Sunday, April 29, 2012

Appropriate Density

The last few months have given me many opportunities to review local zoning ordinances. From an urban design standpoint, what strikes me is the consistent 26-foot height limit. In areas where additional height is allowable, a 45-degree plane from grade is tacked on to eliminate that canyon effect that comes from tall and flat facades. This results in stepbacks at each level above the 2nd floor of buildings.

While it is understandable that the market rarely supports taller structures, it is becoming clear that it is time to review and rewrite these ordinances to reflect the times. Contrary to what I thought before, the centers and corridors plan is alive and well, shaping sector and corridor plans. However, it's questionable whether we'll ever see the types of densities that are hoped for given such restrictive guidelines. 

Of course, these guidelines were shaped by the public process. But these are different times, and given growth projections in our city, the necessary environmental considerations, and our envisioned network city of interconnected activity nodes, density and height must become a part of the solution.