Uncontrolled Growth

Summary: 
1. Our city is mostly homeowners (70+%), demand for density is mostly external (people who want to move here).
2. Density does not lead directly to city tax revenue, we don't have an income tax. Lower cost density mostly brings increased cost through infrastructure strain (schools, traffic, services, etc.).
3. Higher density development should happen in areas that already have services (large arterials) before going to neighborhoods.
4. Those who choose to develop property should bear the full impact cost of such development, rather than city taxpayers in general. 
 
I propose legislation that will use a true cost methodology to let the market create the above conditions. Under this, developers will be responsible for all infrastructure impacts caused by development activities (sidewalks, road expansion, traffic control devices, school impact fees, etc). This will make the cost of developing in places that do not have existing services higher, thus we will see development where we expect to see it.
 
Neighbors,
 
I have probably written about this issue more than any other on nextdoor. That is because this is currently the highest impact issue in your lives that I see. This is of such great importance, that in the last 2 years I have been using my personal time and money to help represent neighborhoods all over our city to fight high impact developments because our current law just isn't keeping up. But my efforts are all short term, even when I win battles, developers imply reapply the next year hoping folks will fight less. If we don't create a permanent fix through the city council changing the code, we will lose in the long term, and our city will become a mess.
 
Once building occurs, it is irreversible, and we will have to deal with the impacts of it one way or another. Thus, poor planning in this regard will lead to the worst long term consequences for your homes, jobs, and ultimately lives. We have all seen the beginnings of this problem all over the Valley: high-density developments, popping up in places we don't expect causing traffic, crime, pollution, overcrowding our schools, and potentially hurting property values. We need to do something now before this problem gets worse! We are at a critical juncture in our City's history where we can either become an unplanned mess like Seattle or keep our city on the path of sustainable and predictable growth with the neighborhood feel we have all come to love.
 
How do we do this? Simple, we use the 'True Cost' methodology. My plan is to make developers responsible for all the costs of development.
 
To be clear I do not blame the developer. They should absolutely earn every dollar they can and maximize their profit and use of land. I blame the City. The City is the one incentivizing this kind of construction. The main problem here is that the developers are not made to pay the true cost of their developments. let me give you an example: Our code clearly mandated that this apartment complex build a sidewalk (built in a neighborhood on 4th and McDonald, pictured with the post) but how does it make sense to build a 3/4 block sidewalk? My understanding is that in an area where 20 houses had 15-20 kids walking to school a sidewalk was not necessary, but now there are many, many more and a sidewalk is being considered. Who should pay for this? In my mind, this cost was created by the developer as a result of developing, so they should cover the 'True Cost'.
 
I don't believe that we should limit people's rights to develop their own property, but I believe that those who choose to develop should pay the true cost of that development rather than other citizens paying for it through city taxes. The developer reaps the benefits, so why should we pay the costs?
 
It's just common sense...
 
in my mind, the developer should have born this cost and passed it off to the ultimate residents of the complex. Yet currently, it's our city who pays to expand these sidewalks and roads, while the developer gets the yield of cheaper apartments and a fast turnaround profit. If we had the True Cost model in place, areas like painted hills that will require a large infrastructure improvement cost for multifamily housing due to density (compared to a much smaller infrastructure improvement cost for single-family) would be developed last (or developed at more manageable densities) due to market forces rather than direct regulation. In addition, it wouldn't be a tax burden to citizens not reaping any of the benefits. I think everyone would agree that houses on painted hills would be a much better and more sensible option than a large multifamily complex. By the last estimate, the area would accommodate some 100-200 homes or about 400-800 people compared to 2000-5000 people in the multifamily setting. under a true cost model, I believe the developer would have chosen this route rather than pay the extra infrastructure costs (sidewalks, street expansions, bus stop expansions, intersection expansions, and school/policing impact fees).
 
my point is developers are not evil, they simply maximize profit and use incentives wherever they can. It's the American way. It's our City Governments job to plan growth in a way that will allow our city to function. this can be done with direct regulation (read strict zoning), but I believe we are better served by letting the market decide and setting up market forces to help. Thus I support making developers pay the True Cost of development leaving as little as possible as the burden of the city. This would mean that areas that have strong infrastructure support (ie large arterials like pines above 16th) would be developed at much lower cost than areas like painted hills that have limited road access, no sidewalks, no bus stops, etc. to put this in perspective, when our neighborhoods were built the developers paid all the costs of street connection, sewer, sidewalks if needed, etc, and passed that cost to the purchaser. I think the same logic should apply to a multifamily housing unit, its just more complicated to calculate since they are often being constructed in areas that have some roads and services already.
 
In addition, I plan to bring back the strong Green space requirements that the council majority, including my opponent, recently eliminated. I don't think our city is ready for being a concrete jungle, that's just common sense.
 
I believe that these proposals will truly protect the neighborhood integrity of our city, and help us grow responsibly into a future we can all support.

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© 2017 by  Albert Merkel. Proudly created with Wix.com

Pictures provided by JANUARY D PHOTOGRAPHY, a valley resident owned small business. see more of her work at januarydphotography.pixieset.com  

Video produced locally by artist Micaela Halpin