Denser Housing at Transit Hubs

Once the Pacific Railroad and the Central Railroad meet in Promontory, Utah, mass transit was never going to be the same. Cities starting popping all along the railroads and I started thinking about all the new development in and around the new transit hubs. There was an article in the LA Times about it (Bringing more homes, jobs to the Expo Line, June 25, 2018). There are NIMBY’S and YIMBY’S out there. As a lifelong sustainability advocate, an architect, and a citizen of the City of Los Angeles, it is hard for me to revisit where denser housing should be located when it comes to development rights. The State, county, and city work for years on these mass transit plans. They include the community and all parties willing to spend some time giving their feedback on what each person and group would like in regard to the future build out of our city. Once the input is given, or not, the city moves ahead with a plan. Once the plan is implemented and all the funding sources are, secured things start to happen. Design, property accumulation, construction, and in the end a new transit line and new hubs, pre-planned with community input, all go on line. In the later processes of the design or toward or during the construction you hear of people still fighting to hold back on these denser locations of development. The financial resources have all been approved and spending is under way by this time. The call to stop a project over density was in the beginning, during planning not at the start of construction or after comments, are over. We need housing!

My personal example was my first home. I researched the zoning issues around the property I was going to buy. I did my homework. When I bought our home we made sure, I was kept informed though the AIA (American Institute of Architects) and the City of Los Angeles of all zone change issues and permit applications on the properties around my home. We did have an alley behind us and R-1.5 zoning which was changing to R-3 housing for apartments. I knew that at some point the two-story walk up apartments were going to come down and the new three story full site apartments would go out. That just made sense. I worked for a few years with the city on the transitional height ordinance which would require the R-3 zoning to step back all floors of the apartment zone to keep a more private and sun filled back yard for my and similar properties. In the end, what I did helped all single family properties in the city and achieved what I thought was a good compromise on up scaling my neighborhood. My homework paid off for the city as a whole. Being active ahead of time is when you can really affect the zoning/city planning issues. Be proactive in your own community!

I do not think the time to fight a project or zoning issues is after the project has started. That to me means you were not doing your community any service but being a nuisance and slowing down the future which is coming whether we like it or not. Why hurt all your neighbors and the taxpayers because you were not part of the original planning. I do not like many of the issues changing, but I know that is the future. You are tasking other people’s property rights and they may have put all of their own personal assets into doing the project as a homeowner and not as a big developer. Help change the codes to scale requirements toward big and smaller projects with different development right building requirements in lieu of how it is now. Therefore, when I say you should not fight for what you specifically want for your community once the major decisions have been made, paid for by the tax payers at all levels, that is what I believe. The fight starts way ahead of time where all the real homework is being done. A citizen should be part of the community. You should not just be a thorn in a local community’s side. Be an activist for sure. But not an obstructionist.

Isaac Asimov wrote, “you should move with the changes and enjoy the ride”. It might not be what you want but the winds are blowing that way anyway so flow with it.