Author Topic: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?  (Read 21452 times)

WhoopWhoop

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How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« on: August 25, 2015, 10:21:02 AM »
I live in an area where there is currently a housing bubble. People are willing to pay insane prices for modest homes just for a chance to get into a nearby magnet school.

Needless to say, the housing developers like to buy up lesser-performing properties, knock them down, and build "meh"-quality, high-density houses because they know they can charge absurd prices for average homes. They've been doing this for 15 or so years, but it's really picked up in the last 10 years or so since the local school became nationally recognized.

Word got out that another one of these projects is in the application phase. Basically, they already bought the land (the money is in escrow, contingent on the city approving their building plans), submitted their application, and already have the proper zoning and meet all the usual requirements. Word got out, and the local residents are P-I-S-S-E-D. They all hate this housing. They believe our small city is already too crowded. We all have now attended one meeting with the developer and one meeting with the city council, letting our opinions be known.

Only problem: I don't believe the city council can stop the developers. The city may be able to change zoning rules in general for the future, but I don't believe it can stop this particular project. They basically said (and I was reading between the lines) that if the developer fills out all the proper paperwork and jumps through all the usual loops, the city cannot deny their purchase of the land or deny the building of their housing project. I imagine that city hall is not permitted to willy-nilly deny or approve housing projects based on whims, else they could be accused of discrimination or even be susceptible to bribery.

So, the question is: Are there any creative ways to stop housing that the local citizens are against?
  • Protest and get in the way of construction machinery?
  • Threaten to boycott any local real estate agent that attempts to sell these houses?

Do you have any ideas? Have you ever seen anything work?

MayDay

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #1 on: August 25, 2015, 10:27:12 AM »
You not liking them seems like a silly reason to stop them.

Generally high density housing is much better than low density sprawl, which is what you end up with if you block the high density build.

Around here they can attach requirements (turn lanes, other road improvements paid by developers) and make developers pay an extra tax to the schools to fund them.  The only true stop to a project we saw was when they were trying to build an ethanol facility in the rural area outside the town.  The town annexed a big chunk of land and passed laws against transporting something or other that they needed for the plant through town.  The project wasn't feasible if they had to truck stuff all the way around.  The other thing they do here is fund an open space committee through taxes.  The committee buys restrictions to property.  They attach development restrictions to property in return for a one time payment to the owner, with owner agreement.  Then the property is only permitted one single family home from now on.

Otherwise, the developers just work around it.  They told developers a big neighborhood had to be one acre lots, so the developer got the land annexed by a different town, who allowed 1/4th acre lots. 

Another Reader

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #2 on: August 25, 2015, 10:45:21 AM »
Your city wants high density housing.  Housing consumes more revenue than it generates, so cities hate it.  They want the land to be used for commercial and industrial purposes, which are overall net revenue positive. 

In San Jose, thousands of for sale and for rent high density units are being built.  City council members are proud of the 65 units per acre they are achieving.  They are schizophrenic about cars, saying the units are being built near light rail and/or transit hubs that no one can use to get to work or anywhere else.  They build parking, but do things to make it inconvenient, such as build apartments around parking garages.  What single family they permit is almost all zero lot line, multi-story, with no back yards.  Absorption of these units is slow.  No family with small kids will choose steep stairs and no yard if there is another option.

All this high density building is causing huge traffic problems.  It takes three lights to make a left turn at some major intersections even at non-peak times.  The traffic assumptions used to get these projects through include a lot of public transit use, which has not happened and will not happen as long as there isn't any useful public transit.

The only good news in my house on a 1/3 acre lot in an excellent school district keeps climbing in value because single family homes with yards and good schools are what people want and are willing to pay for.

If you want to stop it, you have to elect people that are opposed to it.  That's almost impossible now.  All urban planners are trained in promoting this stuff now, so you have a City planning bureaucracy, revenue concerns, and the support of the developers that make money on these projects, all pushing in the other direction.
« Last Edit: August 25, 2015, 10:52:22 AM by Another Reader »

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2015, 10:49:04 AM »
Don't.

seattlecyclone

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #4 on: August 25, 2015, 11:59:11 AM »
Please don't. People should be able to count on the idea that they can build what they want on their land so long as their project complies with the zoning laws that are publicly known and enforced in a fair, even-handed, predictable manner. San Francisco has basically adopted a policy where neighbors have the right to veto projects on a case by case basis. Almost nothing gets built because the average person is averse to change and they will vote to keep things the same when they are given a choice. The result is that housing supply has failed to come even close to keeping up with demand, and the price of existing units has increased much faster than inflation.

This is a major social justice issue. Do you want to restrict housing supply to the point that your children won't be able to live in the community where they grew up unless they get a highly paid tech job? Or should we allow enough housing to be built so that people with average incomes can afford to live in our communities? Do we want to maintain a population density low enough that everyone needs to drive everywhere, or do we want to allow some development that will bring in enough population density that there are plenty of businesses within walking/biking distance, and greener mass transit becomes a viable option for medium-distance travel? These are things you will need to discuss as a community. Going forward, you can certainly vote to downzone the whole town so that it becomes a millionaire's enclave that will forever look exactly the same as it does now, or you can welcome newcomers who will patronize (and start) local businesses, volunteer in your community, and everything else that good people do.

If you and your neighbors really wish to stop this project, you should get together and purchase the property from the developer and build something more to your preferred scale. Anything else is an abuse of process.

historienne

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2015, 12:06:20 PM »
High density housing is almost always better than the alternative, which is either 1) sprawl (lots of low-density housing) or 2) unaffordability (if no new housing can be built, the housing that exists quickly becomes unaffordable.  Perhaps good for your personal wealth but bad for the city overall).


gReed Smith

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2015, 12:09:19 PM »
I feel bad for all the kids whose parents want them to go to a better school.  You want to stop them because... what?  You think their new home would be ugly?  They're more likely to minorities or working-class?  :(

KMB

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #7 on: August 25, 2015, 12:32:55 PM »
If you get in the way of construction equipment you'll likely get arrested.

If the developer is building by right, and it sounds like they are, your city commission is probably encouraging this type of development. If you want to stop future development like this you'll need to attend planning and city commission meetings regularly, voice your opinion and find other to do the same. You'll have to change the zoning code, which would force the developers to ask for variances. When a developer asks for variances, that's your chance to directly influence the project. Attending and speaking up at these meetings is a very effective method for changing policy. Elected officials will take your opinions seriously.

But you should also consider changing your opinion about density. Done correctly, with respect for the human scale, high density development will positively influence property values, reduce property taxes and create a better sense of place in your community.

lsaurus

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #8 on: August 25, 2015, 12:47:04 PM »
You sound like a typical NIMBY. You like your neighborhood and think it's time to close the draw bridge and not let anybody else in.

TrMama

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #9 on: August 25, 2015, 01:04:30 PM »
We were able to convince the city to downgrade a developer's application to build a 6 story condo tower in our backyard. The developer will now only be able to build 3 story townhouses. I'm happy with that and have to trust the developer and blaster won't damage my house when they start blasting.

When we were opposing, we approached the city with safety concerns. The land in question is a narrow strip running horizontally along a steep hill. The strip is actually a small plateau and there are higher end SFH homes on both long sides that are below the strip. The developer wants to put the access road on one of the short ends. This access point is in the inside curve of a sharp, already accident prone corner. There's another side street just above the access point and once the new one is built it will create an offset "intersection". Frankly, the road design is already a mess and this will make it worse.  My suggestion of putting the access road in a safer location off the main road was shot down.

Additionally, we're in earthquake country. Historically, in our area it's not the earthquake that kills and damages, it's landslides caused by the earthquake. So I was pretty concerned about a tower being built on the hill above my house.

If you go to the city with plain old NIMBY concerns, they'll tell you to go pound sand. However, if you approach them with legitimate, rational concerns (safety, access, etc) you may be able to get the project modified to something less objectionable. Especially, if you can point out pitfalls that will cost the city money after the thing is built. In that case, the project may become less lucrative for the developer and it may get delayed. In our case, the lot has been rezoned for higher density, but nothing's happened for several years.

You may now all facepunch me for objecting to a giant safety hazard in my back yard.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #10 on: August 25, 2015, 01:06:15 PM »
No, opposing it for safety reasons I get. Opposing it for not-liking-it reasons is wrong, and the cities that have turned this into law are suffering for it.

iris lily

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #11 on: August 25, 2015, 01:10:41 PM »
Ah well, always the NIMBY accusers come out. I ignore them.

After living in my urban core neighborhood for 25 years I have learned that you fight for your neighborhood, the development you want there, and yes even the sort of people you want there  because--guess what--people with crappy values suck as neighbors.

Over 25 years we have fought an open prison within 1 block from our house, burnt out high rise public housing towers, multiple section 8 developments, etc. My neighborhood is the strongest and most organized of all neighborhoods in this city. No ones messes with us, the politicians know better than to pull crap on us.

Across the street from where I live was 1 block of undeveloped land. For 25 years we wanted single family housing to go up there. For 25 years we waited. During the housing boom we watched  developers market plans for high density high end (and terrifically ugly, not-to-scale block building) and miraculously, the market rejected those plans. No one wanted to buy 'em.  Did I mention that they were ugly and out of character for our neighborhood?

Then, after the housing boom and with deflated prices for this property, a reasonable builder came along with a plan to build nice single family houses where he would make a modest profit. These house are actually very high end, ranging from $365,000 to $600,000 and that's a lot in my area. While the designs aren't completely fabulous, they are nice. I am happy with them and I like looking at them. They did have to conform to design standards for our neighborhood.

New people are willing to spend this kind of money in our urban core neighborhood because we are known as a nice place to live, despite city crime. Our streetscape is handsome, many of the Victorian houses are fabulous, and neighbors take an active role in neighborhood upkeep. We work with the city for the big stuff and we spend endless hours on landscaping, building extra features, etc. etc.

Briefly I will will say that my political leanings changed from liberal to conservative over the years of watching the federal government try its best to f*ck up my neighborhood and the nearby area with its ridiculous housing policies. My neighborhood was brought back from a slum by urban pioneers who fought for every brick and cornice here and the feds don't give one crap about that. But I digress.

OP, I don't know how you stop development that you think is unrealistic, other than putting pressure on your political representatives. If you city's planning agency thinks this is appropriate development, there isn't much you can do about it. But getting involved politically to drive an urban plan is a good way to channel your energy and to head off the next bad building project.


gReed Smith

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #12 on: August 25, 2015, 01:41:14 PM »
Ah well, always the NIMBY accusers come out. I ignore them.

After living in my urban core neighborhood for 25 years I have learned that you fight for your neighborhood, the development you want there, and yes even the sort of people you want there  because--guess what--people with crappy values suck as neighbors.


I find using government authority to trample other people's property rights to be fairly crappy values.

dragoncar

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #13 on: August 25, 2015, 01:52:49 PM »
Ah well, always the NIMBY accusers come out. I ignore them.

After living in my urban core neighborhood for 25 years I have learned that you fight for your neighborhood, the development you want there, and yes even the sort of people you want there  because--guess what--people with crappy values suck as neighbors.


I find using government authority to trample other people's property rights to be fairly crappy values.

Sounds nimby to me... Am I missing something?

mm1970

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #14 on: August 25, 2015, 01:55:04 PM »
I feel your pain.  I'm not sure what town you live in, or what you can do, but ...


I live in Santa Barbara.  We have very tight housing controls, and a Coastal Commission.  What has that done for us?

Well nobody really likes dense housing.
But they don't want any housing.
But they hate the traffic that comes from commuters.

When they build  housing, they never account for enough parking, so that's a nightmare.

I feel for the locals that grew up here, and cannot afford to stay.  I really do. Because who can afford an $800k house?

Your city may not be able to do anything about this now.
But they will have to change their laws for the future.  Zoning, minimum lot size/ max homes in an area.  Our area has made rules for the number of homes that have to be "low income" in a new development.  Otherwise, it's nothing but multi million dollar homes.

I'm not sure that you can do anything now, aside from go to city council with signatures and see if that works.
That has worked here before.

But maybe in the future?
I mean, I'd be pissed if someone started building large apartment buildings next to my house.  That's not the feel of my neighborhood.  If I wanted that, there are plenty of "mixed" hoods in my town.

affordablehousing

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #15 on: August 25, 2015, 02:36:42 PM »
One thought- what about hiring homeless people to be homeless in front of the new development, making the finished development harder to rent up or sell out? You'll be doing a public service by employing the homeless, and helping yourselves by making your neighborhood less appealing. Better tactic if you're a renter. If you're a homeowner, just enjoy the increase in your home equity and sell when the project finishes.

In my part of Brooklyn a high density development caused the same reaction, and it cracks me up watching neighbors picket, yell, scream and throw tantrums as they forget to tell city officials about their skyrocketing home values (even faster growing than other neighborhoods because of the new project amenities). Many neighbors at this point have cashed out and either moved out of the neighborhood or rent their homes out on Airbnb.

I hear you that high-density sucks, but don't let your hatred own you.

Paul der Krake

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #16 on: August 25, 2015, 03:00:14 PM »
This American Life had a great podcast a few weeks back. It was disguised as a story about segregated schools, but the juiciest bits stemmed from the concerns of a very average middle class district and what the influx of poor black kids were going to do to their property values.

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/562/the-problem-we-all-live-with

You seriously wouldn't believe what people are willing to say in public when their property values are being threatened.

vhalros

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #17 on: August 25, 2015, 03:16:59 PM »
Ah well, always the NIMBY accusers come out. I ignore them.
...

Well, to be fair, that (the omitted body of your post) is basically the exact definition of NIMBY.
« Last Edit: August 25, 2015, 03:42:23 PM by vhalros »

merula

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #18 on: August 25, 2015, 03:38:28 PM »
OP, can you please clarify why you want to stop this development? I want to give you the benefit of the doubt, because there are developments in my neighborhood that I'm not really a fan of. (Does the world really need another Jimmy John's?)

I think that the lack of details in the original post have brought out people calling "NIMBY", but the lack of reasons stated isn't evidence that there weren't reasons (like landslide safety) that just weren't explained.

MoonShadow

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #19 on: August 25, 2015, 03:45:42 PM »
I live in an area where there is currently a housing bubble...

Word got out that another one of these projects is in the application phase. ...

So, the question is: Are there any creative ways to stop housing that the local citizens are against?

Do you have any ideas? Have you ever seen anything work?

I think that a better question is, should you?  The solution to rising housing prices is more housing on the market. that's basic supply & demand.  Are you trying to keep the bubble going?  Or do you just not want lower class families to move into the area at all?

WhoopWhoop

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #20 on: August 25, 2015, 03:53:49 PM »
  • sprawl vs high-density: It's already sprawled (California suburb), so it's too late to make that argument.
  • I think it's ridiculous to compare a suburban town to the mess that is San Francisco. I don't think the argument of "slippery slope" is relevant. Besides, I have lived in SF/Bay Area and there are plenty of housing options there for the average citizen.
  • unaffordability - there ARE cheap(ish) options within our city limits and in the neighboring suburbs as well. Mobile home parks are quite popular around here.
  • This has nothing to do with racism or fear of the poor. It's an ethnically mixed neighborhood, and I seriously doubt the poor are going to be able to buy these $600k-$1mill houses...
  • property values - This is not people's concern. Their concern is over crowding. Property values in my area would continue to go up even if a bunch of bandits moved in next door and started ransacking the city. That's how nuts people are about moving to our city just to get their kids into our school.

Quote
You sound like a typical NIMBY. You like your neighborhood and think it's time to close the draw bridge and not let anybody else in.

I know that's supposed to be an insult, but this is mildly accurate. The neighborhood was much better 10 years ago when there was less over-crowding. Every year, the population increases, and things change for the worst little by little, bit by bit (regarding various quality of life issues). If the people who live here decide that they'd like to stop that trend by closing the draw bridge, they should be entitled to it. After all, local governments are designed to serve the community's/citizens' wishes (not the wishes of outside profiteers or the government's own interests). That's what we pay them for.

The above is what most of my neighbors would argue. I, as the only 28 year old non-homeowner in the crowd, have different reasons for opposing these developments, but I don't want to get into it on an online forum. I simply want to know what a community can do (if anything) when it's government cannot stop a new development.

Anyway, thank you for the info on what has worked and not worked in your communities. I suspect we won't be able to stop the current developments, but I thought it was worth Googling and asking the MMM forum.

MoonShadow

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #21 on: August 25, 2015, 03:57:05 PM »
You may now all facepunch me for objecting to a giant safety hazard in my back yard.

A facepunch is only due if your concerns about a landslide causing damage to your property as a direct result of development is unfounded.  Which, honestly, it probably is.  Landslides do happen, but it's not like the developers are not liable if something that they have done makes such an event more likely.  There are best practices for every area & type of construction.  If the developer is not following the 'best practices' for this kind of construction, on a hillside, in your geological area; then you have an argument.  But if a landslide is likely to occur in that area, undeveloped, with a catastrophic earthquake (say 9.2 on the Richter), then a massive foundation of concrete & rebar is more likely to stablize the natural hillside than make it more hazardous.  Right now, it's just packed soil and rock, but not with any reliable binding agents.

Bracken_Joy

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #22 on: August 25, 2015, 04:00:13 PM »
Following, as this is a very interesting discussion. At the forefront in my city right now. Lots of high density housing and gentrification. Main complaints being that the new housing doesn't fit the historic character of areas, and services aren't expanding to meet increasing demand.

I'm unsure my opinions on the whole thing. I've only been here a few years, and am from rural stock.

zoltani

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #23 on: August 25, 2015, 04:12:52 PM »
  • sprawl vs high-density: It's already sprawled (California suburb), so it's too late to make that argument.
  • I think it's ridiculous to compare a suburban town to the mess that is San Francisco. I don't think the argument of "slippery slope" is relevant. Besides, I have lived in SF/Bay Area and there are plenty of housing options there for the average citizen.
  • unaffordability - there ARE cheap(ish) options within our city limits and in the neighboring suburbs as well. Mobile home parks are quite popular around here.
  • This has nothing to do with racism or fear of the poor. It's an ethnically mixed neighborhood, and I seriously doubt the poor are going to be able to buy these $600k-$1mill houses...
  • property values - This is not people's concern. Their concern is over crowding. Property values in my area would continue to go up even if a bunch of bandits moved in next door and started ransacking the city. That's how nuts people are about moving to our city just to get their kids into our school.

Quote
You sound like a typical NIMBY. You like your neighborhood and think it's time to close the draw bridge and not let anybody else in.

I know that's supposed to be an insult, but this is mildly accurate. The neighborhood was much better 10 years ago when there was less over-crowding. Every year, the population increases, and things change for the worst little by little, bit by bit (regarding various quality of life issues). If the people who live here decide that they'd like to stop that trend by closing the draw bridge, they should be entitled to it. After all, local governments are designed to serve the community's/citizens' wishes (not the wishes of outside profiteers or the government's own interests). That's what we pay them for.

The above is what most of my neighbors would argue. I, as the only 28 year old non-homeowner in the crowd, have different reasons for opposing these developments, but I don't want to get into it on an online forum. I simply want to know what a community can do (if anything) when it's government cannot stop a new development.

Anyway, thank you for the info on what has worked and not worked in your communities. I suspect we won't be able to stop the current developments, but I thought it was worth Googling and asking the MMM forum.

Yes, that is it right there!

Another Reader

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #24 on: August 25, 2015, 04:26:49 PM »
It's a myth that local governments serve the interest of those that elected them.  They serve the interests of whoever is paying the bills that keep them in office and move them up the political helix.  They do not care what you think, because you do not understand the "business of government."  If you want a real eye-opener, attend a city council or planning commission meeting in San Jose.  The impatience with and contempt for the public is obvious.  They have private security, in the form of bar bouncers, at their meetings.  Talk a few seconds over your time, and the guard will intervene.  He grabs and pushes people that are in line to speak, including children.  Yep, that's local government serving its' citizens.

I vote and I pay taxes.  So yes, I am entitled to have a say in what is built in San Jose.

WhoopWhoop

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #25 on: August 25, 2015, 04:27:44 PM »
  • sprawl vs high-density: It's already sprawled (California suburb), so it's too late to make that argument.
  • I think it's ridiculous to compare a suburban town to the mess that is San Francisco. I don't think the argument of "slippery slope" is relevant. Besides, I have lived in SF/Bay Area and there are plenty of housing options there for the average citizen.
  • unaffordability - there ARE cheap(ish) options within our city limits and in the neighboring suburbs as well. Mobile home parks are quite popular around here.
  • This has nothing to do with racism or fear of the poor. It's an ethnically mixed neighborhood, and I seriously doubt the poor are going to be able to buy these $600k-$1mill houses...
  • property values - This is not people's concern. Their concern is over crowding. Property values in my area would continue to go up even if a bunch of bandits moved in next door and started ransacking the city. That's how nuts people are about moving to our city just to get their kids into our school.

Quote
You sound like a typical NIMBY. You like your neighborhood and think it's time to close the draw bridge and not let anybody else in.

I know that's supposed to be an insult, but this is mildly accurate. The neighborhood was much better 10 years ago when there was less over-crowding. Every year, the population increases, and things change for the worst little by little, bit by bit (regarding various quality of life issues). If the people who live here decide that they'd like to stop that trend by closing the draw bridge, they should be entitled to it. After all, local governments are designed to serve the community's/citizens' wishes (not the wishes of outside profiteers or the government's own interests). That's what we pay them for.

The above is what most of my neighbors would argue. I, as the only 28 year old non-homeowner in the crowd, have different reasons for opposing these developments, but I don't want to get into it on an online forum. I simply want to know what a community can do (if anything) when it's government cannot stop a new development.

Anyway, thank you for the info on what has worked and not worked in your communities. I suspect we won't be able to stop the current developments, but I thought it was worth Googling and asking the MMM forum.

Yes, that is it right there!

Whose interests should the local government serve?

And, um, "entitled" isn't a bad word. It just means "permitted" or "allowed."

zoltani

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #26 on: August 25, 2015, 04:38:33 PM »
  • sprawl vs high-density: It's already sprawled (California suburb), so it's too late to make that argument.
  • I think it's ridiculous to compare a suburban town to the mess that is San Francisco. I don't think the argument of "slippery slope" is relevant. Besides, I have lived in SF/Bay Area and there are plenty of housing options there for the average citizen.
  • unaffordability - there ARE cheap(ish) options within our city limits and in the neighboring suburbs as well. Mobile home parks are quite popular around here.
  • This has nothing to do with racism or fear of the poor. It's an ethnically mixed neighborhood, and I seriously doubt the poor are going to be able to buy these $600k-$1mill houses...
  • property values - This is not people's concern. Their concern is over crowding. Property values in my area would continue to go up even if a bunch of bandits moved in next door and started ransacking the city. That's how nuts people are about moving to our city just to get their kids into our school.

Quote
You sound like a typical NIMBY. You like your neighborhood and think it's time to close the draw bridge and not let anybody else in.

I know that's supposed to be an insult, but this is mildly accurate. The neighborhood was much better 10 years ago when there was less over-crowding. Every year, the population increases, and things change for the worst little by little, bit by bit (regarding various quality of life issues). If the people who live here decide that they'd like to stop that trend by closing the draw bridge, they should be entitled to it. After all, local governments are designed to serve the community's/citizens' wishes (not the wishes of outside profiteers or the government's own interests). That's what we pay them for.

The above is what most of my neighbors would argue. I, as the only 28 year old non-homeowner in the crowd, have different reasons for opposing these developments, but I don't want to get into it on an online forum. I simply want to know what a community can do (if anything) when it's government cannot stop a new development.

Anyway, thank you for the info on what has worked and not worked in your communities. I suspect we won't be able to stop the current developments, but I thought it was worth Googling and asking the MMM forum.

Yes, that is it right there!

Whose interests should the local government serve?

And, um, "entitled" isn't a bad word. It just means "permitted" or "allowed."

You used it as a verb, which means to have a legal right to do something. I am reading it as an adjective, to feel that you deserve special privileges, which is what sounds like what is going on here.

WhoopWhoop

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #27 on: August 25, 2015, 04:53:57 PM »
  • sprawl vs high-density: It's already sprawled (California suburb), so it's too late to make that argument.
  • I think it's ridiculous to compare a suburban town to the mess that is San Francisco. I don't think the argument of "slippery slope" is relevant. Besides, I have lived in SF/Bay Area and there are plenty of housing options there for the average citizen.
  • unaffordability - there ARE cheap(ish) options within our city limits and in the neighboring suburbs as well. Mobile home parks are quite popular around here.
  • This has nothing to do with racism or fear of the poor. It's an ethnically mixed neighborhood, and I seriously doubt the poor are going to be able to buy these $600k-$1mill houses...
  • property values - This is not people's concern. Their concern is over crowding. Property values in my area would continue to go up even if a bunch of bandits moved in next door and started ransacking the city. That's how nuts people are about moving to our city just to get their kids into our school.

Quote
You sound like a typical NIMBY. You like your neighborhood and think it's time to close the draw bridge and not let anybody else in.

I know that's supposed to be an insult, but this is mildly accurate. The neighborhood was much better 10 years ago when there was less over-crowding. Every year, the population increases, and things change for the worst little by little, bit by bit (regarding various quality of life issues). If the people who live here decide that they'd like to stop that trend by closing the draw bridge, they should be entitled to it. After all, local governments are designed to serve the community's/citizens' wishes (not the wishes of outside profiteers or the government's own interests). That's what we pay them for.

The above is what most of my neighbors would argue. I, as the only 28 year old non-homeowner in the crowd, have different reasons for opposing these developments, but I don't want to get into it on an online forum. I simply want to know what a community can do (if anything) when it's government cannot stop a new development.

Anyway, thank you for the info on what has worked and not worked in your communities. I suspect we won't be able to stop the current developments, but I thought it was worth Googling and asking the MMM forum.

Yes, that is it right there!

Whose interests should the local government serve?

And, um, "entitled" isn't a bad word. It just means "permitted" or "allowed."

You used it as a verb, which means to have a legal right to do something. I am reading it as an adjective, to feel that you deserve special privileges, which is what sounds like what is going on here.

The special privilege of ___ ...what exactly? Coca-Cola in the water fountains?
« Last Edit: August 25, 2015, 04:55:49 PM by WhoopWhoop »

zoltani

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #28 on: August 25, 2015, 04:56:53 PM »
To close off your neighborhood to "outsiders".

« Last Edit: August 25, 2015, 04:58:39 PM by zoltani »

Another Reader

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #29 on: August 25, 2015, 05:16:21 PM »
Closing off neighborhoods to certain types of development is the point of every zoning and planning decision.  I don't get to build a chicken processing facility in the middle of a single family neighborhood.  Nor will I likely be allowed to build a bar next to a school.  You are not going to put a six story low income apartment complex in the middle of my low density single family neighborhood because it's not zoned for six story buildings. 

As a taxpayer and a voter, I have the right to participate in zoning and planning processes, at least in theory.  Yep, I'm "entitled" to have a say in the future of my community.  That's going to be a lot less true in the future.  Although we remember the marriage equality and ACA Supreme Court decisions of June 26th, the decision on the disparate impact case may have more of a long term effect in many ways.  Local government agencies lost a lot of control over what will be built where in the future because of that decision.

WhoopWhoop

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #30 on: August 25, 2015, 05:22:28 PM »
To close off your neighborhood to "outsiders".

I thought it was strange that the name of our community organization was Xenophobics Unite...

Now it's all starting to make sense.

zoltani

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #31 on: August 25, 2015, 05:39:54 PM »

Word got out that another one of these projects is in the application phase. Basically, they already bought the land (the money is in escrow, contingent on the city approving their building plans), submitted their application, and already have the proper zoning and meet all the usual requirements.

While I agree that citizens have the right to try and influence the zoning laws in their city, it sounds like this developer is complying with the current zoning. The citizens snoozed on this one, and that is their loss. You cannot retroactively change zoning laws to fight something that has already been approved because you don't want the population of your neighborhood to increase.

TrMama

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #32 on: August 25, 2015, 05:43:20 PM »
You may now all facepunch me for objecting to a giant safety hazard in my back yard.

A facepunch is only due if your concerns about a landslide causing damage to your property as a direct result of development is unfounded.  Which, honestly, it probably is.  Landslides do happen, but it's not like the developers are not liable if something that they have done makes such an event more likely.  There are best practices for every area & type of construction.  If the developer is not following the 'best practices' for this kind of construction, on a hillside, in your geological area; then you have an argument.  But if a landslide is likely to occur in that area, undeveloped, with a catastrophic earthquake (say 9.2 on the Richter), then a massive foundation of concrete & rebar is more likely to stablize the natural hillside than make it more hazardous.  Right now, it's just packed soil and rock, but not with any reliable binding agents.

I understand that. It's the exact reason I brought up the earthquake/landslide risk at the zoning meeting. I don't trust the developer or city at all to make sure this thing is built safely. I'm certain the developer is only concerned about selling the units ASAP and doesn't give a crap about whether it stands up long term. Also, since the city built such a horribly dangerous road to get to this site, I don't trust them either.

Now it's on public record that this is a risk and hopefully when it gets built we'll be safer than we were before. The reason I brought it up here wasn't to talk about landslides, but to point out that you need to have valid objections in order to effectively get the development downgraded.

For the OP, if people are moving into this area for a specific school, can the school even handle taking in more students? If not, then that's what I'd focus on. You could say something like, "The school can only handle X students before they have to start busing kids to other locations. Therefore, this neighbourhood can only support 5X number of households (or whatever the multiple is) and we're already at capacity. You need to either expand the school, build a new one or not allow so many units to be built.

Dicey

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #33 on: August 25, 2015, 05:44:13 PM »
Besides, I have lived in SF/Bay Area and there are plenty of housing options there for the average citizen.[/li][/list]
Wow! You haven't been here in a long time. You would not believe what's happened to rents in Sf and the Greater Bay Area. The average citizen is hanging on by their fingernails.

Initially, I wondered if you were currently in the Bay Area, because this conversation is going on everywhere here.

Basically, the state of CA has mandated that new housing be built near transit so they are "walkable". This means the downtown corridors get more and more congested, alas. What they are not is "affordable". Weird, even if the city builds "affordable" housing, if they accept any Federal, State or County funds to complete the project, they have to open it up to anyone within the county. The last one they finished, the media featured a woman from a much less expensive area who was thrilled to "move up" to this place. Meanwhile, people priced out here are still priced out here, but that's the law, unless the a city self-funds, which no one has the money to do, especially on a medium- to large-scale.

Another thing that's happening is that developers that had plans in the pipeline when the economy crashed held off building, but kept their permits current. Now that there's cheap money available, everything that was approved over almost a decade is being built all at once.

Finally, now that some of these projects are being completed, they look great and are a huge improvement over what was there before. What a surprise.

My advice is to embrace the change. Otherwise you must get organized to fight off anything that's particularly offensive to you and your neighborhood's sensibilities. A single voice is lost in the wind, but many voices together are mighty. Just be careful what you ask for.

iris lily

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #34 on: August 25, 2015, 05:48:46 PM »
Ah well, always the NIMBY accusers come out. I ignore them.
...

Well, to be fair, that (the omitted body of your post) is basically the exact definition of NIMBY.

Agreed,my phrasing was misleading.  If anyone wishes to call me a NIMBY that's fine, I'm not offended by labels nearly as much as the average Joe, labels aren't very interesting to me.
 Rather than "NIMBY accusers" I should have said "whiney pants supporters of anything-goes developments."

That said I am always concerned about the heavy hand of gubmnt, but in my neighborhood where restrictive building covenants and a neighborhood wide development plan exist,  all written by people who live here and sent up to aldermen to make into ordinance, this is the will of the people.


« Last Edit: August 25, 2015, 06:29:08 PM by iris lily »

dragoncar

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Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
« Reply #35 on: August 25, 2015, 05:52:57 PM »
    Besides, I have lived in SF/Bay Area and there are plenty of housing options there for the average citizen.[/li][/list]
    Wow! You haven't been here in a long time. You would not believe what's happened to rents in Sf and the Greater Bay Area. The average citizen is hanging on by their fingernails.

    Initially, I wondered if you were currently in the Bay Area, because this conversation is going on everywhere here.

    Basically, the state of CA has mandated that new housing be built near transit so they are "walkable". This means the downtown corridors get more and more congested, alas. What they are not is "affordable". Weird, even if the city builds "affordable" housing, if they accept any Federal, State or County funds to complete the project, they have to open it up to anyone within the county. The last one they finished, the media featured a woman from a much less expensive area who was thrilled to "move up" to this place. Meanwhile, people priced out here are still priced out here, but that's the law, unless the a city self-funds, which no one has the money to do, especially on a medium- to large-scale.

    Another thing that's happening is that developers that had plans in the pipeline when the economy crashed held off building, but kept their permits current. Now that there's cheap money available, everything that was approved over almost a decade is being built all at once.

    Finally, now that some of these projects are being completed, they look great and are a huge improvement over what was there before. What a surprise.

    My advice is to embrace the change. Otherwise you must get organized to fight off anything that's particularly offensive to you and your neighborhood's sensibilities. A single voice is lost in the wind, but many voices together are mighty. Just be careful what you ask for.

    And building high density in transit corridors is the only sane solution to a severe housing shortage.  I often wonder what would happen to the Bay Area of all the nimbys got their way and zero new housing was built.  Sure, my home value would skyrocket but I think it would ultimately be bad for the Bay Area.  Once housing is so expensive not even tech companies can pay a living wage, those companies will be forced to leave.  So far they have been willing to share profits with employees in order to pay a competitive wage, but the arms race of increased salary-increased housing price-increased salary can't continue indefinitely

    wordnerd

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    Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
    « Reply #36 on: August 25, 2015, 05:58:08 PM »
    Just because you're already in a suburb doesn't mean sprawl wouldn't continue outward if housing can't be built in already populated areas.

    How many units are we talking about here? All these concerns about "crowding" seem...far-fetched. What would "crowding" deprive you of? It seems much more likely that people want to preserve very high home values by artificially restricting housing supply and ensure their own kids in whatever Hogwarts-worthy school you have over there (that you seem SO offended that *the others* want to get their kids into).

    Since you won't share your personal objections here, evaluate them yourself. Because, man, this whole thing reeks of small-minded, self-interested, reactionary local politics.

    MKinVA

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    Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
    « Reply #37 on: August 25, 2015, 06:34:29 PM »
    Interesting conversation especially the part about there being plenty of housing options in SF for the average person. Are you from the states? The most expensive city in the world (by square mile) outside of Lonon maybe.

    The other point I want ed to insert is that if this has been going on for 15 years (especially these last 15 years) I'm pretty sure it's not a bubble.

    Dicey

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    Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
    « Reply #38 on: August 25, 2015, 06:45:39 PM »
    And building high density in transit corridors is the only sane solution to a severe housing shortage.  I often wonder what would happen to the Bay Area of all the nimbys got their way and zero new housing was built.  Sure, my home value would skyrocket but I think it would ultimately be bad for the Bay Area.  Once housing is so expensive not even tech companies can pay a living wage, those companies will be forced to leave.  So far they have been willing to share profits with employees in order to pay a competitive wage, but the arms race of increased salary-increased housing price-increased salary can't continue indefinitely
    Agreed. The other aspect of this is the Millennials who are afraid to buy houses but are willing and able to pay astronomical rents. If that chunk of the population doesn't start buying houses eventually, the home-owning Boomers whose house is their retirement fund are going to be up shit creek.

    Another Reader

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    Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
    « Reply #39 on: August 25, 2015, 07:29:26 PM »
    Lots of high income Millennials are buying houses.  In fact, most people buying around here are under 40, and the least expensive house is $1.2MM.  Lots are buying in SF - tech money and/or two high professional incomes.  The average Millennial is not buying here because it's not affordable.  Too much demand from their richer cohorts.  The high density crap is not affordable either.  It's just new and it's available.  Townhouses in the biggest project in South San Jose start at around $700k and the so called single family product stars in the high $800's.  The apartment rents are no more affordable.

    The traffic, the crowding, and the skyrocketing crime are destroying San Jose.  We cannot comfortably accommodate everyone that wants to live here.  The politicians that govern San Jose are holding on to all the developable land in Coyote Valley for "jobs."  For 35 years, all I have heard is the land must be saved for "jobs."  That might have made sense when manufacturing was still done in the US, but not today.  Google, Facebook, and the rest of the high tech big money employers have zero interest in Coyote Valley.  They would rather build high rises on fill in Mountain View than move operations 50 miles south.  San Jose should just rezone Coyote Valley for low and medium density single family residential and meet some of the huge demand for that type of housing.

    Sailor Sam

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    Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
    « Reply #40 on: August 25, 2015, 07:32:49 PM »
    I'd be interested to know what high density means in your particular case. One trend here in Seattle is a push towards micro-apartments. The company building them calls them Apodments (tres precious). They have around 200sf of living room, with a kitchen shared amongst 6 pods. There are 16 towers scattered about, generally near the colleges.

    Lots of local people are upset about the towers, and are fighting against any more being built. Increased density, more competition for parking, etc. I see their point, as I see your point. But as a transplant to the city, these neighborhoods still strike me as nice places, with acceptable levels of people and traffic.

    I understand the desire to fight for your neighbourhood, but if you do lose the struggle it will still be okay.

    sol

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    Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
    « Reply #41 on: August 25, 2015, 07:42:21 PM »
    To the OP: without passing any judgment on your desire to scuttle this project, I think there are basically two avenues open to you.

    1.  The legal way.  Hire a lawyer and ask them to find a way.  For the right price, they can probably tie the development up in EIS permits and traffic studies for at least a decade.

    2.  The illegal way, e.g. sabotaging equipment, lighting fires, murdering workers.  Not recommended.

    When you're up against powerful interests, you need a powerful playbook of your own.  That generally means sacrificing your money or your life.  I don't think an apartment building is worth either, but it's your neighborhood.

    dragoncar

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    Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
    « Reply #42 on: August 25, 2015, 08:03:14 PM »
      • sprawl vs high-density: It's already sprawled (California suburb), so it's too late to make that argument.
      [/list]

      Hardly.  There's plenty of farmland, forests, hillsides, and beaches in CA left to sprawl into.  That's like saying we're already polluted the air so no need for any more pesky emissions regulations.  More sprawl is not sustainable.  The only way we can survive this is to build low-impact, high-density housing near transit.

      Honestly, if you are in CA there are probably a million ways you can block development.  But I'm not gonna help you find those ways. 
      « Last Edit: August 25, 2015, 08:05:49 PM by dragoncar »

      Goldielocks

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      Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
      « Reply #43 on: August 25, 2015, 08:07:10 PM »

      Word got out that another one of these projects is in the application phase. Basically, they already bought the land (the money is in escrow, contingent on the city approving their building plans), submitted their application, and already have the proper zoning and meet all the usual requirements.

      While I agree that citizens have the right to try and influence the zoning laws in their city, it sounds like this developer is complying with the current zoning. The citizens snoozed on this one, and that is their loss. You cannot retroactively change zoning laws to fight something that has already been approved because you don't want the population of your neighborhood to increase.
      +1000

      You had your chance at rezoning time.

      The best you can do is slow it due to archeology, tree preservation. Traffic studies and mitigation, safety like sidewalks or crosswalks needed to be added, or things like sun shadow,/ view lines/ privacy erosion, due to the way it is currently conceived. Developer has a chance to fix that if city insists, but will be allowed the density and right to build. Otherwise the city has to buy the property from them and compensate their expense so far.
      « Last Edit: August 25, 2015, 10:11:36 PM by goldielocks »

      Goldielocks

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      Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
      « Reply #44 on: August 25, 2015, 10:06:14 PM »
      This American Life had a great podcast a few weeks back. It was disguised as a story about segregated schools, but the juiciest bits stemmed from the concerns of a very average middle class district and what the influx of poor black kids were going to do to their property values.

      http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/562/the-problem-we-all-live-with

      You seriously wouldn't believe what people are willing to say in public when their property values are being threatened.
      Great show, but I think this was more worry that their good schools would drop in quality, and the momma /papa bear worries for kids overrode their common sense, more than worry about property values.

      Here, something similar happened in terms of outrageous things people say when resisting change.. A young adult GED program was to be consolidated into an elementary school that was grossly under populated (115? Students, only 30% capacity).  This was to avoid closing the school(s). Adult program mostly in evening and in a separate part of the school/ different entrance, admin, etc

      Parents protested and called GED students pedophiles and drug addicts.



      « Last Edit: August 25, 2015, 10:13:12 PM by goldielocks »

      Abe

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      Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
      « Reply #45 on: August 25, 2015, 10:13:20 PM »
      1) pour molasses into their permit engine (is that frog over there endangered? Don't know! Call the EPA!). If the developer is halfway intelligent they will have all that taken care of already and call your bluff, but maybe not.

      2) raise money to buy the land from the developer. If you give them enough money to leave, they might just do it, especially with the negative publicity and the endangered frogs.

      K-ice

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      Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
      « Reply #46 on: August 25, 2015, 10:51:18 PM »
      Compleatly stop it I doubt it.

      Change it, more likely.

      If it is following all the current zoning I don't think you have any hope.

      If they are making it just 1foot taller or larger or 1 less parking spot than the zoning allows you have some leverage to change things.

      4 examples I know of.

      1) low income housing and habitat for humanity town homes built in a 30y old suburb on a never developed school lot. The developer owned a screw piling company and wanted the homes built on that instead of basements. Basements are the norm here with freeze thaw. Also wanted no garages & residents complained about lack of storage. Residents faught to get basements put in and cut the total town house number by about 40%. The development looks quite nice but there is still a shit load of stuff stored outside. Low income doesn't equate with low spending.

      2) major 3 building 26 story towers on the edge of downtown, ripping out about 10 single family homes. Just across the street from other single family homes. Beautiful location overlooking the river valley. Residents faught against the height, shadows will be cast on single family yards, and wanted something max 10 stories to blend in better.
      The only change the fighting residents got was the following. The city has a policy on new developments on the river valley. They must have access for all. So a public path will be created around the building along the valley. The to be torn down homes have private access so this change will be nice for the community.

      3) 50ft lots can now be spit into 2 skinny lots. 50ft lots can also have garage or basement suites. But you can't combine them. A recient case has been stopped where a lot was divided into 2 skinnies. Then 1 skinny applied for a garage suite. That lot is still sitting empty.

      4) one house was also ordered torn down because it had 6 violations. All the walls were up and they were now asking for forgiveness. I forget all the violations but they were too tall, too large of a footprint, too close to the Neighbour, basement too tall, 1 less parking.... 

      In the first 2 examples it was a major rezoning, so resident concerns were part of the process. In the last 2 cases people were trying to bend the rules too far and were therefore shot down.

      I don't know if those cases help at all. I could provide a bit more detail on some if relevant.


      gReed Smith

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      Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
      « Reply #47 on: August 26, 2015, 07:10:44 AM »
      Here is an actual constructive comment from me:  Gather up all of your neighbors who want to pull up the drawbridge and have everyone pledge a dollar amount.  Dig deep.  If you come up with enough of an amount to buy the lot from the developer, then do so.  Voila!  You now have a community park or something.  Maybe start a 501c3 to manage it. 

      Otherwise, if you try to use government to stop people from lawfully enjoying their property, or you use some other obnoxious tactic, then you're a thief, taking value from someone else's property for your own benefit.

      gillstone

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      Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
      « Reply #48 on: August 26, 2015, 08:24:51 AM »
      Quote
      If the people who live here decide that they'd like to stop that trend by closing the draw bridge, they should be entitled to it.

      No

      No they shouldn't

      You own a piece of land, not all of it.  They did the work, they jumped through the hoops and now by law they can build on what they own.  You can use those hoops to ask for improvements to the property to address issues like lighting, traffic, noise and parkland, but you aren't "entitled" to tell someone else that owns that land that they can't build just because you prefer low-density housing.


      zoltani

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      Re: How to stop a high-density housing project in my city?
      « Reply #49 on: August 26, 2015, 09:32:35 AM »
      build "meh"-quality, high-density houses because they know they can charge absurd prices for average homes.

      To me this reads as if the development is not even a tall apartment building or condos, rather smaller lot single family homes, is that correct? Or do you mean duplex/triplex etc? I am not sure what "high-density houses" means.