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Thread: Narrow residential lots: no front garage = parking nightmare

  1. #1
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    Narrow residential lots: no front garage = parking nightmare

    The parking nightmare that is created in neighbourhoods zoned as residential narrow lots is not worth the gains in density and affordability.

    Some time ago a planner said: "Locating detached garages located off of a rear access lane eliminates the need for front driveways, creates a pedestrian oriented streetscape, and provides more “eyes on the street” through unobstructed views of the street from the house."
    The existing process:
    Developer creates narrows lots, restricts front garages and brings houses closer to street to add to "streetscape".
    Builder creates bi-level and two-storey house plans that fit the restrictions. Builder also makes garage optional, to bring down price, again.
    Home owner uses house that is oriented to the front street. Where is he going to park? In the front street. The lot is wide enough to fit two cars. Each family has...2 cars. The streetscape becomes a parking lot, resembling the shopping mall down the road. But without the structure of paintlines.

    The builders have not introduced plans that encourage owners to use the back door. Some house plans don't even have back doors (just a patio door off the kitchen). No entryway or shoe closet.

    Tell me planners, how do we solve this problem?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Huh?

    I live on in a 1.5 story home on a 35' wide lot. I'd be surprised if one car could fit in front of my home.

    Cities all over are built with narrow lots.

    I have a driveway that snakes between the 23' wide homes to the garage in the back. Not all narrow lots mean rear facing garages. My lot would not fit more than one car in front of the home.

    This does not dimish from the pedestrian activity in my neighborhood. Lots of folks walk to the corner bakeries, restraunts, stores, or bus stops.

    In your scenario, most zoning ordinances would still require at least two off street parking spots. This would be facilitated by a concrete pad in the rear yard; where a garage may be built later.

    Most folks will still access their homes from the back or side yards, as those are the servicible entrances nearest to tile/vynil floors, or the kitchen.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Fat Cat's avatar
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    Fat Cat

    I worked for a city in the late 90s with approximately 7,000 residential lots. Many of which had absentee landlords with blight. The city began an agressive clean up using a a state nuisance per se law and ended up with a lot of reversion property and clear title to the vacant lot after the blighted houses were demoed. Developers lined up to buy the vacant lots from the city. The city purchased a book from the APA book store that specialized in homes with two stall garages on 35 foot wide lots. I dont remember the name of the book but if you call the APA I am sure that they can help you. I think we paid about 70 - 80 for it. The floor plans were very inovative an allowed for side yard setbacks. Most of the lots we dealt with were about 100 feet deep. The new houses encouraged the existing owner occupants to improve their homes. Good luck and it can be done.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    I live in Philly. Some days I have to park a house or two away, its not the end of the world.

    In downtown areas peeps sometimes park a block away...oh the horror.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    2 Houses away, you're lucky Jeff, try upward of 3 blocks away. When I was in college I would have to circle 30 minutes sometimes finding spots. The 3 main issues were the houses that had driveways and curb cuts which eliminates at least one to one and a half parking spaces on the street. Second was the churches that had no parking in front of the building at all times. And third was the commercial area nearby where many people parked at night in the neighboring residential areas.

    On street parking is a good thing.
    @GigCityPlanner

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Plus PlannerGirl's avatar
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    I rather like having lived on a street with cars parked both sides, traffic goes slower, you feel safer walking on the sidewalk etc. To me personally such quiet little streets are the picture of where I want my home and family to be. Homes close to the street encourage neighbors and passersby to talk, to keep an eye on the kids etc.

    I find streets with no parking on the streets and the views dominated by garages rather sterile and unwelcoming


    I guess I fail to see the problem here.
    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin

    Remember this motto to live by: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'WOO- HOO what a ride!'"

  7. #7
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    I have experienced these types of situations and never really had a problem with it. Maybe people need to have fewer cars.

    Though, if the neighborhood new2planning is referring to is not close to walkable service areas or all the trips out of the neighborhood require auto use, then that could be a problem, but really a problem more for those that bought into the neighborhood and not necessarily the local municiplaity (they approved, so presumably they thought it was fine).
    Last edited by mendelman; 29 Jan 2007 at 11:46 AM.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

    Six seasons and a movie!

  8. #8
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by new2planning View post
    Tell me planners, how do we solve this problem?
    On street parking is beneficial from two perspectives: 1) maximizing the use of pavement through shared parking spaces and 2) traffic calming and pedestrian buffer.

    I fail to see a problem here, let alone one that is the reponsibility of planners.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by new2planning View post
    The builders have not introduced plans that encourage owners to use the back door. Some house plans don't even have back doors (just a patio door off the kitchen). No entryway or shoe closet.

    Tell me planners, how do we solve this problem?

    From the tone of your post, the builder is the reason why your not happy. No back door, optional garages (what about providing rear parking pads?) The builder is skimping and the codes let it happen apprently. People are buying the houses. The builder has provided what the market wanted.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  10. #10
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    Maybe its the people...

    The new narrow lot subdivisions (developed in the last ten years) in Alberta, Canada have a sterile feel to them.
    • The houses are pulled closer to the front street so there is NO front lawn for kids to play on.
    • New age planning calls for non linear road networks, so at each corner there is a further crunch for parking.
    • Narrow roads means larger trucks (we all know the new F350s with monster truck tires) park halfway on the sidewalk to keep the road clear. Ever had to walk through a deisel plume from an idling truck with your child? Remote car starters mean the vehicle owner is using the defroster instead of scraping the frost from his windshield. (Another Canadian thing)
    • Rear lanes become nuisances because owners don't care about what they don't see.
    • Garbage collection generally occurs in the rear lane, leaving debri and garbage cans/recycling containers to blow around.
    • Snow removal does NOT happpen in rear lanes. And with all the onstreet parking, it rarely occurs on the front street.
    • Monolithic sidewalks leave no room for boulevard trees, so landscaping is at the discretion of the owner...meaning nothing gets done (aside from the required landscaping stipulated in the bylaws).
    • Twice as much fence for kids to graffiti on or damage. Or for owners to neglect.

    I'll take some pictures of what its like here and post a link to them.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Streets are for moving traffic, not parking cars.

    Cars parked on streets are traffic hazards for people getting in and out on the street side.

    The view of the home is obstructed by cars parked in front, and that is not conducive to "home setting" for family and mental health.

    Traffic slows down because of the proximity of cars in parking lanes (purpose of streets is to move traffic not slow it down).

    Guest parking is severly limited when the only place to park is on the street, and the narrow lots use both of them.

    Having houses close to the street to stimulate conversations?!? No one sits on the porch anymore. Those that want to socialize can take walks and meet people on "neutral" ground - the common sidewalk.

    Having houses close to street reduces opportunity for trees and tree canopy for shade and landscaping for peace of the soul.

    Narrow lots mean garages face the street, and many times when people are home they are left open, revealing unkempt storage conditions that adversely effect property values and resale value based on comps.

    Small narrow lots result in higher percentage of impervious lot coverage and surface recharging area.

    Small narrow lots result in small narrow side yards which increases fire hazard by spread of fire from your neighbor over whose living conditions you have no control. Fire insurance rates are usually higher in higher density neighborhoods, too.

    Small lots and high density can overwhelm street capacity, resulting in increasing traffic problems. Some cities have lost control of their density and must spend millions of taxpayer dollars just on traffic circulation problems or mass transit problems that medium density cities do not have.

    Yes, I know there are people that have probably grown up in those conditions and they don't see anything wrong with them and thought it was normal. I think planners should be the ones that could improve things for the masses.

    I am surprised this is not an obvious planning concept that is taught to all planners.

  12. #12
    Gunfighter Mastiff's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by boiker View post
    From the tone of your post, the builder is the reason why your not happy. No back door, optional garages (what about providing rear parking pads?) The builder is skimping and the codes let it happen apprently. People are buying the houses. The builder has provided what the market wanted.
    Yeah, I'm surprised the code doesn't have a requirement for at least one off-street space. Even when I lived in Philly (like a few in the thread), there was an old one-car garage off the alley. Even then the streets well full of cars, but it didn't seem like a bad thing to me...
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  13. #13
    Quote Originally posted by Streck View post
    Streets are for moving traffic, not parking cars.

    Cars parked on streets are traffic hazards for people getting in and out on the street side.

    The view of the home is obstructed by cars parked in front, and that is not conducive to "home setting" for family and mental health.

    Traffic slows down because of the proximity of cars in parking lanes (purpose of streets is to move traffic not slow it down).

    Guest parking is severly limited when the only place to park is on the street, and the narrow lots use both of them.

    Having houses close to the street to stimulate conversations?!? No one sits on the porch anymore. Those that want to socialize can take walks and meet people on "neutral" ground - the common sidewalk.

    Having houses close to street reduces opportunity for trees and tree canopy for shade and landscaping for peace of the soul.

    Narrow lots mean garages face the street, and many times when people are home they are left open, revealing unkempt storage conditions that adversely effect property values and resale value based on comps.

    Small narrow lots result in higher percentage of impervious lot coverage and surface recharging area.

    Small narrow lots result in small narrow side yards which increases fire hazard by spread of fire from your neighbor over whose living conditions you have no control. Fire insurance rates are usually higher in higher density neighborhoods, too.

    Small lots and high density can overwhelm street capacity, resulting in increasing traffic problems. Some cities have lost control of their density and must spend millions of taxpayer dollars just on traffic circulation problems or mass transit problems that medium density cities do not have.

    Yes, I know there are people that have probably grown up in those conditions and they don't see anything wrong with them and thought it was normal. I think planners should be the ones that could improve things for the masses.

    I am surprised this is not an obvious planning concept that is taught to all planners.
    Where do I start?

    Streets are used for parking in most places.

    No evidence that having houses closer to the street affects mental health.

    Traffic is just as bad in Atlanta (a low density city) as Boston (a high density city).

    Fires can be controlled by regulations requiring sprinklers in new construction. Fire rates are higher in low density areas where fire stations are often way distant.

    To answer just a few points.

  14. #14
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gotta Speakup View post
    Where do I start?

    Streets are used for parking in most places.

    No evidence that having houses closer to the street affects mental health.

    Traffic is just as bad in Atlanta (a low density city) as Boston (a high density city).

    Fires can be controlled by regulations requiring sprinklers in new construction. Fire rates are higher in low density areas where fire stations are often way distant.

    To answer just a few points.
    Also, streets are not only for moving auto traffic. Remember, traffic isn't jsut cars, but it is also pedestrians, bicycles, mopeds, horses, etc. Streck seems to have a rather myopic definition of "traffic".
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

    Six seasons and a movie!

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    [/B]The houses are pulled closer to the front street so there is NO front lawn for kids to play on. But there are usually back yards or local parks that kids can walk or bike too, not have to be driven too.

    New age planning calls for non linear road networks, so at each corner there is a further crunch for parking. If you are in a urban environment the grid pattern is and always will be king.

    Narrow roads means larger trucks (we all know the new F350s with monster truck tires) park halfway on the sidewalk to keep the road clear. Ever had to walk through a deisel plume from an idling truck with your child? Most of my experiences in cities have shown that most people that live there have smaller compact cars, rarely do you see large SUVs parallel parking, the owners took this into consideration before they moved there.

    Remote car starters mean the vehicle owner is using the defroster instead of scraping the frost from his windshield. (Another Canadian thing). I don't even see the problem???

    Rear lanes become nuisances because owners don't care about what they don't see. There are many suburban streets that are just as neglected.

    Garbage collection generally occurs in the rear lane, leaving debri and garbage cans/recycling containers to blow around. Again, how is this different than suburbia?

    Snow removal does NOT happpen in rear lanes. And with all the onstreet parking, it rarely occurs on the front street. Yes it does, but usually last in the order of plowing, if it's not being done it's something to bring up with the local government.

    Monolithic sidewalks leave no room for boulevard trees, so landscaping is at the discretion of the owner...meaning nothing gets done (aside from the required landscaping stipulated in the bylaws). Not necessarily, most sidewalked streets with parking have a grass strip for telephone poles and trees.

    Twice as much fence for kids to graffiti on or damage. Or for owners to neglect. Sounds like an individual experience.

    Streets are for moving traffic, not parking cars. Only since the 1950's, and haven't you heard of different classes of streets.

    Cars parked on streets are traffic hazards for people getting in and out on the street side. They also slow up cars and protect pedestrians, this can be alievieated by restricting parking two car lengths in each direction of the corner.

    The view of the home is obstructed by cars parked in front, and that is not conducive to "home setting" for family and mental health. Who's home setting? Is this directly associated with the weird feeling suburbanites get if someone pulls in their driveway to turn around or makes a wrong turn and goes down the dead end "honey, there's a car outside?!!!"

    Traffic slows down because of the proximity of cars in parking lanes (purpose of streets is to move traffic not slow it down). Purpose of some streets is to move traffic such as major arterials, minor arterials are to provide a way to and from home and local businesses a.k.a. multi modal

    Guest parking is severly limited when the only place to park is on the street, and the narrow lots use both of them. I will give you some credit for this one, however more guests will likely be walking to each other's houses.

    Having houses close to the street to stimulate conversations?!? No one sits on the porch anymore. Those that want to socialize can take walks and meet people on "neutral" ground - the common sidewalk. Maybe they would if they had porches and didn't drive everywhere.

    Having houses close to street reduces opportunity for trees and tree canopy for shade and landscaping for peace of the soul. If you need peace you can find it in your backyard, or a local park, or the country side. If it means that much to you live on a farm (or former farmland) somewhere

    Narrow lots mean garages face the street, and many times when people are home they are left open, revealing unkempt storage conditions that adversely effect property values and resale value based on comps. WHAT?!? I see this more in the suburbs than the cities.

    Small narrow lots result in higher percentage of impervious lot coverage and surface recharging area. you don't want that water recharging there anyway, or you could have a regional water management plan that takes large area storm runoff and recharges it elsewhere.

    Small narrow lots result in small narrow side yards which increases fire hazard by spread of fire from your neighbor over whose living conditions you have no control. Fire insurance rates are usually higher in higher density neighborhoods, too. I've seen new urbanist environments that have homes just as close, and also for your information most urbna environments have paid firefighters and hydrants so your ISO is lower meaning lower insurance costs than if you were protected by volunteers.

    Small lots and high density can overwhelm street capacity, resulting in increasing traffic problems. Some cities have lost control of their density and must spend millions of taxpayer dollars just on traffic circulation problems or mass transit problems that medium density cities do not have. Blame the planning and engineering, this is something caused by that not the fact that cars park on the streets.

    Yes, I know there are people that have probably grown up in those conditions and they don't see anything wrong with them and thought it was normal. I think planners should be the ones that could improve things for the masses.

    I am surprised this is not an obvious planning concept that is taught to all planners.

    I believe it is a planners responsibility to plan for all cases and provide a mix of housing (and yes parking) options for all walks of life and economic ranges. Not everyone wants a 1 acre lot with driveway to shovel and a yard to mow and drive everywhere. And likewise you sound like you don't want the interaction with cityfolk and the more dense environment with more options for shopping and entertainment around you.
    @GigCityPlanner

  16. #16
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    Due to the same problems that you are describing, St. Albert limits the % of narrow lots within each neighbourhood (but I think Red Deer does this too). We also limit the size of the house on narrow lots, they have to be on through roads (no cul-de-sacs), etc. It's in the R1 section of our LUB. Edmonton just re-looked at their RSL district and put together a position paper about the problems they have had, and what they intend to do about it. Unfortunately, it is no longer on their website.

    I'm having difficulty converting one of our Small Lot Discussion Papers to adobe acrobat to post in this thread. If I can't get it going, I'll try just e-mailing you the word document. Edit: Okay, I got it up and running... now I just have to see if I can attach the document. It may be too big!
    Attached Files Attached Files

  17. #17
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    This is what I was looking for!

    Quote Originally posted by nerudite View post
    Due to the same problems that you are describing, St. Albert limits the % of narrow lots within each neighbourhood (but I think Red Deer does this too). We also limit the size of the house on narrow lots, they have to be on through roads (no cul-de-sacs), etc. It's in the of our LUB. Edmonton just re-looked at their RSL district and put together a position paper about the problems they have had, and what they intend to do about it.
    A great, unbiased position paper. Thank You.
    Worth a read for all the narrow lot supporters. Developers, if left to do their business, will slowly undermine the principles of a narrow lot subdivision.
    Quoted from the position paper:
    • Consumers prefer not to have rear lanes for reasons related to
      safety, snow removal and visibility for garage access. Even when
      there are rear lanes, people are choosing not to use them, increasing the use and congestion on the main streets.
    • Because many of these developments are in outlying suburban
      areas, residents still require vehicles for going to work, shopping
      and recreation. Mass transit is generally minimal, if it’s available at
      all, so parking needs in limited areas are real concerns.
    • The smaller size lots do make the land use more dense, however
      there is a much greater amount of impervious ground cover with
      more streets, alleys and greater building envelopes on smaller sites
      creating drainage and other environmental issues.
    • While the built development is more dense, the density of population is not necessarily greater.
      Family sizes are much smaller than during initial suburban developments in the 1950s and 60s,
      so more land and building materials are being consumed per person than in the past, even with
      smaller lots.
    • In some areas, utility companies are reluctant to put services into alleys, adding service elements to the front streets and creating more congestion.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    Thanks for the compliments. Even though staff were against small lots, Council has decided to allow a small percentage in new neighbourhoods. We are to report back next year regarding their success in integrating into the fabric of the neighbourhoods, the impacts to assessment and services, etc.

    We just had our first few houses proposed for narrow lots, and we are already getting appeals on the house size limit (137 m2). I doubt they will be successful in appealing, due to the long history of debate on the subject.

    If you know someone in the City of Edmonton, see if you can get their position papers on their RSL zoning and the discussions the City had with UDI. They were very enlightening!

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Well, New2Planning,

    You have two main alternative descriptions for the future of your town.

    Which community would you rather live in?

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally posted by Gotta Speakup View post
    Where do I start?
    Tough to decide with that post.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian cmd uw's avatar
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    Re: Rear lane lots

    The parking issue with rear lane lots is something the City of Edmonton has recently addressed via amendments to their Zoning Bylaw. All homes with rear lanes MUST now include a concrete driveway. However, most builders in Edmonton have been doing this for years prior to the amendments.

    The parking issue is something that is a product of our society and to be honest, I don't think that we will ever find a solution. The primary issue behind this is that the average number of vehicles per household has increased over time. Most households now have 2 or 3 or more vehicles. It is unrealistic to expect developers to dedicate more land for driveways, which is something builders won't pay for as it is 'unusuable space'.

    In regards to the street becoming like a 'parking lot', well, it's actually a good thing. Streetside parking is an effective method that helps calm traffic. There have been numerous studies that have determined that people slow down in areas with streetside parking. So this can actually be used to your advantage when the city/municipality comes back with issues related to 'racing' traffic along collector roadways.

    Perhaps Red Deer is going through some transitioning on how neighbourhoods should / will be planned and developed.
    "First we shape our buildings, and then our buildings start shaping us." - Sir Winston Churchill

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    A couple of other points I neglected to mention:

    Front Yard set-backs allow space for more family cars and guest parking off street.

    The reason cars parked in the street are "traffic calming" (slowing) is because it is a dangerous condition! Planners should strive to eliminate creating dangerous conditions in the community by using good planning methods - not just "accommodating" builders who don't care about the benefit of good planning techniques (and who will not live in the neighborhood). Surely other methods can be devised to "calm" traffic if needed.

    We can't help it if the developer paid too much for the land and must now use bad planning techniques in order to cover his mistake. And yes, some land may remain vacant until the market determines that the asking price of the land is appropriate.

    Houses that are too close together do not allow for major mature trees and landscaping that serves to give visual separation to incompatable styles of architecture. I admit that this is a subjective value that many (if not most) people are not aware of or are unable to appreciate. Sometimes it is up to planners to bring quality development to a community even if the average person does not understand what you are doing. All they know is, this is a nice community to live in. THAT is our goal.

    There is an older neighborhood in our city that was developed 50 years ago. The houses aren't architectural gems or large historic homes. But they are one of the most desired living spaces in the community because of their setting. Lots of front yard landscaping and trees. They are on large lots. They are desireable places to live, have greatly contributed to the economic income of the community, and are increasing their value much more than houses on small lots.
    Last edited by Streck; 02 Feb 2007 at 2:24 PM. Reason: misspelled word

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