City administrator explains housing approach in letter to residents

Sara Lillevand at City Hall June 3, 2019 (photo by Sam Richards)

In a letter sent to all Piedmont residents dated Sept. 30, City Administrator Sara Lillevand outlined her views on the city’s approach to updating its Housing Element and explained how the city is working to comply with the State’s new housing mandate.

As many of you know, I grew up in Piedmont and returned to raise children here. My spouse and I plan to stay here after retirement as we love our friendly neighbors, the classic architecture, and the beautiful public spaces. Like many of you, I had serious concerns when I first learned about the State mandate that requires Piedmont to plan for significant growth over the next 8 years. I am writing to share with you some things I have learned since then.
California requires Piedmont to plan for new housing. Piedmont is required by the State to create a plan, called a “Housing Element,” that shows how the City has capacity to accommodate 587 units of new housing, including 257 affordable units, by 2031.
The Housing Element does not guarantee new development. Piedmont does not have to build 587 new homes, only to demonstrate that zoning regulations and land within city limits could accommodate them. Any future development would be carried out by individual property owners and would have to meet Piedmont’s design, environmental, and traffic safety standards.
Adopting a Housing Element is not optional. If Piedmont does not adopt a compliant Housing Element by May 31, 2023, the City will be subject to significant fines. Piedmont could also become ineligible for State funding for essential needs like infrastructure and road repair.
Failure to meet State deadlines could result in loss of local control. Without a compliant Housing Element, Piedmont would be vulnerable to costly lawsuits. In the event of a successful legal challenge, a court could appoint a receiver to bring the City into compliance. This could result in Piedmont losing authority to regulate development within our city.
Adopting a Housing Element is only the beginning: Once the State approves Piedmont’s Housing Element, the City will spend 2-3 years working with the community to study impacts and implement the policies, programs, and regulatory changes proposed in the plan. After all that, development of new housing could occur if, where, and when an individual property owner chooses.

It is a complex endeavor to craft a plan that maintains the unique community character we all treasure while also meeting State requirements. As City Administrator, I’ve been fortunate to have a front row seat to watch the process unfold and help keep it on track.

We’ve heard from hundreds of Piedmonters at public forums, through interactive online tools, and at dozens of Committee, Commission, and Council meetings. The draft Housing Element has evolved a great deal over the past 18 months based on this input. It may change again before adoption. Right now, the core of the plan is:
• Making it easier for property owners to build ADUs (in-law units).
• Adopting zoning changes that would allow property owners to split certain single-family homes into duplexes, triplexes, or fourplexes, which is now State law (SB9).
• Creating a detailed plan for how to accommodate 132 homes on City-owned property in Moraga Canyon. This would involve significant public participation as well as environmental impact and traffic studies.
• Planning for more density (up to 4 or 5 stories) in the existing commercial area on Grand Avenue.

I invite you to get involved by visiting, where you’ll find detailed FAQs, videos, fact sheets, past meeting materials, and much more. Use the feedback form to share your ideas. Sign up for email updates to stay informed about news, future meetings, and other opportunities to weigh in.

I know that by working together, our community can find a way to plan for mandated growth while maintaining Piedmont’s beauty, quality schools, and excellent public services. Thank you for being part of this process.

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