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.