As expected, the “infill toolkit” has reared its unattractive head again in the form of an article in the Herald (click here to read the article) by Jared Paben, who seemed to find all sorts of folks to talk to for the article (the mayor, council members, builders) except single family homeowners. The Zonemaven has already cautioned his readers on the pitfalls awaiting the neighborhood residents who might foolishly allow these benign-sounding "tools" where they live. (Click here, here and here to read some previous blog entries on the subject.) So let us look at the comments from these folks who would have you believe that they have only your best interests at heart.
The Mayor: “ ‘I think well-designed infill adds positive value to a neighborhood over time,’ he said. But no matter how good the housing types, if the city were to force them on a neighborhood there would be a huge pushback, he said.” Such a statement deserves some explanation, some backup, some proof but, no, it just lies there, like verbal road-kill, for the public to accept at face value. Speaking of value, just what is that value about which the Mayor is speaking? Perhaps if the Mayor explained that value, the “pushback” might be replaced by welcome banners and a band. When the citizens do push back, they get responses from the Mayor such as I received several weeks ago. Click here to read that blog entry and click here to read my letter to the Mayor which prompted his reply.
Planning Director Stewart: “The mayor's comments came after city planning Director Tim Stewart told the Planning Commission in September he would recommend against automatically allowing toolkit homes in single-family areas.” This is probably the only sensible comment coming from the city government on the “tool kit”, however, such talk disturbs (guess who?) ….. the developers!
Mr. Developer: “Developer Ted Mischaikov … said that the toolkit items, which were drafted after a series of public
Council Member Barbara Ryan: “Some neighborhoods have large lots that could accommodate the so-called "infill toolkit" homes but residents don't want infill, said council member Barbara Ryan, an Edgemoor resident” You betcha! The Mayor would have a hard sell with the “tool kit” in Edgemoor where there is space aplenty… and some great views. But then again, Mr. Mischaikov would welcome such infill, no?
Council Member Stan Snapp: “ ‘If I were a developer or I were a homeowner and wanted to put a carriage house in the back of my house ... I wouldn't want to wait 11 months to even apply for it,’ said council member Stan Snapp, a Silver Beach neighborhood resident.” Some aphorisms come to mind. Haste makes waste. A moment on the lips, forever on the hips. Act in haste, repent at leisure. Once one of those tool kit “items” lands next door to you, it is, for all practical purposes, permanent as will be the problems that stem therefrom.
Council Member Jack Weiss: “Council member Jack Weiss, a Birchwood resident, said a process of allowing them in single-family areas has to balance addressing neighborhood concerns with ensuring the process isn't onerous for landowners.” So here we have a one-time process that should not be onerous but whose result can have virtually permanent effects. Not the balance the Zonemaven would be looking for.
The Zonemaven might be more accepting of the “tool kit” items, if not for the poor record of enforcement of the zoning codes which resulted in the uncontrolled infill we already know about in the form of illegal rooming houses. Once these ADUs, and carriage houses are allowed in an area, the push for their proliferation will overwhelm the city’s ability to control it in spite of our city managers’ protests to the contrary. The dollars (cha-ching!) will drive the infill train and without adequate enforcement, live-in homeowners will eventually bow to those dollars (cha-ching!), move into the ADU or carriage house and rent the “big house” (cha-ching!) to a gaggle in violation of the city code on single family rentals. You can take that to the bank. (cha-ching! cha-ching! cha-ching!)