AIA Zoning Changes

Could someone please explain to me how the AIA’s proposed zoning text changes would increase building density? I’ve looked through the AIA’s presentation, and don’t see anything about added density – in fact, they even say (in really big red letters) that the proposals do not add FAR. But opponents are all over this as a way of increasing density as well as height.

On the question of height, I think the proposal to allow buildings to rise to the height of their nearest neighbor makes sense in general (and all told, a building could only go up 25% higher than allowed – which amounts to one additional story of streetwall in an R6B zone). It might make more sense if you were allowed to go up to the shorter of the two buildings adjacent, but I think the 25% cap will be pretty limiting.

Basically, zoning is a macro tool – it cannot accommodate every nuance in the existing built fabric. So the idea here is that while contextual zoning (height limits) is a good idea for a given neighborhood/block/street, it might not be a good idea for every development site neighborhood/block/street. Height is generally not the enemy – density is – and a four-story building in a block of five-story tenements can be less contextual that a building that completes the streetwall. (Of course a corollary to the macro not micro argument is that zoning shouldn’t need to make everyone whole – some sites can’t be maxed out under the allowable zoning, and that’s just the way things are.)

So until someone can explain to me how this or any of the other AIA proposals increases density, I have to think this might not be a bad proposal.