How Piedmont plans to meet state mandate for new housing remains a puzzle

Judging from the questions addressed at a Tuesday night Housing Element Town Hall session, many residents still wonder how this small, largely built-out city will be able to meet a state mandate to accommodate 587 new residences by 2031.

The number of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) that will be allowed, and where, was a frequent subject of the two-hour Town Hall, hosted by Kevin Jackson, Piedmont’s director of planning and building. It was an issue sufficiently complex and layered to prompt Jackson to say that a detailed discussion will soon be posted on the city’s website. Many of those answers, Jackson said, are likely “site specific” and different from parcel to parcel.

California Senate Bill 9, signed into law last September, requires cities to allow one additional residential unit onto parcels zoned for single-dwelling units.

ADUs are expected to be a key ingredient in enabling Piedmont to plan for building 587 new housing units, as called for in the Association of Bay Area Governments’ Regional Housing Needs Allocation cycle, Piedmont’s sixth cycle, which covers 2023 through 2031. Every Bay Area city has been given a mandate for accommodating new housing units to add to the region’s housing stock, and a number for such units it should plan for.

Piedmont’s allocation is almost 10 times the number the city was mandated to prepare for in the fifth RHNA cycle, from 2015 through 2022. The city has to present its plan, its “housing element,” by May 2023.

Of the 587 needed new housing units, 163 of them (28 percent) should be extremely or very low income units; 94 of them (16 percent) should be low income; 92 (16 percent) should be moderate income; and 238 (40 percent) should be “above moderate” income.

As have city officials throughout this Piedmont sixth eight-year cycle process, Jackson stressed again Tuesday that the number of residences in the cities’ allocations don’t actually have to be built by 2023, but that it must be shown the residences could be accommodated.

There are “strong incentives,” Jackson said, to have a certified Housing Element in place by May 2023.

Local governments like Piedmont’s could be fined $100,000 a month as long as the document is out of compliance; cities can lose eligibility for some grants and loans; and cities can lose the ability to make certain permitting decisions. 

Several questions arose Tuesday night about the city’s “sites inventory,” the list of parcels where housing development could conceivably happen.

Jackson said there are several state-mandated criteria for suitable sites, and that a number of Piedmont sites comply. Among them: City-owned parcels hosting structures near the end of their useful lives. Jackson said one possibility is either rebuilding or renovating some outmoded city facilities to help allow multifamily housing on the properties. 

Kathryn Slama of Lisa Wise Consulting, working with the city on the Housing Element Updated, cited projects in San Jose and Redwood City that have done multifamily housing either in city-owned land or in concert with other city building projects.

Blair Park, one of the city’s largest parcels, is not on the city’s sites inventory, mainly because the state doesn’t consider parkland eligible for housing development because it’s already serving a valuable public purpose. But Jackson said city staff is considering asking the City Council to include Blair Park within a concept for developing the existing corporation yard, across Moraga Avenue from Blair Park.

Finding useable city-owned parcels may be the most likely way large multifamily projects will ever get built in Piedmont, Jackson said. “It is generally understood that a multifamily housing development in Piedmont will only pencil out if the land is provided at little or no cost.”

Owners of those parcels on the sites’ inventory, Jackson said, have all been contacted by the city. But just because those parcels are on the inventory list doesn’t necessarily mean any houses will be built on them.

“The sites inventory is about the possible, not the inevitable,” Jackson said. “No property owner needs to do anything not in their best interest.”

There were enough questions addressed during Tuesday night’s program – about half of them “pre-loaded” and the rest fielded from the public during the presentation – to fill almost two hours. And that came after a number of public meetings where the Housing Element was the main topic. More public discussion is expected on June 20, when the City Council is scheduled to discuss whether to submit the draft Housing Element to the state Department of Housing and Community Development for initial review.

Contact Sam Richards at

3 thoughts on “How Piedmont plans to meet state mandate for new housing remains a puzzle

  1. An objective observer would judge the suggestion to put 163 state-mandated, very-low-income housing units in Blair Park (a former landfill physically and socially isolated from Piedmont proper) a sad example of exclusionary public policy consistent with the city’s even sadder history of exclusionary polices. The city’s professional staff and housing consultants have provided a reasonable alternative that avoids using Blair Park as a residential site. The Council should comply with its own adopted policy of distributing affordable housing throughout the city and accept the staff recommendation. Doing so would signal Piedmont’s break from an ugly history of racist public policy.

  2. I thought I heard Director Jackson say at the meeting that Blair Park was included at the direction of Council, not staff. And I think BP is not considered in conjunction with a development of the corp yard but rather as an alternative in the case the corp yard site fails a feasibility assessment, which it almost most certainly will. The Corp Yard plan calls 40 units below the third base line, development on a documented slide zone and removal of the overflow parking lot for the field. If staff is proposing this idea it really should do an analysis of how it complies with the General Plan.

    The plan does not document where the 163 extremely and very low housing will go in Piedmont. Will Piedmont be home for these families? ADU height is being raised to 24 feet to incentivize this development so these units might truly be distributed throughout Piedmont. But probably not the best housing for families and renter income is not enforceable by the city.

    Rick is correct -SB9 certainly allows for more than 1 new unit on a lot. Unfortunately the potential of SB9 to generate units in the next housing cycle is not included in the Housing Element analysis. As such, the plan overcompensates to create housing elsewhere.

  3. A clarification on SB9: it allows three units on a single family lot with certain restriction depending on the size of the units and the lot size. The City on June 7 spoke of considering expansion to 4 units. Promised and needed at the June 7 meeting is more information on how the City will implement SB9. Hopefully this will be available to the public soon as City Council will be looking to approved the Housing Element Draft on June 20.

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