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  #1  
Old Posted Apr 5, 2017, 3:05 PM
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What lesson from another city do you wish your city would adopt and start doing?

Good city planning is, by and large, just plagiarism. Somebody has a good idea, implements it, and then it spreads.

So, with that in mind, what's a policy or strategy that another city somewhere in the world uses, that you wish yours would use as well? It could be anything, a transportation strategy, a zoning rule, an architectural guideline, anything. Tell us your city (we haven't all memorized where everyone lives), and tell us what lesson you'd adopt and where it's from.

The key is to distill the strategy to the thing your city could mimic. Do NOT just say "I wish we'd build XYZ building" or "I'd plop ABC's city's transit system down on mine." Think about the thing you like about XYZ building or ABC transit system, and say how your city could accomplish something similar.
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  #2  
Old Posted Apr 5, 2017, 3:09 PM
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For Washington DC, the #1 thing I'd adopt is either Vancouver or Houston's infill/zoning policy that allows densification within single-family neighborhoods. I don't know enough about the rules in those cities to know which one I think is better, but I know that DC's unwillingness to densify single-family neighborhoods is a gigantic problem.
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  #3  
Old Posted Apr 5, 2017, 3:36 PM
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Let Seattle onto that train as well. About 2/3 of this city is single-family, with nearly zero exceptions for accessory units even. The result is prices rocketing higher.
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  #4  
Old Posted Apr 5, 2017, 4:09 PM
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I'd like LA/Bay area to learn from Tokyo and just let people build whatever they want where ever they want more or less.
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  #5  
Old Posted Apr 5, 2017, 5:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cirrus View Post
For Washington DC, the #1 thing I'd adopt is either Vancouver or Houston's infill/zoning policy that allows densification within single-family neighborhoods. I don't know enough about the rules in those cities to know which one I think is better, but I know that DC's unwillingness to densify single-family neighborhoods is a gigantic problem.
Most San Francisco SFR neighborhoods have a commercial corridor (shopping or "high" street) and many allow somewhat taller and/or multifamily buildings on that street only. I am quite comfortable with this policy. If I had a small single family home in a neighborhood of them, I don't think I'd want a multifamily building that overshaddowed me springing up next door but I would be fine with one on the shooping street a few blocks away.

Here's an example of the sort of thing going up on Mission Street in the primarily SFR Mission District:


https://www.google.com/search?q=SF+M...zqsX6EQhDL_RM:

Something similar is happening on Geary Blvd in the primarily SFR Richmond District and perhaps lower (4 floors) buildings may start being seen on the cozier commercial streets like Chestnut, Haight and so on.

Hayes St in Hayes Valley is pretty intimate and this one was just finished there:


https://www.google.com/search?q=Haye...mlyVCKIlWpu3M:
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  #6  
Old Posted Apr 5, 2017, 6:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cirrus View Post
For Washington DC, the #1 thing I'd adopt is either Vancouver or Houston's infill/zoning policy that allows densification within single-family neighborhoods. I don't know enough about the rules in those cities to know which one I think is better, but I know that DC's unwillingness to densify single-family neighborhoods is a gigantic problem.
I don't know if Vancouver is really a model to uphold.

Here's Vancouver's zoning map. Basically anything in white is untouchable, single family home districts.

You're allowed to build up to two accessory dwellings - a basement suite and a separate laneway (alley) house above a garage. However, many homeowners consider this a sacrifice in privacy for little real gain in rental income, and a rather large expense in terms of construction. The majority of the value of any property in Vancouver is in the land, so, from an economic standpoint, it makes more sense for a homeowner to tear their property down and build as large a single family home as the zoning will allow, not make any provisions for additional suites, and sell it as a luxury product.

To their credit, the planners of Vancouver have been trying to chip away at the single family home neighbourhoods here and there. One strategy is to designate large, developable parcels of institutional land as "Comprehensive Development Districts" (the purple CD-1s). These are "zones" which are evaluated strictly based on the merits of the plan submitted to the planning department by the developers, and not by the statutory force of the zoning code. It's similar to the British planning system, and was actually conceived by Vancouver's chief planner in the 1970s who was a Brit. CD-1s are almost always high density developments. In the area between two relatively close CD-1s, city planners occasionally try to allow for upzoning when they review the secondary land use plans for the area every few years. A good example of this are lands adjacent to the Cambie Corridor.

It's a piecemeal approach, and it takes years, but it's better than nothing. It's also a lot of work for planners.
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  #7  
Old Posted Apr 5, 2017, 6:29 PM
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instead of riding the light rail trend of the 80s, I wish Portland had gone ahead and developed a grade separated system. max is shiny and nice to look at but I can ride across downtown faster on a bicycle. its so sloooooow in the city. at one time we even had articulated buses. they should bring those back and have some kind of circuitous loop around downtown. wow so many complaints! ok, one more. I wish all train stations had turnstiles to keep fare evaders out. $%^& tons of neer do wells dodge fare and ride the train.
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  #8  
Old Posted Apr 5, 2017, 6:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Pedestrian View Post
Most San Francisco SFR neighborhoods have a commercial corridor (shopping or "high" street) and many allow somewhat taller and/or multifamily buildings on that street only.
Yes, that's how DC grows too. It's a nice model if growth is slow, and it produces nice mixed-use streets, but it's totally inadequate for the amount of demand in either of our cities, and is why SF and DC are among the most expensive cities. I wouldn't want to lose all DC's fabulous rowhouse neighborhoods, but there has to be a middle ground.

Compare to Vancouver, where growth in the residential areas is easy enough that developers largely leave the commercial streets (shown in green here) alone. It's a weird inversion compared to SF or DC. I'm not sure I necessarily like it better on its own, and it has made single-family houses in Vancouver extraordinarily expensive, but they can accommodate a lot more of the demand this way than we can.


image from google earth


Houston's model is more laissez faire, and seems to be resulting in a lot of much more finely-grained development like rowhouses and small apartments. This seems ideal for bungalow neighborhoods near the central city. Houston has its own problems (it's way too car-oriented and lacks the bones of SF, DC, or Van), but this may be a better model in the here and now. I'd like to know more about it. I suspect that cities better at urban design, like SF or DC, could greatly improve upon this model if we were willing to try.


@densifyingHOU on twitter
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  #9  
Old Posted Apr 5, 2017, 7:04 PM
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^^

Look at all that land around all those towers. IMHO cities are better places if large buildings are built cheek by jowl and leave the parks to the parks or countryside. For one thing, it makes for shorter walks to shopping and everything else.

But that land should be buildable and should be built on before SFR neighborhoods are disrupted.



You don't see anything like that here (the image is Rincon Hill which is SF's new locus of residential tower construction):


https://www.google.com/search?q=Rinc...uUNS-31AZH2yM:

Last edited by Pedestrian; Apr 5, 2017 at 7:18 PM.
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  #10  
Old Posted Apr 5, 2017, 7:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cirrus View Post
Compare to Vancouver, where growth in the residential areas is easy enough that developers largely leave the commercial streets (shown in green here) alone. It's a weird inversion compared to SF or DC. I'm not sure I necessarily like it better on its own, and it has made single-family houses in Vancouver extraordinarily expensive, but they can accommodate a lot more of the demand this way than we can.

image from google earth
Developers would certainly not leave those commercial streets alone if they were allowed to. Development is restricted to low-rise to maximize the amount of sunlight on the street.

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  #11  
Old Posted Apr 5, 2017, 7:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pdxtex View Post
instead of riding the light rail trend of the 80s, I wish Portland had gone ahead and developed a grade separated system. max is shiny and nice to look at but I can ride across downtown faster on a bicycle. its so sloooooow in the city. at one time we even had articulated buses. they should bring those back and have some kind of circuitous loop around downtown. wow so many complaints! ok, one more. I wish all train stations had turnstiles to keep fare evaders out. $%^& tons of neer do wells dodge fare and ride the train.
I agree. Biking is faster than MAX, walking is faster than the streetcars.

At the least, if they did cut-and-over under Broadway and under Taylor right now and then routed the NS trains under Broadway between the Steel Bridge and Lincoln, and routed the EW trains under Taylor between Broadway and Jefferson, you'd clear the worst parts. You could repurpose existing tracks for short circulator streetcars, especially from Old Town in 1st Avenue and then Morrisson and Yamhill to Prudence Park. That way MAX would be fast but there'd still be rail service connecting the waterfront to the center of downtown, and about 2.5 miles of underground track. You'd want to reduce the number of stations, but still probably seven stations underground. If it was $150 million per mile for tunnels plus $100 million per station, it'd take just over $1 billion to do that, but greatly enhance the utility of MAX.

Right now it takes 15 minutes to get from Providence Park to Old Town on MAX during rush hour. That's 1.5 miles, so an average speed of only 6 mph. If it were tunnels, it could be done in probably 8 minutes, or an average speed of around 12 mph. At that point it competes favorably with auto travel.
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  #12  
Old Posted Apr 5, 2017, 7:23 PM
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Seattle should also follow the high street model. In our Downtown and Urban Village/Center areas, retail is required nearly everywhere, with some ability to argue for a switch to live-work units in some cases.

So we don't develop great retail streets, and instead develop areas of diffused retail.
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  #13  
Old Posted Apr 5, 2017, 8:24 PM
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Originally Posted by vanman View Post
Developers would certainly not leave those commercial streets alone if they were allowed to. Development is restricted to low-rise to maximize the amount of sunlight on the street.

I think Vancouver is a great city, and really enjoy going as a tourist. I was there a few days ago and had a great time. In my opinion though, a lot of the city is soulless... The best walking parts of the city are the commercial streets, which are for the most part, low rise. Denman, Eastside Downtown, Robson and Granville, basically the areas that are void of the highrises.. Hastings in Coal Harbor is nice, but its so sterile. I think its a formula thats working for Vancouver
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  #14  
Old Posted Apr 5, 2017, 8:51 PM
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Developers would certainly not leave those commercial streets alone if they were allowed to. Development is restricted to low-rise to maximize the amount of sunlight on the street.
Ah. I would definitely not do that. 2-4 story limits on main streets is insane.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pedestrian
Look at all that land around all those towers. IMHO cities are better places if large buildings are built cheek by jowl
The shape of the buildings is not the thing I said I would mimic. "Allowing development in more places than just on commercial streets" is not the same thing as "skinny towers."

Quote:
Originally Posted by pedestrian
the image is Rincon Hill which is SF's new locus of residential tower construction
There's what, 15 buildings there? That's not a convincing example. It's not nearly enough. I'm talking about making enough land available to meet supply, and you're fixated on urban form. I'm not talking about urban form. I agree that SF has better urban form than Vancouver, but that's a totally unrelated issue and is not mutually exclusive with building in different places.
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Old Posted Apr 5, 2017, 9:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Cirrus View Post
Yes, that's how DC grows too. It's a nice model if growth is slow, and it produces nice mixed-use streets, but it's totally inadequate for the amount of demand in either of our cities, and is why SF and DC are among the most expensive cities. I wouldn't want to lose all DC's fabulous rowhouse neighborhoods, but there has to be a middle ground.

Compare to Vancouver, where growth in the residential areas is easy enough that developers largely leave the commercial streets (shown in green here) alone. It's a weird inversion compared to SF or DC. I'm not sure I necessarily like it better on its own, and it has made single-family houses in Vancouver extraordinarily expensive, but they can accommodate a lot more of the demand this way than we can.

Demolishing existing mid-density residential buildings like those in DC's and San Francisco's rowhouse neighbourhoods for slightly higher-density residential buildings is not the solution to affordability. The costs involved with construction mean that new units are rarely cheap, while making the land developeable also bids up the price of property making that existing stock less affordable, even with an increase in supply. Plus, the buildings that would be most easily targeted for redevelopment are the cheaper, older ones that right now may house much of the city's supply of more affordable housing, so you'd also have to contend with the loss of those units.

And in Vancouver's case, higher-density development is not what's made their SFH extraordinarily expensive. As can be seen in hipster duck's zoning map, a fairly large swath of the city is still zoned for SFH (only amounting to 17% of total housing stock though) - they're probably more common than in SF or DC, yet still more expensive than the latter at least. It's the investors moreso than the lack of supply that has really driven Vancouver's prices up.
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Old Posted Apr 5, 2017, 9:26 PM
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The costs involved with construction mean that new units are rarely cheap, while making the land developeable also bids up the price of property making that existing stock less affordable, even with an increase in supply. Plus, the buildings that would be most easily targeted for redevelopment are the cheaper, older ones that right now may house much of the city's supply of more affordable housing, so you'd also have to contend with the loss of those units.
The entire reason gentrification happens in affordable neighborhoods is that the growth is pushed out of expensive ones. The battleground for gentrification is NOT the gentrifying neighborhood itself; it's the not-growing already-expensive neighborhood where growth wants to go but can't because NIMBYs have pushed it away. Developers would MUCH rather build in the expensive neighborhoods than the cheap ones (because that's where demand is). The root problem is inability to build there. If you give them enough opportunity for that, the cheap neighborhoods can stay cheap.

One of the main reasons to open up residential neighborhoods to higher density is to prevent that rolling tide of gentrification that displaces all the affordable housing in neighborhood after neighborhood after neighborhood, as developers search for the next best place to build when all their preferred locations become off-limits.

I don't want to lose DC's rowhouse neighborhoods either, but there are ways to densify them much, much more without losing the historic architecture. That's what I want to do. We also have a lot of genuine low density detached neighborhoods in places they really have no business, like Cleveland Park, Van Ness, and Brookland. I wouldn't replace Dupont or Logan, but I'd absolutely let Brookland's detached houses be replaced by much higher densities.
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  #17  
Old Posted Apr 5, 2017, 9:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by emathias View Post
I agree. Biking is faster than MAX, walking is faster than the streetcars.

At the least, if they did cut-and-over under Broadway and under Taylor right now and then routed the NS trains under Broadway between the Steel Bridge and Lincoln, and routed the EW trains under Taylor between Broadway and Jefferson, you'd clear the worst parts. You could repurpose existing tracks for short circulator streetcars, especially from Old Town in 1st Avenue and then Morrisson and Yamhill to Prudence Park. That way MAX would be fast but there'd still be rail service connecting the waterfront to the center of downtown, and about 2.5 miles of underground track. You'd want to reduce the number of stations, but still probably seven stations underground. If it was $150 million per mile for tunnels plus $100 million per station, it'd take just over $1 billion to do that, but greatly enhance the utility of MAX.

Right now it takes 15 minutes to get from Providence Park to Old Town on MAX during rush hour. That's 1.5 miles, so an average speed of only 6 mph. If it were tunnels, it could be done in probably 8 minutes, or an average speed of around 12 mph. At that point it competes favorably with auto travel.
I don't know much about rail construction, do you need a certain type of soil to support a tunnel? Most of downtown as far I know is loamy and sandy so if it ever liquefied things might get messy! how about a monorail! everybody loves elevated systems. while were doing upgrades, lets destroy the steel bridge and build a...... not crappy, 100 year old, double lift span with a pedestrian deck, auto deck, max train lane, and heavy rail underneath, which is not seismically retrofitted, but responsible for all north south heavy rail from Washington to California.....bridge! they spent all that time and money to EXPAND max south to milwaukie, and they built a brand new bridge to do so. they got it reversed. they should have built a replacement for the steel bridge and reworked the traffic at the rose garden....that f()cker is a mess.
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  #18  
Old Posted Apr 5, 2017, 11:32 PM
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Agreed, Vancouver should allow tall buildings on its retail streets. I always feel like I'm near the action, not in the middle. That said, the Vancouver/Toronto model of high streets with retail-dominated and retail-only buildings does result in great retail streets. Some of that is not having many retail streets, and some is not having other uses (garage entries, building lobbies) breaking up the retail.

As for gentrification, allowing growth in upper-income areas is part of the solution, but the entire solution needs to be broader, starting with density in broad areas. For example as a default position (barring exceptions) anywhere within 200 meters of a bus or rail stop perhaps.
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Old Posted Apr 5, 2017, 11:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cirrus View Post
There's what, 15 buildings there? That's not a convincing example. It's not nearly enough. I'm talking about making enough land available to meet supply, and you're fixated on urban form. I'm not talking about urban form. I agree that SF has better urban form than Vancouver, but that's a totally unrelated issue and is not mutually exclusive with building in different places.
Vancouver's urban form means there is a lot of land in what the local planners probably consider fully developed areas that could be sites for additional buildings without the necessity of blockbusting single family neighborhoods. The same is not true in New York or SF. That was my point which you either missed or chose to ignore. When all those grassy, tree-planted parks around each tower have more towers on them, they may find it necessary to start building multifamily in SFR neighborhoods but not really until.

As for the number of buildings on Rincon Hill, the point is it is truly fully developed with buildings that are both taller and closer together than those in Vancouver, both aspects which I consider desirable and both of which squeeze more housing into less land. Hopefully, San Francisco will find places to replicate this model rather than the egregiously underdeveloped (IMHO), suburban office park-like Mission Bay. One place where it is likely to happen is the future "Hub" at Market and Van Ness and surrounding area.

Plan for "The Hub"

http://sf-planning.org/market-street-hub-project

And the bonus as far as I'm concerned is the denser neighborhoods thus created would be more walkable and more truly "urban".
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  #20  
Old Posted Apr 5, 2017, 11:54 PM
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Two things relating to the Shanghai Metro:
1. I wish they'd learn from other large cities and keep the Metro running later than 11pm - they are slowly moving this direction, opening certain lines 30 minutes later on the weekends, but it still closes far earlier than other big city metros.
2. I wish they'd stop using archaic turnstile style fare gates. Heck, most other cities in China aren't even using them anymore, let alone other world cities. They're a pain in the ass to use if you're travelling with small children or with large luggage, and the gate style used almost everywhere else are far better as they offer obstruction free passage.
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