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Thread: Ordinances for better design?

  1. #1

    Ordinances for better design?

    I've been wondering what are some ordinances that would discourage sprawl while still allowing planned, controlled development?

    I've already come up with:

    No NEW residential units under 7 units/acre
    Houses are a maximum of 15ft from street
    Streets have to intersect at a maximum of every 500ft (blocks with through streets can't be longer than 500ft)
    Retail/shopping has to be within .5 miles of the housing.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    A comprehensive plan or subdivision ordinance would lay out these details. The zoning code applied should support the 7 unit per acre requirement.

    The finer details of the site effect the "design" much more than just the spatial distribution.

    Commercial within 1/2 mile does nothing to stem sprawl or car dominated design. A drug store w/ a parking lot for 50 cars in front still encourages driving over walking.

    Form code works very well to acheive a properly design site.

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    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    I have seen many developments that follow your doctrine, Heartland. One thing I would like to press is good design/features to be incorporated on the buildings themselves. Too many times have I seen developers say, "You want it like this? Cool, I have some matchstick crappy houseplans I can dust off and build quickly for you."

    Also, work into your ordinacne a provision to allow for the personal customization of the homes through the years to prevent monotony.

    Character counts.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  4. #4
         
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    I've no suggestions I'm afraid, but saw this:

    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    No NEW residential units under 7 units/acre
    and thought

    Over here, the national MINIMUM density for new housing is approx 12 per acre (or 30 dwellings per hectare for the metric amongst you). Now a level like that would prevent sprawl... (and probably cause a housebuilder riot).

    Curse you and your massive amounts of space *shakes fist angrily*


  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    If you want good design, you'll also need to talk more about street standards- width, sidewalks, boulevards, landscaping, alleys.

    Getting very specific with multifamily and attached housing, like townhouses and condos, is needed. You'll definitely need some areas where density goes way, way up.

    Another thing, to get to one of your earlier questions, is to develop strong interlocal agreements between jurisdictions (like city and county) to ensure that developers don't look at your city's code and then the adjacent jurisdiction's code and simpply decide to go where its easier. The big rule is to make the easy place for a developer to put his/her money also be the thing your community wants to see.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by HarryFossettsHat View post
    Curse you and your massive amounts of space *shakes fist angrily*

    In the wide-open mid-west, the populace believes densities greater than 7 units per acre are considered to be a dense and dirty as 19th century Manhattan.

    I lament over the density of our new greenfield subdivisions. 2 2/3 units per acre... and even that is consdered rather dense for sngle-family detached development.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    I've been wondering what are some ordinances that would discourage sprawl while still allowing planned, controlled development?

    I've already come up with:

    No NEW residential units under 7 units/acre
    Houses are a maximum of 15ft from street
    Streets have to intersect at a maximum of every 500ft (blocks with through streets can't be longer than 500ft)
    Retail/shopping has to be within .5 miles of the housing.
    1. A desireable density of more than 7 acres would require minimum lot sizes and/or minimum dwelling unit sizes (at this density, it is less single-family detached housing and more multi-family housing, so you would need both items within your bulk requirements).

    For example, a zoning ordinance could require a minimum lot size of 5000-5500 SF. This would yield about a density of 7 DU/AC, with 10-20 percent of the gross area (1 acre) set aside for pavement. A 5000 SF dwelling unit within a multi-family building is on the larger end (4+ bedrooms). Smaller dwelling units (less than 4 bedrooms down to efficiencies) will lead to a higher density. You could also set aside permanent open space (I did not include this in the calculation).

    2. Out of the 8-9 communities I do review work for, haven't really seen maximum front yard setbacks for residential. Not to say it can't be done in a zoning ordinance, although I meet see it as part of PUD design guidelines.

    3. This should be in Design Guidelines not within a Zoning Ordinance. IMO, 500' blocks are not that long and should be used sparingly (go with 800'). I have done lot designs that have streets sometimes almost twice as long (1300-1600'), that have crosswalks and greenways every 800'.

    4. Design guidelines, PUD design guidelines, or the implementation chapter of the community's comprehensive plan (maybe TIFF?)

    Pretty technical questions for a high school student

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Ordinance is the start, but it needs teeth

    Great minds think alike nrschmid. A lot of what you are proposing should probably be written in a design guidelines section of either a general plan or zoning ordinance. An ordinance may not do the trick unfortunately, and you may have to start at the root of the problem, which would be your community's general plan (at least here in California) or comprehensive plan. If you working with an antiquated general plan, then really all you are proposing is just a "new urbanist" suburb. It's still sprawl, it just looks nice and tries to pack them in, and essentially, that's what your ordinance is right now shaping up to be.

    It may take a complete overhaul of the land use designations of you community and essentially, targeting new growth areas of the city in a more controlled manor and incorporating new urbanist/form based codes through the use of a specific plan, master plan, or other comparable plan that is specific to that target growth areas that include higher densities around commercial, and business parks and utilizes alternative modes of transportation such as dedicated bicycle paths and pedestrian trails. This plan should include a set of design guidelines with the basis that you are starting to write up.

    If that is a bit much, try revisiting the ordinance that encourages re-development near your community center rather than on the fringe by setting up a special planning zone with relaxed guidelines, density bonuses, reduced parking requirements and height limitations and in turn jack up development fees on the outlying areas tied to infrastructure costs, and make developers pay for all the improvements, include road right-of-way acquisitions, roadway improvements, sewer, water, storm drainage, park improvements, etc. Essentially worsening the deal to develop on the outside and welcome higher densities and creative development on the inside.

    Finally, you have to make sure your decision makers are on board. You might be thinking you doing the right thing, but it won't go anywhere without those who make the final decision on board.

    But then again, i am just a consultant, and work for the darkside...

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Call me a skeptic. I question the ability to legislate good design, and favor guidelines which allow for more flexibility. I also tend to question what the market may think of your standards. As for me, I am looking for a nice 2000 to 2500 square foot ranch on a half-acre lot. There are several nice, quiet, and walkable neighborhoods in the area offering that.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    One other thing you must consider, form-based codes and performance zoning are not always welcomed in some communities, which is why you need to sometimes work within the confines of the zoning ordinance. For example, if you want to keep out a certain use in a neighborhood you can either include it in a prohibitive uses section of the zoning district chapter, or alternatively you can choose not to include it in a restricted list of permitted uses within that same chapter.

    Bottom line, you can do alot with just a zoning ordinance itself. Oddly enough, some communities I do work for rely heavily on their PUD design guidelines (even for non-PUDs) so it becomes very difficult to require a developer to do anything that is not legally binding such as guidelines.

    If you want to get a feel for what density looks like, I recommend the book Visualizing Density by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy (2007). Very well-composed book (I might have mentioned it on a different thread). The more is much more graphic-based, and does not show developments with land set aside for permanent open space, but destroys our misconception with density=overcrowding. I think the primary intent of this argument is to convince communities with larger lots (12000 SF and up) that you can still have a feeling of privacy with smaller lots by using landscaping, variation in setbacks and lots, break down monotony through the use of major/minor variations in architectureal features of a building and so on.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    Call me a skeptic. I question the ability to legislate good design, and favor guidelines which allow for more flexibility. I also tend to question what the market may think of your standards. As for me, I am looking for a nice 2000 to 2500 square foot ranch on a half-acre lot. There are several nice, quiet, and walkable neighborhoods in the area offering that.
    That's why when we designed our "hybrid" form codes, we allow the developer to determine the setback for his property within a certain max and min setback. Keep in mind this is in a rather dense urban area and we wanted to prevent further neighborhood erosion by increasingly large scale commercial development.

    As for your neighborhood. walkable 1/2 acre properties but can you walk to daily needs, shopping, work? I agree that not all neighborhoods should be urban wonderlands and that variety is the spice of life.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    At seven DU per acre you're going to end up with a lot of blighted and under-used retail areas. This was one of Detroit's chief downfalls. Every mile road, was covered with retail, effectively creating that same 1/2 mile buffer. If you drive around in many neighborhoods you will see them to be fine, but if you look at the retail strips along the main road, you would assume that the neighborhoods were empty.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    As an outsider, I always thought Detroit's blight problems happened because of the mass exodus of people after the riots, not just because of density issues.

    Chicago, which is on a grid, has commercial corridors every mile, sometimes every half mile, and they are thriving (mixed use with commercial on the ground floor and residential above, with on-street parking and alleys behind). Does Detroit have this type of commercial corridor? Or do they have one-story strip-malls with parking between the building and the ROW with residential behind the buildings on side-streets?

  14. #14
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Detroit has many problems. I would agree with you that out migration was a major problem. I would disagree however that this was a by product of the riots, but rather of economics and destruction of the family structure; particularlly of lower income families. Also as jobs moved to the suburbs people found it cheaper to live closer to the jobs and not pay the city income tax. There were attractors that pulled folks who could leave out. Leaving large parts of Detroit as a place where the undesirables of a community settle.

    Detroit has single family homes on 35 or 40 foot wide lots. Not many strip malls occur in the city because the commercial areas are only about 40 to 60 feet deep at the end of the streets. Very little room for parking exists unless it is on nearby empty lots. In some areas apartments are common above the stores, but that is not the norm. It is not as dense as Chicago. This has left a very ugly and abandoned look along the arterials. Many neighborhoods do not look as bad as the commercial areas that run through them suggest.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  15. #15
    The road requirement would be required because people would have to be able to walk these neighborhoods, even 500ft is stretching it. 1,000ft is WAY WAY WAY too long and is typical of suburban automobile neighborhoods.

    Well KC is a lot different than the UK, and since we aren't bound by any geographic features or political features, you can't really put a more radical ordinance in place. We have our other stupid suburbs to compete with, and unfortunately, until we get our inner city improved, our only way to remain on top is by going out. I just want us to slow the outward expansion down while still staying competitive.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Roads are very expensive to build and require a substantial amount of maintenance (more so under some geographic conditions than others). To require roads like that is wreckless. In central cities, you doom yourself as you take away any ability to build a large building such as a convention center, arena, or many of the larger multi-use hi rise buildings you see being built today.

    I'd rethink that. You could bankrupt your city by not providing enough tax revenue gnerators and increasing the maintenance costs.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  17. #17
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    Roads are very expensive to build and require a substantial amount of maintenance (more so under some geographic conditions than others). To require roads like that is wreckless. In central cities, you doom yourself as you take away any ability to build a large building such as a convention center, arena, or many of the larger multi-use hi rise buildings you see being built today.

    I'd rethink that. You could bankrupt your city by not providing enough tax revenue gnerators and increasing the maintenance costs.
    I agree that roads are expensive to build. The following is a discussion regarding block lengths in Chicago and NYC:

    http://64.233.167.104/search?q=cache...lnk&cd=2&gl=us

    Growing up in Chicago, I disagree that you need to have blocks of at least 800'. Earlier, I said you should have 800' as a minimum, but this is more acceptable for newer developments. There are a few different techniques to have smaller blocks:

    1. Not all ROW have to be 60'-66' in width. You can have on-street parking on both sides and 1 1/2 travel lanes (two ways) or a one-way street with a ROW width less than 45'.
    2. Using a majority of 500'-600' in a development is probably going to only work with a grid street system. If you have a curvilinear street network with cul-de-sacs at the ends of 500' long local streets, it might better in a conservation design than in convention design (lots are smaller, clustered together, with permanent natural open and passive/active recreation areas behind the homes).
    3. We as planners/designers think too much about the end result, and we don't let uses dictate changes in existing infrastructure.

    For example, detroit mentioned the need to have larger blocks to accomodate for special land uses such as arenas, convention centers, etc. In a grid system, existing blocks can be closed off to accomodate for larger development. This is not to be confused with closing off a ROW to a pedestrian-only shopping corridor (which has not always worked in communities).

    Unfortunately, not all municipal councils are keen on removing existing infrastructure such as a ROW to make room for infill development, even if the project will bring in more tax revenue for the city. IMO, some elected officals might right it off as a loss.

    4. I don't think pavement alone is going to bankrupt a city. The economic factors including the demand for pavement, the city coffers, etc. will play a larger role in bankrupting a city. New York Times had an article a few months ago about Montana's US Route 2 wanting to have the federal government expand the road from 2 lanes to 4 in hopes of spurring new development, but there are so few travelers along the route that it doesnt seem feasible.

    5. The original purpose of the grid with smaller blocks was to move large number of roman troops from one side of the city to another. I wonder how different grids would have looked in the Roman Empire if that had to figure access for fire trucks and snow removal

  18. #18
    Might want to take it up with Jane Jacobs, you can't have a walkable city full of diversity, vitality, etc... w/ long roads... Also, arenas, convention centers, etc... are all very small in number, idiots planning suburbs make every single block have streets 500-1,000ft long, directly contributing to the automobile oriented mess that already exists.

    Many blocks near Central Park are 1,000ft long, which is way too long for a block to be. However look at Rockefeller Center/Plaza, it has places where you can cross inside/under the building...

    In KC, our CC is over 1,500ft long, yet it has 2 existing streets running underneath it, along with the highway running underneath it. So it can easily be crossed by foot every 500ft. Our arena only eliminates 2 through streets, so the block would only be 700ft x 560ft. 700ft is pushing the limit, 800ft is over the limit.
    People have to be able to walk the streets. Suburbs can't be automobile oriented anymore. And the curvlinear/cul-de-sac streets in the suburbs are also horribly designed. Retail is definitely not even within 30 minutes walking distance of many suburban areas.

    What we need to do is put a stop to the horrible designs and horrible planning being put into our suburbs, and that has been put in them since the 1950s. Make sure those designs are stopped.

    Also, Grid design is the best design for cities so far. Especially when compared to the curvlinear, cul-de-sac, lolli-pop design of modern suburbs. And BTW, roads wouldn't be as hard to maintain if cities would have planned better and had more centralization/density. More people/revenue would be available for the city to be able to maintain those roads and sidewalks.

    Right way to build suburbs would be about 30 houses or more on a 300ftx600ft block. (about 10 units an acre)
    NOT 30 houses on a block of 1,600ft x 330ft (about 3 units an acre)
    and NOT 30 houses on a block of 600ftx600ft (about 4 units an acre)
    Last edited by HeartlandCityBoy; 31 Mar 2007 at 2:29 PM.

  19. #19
    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    The road requirement would be required because people would have to be able to walk these neighborhoods, even 500ft is stretching it. 1,000ft is WAY WAY WAY too long and is typical of suburban automobile neighborhoods.
    If your concern is pedestrian access, one possible option is to make the automobile streets spaced farther apart, but have pedestrian streets breaking them up. This would have to be done carefully in such a way as to make the pedestrian streets lively, well-monitored, and at a human scale.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Heartland, Jane Jacobs lived in cities such as New York and Toronto where the liveliest areas were very long blocks or in the case of Toronto 'Superblocked'.

    If your land use is industrial, a 1,500 foot block is not really all that long. You need to let the land use decide the block size.

    nr,

    US-2 up to 4 lanes wide??? Why?? I've driven it from St Ignace, MI to St. Mary's, MT and with only a few exceptions (like Duluth, MN) was there ever a need for it to be that wide. I do recall it being wide in ND around a Military base, but I'm sure that was for deployment only.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  21. #21
    I believe your first sentence was a mistype... The liveliest areas of those cities weren't the very long blocks, they were/are the short blocks.

    I never said industrial areas have to be short blocks. I just said that new development such as retail and residential, has to be on shorter blocks and has to be denser.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian
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    The length of a street is only one of many factors that determineds how "lively" a street can be. Major and minor variations in architectural elements of a facade, the spatial relationship of buildings to each other and the street, even changing the types of parkway trees and use of landscape medians can make a street seem more "lively".

    Brandonmason makes an excellent point of using pedestrian paths (I have discussed this technique earlier). I think this is more effective than having a bunch of short blocks to make a street seem lively. A street festival or a farmers marker can make a street seem lively.

    The grid is an ancient system that came to North America in the 16th century, centuries before the use of the automobile. It was designed according to the needs at the time. New cities and developments can not be designed for aesthetic appeal alone, it must also be functional. How many communities in Kansas City use a roman aqeduct for potable water?

    Bottom line, I would like to use all shorter blocks when improving undeveloped land. However, streets cost money to build, maintain, and improve, and not all streets in new developments have pedestrian access for the entire length of the road. Having shorter blocks does not always equate to pedestrian friendliness. I suggest reading up on how Kevin Lynch discusses dynamic experience, or how people feel when they are moving from one place to another.

    Hope this helps.

  23. #23
    They don't cost a lot to maintain and build if you are smart and have sufficient density supporting them.

    I have Kevin Lynch's book, but I just haven't had the time to read it since i've had so much school related stuff at the moment.

    You say it makes it seem lively, but whose to say it isn't lively in reality.

    Looking at European cities, are those 10-20ft wide roads just for pedestrians, are they one-way, or what?

    I know there is a ton more factors that go into it, but you can't really put all those regulations/ordinances through without severely hurting the development and causing some legal problems. It's up to the city to not fund the bad projects, and up to everyone to do what they can do to stop the bad projects.
    Last edited by HeartlandCityBoy; 01 Apr 2007 at 1:39 PM.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    They don't cost a lot to maintain and build if you are smart and have sufficient density supporting them..
    IMO, density is dwelling units/acre, and is usually limited to residential uses. It does not equate to people per acre, it does not equate to square footage of commercial or office space per acre, it does not equate to property taxes or commercial taxes, which fund municipal improvements such as road construction and maintenance.

    Heartland, what is your definition of sufficient density? Are we talking about 7 DU/AC or 300 DU/AC? A public housing project can have a very very high density but the buillding itself is usually owned by a housing agency and the tenants are more likely on some form of assistance who do not pay property taxes to fund road construction.

    I don't know how my intelligence will give me a discount on road construction. Please explain...

  25. #25
    I never ever said anything about public housing, I'm talking about forcing developers to develop housing a certain way. Sufficient density for suburbs is over 10 units/acre... Sufficient density for urban areas is over 50 units/acre or so.

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