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Notes from a conference on zoning: scrap parking minimums, the argument for competitiveness, and a dissent

Secondhand notes from a major conference last week in New York titled Zoning the City...

From Streetsblog, 11/16/11, D.C. Planning Chief Urges New York City to Scrap Parking Minimums:
Yesterday, the Department of City Planning asked experts from around the country how to make a more sustainable zoning code. Their response? Scrap parking minimums.
And there's been some success:
The private sector, too, argued that removing parking minimums is critical to allowing sustainable growth. Developer Jonathan Rose noted that he applied for a mayoral override of the parking requirements for Via Verde, the green affordable housing project in the South Bronx that has received nothing but rave reviews. “We decided that affordable housing three blocks from transit in a great retail district didn’t need parking,” said Rose.
Did Forest City Ratner lobby against parking minimums for Atlantic Yards? Not publicly.

The city is reconsidering its policies--too late for AY?

The Bloomberg voice

The Architect's Newspaper reported:
loomberg LP’s Daniel Doctoroff gave a pumped up presentation that took a decidedly Bloomberg administration stance, and not unconvincingly. “Around the world cities are relentlessly copying New York,” he said, before issuing a warning. “In order to stay competitive, we must stay on edge, whether it’s Brooklyn Bridge Park or the Highline.” Doctoroff essentially concurred with a statement made this morning by Alex Garvin, “We had better come to terms with the fact that we’re not going to have a manufacturing base anymore.” But Doctoroff pointed to the future of manufacturing found at Brooklyn’s Navy Yard and Army Terminal: green technology, film and television, and biotech. “But you just got to be realistic of what you can and cannot do in New York City,” he said. “You can’t hold on to romantic notions.”
A dissent

The Design Observer's Alexandra Lange, in Who Are We Competing For?:
Back when I was writing stories about the Doctoroff era for New York, I remember asking, "Why the focus on Class A office space? Don't we need Class B and C too?" And I remember wondering, "Why spend all this money on out-of-towners? What about the people already here?" Their strategic focus was so lofty, so much on the top maybe 15 percent, on skyscrapers, on new convention centers, on new waterfronts, that it seemed to leave no room for what was happening on the ground.

...What also struck me in several post-administration presentations was a lack of adaptability, an inability to understand alternate perspectives on appropriate goals. Early in the day, a man stood up and asked how zoning could help the owner of a 25x100 lot with some extra FAR [Floor Area Ratio]. At first there was no response, but later, someone suggested that the smallholders could get together, and use a version of the High Line's cap-and-trade zoning to build a tall building on the avenue and off their street. Fine, but as the owner of a 25x75 foot lot (that's a brownstone), what I and my neighbors might much rather do is band together and trade our FAR for a park. Why must all moves be monetary, and upward? Indeed, what about the public life legendary planning consultant Alex Garvin kept vaunting?
And a comment from John Massengale:
Do we agree on this? - No matter how many times Rem Koolhaas and Frank Gehry use the word "progressive," they are building for the 1%.

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