Even if a more pro-growth City Council is elected this November, they might have a hard time building high density housing if the current council changes some existing policies.
On Tuesday, the council reconsidered zoning policies that allow high density housing in the city: R4 and the city's row house guidelines. No decisions were made, but council members expressed serious concerns with R4 housing, which allows buildings of up to five stories.
Lately, only one developer has even been able to obtain permission to build R4 housing -- a condo complex proposed to replace Summerhill Apartments at 291 Evandale Ave. But some council members have expressed objections to such dense housing as R4 allows.
No other city in the county has zoning in place that allows up to 60 homes per acre, said council member Margaret Abe-Koga, who objects to the zone. Tall housing developments are usually done through more time-consuming precise plans, but R4 was designed to be a "floating zone" to expedite higher densities along major streets and near public transit, and away from one-and two-story homes, city staff said.
"R4 was a knee-jerk reaction to 'Let's get everything zoned to the highest density possible,'" said council member Laura Macias, who said 30 units per acre was already high density. "We already do high density and we shouldn't apologize for it, we do a very good job of it."
The council also reconsidered allowing three-story row homes in neighborhoods zoned for two-story homes. Concerns on that subject came to light after proposal of a row home development on the Hetch Hetchy right of way at Whisman Road. The council eventually lowered the heights of the three-story homes proposed there, but the developer was hesitant to go down to two stories.