A number of open city commission and committee positions were filled during special City Council meetings on March 22 and 29, including five to a newly formed body charged with advising the City Council on crucial growth issues.
Five appointees out of 13 applicants for Housing Advisory Committee
Named on March 22 to the new Housing Advisory Committee were Claire Parisa, Jane Lin, Justin Osler, June Catalano and Planning Commissioner Rani Batra, representing that commission on the new committee. At that meeting, the council interviewed a total of 13 applicants for the five spots.
In February, the council created the Housing Advisory Committee to provide advice as it oversees updates to the city’s Housing Element and related programs, including state SB-2 housing programs designed to help streamline housing approvals to help meet the demand for places to live.
The challenges of meeting housing mandate
The 2023-2031 Regional Housing Needs Allocation process will require Piedmont, and virtually every other Bay Area city, to accommodate ever-larger numbers of new housing units to meet the region’s anticipated housing needs through the year 2031. As part of that 2023-2031 plan, the Association of Bay Area Governments has said Piedmont needs to be able 587 new housing units of the 441,176 called for regionally over the next 10 years. Council members have said finding ways to develop 587 new living units in a largely built-out Piedmont will be a daunting task, but also an opportunity to help diversify the city’s housing stock, as well as the city’s population.
“We have a lot of wonderful and special qualities in this community,” Batra told the council. “I think we’ll need to thread the needle to find a way to retain these special qualities while making room for others, and that will be a challenge.”
Also on March 22, Douglas Strout — who has been an alternate member of the Piedmont Planning Commission — was appointed to full commission membership, and Justin Zucker was named the new alternate planning commissioner.
On Monday, March 29, Vanessa Washington and Robert McBain were named to the Budget Advocacy and Financial Planning Committee; Michael Reese was reappointed, and Laura Isaacs newly appointed, to the Civil Service Commission; Patty Dunlap and Amber Brumfiel were reappointed to the Park Commission; Jeffrey Horner was reappointed, and Stella Ngai newly named, to the Public Safety Committee; and Becca Posamentier and Lisa Gardner were named to the Recreation Commission.
As of Monday night, appointments to the Police and Fire Pension Board and the CIP Review Committee were still pending.
Break with precedent as incumbent was not reappointed to Budget Advisory committee
There was much discussion on March 29 about the choices for the Budget Advocacy and Financial Planning Committee, with the appointment of McBain and Washington meaning incumbent member Reese was not reappointed (as mentioned earlier, Reese was reappointed to the Civil Service Commission, however). Not reappointing an incumbent willing to serve again goes against precedent, council members acknowledged.
Mayor Teddy Gray King said McBain, who stepped down from the City Council in December, “knows the civic budget like the back of his hand,” and would be a valuable addition to the budget committee.
Council members at both special meetings said it was hard to make final selections for the various openings — most notably the Housing Advisory and the Budget Advisory committees — because so many desirable volunteers stepped up.
At least three councilors used the phrase “embarrassment of riches” in reference to the applicant pool.
“I want to find a place for all of them because we have so much talent here,” Councilwoman Conna McCarthy said on March 29.
Late last week, Assistant City Administrator John Tulloch sent out an email apologizing for lack of an email notification ahead of the March 22 special meeting (the meeting was properly posted on the city’s website as required by law. Email notification (and posting) of the March 29 agenda were both made as usual.