Why are suburban lots in the southwest so small?

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#21
It's pretty much the same way in Florida. A lot of the pre-platted subdivisions (which eventually became cities) had rigid quarter-acre/ 10,000 s.f. lot sizes. The latest generation of subdivisions (pre- housing bust) have much smaller lots. I think there are a lot of factors, some of which have already been mentioned such as land and infrastructure costs and higher impact fees. Also, Florida's water management districts have substantial drainage requirements so a lot of projects end up being clustered around drainage ponds resulting in a higher net lot density.

There is also the Broward/Palm Beach Co. model where you had gated, higher-density projects with more amenities to be taken over by the HOA. I think a lot of buyers were willing to settle for a smaller lot because there were more concerned with the floor plan and interior amenities, and no doubt the reputation of the builder. (I speak in the past tense about this because no one in their right mind is building these projects in FL now)

As far as the northeast in comparison, I think topography is a big difference. It's easy to clear and grub FL uplands or AZ desert but in the northeast a lot of subdivisions require significant grading which is often unfeasible (or unacceptable to the local govt). But overall I agree that there is more of a preference for larger lots and the New England town ideal in community planning. Some of the more affluent commuities in the northeast go bananas over density. Try and build a modest density s.f project in the Boston suburbs and you'll pretty much be run out of town on a rail.
 
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#22
Lot sizes in Denver's older neighborhoods are tiny, when compared to similar pre-war neighborhoods in the east coast/midwest cities.

I was given two reasons: 1) water, and 2) the neighborhoods were built on what was originally windswept plains, and tiny lots with houses close to one another formed an artificial windbreak, which made the neighborhood more comfortable.
 

PlanMom

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#23
The problem with these large lots and landscaping is that they grade the lot so no native vegetation is left. We don't want you to have large grass lawns, we don't have the water for that. Once the lot is barren, people just put some rocks down and a couple of plants - nowhere near as useful or attractive as a grass lawn. If people would leave the native plants, it actually turns out quite nice.

Many times people in the Phoenix area don't need the larger lot, because they just slap a pool and a large patio and don't leave much room for anything else.

This also goes into cultural imigration. It's not so much that we have asians or mexicans, or anyone else. For Arizona the problem is that people are brining a culture from the Mid-west or California. They want prarie style houses with no basement (no tornados so we don't need 'em) and then they plant all kinds of things that need gallons of water because they think desert plants are ugly (just a personal pet peeve):-{
This is what slays me. I have continuous go-rounds with code enforcement and our self-appointed "green expert" (see the irritants at work thread...:-{) over landscaping requirements. Why do we require landscaping that requires a drip system? Why not allow for xeriscaping?

As for the small lot size, the single biggest factor is the low incidence of privately held land. Out here, the State Land Trust owns (or owned at one time) every other section of land. Combine that with National Parks, state parks, and just plain undevelopable mountains, and the acreage that is actually developable drops significantly. I think the percentage of privately owned land in AZ is something like 17%. That drives up the price of available land, so as many have already said, developers need to pack more houses on limited acreage to make money. That is if you can get water....we just backed out of a deal to buy a place here because the well produced a whopping six gallons...an hour!:-c:-c
 

Dan

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#24
Lot sizes in Denver's older neighborhoods are tiny, when compared to similar pre-war neighborhoods in the east coast/midwest cities.
I hate "the exception is the norm" posts, but a comparison:

Denver (Berkeley neighborhood/Northwest Denver, 2.5 miles from downtown Denver)
  • First house I ever owned
  • Brick Craftsman bungalow, built in 1925
  • 850'[SUP]2[/SUP] living area (excluding basement)
  • 40' wide x120' deep lot: 5000'[SUP]2[/SUP]

Buffalo (Kensington neighborhood/East Side, 6 miles from downtown Buffalo)
  • Childhood home
  • Buffalo-style semi-bungalow, built in 1922
  • 1600'[SUP]2[/SUP] living area (800'[SUP]2[/SUP] first floor, 800'[SUP]2[/SUP] unfinished attic)
  • 30' wide x 110' deep lot: 3,300'[SUP]2[/SUP] (Originally platted in the late 1800s with 40' wide lots; replatted before development with 30' lots)

Buffalo is notorious for a pre-WWII subdivision pattern with very long blocks (in some cases ore than a half mile long) and very small lots that are quite narrow but relatively deep. A 40' lot in Buffalo is considered very wide. Alleys? Almost nonexistent.

City lots in Buffalo are generally much smaller than those in Rochester, Cleveland and Detroit. Buffalo had plenty of water, too; when I was growing up city water was unmetered.

While Buffalo was a boomtown before WWII, real estate was never expensive. It wasn't the San Francisco of its day when it came to home prices.

Anyone have any theories about why lots in Buffalo are so small compared to other Great Lakes cities? (Excepting Chicago, I know)
 

jmello

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#25
* ...Thus, northeastern communities zone for large-lot development, to promote the construction of larger homes that will provide enough property tax revenue to fund services without having to depend on a commercial or industrial tax base.

* Northeastern communities are more established and have a far less transitory population than Southwest communities. This creates an environment that is ripe for NIMBYs who are opposed to large lot development; "My family has been here for six generations, and ..." In the Southwest, there's a much higher population of non-natives, many of which are already living in houses on small lots, ano are less likely to object to small-lot development.

* Racial tensions also tend to run high in the Northeast, where city neigborhods were traditionally divided along ethnic lines. There's the perception that small lots will attract poor residents and be magnets for crime.
This is exactly what I was going to say Dan. This applies especially to New England, particularly the cities and suburbs of Boston and Providence. Massachusetts had to go as far as to create and anti-snob zoning law called Chapter 40B to limit the power of wealthly suburban towns to exclude multi-family housing and/or small lot single-family housing. Snob zoning is quite a disgrace IMO. It is also one of the main reasons I did not want to work as a municipal planner in Mass.
 

nec209

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#26
I ask this quetion before.I think it has to do with climate and water problems in those hot cities .The cities in the sun belt cities have smaller homes and smaller lots .

Has other cites have greenbelts ,creeks ,rivers ,parks so they built around it and there is more a green movement to make the city look green.

The sun belt cities do not have all this green movemet to protect.In Las Vegas and Los Angeles there is nothing environment to protect like greenbelts ,creeks ,rivers ,parks and there is big water problem so they pack the houses in with no property.

But Toronto , Calgary , Dever, Buffalo , Detroit and New York and so on have greenbelts ,creeks ,rivers ,parks and so there is more green movement to make city look green and protect the environment .

That us look at it a city in desert or semi- desert is going to look different than Toronto , Calgary , Dever, Buffalon.You got a water problem in a desert or semi- desert and no environment to protect like greenbelts ,creeks ,rivers ,parks ,trees and so on.



Las Vegas sprawl
http://blogs.nationaltrust.org/preservationnation/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/sprawl_las_vegas.jpg
http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1080/893633769_3ac512fd7d.jpg
http://www.flickr.com/photos/38037974@N00/913060534/sizes/o/



Los Angeles
http://www.flickr.com/photos/38037974@N00/401585636/sizes/o/in/set-72157606528887532/


Toronto sprawl ( suburb)
http://www.flickr.com/photos/litwinenko/1386996471/sizes/o/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/aaaames/2207588398/sizes/l/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/gregsblog/500338557/sizes/l/

Thing is Toronto has greenbelts ,creeks ,rivers ,parks and trees and Las Vegas and Los Angeles does not like alot of south west cities.So Toronto builts around it and protects the environment and make the city look green.Also there is a water problem in some of those south west cities so they use every land.

Most homes in the 50's to 80's had alot of property in Toronto and 80's and 90's less property and even less property now almost like Miami or Las Vegas that is how we are slowing getting more and more dense. Well the city of Mississauga is almost out of land other than small section here there ,Toronto, Etobicoke , North York , Scarborouhgn are out of land. Vaughan ,Richmond hill , Markham are built from steeles ave past Major Mackenzie Dr .So they are building into Farm land now so yes they slowing getting more and more dense.
 

nec209

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#27
You think that is dense take a look here ( suburb of Miami ):-c:-c


http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v...&scene=34934461&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&encType=1

http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v...&scene=34892047&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&encType=1

http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v...0&scene=8993826&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&encType=1

http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v...0&scene=8994690&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&encType=1

http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v...0&scene=8999271&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&encType=1

I was reading somewhere much of Miami and suburbs of Miami was built from 1900's to 1960 and I also think because of land in Miami is too marsh for farm land or high-rise buildings and the city can only sprawl so much do to the everglades they build dense but low dense like 1 story homes , 1 story store-fronts and apartments under 7 story .


Now note has of now only by the water and Beach in Miami is thing for high-rise condos and urban renewal projects making it more high-rise and less homes and even more dense .But west of the downtown or beach is 1 story homes , 1 story store-fronts and apartments under 7 story.

Now Fort Lauderdale and suburbs in Fort Lauderdale look newer than Miami and sprawl is bigger in Fort Lauderdale. And Fort Lauderdale is less compact and walkable streets than Miami and more suburb feel.
 

jmello

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#28
I was reading somewhere much of Miami and suburbs of Miami was built from 1900's to 1960 and I also think because of land in Miami is too marsh for farm land or high-rise buildings and the city can only sprawl so much do to the everglades they build dense but low dense like 1 story homes , 1 story store-fronts and apartments under 7 story .
Don't get me wrong, I love Miami. I have family there. But, with this type of development (single-family on postage stamp lots and one-story strip malls), you get all the worst of urbanism (traffic, lack of open space and foliage, noise and sign pollution, etc.) and absolutely none of the benefits (walkability, public parkland, sense of community, lively public spaces, etc.). Miami Beach is really the only part of the Miami metro that is truly "urban."
 
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#29
Has other cites have greenbelts ,creeks ,rivers ,parks so they built around it and there is more a green movement to make the city look green.

The sun belt cities do not have all this green movemet to protect.In Las Vegas and Los Angeles there is nothing environment to protect like greenbelts ,creeks ,rivers ,parks and there is big water problem so they pack the houses in with no property.


.
Los Angeles and other sunbelt cities do have creeks and rivers that are worth protecting. The LA river is the site of a major restoration process. Even desert land has beauties and things worth preserving.
 

wahday

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#30
Has other cites have greenbelts ,creeks ,rivers ,parks so they built around it and there is more a green movement to make the city look green.
This is a common mis-perception about arid environments, I think, especially as seen from the vantage point of a wetter clime (which is also where I come from). While arid and desert environments may look like they don't have as much to protect or manage, the ecosystems are no less complex and present at times more and not less in the way of environmental sensitivity compared to places like the northeast.

Consider just stormwater: Poor permeability means massive amounts of runoff draining large areas that end up in large natural arroyos. Sometimes the catchment areas for these arroyos can cover many square miles (even hundreds) and disrupting flow of water to these points (which is surface runoff that in other more vegetated areas might be slowed and absorbed on site) can cause untold damage later on and are a NEPA requirement for new development. So, the challenge of understanding the complexity of storm water management alone can deeply impact site design.

As someone pointed out, in many places simply installing storm water and sewer infrastructure is a huge investment because its just very difficult to dig here (thus few basements).

To get back to the original question, speaking from New Mexico, we are a poor state - we trade places with West Virginia from time to time as having the lowest per capita income. This means developers are building what people can afford and bigger lots would price many out. In fact, much of our suburban development has historically been geared toward and emerging middle class demographic (and middle class here is notably lower than in some other places). Those places attracting a wealthier cilentelle are situated on huge lots and those people can afford it. But mostly, we are talking more modest development.

I also agree with Dan's assessment about appealing also to retirees who don't want a large yard and may also be looking to make their money go further with a more modest abode.

Also, I think the point about the developers entering our market from California and Arizona may hold some water, but I have to look at where those builders are based. but for so many large scale housing developers (which is mainly what we see here), they establish an approach and just keep replicating it in different places. If California land values dictate smaller lots and they can translate that to here, they can get more units on less land and still have a demographic to appeal to (the emerging middle class).
 

nec209

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#31
Don't get me wrong, I love Miami. I have family there. But, with this type of development (single-family on postage stamp lots and one-story strip malls), you get all the worst of urbanism (traffic, lack of open space and foliage, noise and sign pollution, etc.) and absolutely none of the benefits (walkability, public parkland, sense of community, lively public spaces, etc.). Miami Beach is really the only part of the Miami metro that is truly "urban."
Well I would say the suburbs in Toronto being built now of homes almost touching and townhoues and lack of apartments and slowing getting more and more dence like Miami is going to be worse than Miami.You got to walk out of your crescent or court to a road than walk down that road to a collector road to go anywhere even 2KM in the city .There is big superblocks 1.6KM or 2 KM it is horrible walking on foot.There is lots of traffic on the collector roads and high driving speed limits of 70 KM or 80 KM that is a nightmare for people walking or crossing the street.

big superblocks 2KM
http://img266.imageshack.us/img266/4659/blo2cu0.jpg


Lots of crescents ,courts,dead-end streets ,cul-de-sac, and big arterials(collector roads) with fence off subdivisions .


Typical ( they should just built some apartment than have those homes almost touching) But the suburbs in Toronto like to do that.
http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii108/jasonzedd/HPIM0936.jpg
http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii108/jasonzedd/HPIM0693.jpg
http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii108/jasonzedd/HPIM0694.jpg
http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii108/jasonzedd/HPIM0695.jpg
http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii108/jasonzedd/HPIM0692.jpg
http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii108/jasonzedd/HPIM0650.jpg
http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii108/jasonzedd/HPIM0651.jpg
http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii108/jasonzedd/HPIM0654.jpg

All those suburbs in Toronto built in the 60's to now have very little buildings on the collector roads and fence off subdivisions.

suburbs in Toronto ( This is a small road going to a collector road most are big collector roads of 3 lanes with high driving speed limits of 70 KM or 80 KM with high traffic and is the only way to get around )
http://www.flickr.com/photos/38175961@N07/3511722894/sizes/o/in/pool-1058792@N25/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/38175961@N07/3510908145/sizes/o/in/pool-1058792@N25/

Every 1.6 Km or 2KM there is a collector road. ( only way to get around ) You have to walk out of you maze to a collector road.



For some reason it was the thing in Toronto in the 60's ,70 to build 15 to 25 story apartments and mix housing income communities of backsplit ,semi ,bungalow house and 2 story homes and townhoues conplex in the 60's and 70's !!! But the 80's and 90's townhoues and 2 story homes and lack of backsplit and bungalow house .In th late 90's it was a fad in the old section or downtown to build big condos and office high-rise.


Buch of Miami like LA is compact and walkable streets but are you going to walk 5KM or 10KM on foot.Light rail and good bus makes people walk and if Miami like LA if they did it would work.You can't put light rail and good bus when streets are not on a grid-system or modified grid-stem or big superblocks 1.6KM or 2 KM.And lack of side-walks and collector roads that are hostile to people.The built environment has to be pedestrian friendly. The blocks or intersetion have to be short for people walking not long like for cars.

People can debate all they want on density levels like LA ,Mew York ,Toronto ,Miami or old section of Chicago or new sections of Chicago and so on.. But the bilt environment has to be pedestrian friendly like light rail and good bus , grid-system or modified grid-system and short blocks or intersetion.

The big box stores or power center will have go:-c on on less they can some how build it in a resident section of the city by light rail going there with parking in the back and line it up on a strip than pod or cluster to cut down on big parking.
 
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#32
I don't know if this has been mentioned yet, Apple Valley, CA has a minimum lot size of around a 1/2 acre I believe. (If you google it, they have an ordinance that explains in detail why it would be disastrous to allow 4 units per acre.) I've been there. Lots of big lots with huge mansions on them. It's a place some celebrities have lived at times because it is close enough to LA to drive if you are working on a movie but it's "rural". Lots of folks there own horses. It's cheek to jowl with Victorville, which has more normal homes and more normal home prices.

Perhaps it's the exception that proves the rule, but not all lots in Cali are little.
 
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#34
I don't know if this has been mentioned yet, Apple Valley, CA has a minimum lot size of around a 1/2 acre I believe. (If you google it, they have an ordinance that explains in detail why it would be disastrous to allow 4 units per acre.) I've been there. Lots of big lots with huge mansions on them. It's a place some celebrities have lived at times because it is close enough to LA to drive if you are working on a movie but it's "rural". Lots of folks there own horses. It's cheek to jowl with Victorville, which has more normal homes and more normal home prices.

Perhaps it's the exception that proves the rule, but not all lots in Cali are little.
In many parts of the country, 1/2 acre lots are considered way too small!
 

nec209

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#35
Those houses are awesome. Are there design standards in that city or how did that architecture come to be?
Most houses in Toronto and the suburbs of Toronto are siding and brick before the 80's .Well the 80's and 90's brick .Now they are starting to try some brick and California look of brick and clay or brick and stone . A blend of California and Canada or Canada and Europe.

House in calgary are trying some thing new all together
http://www.flickr.com/photos/singlemoment/2074770674/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/singlemoment/2073994879/in/photostream/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/singlemoment/2074788208/in/photostream/


Row of new houses in suburban subdivision, Toronto area
http://www.flickr.com/photos/thoughtsupplies/3046933686/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/myles_tan/3243406934/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/anndouglas/478506749/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/anndouglas/478506693/in/set-72157594552341146/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/siansleep/2794402035/

Mississauga suburbs ( 10 KM west of Toronto border )
http://www.flickr.com/photos/siansleep/2795248352/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/siansleep/2795247044/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/siansleep/2794400523/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/siansleep/sets/72157606810819064/detail/

Area under consrution
http://www.flickr.com/photos/karenrivers/308228720/sizes/o/

Typical suburban community around Toronto
http://www.flickr.com/photos/tomasbillik/122778333/



smaller lots
http://www.flickr.com/photos/22832742@N07/2313995679/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/dryodora/440073846/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ifindoubt/3018533132/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/22832742@N07/2314809886/in/set-72157603979067183/

smaller lots ( new area )
http://www.flickr.com/photos/orangeprince/3042118258/

I do not know why homes in the 50's , 60's and 70's in Toronto had bigger lots but the 80's and 90's smaller lots and late 90's smaller yet.

Those smaller lots above seem to be getting smaller all the time.I do know Toronto and Ontario has big debt may be that is why.
 

nec209

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#36
Why are the homes so small in the sun belt cities?

After watching alot of movies/TV shows made in the sun belt cities and also looking at pictures on the internet and google maps and such:-c It seems alot of homes are smaller and bungalow homes and no basment in the sun belt cities . Well the North section or North East section of the US and even Canada is 2 story homes. Some one here was saying the land value is cheaper in the sun belt cities and cost more in the North section or North East section of the US and even Canada .This is okay just one problem.

Why such small bungalow homes and no basment ?

It strange has it is all one color and small homes what you would not find in the Canada , North section or North east section of the US .

Here is bing view of the area of suburb of Miami ..
http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v...&scene=34934461&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&encType=1

http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v...&scene=34892047&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&encType=1


Very intresting has you would not see this dense look in Canada and all the homes the same color .
http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v...0&scene=8993826&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&encType=1

http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v...0&scene=8999271&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&encType=1


What is so strange is the sun belt cities build dense but low dense well Canada , North section or North east section of the US there is town-town look and out of down-town look the suburb look but the sun belt cities are not like this.

Also even the war time homes in Toronto where shacks but small 2 story homes , people living above store ,basment tenets ,roomates not what you really would see in the sun belt cities ..

I don't know if anyone here has use bing to look at Toronto than LA but sure looks different.

If the land value is cheaper in the sun belt cities that would be why you have alot of 1 story store-fronts , 1 story homes and apartments under 6 story ,small plazas.

Well the land value cost more in Canada ,North section or North east section of the US had have 2 story homes ,apartments 15 to 20 story , people living above a store than a 1 story store front.

But why such small homes ? If the land value is cheaper there should be alot of 1 story homes , 1 story store-fronts and apartments under 6 story but every thing much bigger than those small homes.

If land value cost more you cannot have 1 story store-fronts and apartments under 6 story you got have people that live above the store and build apartments 15 to 20 story high or more..

And what is up with all the bungalow homes and no basment in the sun belt cities .
 

Chet

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#37
Good thread. This could be a long discussion!

I come from the north and now live in the south. Although I am on the Gulf of Mexico, I guess I am not considered to be "sunbelt" though. We have alot of 2 story homes on very small lots down here. The lack of basements has alot to do with soil types and humidity. In a good rain the streets break up - they would crush a basement form of foundation. A structure on caisons moves better I guess. Where I am from in the north, new homes commonly have 4 car garages. That doesn't seem to have caught on down here.

Sometimes the "same color" issue is dictated by the developer to avoid garrish intrusions.
 
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#38
We had a similar discussion a few months back about why the yards in the SW and West are so small - this may be related. The general consensus was that because of the lack of water the development needs to be more compact, thus not leaving room for large yards. Not sure why that would mean one story homes, though.

You'd think they would want larger houses and more land (since there is A LOT of it out there). A friend who lives in Phoenix told me the newer developments are two-story but just like anywhere, the less expensive the home the more likely it is to have only one story, although many of the older people aren't moving into the new areas. Much of the SW is newer and has an older population which prefers having things on one level. Many of the "retirement communities" around the Midwest have single story homes. The SW is odd because the amount of "planning" they have done is a great example of what not to do in planning.
 
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#39
Perhaps there are fewer two story homes because with the lots so small, the neighbors can see into the backyard from a second story. That at least is what happens in my mother's neighborhood in California.
 
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