Friday, February 29, 2008

Over the Top Award for February

The OTT Award goes to Alhambra on Lakeview.

Google map to here, click "street view"

Let me share with you a few statistics.

1.40 acres with house, purchased 2003 for $1.55M. Demolition permit June 2005. New house size is 12,617. Propery valued at $7M, tax is appealed.

This was the original house, my understanding is it was quite the thing in its day. That is the Carolina Country Club golf course in the background.

They don't call it Lakeview for nothing.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A sense of place

Triangle skylines evolve

Today, The News & Observer begins an occasional series that will assess significant new buildings as they open. With the series, Marvin Malecha, dean of N.C. State University's College of Design, will provide a design perspective. ...

And what do we learn in the first story?

In establishing a sense of place, buildings matter. More than mere markers, they're stages for our public and private lives.

"People gauge their lives by their landscapes," Malecha says. "It's primal that you identify with a place. You know you're home. When you don't have that sense, you feel disconnected."

Modernism and progress shouldn't obliterate local traditions and culture, Malecha says.

"We're at a moment in time when we're building things so fast that we're basically removing the sense of place," he says. "We have a couple of hundred years or history here. We shouldn't just remove it."

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Doing It Right

A feature story provides a great example of updating a home and preserving neighborhood character in the Home and Garden section of the News & Observer today.

Home of the Month:
Built to scale
A small bungalow turns into a roomy modern home without overwhelming its space

The result is a house that is entirely modern in its aesthetic yet fits seamlessly into its surroundings. It is a powerful statement about the value of retaining the characteristics that make this neighborhood special while enjoying the benefits of contemporary living.

The house sits in the heart of Raleigh's teardown district, a swath in which developers are razing older structures and replacing them with homes three, four and even five times their size.

A very good story, pictures are available online and in the paper.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Teardown of the Week

2810 Anderson Drive

Acreage .38

Permit Date
Permit #
Transfer Information

Deed Date 12/28/2007
Pkg Sale 12/28/2007 $390,000

Assessed Value

Land Value Assessed $255,600
Bldg. Value Assessed $145,588
Total Value Assessed $401,188

Editors note: two details missing here. One is the permit # and date. And the other, please note the big oak tree in the first picture is now part of the debris.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tell me more about tearing down my house....

Q: My wife and I are thinking of tearing down our house. We love the neighborhood.

... In general, builders have a guide for tearing down in some neighborhoods — the land cost is roughly one-third of the final cost of the house. So if the land costs $400,000, the builder figures he needs to sell a house for $1.2 million. Typically, the profit is about 10 to 15 percent. So, the house would cost (in this example) about $600,000. The builder also has to carry the cost of the land, and hopefully can sell the house quickly.

You can see how a builder could quickly get into trouble if he is carrying the cost of a $1 million house and it doesn’t sell quickly. All profit would evaporate.

There may be another option: Can you gut renovate the house and add onto it? You may have some cost savings there. The house will look and feel “new,” but in some communities will perhaps keep a lower real estate tax base (which could really add up over the years). You may want to check into this option.

A final option would be to purchase a manufactured house — designed and built elsewhere, then trucked in and laid upon a pre-fab constructed basement. It’s a stick-built house, just built under cover somewhere else. It may cut costs (under $100 per square foot may be doable), and save you a lot of time.

--Inman Real Estate News

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Quote du jour

One's freedom stops where someone else's begins.
-- Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 
Political philosopher, educationist and essayist

"The problem is to find a form of association which will defend and protect with the whole common force the person and goods of each associate, and in which each, while uniting himself with all, may still obey himself alone, and remain as free as before."
from The Social Contract, 1762

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Google Street Views

Street View Redevelopment Tours now available, thanks to Google Maps.

May I suggest a ramble from 2936 Claremont Road and up Anderson Drive, 868 Lake Boone Trail to Nottingham and north through Yarmouth, Runnymeade, etc to Glenwood. These images look like last summer, but are quite amazing.

I will post further hotspots to explore. Please share yours.

Try 2430 Glenwood for OTT winner Garage Mahal.

Try 1640 Oberlin for Xanadu.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Living in Absurdia

The voices of reasonable people looking for reasonable solutions.

Our present, older, often historic, neighborhoods are so popular because their very characteristics are nurturing.

Raleigh needs development standards that will allow for innovation, creativity and change as the city becomes more urban, but in a way that is context-sensitive and respectful of the character of existing, older neighborhoods.

Please stop the madness. Our neighborhood has already suffered a significant loss of its original character with the frenzied building of wildly out- of- proportion McMansions ... [t]heir developers demonstrate little concern for maintaining any cohesiveness of design or scale in keeping with the neighborhood. Retired neighbors on fixed incomes, state and university employees, and others with modest incomes that make up this neigborhood are unable to keep up with the already soaring property taxes. ...

There has to be a reasonable way for neighborhoods to maintain the intimacy of smaller houses and softness of older trees and shrubs, while allowing people to make an appropriate return on their property.

Raleigh's character is at stake.

When a medium-to-small sized home is torn down to be replaced by a huge home, middle income people are robbed of the chance to live near work and family activities.

The lack of direction is causing more and more divisive actions among neighbors.

It is not only the character of neighborhoods that is at risk by current practices in Raleigh, but whether our development activities affect the environment and resources that service us all.

Upgrades that destroy the fabric of neighborhoods do not benefit the community, but rather create monetary wealth for those who who seemingly do not care about their neighbors and thus impoverish the quality of life in the neighborhood.

We do not object to removal of obsolete structures and replacement with appropriately scaled new homes.

I grew up in and around Raleigh. I am stunned and worried to see these ugly cumbersome house behemoths ... creeping into the charming and pleasingly proportioned neighborhoods of Raleigh.

I bought an older home with the intent to preserve history not erase it!!

What kind of city does Raleigh want to be--one that looks like all other nouveau cities, or one that retains its character?

This issue is NOT about homeowners revitalizing their homes as the opposition would claim - this is about developers rebuilding our established neighborhoods without any respect to "neighborhood rights."

I am less concerned as to who does the redevelopment than I am that they are held to a set of standards that respects the rights of everyone, respects the environment (trees and green space), is considerate of existing neighbors privacy and quiet enjoyment of their home, respects neighborhoods by building to scale and with architecture and lot coverage that is not excessive... .

I think the older neighborhoods need to be protected in the sense that they are part of the 'Commons' that is the neighborhood and individuals should not be allowed to 'over graze' to make a quick profit.

I bought in this neighborhood because of the character of the homes, not because I wanted to use it as an investment tool.

This is outrageous!

Once these quaint, older neighborhoods with mostly modest homes are demolished, they cannot be replaced. Thank you.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Minnesota Efforts

Here are 4 approaches for putting limits on the air space a new home can occupy in an older neighborhood. Fallonia notes with a grimace that Raleigh is still having trouble with the "easy part."

Star Tribune | Minneapolis-Saint Paul

Successes and struggles in cities' efforts to scare off 'monster houses'

By JENNA ROSS, Star Tribune
February 12, 2008

Cities around the metro area are deciding to limit house sizes in an effort to maintain the character of older neighborhoods, where there's mounting pressure to raze and rebuild. That's the easy part.

Once cities determine such limits are needed -- some, like Greenwood, are still wrestling with that question -- they must decide how to fashion the restrictions. How does one measure a McMansion? Is it defined by its height? How much lot it eats up? Whether its rooflines are straight or pitched? How close it comes to the curb? As a Wayzata staff report put it, "There are no time-tested evaluation methods for McMansion regulatory controls, so communities cannot reference ideal solutions."

A look at four cities' efforts to define and prevent the proliferation of oversized homes:

The history: Residents of the city's 13th Ward expressed concern about the number of "tear-downs" in their neighborhood. The city took up the issue in August 2006.

The limit: In July 2007, the City Council passed an ordinance limiting a new house's floor-area to half the size of the lot.

Is it working? Too soon to tell. Although Ward 13 Council Member Betsy Hodges has sensed from public response that the ordinance is working, "I think we'll really see the true impact this summer" -- during the first full building season since the council passed the ordinance.

The history: In January 2007, the city approved a policy that allows it to take into account a house's size when deciding whether to approve a variance.

The limit: It's based on a ratio: the size of the house relative to its lot size. If a house requires a variance from the zoning code, that ratio can be no larger than the largest house within 400 feet of it in any direction or within 1,000 feet on the same street.

Is it working? The city believes so. Because of the policy, several property owners have revised their plans and reduced square footage, said City Planner Julie Wischnack. And "applicants or home builders are calling in advance of their design process to research the policy."

The history: The city began discussing an anti-McMansion ordinance two years ago. In January, the City Council considered a draft ordinance but sent it back to the planning commission for revision.

The limit: While Minnetonka limits a house's floor area based on its lot size, the Greenwood ordinance would have used the lot size to limit a house's total volume. Calculating that volume would have involved a complicated formula, detailed in a 27-page document that took into account a range of features of a house. For example, garage size would have counted in the total volume, but patios wouldn't.

Will it work? It could, city officials said -- if it ever gets approved. Because it's based on volume, the formula accounts for McMansion-like qualities simpler calculations don't. But the complexity has scared some city officials. Despite much discussion, the ordinance "never really gets anywhere," said Roberta Whipple, city administrator.

The history: In August 2007, the City Council adopted a moratorium on new houses taller than 30 feet in the city's three oldest neighborhoods -- a total of 332 lots -- so it could study how it might prevent McMansions. Last week, the council extended that moratorium so city employees could further study the issue and craft a zoning amendment.

The limits: The draft amendment focuses on one of the three neighborhoods: the "Old Wayzata Plat." It proposes a mix of rules, including banning duplexes, increasing front yard setbacks and limiting houses' heights. The city will soon tweak those for the other two neighborhoods.

Will it work? Maybe. The zoning addresses many elements specific to the neighborhood, and city staff members believe it will prevent most McMansions. But assistant planner Bryan Gadow acknowledges that beyond zoning, "if someone builds a home that just doesn't look nice, it's not going to fit the neighborhood," he said. "Another home might be well-designed, use great materials, have nice roof-pitching, but might not match the zoning. It all comes down to perception versus reality."

Jenna Ross © 2008 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

House Lust

From House Lust by Daniel McGinn:

During this boom and the ensuing bust, newspapers and magazines devoted acres of space to covering it. Much of this discussion focused on examining the economic forces that drove the cycle—and debating who deserves blame for letting America’s home-philia get so out of hand. Should Alan Greenspan’s Federal Reserve have let interest rates remain so low for so long? Should lenders have given so many loans to millions of high-risk “sub-prime” borrowers? Should real estate agents have encouraged buyers to aggressively overbid for homes in hot markets? Was it really wise that so many Americans came to regard it as perfectly normal to borrow against the equity in their homes to pay off a credit card or fund a trip to DisneyWorld?

Those questions interest me, but they’re not the subject of this book. Instead, my aim is to explore the behavior and psychology that drove the boom—and how those behaviors and psychology helped contribute to the bust that followed. How did home renovations come to routinely turn families’ lives upside down? Why do thousands of us now watch reality shows about home-flipping or house hunting? Why did so many people decide to start investing in real estate, or quit good jobs to seek a fortune selling houses? How did House Lust become so contagious?

In HOUSE LUST, I travel the country to examine these and other questions, meeting memorable characters and having a lot of fun along the way.

Extreme Downsizing
How moving from a 6,000-square-foot custom home to a 370-square-foot recreational vehicle helped quell one family's 'House Lust.'

By Daniel McGinn | NEWSWEEK WEB EXCLUSIVE | Feb 12, 2008

Two years ago Debbie and Jim Ward had a bad case of the-grass-is-always greener.

The couple had built their dream home in Bethesda, Md. With six bedrooms, six bathrooms and nearly 6,000 square feet of living space, it was everything they should have wanted in a home. Yet they found themselves looking longingly at the house across the street, which had a nicer, more kid-friendly back yard.

It was their typical MO, Debbie says. Since age 14 she's never lived in the same house more than three years. Like her parents, she and her husband tended to view houses the way corporate climbers view careers: if you aren't moving up every few years, there's something wrong. "We were the ultimate 'House Lust' people," says Debbie, who contacted me after reading my recently published book of the same name. "Two years after we built this house, we had angst it wasn't perfect."

But in recent months they've made a giant transition that fundamentally changed the way they view houses. It began in early 2006, when Jim was awarded a grant to travel the country raising public awareness of disability rights issues. Debbie dreaded the thought of his spending long weeks on the road, shuttling between airports and hotels while she cared for their two sons, now aged 4 and 2, by herself.

To avoid that the couple had a radical idea: what if they sold their Bethesda home, bought a top-of-the-line RV, and the whole family traveled for Jim's work together? In March 2006, just after the housing market's peak, they sold their Maryland home for $2 million. For $150,000 they purchased a Fleetwood Discovery recreational vehicle—which, with its full-wall slide-outs, measures 370 square feet. They packed only what they needed and loaded everything else into 19 crates that now lie in a storage facility. Then they started driving.

Friends thought they were crazy—and weren't shy about telling them so. "What are you doing to your children?" wrote one, whose attitude—that children deserve a stable home that doesn't move between campgrounds every few nights—was hardly unique.

But after more than 25,000 miles the family's attitude about how much space they really need—and at what expense—has been transformed. "I'd always thought a big house was what you should get, especially if you're paying a decent price for it—that's the right way to live," Jim says. "This had taught me a lot about downsizing and simplicity." While Debbie admits missing her dishwasher, she says, "Everything we need is right here, and we're within arm's reach of each other."


When they began their journey they assumed they'd return to the D.C. area and purchase a house when Jim's tour of duty was complete. But last week they were parked in an RV park in Sacramento, Calif., where Debbie has family, and they're laying plans to vacate the RV and move back to terra firma. But as they've begun shopping for houses again, they're using a new definition of what will make them happy.


But beyond selling high and buying low, the experience has helped them in other ways. Life in the RV "just helped define what a home is and what a home means to you," Jim says. "It isn't necessarily more space or more money."


Daniel McGinn is a national correspondent at NEWSWEEK and the author of "House Lust: America’s Obsession With Our Homes," published by Currency/Doubleday.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Define Renew?

Here and here and here and here.

Well, Well, Well

Snippets from Metropolitan Home
Bigger Isn't Always Better
Communities across the U.S. are taking action against the supersize houses invading their front and backyards
Written by Peter Hellman

The good news is that grassroots anti- McMansionists are fighting back. Often, they’re out ahead of local government when it comes to preserving the character of their communities. In the architecturally rich, fully built-out Chicago suburb of Kenilworth, for example, village officials did nothing as more than a dozen Victorian and Prairie-style homes were demolished to make way for McMansions. “A bunch of us residents decided we wanted our officials to get more involved in the loss of these significant older homes,” says longtime village resident Jackie Bossu. “But their response was that they couldn’t do anything so long as our 1969 zoning law wasn’t being violated. They were just running on autopilot.”

Responding to rising citizen dismay, the village’s building review committee called a meeting on teardowns in late 2003. “It was a weekday evening, but more than 200 residents showed up, even though we have only 830 homes,” Bossu says. Belatedly, regulations were adapted to the new speculative realities, including a required “cooling-off period” for teardown permits. FAR computations were also changed to benefit existing homes rather than new construction, so owners have less temptation to sell out. And so-called snout garages, which protrude from facades of new homes (sometimes called Garage Mahals), were banned. This year, Kenilworth expects to have a revised code that is tilted toward preservation of the village’s traditional fabric rather than teardowns.

In booming Dallas, a city with a surprisingly large reservoir of pre-war houses, the last few years have seen more than 1,000 teardowns (exceeding the size of Kenilworth’s entire housing stock). “It’s not just a problem of new houses being out of scale and proportion with others on the block, but of materials and style,” says Katherine Seale, director of the civic group Preservation Dallas. In a neighborhood of low, wood-framed bungalows you’ll get a limestone-faced, two-and-a-half-story house with a large faux Frenchstyle turret. It’s so discordant.” Seale hastens to say that “building new houses in existing neighborhoods can be compatible, and lots of architects have figured out how to do it.” But too often, they don’t.

The most potent factor in the invasion of McMansions on urban infill is the rising cost of land. A modest old home on a highly valuable lot is teardown bait to a speculative builder. The new house he’ll build will be proportionately more expensive in keeping with the cost of the land. “When you buy a teardown in New York, or Washington or San Francisco, places with very high property values, you’ll build a house worth three or four times the price of the land, so you’ve got to build an awfully big house,” says architect Sarah Susanka. “Some of the most beautiful inner-ring suburbs are being lost before our eyes to these humongous houses dumped into their midst. And yet, it’s often unintentional. People see a plan in an architectural grocery store and say, gee, that’s lovely. But just because something looks good in its own isolated setting doesn’t mean it’s going to work where houses are densely packed.”

And it’s not only new houses but the expansion of existing ones whose new bulk can dominate their neighbors. “People will keep one stud from the original house to call it remodeling and then build a massive house,” says Susanka. “They’re determined to get every square inch out of their valuable lot,” says Susanka, whose 1998 broadside against houses with too much unused space, The Not So Big House, will be published in an updated tenth-anniversary edition this year.

Invoking the mantra of sustainability, Anthony Flint of the Lincoln Institute, a Boston-based land-use think tank, argues that big new homes on urban infill can actually be a good thing: “You have folks who will say that its better to build close to town where land can be reused and the infrastructure exists rather than building it out in the cornfields.” Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Places, disagrees. “It’s good that people want to move closer to town, but not when they bring their suburban sensibilities to historic districts,” he says. The large houses that they left behind “aren’t designed to fit in these differently scaled neighborhoods.”

The graceful neighborhoods now under siege from McMansions, it’s worth remembering, were created not so much by regulation as by an earlier generation’s sense of style, proportion and landscaping. “What we’re trying to do is not about judging someone for having too large a home, but what’s appropriate for a community that’s been here for more than 100 years,” says Lauren Norton, an Atlanta preservationist.

And what are cities trying:

A task force in [Atlanta] did create a new set of regulations on square footage that should bring down the size of many homes. In Dallas, new Neighborhood Stabilization Overlay Zones allow residents to decide what they’ll permit, and what they won’t, when new buildings are to be erected. In Minneapolis, home footprints are now limited to 50 percent of lot size. In Boulder County, Colorado, where home size averages a gigantic 6,500 square feet, a bold plan is afoot to create a system of transferring square footage rights from small houses to large houses.

In Raleigh, the first step is still admitting we have a problem.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Tearing Down Charlotte

Observer Forum: Letters to the Editor
Teardowns destroying what drew me to city

In response to "Tearing down Charlotte" (Feb. 5 editorial): On business trips from New York during the '70s, I arrived in Charlotte a day early just to admire the stately homes and landscapes in Myers Park and Eastover.

The beauty of these neighborhoods was instrumental in my deciding to move here.

Now, however, I try to avoid driving through them, because it breaks my heart to see the loss of symmetry.

Posted on Tue, Feb. 05, 2008 | The Charlotte Observer | Editorial

Tearing down Charlotte
Don't let one of city's most valuable assets turn to rubble
It happened again this month on Morningside. On Belvedere. On Queens Road West. And on any number of streets in Charlotte's established neighborhoods. One day there's a modest bungalow or brick colonial. The next? An empty lot that soon will sport a residential behemoth out of scale and out of keeping with its surroundings.

Unchecked, the practice of teardowns can undermine one of the city's primary assets. But that doesn't have to happen, and it shouldn't. City Council should get out in front of this issue by doing two things: First, add a step for approving teardowns and disproportionate home additions. Next, begin work on long-term solutions.

Teardowns aren't new, but they're rampant in Charlotte's older neighborhoods. Sturdy arts and crafts homes and post-war brick ranches are being supplanted by huge houses that tower over neighboring residences.

What's the harm? It's simple. When you cram a three-story, 6,000-square-foot home onto a narrow lot designed to hold a story-and-a-half, 1,500 square-footer, you create a structure that dwarfs its neighbors and changes the streetscape. Repeat that again and again and you change the character, tradition and income mix that helps make these neighborhoods so appealing.

You'd think that fact would get the attention of City Council and Mayor Pat McCrory. But so far there's nothing but stony silence.

This isn't just about architecture or preservation. It's about economics, too. The value of the city's close-in neighborhoods is tied to their character, their mix of people and the quality of life they sustain. Lose that, and Charlotte has lost a key asset.

City Council ought to be acting aggressively to keep it from happening. For starters, the city could require Planning Commission approval for additions or new construction 25 percent bigger than the original structure. That won't keep people from developing their property or adding on to their house. But it will provide oversight until City Council can develop sensible, permanent measures and put them in place.

Of course the rising value of land is pushing this trend. But there are ways to handle this evolution that benefit a neighborhood and ways that don't. Teardowns are changing the character and diversity of thriving, older, close-in neighborhoods at an astounding rate. We stand by and watch those assets turn to rubble at our own risk.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Fallacy No. 1: Small and Outdated

This story is from Westport, Connecticut, a town that has been struggling with the compete erasure of its past. Teardowns in Westport are so common that runs a feature called Teardown of the Day to keep neighborhoods in the loop. Image from

Historic Mansion May Soon be Demolished
By Michael C. Juliano | 02/07/2008 | Westport News

An 87-year-old house on Sylvan Road North may fall victim to the wrecking ball, despite efforts by Westport's Historic District Commission (HDC) to keep it standing.

HDC Chairman Morley Boyd said his commission held a public hearing in early December on a proposal by Jean Bernhard Buttner, the owner, to demolish the white Colonial Revival and its outbuildings. He said members of his commission asked Richard Diviney, Buttner's attorney, to save the building from demolition due to its architectural merit and structural integrity.

"It's probably one of the largest teardowns in the state," he said. "It's deeply disturbing because one of the buildings appears to be new."

The HDC reviewed the property because it is more than 60 years old and is listed on the town's Historic Resources Inventory.

Boyd said the demolition was scheduled for Wednesday, but it has been resheduled.

Stephen Smith, Westport's building official, said the contractor told him the buildings would not be coming down before Tuesday.

"They may even be coming down the week after that," he said. "He's in no rush."

The 7,882-square-foot, two-story house with 17 rooms sits back a couple hundred feet from the road on 17 acres of gated property. Known as the Brosnahan-Bernhard Estate, the parcel is bordered by a stone fence and numerous trees and has an in-ground pool, a cabana, a tennis court, a caretaker's house and other amenities.

Boyd said the property qualifies for listing on the State and National Historic Register of Historic Places, and Buttner could take advantage of the Planning and Zoning Commission's recently adopted Amendment 574, which allows residential use of historic accessory structures.

"We asked the representative to contact the office to explore alternatives to demolition," Boyd said.

Boyd said First Selectman Gordon Joseloff reached out to Buttner with an offer for the town to purchase the property.

Joseloff said, "The town is looking at a number of properties."

Diviney was not available for comment on the future of the property, which has an appraised value of $5.6 million, according to HDC records.

HDC documents, which refer to the property as "one of the most important estates built in Westport," state that the house was built in 1921 for George C. Engel of New York City. Following Engel's death, the property was passed to his heirs, Ann Elizabeth Stamm and Jeanette Engle, who sold it to Roger C. Stewart in 1928.

A year later, Mona Brosnahan bought the property and then sold it to the Bernhards in 1945. The estate, which is also referred to as the Brosnahan-Bernhard property, has remained in the Bernhard family since being sold by Brosnahan.

Love the sign one community is using to bring notice to the issue (the word is Pre-)....

Thursday, February 7, 2008

And They Said It Couldn't Be Done

Now here is company who goes into a neighborhood and works this way:

During our rehabilitation process we strive to avoid changing the fabric of the existing neighborhood, keeping each home's structure intact and the square footage the same, which helps to avoid unneccesarily raising property taxes of surrounding homes. Our rehabilitation project windows are short, so construction noise and other disturbances are kept to a minimum.


I think I will read some more:
Most of the areas we work in consist of longtime residents committed to their neighborhoods with a wealth of civic pride. Once goes into a neighborhood for a rehabilitation project our home inevitably becomes the nicest one on the block, positively impacting the local quality of life and bringing new families and homeowners into the community. We are usually swamped with referrals from neighbors who know of other homes nearby that they would love to see rehabilitated, and word spreads until we end-up working on multiple homes in the same general area.

And then they go green on us: ..."is committed to eco-friendly rehabilitation of our properties, minimizing the use of resources, reducing harmful effects on the environment, and providing healthier environments for people. We upgrade the infrastructure of the properties we purchase with environmentally friendly materials and energy efficient air, heat and appliances. We apply green building standards developed by the United States Green Building Council to our homes such as changing-out ineffective heating and cooling systems with energy efficient models, and keeping existing shade trees intact, oftentimes performing much-needed pruning and caretaking to improve the health of our properties' landscaping. We buy local, use wood alternative products, and use rapidly renewable flooring materials like bamboo whenever possible."

Interesting, very interesting.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

This Was Not in My Back Yard

I never knew peep from neighbors 4 lots away. Seems sorta large to me.

How do you like this title from the Left Coast:

Proposed Mansionization Interim Control Ordinance and Interpretive Guide. 2/20/2007.

From Los Angeles comes this idea.

The following applies to multi-story homes only. Zoning for one story homes shall remain per current code. Clarifying guide information is in italics. This I.C.O. is intended to mitigate the impact of new large scale homes and additions on adjacent existing smaller homes. It Is not intended to prohibit the construction of spacious two story residences.

1. Allowable number of stories: a. Two b. Lofts not allowed above second floor.

2. Allowable height: Per current code

3. Additions to existing structures: a. When 49% or less of the existing structure is demolished, second story additions above the remaining structure are exempt from this I.C.O. All other new construction shall comply.
b. When 50% or more of the existing structure is demolished, all new construction shall comply with this I.C.O.
c. Existing structures 750 SF or less (excluding garage): Second story additions above the existing structure are exempt from this amendment. All other new construction shall comply.

4. Floor area ratio or F.A.R. shall be maximum 60%. The F.A.R. is the maximum square footage allowed by this I.C.O. for a single family residence. It is calculated by taking 60% of area within property lines. Below are typical lot types with property lines shown. Conditions may vary for your property so consult with the city prior to design and construction. a. F.A.R. includes i. garage
ii. any areas under a roof or floor above iii. fireplaces iv. accessory buildings b. F.A.R. excludes i. shafts ii. balconies open to the sky
iii. incidental areas under eaves and similar projections

5. Maximum second floor area - 40% of F.A.R. (excludes stairs and shafts) This I.C.O. limits the area of the second floor to 40% of the F.A.R. For example, if the area within the property lines is 8,000 SF. The F.A.R. would be calculated as 60% x 8,000 SF = 4,800 SF. The maximum second floor area would then be calculated as 40% x 4,800 SF = 1,920 SF. If, in this example, you plan to build to the maximum F.A.R. of 4,800 SF and you wanted to build the maximum allowable area for your second story, you would then have a 2,280 SF first floor and a 1,920 SF second floor. If you plan to build to less than the maximum F.A.R. of 4,800 SF, your second floor area is still limited to 40% of the F.A.R. or a maximum of 1,920 SF.

6. Setbacks Setbacks are imaginary lines limiting the allowable footprint of the building and defining the minimum size of the front, side and rear yards. Current zoning code typically observes a 5’ set back for side yards, a 15’ setback for rear yards and a 20’ setback for front yards. These setbacks are measured from the property lines. Setbacks are used by the City to preserve street profile, fire access, privacy, light and air among other purposes. They help create a certain quality of environment. Confirm setback locations for your property prior to design and construction. In this I.C.O. the setbacks have an additional purpose of promoting variation in the building fa├žade through the introduction of the averaged setback lines. The intent is to soften the impact of large two story residences on the adjacent properties. The number of possible facade variations allowed by the average setbacks is only limited by the designer’s imagination.

... and so on. There are at least 4 regulations here that could have brought this house into reasonable dimensions for this older neighborhood.

Monday, February 4, 2008

More Fun Facts

A new group has proudly posted their list of supporters on the web.

Fallonia wants to make sure that you know her children support her too.

Miss Byrd

I'll get to the grands next post.

Top 5 Reasons Raleigh Needs to Study Residential Redevelopment

Planning Dept numbers are inaccurate for 2007. They reflect the number of homes rebuilt before June 5 2007, but do not reflect empty lots and houses not rebuilt before June.

NO ONE knows the extent of the problem.

Is the gap in zoning ordinances between the 80's and now being utilized to create a more profitable equation for some at the expense of others?

Zoning ordinance changes to encompass mass and scale measures will help to prevent further inequity and damages to our communities, a STUDY would help determine if this is a problem.

Other cities have taken a stand that older areas need protection from excesses that are damaging to the city's character itself. It is known fact that a city requires preservation of certain assets to remain viable and attractive. Older areas are a huge asset to our attractiveness for growth.

In summary:
There is a problem, we do not know the extent of it, planning is understaffed, and we need a professional STUDY / Task Force to see where we are and if things are equitable for all residents.

We want city council action on this STUDY group Tuesday Feb 5 at 1:00.

PLEASE ACT TODAY. Go to our petition and sign up, and call your city council representative to tell them of your neighborhood concerns.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Fun Facts

This one from your planning department confirms that optics is not the problem.

My advanced math techniques arrive at 60% of the replacements are over 3000 sq feet. And what we don't know is if this number contains all the unaccounted for houses from Planning's list. I suspect not, and my unofficial (but more accurate than official) observations over in Anderson Heights shows that the majority of replacements are getting larger in 2007 to offset the cost of the lot.

OTT has also received a report that the 2 teardowns in 2007 on Lake Boone Trail are not listed, one is an empty lot and one is a VERY LARGE new house. Your attention to what is going on in your neighborhood is urgently needed at City Hall. The data there has not caught up with reality.

Friday, February 1, 2008

588 Teardowns--Really?

Studying the newly posted homes built on teardown sites document at the City of Raleigh planning department site, it becomes clear quickly that this number does not contain any teardowns since June 5, 2007, although it is titled through October 2007. That makes the up-to-date numbers for 2007 fairly incomplete, as there has been considerable activity the second half of this year.

The second omission is that this document does not seem to list "commercial" teardowns that became homes--apartments for example. The number of units lost at Whitaker Park is quite large, but does not show up. Neither do the duplexes and other rentals lost on Bernard Street. I hope someone in Sunset Hills can take a look and let us know if the duplexes over there are accounted for.

This is the sort of problem "neighborhood activists" have been talking about. It is hard to get an actual handle on the situation with misinformation flying around. These numbers were given at a City Council meeting and a Comprehensive Planning Committee meeting as if they were factual and inclusive. These numbers are off. An honest mistake perhaps in that this study was titled wrong. But it is misleading and was used in public meetings to diminish the problem. Your local activists are actually neighbors paying attention, in spite of the negative attention.

Thank goodness.

Its Not a Problem

Interim Control Ordinances (ICO)
This is the term used to help a municipality figure out what to do about the GAP issue.

The gap issue is the difference between older zoning ordinances that worked to maintain equitable rights in their communities and the change in the way real estate occurs now, a trend that was developed to take advantage of this gap.

This from Guide to Community Planning in Wisconsin by Brian W. Ohm

2.4 Interim Control Ordinances

Starting a planning process often raises the need for communities to suspend new development for a brief period of time while studies are completed and plans and ordinances are prepared or revised. A temporary moratorium is a technique that can be used to provide this needed "time-out."

A temporary moratorium, also known as an interim control ordinance, can be an important planning tool. Many communities throughout Wisconsin have imposed moratoria on new development as they engage in planning processes to address issues of growth and change. These moratoria have taken various forms, including moratoria on rezonings, building permits, and subdivision plats.

Quoting Mary Norwood from Atlanta when they took action:

“The legislation clarifies and closes many loopholes in the 1982 zoning ordinance.

The desirability of city living in Atlanta has led to the remodeling and redevelopment of many existing residential structures as well as the purchase structures for demolition in order to re-use the lot for a new building. With the preservation of neighborhoods as a high priority for both the City Council and the Administration, this new legislation can help protect the quality of life for all city citizens.

This legislation will allow our residents to continue to build and renovate to today's lifestyle preferences, and it provides some degree of oversight for appropriate and orderly development."

In Atlanta, there was first a moratorium while the Mayor's Infill Task Force began, and then Interim Standards, and then neighborhood input, and then professional study and recommendations, and then community feedback, final negotiated changes, and then acceptance by ALL affected parties.

Google this to see how prevalent the problem is and what others are doing about it.