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TheAnk

Zoning Board of Review

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Ok.. Which of you guys were there.. :rofl: I bet all four were UP posters..

PROVIDENCE -- The Department of Planning and Development will submit a draft of a new zoning ordinance to the city clerk today.

The proposed changes mark the first significant rewrite of the city's zoning code in a decade.

Last night, city planners held their fourth public forum at Greene Middle School to introduce the draft, but attendance was so sparse and the school so hot, the forum was canceled. Before the poster boards and easels were dismantled, however, planners gave the four citizens who attended individual explanations of the proposed changes.

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I didn't even know there was a meeting. I might have gone, but I guess I'm glad I didn't.

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But the potential benefits of increased density have been inadequately explained to the people of Providence and to Providence's decision makers.

More troubling, the zoning proposal increases density without ensuring that that increase yields all of the public benefit that it could.

Then explain them to the people of Providence and to the City's decision makers.

Providence's 6.9 acres of park land per 1,000 residents puts us below average among the country's 10 densest cities, almost all of which are growing more slowly than Providence. In a sense, we're really losing an important park of sorts: Capital Center is being developed, and of course should be, but for years it has, in effect, functioned as a central, public open space. Conserving and broadening greenspaces should be one of our priorities.

That's interesting, it seems as though Providence has plenty of parks. And how has Capital Center acted as a central open space? I don't ever remember people gathering in the dirt and trash, except maybe standing in it during waterfires.

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It's rarely noted that Providence is already one of the most densely populated cities in the country: as of 2000, of core cities of more than 100,000, only New York (1), San Francisco(2), Chicago(3), Boston(4), Philadelphia(5) and Miami(6) were denser.

Someone :rofl:'ed at this statistic in another thread (well the other thread indicated we were 6th, when this shows we're 7th) wish I knew the source.

Providence proper is already easily dense enough for top-notch public transportation. Providence is far denser than Minneapolis and Seattle and more than twice as dense as Portland, Oregon -- all cities with superb public transit systems.

All cities with much larger land areas than Providence that in effect include what would be Providence's less dense suburbs.

While the population density within the city limits is extraordinarily high, the density of the Providence metropolitan area is far lower than those of most cities at the top of the density lists -- and those of Minneapolis, Seattle, and Portland.

Oh, I see you noticed that too...

This isn't to say that we don't have the density in place for improved transit. I think the movement to expand commuter rail along the 95 corridor shows this.

In a sense, we're really losing an important park of sorts: Capital Center is being developed, and of course should be, but for years it has, in effect, functioned as a central, public open space.

Of jesus, would people STOP saying this. If you want a place to roll around in the mud, there are still plenty of places to do that in Providence, I give you Station Park as the closest option.

All these tangent distract from the key element of the piece, Inclusionary Zoning.

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Someone :rofl:'ed at this statistic in another thread (well the other thread indicated we were 6th, when this shows we're 7th) wish I knew the source.

There are ways to make this number change drastically. Providence itself is very small which contributes to this number. Southern cities are typically less dense than northern cities in general because of sprawl and realtively cheap open space. This sounds like a statistic which might be accurate but that can be interpreted any way one wants. Perhaps it's population per land area, since PVD proper is so damn small. Here is some reading:

Providence:least sprawling metro area

and here is a very large pdf Lots of data here, based on "International Urban Area", not city limit

From the file, here are US rankings as far as I can tell, in pop. denisty

1) LA, CA, 7068 ppl/sq. mi. (170th in the world, the US is the king of sprawl!)

2) SF, CA, 6127

3) San Jose, CA, 5913

4) NY, NY, 5309

5) Honolulu, HI, 4659

6) Las Vegas, NV, 4596

7) Oxnard, CA, 4465

8) Miami, FL, 4407

9) Stockton, CA, 4213

10) Fresno, CA 4004

.

.

.

75) Providence, RI 2333

For some reason I thought I posted this already.

Also, I'm not sure how they define their areas, but of note would be that Providence's area was 534 sq. mi. compared to the 18.5 sq. mi. within the city limits.

Here is some more readingbased on 1990 census which seems to jibe with the rankings this person has quoted. This is population density by city limit, however only the top 20. From the 2000 census, PVD had a 173,618 population in 18.5 sq. mi. which is 9384 ppl/sq.mi. In the link above, these cities are higher:

1) NYC 23,700

2) SF 15,500

3) Chicago 12,300

4) Boston 11,900

5) Philly 11,700

6) DC 9,900

Since none of these areas changed too drastically in the ten years between 1990 and 2000, I'm not surprised that the list looks similar.

Here's a list of density change from 1950-2000. I can imagine that a few of the places ahead of providence have population less than 100,000.

Anyway, the other "issue" with PVD density is that it doesn't have the huge daytime population that the other cities cited in that article do. In other words, it doesn't have the commuters to support the system.

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Providence 2000 called for zoning changes that permitted off-street parking, multi-use (commercial and residential) projects, and housing in downtown.

Did he mean to say "on-street parking" ?

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We can't afford to wait another year to make these changes.

Let the Providence renaissance continue -- now!

INDEED!

If we wait until 2007 that means a project can't get tiself off the ground by then and with an 18-20 month building schedule, we're looking at 2009 for units to come on the market. I don't really want to wait that long to see inovative affordable housing units start to enter the Providence housing market. I don't know about the people on the City Council, but I kind of need a place to live now, not in four years.

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INDEED!

If we wait until 2007 that means a project can't get tiself off the ground by then and with an 18-20 month building schedule, we're looking at 2009 for units to come on the market. I don't really want to wait that long to see inovative affordable housing units start to enter the Providence housing market. I don't know about the people on the City Council, but I kind of need a place to live now, not in four years.

Yup, thanks for making that point... When you have this discussion with people, they say, "What's the rush? 2007 is only a year and change away! Wait for the comprehensive plan..." Well, that's just the time needed to get the plan submitted, and doesn't mean that haggling over it and resulting zoning changes won't take months (or years). Once the changes are actually made, zoning is in effect, etc, you're talking 2008-9, in my opinion for projects to even get proposed. That's waaaay too long. This editorial makes many of the correct arguments for fixing this now.

- Garris

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INDEED!

If we wait until 2007 that means a project can't get tiself off the ground by then and with an 18-20 month building schedule, we're looking at 2009 for units to come on the market. I don't really want to wait that long to see inovative affordable housing units start to enter the Providence housing market. I don't know about the people on the City Council, but I kind of need a place to live now, not in four years.

Not to get this all going again, but it seems that there are several levels of demand for "Affordable" housing.

There is low-income housing for the homeless and displaced family problems.

There is affordable housing with government assistance for low income families (50-80% of median?)

There is affordable housing for LMI families (80-90% of median)

There is affordable housing for Cotuit and his peers. Just from reading here I assume this would be places that can be had in the $150-225K range without crippling condo fees?

At the same time, I do wonder what the demand really is. While home prices have gone up, rents have been extremely stable for the past 6 years. I wonder how many units of "affordable housing" it would take before the supply exceeds demand for housing thereby significantly lowering the values of current housing, which will have a domino effect of less revenue for the city. I would hate to see a repeat of the early 90's.

I know this article states that many families are spending more than 30% of their income on housing. But that seems to be as much an issue with income as with housing prices. RI has a very low GSP per capita compared to CT and MA (even when you discount Fairfield county from CT). I wish the plan for affordable housing would be complemented with a good plan for economic growth and job creation. I do think they need to go together.

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I know this article states that many families are spending more than 30% of their income on housing. But that seems to be as much an issue with income as with housing prices. RI has a very low GSP per capita compared to CT and MA (even when you discount Fairfield county from CT). I wish the plan for affordable housing would be complemented with a good plan for economic growth and job creation. I do think they need to go together.

I agree, jobs and competition for jobs driving salaries are key to our economic success. You point out in your previous post, our transit problems lie in a lack of a high daytime population, too many Providence residents are going to office parks in the suburbs, or Boston, and not enough people are coming into the city to work everyday.

I certainly fall well within that group of people who pay more than 30% for housing costs, if there were more demand for my meager skills, I'd certainly be doing better. Though, I'm not making much less than I did in New York City, and my cost of living was significantly higher there (of course I'm not really sure how I'm going to afford to heat my apartment this winter, a problem I didn't have 4 years ago in New York).

It's developments like the one being proposed on West Fountain that would be perfect for my demographic. I could afford to live a little further out of the city core, but our lackluster transit makes that less feasible than it should be, prompting a need for a car (or two) and eroding my savings. I comfortably lived as far out of Boston as Waltham without a car, that's not so easy in Providence. I'm not looking for government handouts to live on Westminster Street, just a small place, close enough to the city center that I don't need a car, and affordable enough so that I can be spending less than 40-50% of my income on it. Not too much to ask.

Certainly there are people far worse off economically than me, but it's a real problem when people who are solidly inside the middle class are having difficulty affording housing. The issue needs to be tackled on both fronts, more jobs and better pay, and more units of housing that are more affordable.

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It's developments like the one being proposed on West Fountain that would be perfect for my demographic. I could afford to live a little further out of the city core, but our lackluster transit makes that less feasible than it should be, prompting a need for a car (or two) and eroding my savings. I comfortably lived as far out of Boston as Waltham without a car, that's not so easy in Providence. I'm not looking for government handouts to live on Westminster Street, just a small place, close enough to the city center that I don't need a car, and affordable enough so that I can be spending less than 40-50% of my income on it. Not too much to ask.

Oh I understand. I am well above the median RI income and I am right around 26% when you count my rental income (I have a 2 family). I would not be able to afford a decent single-family and I'm not that interested in condos (I like to tear things up and put them back together...condo associations don't usually go for that :) )...and I commute to just outside Boston because I can't make nearly my wage in RI right now.

There are a whole lot of chicken and eggs, IMO, and the difficulty if figuring out which come first. As far as I can tell, you have these related issues:

- public transport

- city revenue

- job creation

- housing

- workforce ability/education

Better housing would mean that companies might find it cheaper to operate here which would in turn create jobs. Except that they are also going to want high quality workers, so you need better education. To get better education you need more revenue (although PVD is already one of the highest paying municipalities in the country so they probably need something else, too...). and then there is making better public transport. Will better transport lead to more ridership or does more ridership lead to better transport? Will more affordable housing mean more people living in the city and using public transport? etc. etc. All of these things are interrelated and it would be a mistake to press too hard on any individual button, I think. but I do agree they have to start somewhere and soon.

Certainly there are people far worse off economically than me, but it's a real problem when people who are solidly inside the middle class are having difficulty affording housing. The issue needs to be tackled on both fronts, more jobs and better pay, and more units of housing that are more affordable.

This is kind of the point I didn't make. A lot of the IZ programs that I have seen are not built to help the middle class. A lot of cities seem to be relying on private gentrification to help the middle class...and then eventually they too get priced out (like the South end of Boston).

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I think housing is the one that needs to be tackled primarily to kick start the rest. When people are homeless, they can't attend work training, they can't hold down a job, they can't function in society. And even if one has a house, if too much money is devoted to paying for that housing, no money is left to pay for job training yourself. There are people who could go to school and become better trained, but they are already working 3 jobs to pay for their housing, leaving no time and no money for job training.

Also, if I, someone in the middle-class (lower middle-class) could spend just a little less on housing, that would give me more disposable income to spend in the city and in effect trickle down (:ph34r:) job creation in the service sector. If lots of me's had just a little more disposable income, it would go a long way toward helping the economy.

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I have a question to pose. All of these expensive condos being built are primarily targeted towards aging baby boomers who want to unload their houses and use the cash to buy these places and live in a city. Thats cool, and makes some short term sense.

However, what happens when they die? Who will buy them then if the high paying jobs are not brought here? Our corporate infrastructure is pretty lame and I do not see any real improvement. Who is working on that? I know this is long term thinking, but it nags at me from time to time.

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Also, if I, someone in the middle-class (lower middle-class) could spend just a little less on housing, that would give me more disposable income to spend in the city and in effect trickle down (:ph34r:) job creation in the service sector. If lots of me's had just a little more disposable income, it would go a long way toward helping the economy.

Dude, you get comped for all your meals so I don't know why you are worried about disposable income! :rofl:

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Dude, you get comped for all your meals so I don't know why you are worried about disposable income! :rofl:

I can't manage to get comped at Design Within Reach or Butterfield or the forever rumoured Apple Store though. :(

The reality is, I rarely go out to eat unless it's comped or discounted, I'm lucky to get lots of comps and discounts. :D

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I have a question to pose. All of these expensive condos being built are primarily targeted towards aging baby boomers who want to unload their houses and use the cash to buy these places and live in a city. Thats cool, and makes some short term sense.

However, what happens when they die? Who will buy them then if the high paying jobs are not brought here? Our corporate infrastructure is pretty lame and I do not see any real improvement. Who is working on that? I know this is long term thinking, but it nags at me from time to time.

i'm guessing by the time they die, we will have lured some better retail, core density, along with younger professionals. Those condos aren't limited to ages 50+ ya know.

with boston's high priced market (although prices are dropping) being compared to ours, hopefully a good enough number of 20 and 30 year old professionals will move here for the noticeable relief on monthly rents and condo prices. Companies may see this shift and move with them. Also, people may just move here because they want to.

and if those reasons aren't good enough, I guess we can just say that the next batch of empty nesters will fill that void.

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and if those reasons aren't good enough, I guess we can just say that the next batch of empty nesters will fill that void.

There's a good 20-30 year gap between the baby-boomers and the boom-echo (people in their 30s now). And the gap gets larger as people have children into their 40s, in effect making the next large round of empty-nesters smaller, they'll basically be sending their kids off to college and shortly there after, dropping dead.

There's all sorts of ideas about who would live in Providence today, and in the coming decades, but not a lot is being done to actively recruit people and businesses to the state (I know stuff is being done, and this is one of Carcieri's strong suits, but we need a lot more). We're basically sitting around and saying, 'we have great architecture, great culture, great beaches, and our housing is cheap.' Well nationally, our housing isn't cheap, and regionally we're quickly losing that edge. We can't assume our other attributes will just work as a magnet. We need more than, "it's nice" to get people to move here.

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The reality is, I rarely go out to eat unless it's comped or discounted, I'm lucky to get lots of comps and discounts. :D

My reality is that I eat out all of the time without comps and I'm broke because of it. Have you considered making an infomercial selling your secrets? I would probably make a good sucker customer.

I would be very interested in buying a place in the 200-300K range in the next few years. The trick is that I would still need a car since there aren

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i guess we're getting off topic for this thread now... feel free to move me :blush:

""We need more than, "it's nice" to get people to move here.""

Are you talking about the classic

-cheaper housing -nationally-

-better schools

-less crime

-improving our corporate infrastructure?

I wish I was a billionaire.. then I could help out in a real way :(

I would honestly spend money on an enviro-friendly car, nice clothes, and the city of Providence.

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i guess we're getting off topic for this thread now... feel free to move me :blush:

""We need more than, "it's nice" to get people to move here.""

Are you talking about the classic

-cheaper housing -nationally-

-better schools

-less crime

-improving our corporate infrastructure?

I wish I was a billionaire.. then I could help out in a real way :(

I would honestly spend money on an enviro-friendly car, nice clothes, and the city of Providence.

I think people can pretty much figure out by now that I am something of a conservative economist. I think the state will really grow better through private investment than through public funds. To do that, we need some more corporate investment and we need more jobs. I'm sure I'm not the only person who is somewhat disheartened that Fidelity is building a huge campus in Smithfield instead of building in Providence or permanently occupying the Amex building...and that's just an example. There has to be a way to give businesses the incentive to come to the city. This is one way that Hartford will probably be able to leapfrog Providence very quickly if they do things right, because they have a bunch of business downtown already.

It would be really nice if RI could draw some more pharma, bio-tech, and high tech to the area also. These provide well paying blue collar and white collar jobs..although typically you won't find these companies in dense urban areas, of course. but I think it's sad that, as a for instance, the Davol company doesn't produce a single product in RI anymore, largely because of the cost of doing business here. (They manufacture mostly in Puerto Rico)

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It would be really nice if RI could draw some more pharma, bio-tech, and high tech to the area also. These provide well paying blue collar and white collar jobs..although typically you won't find these companies in dense urban areas, of course.

I have to agree that we need more local jobs and that the high tech arena is a logical place to look. With our density of colleges some fo which are doing very nice research we should be attractive. I have always been rooting for Providence to attract more big business. Lots of good quality jobs will provide a sustainable core to the Providence economy.

In a VERY quick survey of Monster.com and the US Census ( http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/ ) I found the following:

Computer software jobs in Providence/all of RI = 47 (only 18 actually in Providence)

Population of Providence = 176,395

Computer software jobs in Boston = 693 (I didn’t count how many are actually in Boston)

Population of Boston = 569,165

Computer software jobs in Hartford = 94 (I didn’t count how many are actually in Hartford)

Population of Hartford = 121,578

I know that many of the jobs returned in a query by city are actually not near the city but they do represent what Cities employers like to be associated with. I’m sure many of the “Boston-South” jobs are just as close (or closer) to Providence as they are to Boston but the listers chose to associate with Boston. They feel that will attract better applicants.

I know that this data is hastily assembled and represents only a tiny slice of one industry but I still think that it is interesting that a Hartford lists twice as many jobs while having a smaller population and Boston lists 14 times more jobs while only having 3.2 times our population.

Our zoning should encourage high density downtown (and immediate area) jobs and housing while ensuring a decent living/working environment.

We can’t become a retirement community. That is not a sustainable model. I know there is lots to do in the area and we keep saying that we have nice beaches but the last time I went to a beach in Providence I didn’t go swimming, did you?

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although typically you won't find these companies in dense urban areas, of course.

I think the small size and relatively dense and urban nature of our state is an advantage here. We have areas close to the city center like the East Providence Waterfront, Metro Center Plaza in Warwick, and various underutilized industrial space along Routes 95 and 10 that these companies can and should be enticed into. We can blaze a new trail of developement style that allows companies to maintain the large footprints that send them to the subrurbs, but keep them in close to the city adding to our density and attempting to build urban villages in close proximity. Our metro area is really set up as a long vertical strip of density from Pawtucket (or Attleboro) to Warwick. That's the way our transit is currently being developed, and that strip has plenty of vacant and underulitized land to turn over to suburban style development with a 21st century urbanist twist (imagine Rhode Island Mall becoming a bio-tech park with dense residential development nearby and BRT or LRT service into the city).

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