City’s latest housing session draws more residents into process

City Administrator Sara Lillevand and Planning Department Director Kevin Jackson during their formal presentation at Thursday night's information session.

Keith Dierkx said he found out about the city’s ongoing Housing Element update effort about four months ago from neighbors. That he didn’t hear about it sooner — a year ago, perhaps — he blames partly on the city, and partly on himself.

But he’s engaged now, he said, and he understands city officials have a hugely challenging task ahead — figuring out how a city with a total area of 1.7 square miles can absorb 587 new housing units by 2031.

“It’s a challenge to be sure; no one said it wouldn’t be,” said Dierkx, one of perhaps 30 people who came by City Hall for an Aug. 18 Housing Element 102 Information Session about Piedmont’s work to comply with the sixth Association of Bay Area Governments’ Regional Housing Needs Allocation eight-year cycle, from 2023 to 2031. 

Kevin Jackson, Piedmont’s director of planning and building, said this was the 29th event — City Council meeting, open house presentation, Planning Commission meeting, online survey or other outreach effort — to gather information and/or inform as to how Piedmont will accommodate its share of new regional housing according to state Regional Housing Needs Assessment guidelines.

Jackson and Sara Lillevand, Piedmont’s city administrator, made an hour-long presentation Thursday night summarizing the public process to this point and explaining the current state of play as to where 587 new housing units could be accommodated (if not actually built).

That 587 is almost 10 times the 60 residences the city was mandated to prepare for in the fifth RHNA cycle, from 2015 through 2022.

A significant recent change from the state, Lillevand said, is that there will now be planning to accommodate 84 lower-income units, up from 49, as part of the mix, with a corresponding reduction in moderate- and above-moderate-income units.

Lillevand acknowledged that, despite all the public events, ample coverage in local media (including the Exedra), a city website dedicated largely to the Housing Element (, regular email blasts from the city and banners hung around the city, many residents had not heard about this complex process a year ago, when work on this next eight-year cycle began.

The City Council wanted more information, too, and on June 20 – rather than vote to submit the city’s draft 2023-2031 Housing Element to the state Department of Housing and Community Development for initial review, the City Council asked for more information about the plan and the process.

“We are working hard to bring folks up to speed,” Lillevand said Thursday. “That’s a large part of why we’ve slowed down a little bit in this process.”

The state has given Piedmont, along with every Bay Area city and county, a mandate for accommodating new housing units to add to the region’s housing stock, to account for expected regional population increases. State law does not require cities to build or finance those quantities of new residences, but they must plan to accommodate them.

For a good while following the presentation, Jackson, Lillevand, and several other city officials mingled with resident attendees outside in front of City Hall, responding to a variety of questions ranging from why the city didn’t challenge that 587 number to how traffic could be affected in Piedmont, and where all these new houses, apartments and accessory dwelling units can go.

Sara Lillevand talks with residents about aspects of the city’s ongoing Housing Element update efforts at a Thursday night information session at City Hall.

Nicholas Stamatakis took time to scour the information boards and talk to city officials after the formal presentation. A bit late to the subject himself, he has plenty of concerns, especially about proposals that would develop parts of Moraga Canyon on the city’s northwest edge. “That’s such a nice area not to leave like it is,” said Stamatakis, who doesn’t want developers “stuffing it with asphalt and concrete buildings.” He also is afraid so many new residents in Piedmont could cause the local quality of life to “dissipate.”

Nicholas Stamatakis takes in some of the information presented at Thursday night’s information session.

But he realizes Piedmont, and almost every Bay Area city, is challenged not only in dealing with the housing mandates but in explaining all of it to its residents.

 “(City officials) are trying the best they can; there’s a lot of information to get out,” Stamatakis said.

Dierkx had similar, if somewhat less positive, feelings.

“Do I feel like I’ve been listened to? I’m not quite sure,” he said. “Tonight, I think, they’ve listened.”

3 thoughts on “City’s latest housing session draws more residents into process

  1. While finding a way to add the capacity for 587 new housing units is a challenge, it’s not impossible. In fact, the City has a tool so that we residents can help solve this puzzle. There are also working groups trying to create solutions, not obstruct the process. The former RHNA basis was not a good enough goal because it didn’t materialize enough housing, which caused the housing crisis and is how we got here in the first place. With regards to the population shift, many residents are leaving because they can’t afford to live here, not because they want to. And, furthermore, many are lower income folks including teachers, city workers, healthcare employees and others we depend on for a thriving community. Where shall these hard working people live? We still have a massive housing shortage, especially affordable housing. The open space on Moraga Ave is lovely. Should the space ever be considered for development, maintaining some open space, and/or developing a park and other improvements can be a part of the design vision. Perhaps even more people would use it.

    • The HE 102 session showed how the city is almost at the 587 target. Were the city to derive a plausible estimate for the development of SB 9 units, it would not have to be forcing more units into the Grand Avenue corridor. Honestly, it would make more sense to submit a draft with some SB9 units and get feedback from HCD. Other cities are doing this.

      Blair Park does not need to have housing
      development in order to be improved as a park. I recall that Blair Park was reclassified from open space to recreational space during the 2009 General Plan update for the purpose of being developed as a park or field. The Recreation Department used to cite Piedmont’s below average per capita recreational space as a basis for preserving the park. Like Hampton, Crocker and Dracena, it could be a neighborhood park if the city vested funds.

  2. I think it’s reasonable for the City to ask for an adjustment in units to be absorbed that is in line with the previous 60 as opposed to almost ten times that amount. I think its ridiculous to expect a city this size to pave every piece of greenery in an attempt to appease a state number that’s too hard to accommodate and incorrect given current market conditions.California has finally hit a reverse population growth, more folks leaving the state than moving in., increasing our new build by ten times in light of this is folly. It also opens us up to builders being able to sue the city for the ability to develop high density housing with minimal restrictions. This is radically different than the current planning commission hand wringing over fence design/height. Why would we allow something like this to be put into place, when we know its not doable at any level?

Leave a Reply

The Exedra comments section is an essential part of the site. The goal of our comments policy is to help ensure it is a vibrant yet civil space. To participate, we ask that Exedra commenters please provide a first and last name. Please note that comments expressing congratulations or condolences may be published without full names. (View our full Comments Policy.)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *