Piedmont’s Housing Element gets state stamp of approval

The letter the city received from the state Nov. 9 certifying the “substantial compliance” of its Sixth Cycle Housing Element, covering the years 2023 though 2031, was a big deal for city planners.

“We sent it out to get bronzed,” Kevin Jackson, the city’s director of planning and building, told the City Council on Nov. 20. 

That certification came after more than 3 ½ years of city staff work and north of $1 million of city money spent on this comprehensive document, mandated by the state, outlining how the city will accommodate 587 new residences by 2031. The state doesn’t require those housing units be built, but does require all Bay Area cities to show how they could accommodate a given number of units, specific to each city, based on anticipated future demand.

Jackson was careful to add — twice — “But there’s no rest.”

Indeed, the process of refining, tweaking, and adjusting the Housing Element document is still not over, with the goal for the City Council to approve a revised Housing Element in March 2024. There already have been dozens of opportunities to comment on, and ask questions about, this complex document. And there will be more, starting with two upcoming study sessions, one at the Dec. 11 Planning Commission meeting, and another at the Dec. 18 City Council meeting.

The Housing Element itself has seven of its own goals, and contains 56 policies and 77 programs pertaining to new housing construction, housing conservation, affordable housing opportunities, eliminating constraints on construction, special housing needs populations, sustainability and energy, and equal access to housing. The city must complete four of those programs by Jan. 31.

While Jackson acknowledged there’s likely some fatigue among Piedmont residents concerning the Housing Element, “We are doing everything we can to bring awareness.”

There also are public meetings about Housing Element updates scheduled for Jan. 29, 2024 (Planning Commission), Feb. 20 (City Council) and Mar. 4 (City Council).

Mayor Jen Cavenaugh said the Nov. 9 certification was “a long time coming,” and noted that should the need arise for the City Council to schedule special meetings to get the needed revisions completed to meet the state’s schedule, they will indeed be scheduled.

For more information on the Housing Element, visit www.piedmontishome.org.

Proposed bus route changes

The City Council on Nov. 20 heard a presentation about proposed AC Transit route changes that would mean elimination of Piedmont’s Route 33, which would be replaced by reworking two other existing routes.

Maria Henderson and Owen Goetze of AC Transit described a proposed reworking of Line 88, which would operate on the existing 33 routing between downtown Oakland and Highland Avenue via Oakland Avenue. Instead of the current system, which sends 33-line buses from central Piedmont to downtown Oakland and then along Piedmont’s eastern edge up to Montclair, 88-line buses would go from Piedmont to downtown Oakland and then to North Berkeley, as the existing 88 buses now do.

A newly configured Line 18 would replace the downtown Oakland-to-Montclair leg of current Line 33.

Goetze said expected headway between buses in Piedmont under the proposed changes would decrease slightly from about every 17 minutes to about every 15 minutes.  

These proposed changes are part of a general rethinking of the AC Transit route structure, which extends as far as Richmond to the north and Newark to the south, Henderson said. The changes are being considered because AC Transit ridership is only 72 percent of pre-pandemic levels, resulting in less money at the farebox and via tax revenue. Also, AC Transit — as have other transit agencies — has had trouble hiring and retaining enough drivers to support the existing route structure, Henderson said.

A Zoom-only AC Transit community workshop will be held Thursday, Dec. 7 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. (with dedicated Chinese- and Spanish-language lines). Go to www.actransit.org/realign for a Zoom connection and for more detailed information about proposed changes affecting Piedmont and the entire AC Transit system.

Contact Sam Richards at sam.richards4344@gmail.com

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