REASONS TO VOTE "NO" (Part 4)
Green Space & Green Living
Lanier Heights is fortunate to have so many trees lining the streets and in the back yards of row houses. As the photo below shows, there is an abundance of roof space that seems ideal for solar panels.
Some people worry pop-ups could reduce sunlight reaching these (mostly not yet installed) solar panels or make them less effective when they are installed someday. There are better solutions to this still largely hypothetical problem than banning pop-ups. One solution has already been achieved in Lanier Heights, where the developer of a row house condo project moved a neighbor's solar panel onto the roof of the new pop-up.
Many of the large back yards on this block use less than the 60% maximum lot coverage. Under current zoning rules, these houses could be developed to their maximum living area without loss of back yard green space by "popping-up" to the 50 foot height limit. Under the 40 foot height limit that comes with the proposed R-4 zoning, maximum living area can only be reached by building over back yard green space up to the 60% limit.
These row houses inevitably will be developed to maximize available living area. Today the choice is between (1) "popping-up" another 10 feet in the front and building back over existing rooftops or (2) building over more back yard green space to keep the height at 40 feet. If current zoning is changed to R-4, the first option will no longer be possible. Any future development that aims for the maximum amount of permitted living area will have to build over currently undeveloped back yard green space.
Row house living is energy efficient. Row house condos increase energy savings. Pop-up condos can save back yard green space. We expect many more solar panels will be installed in the coming years. Simple solutions for pop-ups and solar panels to coexist have been demonstrated in Lanier Heights already.
REASONS TO VOTE "NO" (Part 3)
A Neighborhood of Millionaires
You don't need to be a millionaire to live in Lanier Heights, but as single family row house prices near one million dollars, you'll need an annual salary of at least $180,000, an excellent credit history, little or no debt and a down payment of about $200,000 just to qualify for a mortgage.
Converting a row house into three or four new homes means creating condos that can sell for less than half the cost of an entire row house.
That fifty percent difference is a big deal, especially for people who are starting their careers. Young families with dual $50,000 annual incomes can have a chance at home ownership in Lanier Heights.
Although the largest condos may be almost as expensive as an entire row house, don't forget the smaller homes in each development that sell for much less.
Lanier Heights takes its name from Elizabeth Francis Lanier Dunn, a successful real estate speculator, who subdivided the area in 1883 in anticipation of the need for new residential neighborhoods. One of the last developments was Argonne Terrace, completed in 1920, a group of seventeen row houses on one side of a new street named Argonne Place.
Today Argonne Place row houses sit opposite two massive apartment complexes, with smaller complexes near the intersection with Lanier Place and a parking garage with swimming pool near the intersection with Harvard Street. Not visible in this photo are recent pop-ups, one completed in 2007 and three currently under development. These row houses were built on much smaller lots than those typical of Lanier Place and consequently, unlike Lanier Place row houses, have virtually no back yard green space as evidenced in the photo below.
Argonne Place is just one example of the different neighborhoods of Lanier Heights. Ontario Road between Lanier Place and Columbia Road is split between row houses that sit in commercial and residential zones. Like Argonne Place, row houses on 18th Street in Lanier Heights occupy just one side of two small blocks, facing massive apartment complexes or clusters of smaller apartment buildings.
The proposal to downzone Lanier Heights treats all these different row house neighborhoods as exactly the same. Some residents on Lanier Place may worry about preserving their back yard gardens or increased noise from more people or keeping out corner stores, but those issues are not very relevant for areas like Argonne Place or Ontario Road.
More detailed discussion of the different neighborhoods within Lanier Heights and how each will be affected differently by downzoning can be found on pages 15 and 16 of our report.