As reported in “City Gears Up to Address Housing Challenges,” on February 2, 2021, in the Exedra, the City of Piedmont has the opportunity to plan for 587 new housing units in the coming decade. This is the allocation that has been assigned to Piedmont by the Association of Bay Area Governments as part of the Housing Element which the state requires all cities to produce every eight years. We are writing as Piedmont residents who believe the city should welcome this new goal as an opportunity, and be proactive in finding ways to create new housing. Our group includes several affordable housing professionals, urban planners, architects, land use attorneys, and experts in urban history and policy. We bring over 150 years of combined experience in these fields.
Given the enormous crisis of housing affordability in the Bay Area, and in light of the history of discriminatory housing policies–from racial covenants to redlining–that restricted who could live in Piedmont for over half a century, we have an urgent responsibility as a community to create more inclusive, diverse, and affordable housing. We should look to build dwellings that will enable teachers, city staff, seniors, and families of diverse income levels to reside within our community.
Some have suggested that Piedmont is “built out,” that the city has few opportunities to create affordable multi-family housing, or that the character of the community cannot change. However, urban planners, affordable housing advocates, and other experts have identified several changes that would allow the production of diverse housing, while preserving aspects of the city that we all enjoy–including its largely residential character, its leafy streets, and its small-town atmosphere.
At the February 1, 2021, City Council meeting, over a dozen Piedmont residents spoke in support for new housing in our community. For example, Carol Galante, a Piedmont resident, Director of UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation, and a former assistant director of HUD urged the city to explore all available options. In addition to accessory dwelling units (granny flats), Piedmont should explore the potential to create attractive apartments or townhomes along Grand Avenue, in the Civic Center, and at Blair Park. It should look to update our zoning code to enable the creation of duplexes and incrementally denser housing, as many cities throughout the country have already done. Rather than view new housing as having a negative impact on Piedmont, these changes can make our community better.
Given the expected goal of nearly 600 units, an “all of the above” solution will likely be needed. Piedmont has access to $2.2 million in Measure A1 funds from Alameda County to build affordable rental housing. Let’s utilize those funds and tackle the challenge by doing what Piedmonters do best: coming together and leveraging the extraordinary talent, expertise, and commitment to equity among our residents, leaders, and city staff. Let’s be a model for other small cities around the Bay Area in charting a progressive, innovative path towards meeting the housing challenge.
We invite anyone interested in learning more about affordable housing to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chris and Meghan Bennett
Elise Marie Collins
Frances and Jeremy Fisher
*Nick Levinson is an editor for Piedmont Exedra