Hanna Marcus, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Aug 28 2016

Planning Commission Considers Commercial Zoning Changes for Civic Center and Grand Avenue Tues August 30

Are Piedmonters going to be surprised by the new building requirements and zoning changes?  Few residents have participated in the meetings as the Planning Commission has deliberated changes.  Read the staff report  < here for details of  proposed changes.

The Planning Commission will discuss on August 30 revisions to Piedmont’s Building requirements in Chapter 17 of the Municipal Code,  the Zoning Code. The Zone D parcels are occupied by commercial or single family residential uses at present.

The new proposals include increasing the height limitation for the Civic Center commercial parcels at Highland Avenue and Vista Avenue next to Havens School across from the Emergency Fire Department Services adjoining City Hall to 40 feet, and for the Grand Avenue parcels to 35 feet, plus eliminating setback requirements for both areas. This would appear to allow further densification. (See the chart of proposed Zone D requirements on page 5 of the staff report.)

Special Session

1. DISCUSSION OF CITY CODE CHAPTER 17 MODIFICATIONS

The Planning Commission will continue its discussion of potential amendments to provisions of Chapter 17 (the City’s Zoning Code). This session’s discussion topics include, but are not limited to: the regulations for Zone D regarding building height, setbacks for upper levels, and parking for commercial uses; the regulations of signs; the regulations of wireless communications facilities; projects eligible for expedited design review; various changes to the administrative regulations; definitions and measurements; and the composition of an interim design guidelines. The purpose of the discussion is to take public testimony on the subject, and to provide an opportunity for the Commission to consider the subject matter, make comments and give direction. The Planning Commission may give direction to staff, but no formal action will occur.

Also under discussion are reduced parking requirements, signing regulations, wireless communications facilities, expedited design review, as well as numerous definitions and measurements.

Read the August 30 staff report here.

The August 20, 2016 Planning Commission meeting in the Council Chambers, City Hall is open to the public. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on Channel 27 and from the City website.

Aug 21 2016

OPINION: Neighbors Concerned About Proposed Zoning Regulations Are Circulating a Petition

Citizen Opposition to Increased Height of Commercial Development Adjacent to Residences and Other Issues –

Neighbors near the Shell Station at Wildwood and Grand Avenues are circulating a petition to gather support for their proposals to protect Piedmont residents. The pervasive zoning matter, originating in the Planning Department, attempts to increase the height of commercial buildings next to Piedmont homes to 40′, reduce the size and number of parking spaces required, permit eaves and overhangs on all Piedmont buildings to extend to the property line, and require housing on upper levels of new commercial buildings.

The petition does not address the dormant breach per the City Charter precluding Piedmont voters of their right to control land use changes. The breach was proposed in 2012 and later approved by the Council.  No development has occurred while awaiting the controversial 2016 proposed regulations.

The Planning Commission meetings covering consideration of zoning changes has been found by some to thwart community input while proposing consequential negative impacts on residential properties near the commercial zones located on Grand Avenue and in the Civic Center on Highland Avenue, and thus impacting all of Piedmont.

Below is the petition being circulated:

https://www.change.org/p/piedmont-planning-commission-and-piedmont-city-council-maintain-zoning-regulations-that-protect-piedmont-residents    Don Dare and Miguel DeAvila Piedmont Residents

Editors’ Note:  Opinions expressed in the petition are those of the authors.
Jul 28 2016

OPINION: Proposed Zoning Changes Give Away the Farm

Objections to proposed zoning regulations are voiced in letters to the Piedmont Planning Commission by Piedmont resident. 

Subject: 7/26/16 Planning Commission Study Session

My name is Don Dare. My wife, Dianne, and I live at XXX* Wildwood Avenue, and have done so for the past thirty four years. Our Zone A property shares a boundary with the Zone D property which currently is the Shell station at 29 Wildwood Avenue. I and a group of my neighbors attended the Planning Commission Special Session held on 7/26/16 to discuss City Code Chapter 17 modifications. We were, and continue to be concerned about the proposed modifications to the Zone D regulations, specifically those concerning building height, lot coverage, and parking space requirements. These modifications propose a 40’ height limit, no lot coverage restrictions, and a severely reduced parking space requirement.

At this meeting, Planning Director Kevin Jackson stated that there were 19 parcels in Piedmont that are in Zone D. He said that of these 19 parcels, only one would be a likely candidate for mixed use development in the years or even decades to come. That is the parcel at 29 Wildwood Avenue. He also stated that under the existing code, the mixed use development proposal for this site, submitted for discussion last year, (by ex­ Planning Commissioner David Hobstetter and Shell owner Jeff Hansen), could not be built. It therefore appears to me that the proposed modifications are being made to accommodate these would-be developers and their project, as no other mixed use development is anticipated for some time, if ever.

Mr. Jackson displayed photo examples of mixed use development on Grand Avenue and Lakeshore Avenue in Oakland, and Solano Avenue in Albany. These photos depicted streets which for a block or more were lined with retail on both sides. These examples in no way compare with the site at 29 Wildwood, a stand­ alone triangular parcel that either abuts or faces Zone A single family neighborhood homes on two of its three sides.

As the discussion concerning these modifications proceeded, Commissioner Theophilos said that there should be no modification to the existing code, and if need be, the General Plan should be modified to remove the need for any such modifications. He stated that this type of development should be constrained. Alternate Commissioner Jajodia expressed the opinion that the proposed modifications were “giving away the farm.” Commissioner Zhang pointed out that the Grand Avenue and Civic Center locations are unique, and not easily covered by one set of regulations, and suggested creating code for each. Commissioner Behrens found the various lot coverage scenarios confusing. Commissioner Ramsey expressed the need to minimize the impact on adjacent neighbors. Full support for the modifications was given only by Commissioner Ode, who stated that this was not a one property issue, (which it actually is), and eagerly supported all modifications without reservation.

Despite the obvious lack of consensus among the Commissioners and the repeated and ongoing protests by property owners who live in the immediate neighborhood, it appeared at the end of the meeting that the proposed Zone D modifications were given back to Mr. Jackson largely unchanged. The Commission’s discussion of these modifications included little or no reference to concerns expressed by the public. The concerns and issues expressed by Commission members appeared to fall victim to time constraints, as 7:30 p.m. came and went and became time to wrap it up.

I would urge you to continue discussion of this difficult and complex topic at your next meeting. Giving away the farm is not the best solution when the perceived motivation is to accommodate the financial viability of a specific project for a specific developer at a specific site.

Thank you, Don Dare, Piedmont Resident

Comments ­ Part 2

My name is Don Dare. My wife, Dianne, and I live at XXX* Wildwood Avenue, and have done so for the past thirty four years. Our Zone A property shares a boundary with the Zone D property which currently is the Shell station at 29 Wildwood Avenue.

At the subject Study Session, it was established by comments from Kevin Jackson, Planning Director, that the proposed changes to Chapter 17 Zone D regulations were being made primarily to accommodate mixed use development of 29 Wildwood, as no other Zone D parcels were likely candidates for development for many years or even decades.

Per the Piedmont Post article printed following the 7/6/15 Study Session regarding the proposed mixed­ use development at 29 Wildwood, Investor David Hobstetter claims his project can’t proceed without assurances from the City that they will grant variances that far exceed the code for anything currently existing in Piedmont. Mr. Jackson confirmed this at the 7/26 Study Session, saying that under the current code, the proposed project could not be built. Jackson therefore proposed an increased height limit to 40’ and removal of all lot coverage restrictions.

I have included a photo representation of the impact that a 40’ tall building covering the lot to the sidewalk would have for me. The photo was taken from my front porch and is looking southwest. Aside from the obvious negative aesthetic impact and loss of view, this wall would deprive me of several hours of direct sunlight every day for the 6 months a year that the sun would set behind it.

I am hard pressed to imagine how the Planning Commission can reconcile approval for such a monstrosity, or the code which would allow it, with providing me the protection to which I am entitled under Zone A code. To further assist your decision making regarding the proposed Zone D code modifications, I have included quotes by David Hobstetter, a well­ regarded proponent of the positive effects of daylighting and natural light who is also an ex­ Planning Commissioner, and a principal in the proposed development.

Thank you for your consideration, Don Dare, Piedmont Resident        Date: July 28, 2016

Dare’s further comments: ______________

Let The Sun Shine in: The Value of Daylight    Excerpts..
By Susan Bloom

According to David Hobstetter, a Principal at San Francisco ­based KMD Architects, “Regular contact with daylight promotes circadian stimulation, regulating physical and mental function through our natural responses to the rhythms of light,” and helps to minimize the incidence of “cardiovascular problems, immune dysfunction, cognitive and functional deterioration and depression. Exposure to full­ spectrum sunlight further enables us to synthesize vitamin D, which promotes strong nerve and muscle functioning as well as cell growth regulation.”

He adds: “Optimizing the use of daylight also has enormous potential to provide energy savings—electric lights can be turned off when sufficient daylight is available, cutting lighting and cooling costs dramatically.” For example, he shares, “The CEC estimated that incorporating skylights with automatic daylight sensors into all new educational buildings would save the state of California up to $7 million dollars in energy costs each year.”

Overall, Hobstetter concludes: “Windows that admit daylight and provide an ample and pleasant view can dramatically affect mental alertness, productivity and psychological well­ being.”

*Address numbers have been removed in the interest of privacy.

Editors’ Note:  Opinions expressed are those of the author. 
Jul 23 2016

ZONING: Controversy and Cleanup: Special Meeting, Tuesday, July 26

Every home, apartment, commercial property, and public property in Piedmont is potentially impacted by the broad proposals before the Planning Commission.

Changes of use in the public zone, reduced parking requirements, buildings permitted in setbacks, reduced setback requirements, new descriptions of zone uses, changes in lot coverage requirements, etc. have or will be considered by the Planning Commission as they review staff proposals prior to making recommendations to the City Council, the deciding body.  The changes proposed are entirely too numerous to be listed here; however at the end of this article is a list of official documents related to the proposals.

The proposals currently being considered by the Planning Commission call for a new description of Piedmont’s predominate zones, the single-family residential zones, A and E.

The Planning Commission thus far has undertaken consideration of proposals at the end of their regular meetings. Typically, there have been few, if any, public participants at these meetings. The proposals are lengthy, fragmented and, likely, difficult for the average resident to follow. Awareness of government requirements generally only occur when property owners attempt to build a project or when a neighbor builds or proposes a project.

Piedmont’s foundational law is the Piedmont City Charter < .  Piedmont is a Charter City, and, as such, is governed differently than California General Law cities.

Piedmont’s original Charter intent was to maintain Piedmont as an independent residential city and to control commercial development within the city. To preserve Piedmont’s residential character,  a key provision was included in the Piedmont City  Charter  < requiring any change of classification or reclassification of zones to be done only with voter approval.

The Zoning System as outlined in Piedmont’s  City Charter states:<

“SECTION 9.02 ZONING SYSTEM

“The City of Piedmont is primarily a residential city, and the City Council shall have power to establish a zoning system within the City as may in its judgement be most beneficial. The Council may classify and reclassify the zones established, but no existing zones shall be reduced or enlarged with respect to size or area, and no zones shall be reclassified without submitting the question to a vote at a general or special election. No zone shall be reduced or enlarged and no zones reclassified unless a majority of the voters voting upon the same shall vote in favor thereof; provided that any property which is zoned for uses other than or in addition to a single family dwelling may be voluntarily rezoned by the owners thereof filing a written document executed by all of the owners thereof under penalty of perjury stating that the only use on such property shall be a single-family dwelling, and such rezoning shall not require a vote of the electors as set forth above.”  Emphasis added.

Use change in ZONE D – PIEDMONT’S COMMERCIAL ZONE

During planning processes and action by the City Council Zone D was reclassified by expanding its uses to incorporate the use of Zone C multiple units/apartment/multi-family units.   Zone D is better know as Piedmont’s business or commercial zone. Expanding the use of Zone D to include the Zone C multi-family usage was done by the City Council without voter approval in 2013.   An explanation or legal justification for this relaxed interpretation of the Charter requirement has not been provided.  If a legal interpretation is provided, it will be printed on this website.

The test, if any, on voter avoidance for Zone D, will likely occur only through legal action brought by unhappy neighbors to Zone D development projects. Recently, residents near the Shell Station on Grand Avenue at Wildwood Avenue objected to development proposals presented to the Planning Commission and City Council at a unique joint meeting to hear a presentation from an architect and developer of the property.  Many of the proposed regulations relate directly to this property in Commercial Zone D.

Some Piedmonters encouraged the change of use in Zone D and have accepted the lack of voter approval because of a desire for more housing in Piedmont.  Perhaps, most voters in Piedmont would agree to the change, if given an opportunity to cast a vote per the Charter language.

Zone D has always permitted single-family homes in the zone.  Based on the Council’s pre-emptive use change in Zone D, new rules are proposed.

The Planning Commission will consider changes to the Zoning Code Chapter 17 on Tuesday, July 26, 5:30 p.m – 7:30 p.m.  The meeting will be broadcast live on Channel 27 and from the City website.  

The July 26 Special meeting at City Hall in the Council Chambers will be the first meeting that is separate from routine Planning Commission matters.  This meeting includes rules for Zone D, the commercial zone and how development can be permitted on commercial properties.

Some of the recommendations for Zone D include:

  • reduction on the number of parking spaces required
  • requirements for only housing on the second floor of commercial buildings
  • zero setbacks in the zone
  • setbacks only when adjacent to Zone A the single-family zone
  • reduction on the size of a parking space
  • increase in the height of a building from 35′ to 40′
  • etc.

Read > agenda for the Planning Commission’s special meeting scheduled for Tuesday, July 26, 2016.

Read the full  >  staff report for the July 26th Planning Commission meeting.

You can submit comments to the Commission by sending an email to kjackson@ci.piedmont.ca.us or on paper to the address: Kevin Jackson, AICP Planning Director, City of Piedmont,  120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611    (510) 420-3039   Fax: (510) 658-3167

To read all of the staff produced documents, click items on the list below. These are links to various documents related to the proposals and are found on the City website. You can find ongoing information on this project by visiting the City’s website.:

Staff Reports, in chronological order:

Follow this link to find the Minutes for the above Planning Commission meetings.

City provided information is below:

“In 2012, the Planning Commission began to have discussions about revisions to Chapter 17 of the Municipal Code, otherwise known as the Zoning Code (Code). These discussions followed and were partially in response to a 2009 comprehensive update of the Piedmont General Plan, which included some goals and actions that necessitated some revisions to the Zoning Code. There are many reasons to make amendments to Chapter 17. Some revisions are mandatory in order to stay in compliance with the General Plan and Housing Element. Other revisions are voluntary but equally important to improving planning services in the city.

The first two of five planned phases of revisions were completed in 2012 and 2013. To achieve the goal of completing phases III and IV of Zoning Code revisions, the Planning Commission will be holding discussions about a variety topics related to potential revisions to the Code during its regularly scheduled meetings beginning in March 2016. Ultimately, and if things go as envisioned, the Planning Commission will be asked to make a recommendation to the City Council to adopt Zoning Code changes before the end of 2016.

During this process there will be multiple opportunities for public input, and staff will continue to try to reach out to as many Piedmonters as possible.

Staff has already assembled a list of residents who wish to receive notices and staff reports directly via email. Anybody who wishes to be added to the list may contact the planning office by contacting Planning Director Kevin Jackson atkjackson@ci.piedmont.ca.us or (510) 420-3050.

Jul 10 2016

ZONING: Planning Commission Moves Forward on Changes

PARKING REQUIREMENTS, PARKING SPACE SIZES, ZONE USE CHANGES, ACCESSORY STRUCTURES, SETBACKS, INCREASED STAFF APPROVALS , ETC. –

Monday, July 11, 2016 at the end of the regular Planning Commission meeting, proposed changes to Piedmont’s zoning ordinance Chapter 17 of the City Code will be considered.

In general, the proposals reduce restrictions and requirements for building in Piedmont, easing approvals. Planning Staff is proposed to play a larger role in approving building permit design review and various applications currently determined by the Planning Commission. Reduced parking requirements, accessory structures permitted within setbacks, variances, zone use changes, in ground improvements eliminated as lot coverage, and other permissive changes are being considered.

The Chapter 17 hearings have all been scheduled at an undetermined time at the end of lengthy Commission meetings.  

Each consideration by the Planning Commission has been labeled a “Public Hearing.” Those requesting notice of the hearings have been advised.

“two special [future] sessions of the Planning Commission have been scheduled for the evenings of Tuesday, July 26 and Tuesday, August 30, 2016, both of which will be dedicated to discussions of Chapter 17 revisions.”

The Planning Commission will make recommendations to the City Council, who will determine what changes should be made to Chapter 17.

Below is the Staff report Conclusion prepared for the July 11, 2016 Commission meeting.

CONCLUSION: There are many reasons to make amendments to Chapter 17. Some revisions, such as eliminating barriers to housing and allowing reasonable accommodation for persons with special needs. are mandatory in order to bring the Code into compliance with the General Plan and Housing Element. Other revisions are more discretionary but equally important to better serve the community. In the preparation of this report, staff’s intent was to continue the discussion on topics that may lead to the improvement of the Code, and to seek direction from the Commission on those revisions it would like to see incorporated into the Code.

NEXT STEPS: During Planning Commission meetings in the next few months, staff will return with subsequent reports outlining additional potential revisions to the Code, including but not limited to: changes to the uses and/or regulations for Zone D; refinement of the design review criteria for multistory and upper level additions; and expanded list of projects that would be exempt from design review or that would be subject to Administrative Design Review; modifications to the regulations of wireless communications facilities.

As the Commission provides direction on the revisions it would like to incorporate into the Code staff will create a draft revised Chapter 17. Once all topics have been discussed and directions provided, staff will bring the draft to the Commission for review and request that the Commission make a recommendation to the City Council or direct staff to make further refinements to the revisions and return again with the draft.

Once the Planning Commission has made its recommendation, staff will bring the draft revised Chapter 17 and the Commission’s recommendation to the City Council for its consideration.

The discussions related to this project have occurred and will continue to occur at regularly scheduled Planning Commission meetings. In addition, two special sessions of the Planning Commission have been scheduled for the evenings of Tuesday, July 26 and Tuesday, August 30, 2016, both of which will be dedicated to discussions of Chapter 17 revisions.

The project may also be discussed at a special joint meeting of the Planning Commission and City Council before a draft of the ordinance is considered by the Council. During the coming months in which revisions to Chapter 17 will be considered, there will be multiple opportunities for public input, and staff will continue to try to reach out to as many Piedmonters as possible.

Staff has already assembled a list of residents who wish to receive notices and staff reports directly via email. Anybody who wishes to be added to the list may contact the planning office by calling 510-420-3039 or by emailing kjackson@ci.piedmont.ca.us. This report and other staff reports and minutes of Commission meetings at which this project to revise Chapter 17 was discussed can be found on the City’s website at: http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/planning-commission-to-consider-changes-to-planning-code/

READ the full staff report for the July 11, 2016 meeting here.

See bottom of this article for additional links.

PRIOR CONSIDERATIONS –

City Code Chapter 17 Modifications

DRAFT Planning Commission Minutes June 13, 2016.  Emphasis added.

Interim Planning Director Jackson began the discussion by reviewing the Chapter 17 revisions that the Commission directed Staff to make at the April 11 Planning Commission meeting. He also noted the topics for immediate discussion.

Prior to the discussion on each topic, Interim Planning Director Jackson provided the Commission with context for the comprehensive revisions to the zoning code. He explained that some revisions are proposed to address the goals and policies of the General Plan and other policy documents, but that a host of other revisions are proposed to better serve the public interest. He referred to research on the approval of variances in Piedmont to question whether the public interest is being served with the current code.

Interim Planning Director Jackson reported that 80% of the variances acted upon since 1996 have been approved. He pointed out that this figure required a review of the City’s current code requirements. He also noted that applicants have to pay a fee for variance applications. He explained that during the 2009 General Plan update and the 2015 Housing Element Update, Staff recognized that the public would be served by modifications to the Municipal Code.

Correspondence was received from: Michael Henn, David Hobstetter. Interim Planning Director Jackson led the Commission through the following discussions of various potential changes to the Municipal Code:

Reduce Parking Space Dimensions

At the April 11 Planning Commission meeting, the Commissioners directed Staff to draft code language for the reduction in the parking space dimensions, but they were not yet ready to choose what those dimensions might be. Upon direction from the Commission, Staff conducted a survey of parking space sizes required by other jurisdictions and collected more information regarding parking variances in Piedmont. Interim Planning Director Jackson reported that the survey of other jurisdictions does not provide a clear indication of what size parking space might be appropriate, but that variance research from Piedmont shows a 90% approval rating in variances for parking space size. He suggested that the Commission might consider reducing the minimum parking space size to 8.5 feet by 18 feet.

The Commission unanimously directed Staff to move forward with the code modifications related to revising the parking space dimensions to 8.5 feet by 18 feet.

Relax the Requirements on the Number of Parking Spaces Required

Interim Planning Director Jackson reported that many jurisdictions simply require 2 parking spaces per dwelling unit or allow additional parking spaces to be uncovered or tandem. He also reported that variance research from Piedmont shows an 85% approval rating in variances from the required number of parking spaces. He suggested that the Commission might consider allowing a parking exception for up to four bedrooms, allowing tandem or uncovered parking to comply, or relaxing the parking requirements in other ways.

The Commissioners discussed the topic at length, and questioned whether the parking requirements should be based on the number of bedrooms, the house square footage, the intensity of use, the parking situation in the neighborhood, or other site characteristics. Commissioner Theophilos acknowledged the Commission’s leniency, but was hesitant to make changes to the code for fear that the 15% of projects that are currently not approved would be permitted. He argued that the decision should be subjective and based on the parking situation in the neighborhood.

Commissioner Ramsey suggested that the current regulations are similar to those you would find in a more auto-oriented community, and he warned that strict compliance with these regulations would slowly change the neighborhoods. He expressed concern for the high approval ratings of variances, which he said indicates that the Code is not in line with the built environment. He suggested that innovative solutions, such as tandem parking, would help to keep the historic character of Piedmont while still accommodating the intent of the code.

Commissioner Jajodia questioned whether adding a fourth bedroom was really intensifying the use of a property and argued that the threshold for adding another parking space should be much greater than adding one bedroom. She also suggested that regulations that are too restrictive can sometimes preclude good design.

Ultimately, the Commission came to a consensus and directed Staff to move forward with the following code modifications:

 – Allow a property owner with nonconforming parking to add bedrooms, up to 4 total, if

uncovered and/or tandem spaces exist on site that are not in the 20-foot front (street) setback. The total number of spaces should be that required by code: two.

– Modify Section 17.16.1 to allow consideration of available street parking and existing street width as criteria in determining as to whether to strictly apply the parking requirements. Such a modification would provide flexibility to require covered non-tandem parking if on-street parking is congested and the proposed construction is seen to have an adverse impact on neighborhood congestion.

Allow Accessory Structures within the Side and Rear Setbacks

Interim Planning Director Jackson asked the Commission for direction on whether to allow limited-sized Accessory Structures within the side and rear setbacks. He explained that this change would allow small garages to be located along alleys and rear and side property lines.

The Commission unanimously directed Staff to move forward with the code modifications related to measuring setbacks to Accessory Structures.

Amend Structure Coverage to Not Include Site Features

Interim Planning Director Jackson asked the Commission for direction with regard to whether Sites Features, such as fountains and benches, should be included in Structure Coverage calculations. He pointed out that the Structure Coverage calculation is meant to limit the bulk of a building on the property, but that Site Features without roofs do not typically add to that bulk.

By unanimous vote, the Commission directed Staff to move forward with the code modifications related to amending Structure Coverage to not include Site Features, including roofed playhouses.

Replace Hardscape Limit with Landscape Minimum

Interim Planning Director Jackson asked the Commission for direction with regard to whether a regulation limiting hardscape should be replaced by a regulation that requires a minimum amount of landscape. He explained that the current limit of 70% hardscape in Zone A is meant to require at least 30% of green landscaped area, but that applicants often misunderstand the intent and believe it to be solely about permeability. He suggested that to correct this common misunderstanding, the Commission might consider replacing the hardscape limit of 70% (or 60% in Zone E) with a landscape minimum of 30% (or 40% in Zone E).

The Commission unanimously directed Staff to move forward with the code modifications necessary to replace the hardscape limit with a landscape minimum.

Change the Cost Threshold for Review by the Planning Commission

Interim Planning Director Jackson asked the Commission for direction with regard to whether the cost threshold for review by the Planning Commission should be increased from $75,000 to $125,000. He explained that the current threshold of $75,000 in construction costs was set in 2000, which is equivalent to about $129,000 in constructions costs today.

By unanimous vote, the Commission directed Staff to move forward with the code modifications necessary to change the cost threshold for review by the Planning Commission from $75,000 to $125,000. The Commission also asked Staff to look into tieing this threshold to an index, so that it keeps pace with inflation.

READ July 11, 2016 staff report with additional proposals to change Chapter 17 here. <

READ all Chapter 17 reports here. <

READ July 11, 2016 agenda  here. <

The Planning Commission on July 11, 2016 meeting starts at 5:00 p.m., in City Hall.  The meeting will be broadcast live on Channel 27 and from the City website under “online videos.”

CORRESPONDENCE to the Commission can be sent to: kjackson@ci.piedmont.ca.us.

Jul 9 2016

OPINION: City Charter Requires Approval By Piedmont Voters for Zoning Change

The following letter was sent to the Piedmont Planning Commission re: July 11 Agenda Item 9; City Code Chapter 17 Modifications proposals. 

Honorable Commission,

       The City Charter states “no zones shall be reclassified without submitting the question to a vote at a general or special election (p. 22).” The staff report recommends allowing in Zone B “for-profit entities because the City may want to allow a community-serving business, such as a local newspaper or beverage stand, to operate out of a City building (p3 of 2016-07-11 Report)”. Currently for-profit entities are not allowed in Zone B in the public zone. As zoning is the critical mandate in controlling land use, I believe a City wide vote is needed to allow this fundamental change to allow for-profit in Zone B.

     I ask for clarification and I ask the Commission to obtain clarification from staff as to what is the threshold and definition of zone reclassification and why the addition of “for-profit” is not reclassification.

     Should a for-profit business be allowed, there are deserving segments of our community that have been identified in the General Plan. The 801 Magnolia building might be ideal for a teen or senior center.  Additionally, a café for the Piedmont Center for the Arts also has wide appeal.

     The term “community-serving business” must also embody that all segments of the community are given equal treatment. The reference in the staff report to “local newspaper” can only be the wholly Piedmont serving local newspaper, the Piedmont Post. While the Post does a proper job of reporting sports and social events, Piedmont Post publishing ethics do not include objective reporting on the passage of taxes, potential taxes and how tax dollars are used. The Piedmont Post has a sharply skewed editorial bias in support of City Hall actions. Those who oppose city taxes are shut out from virtually any space in the Post and/or opposition comments are grossly misreported. The many who opposed the partially taxpayer funded “no taxpayer cost” Blair Park Sports Complex were denied equal access in the Post.

     I suggest removing the recommendation for a “local newspaper” in Zone B. Another option in the interest of transparency is to substitute “Piedmont Post” for “local newspaper” and remove “community-serving business.”

Respectfully,

Rick Schiller, Piedmont Resident

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Jun 10 2016

Easing of Variances, Setbacks, Parking Requirements, Increased Staff Reviews: Zoning Code Changes: Monday, June 13

The Piedmont Planning Commission will hear and consider a presentation by staff on proposed revisions to the City’s Zoning Code (Chapter 17) on Monday, June 13, 120 Vista Avenue, City Hall.  The report by Kevin Jackson, Interim Planning Director is available here.<

Variances are Likely to be Granted

In response to requests from the Commission, staff researched several areas. (Read the City staff report here.)  The Commission wanted to know the rate at which variances are granted. Between 1996 and 2015, variances were generously granted at a rate of 81% for the whole decade. The leniency increased to an annual rate of 88% in the years 2013 -2015.

Staff advises that modifying the Code could reduce the necessity to request a variance. 

For example:

  • Parking requirements could be reduced to allow fewer parking spaces and smaller off-street parking spaces.
  • Setback requirements could be reduced and/or accessory structures might be allowed in side and rear yard setbacks.
  • Lot coverage limitation of 40% might be changed or differently expressed.

Threshold for Commission Review

In 2000, the exterior construction threshold for Planning Commission review was increased from $10,000 to $75,000, greatly increasing the numbers of building permit applications authorized for review by the City staff. Staff proposes increasing the threshold to $100,000 or $125,000.

At the public hearing the Commission will take testimony from members of the public on the revisions under consideration. The Commission may then provide comments or direction to the staff on updates and revisions to the City’s Zoning Code  and Residential Design Review Guidelines.

Read the June 13, 2016 Planning Commission agenda here.<

The meeting is open to the public and will be live broadcast on Channel 27 and webcast on the City’s website.   Consideration of the zoning changes are Item 16 on the agenda for the Planning Commission meeting on Monday, June 13, 2016.  The hearing is item 16 on the agenda, scheduled at the end of the meeting at an undetermined time.

City Code: Current Chapter 17, the Zoning Code.

Mar 12 2016

Planning Commission Hearing on Revisions to the Zoning Code and Residential Design Review Guidelines Monday, March 14

The Piedmont Planning Commission will receive staff reports on the possible  revisions to the City’s Zoning Code (Chapter 17) and Residential Design Review Guidelines at the end of its Monday, March 14 meeting.  The two reports by Kevin Jackson, Interim Planning Director, are intended to inform the  public and the Commission on the status of planned updates to Chapter 17.

The Code amendments are “extensive and complicated” according to Jackson in the reports totaling 43 pages that discuss, describe and outline the revisions. (Reports to be available on Monday night at the meeting.) At the public hearing the Commission will take testimony from members of the public on the revisions under consideration. The Commission may then provide comments or direction to the staff on updates and revisions to the City’s Zoning Code  and Residential Design Review Guidelines.

Revisions focusing on second units include : incentives to support development of new second units; monitor opportunities for units in homes that do not yet have them; collecting information on occupancy and rents charged; monitor vacant units; reduce off-street parking requirement; and maintain an inventory of available units for extremely low income families.

Other revisions include the addition of multiple family developments and mixed use developments to the conditionally permitted uses in Piedmont’s commercial zone.

In September 2015, the City Council determined that house swaps should not be regulated, but short term rentals (including online peer to peer such as AirBnB ) should be prohibited in second units and apartments.  In November 2015, the Planning Commission recommended prohibition of all short term rentals in Piedmont.

The goal is to complete the work by the end of 2016.

Agenda  < for March 14, 2016 Planning Commission meeting

The Planning Commission meeting on Monday, March 14 will begin in the City Hall courtyard with a design awards reception.  The actual design awards ceremony will follow in the City Council Chambers. The regular session of the Commission will begin at 6 pm with the hearing on updates and revisions to the City’s Zoning Code  (item 15) and Residential Design Review Guidelines (item 16) to occur at an unknown time at the end of the meeting, following consideration of applications for variances and design review of various residents’ construction projects.

Suggested revisions Report Design Guidelines Changes 3-14-2016

Suggested revisions Planning Commission  Report Ch 17 Changes 3-14-2016 – Draft

Read the existing Residential Design Review Guidelines here.

Read the existing Chapter 17 here.

The meeting is open to the public and will be live broadcast on Channel 27 and webcast on the City’s website.