Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Emperor's clothes

Look carefully at the 3rd&4th Avenues rezoning:
current zoning
proposed zoning

Clearly, the 3rd&4th Avenue rezoning will not serve its purpose. The voluntary middle-income provision lacks incentive: it won't be built. The 120-foot height cap will continue to encourage development, and the huge 57% increase in residential density will target every small old building for demolition -- eviction -- and redevelopment.

In the craze for contextual zoning, no one seems to understand that under the old zoning, huge overdeveloped towers were typically built by purchasing air rights from smaller buildings. Those smaller buildings, once having lost their development rights, have no room to develop. That protects them and their tenants.

In the rezoning, the old commercial allowable floorspace (6 FAR) is unchanged. The 6.5 community facility (dormitories) is unchanged. The only change is the huge increase from 3.44 residential FAR to 5.4, a whopping 57% increase. Instead of a few towers protecting its smaller neighbors, this rezoning will eventually replace every old building with 57% larger ones rising up to 12 stories. This is an improvement? Who is benefiting besides developers and their minions?

The EV/LES rezoning balanced upzoning with downzoning, development with preservation. But this 3rd&4th Avenues rezoning includes only upzoning, no downzoning, more development, zero preservation. And the voluntary middle-income housing has no incentive: developers get only an additional 5% market-rate if they develop the 20% affordable units. Why would a developer build affordable housing just to get 5% more market-rate space when he just got 57% for free, no strings attached? Not without a kickback.

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