We Are Not Alone
Problems with over-building and loss of green space that led to our new zoning rules are not unique. Scroll down to see articles we featured last fall from communities as different as The Hamptons and Key West, FL. Their stories inspired the creation of this "We Are Not Alone" page.
There is no story more analogous to our plight than that of Solana Beach, California. This coastal town in Southern California, about 20 miles north of San Diego, is a small community of about 3 square miles, a popular vacation destination with a vibrant business district. It has a traditional beach-town ambience with eclectic cottages and contemporary homes not built to the property line.
In 2007, new oversized homes that were built to maximum were proliferating among the city's cottages and bungalows. The City Council passed an ordinance to rein in the size of homes with new FAR regulations of about 50%.
The city's laws allowed for residents to compel a referendum vote, and opponents of the new ordinance gathered enough signatures that the City Council was forced to either rescind the ordinance or put it to a public vote. Sound familiar?
Predictably, the California Association of Realtors opposed the ordinance and spent nearly ten times as much as a grass-roots citizens group to fight against it, for what they saw as a property rights issue. But, supporters of the city's green space and charm prevailed and the ordinance was upheld in the public election. Among the supporters was a local realtor, who was quoted in a news article. Victoria Schall said, "I am a huge proponent of 'Don't tell me what to do with my property.' But there comes a point when reasonable restrictions will give us the community we truly want to have."
So, how has the new zoning worked for Solana Beach over the past 8 years? The deputy mayor tells us that property values are significantly higher, and they've appreciated faster than most other towns in the area. It is especially interesting to note that about half of the new construction projects approved since the new zoning went into effect are within 2-4% of the maximum allowed size.
The take-home message is that building trends, especially in coastal towns, indicate that many homes will still be built to the maximum allowed by code, making it critical for communities to have the right codes that are in keeping with scale and provide enough green space for aesthetic appeal and storm water runoff.
From around the country:
This article, published in the New York Times in August 2015 is called “The Battle for the Soul of the Hamptons.”
More details about oversized houses in Southampton are in this article.
“Residents in Southampton Village have complained that developers in the past year have squeezed six- and seven-bedroom houses onto 1-acre and half-acre lots, altering the village's look and character.” Imagine the same sized house on a 1/8 acre lot! That is what we have in Rehoboth Beach!
This article was published about Key West.
“. . .we’re slowly becoming that type of place we don’t want to be, because of the pressure to continue to build and build and totally build out our lots. . . As we write this code, we will wind up with a community we want to have.”
On October 9, The New York Times published this article about the surge of rental properties in Austin, Texas. As investors rush in to buy houses to be used solely as rentals, problems have emerged.
Problems with scale of residential building occur in big cities too. Los Angeles is experiencing an overbuilding crisis now. See their site here.
"Mansionization is not about big houses. It’s about houses too big for their lots."