Density Demands Good Design

California's Senate Bill 50, to increase housing near transit hubs and job centers, failed amid fears of density. If the next version is to succeed, architects and urban designers must ensure that critics' fears are not realized.
June 17, 2019, 8am PDT | Josh Stephens | @jrstephens310
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"In considering how and where to add a volume equivalent to all of Virginia, a key question is, what state—or, rather, what city—will those new units look like? Will they look like the tract homes of Phoenix? The row houses of Philadelphia? The high-rise apartments of New York City? The triple-deckers of Boston? The genteel mansions of Richmond? Or, perhaps worst of all, the mid-rises of Hollywood?"

"Fears about changes to 'neighborhood character' often accompany prejudices about “undesirable” racial or socioeconomic groups. They also refer to lousy design. Many homeowners recoiled against SB 50 out of fear that modest cottages might be overshadowed by a new triplex next door or crowded by the addition of an accessory dwelling unit."

"The quality of design that follows the passage of the next version of SB 50 will, without exaggeration, determine the look, feel, and function of California cities for at least the next generation. Many opponents of SB 50 criticize it as a 'giveaway' to capitalist developers. If architects are to support the next version of SB 50, they should want to be seen as stewards, not opportunists."

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Published on Friday, June 14, 2019 in The Architect's Newspaper
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