Sprawl

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woofner
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Re: Sprawl

Postby woofner » May 16th, 2013, 8:18 pm

The most interesting item in the May 23rd Planning Commission Committee of the Whole meeting actually isn't the Rampton Apts, it's the discussion on the minimum lot area provision of the zoning code. The city is considering removing them. They are technically the primary limitation of density in the code. In reality, there are other provisions that limit density, which the report lists as:
• Minimum off-street parking requirements
• Maximum permitted height [note: this is easily waivable through the CUP process]
• Maximum floor area ratio
• Minimum size of individual dwelling units (350 sq. ft. for efficiency units; 500 sq. ft. for all other units)
• Required yards/setbacks (primarily in R and OR Districts)
• Maximum building coverage (R and OR Districts only)
Not sure that this has a ton of practical effect, since Minneapolis recently reduced its minimum lot area requirements to get somewhat close to a realistic number. However, most suburbs have outrageous minimum lot area requirements, which is why many suburban apartment buildings are as or less dense than typical Minneapolis single-family homes, and also why it's hard to build apartments in the suburbs.
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RailBaronYarr
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Re: Sprawl

Postby RailBaronYarr » May 17th, 2013, 7:13 am

Removing this may help, but as most of Minneapolis has its parcels platted out, most with existing structures on them, I'm not sure what it will do to start creating smaller parcels in most areas. For big surface lots or the vacant lots that do exist, it seems like the financing mechanisms out there (and speculation from land-holders) really only allow for larger projects.

Either way, I'm definitely 100% pro the removal of this provision. It's one small change to the system, and if FARs, lot coverage, and parking minimums remain we won't see much immediate impact, but perhaps those will change (or hopefully be removed) as well over the next 5-10 years.

And yeah, in the suburbs this is definitely one of the key ways to guarantee low density. People talk about the market's desire for suburban homes and big lots, but if that was the case we wouldn't have needed to code them that way.

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woofner
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Re: Sprawl

Postby woofner » June 21st, 2013, 1:13 pm

The Strib mysteriously takes up the topic of Accessory Dwelling Units, seemingly apropos of nothing:

http://www.startribune.com/business/212418161.html

Glad to hear this, even if I don't entirely believe it (there has been no published indication of activity on ADUs on the city's website for over a decade):
“It’s on our radar,” said Tom Streitz, the city’s director of housing policy and development.

“We are actively in conversation about ADUs and more broadly about keeping seniors in the city. We’re having a forum with developers next week to talk about new urban models for senior housing. We’re exploring different housing types to accommodate all the growth in Minneapolis.”
ADUs are a no-brainer for Minneapolis, but where they would really make a difference is in the suburbs, where in the form of granny flats they will allow for a quick easy utilization of existing wasted space for much-needed density without the stigma of multi-family units (the dreaded duplex).
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David Greene
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Re: Sprawl

Postby David Greene » June 21st, 2013, 1:32 pm

I really hope the city opens up the ability to do ADUs. I'm one of the demographic mentioned in the article wondering how my parents will live as they age into their 80s.

We happen to have a crumbling 1 1/2-car garage and I've been trying to sell my wife on the idea that we should build something more useful than simply car storage. I've talked about a clubhouse for the kids or a shop/work area. An ADU seems like a natural fit.

MNdible
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Re: Sprawl

Postby MNdible » June 21st, 2013, 3:38 pm

David Greene wrote:I'm one of the demographic mentioned in the article wondering how my parents will live as they age into their 80s.
While granny flats sound tempting, I think the truth is that higher density senior living is a better option most of the time. Served by elevators (this is important, as most of the time spaces above garages require stairs), usually having access to services, social activities, and likely directly on a transit line.

RailBaronYarr
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Re: Sprawl

Postby RailBaronYarr » June 21st, 2013, 8:28 pm

^ I agree with you on this one, but lots of seniors are still pretty mobile physically, aka can use stairs, and just want to live close to family or amenities. Beyond that, it's possible to just turn the garage in to a unit. But for many, higher density places with a dedicated person on staff and elevators makes sense - I see ADUs as great spots for young singles and couples looking for a place without the pricey amenities of all the apartments going up but urban living, possibly even car-free.

ADUs seem like the perfect option for the Wedge residents of the world (not picking on David Greene at all, just an example of people living in SF homes in an area ripe for development who want to maintain the area's character) to use market based tactics to respond to housing demand instead of opposing new development on historic or neighborhood character arguments.

gpete
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Re: Sprawl

Postby gpete » February 16th, 2014, 2:42 pm

http://www.startribune.com/local/north/ ... page=2&c=y

East Bethel facing financial crisis because they invested in speculative water treatment plants. Expected to pay for them with new development that never happened.


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David Greene
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Re: Sprawl

Postby David Greene » February 17th, 2014, 5:37 pm

gpete wrote:http://www.startribune.com/local/north/ ... page=2&c=y

East Bethel facing financial crisis because they invested in speculative water treatment plants. Expected to pay for them with new development that never happened.
So much wrong with this situation. The city blames the Met Council (which was Pawlenty's Council) for approving and funding the project. As if they'd been all thankful if the Council had denied funding.

I've come to believe that "Met Council Member" is the worst public service jobs one can have.

RailBaronYarr
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Re: Sprawl

Postby RailBaronYarr » February 17th, 2014, 8:17 pm

To be fair, I think all levels of government are involved in this approach. They look at successful cities like EP, Plymouth, Maple Grove (which actually are growing and haven't reached their geographic limits for low-intensity development) and assume it can work everywhere (not questioning if the successful ones will remain so). City staff, Met Council, state gov't, federal gov't - all commit to projects and growth projections in some way or another, and when things go wrong, it's time to point the finger at the next level up the ladder.

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Re: Sprawl

Postby mulad » February 24th, 2014, 10:50 am

Some folks are ranting about density (such as it is) in the west metro. Kind of interesting to hear a city rep from Minnetrista say that the Met Council supposedly forced them down to about 2 units/acre on one development at a golf course, when they originally wanted about 5 units/acre. Neither is particularly good of course. Others are complaining about developments happening in Orono outside the MUSA boundary -- they're being set up right at the limit of 1 unit per 2 acres. I'm perfectly fine with folks pushing back on development outside the MUSA line.

There also seem to be some folks looking to make a quick buck from entering the MUSA and being able to sell their land for higher values due to the greater development potential.

http://www.startribune.com/local/west/246726211.html

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mister.shoes
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Re: Sprawl

Postby mister.shoes » February 24th, 2014, 11:03 am

I found that interesting as well. Buried in the article was a point that parts of Minnetrista had been developed at a density below what the Met Council requires, but now that the city wants more MUSA services they're being "forced" to catch up on density to justify the service hookups.

Predictably, the comments talk about "ruining" the "character" of the town. Oh, and the Met Council should be abolished. I guess.
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mister.shoes
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Re: Sprawl

Postby mister.shoes » February 24th, 2014, 11:05 am

Similarly, I don't think "high-density" means what some people seem to think it means.
http://www.startribune.com/local/west/246802751.html
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RailBaronYarr
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Re: Sprawl

Postby RailBaronYarr » February 24th, 2014, 8:55 pm

Yeah, I had a co-worker state that a development near him in Chanhassen was "high-density, nearly stack and pack" - the pocket neighborhood has 0.22 acre lots. Just different definitions..

David Greene
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Re: Sprawl

Postby David Greene » February 25th, 2014, 7:48 am

mulad wrote:Kind of interesting to hear a city rep from Minnetrista say that the Met Council supposedly forced them down to about 2 units/acre on one development at a golf course, when they originally wanted about 5 units/acre.
That's not how I read it. The Met Council wanted more density but the city pushed back and they compromised.

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Re: Sprawl

Postby mulad » February 25th, 2014, 8:34 am

Hmm. I guess my brain accidentally inserted "the city" into one paragraph, so I read it like this:
City Council Member Anne Hunt said the Met Council forced the city to approve 1,071 units on 490 acres in the Woodland Cove development, and [the city] originally wanted the Red Oak golf course to have nearly five homes per acre. “It’s a myth that local cities really have that much control over the density issues,” Hunt said.
I don't know why my head does things like that sometimes.

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Anondson
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Sprawl

Postby Anondson » September 28th, 2014, 9:33 pm

I hunted for a thread related to home mortgage subsidies, and this one seems very much appropriate for the idea of location efficient mortgage ratings. That cost of ownership needs to include housing and transportation, and home mortgages in areas easy to get around in perform better. The book The End of Suburbs mentions there was momentum to start offering ratings by 2013. Does anyone have any insight to whether this has happened?

Here are four paragraphs from the book...
“A few years ago, Bernstein led an effort to create a new kind of mortgage that would factor transportation costs into the overall cost of owning a home. A more “efficient” location—one that had better access to public transit and life’s daily conveniences—would mean the buyer could qualify for a bigger mortgage and get a nicer house, or put less money down, or borrow at a lower interest rate. Conversely, a borrower buying the same house located far away from his or her place of work and daily needs would need a proportionally higher income to qualify for a loan for that house or would have to accept a more challenging set of terms for the loan. Location, in other words, would be factored in as a measure of risk, just like income and credit score.

The mortgages were a novel idea, and they were favorably received by the housing finance industry. Soon after Bernstein introduced the concept, Fannie Mae agreed to participate in an experimental plan to test them, and bought and underwrote some two thousand of the new “location efficient” mortgages. They performed well: of a random sample CNT studied of three hundred of the mortgages nationally, there was one default, and it never turned into a foreclosure; the home owner was ultimately able to make good.

Similar studies have shown similar patterns, even when incomes vary wildly. “Nobody’s disputed this,” Bernstein says. “Mortgages in location-efficient places perform better.” At the time, the idea for the mortgages was a tough sell to banks because, still recovering from the housing bust, they weren’t financing anything. And in the time since, they’ve been reluctant to lend to anyone, so the idea has languished.

Bernstein has one influential follower, though: Shaun Donovan, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Donovan is a longtime proponent of smart growth and a big believer in the benefits of transit-oriented, pedestrian-friendly urban communities (he has said he’s trying to put the “UD” back in “HUD”), and he has long talked of a sort of fuel economy or Energy Star–style rating for homes, a required disclosure of the estimated cost of transportation to would-be buyers. “We don’t have a good system today of understanding, when you buy a house, ‘what is this really going to cost me?’” Donovan has said. Bernstein and his team are working with HUD to come up with such a system, an official locational affordability index for homes, by the end of 2013.”

Excerpt From: Gallagher, Leigh. “The End of the Suburbs.” Penguin Group, USA, 2013-07-04.
Last edited by Anondson on September 29th, 2014, 7:55 am, edited 1 time in total.

min-chi-cbus
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Re: Sprawl

Postby min-chi-cbus » September 29th, 2014, 7:32 am

I feel like a change like that wouldn't go unnoticed and would be headline news. I think people would be up in arms about it anyways, esp. those who live in sprawling suburbs.

I like the idea, btw.

xandrex
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Re: Sprawl

Postby xandrex » September 29th, 2014, 9:42 am

How exactly is a location actually deemed efficient? If everything is in relation to the CBD, then yeah, that's great if you work in the CBD.

But isn't someone who works for General Mills being location efficient by living in Golden Valley? How about a person in Eden Prairie who works for Supervalu? What about someone who live in Uptown, but commutes to UnitedHealthcare? Their housing may be incredibly efficient by the numbers (bus routes, other stuff nearby), but they're making a nearly 18 mile round trip in the car every day. In this future, they may be able to take the bus or Greenway train to SWLRT, but that's almost more happenstance of the examples than the reality of most job centers in the metro.

Sure, jobs change, but they're pretty big trip generators, especially during peak times. And there really is no guarantee that your "location-efficient" housing will be location efficient after any job changes.

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Anondson
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Re: Sprawl

Postby Anondson » September 29th, 2014, 10:04 am

It is an interesting question. But it's in the realm of "what makes someone credit worthy" or "what determines my health or life insurance rates".

There is a risk to the lender the mortgage goes bad, they have every reason to use tools that help reduce their lending risk within the law.

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FISHMANPET
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Re: Sprawl

Postby FISHMANPET » September 29th, 2014, 10:27 am

A mortgage in Uptown is going to have much better access to all metro jobs than something in say, Chaska. My intuition would be that a location efficient mortgage would hurt the exurbs most.

And living in Uptown, even if you commuted to UHG every day, you'd probably drive much less overall than someone that commuted 18 miles round trip but lived in a low density suburb, so you're transportation costs are still lower. Actuarial science is a thing, so I'm sure banks have oodles of data to massage to figure out what locations are lower risk than others.


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