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Open Forum: Bring back the ‘missing middle’ housing - SFChronicle.com
"Tucked into neighborhoods throughout Oakland, Berkeley and many other Bay Area cities are small, beautiful duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes. These multifamily residences tend to be more affordable than single-family homes and were a major housing type in U.S. urban areas before World War II. But since the 1960s and ’70s, this type of essential housing has become illegal in neighborhoods throughout the Bay Area and nation because it exceeds the density allowed. That’s why it’s now called “missing middle” housing. It’s time we brought it back.

Late this month, the Berkeley City Council is scheduled to vote on a proposal to study the return of the missing middle — specifically, duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes — in most areas of the city, except for the fire-prone hills. Councilmembers Lori Droste, Ben Bartlett, Rashi Kesarwani and Rigel Robinson patterned their plan on a groundbreaking law that passed last fall in Minneapolis. In a historic vote, the Minneapolis City Council decided to become the first in the nation to once again allow for new duplexes and triplexes in single-family-home neighborhoods.

In a letter of support for the Berkeley plan, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said it could serve as a model for her city and others. Indeed, it could be a model for all of California.

It would also help right a historic wrong. During the first part of the 20th century, some white, wealthy neighborhoods in Berkeley attached racial covenants to housing deeds — covenants that banned people of color from living there. Then, after the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed racial covenants in 1916 in Buchanan vs. Warley, Berkeley, regrettably, became a national leader of so-called “exclusionary zoning” laws. These laws worked much like racial covenants: They banned apartment buildings in many neighborhoods under the racist reasoning that people of color wouldn’t be able to live in those neighborhoods because they couldn’t afford to buy single-family homes.

In the following decades, “redlining” (a discriminatory practice of refusing to loan or insure in certain neighborhoods) and disinvestment deepened the racial divide in housing, as Richard Rothstein noted in his acclaimed 2017 book, “The Color of Law.” Cities and counties made matters worse in the ’60s and ’70s when they expanded exclusionary zoning, prohibiting missing middle housing in most neighborhoods.

Berkeley deserves credit for green-lighting new multi-unit housing downtown and on some major transit corridors during the past decade. But large swaths of the city are still limited by exclusive R-1 zoning, which only allows for single-family homes. In fact, homeowners in much of the city not only can’t add another home to a large lot but are blocked from subdividing their existing large house into two, three or four units.

Berkeley, of course, is not alone in its embrace of exclusionary zoning. Issi Romem, chief economist for Trulia, estimates that single-family-home neighborhoods represent nearly half of the land mass of the Bay Area and Los Angeles. The consequences of banning the missing middle have also been devastating for low-, moderate- and middle-income families. The median sales price of a home in Berkeley soared 65 percent in five years, from 2013 to 2018, reaching $1.2 million this past December, according to Zillow. And Berkeley rent prices skyrocketed 54 percent during the same period. In the Bay Area, a family currently needs to earn $200,000 a year to afford a median-priced home.

In short, we have a housing emergency. California now ranks 49th in the nation in terms of the number of housing units per capita. It’s no wonder that our homelessness crisis continues to expand.

It’s also an environmental crisis. During the past several decades, suburban sprawl, coupled with little to no new housing in our cities, has fueled gas-guzzling super-commutes. According to a 2018 report by researchers at UC Berkeley and UC Davis, the single most important way for cities to reduce their carbon footprint by 2030 — which scientists say is the deadline for avoiding catastrophic climate change — is to build urban infill housing.

We need an “all-of-the-above” approach to address our housing crisis, including Berkeley’s missing middle plan. I’m also heartened that the Berkeley City Council members’ proposal includes important elements to avoid unintended consequences.

For example, it would exempt dangerous fire zones in the Berkeley hills. California’s devastating wildfires during the past few years have proven we must curb new home-building in what’s known as the wildland-urban interface.

The Berkeley missing middle plan also calls for anti-displacement measures to ensure that tenants and low-income residents aren’t kicked out of their homes to make way for new housing.

As Karen Chapple, faculty director of the Urban Displacement Project at UC Berkeley, rightly noted in a letter in support of the missing middle plan, “Zoning reform has the potential not just to address the housing crisis but also to become a form of restorative or even transformative justice. There is no more important issue for planners to tackle today.”

I look forward to the Berkeley City Council approving the missing middle study at its meeting on March 26. And I encourage all Bay Area cities to follow suit."
housing  california  2019  density  apartments  history  race  racism  sanfrancisco  berkeley  oakland  infilling 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Baugruppen model ditches developers so that apartment buyers save
"Baugruppen. It might sound like a mouthful but this German word could be the answer to Australia’s housing affordability woes — or at least a new way to look at the problem.

If you can’t afford a freestanding house in Australia’s capital cities, the choices for an apartment alternative are generally expensive and limited. Many of the units available are targeted to investors and are often said to be of poor quality.

Literally translating to “building group”, baugruppen in effect cuts out developers from developments. The idea is that a group of interested purchasers come together and collectively fund their own multi-unit housing project. They are often helped or led through the process by architects, and they get a say in what their resulting homes look like. Generally, these homes have a focus on quality, sustainability and shared community facilities.

“At the moment, middle to modest income earners cannot buy a decent apartment because all the stock that’s produced is generally for investors,” says RMIT housing lecturer Andrea Sharam. “But there’s now a lot of interest in different models, particularly from younger people.”

Her research has shown that apartment buyers can save up to 30 per cent through such “deliberative development” (the opposite of speculative development).

The model that took off in Germany (predominantly in Berlin) has made its way to Australia, with a handful of baugruppen-esque projects popping up throughout the country.

Two recent examples have come out of Western Australia. One is a co-housing project that was launched by the council in Fremantle, the other is an innovative collaboration between the WA government’s land development agency, LandCorp, and the University of Western Australia. Located in White Gum Valley near Fremantle, that project is targeting a 15 per cent saving for buyers.

It’s basically like paying wholesale prices on homes, rather than the marked-up retail price.

“[A group] is fundamentally assisted to become their own developer, and in doing that they save themselves the developer’s margin and the marketing costs,” says project leader Geoffrey London, Professor of Architecture at UWA.

Mr London, who was also the former Victorian government architect, says the main aims of the project are to provide more affordable higher density options, provide more sustainable unit designs, establish a community, explore shared amenities and improve the diversity and quality of designs available.

There are a few things holding the model back from taking off completely in Australia, according to Dr Sharam. One of those is the significant financing barriers, especially the high level of equity required to obtain debt financing from the banks.

Dr Sharam says this will require a whole shift in thinking from conventional development lending, understanding that buyers in baugruppen projects are not at the same risk of settlement defaults.

“It’s a whole different ball game,” she says. “Even if one buyer falls out for some reason, say they go through a divorce and can’t go through with the purchase, then you have a waiting list; a group of people waiting in the wings to come in.”

That has been true of popular baugruppen-style developments in Melbourne, such as the Nightingale series, where a waiting list was more than 800 strong.

“One of the other really big things holding us back is that prospective purchasers are failing to understand it’s up to them to initiate it,” she said.

Gerard Coutts, a project management consultant with an interest in bringing baugruppen to Australia, is on a tour of Europe studying co-housing models. He says there’s much Australia can learn from them.

“I think there is a compelling movement [towards baugruppen models] as land supply dwindles and people are pushed outwards,” Mr Coutts says. “Older people, who wish to stay in areas familiar to them, this may be the type of solution to that assists.”"
housing  germany  2017  baugruppen  community  parking  cars  development  apartments  sustainability  melbourne  commons  transportation  australia 
june 2017 by robertogreco
Dingbat 2.0: The Iconic Los Angeles Apartment as Projection of a Metropolis | DoppelHouse Press
"Dingbat 2.0 is the first critical study of the most ubiquitous and mundane building type in Los Angeles: the dingbat apartment. Often dismissed as ugly and unremarkable, dingbat apartments have qualities that arguably make them innovative, iconoclastic, and distinctly “L.A.” For more than half a century the idiosyncratic dingbat has been largely anonymous, occasionally fetishized and often misunderstood.

Praised and vilified in equal measure, dingbat apartments were a critical enabler of Los Angeles’ rapid postwar urban expansion. While these apartments are known for their variety of midcentury decorated facades, less explored is the way they have contributed to a consistency of urban density achieved by few other twentieth century cities.

Essays by Barbara Bestor, Aaron Betsky, James Black, John Chase, Dana Cuff, Thurman Grant, John Kaliski, John Southern, Joshua G. Stein, Steven A. Treffers, and Wim de Wit. Photographic series by Judy Fiskin, Paul Redmond and Lesley Marlene Siegel."
boks  losangeles  architecture  design  housing  apartments  barbarabestor  aaronbetsky  jamesblack  johnchase  danacuff  thurmangrant  johnkaliski  johnsouthern  joshuastein  steventreffers  wimdewit  judyfiskin  paulredmond  lasleymarlenesiegel  2016 
november 2016 by robertogreco
Finding a cure for the ‘Huffman virus’
"It's barely 9 a.m. and the humidity is already stifling what would otherwise be a mild August day. In front of a Tudor-style cottage in City Heights, charming with its pitched roof and multi-paned windows, there's a single tree casting shade across the sidewalk.

It's an oasis amid all the concrete. On either side of the Tudor—the only single-family home that remains on this particular stretch of 36th Street—are faded apartment buildings fronted by multiple parking spaces. Next to those are more drab apartment buildings and more parking spaces. It's a scene that repeats up and down the street.

Dubbed "Huffman six-packs," after developer Ray Huffman, these buildings, squeezed into narrow lots meant for single-family homes, are the result of hasty, shortsighted urban planning.

"Utilitarian" is how Hanan Bowman, housing director at the City Heights Community Development Corporation, puts it. Huffman-style properties were built fast to meet a perceived economic threat, he says. With new Mission Valley shopping centers luring consumers away from neighborhood businesses, midcentury Mid-City—North Park, City Heights, Normal Heights, Hillcrest, University Heights and Kensington— needed more density to help those businesses compete. In the late 1960s, Huffman started buying up single-family homes in the Mid-City area and replacing them with eight- to 10-unit apartment buildings (though few are six units, the "six-pack" tag stuck). Other developers, like Conrad Prebys' Progress Construction, followed, using Huffman properties as a model. It wasn't until the 1980s that city planners tried to curtail this sort of development. "San Diego's unhappy history of higher-density housing," is how a 2004 article in smart-growth magazine The Urbanist put it, with the consequence being a lingering hostility to any effort to increase density.

"They weren't really all that well-constructed," Bowman says of Huffman-style apartments, with "the parking in the front taking up a significant percentage of the lot space, the monolithic face of the buildings and such—while utilitarian and purposeful in the '60s and '70s, today is not appropriate for the look of the neighborhoods."

"Subdivided into meaninglessness," says Stephen Russell.

Russell's standing in the lone tree's shade, looking at the two buildings next to it. The architect and board president of the City Heights CDC is both fascinated and frustrated by Huffmans, so much so that in 2010, while at the NewSchool of Architecture, he wrote a thesis on how to revitalize older neighborhoods—Mid-City being his focus—that have been plagued by this sort of piecemeal development. What he set out to do, he says at the end of the 142-page study, was "to find a ‘cure' for the ‘Huffman virus.'"

Ideally within a year, a City Heights Huffman will become Russell's laboratory. Last month, the City Heights CDC was awarded a $50,000 grant from the Local Initiatives Support Corporation to help with the purchase and rehab of a Huffman property, which Russell will use as a case study. The question to be answered: "Can the Huffman structure be sufficiently rehabilitated, both its footprint and its street appeal," Bowman says. "Or, from a cost-benefit perspective, is it more efficient to tear it down and rebuild?"

The project's still in the early stages, and the CDC will have to cobble together money to acquire the building. The goal is to make the project replicable while also being mindful of the challenge of preserving the neighborhood's affordability. City Heights includes some of the poorest census tracts in the county, and older housing stock, like Huffman properties, are de-facto affordable housing.

"How do we come up with a solution that the market isn't going to seize on and do what the Huffmans did and just destroy all the affordable housing?" Russell says. "Because in many cases, you can't even replace what is there under the zoning.… With public monies, foundation monies, there may be a formula that works for the affordable-housing market."

The goal isn't to add density, but to better accommodate it. The density's already there: According to census data, more than half of City Heights households are considered overcrowded under standards set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Huffman-era properties are typically one-bedroom units, many no larger than 500 square feet.

"These places aren't so very dense— what they are is they're crowded," Russell says. "We've crowded everybody in this little footprint in small units."

To address the need for multi-bedroom units, the project will look at whether Huffman-era buildings were constructed in a way that would allow them to be reconfigured into a mix of unit sizes, going up to a three-bedroom space. Another option is looking at whether the parking spaces that front the properties could accommodate a couple town-home-style units.

Huffman-era apartments are defined by long stretches of driveway that allow for four or five parking spaces in the front of the building. Another four or five spaces in the back give each unit dedicated parking. But, at the same time, those front lots reduce the amount of on-street parking while also undermining public use of the sidewalk.

"You've pretty much abandoned [the sidewalk] to a car that uses it 15 seconds a day," Russell says. "Parking doesn't have to drive all of this."

So-called "reverse-diagonal" street parking—angled parking that you back into—is one option to replace those dedicated spaces. It's bike and pedestrian friendly and has been used successfully in cities like Seattle, Portland and Austin, Russell notes in his thesis. Community lots are another option. "We [need to] get past the idea that I have to have my space in front of my place," he says.

Many of the buildings have an illegal extra space, Russell points out, where the owner pulled out landscaping and poured in concrete. Some owners simply replaced the landscaping with concrete to cut back on maintenance costs. All that impermeable surface means that when it rains, polluted run-off is going into the city's storm drains. Getting rid of the front-of-building parking spots would allow for landscaping that would capture that run-off.

(There's a five-block area in City Heights that Russell refers to as the "magic blocks" because there's not a single multi-family unit. Those blocks lack the alleyways for extra parking, making the lots unattractive to developers.)

The CDC, right now, is just focusing on the acquisition and rehab of one property. But as Russell walks through the neighborhood, he can't help but see the bigger picture. He has a map with him, showing the redevelopment potential of each parcel in a four-block area of City Heights. All those Huffmans surrounding the Tudor cottage are "frozen" parcels—dark blue on the map. The rule of thumb, he says, is that for a property to be attractive to investment, a developer would need to be able to double or triple its current density. That worked great for Huffman and others who purchased single-family homes and replaced them with multi-unit dwellings. But those sites, in response to Mid-City's Huffmanization, have since been down-zoned, meaning that unless a developer can combine parcels into a larger project, this isn't an area that's going to attract market-rate development.

Condo conversions—where apartments are upgraded and turned into condominiums, offering a way around the down-zoning conundrum—prettied up Huffman properties in neighborhoods like North Park, Hillcrest and University Heights. But, largely unregulated, the conversions—which took rental units off the market, many of them affordable to lower-income folks—became another example of how not to revitalize an area. Russell says that regulations put in place by the City Council a few years ago have made City Heights unattractive to developers looking to make quick money from a condo conversion.

"Dark blue," Russell says, pointing to one of the Huffman parcels on 36th Street. "If you tore it down, you could put up half of what's on the site."

"What we did is we acted against perceived crowding by saying, ‘Stop, no more development," he adds. "So, now we're stuck with exactly what we have. It isn't going to change, and is this what we want? No, we want to stop this from happening after it happened, as is so often the case.""
kellydavis  stephenrussell  cityheights  sandiego  apartments  huffmansix-packs  urbandevelopment  urban  parking  sidewalks  density  architecture  1960s  conradprebys  progressconstruction  history  rayhuffman  mid-city  northpark  hillcrest  normalheights  universityheights  kensington  housing 
february 2016 by robertogreco
SDLofts
"SDLOFTS is a Jonathan Segal Development Company. Differing from the norm, Jonathan Segal Development plays the role of designer, architect and builder. Jonathan Segal is considered one of San Diego's most successful and pioneering residential architects/developers and has a reputation for providing superior housing at a lower cost than comparable properties.

We were among the first in San Diego to create lofts with function that follows form. We design with imagination. Our buildings work for the people inside them - and the city beyond. The results: a variety of spectacular spaces where urban residents and workers thrive together.

To learn more visit http://www.jonathansegalarchitect.com "

[See also: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2014/jun/07/north-parker-segal-apartments-design/ ]
sandiego  rentals  apartments  realestate  jonathansegal  lofts 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Vacation rentals, private rooms, sublets by the night - Accommodations on Airbnb
"Called the "Ebay for space"…online marketplace allowing anyone from private residents to commercial properties to rent out extra space. The reputation-based site allows for user reviews, verification, & secure online transactions. Listings include vacation rentals, private rooms, entire apartments, bed & breakfasts, boutique hotels, castles, treehouses, & many other traditional & non-traditional accommodations.

The open platform allows users to post listings of their space. Prospective travelers can search by city or country, utilizing filters such as price & room type…Travelers contact hosts directly through the web site, which includes user profiles & friend recommendations. Dates are confirmed through on-site messaging, & the traveler books directly online using their credit card or PayPal account. Hosts receive a reservation request which they can accept or decline. Both parties then receive an itinerary on accepted reservations, & are set to go."
airbnb  housing  hotels  couchsurfing  travel  budget  apartments  alternative  b&b  accommodations  network  vacation 
september 2010 by robertogreco
Caravan - The Free Sublet and House Swap site for Creative Folk Only
"Caravan is a house swap and short term sublet listing for commercial creatives and those working in the advertising/media/fashion/art and design industries. If you're a photographer, illustrator, art director, film director, practicing artist, stylist, designer, make up artist, DOP, producer (shall I go on?) this listing is for you. If you travel internationally for work, marketing, relocation, or just curiosity, and you're feeling the GFC pinch, read on!"

[via: http://www.good.is/post/look-short-term-shelter-for-artists/ ]
travel  housing  apartments  rent  couchsurfing  houseswap  glvo  temporary 
july 2009 by robertogreco
Tugar.net - Buscador de propiedades en venta y arriendo sobre Google Maps
"Tugar es un servicio que agrega propiedades en arriendo y venta de diversas fuentes, y las despliega sobre un mapa para que puedas encontrarlas fácilmente. Como debería ser. * MapaBusca casas o departamentos por área geográfica, ya sea una comuna, un barrio, o una intersección de calle. * MapaFíltra tu búsqueda de manera simultánea por precio o por superficie construída. * MapaObtén vía RSS o recibe en tu mail las últimas propiedades agregadas, acotadas a un rango de área específico."
chile  apartments  housing  maps  mapping  santiago  search  viñadelmar  valparaíso  property 
august 2008 by robertogreco
Marginal Revolution: How to choose an apartment
Tyler Cowen answers a reader question and solicits comments: "So, readers, when we are looking for an apartment, what is the bias we are most likely to have?
economics  happiness  life  realestate  apartments  renting  homes  psychology  lifehacks  commuting  transportation  mobility  neo-nomads  nomads  time 
april 2008 by robertogreco
Bed Bug Registry - Check Apartments and Hotels Across North America
"The Bedbug Registry is a free, public database of bedbug infestations in the United States and Canada. Use it to check for bedbug reports before booking a hotel room or renting an apartment."
travel  health  bedbugs  mapping  insects  maps  housing  hotels  participatory  apartments  bugs  maciejceglowski  maciejcegłowski 
january 2008 by robertogreco
Trulia - Real Estate, Homes For Sale, Sold Properties, Real Estate Maps
"We are a real estate search engine that helps you find homes for sale and provides real estate information at the local level to help you make better decisions in the process."
realestate  homes  housing  apartments  search  googlemaps  data  demographics  community  geography  schools 
november 2007 by robertogreco

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