Alas, in too many cases the City has shaded truth or misrepresented things, and it's not always easy to trust them. So, it's hard to say really how good is the proposed package of changes.
|Preview and summary for proposed code amendments|
on missing middle housing.
Small plexes that fit into the neighborhood fabric easily will conform to more of the standards for existing single detached homes. This is a move for continuity and for historic norms.
There's also a modest reduction in off-street parking requirements, which drive up the cost of building.
Details on lot coverage, lot size, and setbacks could still plug up the works, however. I haven't seen any informed comment on those details, and maybe there will be more to say after the Hearing.
It would be helpful for the City to provide more concrete detail in pictures and case histories. That preview image above shows three Salem projects, but does not have any discussion of ways they exemplify problems, solutions, or illustrate any part of the proposed new code.
|On HB 2001|
Fourplexes are going to be legal, no matter what! The City should be clearer that this is coming down the pipeline and we should want to start preparing for it.
Over at LUN, people involved with the neighborhood associations have talked a little about the proposal, and I want to argue with a number of their claims and observations.
|Autoism and some NIMBYism|
Why should neighbors be able to cancel a next-door fourplex? The Strong Towns formula on change neatly recognizes the historical reality of cities. Our current zoning scheme characteristic of mid- and late 20th century freezes residential neighborhoods in a way that is very much an aberration in history. It's not "natural" and it's bad. Urban renewal, the "cataclysmic money" Jacobs talked about, was also bad. (Though Strong Towns may also not give enough thought to our climate emergency and its exigencies.) These two concepts together are much closer to a "natural" concept of a city, the way they actually change in normal, organic history, apart from things like war or famine.
- Premise #1: No neighborhood should be exempted from change.
- Premise #2: No neighborhood should experience radical change.
The more open space we have, the farther apart things are placed, the more auto-dependent the distances between them. Open space drives demand for cars. We have not thought through the mutualism between our fondness for open space and our fondness for cars.
The older parts of town are also the most walkable, and we should want more people to be able to enjoy walkable neighborhoods and the amenities that cluster in and near them. "Fencing" walkable neighborhoods with exclusionary zoning is a form of resource hoarding and maintaining incumbency privilege. If we want a larger quantity of affordable housing, and we want to be able to have a broad and diverse middle class, we will need to have greater numbers of smaller-footprint housing in walkable areas. We should want to share!
More than this, walkable neighborhoods are also conducive to lower-car and even car-free living. This points to another disconnect: Neighbors fear more cars in walkable neighborhoods, but by pushing development out into car dependent areas, we guarantee more cars in the city driving and too often zooming. The only way to have fewer cars and fewer trips is to leverage walkable neighborhoods. (Parking reform has to be a part of this.)
|Proposed changes for bigger projects|
On one of the elements, it turns out there's a helpful word!
|"Demise lines" create articulation|
Walkable City Rules by Jeff Speck
A demise line is an artificial vertical boundary that breaks a facade conceptually into several smaller units. There is as yet no theory of demise lines nor literature of demise lines, but they are used often...Architects are often uncomfortable with the concept of demise lines, because they are essentially a lie. They misrepresent the buildings behind them, and dishonestly reduce the scale of buildings that should be smaller. As such, they can be considered white lie...They should be required on private buildings that otherwise threaten to create a monotonous streetscape.I have often wondered what to call these seams of articulation that don't actually correspond to a different building, and now I see we have a word for that. Demise lines. Remember that!
|One kind of demise line at Southblock - via CB|Two|