Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Do I suffer from NIMBY creep?

Revealed preference tells me I like living in older, close-in, suburbs. While in Madison, I technically lived near the middle of the city in a neighborhood called University Heights, from which I could walk to work (although if it dropped below -10 F, I would drive). But Madison is pretty small, so the neighborhood felt suburban. My house was built in 1927. From there I moved to Bethesda, MD and lived in a house built in 1936: a rare vintage for the US but not so much for the DC area. Now I live in a house built in 1911 in the south central part of Pasadena. Pasadena is unusual among suburbs, in that it is very much a stand alone city, with lots of employment and center-city amenities. But it is still a suburb.

The neighborhood in Madison has a number of tri-deckers; the neighborhood in Bethesda has nothing other than detached single-family units, but the houses, while nice, were kind of dull. Had someone suggested rezoning the neighborhood to allow denser development, I would have not objected.

Here in Pasadena, land values are sufficiently high that rezoning would doubtless produce an increase in multi-family housing. I think a four story, 16 unit building would fit on my lot rather easily. More than that would be a problem because of the street infrastructure around here.

This would allow Southern Californians of average means to live near shopping and schools and (perhaps) close to work who might otherwise live in the far eastern reaches of the San Gabriel Valley. It would allow more people to have access to the Gold Line, which is within walking distance. The economist in me thinks that the neighborhood should be rezoned to allow for higher density, and land values suggest that such rezoning would produce redevelopment when the market comes back.

The non-economist in me thinks this would be a shame. The neighborhood is filled with Arts and Crafts houses from around 100 years ago, most of which are lovingly maintained. As I walked home this morning from Peet's coffee (where I was discussing land use issues with my colleague Chris Redfearn), I marveled at the beauty of the old suburban landscape. Does this have policy implications? What are they?


Anonymous said...

There are more ways to increase density than 4 story 16-unit squares. Granny flats, easier division of homes into duplex/triplex units, and garage apartments all make sense. What about some Katrina cottages? Google "invisible density" and "gentle density" in Vancouver for more.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Green

I would appreciate the opportunity to submit some questions to you regarding your views on the current real estate market. Or I frequent Noah's most mornings if we could meet in person. I am available any time it would be convenient for you.

Doug Willis

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