Apartment blight
November 29, 2009 11:01 AM   Subscribe

A neighbor is trying to get a permit to build condominiums in his back yard. My neighborhood is 70% residential, and I'm afraid of what this will mean.

There's a hearing on Wednesday, and I'd like to go armed with information about the negative impact building apartments or condos have on property values and single family home residential areas.

This is in Pasadena, CA. I live in a great neighborhood where many of the buildings in my block, including mine, are Tudor cottages built in the 1920's. We're adjacent to a historic district called Bungalow Heaven.

A few homes, in previous years (like before I moved here 10 years ago), have done that same awful tacky thing, where they build a massive apartment building behind their tiny cottage.

Does anyone know of any studies about the impact of rental buildings encroaching on residential homes? Any and everything will be helpful.
posted by generic230 to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is too broad a question to give a substantive answer.

I recommend you consult with a land-use attorney in Pasadena. They will be able to help you navigate local zoning ordinances to find ways of opposing this.
posted by valkyryn at 11:07 AM on November 29, 2009

Small apartments and high density are good for the environment.
posted by delmoi at 11:11 AM on November 29, 2009 [6 favorites]

Maybe you could look up crime statistics and property values from a neighborhood before the apartments and then after? You'd have to choose neighborhoods either close to yours, or that are somehow similar in demographics. If you are armed with 5 or 6 neighborhoods similar to your own that were negatively affected in those two areas you might have a good argument.
posted by TooFewShoes at 11:20 AM on November 29, 2009

The house next to mine was purchased by people who redeveloped it, then separated it from its garden with the intention of redeveloping the garden. This was ultimately unsuccessful since everyone adjacent to the property responded to the planning application with reasons why it would be detrimental to the area. These were:

1. Contrary to the local authority's area plan for housing and development (look this up for your area).
2. On the edge of a conservation area.
3. Insufficient access to the property, both during construction and later when occupied (basically, one narrow footpath).
4. The building process would have been very disruptive to neighbours (noise, dust, etc).
5. Loss of privacy on all adjacent properties.
6. Loss of green space in a built-up area.

I started by Googling "How to oppose a planning application" and took it from there.
posted by BrokenEnglish at 11:31 AM on November 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

I don't know of any specific studies, but high-density development generally causes property values to go up, not down.
posted by boots at 11:52 AM on November 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

California planning law, including the California Environmental Quality Act, have regulations on how the review and planning process must take place. CEQA outlines how a project proponents must first address potential impacts to the community, including air quality, biology, geology, potential cultural artifacts, transportation and utilities, and other elements. Then there will also be local city/community standards on density, access, heights and setbacks that must be met.

Depending on the hearing, this might be a preliminary pre-project hearing to get input from the community members before getting a design chosen, or it might be after all the design and initial assessment has been done. If it's the former, you can now get involved and help shape the project. If it's the latter, there should be a lot of information discussing the design, potential impacts, and how those impacts are mitigated below the threshold of significance (important from the legal side of the planning process).

However it is, you should be able to contact the local planning department and talk with someone who knows more about the project. There might be information online for your review. Or you might even be able to set up a meeting with the architect (if this is already designed).

I don't think you should contact a land use lawyer just yet, you could find out that it's less serious than you first believed. If you want more insight into the planning process, or you come across some terms that don't make sense to you, you can contact me and I'll try to help out. I work in California, but each jurisdiction handles things slightly differently.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:16 PM on November 29, 2009

Does anyone know of any studies about the impact of rental buildings encroaching on residential homes?

Rental apartments and condos are residential. If you must use "residential" to mean "single-family detached housing," as though renting were some sort of provisional state of encampment, I recommend you restrain yourself at this hearing, since it's a really good way to piss off all the renters and condo dwellers from the get-go.
posted by enn at 12:24 PM on November 29, 2009 [6 favorites]

Rental apartments and condos are residential.

Yes, but different areas are usually zoned for different types of residential, either single family (which may include duplexes), or multi-family, depending on how dense the City wants a certain area to be. So, yes the OP will need to be straight on his or her terms here, but there is a basis for distinction between apartments/condos and detached homes.
posted by LionIndex at 1:06 PM on November 29, 2009

Small apartments and high density are good for the environment.
That doesn't mean people need to build them in the backyards of their houses. The owners are doing it for profit, not for the environment. Besides, it's not like OP's neighborhood is huge plots of land with mansions on them, it's a neighborhood of small cottages.
Another thing that's good for the environment is using existing structures when possible instead of constantly doing new construction.

I would go more toward the arguments on it messing up the cohesiveness of the neighborhood/historic character/planning than on property values, unless you have evidence that in your area similar projects have lowered property value.
posted by ishotjr at 1:19 PM on November 29, 2009

*I know the OP didn't say they were small cottages, but 1920s cottages usually means not huge.
posted by ishotjr at 1:21 PM on November 29, 2009

Pasadena zoning maps. It's a PDF, which is less than convenient, but it's informative. From this, you could tell your zoning and figure out what is allowed.

Also: don't confuse what someone "needs" to develop versus what is allowed. There are standards, and if the project meets those standards, there might not be much to do to completely block the project. If that is the case, look at ways the project could better fit within the neighborhood. Significant local opposition could help to scale the project back.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:28 PM on November 29, 2009

You are not going to like what I say, but you need to hear it. You have made several points in your question that are in favor of what your neighbor wants to do. You point out that your neighborhood is 70% residential. This suggests that it is 30% Non-residential. This is known as a mixed use neighborhood. You also point out that this is not only not a pioneering effort, but has been going on since before you moved into the neighborhood.

Granted, you are not a jonnie-come-lately to the neighborhood, but it may be pointed out to you in the hearing that, a) there is a well-established history of what the applicant wants to do, b) you had the opportunity, before you bought your present home, to research the uses that were planned for the neighborhood. As a former planning consultant in the Los Angeles County region, I have seen people with your concerns come to meetings and testify to the detrimental impacts of proposed projects with only the assertions that, "it's tacky" "there is a historic district next door" "nobody told me they were going to do this when I bought" etc. These are not reasons for a deliberating body to deny a project.

If you want to express serious, legitimate concerns, do your research. Do you have facts to support your assertion that this project will lower property values? I am talking about your particular area of Los Angeles County, not somewhere in Duluth. Do you have evidence that this particular project will either individually or cumulatively adversely impact traffic or air quality over and above what is recognized by the city's General Plan? These are the kinds of things that Planning Commissions and Review Boards want addressed.

Most board and commission members become very jaded by people who can only make broad MINBY complaints. If you have a cogent, factual presentation, they will be all ears
posted by Old Geezer at 2:58 PM on November 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

Let's proofread that to say "NIMBY."
posted by Old Geezer at 3:04 PM on November 29, 2009

Also, if you're coming with facts, make sure they match the local settings. Are the studies and statistics relatively current, and from similar neighborhoods? Otherwise, hastily cited studies will reinforce the notion that you're view that you're just another NIMBYist.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:11 PM on November 29, 2009

Check to see if anyone local has done traffic and parking congestion studies, ask about the current water department infrastructure for sewage and water supply, look into how the current mix of housing is using local shared resources (including public schools, etc.)

Smaller multi-unit buildings MAY be better for the environment, but that doesn't mean that a 90 year old neighborhood of single family homes can be expanded exponentially without some kind of effect on the community systems. I sold a condo in 2003 in a neighborhood where developers eventually bought up old warehouses and crammed hundreds of condos and townhomes into the existing space. A condo canyon rose up on either side of the main thoroughfare, parking problems (which had been numerous before) multiplied a thousandfold as developers were not required to also build parking structures for the hundreds of new vehicles that accompanied those condos and townhomes. Street congestion became ridiculous. And so on and so on. There was no big vision for the neighborhood, no grand plan. Just developers throwing up vertical towers right and left.

Sorry, naysayers. Wanting careful community planning that weighs the pro's and con's of vertical expansion is not a NIMBY issue.
posted by jeanmari at 8:37 PM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Get your neighbors together and plan a response. A condo development will increase lighting, parking, traffic, noise. My neighborhood successfully fought a development by a big company by working together. Each person researched a different impact, and presented at the zoning board, which passed the development, and the planning board, which denied it. Yay!
posted by theora55 at 2:50 PM on November 30, 2009

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