CodeNEXT: Reduce and Eliminate Setback Requirements?

#1

What about the following for setbacks?

RECOMMENDATION 9

Reduce lot setbacks to 5 ft for all lots on all sides. Eliminate setbacks on sides where properties have the same owner.

Rationale

  • Standard setbacks between zones and lots provides for a simpler and understandable land development code.
  • Lower setbacks allow for more housing, more flexibility on placement of housing, and greater freedom in the design of housing.
  • High setbacks encourage heritage and other trees to be cut down because it leaves only a small area where housing can be provided. That area may already have existing trees. Lower setbacks provide the flexibility to work around trees and other areas.
  • Eliminating setbacks on sides where properties have the same owner would allow row houses without complicated requirements. This would also allow more flexibility for housing and design by allowing lots to effectively combine without having to go through an expensive process while maintaining the allowed rights for the individual lots.
CodeNEXT: Eliminate Minimum Lot Depths?
#2

There will be a lot of opposition in some neighborhoods to 5’ front setbacks. This setback should be reserved for specific urban streets where it is appropriate. Row houses should have their own requirements but be allowed in a SF zone on appropriate streets. Right now in CodeNext the “missing middle” is still missing and revisions need to address more appropriate residential types. CodeNext did not respond in any logical way to compatibility or scale at the transition zones at commercial corridors. The transects offered made no sense and should be resolved and revised. Next to each Main Street or corridor should be step down zoning to the next street or more than allows more than 2 residential units. That allows row houses, tri-plexes, four-lexes, townhomes, etc. Until that happens compatibility will continue to be an issue with neighborhoods.

#3

This is an issue I’d really like to understand better. Do you know why people like setbacks? What the appeal is?

#4

We plan on putting these recommendations to a vote starting sometime tomorrow. If you have any further specific recommendations for wording changes or examples that can be used in the “rationale” section such as links to specific research or articles, please let post here sometime today! I’ve included what I believe to be the latest wording for this recommendation below based on what everyone has said here, but if I missed something, please let us know.


RECOMMENDATION 9

Reduce lot setbacks to 5 ft for all lots on all sides. Eliminate setbacks on sides where properties have the same owner.

Rationale

  • Standard setbacks between zones and lots provides for a simpler and understandable land development code.
  • Lower setbacks allow for more housing, more flexibility on placement of housing, and greater freedom in the design of housing.
  • High setbacks encourage heritage and other trees to be cut down because it leaves only a small area where housing can be provided. That area may already have existing trees. Lower setbacks provide the flexibility to work around trees and other areas.
  • Eliminating setbacks on sides where properties have the same owner would allow row houses without complicated requirements. This would also allow more flexibility for housing and design by allowing lots to effectively combine without having to go through an expensive process while maintaining the allowed rights for the individual lots.
#5

In an urban setting, some amount of setback can be useful for a wide sidewalk? So I just wonder about the 5 foot limit. Are we assuming that some public ROW includes sidewalk? (Although in general eliminating all setback requirements, except when they are used to ensure walkability (and utilities) seems the right thing to me)

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#6

I like setbacks because they improve walkability, allow more green space next to the road.

#7

The standard story with setbacks is that increases in setbacks actually diminish walkability after a very modest amount (people enjoy walking close to buildings more than they enjoy being in direct sunlight next to a huge field of grass front lawns and driveways or parking lots).

#8

Wait, how would a setback improve walkability? Setbacks undermine walkability – puts both origin and destination further from the walking path.

Our most walkable neighborhoods (downtown and West Campus) are those with no setbacks to speak of, and neither holds a candle to, say, the almost canyonesque Gothic Quarter of Barcelona terms of walkability. Granted, other things going on there too, but the buildings being right up next to the path is one of the things that make it so walkable.

The main effect of setbacks is to mandate that environmentally harmful front lawns (or, even-more-environmentally-harmful surface parking) take up a lot of otherwise useful space.

#9

In leu of tall buildings my second favorite is the 2-3 foot road buffer with tall trees over the path and native grasses serving as filtration. But keeping tall trees alive (and pruned) in that environment is a challenge. Tall buildings with little set back that shade the road most of the day also help with the urban heat island effect. I am interested in what setbacks @lizziecc is referring to. Do you have an example you can link to in Google Streetview?

#10

A couple pics, for instance. Not perfect examples, but general gist.

Green space

Not so much green space

I hear you, Josiah and tthomas48. For instance, less heat island is certainly good, and there’s lots of ways to get there. But I don’t equate walkability with fewer steps taken, and I find green spaces can be useful spaces.

Thanks, y’all. Lots of moving parts on this.

#11

These are examples of how great the public space of a sidewalk and the right-of-way can be spectacularly welcoming and also make room for housing - both very close together:

And not only does this configuration leave more room for housing, it also works to effectively narrow the field of vision of drivers - making the street appear narrower - which instinctively makes drivers proceed with more caution and less speed in residential areas.

I think we all know that drivers frequently ignore posted speed limits - and stats show us this is most common on wide streets. But if you can affect the geometry of the field of vision for drivers, you can also affect their internalized calculations for speed.

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