SB827 Flopped — Could Mean Height Regulation (MHR) Be the Middle Way?

SB287 Criticism #1 — Glass Towers Overnight

People are scared by the idea of tall buildings leaping up overnight near their house or in their neighborhood. Any law that offers a discontinuous leap in building heights is therefore scary. SB827 does over this sort of “jacking up” of the height restriction.

SB287 Criticism #2 — Local Control (an Effective Red Herrings)

Critics claimed incorrectly that that SB827 got rid of important “local control”, but the law left in place demolition restrictions, non-displacement provisions, and local design control for every project. What it really did was legalize 8 story buildings around transit, and leave all local controls the same. It is just scary for a lot of people to think that all the 1–3 story buildings around transit could shoot up to 8 stories over night.

SB287 Criticism #3— A Short Term Solution

No critic pointed out that SB827 is a short term solution. What happens 30 years from now when we need 12 or 16 story buildings around transit? Do we have to have this fight all over again?

A New Solution — Mean Height Regulation

Here is the proposed working for MHR:

Any new building can be between one-half above or below the the average height of the surrounding buildings.

Support for MHR #1— More Gradual Development

Setting a flat 80 foot height restriction invites as many developers as possible to hit that maximum as soon as possible. But setting a formula-driven height restriction with Mean Height Regulation will make development more gradual because some people will sell or develop their properties today, but others will wait until the mean height gets higher before selling or developing.

Support for MHR #2 — More Beautiful

MHR makes neighborhood and urban development more gradual and thoughtful and that makes it end up more beautiful and desirable.

Support for MHR #3— More Consensus

MHR is a building height regulation that can build consensus between pro- and anti-growth citizens because it opens up gradually taller and taller buildings, but it removes the fear that tall buildings will “shoot up overnight” where smaller buildings were before.

Support for MHR #3 —Wider and More Long Term

The MHR policy could reasonably extend to the whole world, not just transit corridors in Californian cities. Anywhere there is more demand to live, it makes sense to allow buildings to swell to higher heights. As the buildings grow, the city can plan and deploy the development of services to those denser areas.



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Educator, Founder, Engineer. Interested in Evidence Based Education and Solving BIG Problems.