When I say “density,” I picture a place like Little Italy.
It’s a mix of townhouses, walk-up flats, small shops, churches, markets and restaurants. I can walk and bike around or drive my car when I want. I envision bumping into friends, enjoying our new Waterfront Park, drinking craft beer and eating from a variety of restaurants with a smile on my face.
But when I say “density” to my mom, who lives in a country ranch house and rides horses, she pictures downtown towers filled with people, an outright oppression of her outdoor lifestyle.
And to my granny, “density” means the Huffman six-packs looming over her North Park bungalow. These are the hastily built eight-or-so-unit apartment complexes on single family lots throughout Mid-City. Granny’s still bitter.
You can measure the density of all of those things, because that’s all density is: a measurement of how many homes fit within an acre. That’s it. And that’s all it should be.
My mom’s ranchettes could be between one home per 20 acres or four homes per acre. My granny’s bungalow is between eight and 14 homes an acre, depending on whether she builds a secondary apartment or “granny flat” in her backyard. The townhouses and condos in Little Italy are between 20 and 60 homes per acre, and downtown’s towers are 80 or more homes per acre.
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Like Smart Growth, Place Codes trivializes the principal purpose for communities----produce goods and services. Preferably, with national economy in shambles, superior innovative ones attractive in the global market place.
At least Smart Growth initial intent was energy/emissions reduction primarily through transportation savings in more compact, aka dense, arrangement of facilities. Mass transit expectations have failed as motor vehicles prove superior. But there is hope for savings in facilities design and arrangement.
We can’t afford blue sky hedonic enclaves, nor apparently afford related housing.
With provisions to prevent extremes, how about letting communities decide how to be productive and meet defined environmental goals?
Blacksons commentary in some ways reminds me of an observers statement about another writers piece......"Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." When addressing California and specifically San Diego he could have simply referenced sustainability. That concludes that this city is not the "place"for increase in population "density"and it's corollary increase in housing structures.
@Richard Ross I'm assuming you're referring to San Diego's lack of water.
San Diego isn't the only city affected by climate change. Aquifers are draining rapidly all over the country. Places from Phoenix, to Texas, to Minnesota, to Atlanta have faced water shortages. New York and Miami will be flooded in the near future. So where can we grow?
Not building houses doesn't solve these problem, it just makes housing expensive. In fact, building transit oriented and walkable communities may contribute to the solution.
Winnebago you are partially correct. A lack of water is a major part of the problem, but it is more complicated than that. Infinite population growth is unsustainable.
That is particularly true here in San Diego. Obviously developers don't like the thought of stopping housing construction. The resulting positive side of more expensive housing is it would slow growth.
Water is needed not only in the construction of housing and then for residents to drink and bath.....but more importantly it's needed for crops to put food on the table.
The answer to your question where can we grow? Is we have to stop growing.
Zoning is anti freedom and shows the folly of central planning. San Diego is an example of the negative repercussions of this socialist approach. Enormous swaths of land in San Diego have high vacancy rates in office buildings while virtually no vacancy in housing. This pushes rents and housing costs sky high. Politicians are the biggest cause of expensive hosting and those dictating how others may use their land are most responsible.
People who own land should be able to build on it a they see fit. Maybe multi-use is ideal? Maybe micro residences? Maybe luxurious condos? I don't know but those who profess to know, like this author, don't know nearly as well as the operators in the free market who risk their own capital to build something that people want. If they don't build what people want they will lose money. This factor is what intrinsically links them to citizens needs much better than politicians.
@Michael Robertson Anti freedom, really? This 'freedom' gives us things like the Huffman six packs. SD is a perfect example of this 'freedom' run wild. I live in a neighborhood with no sidewalks. Everyone here gets to walk in the middle of the street....thanks to your 'freedom'.
Sidewalks are built by the government not individual property owners. The government has eminent domain they can use to take people's land to put in sidewalks if they believe that is important. I'm not sure what that has to do with people being able to build what they desire on their property.
Huffman six packs are a bad example of freedom because it was the city requirement to build parking for every dwelling unit that made them one of the few viable ways to build. In other words, they're an example of an unintended consequence of taking away freedoms.
@Derek Hofmann They are the perfect example. No law mandates 'ugly'. They did the cheapest thing they could get away with.
If someone wants a cheap house that is "ugly" to you, why isn't that their right? Why do you think some people get to decide what others can do simply because they determine it is not aesthetically pleasing? Maybe people think your home or car is ugly? Should you not be able to own them?
There's no such thing as "unfettered" capitalism. For capitalism to function there must be property laws, contract laws, police and courts. One of the key tenets of property laws is that you can't harm others property. If you do, you must compensate them for it. There are mountains of laws where people can seek redress if they are harmed.
Companies have been bankrupted or paid hundreds of millions for even imaginary harm that people convinced courts were created (think silicon breast implants/Dow or erin brockovich/PGE). There are plenty of laws to protect people from harm.
@peggyo Huffman six-packs are a result of two factors:
1. A law requiring developers to provide parking for every dwelling unit, and
2. An absence of laws prohibiting Huffman six-packs.
Eliminating either of these two factors would have prevented Huffman six-packs from being built.
Someone who values freedom and traditional, organic, bottom-up planning would prevent Huffman six-packs by removing factor #1. Someone (perhaps a lawyer or a Socialist) who values a large legal code and supports giving the government more power would remove factor #2 by creating an elaborate law that defines the Huffman six-pack and then outlaws that specific combination of characteristics.
Of course doing that won't prevent someone else from designing another building style that's also ugly but complies with the law, so it just isn't a very effective solution in the long run. In the end we would have more laws on the books that don't really solve anything, and less freedom.
Density can be quite useful, but the type of density matters quite a lot. Four or five stories of mixed use is excellent, as is common in Europe and the UK. It would be an excellent fit for the street widths in San Diego and would support more walking, biking, and higher frequency transit. High-rises and the deservedly despised Hoffman flats are a much poorer option.
North Park seems to be much more open to that approach than the closed-minded Uptown/Hillcrest.
" Density and land use zoning were borne of old insurance companies’ discriminatory “redlining” practices against minorities in the 1930s. Companies outlined certain areas in red on maps. Homes within these areas couldn’t buy insurance, and became the neighborhoods where marginalized minorities were allowed to live.
Having insurance allowed homes to become larger and more expensive, which came to mean lower densities in those neighborhoods. While these discriminatory policies have stopped, our current zoning and density maps reflect and propagate old redlining practices to this day."
I'm sure "redlining" did occur. However, anyone with any knowledge of planning and zoning history knows that "density and land use zoning" were NOT born of these onerous practices. I can only assume they were made to prejudice the reader against land use controls.
In fact, zoning existing in New York City in the 1910s. And the Supreme Court heard the first case on zoning in 1926 (Ambler Realty v City of Euclid).
United States v. City of Parma, Ohio (1980) found that zoning laws force minorities out of white neighborhoods.
@Derek Hofmann Parma's actions were deplorable and discriminatory.
@Dave P. "Parma's passage and application of four land-use ordinances which impose
height, parking and voter-approval limitations on housing developments" was discriminatory, just like what we do right here in San Diego.
@Derek Hofmann @Dave P. Not the same. Let's look at parking as an example. Parma required more parking for a multi-family unit than for a single-family unit. That's not true for San Diego.
@Dave P. In both cases, the city requires more parking than what the market wants. Therefore, the requirements arbitrarily raise the price of housing which, in turn, pushes minorities out of the area.
@Dave P. Perhaps Howard's point was not precisely worded, zoning was a practice that existed prior to redlining. However, the widespread adoption of zoning coincided with FHA redlining practices and major federal investment in the Interstate Highway System that lead to the post-war building boom.
I hesitate to comment on this issue, because I have zero expertise to offer, and since I know nothing of Mr. Blackson he could be a kook (or developer in disguise), although Wikipedia doesn’t indicate that. Blackson’s tome makes sense to me, but the devil is in the implementation. It’s obvious that what we’re doing now isn’t very effective.