Here is an important reminder and a passel of urbanist-leaning links CHS accumulated during some recent holiday downtime reading.
- Lowrise ‘code correction’ meeting: Tuesday night, Capitol Hill’s Lowell Elementary will host a community meeting to discuss a possible rollback of heights in the city’s “lowrise 3” neighborhoods — many of which are right here on the Hill — even as rents in the neighborhood continued to climb through 2013. CHS wrote about pressure from slow-growth community groups and land use advocates behind the push here last week. If you can’t attend the meeting, you can also share your thoughts with the city by emailing the planner listed below.
Lowrise Multifamily Code Correction Community Meeting
When Tuesday, January 14, 2014, 6:30 – 8pm
Location Lowell Elementary School
1058 E. Mercer St.
Website Lowrise Multifamily Code Corrections
Event Contact Geoff Wentlandt
Event Contact Email Geoffrey.Wentlandt@seattle.gov
- ‘Promoting, not penalizing’: On the Seattle Transit Blog, former McGinn advisor Robert Cruickshank writes about the proposed curbs on heights in the city:
In fact, an affordable housing development is one of the projects being cited as a reason for this code change. Capitol Hill Seattle reports that a microhousing project at 17th and Olive has fueled the most backlash from some neighborhood residents. A photo of the development from the DPD website is above. Located just one block off of Madison, a key transit corridor for Capitol Hill, the 17th and Olive building is a reasonable development that provides affordable housing in a walkable neighborhood close to frequent bus service. It’s a good example of what we should be promoting, not penalizing.
- Parking’s cost: Over the holidays, Seattle Met — with help from Sightline — shared a dataset that shows, yup, providing unneeded parking drives up the costs of development and rents:
Moreover, Sightline found that in its survey of 23 recently built apartment buildings, 37 percent of spaces were empty at night, the time of day when you’d expect parking to be in highest demand. In four developments, there were more than twice as many parking spaces as parked cars (meaning more than half the spaces were empty). On average, the buildings in the survey had 20 percent more apartments than cars, meaning that if car-owning renters averaged one car per apartment (a conservative estimate if you take seriously parking advocates’ claim that many small-apartment dwellers have multiple cars), only 80 percent of renters owned cars.
- More on parking: The Atlantic Cities also posted about the study:
An apartment with parking costs more to build than one without. And that difference isn’t covered by the typical fees to use this resource. The price of parking is much more closely related to what people think it’s worth – and what they’re willing to pay for it – than what it costs to build.
- Soaring rents force lifestyle changes: An “oldie” from summer, this Seattle Times piece talks with people forced to change their lives because of rising rent.
- Why aren’t cities taller? This look at costs and engineering says don’t blame developers. Blame City Hall.
City density, and hence city size, is mainly limited by the abilities of the conflicting elements that influence local governments to coordinate to enable taller buildings.
- How a lack of building up is keeping our cities down: Gizmodo, of all things, also made a call for cities to grow up:
Instead of fretting about height restrictions, cities should focus on mandating width-restrictions if the building isn’t providing value to the community. After all, it’s all about that street life; it’s about where that supertall touches the ground and serves its neighbors. For a luxury building, 40-feet wide seems about right—go as high as you want. But if it’s an affordable housing project with a preschool on the bottom floor, these are the projects we want to hold the largest footprints in our cities. They can go up and out.
- How to make
San Francisco’sSeattle’s housing more affordable: This essay is written with San Francisco in mind but many of the same factors apply here.
In constrained cities, supply-side policies such as the Low-Income Housing Tax Credits are more likely to make an impact. Even if new buildings don’t house the poor, they will alleviate the pressure to gentrify, expanding affordable housing.
Another change is even more drastic. For decades, Massachusetts has allowed the builders of affordable housing to do an end run around local zoning rules if the locality doesn’t have enough such units. A similar policy in California would prod expensive localities to loosen their rules and impose state-mandated deregulation if they don’t comply.