Zoning and Density

Terrific article from Nashville about how prescriptive zoning alone is failing to create a great retail street: “Bottom line: Gallatin Avenue is a far cry from the Rue de Rivoli. It’s hostile to humans — loud, ugly, exposed to the elements and downright deadly. Zoning cannot encourage a human, with free will and a love of life, to sit down and sip an espresso along a drag strip — it can only force buildings to pretend that they will.”

I expanded this thought into an article:


I wouldn’t mind living in a cult de sac neighborhood as long as they have bike and pedestrian connections. Cul de sac means less through traffic and slower speeds (generally). In these types of developments, requiring pedestrian/biking connections would be big. Traffic would be lower in the neighborhood which also means that it would be safer to ride in. The shorter biking/walking distance would be an incentive for people to walk/bike more. Places in NYC have closed out through traffic for cars and allow bikes/pedestrians to flow through. It’s similar in a cult de sac except that the road does technically go through; cars just aren’t allowed.


This is a really similar story to the Peace St. McDonald’s. That fake facade that sits proud of the front of the building is just there to meet the city’s requirement while the building is really just the standard drive-thru oriented box.

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I dub this phenomenon the “Spite facade”

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Im not sure this is the right topic for my question but i an in a discussion with an LR contributor over why we need more density and housing in general in order to contribute to affordability and why CC needs to do more upzoning. His response was:.
It was recently reported by Zillow that Raleigh is short 17,000 housing units. Between Dec 2019 and Mar 2023 Raleigh City Council approved zoning cases to build 70,000 residential units. There is NO shortage of entitlement to build residential units. Especially when you consider the 17K number reported by Zillow is for the Raleigh METRO area which is a 3 county area of Wake, Franklin and Johnston counties

Any thoughts on this?


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I didn’t open the livable Raleigh link because I need to keep my blood pressure under control, but by your summary I have some thoughts.
First of all, 17,000 new housing units isn’t an end game. It’s what’s short now. Do we really think that we just have to build 17,000 units and “voila” housing shortage is solved? This is a rolling issue and in a fast growing place like Raleigh and the Triangle, there’s going to be continuous need.
Secondly, a plan to build 70,000 new units isn’t something that can be realized overnight. 70,000 approved in ~3.5 years doesn’t mean that we get 70,000 in that same time period. Projects take time. I’d love to know how many of those 70,000 are actually in place now. If it were 70,000 and we’d expect about 2 people per unit on average, that would suggest that we had grown our municipal population by 140,000. We know that hasn’t happened.


Thanks for that John. I think given the context he was suggesting that CC need not approve any more zoning requests as the ones they have already approved are multiples of what we need. I was arguing that LR keeps opposing things that would help affordability. They seem to oppose missing middle, density around BRT nodes, ADUs and so on. His contention was that developers request upzoning but then dont build. He implied the upzone was just a way to increase property values and that even building more dwellings wont help affordability. (Somehow suspending the law supply and demand ) So let the developers just work with what they have already gotten approved is what he seems to be saying. .

My feeling is that much of the problem is with all the requirements like parking minimums, setbacks and the like. Developers have got to make the numbers work in order to build.


What other city in the United States of America does this idiot think just artificially pauses rezonings and other requests when [made up limit] has been met? Does he not think the city will continue to grow outside of “what they have already gotten approved”? Is he dumb?


This is also a regional issue. If Raleigh stops approving more units, then more folks are just going to move to new subdivisions in Knightdale or Apex. That may be what they want, but it makes the entire region less sustainable. It will cost the County more, it reduces green space, etc.


Seems to summarize the wild thinking of the LR crowd. That, and the hit piece they published today on Mitch Silver—as well as some of the tactics they took to try to stop the TOD—just continue to paint a very dark cloud over their ideology.


Livable Raleigh - Insist on every development include “affordable Housing”, but oppose any new zoning because Raleigh has already approved enough rezoning and there is no shortage of housing supply.

Just does not add up.

When you hear that 70,000 number. They are doing some very fuzzy math on if every possible property was fully built out to possible zoning. So if the Alamo draft house was torn down and the whole property was built to 3-5 stories of apartments is an example of that. Not going to happen anytime soon. Bet they also do some funny math on any 40 story zoning being 2,000 plus units even if 10 stories are built with commercial. It’s really just a big hand wave trying to make you think they developers could go build anywhere, so don’t worry about places near transit etc with low density zoning.


I was sitting next to Mitch Silver today at the Housing and Development Summit (my event, next one 10/24). He had a conf. call with LR at 10:00. He is a brilliant planner of growth, and will absolutely be the next councilor for District A. Of course they want to smear him…

As far as approving rezonings, I fear LR would really not like what we talked about today at the summit, where Harrison, Patton, and Jones attended. We talked about creating incremental development cohorts that will meet regularly and inform staff and council of the frustrations in the process to get closer to a form based code that will allow small scale infill development to be permitted faster, as well as incremental financing models to help fund infill development like ADUs, duplex conversions, flag lots, etc.

As scary as that sounds, it actually should result in more housing being created “within the character of the neighborhood” by small scale citizen-builders rather than jarring apartment complexes that change the urban fabric drastically.

Anyways, LR needs to choose their battles because there is a groundswell of young builder-developer-house hackers looking to create infill housing and make the process faster/cheaper in order to respond to the housing crises more dynamically.


Let’s cut to the chase. LR wants to stop rezonings because they are NIMBYs and they don’t want anything to disrupt their property, their views, their shadows, their commutes, etc.
I’m willing to agree to a proposal that we won’t touch their precious single family neighborhoods if they stop preventing things from happening outside of them. It’s ridiculous that they think that they have an outsized voice in what happens with development in the downtown boundary and in commercially zoned areas outside of their single family neighborhoods. There is enough opportunity in these areas to add tens of thousands of residential units over time if they would just stop meddling.

  1. You have a better chance of solving world hunger by hitting your hand with hammer than convincing Tim Niles or any Livable Raleigh contributor that change should be legal, and you’ll probably feel better after.

  2. I am 100% in favor of ceding Wakefield to the Karens of LR as a nimby preserve if they butt out of everything else. Nobody is forcing them to do anything, if they want to live an hour from the grocery store and eat at Applebees then go crazy.

  3. If Tim thinks we don’t have an affordability problem it’s because he hasn’t had to rent an apartment or buy a first house since the Clinton administration. These people want to pull the ladder up on everyone else - more people can’t move into my neighborhood because it would inconvenience me personally. Tough shit if that means you can’t afford to live.

  4. LR’s pressure for CACs is undemocratic. The thought that all decisions should be made by the people that have time to show up to a meeting on a Tuesday night rather than, oh I dunno the elected officials, is patently stupid and makes gerontocracy the law of the land.

  5. Existing zoning is bad for the environment. Infill development has the best effect on reducing emissions by something like a factor of 100x. Tough to have an HOA that requires people to mow their lawns if the planet is a flaming husk.

  6. David Cox has a stupid face and I hate him


Livable Raleigh - Insist on every development include “affordable Housing”, but oppose any new zoning because Raleigh has already approved enough rezoning and there is no shortage of housing supply. Just does not add up.

It adds up when people finally realize that their goal is not to be logical, but to slow the process down. I watched one of their YouTube sessions where they brought in guests who explained how adding density would cause gentrification a while back.

Gentrification is already happening on New Bern and has been happening for years. They didn’t give a shit about it until people started talking about upzoning it (which has proven to make areas MORE affordable, not less).


im no expert in these matters…but there is realtor slang when it comes to price…" location x 3"…can you really make things ‘affordable’ (60 percent of ami?) where numerous high salaried people want to live? and in raleighs case…are most near median wage jobs being created outside of 440 or 540?

The largest employer in Raleigh is still State government. Most jobs in or around downtown and I can tell you for certain they definitely aren’t above median. :face_with_diagonal_mouth:
The huge amount of traffic into Raleigh every weekday morning from JoCo is proof.


likely so…but what percentage of total employment is state govt? and is the vast majority of the median level or just below median becoming ‘sprawled out’? is a different development paradigm needed (thoughtful sprawl, iow) for better crafted affordable housing while preserving quality-of-life amenities?

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I’m just going to drop this right here.