Dan Savage points to this Atrios post contrasting today’s urban zoning and the buildings that currently exist in urban neighborhoods:
One thing I mention frequently but which some seem not to believe is that just about everywhere in this country it would be illegal to build the kind of dense residential urban neighborhoods one associates with, well, urban living. My block, a completely typical South Philly block (not my block, but similar), could not be built today without an unlikely to receive zoning waiver. Most units on my block, and in my area generally, do not have dedicated off street parking. Any new development – say, a new block of rowhouses – with 5 units or more requires dedicated parking for each unit. Parking takes up space, requiring more land which increases (sic) the cost/sq. ft, and reduces, all things equal, residential density.
I mentioned this idea briefly my post about Bellevue’s plans for transit oriented development in the Bel-Red neighborhood. I live in the U-District and my home has a perfect 100 walkscore. Most of the myriad of small businesses and apartments that make the neighborhood walkable are in old buildings that could never be built under today’s zoning: retail without parking isn’t allowed, and neither are tall, affordable and parking–less apartment buildings. These requirements existing in what is probably the residential neighborhood that is best served by transit in the state.
North of 50th street a lot of townhomes have been built recently (south of 50th st the zoning is NC-65, or six stories, north of 50th it’s L3, or townhome zoning), and all have parking, most in the ugly mini-cul-de-sac formation that is so despised. The nicer designs have the cul-de-sac facing the alley instead of the street, but it doesn’t do much for affordability. On Roosevelt and 55th, a ten-unit student-priced housing development is going through with five parking spaces, and a zoning exception was required to allow less than the usual ten parking spots. In fifteen years that development will be walking distance to two light rail stations. How many of the residents will need cars or even be able to afford them? Parking requirements and height restrictions need to be re-thought, especially in dense neighborhoods that already have many buildings that without parking and others taller than the height restrictions.