What Is the Anti-Density Crowd Really Afraid Of?

Yesterday, we mentioned that some people in Washington, DC, are up in arms over a zoning rule designed to let more people move in to some residential areas. Linda Schmitt, leader of a group that goes by the name “Neighbors for Neighborhoods,” is organizing against a measure that would allow people to live in existing buildings in alleyways. It was a curious complaint, because, as David Alpert at Greater Greater Washington noted, what they were all worked up over amounted to a few “cute, clean little brick house[s].”

The prospect of people living in these accessory dwellings has some DC residents in a panic. Photo: ##http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/17261/panic-your-alley-could-have-a-cute-clean-little-brick-house/##Linda Schmitt via Greater Greater Washington##

Cap’n Transit today attempts to determine what people are really upset about when they get upset about new neighbors. More than anything, he says, what’s at the heart of the complaints is not really “density,” but space for cars:

As in most cases, the threat from these cute little houses has nothing to do with parks or schools. It’s about the value of allocating land for parking and driving. For David Alpert and most of the Greater Greater Washington readership, parking is a nasty scourge that separates people’s homes from each other and from businesses without adding anything pleasant or interesting. For Linda Schmitt… parking is a scarce resource that is being gobbled up by the unwelcome new residents.

For the most part, “density” is an unhelpful, unenlightening way of thinking about neighborhood conflicts. Most conflicts about “density” are really conflicts about parking or road space. Try it yourself. Next time you’re thinking of using the word “density” in this context, try replacing it with “competition for parking” or “competition for space on the road.” I bet you’ll find it clears some things up.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Walkable Dallas Fort Worth looks at the U.S. cities with the highest drunk driving rates and finds they share a similar development pattern. Kaid Benfield at NRDC’s Switchboard blog reports that sprawl could consume 34 million acres of forest by 2060 if current trends continue. And City Block says Zipcar and other car sharing services, including long-term rentals, fall somewhere on a spectrum between car ownership and taxi use.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

What Mister Rogers Can Teach Us About Cities and NIMBYism

|
If you spend much time at community meetings, or you’re a Leslie Knope fan, you know that public forums are often where open-mindedness goes to die. Bill Lindeke of Twin City Sidewalks has been thinking about the contrast between urban NIMBYism and the ideals espoused by Fred Rogers, host of the legendary Pittsburgh-based public television show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” […]

DC Residents: Parking Reforms Don’t Go Far Enough

|
Washington, DC, is part of the wave of cities rethinking laws that force developers to build parking, which increase the cost of housing and induce traffic. As Greater Greater Washington reported earlier this week, regulations that require a minimum amount of parking at businesses and residences are slated to be rolled back or eliminated in […]

Pennsylvania Avenue Bike Lanes Provide Media Platform for Local AAA

|
Bike lanes are going in on Pennsylvania Avenue — and that makes some motorists mad. (Photo: Eric Gilliland via Flickr) In the last couple of days, several of our Washington, D.C.-area contributors have been writing about anti-cycling rhetoric coming from the local AAA chapter. AAA Mid-Atlantic has been obliging reporters looking for inflammatory quotes in […]

Finding the Buses That Need a Speed Boost

|
Mapping bus speeds in Washington, D.C. Slower lines show up as dark blue. Image: Greater Greater Washington A fresh look at old information can sometimes be all you need to better understand a knotty problem. And a fresh look is exactly what the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority provided with a new set of bus […]

Zoning Reform Will Boost Housing Affordability and Walkability in D.C.

|
A change to D.C.’s zoning code will allow homeowners to build and rent out a basement apartment, or an apartment over the garage, without the long, expensive hassle of obtaining special permission. Advocates in many high-rent cities, like Austin, have fought for this kind of legislation. It not only helps alleviate the housing crunch, it also creates better […]