In Appreciation of Gentle Density

How does one talk about density without frightening people? One term that's floating around is "gentle density," referring to the missing middle between mid-rise and detached homes.

March 12, 2017, 9:00 AM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc


Homes

Jeramey Lende / Shutterstock

Navigating the density debate might be easier if more cities embraced "gentle density," which Brent Toderian defines as "attached, ground-oriented housing that's more dense than a detached house, but with a similar scale and character. Think duplexes, semi-detached homes, rowhouses, or even stacked townhouses."

While even this mild form of densification draws opposition, it's less drastic than big blocky mid-rises. "Many people don't mind sharing a common wall and are eager to cut their costs and carbon footprint, but still appreciate a direct relationship with the ground. That's why fellow urbanist Daniel Parolek in San Francisco calls this kind of density the 'missing middle.'"

Rowhouses, townhouses and the like used to be an urban staple. But now, planners in many cities will have to relearn them. "In most cities though, deliberate zoning decisions have made this kind of housing illegal."

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