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Thread: Single-family homes abutting arterial roadways

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    Single-family homes abutting arterial roadways

    Does anyone have or know of any regulations that prohibit (or somehow discourage) long rows of the backs of single-family homes abutting major arterial roadways? Our City Council wants to see higher aesthetic standards in single-family homes. We've already got some good draft language in terms of design and facade requirements of the actual homes and neighborhoods. But they have mentioned that they are tired of looking at the backs of box homes when they are driving along certain roadways. Is this something we can regulate? Would this be better to put into the Comprehensive Plan/Future Land Use Plan (no single-family land use along major arterials) instead of coding it in our UDC?

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by bobcatplanner View post
    Is this something we can regulate? Would this be better to put into the Comprehensive Plan/Future Land Use Plan (no single-family land use along major arterials) instead of coding it in our UDC?
    Yes, go this route. SFR homes backing on to an arterial are just hideous, especially new ones (they don't make them like the use to). Try also encouraging higher densities or commercial along arterials. I know this sounds bad, but in auto oriented cities, it tends to work. High densities along these roadways fanning out to lower densities helps avoid the monotony of walls.
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    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by CPSURaf View post
    Yes, go this route. SFR homes backing on to an arterial are just hideous, especially new ones (they don't make them like the use to). Try also encouraging higher densities or commercial along arterials. I know this sounds bad, but in auto oriented cities, it tends to work. High densities along these roadways fanning out to lower densities helps avoid the monotony of walls.
    Wow, that's a lot of land out of commission. In this economy - where the US of A has 10-20x more per capita retail space than any other country - is there that much demand for retail? Parks? MF?

    That is: there is much to disagree with here. Yes, I know the externality issues. You must have a decent alternative before pitching this or you will be laughed out of the room if anyone knowledgeable is in there. You want LID abutting arterials is what I think you want.

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    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I agree with CPSURaf. The strategies we typically recommend are:

    1. retail and office, or mixed-uses along the arterial, but usually in nodes instead of long unbroken strips.
    2. multi-family, particularly rowhouse style, facing the street with entries onto the street sidewalk and vehicle access from the rear
    3. frequent intersecting streets with side yards on the arterial, but only where the speed and traffic volume are relatively low.
    4. open space along the arterial
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    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    I agree with CPSURaf. The strategies we typically recommend are:

    1. retail and office, or mixed-uses along the arterial, but usually in nodes instead of long unbroken strips.
    2. multi-family, particularly rowhouse style, facing the street with entries onto the street sidewalk and vehicle access from the rear
    3. frequent intersecting streets with side yards on the arterial, but only where the speed and traffic volume are relatively low.
    4. open space along the arterial
    I don't understand how anything other than 4 is operative on the ground in most non-dense city places. Maybe its me.

    The Front Range area and lots of Metroplex-HOU-Austin is rife with neighborhoods built up to mid-90s that are just what the OP wants to get rid of, and I see none of the strategies employed on the Front Range to get rid of them save 4. Half of my bike rides a mile west of my house are nothing but back fences up to a 4-lane.

    There are likely scores of road miles in the typical McBurb that can be saved from a bleak, isolating wall of back fences. Surely the OP needs something more than an arterial with intersections every 100 feet to get side yards (with fences) or requirements for multifam to buffer noise for the families in SFD. Greenways. LID. Open space. Parkways. Trouble there is that the wide-open area increases vehicle speeds until the trees get big, requiring frequent stop signs which leads to complaints about flow...and so on. Surely we have come up with something by now, right?

    Right?

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    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    As a former Denver area resident I definitely understand the problem. The streetscape in places like Lafayette, Louisville, and Erie is bleak. Many other cities have suburban areas with the same problem. But I am a bit perplexed as to why you con't see how the other options would work. It is not hard to come across examples in just about any community, including Denver suburbs. It is simply a matter of adopting a more urban approach to arterial planning, which may also require planning a collector road system with more intersections and direct land access. The typical Denver area subdivision is a 160-acre tract with one street connecting to each of the roads abutting each side of the tract.

    I do have a good visualization/animation of a neighborhood I planned a couple years ago. We had a 4-lane highway on one side and two county highways bisecting the site nort-south and east-west. We used all four of the approaches I mentioned above. If you are interested I can send you the file that shows how it will look.
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    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    But I am a bit perplexed as to why you con't see how the other options would work. It is not hard to come across examples in just about any community, including Denver suburbs. It is simply a matter of adopting a more urban approach to arterial planning, which may also require planning a collector road system with more intersections and direct land access.

    I do have a good visualization/animation of a neighborhood I planned a couple years ago. We had a 4-lane highway on one side and two county highways bisecting the site nort-south and east-west. We used all four of the approaches I mentioned above. If you are interested I can send you the file that shows how it will look.
    I'm interested in your visualizations, Cardinal, plz PM & we'll connect.

    You have excellent points for certain contexts.

    I'm on the board of a Metro District governing a McSuburb (yes, I know) that doesn't have these fences along our arterial. We have LID-open space abutting the arterial, with KY blue grass and watering, watering everywhere (yes, I know) and wrought-iron fences for the back (opaque cedar for sides). Our folks love the "openness" and the dang green grass. They would not love a more urban feel. If we had more cross streets and, say, duplexes on corners and MFR, they would be living somewhere else, maybe the two MDs to the south where the back fences abut the road. We might even have more empty houses around here with a more urban feel this far out. Not sustainable but the neighbors don't care about that past the few that actually put out a recycle bin.


    That is: the solutions upthread only work for part of the problem, as they would eliminate ~35-50% of the populace; there is a significant chunk of people - still, today with relatively cheap gas - that won't live in such a place. The "walkable" LID-open space appeals to people who don't like cities. That's a lot of people. Until gas is consistently $6.00/gal, forcing people to live closer in places that they do not prefer, urban feel is a non-starter in many places in this market, for many developers with land.

    And I return to my point about retail: a solution for a tiny fraction of land, close to major streets. Surely closer to a job center the list above would work, but the fraction of residences fitting this condition is, sadly, low. I know this is not sustainable, but a lot of folks don't get it yet. We certainly need to be making places that folks can look to for an example and swallow their wants and live where transportation is cheaper. But we are not there yet. And developers aren't going to build something today that won't sell. I know that isn't what the profession wants. It'll come when oil is permanently costly, but not before. Sad, but true.

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    Cyburbian
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    It is disconcerting to see advice doled out without any understanding of the context. The OP didn't describe this and that's fine. Asking for a description would be helpful but I'll stop digressing.

    Isn't the fundamental issue back versus front? The buildings are "mooning" the street. The first step of what could become a multifaceted solution (calibrated to local context) is to have the buildings front the street. You can absolutely code this as form-based codes often do. One diagram for building location; another for parking location; and accompanying text specifications. You can even carry this a step further and codify the dimensional aspects of the public realm.

    I disagree that a more urban approach is required. One method of separating arterial trips from abutting buildings is a slip road. This can work in both sub-urban and urban contexts. Of course, this may require thinking about thoroughfares in a context other than the local, collector arterial scheme.

    Good luck.

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    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    I thought most all codes mention landscaped buffers, frontage roads, and reverse frontage lots. What is often missing is the political will to adhere to these at subdivision review time.

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    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Kevin Colin View post
    It is disconcerting to see advice doled out without any understanding of the context.

    Isn't the fundamental issue back versus front? The buildings are "mooning" the street. The first step of what could become a multifaceted solution (calibrated to local context) is to have the buildings front the street.
    How would you propose to deal with the SFD driveways every 80 feet and the exiting-entering thereof, and the impact on arterial traffic at 40mph? Even 35 mph (really 40-45)? Are there examples of places reinstating such standards and how are these roadways faring? Is there a market for such places where the kids can't play in the street? I must admit I can't remember seeing a recent development of anything other than SFA or MFD in such a context in either CA, OR, WA, or CO. Or the few places I've visited back east recently.

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    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    How would you propose to deal with the SFD driveways every 80 feet and the exiting-entering thereof, and the impact on arterial traffic at 40mph? Even 35 mph (really 40-45)? Are there examples of places reinstating such standards and how are these roadways faring? Is there a market for such places where the kids can't play in the street? I must admit I can't remember seeing a recent development of anything other than SFA or MFD in such a context in either CA, OR, WA, or CO. Or the few places I've visited back east recently.
    Right. There is no way that you could permit, or that the market would easily accept homes with driveways onto an arterial street. This is a case for the use of alleys, or multifamily accessed from a road behind the building (which fronts the arterial), or with few driveway openings.
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    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    Right. There is no way that you could permit, or that the market would easily accept homes with driveways onto an arterial street. This is a case for the use of alleys, or multifamily accessed from a road behind the building (which fronts the arterial), or with few driveway openings.
    One merely needs to remember their history to see the multifaceted approaches to this issue. Post-WWII, 50s-60s many places tried the fronting, separated by a landscape buffer and frontage street with limited access. Then "the market" turned the houses around, then some places did the alley thing, then the buffer and some alleys. I'm sure someone here knows about when the majority of transpo folks stopped driveways on arterials, I only know here out west and can't speak to the practices in the rainy part of our country.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    How would you propose to deal with the SFD driveways every 80 feet and the exiting-entering thereof, and the impact on arterial traffic at 40mph? Even 35 mph (really 40-45)? Are there examples of places reinstating such standards and how are these roadways faring? Is there a market for such places where the kids can't play in the street? I must admit I can't remember seeing a recent development of anything other than SFA or MFD in such a context in either CA, OR, WA, or CO. Or the few places I've visited back east recently.
    I never proposed such a condition; nor would I.

    Is not the alley and/or frontage road a viable solution? And if you allow your children to play in the street, a frontage road can be designed for significantly slower speeds than the arterial.

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