Community Post

City Council Puts Mega Houses on Diets

Way back in July we talked about how the city council was looking at options to restrict the construction of oversized houses in older neighborhoods like ours.  Today they acted, passing legislation that applies new development standards aimed at keeping new construction from overshadowing what was already there.

According to a council press release, the new legislation will address the problem by:

1) adjusting the formula for how much of a lot may be covered by the structure;

2) better protecting neighboring homeowners from being overshadowed by removing the provision that currently allows a house’s height to be based on neighboring property if it is taller than 30 feet;

3) Limiting the location and visibility of garage doors that face a street;

4) reducing how much height for houses are allowed on lots on sloped sites; and

5) waiving parking requirements on lots of less than 3,000 square feet, thereby reducing the prominence of a garage as part of a structure. 

It won’t be a surprise to many of you, but my favorite part is the removal of parking requirements for lots under 3,000 sq. ft.   That includes most of the lots in the CD that don’t have rear alleys, hopefully eliminating our recent plague of overwhelming garagieness, as illustrated in the attached photo.







7 thoughts on “City Council Puts Mega Houses on Diets

  1. It’s about expletive deleted time. Smart developers will use that square footage for better things, and we can have a lot better design at the street level than what we’re getting with all that garagieness :-)

  2. This is my first post on this site, hope my thoughts aren’t pushing too hard against he grain.

    I’ve lived full time in the CD since 1985 when I started college. My family has owned property in the area since the early 60’s. We still own my great grandmother’s house in the CD and different family members have moved in and out and we’ve rented it. I own two houses in the neighborhood myself. My parents were married at Immaculate, I was baptized and 30 years later married there also, and my brother was married there 2 years ago. My mother went to Immaculate and my uncles went to Garfield. The point is that I have long standing roots in the neighborhood and have a lot of skin in the game. I’ve lived here through the a lot of good times and a lot of bad ones. While I haven’t looked at the details of the new rulings, on the face of it, I’m not sure I like all of the changes.

    All 3 of our properties are within blocks of Providence so street parking is already a hassle — RPZ or not. Removing garage requirements could make that even worse.

    So if you live next to a couple of houses that are 30 plus feet, and you want to tear down your 1960’s duplex or bungalow, when you rebuild, you still have to live in the shadow of the taller houses? They have views and you don’t? That kind of sucks.

    Have to see the details on this one, but “limiting the location and visibility of garage doors that face the street?!” A garage door that faces somewhere other than “out?” C’mon — won’t a curved drive or the jockying that you’ll have to do for a garage that doesn’t face out mean you’re going to burn more lot square footage on driveway space thereby increasing runoff?

    I’m not saying I’m totally against the new rules, but I am saying that I’ve liked the changes that have been happening in the last 12-15 years. The larger houses are what in 100 years they’ll be calling the “turn of the century” style of houses the way we talk about the big houses on North Capitol Hill and their “old world charm.” Personally, I’d rather they change the rulings that allow builders to subdivide all the larger single family lots into smaller ones and then build those tiny footprint boxes. Instead, keep the standard lots and have new single family homes get built. If they are bigger and the CD/Squire Park becomes the 21st Century version of North Capitol Hill, then fine. With all the changes coming to the CD wrt development and Garfield’s remodel, why not let the area grow and change — including the houses? There is a natural limit to the size to what will be built because the prices are limited by the market. Sure, I can’t afford to buy my own house if I had to do it now, but isn’t that good? To know our investments are growing and that what we’ll leave for our children will worth a lot?

    In the end, we can keep the neighborhood feel by limiting the density of condos and ensuring that regardless of size, the lots stay single family — maybe with a requirement of percentage of land trusts or some other affordable housing provisions. I don’t want the neighborhood to stay the way it always has been. I want change, evolution and growth.

    Just my 2 cents.


  3. Mike, I’m inclined to agree with you on the garage thing. I know it is no longer PC to create parking, but the simple fact is, our city still is not that great for non car transit. Until dramatic change is made in that area, people need their cars. New buildings with 20 car parking space exceptions (23rd & Union) and then a bunch of houses with no parking will just create a terrible parking situation.

    Of course, I know this happens with density, but people keep thinking that taking away parking magically fights traffic without making other improvements?! I wonder how much traffic is added by all those cars circling the block looking for a space?

  4. This new law applies to Single Family zones. While there are a ton of single family homes in Multifamily zones, any that get torn down in those Multifamily zones will be replaced with townhouses or apartment buildings. In the MF zones, they still need to build parking with some reductions in requirements based on proximity to transit. Updates to the MF code in 2009 will make it so that parking is actually accessible. On my street of mainly older duplexes with no parking, parking is scarce. A duplex gets replaced with 6 townhomes. Right now the garages are not accessible and too small, or people have more than one car so there are more cars parked on the street. Hopefully, the updates will mitigate.

    That said, in the single family zones most of the lots are 5000 sqft. But, many of the lots are less than 3000 sqft, and most of the older homes don’t cover the lot and don’t have garages. What this is addressing is people building something that would be fine if you actually had 5000 sqft to work with on a 3000 sqft lot. There are a lot of atrocities out there.

    The zoning map is pretty nonsensical in a lot of places. It’s really old and did not get changed much in all the years of planning and establishing the idea of the urban villages, p-zones, etc. When you see the pressures of a building at say 23rd and Union with not enough parking, right up against a single family zone, it does affect the quality of life for those homeowners. But realize that those homes are right by a major intersection in the middle of an urban village. Whereas I am in a multifamily zone which is blocks away from anything.

  5. I live in what would be considered by some to be a “megahouse”.

    This will keep the supply low for houses that can comfortably hold a family of four+, raising my property value. I like it!

    On the downside, there will be fewer kids in the neighborhood as families that need more room can’t get it. So much for getting families to move back downtown…

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