Piedmont is frequently described as "built out" -- nearly all lots in town are developed, so there is very little room to grow. But our city is told to do just that by state and federal mandates requiring communities to provide affordable housing and increased density to minimize greenhouse gas production. And Piedmonters seem to want these goals too, as 50 percent of respondents in the 2008 General Plan Survey supported more commercial/mixed-use development in the Civic Center and on Grand Avenue.
To address these objectives, the Planning Department is proposing comprehensive revisions to the City Code of Chapter 17, "Regulations Prescribing the Character of Construction," better known to Piedmonters as zoning and design review.
Before outlining these revisions, a quick primer on Piedmont zoning is in order. There are five zones: A (residential); B (public facilities); C (multifamily); D (commercial/mixed-use); and E (estates). Most of Piedmont is zone A; zone B is the Civic Center, parks, schools and fields; zone C is the stretch of Linda Avenue from Grand Avenue to Rose Avenue; zone D, the storefronts in the Civic Center and the stretch of Grand from Oakland Avenue to the Ace Hardware; and zone E, the eastern half of town. Some revisions to Chapter 17 apply to all zones, others are targeted to specific zones.
The most comprehensive change is to the city's second-unit ordinance. The city has incentivized the development of these units with parking and other exceptions, and 37 of these units have been added around Piedmont. Units that are 700 square feet or less need only provide one covered parking space instead of two. Reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities have been added to the code that would make it easier to add a second bathroom or wheelchair ramp to a residence. These two revisions apply to all zones in Piedmont. In zone A, a new house may be created with a minimum of 8,000 square feet if the mean residential lot size within 500 feet of the property is 8,000 square feet or less. Minimum lot size in zone A is 10,000 square feet, so this revision could make it easier for large lots to subdivide.
The other revisions are more specific to zones C and D. For zone D, mixed use commercial/residential is added as a permitted use in the zone. This is defined as a development that combines first-floor commercial and second-floor multiple dwellings not to exceed one dwelling unit per each 2,000 square feet of lot space. In short, rentals over retail. Piedmont has one such development -- McCallum's, adjacent to Ace and the Grand Avenue Shell Station, is cited as a property that could be redeveloped this way. To encourage multifamily housing in both zones, structure coverage limit is proposed to increase from 25 percent to 50 percent in zone D and from 40 percent to 50 percent in zone C. A minimum density of standard of 12 units per net acre is proposed for new multifamily and mixed use developments.
There are other revisions to the code that apply to the application process. Conditional Use Permits (CUPs) for businesses and churches in town have always been granted with an expiration date, allowing the council to revisit the application and determine if the CUP was to be renewed. The city attorney advises that this is contrary to state law and the automatic expiration provision is being eliminated from Chapter 17. A CUP can now only be revoked if the business is found to be in violation of the terms of its application. The CUP will be reviewed after the initial two years by the public works director and then every five years to determine if the CUP is in compliance with the terms of the application. Past CUP renewals by the City Council required neighbor notification and a public hearing and it remains to be seen if the proposed administrative review will require similar notification.
A provision has been added to Chapter 17, 17.22.4(b) Small Residences on Small Lots, discouraging applications for a variance for floor area ratio for residences of 1,800 square feet or less. Past councils have supported the preservation of small homes in town for residents who want to stay in Piedmont and downsize from larger homes. Inclusion of this language into Chapter 17 will provide strong direction to staff and the Planning Commission to reject applications to expand smaller homes.
Most Piedmonters are familiar with the design review guidelines they face when applying for home remodels -- bathroom/parking requirements for new bedrooms, window conformity, and preservation of neighbors' light and privacy. Revisions to that part of Chapter 17 will be considered later in the year.
Residents interested in commenting on the proposed revisions to Chapter 17 should contact City Planner Kate Black at firstname.lastname@example.org and request a copy of the proposed revisions. Comments can be submitted to that email address or delivered at the public hearing on the proposed revisions at the Planning Commission at 5 p.m. Monday at Piedmont City Hall.
Garrett Keating is a Piedmont City Council member.