Thursday, October 20, 2011

Title 21 revisions made public

Yesterday afternoon Mayor Sullivan made available the proposed revisions for the Title 21 land use code for all to see on the muni's website along with the decision made by the city on each of Coffey's proposals. A memorandum that summarizes the major proposed changes and their fate can be found on this PDF. If you wanna go hardcore, you can knock yourself out with the full 600 page Title 21 code as well. One thing I learned from the list of proposed revisions: turns out Dan Sullivan isn't that bad after all... not when compared to Dan Coffey! From my count (and don't take my word for it as I skimmed a bit), it appears that 21 of the 37 major proposals by Coffey had been rejected by the mayors office or only partly accepted. The major changes that the city did take up from Coffey include the elimination of two Midtown districts that would be zoned for mixed-use, the elimination of height limits for high rise buildings going up in Midtown, the elimination of diversified design standards for single family homes which would have prevented the sterile aesthetic look of cookie cutter subdivisions, and the elimination of requirements from developers to take up responsibility of nearby roads and drainage which may be effected by the addition of several new residences using such infrastructure (see the disaster that is Discovery Homes).

But it could have been much worse. Among Coffey's failed proposals were to reduce the Urban Design Commission's review authority to just one function: trail projects (!!!). Another proposal would have seen Title 21 codes take precedent over the Anchorage Comprehensive Plan in the event of code conflict. Similar to the first one, Coffey also proposed shortening (or "streamlining") the review process of streets and trails by reducing review practices currently used by the Municipality. While Coffey had wanted all mixed-use districts eliminated, the city has chosen to keep three but make mixed-use optional rather than required of developers. Developers who choose to build mixed-use in these areas will be given a re-zone fee waiver along with a faster approval process and administrative assistance. "The consultant" had also wanted to allow all types of telecommunication towers in residential areas though the memo claims that there was a misunderstanding and that it was not Coffey's intention to alter this. Other amendments that failed are as follows: "Reducing requirements for pedestrian connections and facilities" (only cul-de-sacs will lose the requirements, but who cares, they're cul-de-sacs), "Deletion of dumpster screening amortization", and "Deletion of townhouse landscaping standards" (only vertical curbs have been deleted), among others.

In the end, I'm kind of mixed. Particularly I'm kind of mixed on the eradication of height limits for Midtown -- but I'll go into that in another post. I am however satisfied that incentives will be provided for mixed-use buildings in the three areas that survived the cut while pedestrian connectivity has been spared along with the rest of the bulk of Title 21. The reduction of landscaping, which we all saw coming, is something that I wouldn't lose sleep over personally as I've never been to crazy for it. I have barely even gotten around to reading the existing Title 21, so I'll have to do more of that before getting a full scope of what is to come. For now, all I can say is thank goodness the other Dan is not mayor.


Anonymous said...

Glad the height limit got scrapped, somewhat annoyed the mix use zones got reduced. I wish they'd have done something more to enhance residential density, but I guess that's too much to ask our hapless politicians.

Also, I think your too easy on Cul-de-Sacs, which are a massive blight on our community.

marcus said...

I think you're misinterpreting my statement on cul-de-sacs. To me, cul-de-sacs are simply a lost cause for which landscaping or sidewalk requirements add up to, as they say, lipstick on a pig. If they stay like that while surrounding neighborhoods improve, it may also attach a stigma much the same way site-condos (such as what you see on south Muldoon Rd.)currently have thus not attracting as much demand.