Gordon Price is one of the most prominent urban thinkers in this city, and I am always interested to see the latest posts on his blog pricetags. Today, it's an item about a recent decision in Seattle to reduce parking requirements for new townhouses in certain neighbourhoods in Seattle, covering about 8% of the city. The goal is to deter the development of 'four packs' and 'six-packs' which is the somewhat derogatory term used to describe higher density townhouses that are often built as infill developments on 50 and 60 foot lots.
The homes are usually built in two rows, one fronting the street, and one fronting the lane. In between is an 'auto-court' that leads to garages under the units. Sometimes the units have their principal entrances off the 'auto-court'. While the area between the units can be quite tight, and the 'auto-court' can be bleak, the concept is clever, in that it allows townhouses to be built on small lots in an incremental fashion.
A few weeks ago I went to Seattle to explore neighbourhoods offering this form of development. I took some photos which I shared with a few people around Vancouver. However, Gordon's post has prompted me to post a few photos here. There is no doubt that eliminating the parking requirements will significantly improve the design of these projects; however I can understand why many Vancouver neighbourhoods would not support zero parking....although with suitable design, I think they might support some four-pack and six-pack projects with appropriate design.
Here is another project that is not as attractive from the street, but does have a better courtyard character.While I have been advocating for years that we should consider making our minimum parking standards the maximum standards, I am the first to admit that completely eliminating parking requirements for townhouse developments may be going a bit too far, too quickly. That being said, I do support eliminating parking (except for visitor requirements) for some very well located apartment projects, if a developer is willing to take on the market challenge. After all, eliminating underground parking in a dense urban centre can save $50,000 from the cost of building a small apartment.
Now, as for the four-packs and six-packs, I am actively looking for a Metro Vancouver site where I might be able to design and develop an improved 'Vancouver version' of this form of townhouse infill project as a 'demonstration project'. With improved design, I think it would be an excellent housing choice for those wanting a ground oriented form of development, at a price comparable to an apartment.
So if you know of, or have a 50 or 60 foot lot for sale in an area that might be suitable for rezoning, just let me know. I'll be happy to buy the property, or partner with someone interested in rezoning and redevelopment, and possibly moving into one of the units, and/or keeping one or more as a future investment. I can always be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.