In New York, as supertalls shoot up and the outer boroughs yield to relentless waves of glazing, there's growing public interest in the unsexy urban planning jargon that shapes the city behind the scenes. Enter the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP). The New York–based nonprofit that taught architects how not to be dicks has debuted an interactive tool to explain one of the most confusing concepts in planning and development. Building on the What is Zoning? toolkit, CUP's What is FAR? helps users get savvy with developer lingo—particularly the concept Floor Area Ratio (as readers may know, FAR determines the height and bulk of buildings). Language is power, and CUP, along with eight community partners, reasoned that it's helpful for ordinary folks to speak the language of bureaucrats and capitalists when discussing changes in their neighborhoods. To learn about FAR, players move blocks across a 2,000-square-foot lot. At first, the tool asks for a building with a FAR of 1—a one-story building that fills the entire 20-by-100-foot parcel. Using the same number of blocks, players can re-mass the structure to create a new building—also with a FAR of 1.For those who want to play Jane Jacobs (or Robert Moses), What is FAR? has an area to visualize how zoning (and re-zoning) shapes whole neighborhoods. The tool—with lot coverage, height limits, and rear yard stipulations—gets really granular, producing familiar city blocks or whatever the hell you want:
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One of the biggest changes in decades to New York City’s zoning may be coming. The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) sent out a memo and statement regarding Senate Bill 5469 and Assembly Bill 7807 which would change the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) for the city of New York. The city’s current residential FAR cap, set at 12, has not changed since 1961. This bill looks to eliminate the cap by amending the Multiple Dwelling Law. If the FAR cap is removed, many of New York City’s high-density residential neighborhoods could experience added levels of density. MAS has expressed its disapproval of this bill, fearing that its passing would “overburden the city’s stressed infrastructure network and crowd out light and air for neighboring properties and public spaces.” A spokesperson from sponsoring State Senator Simcha Felder has stated that the bill will be voted on tomorrow. MAS has noted that the bill has been “rushed” through the State Legislator and believe it to be at the request of the Mayor. The spokesperson mentioned that Felder sponsored the bill on behalf of the city. Another concern of MAS is that the bill’s passing could “lead to the preference for residential development in mixed use districts, as residential use commands a much higher price per square foot, compared to other uses.” Additional concerns are that the property owners could look to increase past 12 FAR, following approval of the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA). The process to receive that approval “does not require the same level of public review” as the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). Ultimately, MAS and other critics of Senate Bill 5469 and Assembly Bill 7807 fear that there is not an adequate understanding of the effects of this bill if it were to pass.
Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel floats ordinance to fast-track transit-oriented development, reduce parking minimums
This week Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will push a plan to expand transit-oriented development (TOD) by easing zoning restrictions and releasing certain projects from parking requirements altogether. The city already has an ordinance providing for transit-oriented development and, as AN has previously reported, several projects have rushed to take advantage of it. Mixed-use developments with dozens of new housing units have slashed their parking lots, avoiding a longstanding code requirement that they provide one spot for every unit by building near transit stations. Chicago's Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) gave the proposed changes a favorable preliminary analysis, building off its own “TOD calculator” which the agency released recently in order to spur private developers into building on dozens of properties it labeled “ready for TOD.” Emanuel's new ordinance would give developers of such projects more opportunities to reduce their investment in parking. Here are the changes City Council members will vote on Wednesday, according to the mayor's press office:
• TOD incentives will be available within an expanded radius from a transit station: up to 1,320 feet (1/4 mile) or 2,640 feet (1/2 mile) on a Pedestrian-designated street. • A 100 percent reduction from residential parking requirements if replaced with alternative transportation options, such as a car sharing station on site, or bike parking. • A streamlined process for accessing the minimum lot area, floor area ratio (FAR), and building height incentives by allowing developers to secure these benefits through an Administrative Adjustment from the Zoning Administrator, as opposed to a zoning map amendment by City Council under current law. • For projects that trigger the city’s Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO), an additional 0.25 FAR increase (to 3.75) if the development includes half of any required affordable housing units on site, plus an additional 0.25 FAR increase (to 4.0) if the development includes all required affordable housing units on site.