Over the last year, the City of Piedmont has been working on updating its Housing Element to comply with new state mandates that require cities to make room for more housing units. Piedmont’s recommended number of new housing units, 587, was laid out in January as part of the 2023-2031 Regional Housing Needs Allocation process. The Association of Bay Area Governments is responsible for developing a formula for every local government in the Bay Area to meet the region’s anticipated housing needs through the year 2031.
There have been 15 different public meetings at which the Housing Element has been discussed, and public comment on it gathered. Most public speakers have supported the essence of the work that has gone into the draft Housing Element, although not all agree with how the city should meet its goals.
Members of the Piedmont Racial Equity Campaign (PREC) in particular have been actively engaged in, and supportive of, the process.
At its lengthy June 20 City Council meeting, City Administrator Sara Lillevand recommended to the council that it treat that discussion as a “first reading” of the draft Housing Element approval, allowing for further updates, refinements and clarifications in response to questions and concerns that were submitted up to and past the start of Monday’s meeting. According to the City, it has received over 550 written comments on the draft and process so far.
The economic ins and outs of using some major city facilities, including the Civic Center and the Veterans Hall, as potential sites for mixed-use housing projects, and for some of the larger prospective housing site areas in Moraga Canyon and Blair Park are among the things council members want more information about before sending their draft plan forward.
The idea of developing housing in downtown Piedmont has drawn alarm from some corners. A petition to “protect central Piedmont from overdevelopment” that was started several weeks ago currently has over 400 signatures. On the petition, the group says it is also starting a 501c3 non-profit, the Piedmont Preservation Society, which will “work towards ensuring that the citizens of Piedmont have a unified voice in how the city manages housing and schools.” (Note: The city does not manage the Piedmont Unified School District.)
In its July 7 email bulletin, the Piedmont Planning and Building Department detailed the additional information and revisions the Council requested at the June 20 meeting:
- Consider time-efficient alternatives to a specific plan to determine the best development of City sites in Moraga Canyon, including Blair Park;
- Revise the sites inventory to remove the Highland Avenue grassy strip, between Sierra and Sheridan Avenues, and the Corey Reich Tennis Center, and propose alternate sites for 34 lower-income and 5 moderate-income housing units;
- Provide information on what the City is committed to doing by including City properties at 120 Vista and 801 Magnolia Avenues in the sites inventory;
- Consider, if the City properties at 120 Vista and 801 Magnolia Avenues are removed from the sites inventory, the alternate sites for the 40 lower-income and 13 moderate-income housing units;
- Provide draft findings, such as a high-level economic feasibility analysis, for a housing plan that includes City properties in the civic center; and
- Revise program 1.J “Senate Bill 9” so that it is implemented earlier in the planning period, and expand the program to explore enhancing state law to generate additional housing units in Piedmont.
At public meetings and in commentary on this and other websites, residents have expressed a mix of confusion, support, and dismay for the proposals contained within the draft.
Public comment on the Draft Housing Element can be made via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com Your comments will become part of the public record, where they will be reviewed and included in future staff reports.
The next City Council meeting is scheduled for July 18 but it is not clear yet if the Housing Element will be on the agenda at that time.
Good recap of the process. Some context/comments:
550 comments: are those exclusive or duplicative? I’ve commented probably 5 times. Is that 1 or 5 comments?
Public meetings: the Draft Housing Element came out just 3 months ago. Holding final council meetings on this matter in June, July and August in Piedmont is terrible timing to solicit public comment. As I understand it while the deadline is May 2023, there is a one year grace period.
SB9: this new law allows lots to split and develop with very little say by local government. With ADU laws, under SB9, one unit can become 4 units. By simply counting how many lots it could split under its current zoning rules, Atherton projects 80 units as part of the total
360 in its current Housing Element. It remains to be seen if the state will accept this estimate but Piedmont should include a similar SB 9 estimate. Doing so could eliminate the need to consider civic center sites.
Piedmont Friends…please click on the bold word “petition” in the article above to sign the petition. Piedmont has grown thoughtfully for over a century. Let’s be careful to comply with the new state rules in a way that preserves our town’s character and beauty.