UPDATED: City shares latest housing and planning news

From the June 12 Piedmont Planning & Building eNewsletter, and updated on June 15:

June 2023 updates

The City Council reviews fees on an annual basis as part of the preparation of the City budget. By law, a fee reflects the actual cost of providing a City service. CORRECTION: Planning application fees will increase by approximately 4.9% on July 1, 2023. The June eNewsletter erroneously reported that fees would increase by 1%. The City Council reviews fees on an annual basis as part of the preparation of the City budget. Fees increase in relation to CPI, and by law, a fee reflects the actual cost of providing a City service.

Applications to the Planning Commission for design review, variance, use permit, and other projects are due by 4:30 pm on July 13, 2023, for the August 14, 2023, Planning Commission meeting. If you have planning questions or a proposed application, please contact Planning & Building Department staff at ondutyplanner@piedmont.ca.gov.

Housing Element: City receives new HCD comments

The City of Piedmont received additional comments on its 6th Cycle Housing Element from the CA Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) on May 23, 2023, at the conclusion of the State’s 60-day review period. The letter confirms the City has made substantial progress since first receiving written feedback on February 16, 2023, with most of the original comments having been successfully addressed in the two Housing Element revisions the City submitted to HCD. State reviewers are requesting that the City provide additional analysis regarding housing mobility, affordability, and the likelihood of development on certain sites, as well as additional detail on the timing of some milestones. HCD did not identify major structural issues or call for significant redirection of the City’s plans.

Planning staff and consultants are carefully reviewing each of HCD’s remaining comments and will work diligently to address outstanding questions. The City expects to complete the requested additional analysis and submit a revised Housing Element to HCD by mid-summer, which will begin another 60-day review period. If the revisions include any substantive changes to the City’s plan to accommodate 587 more homes by 2031, the updates would come to City Council for approval.

Because the City did not receive certification by May 31, certain implementation timelines are subject to adjustment. Piedmont is in good company in this regard – most Bay Area cities are still awaiting final approval of their Housing Elements. The volume and complexity of State laws related to fair housing have grown substantially in recent years, making the preparation and review process significantly more complex compared to previous cycles. For each jurisdiction, HCD reviewers must confirm that the Housing Element fully addresses more than 100 specific requirements.

Even as the City continues to work with HCD to obtain certification, City staff are actively working to implement Housing Element programs and policies:

  • The City established a new incentive for affordable ADUs and made it easier to convert existing spaces into new housing.
  • The City recently conducted a survey of ADU owners, partly aimed at better understanding the barriers to ADU creation and how to incentivize ADUs.
  • The City conducted an RFP process to identify a consulting firm to lead the preparation of the Moraga Canyon Specific Plan and anticipates bringing a contract for the preparation of the Specific Plan to City Council this summer.
  • Planning staff expect to provide preapproved ADU plans that are intended to reduce the cost of developing a detached ADU and incentivize their production.
  • City staff intend to seek adoption of Multifamily Objective Design Standards that were introduced for public review last year.
  • Planning staff are initiating other housing programs and actively pursuing State and regional grants to help finance the housing plan.

Plus, implementation involves additional environmental review, which is underway. The City is in the process of preparing a programmatic environmental impact report (EIR) that studies the impacts of the new homes and residents that could come to Piedmont once implementation is complete, including options for mitigating those impacts. For more information about the Housing Element update, visit PiedmontIsHome.org or subscribe to the City’s Housing Updates email newsletter to receive news directly. With questions, email PiedmontIsHome@piedmont.ca.gov.

Multifamily objective design standards | June 12 and July 10

On June 12, and again on July 10, the Planning Commision is scheduled to review the draft Piedmont Multifamily Objective Design Standards (MODS). This housing policy effort began with City Council authorization to pursue SB 2 funds, a one-time State grant established in 2017.

Objective design standards are defined in Government Code Sections 65913.4 and 66300(a)(7) as standards that “involve no personal or subjective judgment by a public official and are uniformly verifiable by reference to an external and uniform benchmark or criterion available and knowable by both the development applicant or proponent and the public official before submittal.” Objective design standards may include portions of general plans, specific plans, zoning codes, overlay zones, subdivision requirements, and landscaping and other land development regulations.

In conjunction with the work to update the Piedmont Housing Element, City staff published the first draft of the Piedmont MODS on October 19, 2021, and on October 6, 2022, published the revised public hearing draft available here on PiedmontIsHome.org. Combined with the new development regulations proposed in the Housing Element, the MODS are intended to give the City local control over the design of multifamily and mixed-use housing under new State laws, such as SB 35 and SB 330.

During the regular meeting on July 10, 2023, the Planning Commission is expected to consider a recommendation to the City Council. A second new housing program to develop new incentives for rent-restricted ADUs is also funded by the SB 2 grant. The ADU incentives program is expected to be the subject of the July 10, 2023, Planning Commission meeting, as well. 

Both the MODS and ADU incentives are the result of several years of public engagement including workshops, in-person events, visual preference surveys, and polls.

If you have questions or comments about the MODS or ADUs in Piedmont, contact Planning staff at ondutyplanner@Piedmont.ca.gov

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