Letter to the Editor | Piedmont’s housing puzzle missing a major piece

One piece missing from the Piedmont Housing Element is a projection of the number of housing units Senate Bill 9 (SB 9) will add to Piedmont over the next 8 years. In short, SB 9 allows property owners with lots of a certain size to sub-divide and add two units on the new lot with virtually no restrictions from the municipal authority. There are many of these lots in Piedmont’s Zones A and E and their development under SB 9 could contribute significantly to meeting the goal of 587 units by 2031. 

This type of housing growth is new and in March 2022 the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), the state agency in charge of setting the 2031 housing goals, published guidance on how cities can develop projections for SB 9 growth to include in their 2023 Housing Elements. That guidance states:

“To utilize projections based on SB 9 toward a jurisdiction’s regional housing need allocation, the housing element must: 1) include a site-specific inventory of sites where SB 9 projections are being applied, 2) include a nonvacant sites analysis demonstrating the likelihood of redevelopment and that the existing use will not constitute an impediment for additional residential use, 3) identify any governmental constraints to the use of SB 9 in the creation of units (including land use controls, fees, and other exactions, as well as locally adopted ordinances that impact the cost and supply of residential development), and 4) include programs and policies that establish zoning and development standards early in the planning period and implement incentives to encourage and facilitate development. The element should support this analysis with local information such as local developer or owner interest to utilize zoning and incentives established through SB 9.”

SB 9 Fact Sheet

Several Bay Area cities are following this guidance and including SB 9 projections in their Housing Elements. The City of Atherton projects 80 units over the next 8 years based on limited community input and a GIS analysis of large lots in their community (see page 72 of the draft Atherton Housing Element). Larkspur is conducting a survey of property owners to gauge their interest in developing their property (Larkspur Property Owner Survey). The City of Ross is also considering including an SB 9 analysis in its Housing Element (Ross Housing Element). Housing advocates are calling on cites to include SB 9 projections in their housing elements as well (East Bay for All). [Read more HERE.]

Yet with all this evidence to the contrary, the Piedmont Planning Department insists that HCD will not accept SB 9 projections in its housing element. The public record says otherwise and staff should explain its position in light of the HCD SB 9 guidance. Staff does acknowledge that these SB 9 units will count towards housing goals should they develop but in so doing are losing an opportunity now to properly plan for that growth for the betterment of the community. For example, to incentivize development, the Housing Element increases densities in the multi-use zone, thereby risking the conversion of Ace Hardware to housing. Likewise, to develop moderate income housing, the Housing Element proposes using public sites in the Civic Center and Corporation Yard, important public spaces the city needs to modernize. Were the Planning Department to account for SB 9 moderate income units in Zones A and E (and incentivize that as the housing advocates suggest), the City would not need to propose housing development for these essential private and public spaces.

Fortunately, there is time for an SB 9 analysis to be included in the Housing Element – the deadline for the document is May 2023. But Council will have to step up and direct staff to do so. Otherwise, the Housing Element will fail to account for a significant source of new housing potential, which staff always reminds us is the whole point of this exercise.

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2 thoughts on “Letter to the Editor | Piedmont’s housing puzzle missing a major piece

  1. Garrett Keating’s letter will hopefully get the attention it deserves this Monday June 20 when the City Council will be approving or asking for changes to the draft Housing Element before it is sent on to Department of Housing and Community Development (“HCD”).

    In March 2022 HCD published an SB9 fact sheet. At P6 HCD states: “HOUSING ELEMENT LAW: To utilize projections based on SB9 toward a jurisdiction’s regional housing need allocation (RHNA).” HCD then lists four elements needed in a Housing Element to have projections count towards a RHNA reductions. Clearly HCD has set a road map for potential housing under SB9 to be used to partially satisfy Piedmont’s RHNA.

    As stated by the Housing consultant preparing the Housing Element and our City Planner: “Where SB9 is concerned, the State will only allow a jurisdiction to project future housing development at the current rate of production.” This appears contrary to HCD SB9 guidelines. By not including the potential of more housing as a result of SB9, Piedmont is missing an opportunity to both reduce our RHNA and maintain good design review.

  2. Garrett Keating, a former Councilmember, has raised several important points in regards to the flawed and unrealistic draft Housing Element. With such an array of unrealistic sites in the current draft’s HE inventory, I suspect that the State HCD will reject Piedmont’s attempt.
    The state passed SB9 with the intent of creating meaningful housing growth opportunities. Why would staff and consultants fail to take advantage of this opportunity contrary to HCD’s published Fact Sheet? As noted, other jurisdictions are taking advantage of SB9.
    Furthermore, a well known housing advocacy group, East Bay for All has done a detailed analysis of Piedmont’s draft HE; a link is contained in the above comment. This analysis exposes the numerous flaws and even misrepresentations contained in the HE. I believe this group is affiliated with the Yimby Law, a group known for effective litigation. I respectfully urge the City Council to direct staff and consultants to correct the listed errors and provide the needed SB9 analysis.

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