Rendezvous With Density: Does It Work?

Updated: Jul 9, 2019

The latest compilation of upzoning train wrecks are in a new article from by J. Brian Charles (July 2019). Featured cities include Seattle, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, New York and... Minneapolis.

Here is the quick summary:


“While there is more supply,” says Andrew Lofton, executive director of the Seattle Housing Authority, “it’s not coming online for moderate income earners.” 

In recent years, affluent white Seattle residents have moved in and begun to push black residents south to neighborhoods such as Rainier Beach. With up-zoning now passed by the city, that movement could intensify. 


In many of the places where rezoning has taken place, luxury condominiums have sprouted up. Around Temple University in North Philadelphia, it’s not condominiums being built, but new student housing, helped by rezoning. The locals call it “dormification.” 

“There are significant concerns about gentrification, significant concerns with density,” Clarke told WHYY public radio in Philadelphia. “We aren’t sure that [the rezoning of 2011] accomplished its intended goal. The simple reality is that we need to revisit it.”

Los Angeles

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed a resolution opposing it (S.B. 50 bill - Wiener's attempt to up zone). Council members said the bill, which allows developers to pony up in-lieu payments when they don’t reach affordable housing goals for a new development, wouldn’t be effective in addressing affordability.

New York

In those first six Bloomberg years, 180,000 new apartment units were built in New York City, but few of them were in the affordable category. Minorities and the poor felt the squeeze.


Up-zoning alone, according to Freemark, won’t unleash the market to provide enough housing to bring down costs. Cities will have to do much more. 


That Seattle decided to use a scalpel to carve out areas for up-zoning instead of taking a hammer to its zoning ordinance, as Minneapolis did, underscores just how intensely residents resist changes. Minneapolis made history in December when it became the first city in the nation to up-zone its entire jurisdiction. It was a highly divisive move. More than 10,000 comments, many in opposition, were lodged during the public comment period. A lawsuit was filed claiming that increased density would be likely to cause “the pollution, impairment, or destruction of the air, water, land or other natural resources.” The up-zoning grew out of a long-range vision document called Minneapolis 2040. Its proponents have accused detractors of using environmental arguments -- which have considerable traction in the progressive city -- to maintain residential segregation. Those allegations, in turn, were challenged in the public comments. “Anyone who doesn’t get on board with their plan,” an opponent wrote, “for any reason at all, is racist.”

This entire article HERE.

The Full version of the article is HERE.

"Rendezvous With Density: Does It Work?"; by J. BRIAN CHARLES; GOVERNING; JULY 2019

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