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Eastside & Westside Neighborhoods Character Study

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The Eastside & Westside Neighborhoods Character Study represents a follow-up to the design standards study of 2010.

On March 5 City Council adopted Ordinance 033, 2013 that includes a package of Land Use Code (LUC) amendments to implement recommended strategies identified in the study process. The amendments are applicable to the Neighborhood Conservation Low Density, and the Neighborhood Conservation Medium Density zoning districts, which comprise the Eastside and Westside neighborhoods. The new standards will go into effect May 15.

Background

The Eastside and Westside Neighborhoods Character Study (study) represents an assessment of, neighborhood compatibility issues related to impacts of larger new construction projects. In comparison to the previous 2010/2011 study, which focused on building size impacts, this study takes a broader look at the character and context of the neighborhoods including building size and design compatibility.

Staff initiated the study in June 2011 after receiving direction from City Council to take a new and broader look at neighborhood compatibility and character issues in the core area neighborhoods near Downtown. The basis of the study is in response to continued concerns with potential impacts of larger additions and new construction in the city's oldest neighborhoods.

A similar study was conducted in 2010 for the Eastside and Westside neighborhoods with a resulting Ordinance approved by City Council that was later repealed in response to a citizen petition. While the previous effort led to a primary focus on building size aspects, the current study has emphasized a broader perspective to understand the character, larger context of compatibility, and threshold for change in these neighborhoods.

The initial direction for the new study began with a goal developed by a Council Ad Hoc Committee to:

Retain and enhance the unique character and context of the neighborhoods as they continue to change with renovations, additions, and new housing construction, with a well-supported and effective public process resulting in appropriate and mutually agreeable solutions.

The study is summarized in a highly illustrated Strategy Report with information on the character and context of the neighborhoods, community engagement, issues, and strategy options for City Council consideration.

The study identified and clarified a number of key issues with ongoing changes that affect existing residents and the unique character and context of the neighborhoods. These issues led to the strategy options. Key issues include:

  • New construction that appears to be overly large in relation to its context
  • Building walls that appear to loom over neighbors
  • Reduced solar access/shading issues
  • Incompatible design features
  • Loss of older/more affordable houses that make the neighborhoods unique
  • Loss of green space and mature trees

The study process included extensive public outreach that included identification of neighborhood objectives and issues, and defining. The study process and findings are summarized in a final Strategy Report. This report also includes staff recommendations to implement five strategy options that were presented to City Council at the Work Session on November 27, 2012. The staff recommendations at that time did not include revising existing Floor Area Ratio (FAR) standards, because the team concluded the proposed design standard sufficiently addressed neighborhood compatibility issues, and revising the FAR did not reflect a mutually agreeable solution from the public. City Council directed staff to proceed with implementation of those strategy options, including development of the formula to revise the existing maximum FAR standard.

Some of these strategies involve Land Use Code changes that are the subject of the Ordinance, and others are administrative or involve future actions as follows:

  • Promote the City's existing Design Assistance Program. This involves ongoing administrative actions, including such measures as a marketing brochure, newsletter, neighborhood mailings, and posting program information online.
  • Expand neighborhood notification of variance requests.
  • Create voluntary design handbooks/guidelines to provide specialized information for interested owners and builders on compatible development in unique character areas throughout the neighborhoods. These products would be developed as part of future planning efforts that will need to be budgeted and incorporated into the staff work program. Staff is recommending implementation of this action concurrent with neighborhood plan updates for the Eastside and Westside neighborhoods in 2014.
  • Adjust existing height-at-setback and FAR measurement methods in the Land Use Code for the N-C-L and N-C-M zoning districts.
  • Address building mass and solar access, including revisions to existing FAR standards, and new design standards to address mass and solar impacts.
  • Illustrate the effect of potential standards on new construction.

A series of public meetings were held in January 2013 to present a draft potential package of LUC amendments to implement the strategy options. Staff received a mix of opinions from the public on the proposed standards, especially relating to revisions to the Far standards. An additional Council Work Session was held on February 12 to discuss options for FAR standards, which included direction for staff to describe these options for Council to consider on First Reading.

Staff prepared two options for Council to consider for the proposed package of potential LUC amendments to be included in the Ordinance at First Reading.

  • Option A reflects a package of LUC amendments that implement the five recommended strategy options as well as a revision of existing FAR standards using a new formula.
  • Option B reflects a package of LUC amendments that implement the five recommended strategy options, but does not include a revision to existing FAR standards.

City Council adopted Ordinance 033 that included Option A on March 5, 2013.

Contact info

Pete Wray, Senior City Planner
970-221-6754