Plan to protect Portland trees pushes four to quit committee

eastmoreland-sequoia-protest---17jpg-789938ff65f19005

on November 05, 2015 at 6:00 AM, updated November 05, 2015 at 11:46 AM
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UPDATED: This story includes comments from Commissioner Amanda Fritz.

Portland’s ongoing conflict over tree-cutting and infill buzzed through City Hall on Wednesday when four of 12 members of a city advisory group – each with ties to the construction industry – abruptly resigned in protest.

The resignations came just hours after city officials released a memo with recommended policy changes meant to strengthen tree protections. The proposed changes, requested by Commissioner Amanda Fritz, are the first since Eastmoreland neighbors in September successfully rallied against a developer’s plan to ax three giant sequoia trees.

City officials acknowledged that the proposal is in direct response to situations such as Eastmoreland. But some members of Portland’s Tree Code Oversight Advisory Committee said city leaders are overreacting and ignoring their input.

“Any sense of (a) balanced approach to the issues before us seem to have taken a backseat to special interests or citizen pressures surrounding certain select trees,” wrote committee member Phil Damiano, who works for Johnson Air Products, a distributor of HVAC systems.

Damiano said the city’s proposal left him “questioning the value” of the committee. Then he joined others by quitting.

Messages left late Wednesday for Fritz, who oversees Portland Parks & Recreation, were not immediately returned.

Update: In an email sent to committee members after midnight, Fritz said she and Commissioner Dan Saltzman considered proposing a moratorium on development when large trees would be cut down. She also asked parks employees for an alternative to the moratorium — which prompted Wednesday’s proposal.

Fritz told members she hoped to speak with them to clarify and discuss the proposal.

“It is a proposal for discussion and refinement, not a done deal,” Fritz wrote. “There may be an alternative solution, or perhaps consensus will emerge that we should wait to make any amendments or additional Administrative Rules.”

Wednesday’s revolt began when a city employee emailed committee members just after 11 a.m. with a proposal to revise the city’s tree code.

The changes, proposed by city Forester Jen Cairo, all but called on developers to protect trees that are 48 inches in diameter or larger.

Under existing rules, developers building a new house are supposed to try to maintain at least one third of all trees at least 12 inches in diameter. In instances when that doesn’t happen, developers must pay $1,200 for each tree below the one-third minimum.

Under Wednesday’s proposal, those rules would still apply – but costs would increase for a developer who knocks down big trees.

“I am done with playing this charade that the City of Portland, and their elected leaders, continue to play”

Instead of a flat fee, developers would be required to pay on an inch-for-inch basis when removing a tree at least 48 inches in diameter.

The memo didn’t specify a cost. But the city separately charges a fee of $300 per inch for trees along city streets. If that rate is applied, removing a 48-inch tree would run $14,400.

Beyond higher costs, developers also would be required to post a public notice for at least seven days before removing the tree.

Jessica Fuller, the city employee who sent the memo to committee members, wrote that the proposed changes are a “stop-gap measure” to address situations such as Eastmoreland while a more sweeping review continues.

Fuller wrote that the proposal “does not contradict or diminish” the work of the committee. And she urged members to respond via email because “we will not have a lot of time” at a meeting Monday to discuss the proposal.

The first resignation came about an hour later.

Justin Wood, who represents the Homebuilders Association of Metropolitan Portland, wrote that committee members’ input is requested only “when it is convenient.” Wood also noted that Portland hopes to add 125,000 housing units over 20 years but no one is coming to terms with what that means for tree preservation.

Wood’s father-in-law, Jeff Fish, a homebuilder who also sits on the committee, quit too. He said Fritz was impeding their work.

“I am done with playing this charade that the City of Portland, and their elected leaders, continue to play,” he wrote.

The group’s co-chair, Susan Steward, also quit. Steward is the executive director for Oregon’s Building Owners and Managers Association.

“After committing almost a year to this, it has become apparent my input, as well as the input of others is not valued,” she wrote.

— Brad Schmidt

bschmidt@oregonian.com

Tree-huggers save the giant sequoias

http://portlandtribune.com/pt/9-news/273551-149326-tree-huggers-save-the-giant-sequoias

55 Percent of Charlie Hales’ Political Contributions from Real Estate Industry

http://golocalpdx.com/politics/more-than-half-of-charlie-hales-political-contributions-from-real-estate-in

Mayor Charlie Hales

According to campaign finance records for incumbent Mayor Charlie Hales, more than half of the money donated to his campaign in 2015 has come from the real estate industry.

A GoLocal review of campaign contributions show that $58,000 of the $103,859 donated to Hales so far this year has come from architects, real estate developers, real estate consultants and others connected to the real estate industry. By comparison, his opponent in the election for Mayor of Portland, State Treasurer Ted Wheeler, has received only $3,250 in donations from the real estate industry so far.

John Horvick, Vice President of Political Operation with DHM Research, told GoLocal that real estate developers donate to local political candidates early and often to ensure that they are on the officials’ “good side.”

“This is typical of campaigns in Portland,” he said. “The development community is active so they can have a chance to influence whoever they are donating to.”

What It Means

Gary Malecha, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Portland, told GoLocal that developers want to ensure that they have a good relationship with those in power.

“They want to make sure they have access to those who are going to be making these decisions,” Malecha said. “Its not uncommon to see heavy contributions by those who are going to deal often with a government entity.”

Horvick, with DHM, agreed. He said developers want to make sure that their interests are taken care of after the election.

“They have money, they have interest, and a lot of them have known Hales for a long time,” he said. “It’s not surprising that this money is flowing to him.”

Something to Worry About?

Jim Moore, Director of the Tom McCall Center for Policy Innovation at Pacific University, told GoLocal he thought the issue of fundraising “should be a concern” to voters in the mayoral election. He cautioned, however, that whether it is made an issue will be left up to voters.

“It boils down to whether people feel they need to be concerned about it,” Moore said. “It’s legal, and it’s above board and it’s been something that has always been happening in Portland, so I don’t really think people are too worried about it.”

Horvick said that he believes that regardless of whether voters show interest in campaign finance issues this election, candidates will bring it up often during their talking points.

“Certainly I would expect each candidate to make issues about where the other candidate is getting his money from,” he said. “They will try to tell a story about each other and say why this is a bad thing.”

Why Hales?

Horvick, with DHM, said he was not surprised to see the donations from the real estate industry flowing to Hales.

“It doesn’t surprise me that developers are supporting Hales,” he said. “It’s typical of campaigns in Portland for the development community and Hales comes from that community. It’s really his natural constituency.”

Malecha, with the University of Portland, said that it is not uncommon to see an incumbent like Hales raise money quicker than a challenger such as Wheeler. He said that often, developers and other donors will tend to donate to the incumbent because they are already aware of and pleased with his stance on issues important to them.

“They already have familiarity with him the know his perspective and his feelings about those issues, so he feels like a safer choice,” Malecha said.

Malecha also said that donors may give their money to Hales because they believe that is where the best chance for an election-night victory lies.

“It is not at all uncommon for the incumbent to have an easier time raising money,” he said. “They are difficult to defeat because they have name recognition and other advantages. Donors want to make sure that the people in power are their recipient, and that is the best way to make that happen.”

Representatives from both the Ted Wheeler and Charlie Hales campaigns declined to comment for this story.

Mayor Charlie Hales Proposes “Demolition Tax”

CURB APPEAL: The Suh family house on Northeast 13th Avenue—now set to be torn down—had a cameo role in a 2011 Chrysler commercial.

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales wants to charge developers a $25,000 flat tax every time they tear down a perfectly good single-family home to build a bigger home in its place. The goal, he says, is to discourage residential demolitions while also generating a new revenue stream to support Portland’s housing investment fund. “Keeping those old houses that are still in good condition has a strong public purpose,” says Hales, who says the tax won’t apply to homes in areas zoned for multi-family housing or derelict buildings. Hales’ proposal comes as neighborhood activists have become increasingly agitated by developers who tear down old Portland homes to build new ones that are often far larger than their surroundings and sometimes require removing grand old trees, such as the 150-foot Sequoias in Eastmoreland. In addition to the $25,000 tax, developers who want to demolish old homes would have to pay $25 for every year the house stood. A house built in 1940 would cost $26,875 to tear down, as a result. (Hales landed on the $25,000 figure after studying sales prices for home demolitions. On average, builders sold new homes for $250,000 more than the old homes. Hales says a 10 percent tax on that differential struck him as appropriate.) In 2014, developers tore down almost 200 homes, according to city records. Hales says he thinks the tax has the potential to bring down that number significantly. If it cuts the number in half, Portland could generate roughly $2.5 million a year to support its housing investment fund, which pays for home ownership and home repairs programs in the Portland Housing Bureau, he says. One issue that’s not ironed out? How to decide whether a building qualifies as derelict and, therefore, not subject to the tax. “That’s a piece we’re still working on,” the mayor says. A public hearing is scheduled for Oct. 14. “We think this is the right tool for Portland now,” he says.

Source: Mayor Charlie Hales Proposes “Demolition Tax”

They Might Kill Giants

http://www.wweek.com/portland/article-25265-they_might_kill_gian.html

A local author joins the fight to save the great Sequoias of Eastmoreland.

WW Giants shot

I SPEAK FOR THE TREES: Arthur Bradford with some seriously large sequoias that soon might not exist. – IMAGE: Carrie Wilson

Last night two drunks came to visit the trees. It was 3 am, and they parked their car so the headlights shone on the massive trunks as they stumbled around, gazing skyward.

“These things are fucking huge, man.”

“We can’t let them cut ’em down…”

They woke me up, and I stood at our bedroom window tempted to tell them to shut up. But the thing is, I sympathize with those guys. The trees are indeed huge, over 150 feet tall. There are three of them, all planted in a neat row supposedly back in the 1800s, giant sequoias with trunks so thick you could drive a small car through them, just like they do in those national parks on the California coast. It would indeed be a shame to cut them down, especially just to make room for one more big house that no one in particular has asked for.

Even Vic Remmers, the developer who plans to build  it, agrees with the drunk guys, to a certain extent. “I really wish we could find another solution,” he wrote me.

By “another solution,” Remmers means he’d like to get his invested money back, plus a $250,000 profit. His company, Everett Custom Homes, bought the land four months ago—two city lots, one of them empty but for the trees, and the other with a modest house that was being pushed over by the roots of the giant sequoias next door. We live on the other side of the trees and had hoped to buy the tree lot back when it was put up for sale. We didn’t really have the money, though, and Everett Custom Homes swooped in with $650,000 cash for both lots.

We thought perhaps they’d have trouble getting a permit to cut down the trees and might work around them instead. The name of the company was “Custom Homes,” after all. But it turned out there was nothing custom about the huge Tudor-style houses it planned to drop on the land. And the company had no trouble getting permits to cut down every single tree on both lots. Prior to a newly adopted tree ordinance, a Portland resident would have had to pay about $80,000 to cut down those trees.

Now developers merely pay a small, uniform fine into a “tree mitigation fund.” Remmers and his company ponied up $2,400 for the right to cut everything down. The traditional 35-day waiting period for public input on their plans was waived.

A crane would be brought in, we were told, and workers would first limb each tree so they could be rendered enormous spiky poles. Then they’d shear the trees down in small chunks that could be lowered carefully to the ground. These chunks, useless as lumber, would have to be chopped into chips for the landfill.

But the night before this was to happen, a posse of news trucks camped out on our street. Hundreds of protesters arrived in the morning, and the TV reporters gave live updates, waiting for a showdown. In the days leading up, some neighbors had made a last-ditch effort to buy the land from Remmers. It wasn’t until those news trucks and protesters showed up that he offered to cut a deal. A meeting was set at a local coffeehouse for later that morning.

A small group of us waited for the developer, some having just met that very morning. Remmers strolled in late, a tall, former Oregon State University basketball player, in his early 30s. He sat down, and right away the head of our neighborhood association berated him with threats of lawsuits and protesters endlessly blocking his way.

Read more at the link above~~

Tree loss spurs Portland residents to action | Street Roots

http://news.streetroots.org/2015/08/13/tree-loss-spurs-portland-residents-action

by Amanda Waldroupe | 13 Aug 2015

As development increases, neighborhood associations are organizing to save prominent trees and asking the city to change how it regulates the city’s canopy

The three Eastmoreland neighborhood sequoias on Southeast Martins Street that have so far been spared removal to make way for development. The largest one is 20 feet in diameter. Courtesy photo

Three towering sequoias in Eastmoreland. A Paradox walnut near Mount Tabor, one of the densest and largest deciduous trees in all of Portland. All are 150-year-old trees that have become flashpoints for how Portlanders are responding to the city’s white-hot real estate market and development.

Longtime Portlanders are watching sleek condo buildings go up along a formerly gritty Division Street. In many neighborhoods, developers are purchasing older craftsman-style homes that are demolished to build a new, larger single-unit house on a single lot or split lots, making hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit.

Along with the demolition comes cutting down trees — “tree removal,” as it is known. Depending on the circumstances, a single tree is removed or the entire lot is clear-cut to make way for new construction.

It’s a trend that has rankled residents who live near such developments, neighborhood associations, environmentalists and conservationists.

“The developers often prefer to build the entire lot. It leaves very little green space and certainly very few trees,” said Robert McCullough, chair of Southeast Uplift, the neighborhood coalition of inner Southeast Portland, and the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association. “There is a wide level of outrage around this.”

People are increasingly looking to the city’s tree code as both the culprit for tree loss and the potential white knight for Portland’s oldest, largest and most ecologically important trees. People are increasingly looking to the city’s tree code as both the culprit for tree loss and the potential white knight for Portland’s oldest, largest and most ecologically important trees.

The city’s tree code, which underwent a massive rewrite in 2011 and became effective at the beginning of this year, regulates tree removal and planting and aims to protect the city’s urban forest. In April, an interim rule was established to provide standards for tree replacement.

However, contrary to the code’s intent of canopy preservation, the new regulations appear to be leading to canopy loss.

For the first time, the city is able to track the number of trees being cut down. A total of 1,346 permits to remove and/or replant trees were issued by the city between Jan. 1 and June 30. There has been a loss of 25,000 square feet of canopy since the interim rule was enacted. Approximately 16,000 square feet of canopy has been replanted since the rule was enacted, but that leaves a net loss of 9,000 square feet.

Before the interim rule took effect, 2.4 trees were replanted for every tree removed. Since the rule has been in effect, the rate has dropped to 0.8 tree for each tree removed, according to a report by Portland Parks and Recreation.

“There is not a whole lot of data out there yet. It’s a small window of time. To call it a trend is a little generous,” Jenn Cairo, the city’s forester, said at a Tree Code Oversight Advisory Committee meeting on Aug. 10. “There is a suggestion that there could be greater cumulative canopy impacts than has been seen.”

Jim Labbe, an urban conservationist for the Audubon Society of Portland, said the amount of tree removal due to development and construction is unprecedented.

“It’s very concerning,” he said.

Those who seek stronger protections for Portland’s oldest trees say doing so is more than saving a tree here or there. Portland is inevitably changing and growing and developing. But how Portland develops is what is on residents’ minds — and whether elected officials and policymakers will guide development with the thought and intention necessary to protect something that defines Portland.

Read more at link above, or via Tree loss spurs Portland residents to action | Street Roots.

Grassroots campaign close to saving trees

http://www.pamplinmedia.com/pt/9-news/266115-139599-grassroots-campaign-close-to-saving-trees

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Elizabeth Leach speaks on behalf of neighbors in Eastmoreland about saving three 150-year-old sequoia trees from being cutdown during a Save the Giants Jam.

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ – Elizabeth Leach speaks on behalf of neighbors in Eastmoreland about saving three 150-year-old sequoia trees from being cutdown during a Save the Giants Jam.

Neighbors inEastmoreland have been given more time to raise the necessary $900,000 to save three 150-year-oldseqouia trees.Elizabeth Leach, who has led the fundraising efforts, announced on Monday at the neighborhood’s “Save the Giants Jam” that they will partner with the Portland nonprofit Friends of Trees to purchase the lot on Southeast Martins Street from the developer, Everett Custom Homes.

The Portland nonprofit will be accepting donations on behalf of neighbors, to make them tax-deductible.

Leach told the Tribune the group still has about $200,000 to raise, but says she feels encouraged.

“There’s a lot of interest,” she says. “People really care about these redwoods.”

Leach says neighbors have been working with a builder and architect, who would be designing a home in the lot next to the trees. If Leach and other neighbors successfully raise the needed funds, the lot where the trees stand will become a community park.

Money talks

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Leslie and Pierce Reed and their two daughters, Finley, 5, and Addison,9, along with Brighton West, green shirt, deputy director with Friends of Trees, pause to look at  three 150-year-old sequoia trees that are subject to being cutdown during a Save the Giants Jam in Eastmoreland.

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ – Leslie and Pierce Reed and their two daughters, Finley, 5, and Addison,9, along with Brighton West, green shirt, deputy director with Friends of Trees, pause to look at three 150-year-old sequoia trees that are subject to being cutdown during a Save the Giants Jam in Eastmoreland.

The neighborhood’s fundraising efforts began June 24, when Robert McCullough, president of theEastmoreland Neighborhood Association, came to an agreement with VicRemmers, owner of Everett Custom Homes, to buy the lot from the developer for $900,000.The agreement followed the developer’s plans to cut down three large sequoia trees, which neighbors say were planted more than 150 years ago.

According to the developer’s plans — acquired by the Tribune from the Portland Bureau of Development Services — Everett Custom Homes planned to pay $2,400 to cut down the three sequoias and a fourth tree, a smaller Pacific dogwood.

The city’s tree code, which became law in January, requires developers to pay the established cost of two trees — $2,400 – if they don’t preserve at least a third of the trees on a property that are larger in 12 inches in diameter.

Yet neighbors and advocates believe the cost to mitigate each tree removal — $1,200 — is too low.

“That’s a really low-bar,” says Kris Day, a member of the Urban Forestry Commission.

City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who oversees the Bureau of Parks & Recreation and the Bureau of Development Services, also says she doesn’t know whether $1,200 is enough for developers to pay.

“There’s a number of issues with the tree code that we need to address,” Fritz told the Tribune.

Another issue with the tree code, McCullough says, is its complexity.

McCullough says the neighborhood association had to obtain a lawyer to help make sense of the tree code, which is more than 100 pages long.

“The tree code is completely unreadable,” McCullough says.

McCullough also says developers have an easier time getting approval to remove trees.

“While you as a homeowner have a lot of steps to go through to prune a tree, you as a developer just need a bulldozer,” he says. He adds that developers still have to pay the fee, which is so small he calls it “insulting.”

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Elizabeth Leach collects money to help save three 150-year-old sequoia trees from being cutdown during a Save the Giants Jam.

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ – Elizabeth Leach collects money to help save three 150-year-old sequoia trees from being cutdown during a Save the Giants Jam.

The tree code does allow residents to nominate a tree as a heritage tree, which affords it more protections.“We would love for more people to nominate trees to be heritage trees,” Fritz says.

However, the city’s tree code doesn’t automatically protect older trees.

“The city should actually forbid cutting older trees or providing some sort of incentive to builders to keep them,” McCullough says.

Fritz says the Urban Forestry Commission will look into making changes to the tree code in the fall.

Day says both the Urban Forestry Commission and another citizen group she is a part of — the Tree Code Oversight Advisory Committee — are both seeking public input on the tree code.

“I’m not allowed to just change the city code,” Fritz says. “We’re not going to change it without going through a public process.”

Day hopes the committee will have a set of proposed changes to the tree code by the fall.

“The intention is to find a more equitable way to recapture the values that these trees are providing to the community,” Day says. “It’s a hard thing to put a value on something like a tree because it’s a living thing and its an asset that actually increases in value over time.”

1910 Home Will Be Razed, While Tree Removal Denied by City

From the Portland Chronicle…shortened url – http://tinyurl.com/nefnnt2

PORTLAND, Ore. – A notorious residential development company will demolish a 105-year-old home in Southeast Portland’s Richmond neighborhood, while according to city permits trees on the site of the development will not be cut down following the denial of a removal permit.

Located at 2224 SE 32nd Place, the house was built in 1910 and sits on a 5,364-square-foot lot. The house is 1,160 square feet in size.

32nd1

While city and county records show the owner as Louisa Heamish, permit records suggest a developer has purchased the lot and Movoto recorded a pending sale of the property as of March 27 for $350,000. It had most recently sold in 1991 for $44,500.

The real estate listing noted the possibilities of either restoring the home or demolishing it.

“With the right buyer, this century-old home could become a great addition to the developing community it sits in,” the listing stated. “Due to the nature of the lot, there is also the possibility of a beautiful new home with an underground garage and additional living unit at the back of the property.”

On May 16 the city received an application for demolition of the house. The applicant on the demolition is listed as Gene Hubbell of Portland Development Group, while the contractor is simply described as “Gene” of the same development company.

In place of the single-family home the developer plans to build a new single-family home, two stories tall with a detached garage.

The demolition permit explains that the “scope of work does not include removal of trees.” While this is a fairly common notation in demolition permits, a prior permit case on the property is not as frequently seen.

On April 22 the city received an application for a “private property tree removal permit.” The case required a Title 11 permit with “conditions required.”

On May 5 the city denied the removal permit. This application was received and denied well after Movoto had recorded the sale in March, suggesting it was a plan by the developer to remove trees on the property. The criteria for the denial is not clear from the city’s permit records.

Portland Development Group, registered to Mike Hubbell, previously purchased a house directly to the south of this property in 2013, for a price of $270,000.

Photo credit: Google Maps

The developer demolished the 1907 home on the property, replaced it with new construction and sold the lot for $725,000 in 2014, about $450,000 higher than the purchase price in 2013.

Photo credit: Google Maps

The demolition permit on the house at 2224 SE 32nd Place expires July 23.

Small-Lot Legislation – testing

http://www.smartgrowthseattle.org/initiatives/

Finalizing Small Lot Regulation

During the summer of 2012, our City Council passed emergency legislation to modify the development standards governing undersized lots in single family zones.  The interim measures were adopted to address neighborhood concerns that development under the old standards was sometimes out of character with surrounding conditions and inconsistent with the policy intent of allowing infill development on undersized lots.  The changes made effect development standards for “historic lots” under Section 23.44.010.B.1.d of the code.  Smart Growth Seattle (SGS) supports the interim measures as a pragmatic response to real concerns neighbors expressed about the size and scale of new housing development on smaller lots.

As currently written, the interim measures preserve the exception for some historic lots, but impose new development standards consistent with the principles of smart growth.  Following is a summary of the new standards:

  • Limits on the application of the lot area exception provided for historic lots of record to those lots with an area of at least 50 percent of the general minimum requirement for the zone;
  • An end to the use of historic tax records as a basis for qualifying for lot area exceptions;
  • Development of lots with an area of between 50 and 75 percent of the general minimum lot area of the zone (lots between 2,500 and 3,750 square feet in an SF 5000 zone)with a height limit of 22 feet, the same height and floor area that would be allowed for a detached accessory dwelling units on a lot of the same dimensions; and

Why Do We Support This Legislation?
This legislation creates predictable, and appropriately scaled urban density1allowing more housing on a smaller footprint, and it supports sustainable development2 by allowing new, smaller, more energy efficient homes.  The legislation contributes to economic opportunity3, creating new construction jobs and tax revenue.  By creating predictable and planned development on smaller lots, this legislation substantially addresses the important concerns of neighbors but also maintains a local tradition of architectural diversity4in our single-family neighborhoods, respecting basic development patterns there without discriminating against diverse designs.  Housing choice5 is supported by this legislation by enabling homebuilders to meet the demand for smaller-scale single-family homes in the city.

Further Improvements For Smart Growth
In addition to the new standards for historic lots, SGS proposes new development standards for Section 23.44.010.B.1.a, commonly known as the “75/80 Rule”.  In some neighborhoods, lots exist that are less than 75% of the minimum of the zone, but make sense for development because they conform to the size of the neighboring lots.  SGS believes that allowing development on these lots would balance the need for more infill opportunities with keeping the character of surrounding conditions.

Block Face Diagram

  • Modify the 75/80 rule to allow development of housing on lots that are 80% of the average lot size of a block face regardless of size.  (i.e. if the average size of the lots on a block is 4000 square feet, then the minimum required size for development would be 3200 square feet);

Specifically, the proposed standards would:

  • Limit the height of houses built on qualifying lots as follows:
    • 22 feet for lots that are 60% or less of the zone (i.e. lots 3000 square feet or less in an SF 5000 zone would be restricted to 22 feet);
    • 25 feet for lots that are less than 75% of the zone (i.e. lots 3000 to 3750 square feet in an SF 5000 zone would be limited to 25 feet)

New 80% Rule and Neighborhood Impact 
The city benefits from the proposed 80% Rule because it allows infill housing in a predictable manner for both neighbors and homebuilders. Most neighborhoods have irregular but generally consistent lot sizes. For example, take this block of lots zoned Single Family 5000. Lots in this neighborhood require a minimum lot size of 5000 feet, but the existing lots are much smaller. The average lot size of all the lots facing one street is 3,893 square feet while the smallest lot on the block is 2,300 square feet. The proposed 80% Rule would allow a house to be built on a lot that is 3,114 square feet, or about 700 square feet less than the average lot.  Because the lot is smaller than 3750 square feet, the new standards would impose a height restriction of 25 feet to insure that the new house would be in character with the surrounding conditions.

Smart Growth on a Consistent Scale
These careful adjustments of lot requirements in single-family neighborhoods give more clarity to the process for building on small lots. The new proposal would clarify the existing code and allow building of new homes on lots smaller than the minimum lot area requirements (9600, 7200, and 5000 square feet respectively) and establish the “80 Percent Rule.”

Adoption of the 80 Percent Rule would allow housing to be built on lots in a single-family zone unless it that are 80 percent of average lot on the block. For example, if a property owner wants to build a new home on an existing lot, and the average of all the lots on her block is 5000 square feet, her lot must be at least 4000 square feet.

The 80 Percent Rule gives the City a new tool so that new development will be easier to predict for property owners, neighbors, and developers.

—————————————————————————–

1      http://www.sightline.org/research/compact-neighborhoods/

2      http://www.usgbc.org/Docs/Archive/MediaArchive/310_Prahl_PA772.pdf

3      http://www.usgbc.org/ShowFile.aspx?DocumentID=6435

4      http://agbeat.com/real-estate-news-events/2012-home-design-trends-focus-on-the-family/

5      http://www.aia.org/practicing/AIAB091814

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