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Controversial plan in Atlanta to boost residential density pushed to after elections

By David Pendered

Atlanta has postponed until after city elections the likely date of a vote by the Atlanta City Council on three proposals intended to promote construction of affordable dwellings in existing residential neighborhoods and eliminate some on-site parking requirements.

affordable housing, quadruplex

Atlanta is considering several measures intendedto add more dwelling in the city. One example Atlanta provided in 2018 is this a quadruplex next to a house on McClendon Avenue, in Candler Park. File/Credit: Atlanta

The schedule announced Wednesday morning makes it all but impossible for the three proposals to be considered by the Atlanta City Council before the Nov. 2 elections for council, council president and mayor. The first hearing isn’t scheduled until Nov. 4 or Nov. 18.

These proposals have triggered significant discussion since Atlanta Councilmember Amir Farokhi introduced them July 6. The measures are part of an effort intended to increase the number of residences in Atlanta, specifically affordable housing.

Farokhi said Thursday evening at a virtual townhall meeting the vote could be scheduled for as late as January. The exact timing depends on the nature of amendments to the existing proposal, he said.

Residents in neighborhoods including Inman Park and Ansley Park have expressed concern over a proposal that would affect more than 1,800 parcels of land located within walking distance of a MARTA rail station. One random example, a residential lot in Inman Park, could be developed into apartments. The current use is as a house of 3,513 square feet on a lot measuring 7,304 square feet, according to Fulton County tax records.

In addition to concerns over the proposals themselves is an emerging concern over process.

The issue involves the city’s Zoning Review Board when it casts its influential, but non-binding, votes on two of the three proposals. The ZRB serves as an advisor to the Atlanta City Council and its members are appointed by the mayor and Atlanta City Council to consider proposed property rezonings and special use permits, according to a description of the body.

The ZRB is to have nine members. However, the ZRB now has only four members and this number constitutes a voting quorum, according to the body’s Rules of Procedure. One question arising from neighborhood leaders is the perspective that a four-person board can bring to rezoning proposals that have the potential to recast residential property values in affected neighborhoods throughout the city.

Atlanta’s neighborhood planning units received Wednesday morning an email that outlines the schedule for considering Farokhi’s proposals. The note sent by Keyetta M. Holmes, diretor of the Office of Zoning and Development in Atlanta’s Department of City Planning observes:

  • “Based on feedback from the NPUs, the vote on housing related zoning papers will be placed on your October NPU agendas for a VOTE. This provides NPUs more time to have meaningful conversations with neighbors about items Z-21-73, Z-21-74, and CDP 21-43. You can learn more about the ordinances here. Team members from the Office of Housing and Community Development will visit NPUs again in September to provide an update and presentation on how they have incorporated NPU feedback into the legislations.
  • “The Zoning Review Board will hold a public hearing on Z-21-73 and Z-21-74 either November 4 or November 18.  Item CDP 21-43 will be heard at the public hearing of CD/HS on November 29, 2021.”

Of note, the proposed revision of the CDP that’s referenced, meaning a revision of the city’s long-range comprehensive development plan, is to be taken up after the city council is slated to vote on a complete revision of the existing CDP. The council is slated to vote on the revised CDP in October.

The draft CDP contains a number of revisions similar in purpose to the ones Farokhi has suggested. In total, they aim to increase residential density in the city. One proposed method is to increase the number of dwelling on parcels now reserved for one house.

 

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David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.

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3 Comments

  1. Dana Blankenhorn August 13, 2021 10:13 am

    Density is about walkability.

    If you want to break the single-family zoning,make sure residents can get what they need within a half-mile walk, or else you’re just adding car traffic. Modern cities will also have workspaces interspersed with residential, places where people can gather.

    That’s the problem with the garbage just approved at the Edgewood station. There’s no office space, there’s no new commercial. Just 4-story stick edifices with one-bedroom apartments. It won’t work. People are going to use their cars if they can’t get what they need within walking distance.

    You also need to assure a place for trees. This plan doesn’t do that either.Report

    Reply
    1. Melissa B August 16, 2021 4:13 pm

      Is increasing density really easier than improving public transit? I’m worried we’re skipping over the most obvious answer to get to the things we need. 🙁
      I’m doubly worried that ‘increasing density’ is equivalent to ‘reducing ownership’- whether it’s single family or not.Report

      Reply
  2. Kathi Woodcock August 13, 2021 12:44 pm

    Atlanta’s Historic Preservation Ordinance of 1989, and subsequent Ordinances, we’re supposedly written to protect buildings, sites, and the environment in our Historic Districts. Yet Mr. Farokhi’s proposal includes 223 addresses within West End Historic District!
    All of these properties are currently zoned R4-A, thanks to Cleta Winslow in 2006.
    This proposal is a betrayal to everyone who bought a house in West End believing the City’s promise of protection of our neighborhood’s historic environment.Report

    Reply

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