We are writing as community advocates of racial equity and inclusion to enthusiastically support the recent steps taken by the City of Piedmont to move forward with a plan to build affordable housing in Moraga Canyon.
Today the single largest barrier to Piedmont becoming a more racially and socioeconomically diverse community is the lack of housing opportunities affordable to households across the income spectrum, including both rental and ownership opportunities. Accordingly, perhaps the single biggest action our community can take to become more inclusive is to build affordable housing.
Through its state-mandated Housing Element process, the City, after multiple drafts and significant input from various community groups and members, identified Moraga Canyon as a promising area for new housing development. The City Council recently voted to take the next step toward achieving this goal: hiring a planning consultant to study the site.
A few members of the community have suggested that it is racist or discriminatory to put housing in Moraga Canyon. We disagree. All of Piedmont is a “high-resource” area, and building affordable housing anywhere within our borders will enable new residents to benefit from our excellent schools and city services. The housing the City is proposing for Moraga Canyon will be a mix of 72 units of market rate housing and 60 units affordable to low-income households–it is not exclusively affordable. Moraga Canyon already contains residences along both the north and south sides of Moraga Avenue, and sports fields that are used and visited by many in the community. Through careful planning and community input, we can create a welcoming environment for our new neighbors that is well integrated with the rest of the city.
The City has initiated a planning process that will entail studying multiple potential schemes, a thorough review of the safety and environmental impacts, and ample opportunities for community input. Any residential or active recreational uses planned for the south side of Moraga Avenue will require safe pedestrian, bicycle and vehicular access. We plan to participate in that planning process, and encourage other community members to do so.
The exclusion of multiple-family and affordable housing from our borders for over one hundred years has been racist. Building affordable housing is the best way to redress that history.
Moraga Canyon may end up being the first place we create affordable housing in Piedmont, but it should not be the last: We hope the City will also explore ways to add affordable housing options on Grand Avenue, in the city center, and throughout the city.
The Piedmont Racial Equity Campaign has four primary focus areas: reforming policing, diversifying our city and its leadership, promoting policies that lead to diverse, affordable housing, and promoting anti-racism in the schools. For more information about our work, please visit our website, www.piedmontracialequity.org.