I am starting work on an amendment to the Administrative Review process for new housing under four units.
The current process features a list of 24 design standards of quality housing, and requires builders to get at least 15 points. It has quite a bit of support on the Council and among Planning staff, because it significantly streamlines review of the most common, and usually least controversial structures in our communities: new single family homes and duplexes.
However, some neighborhoods, especially those with substantial student populations, object to the type of single family home construction going on. In these neighborhoods, there are some well-documented examples of very large houses with inadequate numbers of windows, incomplete porches and other structures, clearly built as cheaply as possible to extract maximum profit from student renters.
The Administrative Review process does not include any opportunity for formal comment by neighborhood groups. The downside to the efficiency of the process is that significant concerns of surrounding residents are not being taken into consideration.
The Administrative Review process is here to stay, but I think there are ways that it could better serve neighborhoods. I am currently exploring the following options for reforming it:
- Using the same 24 design standards, but increasing the number of points necessary for approval
- Reviewing, expanding and raising the standards, with community input, to help limit construction of some of the most objectionable houses from being built
- Adding a new design standard for formal community review, and increasing the points required for approval by the same amount that this design standard would be worth
- Creating a bifurcated process by which certain ‘gold standard’ projects (for example, those that get over 20 of 24 points) do not require neighborhood review and approval, but houses in the ‘acceptable’ range (15-20, for instance) must obtain formal approval from the appropriate neighborhood group
I will be working with staff and my colleagues to find an option that seems workable, with the goal of introducing this item by early next year.