New Single Family Residential Design Guidelines!

[The exclamation point is just tossed in there to re-emphasize the point I make in the post, below:  Most of city government is pretty dull, or "should" be.]

In this case, I would like to stress what's so good about these new guidelines, because, from the comments I heard last night, I think some of us may note quite see how this is supposed to help improve the appearance of our neighborhoods.

These new guidelines are designed to control mansionization.  Without these guidelines, property owners were free to build giant, boxy, imposing structures right next door to older, smaller homes.  Without these guidelines, city staff and the planning commission would be powerless to stop a "big box" house from being plopped down.  As long as its square footage was small enough, or even if the square footage was huge but the house did not consume more than 45% of a lot's area, ugly and imposing architecture that is out of proportion to its neighbors was no basis for denying a conditional use permit.

However, with these new guidelines, city staff and the planning commission will have a basis for stopping ugly box houses.  New McMansions will be confined to smaller footprints under the new rules than they were under the old rules (generally just 35% of a lot's area, rather than 45%).  New McMansions that want to use up to 40% of a lot's area will have an incentive to incorporate roofline and wall articulation features that will prevent new homes from presenting their neighbors with a flat and solid wall that blocks out the sky.  Second stories will generally have "sitbacks" (as opposed to first floor "setbacks"), so that rather than the McMansions "getting in your face," they'll present an airier and friendlier face to the neighborhood.

These new guidelines are not going to be perfect.  But they are a step in the right direction.

Clarification letters

Story in today's SGV Tribune regarding the possibility of city "clarification" letters to be sent out to city residents to let them know what the residential design standards were all about.  These letters (which will probably cost the city $10,000 - $25,000) to write, print, and send, are required, in part, to counter the misinformation contailed in those Wal-Mart/Margaret Clark post cards that went out prior to the May 8 city council meeting.

Design Concepts, Roses

The City might want to recommend a visual style for the city. They could stock some books at the library, and people could talk about maintaining a theme for their street. Yes, it sounds very chi-chi and snobby, but it doesn't have to be. Some people would appreciate not having to make design decisions.

Another random idea I had a while back would be to use a vacant lot to establish a city nursery for roses. Residents could be entitled to a couple city-provided rose plants every year. This would create a job for a nursery worker, or maybe a pair of retired rose growers, and also bring floral unity to the city.