After an outpouring of opposition from neighbors, the developer behind a planned 268-apartment project at the edge of East Rock’s Goatville section agreed to continue parleying—and promised it’s not too late to change the plans.
The 29-year-old heads a team of developers who plan to convert the abandoned old industrial building into apartments and retail space.
To do so, they need special zoning permission from the city. The building, at the corner of Lawrence, Mechanic, and State streets, is in an industrial zone. Gross needs variances to permit residential uses there, as well as permission to have smaller side yards and fewer parking spaces than otherwise required. He and his lawyer and an architect made a case for those permissions on Tuesday night before the BZA.
The board didn’t vote on the matter. Following standard procedure, the matter was referred to the City Plan Commission, since the application involves parking. The commission will consider the application when it meets next week, make a recommendation, then send it back to the BZA for a final vote next month.
Dozens of neighbors turned out at Tuesday’s meeting to register their opposition to the proposal. They registered their concerns about parking, density, and the possibility that the new development might be only for well-off Yale students and faculty, thus changing the character of the neighborhood.
Neighbors asked the board to hold the public hearing open beyond the meeting, to allow the developers to address neighborhood concerns. The BZA declined to do so.
After an introduction by Gross (pictured), New York architect Randy Gerner, who has designed the proposal and is part of the development team, showed board members a slide presentation of the plans for the Star Supply building.
Gerner said the project is designed to continue the well-defined “street wall” that exists farther south on State Street. The only vehicle entrance would be on State Street. A pedestrian “mews” is planned for Mechanic Street between four buildings with three or four apartments in each. Buildings on Mechanic Street would be limited to two stories. A building that reaches seven stories would extend back from State Street.
Parking on-site would be limited to 198 spaces. The complex would have a parking ramp not visible from the street, along with parking for more than 200 bikes, Gerner said. The development would include commercial space—retail and office—along with 12 live/work apartments. The project calls for 256 other apartments, all rentals, mostly single-bedroom. All apartments would be market-rate, not government-subsidized.
The development has to be that dense, with small side yards, in order to make it economically feasible, Gerner said. Environmental clean-up on the site will run into seven figures, said Anthony Avallone, the attorney for the applicants.
Avallone said the parking-spot-to-apartment ratio matches modern guidelines. He mentioned the 360 State tower, which he said has only 325 spaces for 500 apartments. Gerner said he recently helped build a 500-apartment building in Brooklyn with 250 parking spots, and only about 110 of them are being used.
Gross said the project would have a car-sharing program, possibly ZipCar.
When it came time to hear from the opposition, some 24 people took the mic to say their piece.
East Rock Alderwoman Jessica Holmes (pictured) was first to speak. She said that while neighbors are excited to see something finally happening at the blighted eyesore, concerns remain.
Near the top of the list: Parking. A woman who lives on Lawrence Street took issue with Avallone’s comparison to 360 State and Gerner’s to Brooklyn. That’s “a bit of fallacy,” she said. Parking is very congested already, said Matt Rogers, who lives on Mechanic Street. A man who lives on Orange Street said all 11 parking spots at his 10-apartment building are always filled. Andrew Rae said in his experience as a Mechanic Street landlord, tenants expect a one-to-one apartment to parking-spot ratio.
Neighbors also voiced concern about changes affecting the character of the neighborhood. Holmes said the area is the most diverse in East Rock. Bringing in 268 new tenants from one demographic—those who can afford the rents—would be “a game changer,” Holmes said. Cristina Cruz-Uribe, who lives on Bishop Street, said Goatville has the only reasonable rents in East Rock. Such a large development should have homes for families and condos for people who want to buy, she said. Several others expressed similar sentiments. Others said the design seems “closed in” or “isolated.”
Neighbors worried about the size of the new seven-story construction. One man said it would cast an 110-foot shadow in the winter. Avallone said the developers may build seven stories by right in an industrial zone.
Avallone said having a parking spot would not be an additional charge for tenants at the new development, so renters wouldn’t have an incentive to opt for free parking on the street. He said the development, despite its density, is one-third open space.
BZA chair Pat King closed the public hearing over the objections of neighbors. She said that the discussion can continue and any changes that come from it can be taken up with the City Plan Department.
The discussion continued immediately, informally. Neighbors gathered around Holmes and Gross in the hall outside the meeting room. Holmes proposed holding another meeting between neighbors and Gross.
Gross agreed. Neighbors wanted to know if he is willing to not just listen but change his plans.
“I can honestly say that input can still affect this project,” he said.
That’s not just “lip service,” he promised.
Gross said his concern is coming up with a plan that he can find backing for. “It’s about getting it built,” he said. Finding financing for the project will be a big challenge, he said. The development needs to have enough apartments to make money.
Cruz-Uribe pressed Gross on what specifically he might be willing to change about the plans.
“The density and the parking are things that could change,” he said. Gerner said the four buildings planned for Mechanic Street could be three stories instead of two, which might mean the seven-story building could come down to six. Gerner promised to give neighbors a “shadow study” showing just how much light the big buildings would block.
Holmes called that a good start and made plans for a Sunday meeting at the site.
Stefanie Lapetina, whose Mechanic Street backyard faces Star Supply, said she still isn’t satisfied. “It’s all talk right now.”
I don’t understand the desire to limit construction because of concerns about demographic changes. Should we prevent fancy boutiques from opening because many of our neighbors cannot afford to be clientele?
It seems silly to avoid change simply because we fear gentrification. Markets and demographics change all the time. What is the alternative? To leave this abandoned, blighted building there indefinitely?
If someone wants to take the time and money to develop this land and add more living space to a desirable neighborhood, I really don’t see the problem. Sometimes I get the sense that people resist change simply to be a contrarian.
posted by: robn on March 13, 2013 9:30am
Concerns about building massing are reasonable. parking reduction has some logic, but really shouldn’t be part of a variance application; a wholesale change to zoning law should be pursued so that there is a standard. I agree with IRISHLOOP that demographic change is a ridiculous part of this conversation. This really just reflects the Marxist agenda of Alderperson Holmes and Ward Chair Cruz-Uribe.
posted by: lawrence st on March 13, 2013 9:49am
as someone who went to the meeting (i am the lawrence st resident who called the comparison to brooklyn a fallacy), i was glad to see so many people show up, even if i was disappointed with the board’s decision.
to be clear, i, and most everyone, want the site developed. we just want it done responsibly. that means making sure that the neighborhood is taken into account.
there are two main things i worry about. the first is the character of the neighborhood, which would change drastically with 286 new apartments that are not big enough for families or affordable to many of the people who currently live in the area.
the second is parking. i love biking and walking, and i don’t own a car. but i also know that i am in the minority, and i see how difficult parking already is in this area. it is naive to think that simply reducing the number of parking spots will reduce the number of cars. this is not downtown. and it’s definitely not brooklyn.
posted by: Fair and Honest on March 13, 2013 9:57am
>It seems silly to avoid change simply because we fear gentrification. Markets and demographics change all the time. What is the alternative? To leave this abandoned, blighted building there indefinitely?<
I agree with Irish Loop—the place is a terrible blight as it is now. It will be very costly to clean it up and develop.
Are people objecting to change because the outcome might be “worse than ideal” or “worse than it is now”? The “ideal” development—that would please everyone—is NOT going to happen. And the site has sat abandoned for years. Time to take a risk and opt for change.
posted by: Wooster Squared on March 13, 2013 10:00am
Does alderwoman Holmes and the others opposing this development understand that it’s illegal (and unethical) to reject or accept a residential development plan based on what kinds of people you think are going to move in?
We all want diverse neighborhoods here in New Haven, but we can’t go approving on denying zoning applications based on the social class of the people we think might eventually live in a development.
posted by: David S Baker on March 13, 2013 10:14am
This reeks of developer decoy-based crowd control.
Development projects of this scale often pay architects to have several drafts at the ready. The first draft is so outlandish it will make all others look brilliant in comparison. The second draft will have slight concessions but is designed to show they are not backing down. The third is so profoundly competent in comparison with the first that detractors will breath a sigh of relief even if they are going to have to turn their front lawns into parking spaces.
posted by: Morgan Barth on March 13, 2013 10:23am
I wish I prerogative to attend more of these public meetings, but I often work too late - this message board will have to suffice. I wish I had been there to speak in favor of the project as a nearby (though not directly adjacent) neighbor. I think residents have every right to scrutinize the project and make reasonable requests that the builder should honor. But some of what has been reported sounds more like NIMBY than thinking about the greater good. I’m looking forward to this development because it will breathe new life into a long abandoned factory and I’m confident it will improve my neighborhood.
- Zoning Changes: I’m not an expert on this (as I know some NHI readers are) but the developer’s requests seem reasonable. The area is zoned for industry and there’s no more industry - apartments and retail better serve the community.
- Parking Variance: We live in a city that likes suburban amenities - I understand neighborhood concerns, but generally think our parking regs are outdated and that the city is stronger with more densely built housing.
- Diversity, housing costs etc: First, I think it’s premature and unfair to make assumptions about what this will or won’t do to neighborhood diversity. I think it is reasonable to predict that the addition of 250+ units should have the net affect helping to maintain or even lower rental costs the area by increasing supply.)
- Good for Upper State Street: This is a net win for Goatville and the Upper State Street area. I appreciate what the Upper State St community and businesses have been trying to do with the launch of farmer’s market, community events, etc. But it hasn’t quite come together yet. I’m hopeful this project will be a good anchor at the top of the street.
Safety: Sometimes gentrification is a good word and sometimes it’s a bad word. In this case the neighborhood gets sketchy at the top of Upper State precisely because there is an abandoned factory. This project can build a literal and metaphoric bridge to the ice rink and ball field…and maybe even create more foot traffic back and forth on East and Humphrey Streets.
Regards, Morgan Barth
posted by: anonymous on March 13, 2013 10:28am
The politicos and residents (who seem to overwhelmingly be middle aged White people affiliated with the Union machine) say they are concerned about “social justice,” “gentrification”, and “jobs.” But ironically, what they are really arguing for in their comments is a neighborhood that only extremely wealthy people can afford, if anyone at all.
If they really want to help low-income people, they should allow 500 units on the site, and change the parking minimums into parking maximums.
Economically speaking, each new parking space that the neighbors and politicos try to require ends up replacing space (and money) that could have been used instead to provide an affordable housing unit for a young family.
Economically speaking, Connecticut is desperate for more housing in cities. Most new housing is being built in the suburbs, but people can not afford those transportation costs.
Of course, actually building more housing units would create more affordable housing, which is in reality what the White, educated East Rocker small-time politicos and Union operatives fear will happen here. Some also fear losing control of local politics, so they are pandering to people who do not understand housing development instead of taking a leadership role.
Perhaps it will take another 10 or 20 years of neighborhood brownfields, high unemployment, bankrupt cities that see their police departments replaced with temporary labor, and skyrocketing numbers of working families in poverty paying virtually 100% of their income toward housing and transportation costs, before they change their minds and do what is right.
posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on March 13, 2013 10:35am
@ David S. Baker
Front lawns, in Goatville? You’re kidding, right?
posted by: WestvilleAdvocate on March 13, 2013 10:59am
I think the fact anyone wants to build anything in New Haven is amazing; so, there shouldn’t be so many obstacles.
That said, and I’m going to contradict myself here, we are a car culture and New Haven isn’t going to change that. We need to realize that in order to be sustainable we need to attract those working in other municipalities to live in our neighborhoods. Therefore, short of a genie fixing the State’s awful transportation system, parking is a necessity. To let a building this large go through without, at least, one parking spot per bedroom is insane!!!
In Westville, a recent variance to allow ARLOW to have two restaurants has flooded Whalley and West Rock with cars and pushed the tenants onto the streets. Its a very, very bad idea to let a building go through without adequate parking. It bogs down our already overly, auto-populated city center.
posted by: EastRockIndependent on March 13, 2013 11:46am
I was at the hearing last night and I think anybody there who saw the 24 people testifying for continuing the public hearing and a more neighborhood-inclusive dialogue would have recognized the range of ages, races, and income levels of the neighborhood that came out to testify. On the other side, only two (2) people spoke in favor of the project.
If all of you who are commenting in blind support or to bash politicians you don’t like had been there, I think you would have heard some very compelling arguments from people who really care about their community and are determined to retain a mixed-income, diverse and affordable neighborhood in Goatville. Unfortunately this article does not reflect the full range of testimony and comments from both long and short term Goatville residents in attendance last night.
Robn, the character of a community is the heart of why we have zoning codes and ordinances. They are not just abstract or structural ideas, they are about how people live and who lives where. And it is what bodies like the Board of Zoning Appeals are supposed to care about.
I think this project has great potential, if the developer decides to engage with the broad spectrum of people who are getting involved - who want to support this project, too, but want very reasonable shifts in the proposal.
As Jane Jacobs once said, “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”
posted by: goatvilleresident on March 13, 2013 11:53am
I wonder if anyone who commented on this article actually attended the meeting and listened to the real concerns neighbors raised. Development of the blighted Star Supply Site is a good thing. However it is in both in the City’s and the developer’s best interest to make the development work with the neighborhood. It seems that every planned apartment building in the city targets Yalies and Young Professionals. That cookie jar may run dry at some point. The city just rebuilt East Rock Magnet School, and the Star Supply site is next to a Park/Baseball Field and an Ice skating Rink. Including apartments large enough for families instead of 99 Studios just makes sense. Parking and traffic are real concerns voiced by almost everyone who testified and by the 134 neighbors who signed a petition. In an ideal world we would all ditch our cars. Parking is a quality of life issue. People need their cars to commute to their real jobs to pay for the real and ever increasing real estate taxes. Biking in the rain is not feasible for those of us who need to dress in anything but jeans for work, and often simply does not feel safe after dark. If the city allows for variances that significantly reduce the amount of parking spaces they should back it up by improving public transportation. As of right now there is no direct bus line to the train station. And transportation at night is nonexistent. A seven story apartment complex build in the backyard of existing 3 story dwellings and next to a popular baseball field warrants a shadow study. Most of the concerned neighbors are grateful that Ben Gross is willing to listen to our input. We are looking for a meaningful discussion and not a bunch of finger pointing.
posted by: MrRay on March 13, 2013 11:54am
“Gerner said he recently helped build a 500-apartment building in Brooklyn with 250 parking spots, and only about 110 of them are being used.” What an absurd statement. If you live in Brooklyn there is really no where to drive to. I live on Mechanic St and I have to drive out of New Haven to do my shopping. I certainly can’t afford the prices on Chapel and Broadway. Oh yeah and by the way, have you visited Brooklyn in the last ten years or so? It’s not a place I could afford to want to live in. I don’t look good in the required hipster mustache.
posted by: the_regular on March 13, 2013 12:01pm
Really hoping this project moves forward in a collaborative fashion—as a 3-year resident of NHV, I am continually struck by the the “melting pot” nature of this neighborhood. In my experience, it’s unique to this town and not something we should ignore.
As one of the 24 (!) people testifying in favor of holding the hearing open to continue a real dialogue, it’s important to stress that the coalition is not against development for development’s sake—quite the opposite, in fact. It’s critical, though, that the development occur in a way that is both conscious and respectful of the current fabric of the extant neighborhood.
I’d also add that I’m not sure the vast majority of GVille residents, including those in the immediate vicinity, are aware of what’s being planned. If nothing else, this is evidence of the need for a sustained and effective outreach campaign on the part of everyone involved with this project to raise awareness in the neighborhood.
posted by: goatvilleresident on March 13, 2013 12:12pm
This is the text of the petition that was signed by 134 neighbors who are looking forward to constructive discussions with the developer.
As neighbors, we look forward to the re-activation of the long-vacant Star Supply site. We understand that any redevelopment of this site must be economically viable but also believe the final product should respect the character of our neighborhood and enhance the quality of life for current and future residents.
We believe that there are significant areas for improvement in the current proposal that need to be addressed:
• Parking and Transit – There should be enough parking to handle the influx of cars that 268 new apartment units and several new retail spaces will bring. We are open to a mix of solutions (such as bike storage and car sharing) but agree with the City Plan Advisory Report that the developer needs to show how he will meet the full parking needs his project requires.
• Housing Types – We believe this project should preserve the diversity of the community that exists and allow for more people with a range of housing needs to live here. This includes adding owner-occupied housing to the site as well as potentially subsidized low and moderate income/workforce-affordable units. It should also include larger units that families would be more likely to live in.
• Neighborhood Investment - We are hopeful that the development can include streetscape improvements including new sidewalks and better lighting in and around the site. We would also like to have a seat at the table to determine the most viable uses for proposed retail space.
We believe the proposed development should move forward only after these issues have been adequately addressed through meaningful community engagement.
Sincerely, The Undersigned Goatville Residents
posted by: fk on March 13, 2013 12:31pm
The way I see it, this project has pros and cons but the pros outweigh the cons. We just need to make sure it is done in a responsible manner. Parking is the biggest concern. The people that argue that one fifth of the people in New Haven don’t drive to work may be right but they are not really recognizing what that means. It doesn’t mean that these people don’t have cars. It means that these cars don’t leave the parking lot. If the developer has a way to make sure that some of the tenants leave their cars someplace else like in the parking lot at work, then this argument works. Sure, the cost of building parking seems expensive but what is it really as a percentage of the total project cost, an extra 1-5%? I suspect that there is some compromise that can be had on this issue that will work well for everybody.
“Avallone said the developers may build seven stories by right in an industrial zone.”
“The development has to be that dense, with small side yards, in order to make it economically feasible, Gerner said.”
Was a seven story building arrived at because anything less wouldn’t be economically feasible, or because that is the maximum allowed under the zoning?
Also, the fact that Industrial zones allow seven story construction regardless of where the Industrial zone is highlights why the current zoning ordinance is useless. Should Goatville industry be of the same intensity as East Street - the industrial center of the city? Does that make sense?
The reason parking and transportation is an issue for this development is because a site that is meant to be a local employment center for the adjacent neighborhood is being converted into another residential area that is creating commuters rather than providing a walkable employment center for the neighborhood as the site is currently zoned for and meant to be used for. That is why parking and transportation are valid issues, because rather than addressing those concerns this development is exacerbating them. However, given that the site was abandoned, and there aren’t other proposals, there isn’t much room for making demands. Students will tend to use transit, which will cut down on the demand for parking spaces. Retail facing the Lawrence Street Triangle will help to activate that space and active uses along State Street will have a similar positive effect. The buildings on Mechanic Street should be redesigned along the lines of what I’ve proposed here: http://static.panoramio.com/photos/large/87061764.jpg Three 3-story buildings on traditional lots could be built with rear garages with apartments above could be accessed from the State Street service road. I also think the “E”-shaped building can be modified to impact less severely on the existing Mechanic Street residents while still providing 200-250 units in addition to the units in the old factory building and the new construction on Mechanic Street.
posted by: Stephen Harris on March 13, 2013 1:07pm
This looks very similar to the last proposal for this site a few years ago. 268 units seems to be a bit too much though. I like the idea of live work spaces, it would make the development unique and would reduce the parking demand. More live work should be offered.
Any change in plans would have to be resubmitted as a new application because plans can’t change in the middle of the process.
posted by: S Brown on March 13, 2013 1:16pm
“Does alderwoman Holmes and the others opposing this development understand that it’s illegal (and unethical) to reject or accept a residential development plan based on what kinds of people you think are going to move in?”
BAM. This is exactly right. It is no more legal to discriminate against young white people without families than it is to discriminate against middle aged minorities with children. This behavior is shameful.
And, as Anonymous points out, don’t listen to the detractors concerned with diversity. They are LYING. The same people complaining about the scale of the development also complain about the rents. Guess what, folks: if you reduce the number of units, they will cost more.
posted by: Eddie on March 13, 2013 1:20pm
It strikes me that these neighbors are making incredibly reasonable demands, which have been presented in a very organized fashion. Anyone who cares about robust participation in local democracy should at the very least want the neighbors’ concerns heard in a meaningful manner. It is insane that so many diverse stakeholders can show up to a meeting, voice reasonable concerns, and then have these concerns and their calls for further deliberation effectively shut out of the process by city officials who are mayoral appointments. It is disconcerting that these mayoral appointments can advance a developer’s plans without asking the developer to accommodate any legitimate concerns of those who will be affected by this development. To me this process has clarified the value of reforming the BZA. At the public charter hearing that I attended, Anstress Farwell presented a proposal that seems like a good set of guidelines for this reform. Of particular interest, she calls for awarding appointment power to a broader group of elected officials and efforts that increase the geographical representation of the board.
posted by: anonymous on March 13, 2013 2:41pm
It’s astonishing to see the number of outspoken residents (who are not developers) making claims about how extra parking is cheap or that the developer should build more family units. These opinions have no basis in reality. The only way to improve our city and provide more affordable housing is to make decisions that are based in reality.
Reality is that parking spaces are enormously expensive. Eliminating even more parking (eg requiring only 100 spaces) would allow this developer to provide quite a few affordable units, which to a typical family in New Haven, is far more important than the manufactured and/or pet issues brought up by upper middle class folk living around the site.
Ironically the outspoken politicos who are calling for diversity and livability are the people who are working against it.
Given the importance of this site and its potential proximity to transit, the city should require that a minimum of 400 units (including 60 affordable units) and more office and retail space are constructed here. This can be achieved by scaling down the proposed parking lot.
All that said, there’s room to improve the project and it is good to see residents involved. But they should realize they are not the only voice, that there should be other priorities than ease of finding parking in a state as expensive as Connecticut (where several times more people than the East Rockers commenting above seem to think are too old, too young, and too poor to drive), and that many of their claims are flat out incorrect.
posted by: robn on March 13, 2013 3:26pm
Zoning law pertains to two things; use and form (density being a subset of form). Economic micromanagement for the purposes of controlling what class of people live where is NOT in the legal scope of zoning law and , as others have mentioned , is probably squarely against civil rights laws.
That you and others in the neighborhood misunderstand this is to be expected since Alderperson Holmes and Ward Chair Cruz-Uribe are politically grandstanding to voice their own political agenda.
Until our leadership seriously adopts this approach, the CT and New Haven economy are going to be hurting. While we wait another 10 years for our small-time politicos to finish grandstanding about their brownfield, states like Massachusetts are building 10,000 new units every year next to their transit corridors - and eating CT’s lunch.
posted by: Proud New Havener on March 13, 2013 4:25pm
Anonymous and others attacking alderwoman Holmes and other residents in this forum and others really need to cool it. We all want what is best for our community, and it is not productive to make personal attacks.
As to the comments about whether or not parking is cheap or expensive for the developer to build, that is of secondary concern. What is of primary concern is that the development is built in a responsible manner that takes into account the present and future state of the community.
We do not have adequate alternative transit in this community to allow for less than one-to-one parking. It would be extremely irresponsible for the zoning board to grant an exception to the parking requirements, without having a solution to the problem it will create.
posted by: Bditman on March 13, 2013 4:45pm
Separate of the zoning/parking issue (of which I know nothing) it’s pretty outrageous that residents object to the demographics based on the price/rent of the units. Am I the only that feels that this is, at a minimum, discriminatory. Well-off Yale students and faculty only - ew gross! How horrible it would be sit sit next to a professor at the neighborhood bar or coffee house! Or perhaps to have your neighborhood be the start of a young person’s personal journey.
If you don’t want to know your neighbors…close your drapes. But try not to cling so tightly to the “now” that you strangle the future. OR, of course, you can continue to tell them kids to stay offah yer lawn.
posted by: win win on March 13, 2013 4:59pm
I agree with many of the other negative anti-community commentators on this thread: These commie pinkos outta go back to the USSR and quit trying to actually have a say in the decisions that impact their daily lives. Don’t they know that here in America the only thing that matters is the bottom line ?? comrade Holmes and her minions are totally blind to reality- they seem to think that development should happen in a responsible way with input from stakeholders. They must’ve been reading too much Marx.
posted by: robn on March 13, 2013 5:05pm
its nothing personal. Alderperson Holmes is a public official and its her responsibility to correctly inform her constituents about proper legal procedure.
posted by: anonymous on March 13, 2013 5:12pm
Proud New Havener: Your claim is incorrect. There is plenty of parking - in fact, New Haven has thousands of empty on-street spaces that in aggregate, the city (taxpayers) pay tens of millions of dollars per year to maintain.
Those who desire parking, and are looking for tons of extra spaces in front of their apartment door, can easily choose to rent units in the suburbs that are more expensive places to live when all costs are considered.
Your argument is one to keep the status quo - this is fine for the upper middle class residents in East Rock with graduate degrees. The economy matters little to them because as a result of their privilege, they will always be able to find a job. New Haven can become a city of empty lots and brownfields, and East Rock will still be totally fine (in fact, it may even get more expensive - that’s the real motivation behind the NIMBY neighbors here).
If you are a typical resident of the city or wider area, the status quo is most definitely not fine. Housing and transportation costs are on track to double, and incomes are flat.
We desperately need at least 400 new units here, and at at least 50 other sites like it within New Haven. Affordable housing can be provided by increasing the height limit and waiving the parking requirement.
posted by: EastRockIndependent on March 13, 2013 5:16pm
S. Brown et al:
Nobody is “accepting” or “rejecting” any plan based on anything. Again, had folks been at the hearing and actually listened thoughtfully to neighbors’ concerns, you would have heard a near-unanimous statement of support for development moving forward. People were merely asking for more time to engage with the developer to forge a plan they can get behind.
Goatvillers are concerned about the character of the neighborhood. That is not discriminatory - in fact quite the opposite. People want a development that will be open to the full range of people already in the neighborhood - workers, students, “professionals”, retirees - the works.
So please, open your heart to listen to what people have to say. Maybe show up next time to hear for yourself. Save the judgment and vitriol for another day. Is that so much to ask?
posted by: fk on March 13, 2013 5:18pm
Thanks you “Proud New Havener. You are correct. Anonymous just doesn’t get it and this individual has still not answered my question as to whether he/she is connected to the developer in any way. I think that if the developer can tell us where they will park the extra cars or how they will ensure that there are no more cars than parking spaces then we can probably let this go. If the development doesn’t need one to one on the parking, show us how it’s going to work without it. Saying it’s like Brooklyn or even downtown New Haven doesn’t cut it because it’s not. This site is off the beaten path and isn’t directly across the street from the train station. Make a good argument for us. It will be good practice for when you have to answer investor’s questions. I think that most of us would like to see this site developed. I personally, would like to see the developer come up with a proposal that will make money for investors since the project will never happen if investors don’t back it. The developer also needs to come up with a proposal that the neighbors will accept since the project won’t work unless the variances are approved. There is no reason that this can’t be a great project that makes money for the investors while making the neighborhood a better place to live. Everybody is not going to get everything they want on this. If everything goes the way it should, nobody will get everything they want but it will turn out well for everybody. There will have to be some compromise by all concerned parties. So come on folks. Let’s keep the discussion civil. Let’s be problem solvers, not whiners.
This is about people with means, who are able to own cars, not wanting to share with hypothetical future people.
I’m with you on adding some section-8 housing, although I’d rather it was a holistic and neighborhood wide addition: research shows that it doesn’t work when you just concentrate it in one building.
At the end of the day, your “right” to park your car on the street is not a right, but rather a government subsidy.
The government needs to subsidize accomodations for the POOR, not for those with means to own cars.
I can not afford a car, so maybe I just have a different way of thinking than either of you and SoA, but I know a lot of folks who can’t afford cars, and I can’t believe that they should see their annual tax costs increase when they ALREADY can not afford to own cars to get around.
By demanding that a building be lower density and produce less in tax revenues in exchange for keeping the convenience of street-side parking for those who already have the means to own cars, you are demanding a penalty on those of us who can not afford the luxury of an automobile.
I have a better proposal.
New Haven should charge an annual fee of $350 to park your car overnight in a “free” spot.
This money—roughly $70 million—can be used to increase transit equity and enable more people to get where they need to go with better and expanded bus service.
Instead of taking from the poor, we will give to them, in exchange for enjoying our luxury of close to home parking for personal automobiles.
In my proposal, government provides for the people, by charging those of us who have more than others, while continuing to encourage development and an increase in density.
Three realizations: 1. This is an industrial zone. I think the developer should stop playing games and submit a proposal for a truck unloading depot or some type of waste factory. It would be easier to get through zoning and probably more profitable.
2. The entire profit margin may be 5 to 10 million, in which case, building the extra parking at a cost of 5 to 10 million would make this guys entire profit disappear. Not going to happen. Parking isn’t cheap, even if it is 10% of the total cost, that is often times the ENTIRE profit margin of a project—10% of the cost.
3. AND FINALLY:
People don’t move where they can’t easily park their cars. If you want to live in a complex like this and park 2 cars, you’ll live in one of the many similar projects just up the road in Hamden off the highway.
Most people think about how they’ll handle the car they own when they rent an apartment.
If you over-build parking, you’ll discourage people who don’t own cars from living here, and create the very problem you claim you are trying to prevent.
posted by: Gabe_Winant on March 13, 2013 6:39pm
There’s nothing inappropriate about wanting to maintain diverse neighborhoods. Have any of you guys been to New York lately (or almost any other major city), and seen what happens when development is allowed to proceed without any concern for this? You get an increasingly polarized and segregated city, beset by ever-worse tension between rich and poor and black and white. I don’t think this is what anyone wants for New Haven.
Affordable housing and residential integration, along with employment, are the most pressing issues facing New Haven, as with most cities in America. We have a chance to do things right here, by developing responsibly and carefully, and with concern for the issues of people beyond the developers themselves. Nobody wants to leave old industrial buildings abandoned, but when neighbors get together to say that they want an inclusive and integrated community, and that private businesses have to take that into account, that’s not contrarianism or discrimination—it’s democracy in action.
posted by: Cristina Cruz-Uribe on March 13, 2013 8:03pm
Robn et al:
Here’s a broader sample of my “agenda.” I’m pasting my testimony from the meeting below.
As ever, Cristina
“I moved to the Goatville section of East Rock nearly five years ago when I was in graduate school at Yale. Like many of my neighbors, I’ve chosen to stay in New Haven as I start my career. I would like nothing better than to continue to live in East Rock in the years ahead—maybe even buy a house someday. This is why I’m here tonight to share my concerns about the proposed redevelopment of the Starr Supply building.
In short, I feel strongly that the proposal as it currently exists would not only fail to meet the most pressing housing needs of our community, but also fundamentally alter the character of our neighborhood.
Goatville is one of the only remaining affordable areas of East Rock, sharing the working-class, industrial characteristics of the neighboring sections of Cedar Hill and Fair Haven. Rents are within the reach of graduate students and young professionals with families—and it’s one of the only areas of East Rock where working people from New Haven and members of the Yale community live side by side. If you ask East Rock residents like me, we would point out that what our neighborhood really needs are affordable homes or condos for first-time buyers.
I attended a community meeting with the developer a few weeks back where my neighbors also pointed out that the cheapest proposed rental units—studio apartments, which the developers estimate would be affordable if you make 50K a year—are out of reach for graduate students and post-docs on Yale salaries. They are also simply not large enough for families.
The redevelopment of the Starr Supply site affords us an opportunity to meet the housing needs of current East Rock and New Haven residents more broadly, but the current proposal for over 250 pricey units falls short. We would like to see a project that respects this corner of our neighborhood, where more members of the Yale community and working people from elsewhere in the city could move.
I urge the Board to leave this hearing open to allow time for the developer to continue to meet with the community and substantively respond to our concerns.”
posted by: Grasshopper on March 13, 2013 8:40pm
Its obviously in everyone’s interest (developer, neighbor, city residents) to have this blighted property re-developed. The issue at hand is not what the neighborhood wants or even what the developer wants (or would concede too). It’s what can be financed in today’s market from lenders and investors who risk putting money into a deal like this. That approach will translate into a completed project. Otherwise all this back and forth will result in an approved project that never gets built.
The developer should be open about the density he needs based on his cost projections to make this work and speak to why various scenarios being discussed either work or don’t work. I feel for the developer as these are not easy developments to pull off and he’s risking significant time and money at this point. By letting the neighbors in on his financial constraints, their more apt to understand what is trying to be achieved and whether that’s realistic. If both sides can’t understand each other, then the site will lay dormant.
posted by: eastrockcitizen on March 13, 2013 8:51pm
Question for those with more in-depth knowledge of zoning, ordinances, development, city planning, etc… Would it be possible/feasible/realistic for the developer to work with the city on an arrangement to use a small portion of the massive parking lot at the ice rink in exchange for the developer paving/repaving the lot? I do not know enough about the ice rink and its own parking needs, but it seems that there is an abundance of space that could possibly be shared. The city ice rink (and residents who frequent the ice rink) could get a paved/repaved parking lot in exchange for allowing the new development to use/reserve “x” number of spaces for its residents. I must admit I have never paid much attention to what percentage of the ice rink parking lot is occupied during ice rink events. As a resident of the neighborhood who frequently walks by throughout the year, I can say that, as one might expect, the ice rink parking lot is empty most days and nights through the year. I’m not proposing the developer and tenants have free reign on the ice rink parking - just a small section of it. If my suspicion is accurate, and the rink really does not use 100% of that enormous open space even during its events, maybe the developer and city could work out an agreement? Even if the ice rink does use 100% of its parking lot for a select few events during the year, seems that the neighborhood overflow parking problem on those few dates would be desirable relative to the suspected/feared overflow parking issues in the Goatville neighborhood 365 days a year. Curious to hear from the regular city planning experts on NHI how realistic/unrealistic some sort of city-developer agreement like this could be?
posted by: SteveOnAnderson on March 13, 2013 8:53pm
Unfortunately, I have been out of town and was unable to make this meeting, but I applaud all those who took the time and energy out of their lives to seriously engage with the developer and other members of the community.
robn, I’m somewhat dumbfounded that you would end your comment with a political-ideological caricature like “the Marxist agenda of Alderperson Holmes and Ward Chair Cruz-Uribe.” What does that mean to you, specifically? What are you hoping to accomplish with that comment, and how are you hoping readers of the comments section perceive Holmes and Cruz-Uribe by defining them under such a label? How would you describe your own “agenda” in terms of a single “ism?” Have you voiced your concerns by participating in any of the public meetings, or have you been content to voice your criticisms through the comments section of the NHI?
posted by: robn on March 13, 2013 10:02pm
Unlike Alderperson Holmes and Ward Chair Cruz-Uribe I am quite content, in this forum, to accurately portray the boundaries of zoning law and I am quite content, in this forum, to condemn coopting of a private development ; one that will bring jobs and needed tax dollars to this struggling city. Maybe a more accurate label could have been Marx-ish; since the diversity argument fails to meet the rigorous intellectual standards of Marx.
Stick to the pertinent issues; use and form.
posted by: SteveOnAnderson on March 14, 2013 8:52am
As I have said before, use & form are certainly significant issues, but not simply for themselves. Use & form are full of possibilities—possibilites that enhance lives in some ways and restrict it in others. It is important to think about, discuss, and debate these possibilities and the potentially unforeseen consequences right from the beginning of a project, not simply shrug our shoulders after its been completed.
Thank you again to all who take time out of this forum to move beyond the boundedness we are told to obediently remain within, and who wrestle together with the complexities of this project to claim our right to the city.
posted by: robn on March 14, 2013 9:46am
Let me try one more time.
The law of supply and demand (well understood by Marx) states that more apartments in Goatville means less rent pressure for everyone, including working families.
Regarding “preserving diversity”, I believe the neighbors fears are unfounded. They are jumping to their worst imagined conclusion about what a mostly one-bedroom development will do to the neighborhood (i.e. an animal house). I have decades of experience in New Haven and have observed many times, young people 20-35 (both professionals and laborers) who don’t want to live a college lifestyle and would prefer to live alone. However, those people can’t find single units because they’re rare in New Haven. I have also observed older people including retirees who take apartments that are much bigger than they desire. There is simply a not a lot of decent condition studio and one bedroom units in New Haven and the result is people piling into larger apartments with roommates and leaving fewer 2-3 bedroom apartments for families (including those in Goatville). Also HomeHaven (formerly East Rock Village) is a non-profit that’s been formed to deal exclusively with the issue of elderly people who wish to downsize but remain in the neighborhood; this clearly proves the need. Most people I know in ER/GV, including myself do like the idea of diversity and do not want an animal house in the neighborhood. Because the zoning variance process doesn’t have legal control over such thing (the target markets and the economic model of the development), I’m dismayed that energy is being expended to this end in this forum. I wish the community would focus on what IS under their control and that is use and form. Although the change from Industrial to mixed residential is a good thing, the planning is unimaginative and needs improvement. The planning will set the tone of the development and also control the adjacency of its density to Mechanic Street homes. Being vocally involved with planning is the neighborhoods best way to make the development a best neighbor.
posted by: SteveOnAnderson on March 14, 2013 10:38am
Let’s agree that “being vocally involved with planning is the neighborhoods best way to make the development a best neighbor.” It’s great that you think the planning could be better in certain ways, and I think anyone involved in the meetings would love for you to come and share your perspective. (FYI, I don’t know anyone who is worried about the project being “an animal house.”)
As for “supply and demand,” Marx’s critique of the concept (not “law”) remains a very hotly debated topic (see for example http://jacobinmag.com/2011/07/zombie-marx/), and requires an inquiry into the forces behind supply and demand. New Urbanists don’t like that; it messes with the clean, simple, managerial logic of gentrification. We should be—and are—asking supply-for-whom and demand-by-whom? Who is included and excluded by this project? What are its potential effects on the built environment and geography of the city? What would it mean for the Yale shuttles to expand their service from Foster St. over to State St.? Discussions of use & form need not be divorced from those of demographics and geography.
posted by: robn on March 14, 2013 11:16am
Demographics ARE divorced from the zoning process for a private development by law (both zoning law and civil right law).
CCU: I hope that you don’t include “ability to have subsidized parking for your personal automobile” on the list of urgent priorities for East Rock. I know some 70 year olds in the neighborhood who would be shocked to hear that they need a car.
Brian, if men were systemically disenfranchised, disrespected, and murdered by their female partners—who ran society and were able to depict men as nothing more than penises while supposedly talking about their accomplishments—you would be upset too.
Folks, according to the census, New Haven has a population of 129,000 and only 41,000 personal cars.
I’m having a hard time hearing the canards that a. you need a car to live here and b. it is somehow the responsibility of the poor to provide you with a parking spot.
I’m sure you can lean on private developers to produce yet another pointless “jobs training program” that produces almost no increase in hiring or lean on private developers to offer cheaper apartments, but I don’t see how that offsets hurting the tax base and putting more strain on low-income residents who are not as fortunate as you.
posted by: anonymous on March 14, 2013 12:12pm
“Due to the scarcity and cost of urban housing, low-income people are being driven away from walkable urbanism and into auto-dependent sub-urbanism.”
The only way to correct this crisis - which by far the most important issue within our State economy - and provide more affordable housing where it is needed is: 1) Eliminate our parking requirements (or change existing minimums to 100-space parking maxiumums in a development like this, like other U.S. cities have recently done), and 2) Raise the height limits to 10 stories in neighborhoods and 40 stories near Downtown.
Unfortunately, the uber-elitists in East Rock, such as those above writing that “New Haven isn’t Brooklyn” (translation: “I’d like to keep East Rock for myself”) are content to see skyrocketing inequality and more and more struggling families, as long as it doesn’t impact CCNE members or make their house in East Rock a tiny bit less convenient a few days per year.
posted by: SteveOnAnderson on March 14, 2013 12:29pm
Yes, but the purpose of that is to prevent discrimination not to enable gentrification. In fact that very distinction in legal code is a good example of how people regulate and limit the power of private development to negatively impact communities. But, as important as legal concerns might be, it is not as if addressing them precludes an ongoing discussion of social & economic concerns. Clearly the developer is listening to these concerns because residents are making them heard, regardless of whether or not they fall precisely within the power of the zoning variance process.
posted by: Stephen Harris on March 14, 2013 12:34pm
There are two general threads here: the use and form crowd and the general planning crowd. For any specific use the regulations are the only consideration (use and form). How we should plan for future development is a much larger discussion that can’t be considered by the Board in deciding any specific item because they can only look at a proposal with respect to the regulations in place.
posted by: fk on March 14, 2013 1:57pm
Anonymous, Do you live in East Rock? People should have a say in what happens in their neighborhood, especially if somebody wants to change the rules that have already been agreed upon (zoning variance). I’m not sure what your argument is here but it sounds like you are for unregulated development with no input from the neighborhood.
posted by: Eddie on March 14, 2013 2:16pm
I agree with fk. I’m still baffled that so many have endorsed this process of decision-making. The very individuals who constantly call for greater public participation have entirely disregarded the decision-making process in this case. Again, one mayoral appointee advanced this project without granting a single concession to a group of citizens who will be affected by the project. Even calls for further diliberation were rejected. So much for local democracy!! How do those of you who call for greater public paticpation in policy decision-making reconcile your support for this process? Is it the case that you only find problems with decision-making processes when you disagree with the policy decision?
posted by: Curious on March 14, 2013 4:00pm
Everyone is arguing for this type or that type of housing, but these are people who already live here, with housing.
What is the actual DEMAND for?
I’m not talking about opinion, I am talking about real demand.
posted by: Edward Francis on March 14, 2013 4:18pm
I grew up on Mechanic Street with fond memories and am looking forward to a positive outcome of this project for the residents and the developers. I take pride in driving my grandsons back to the neighborhood to show them what was a special part of the city for me. The New Haven Independent has been instrumental in resurrecting the real neighborhood name “Goatville”. In my time Mechanic Street had a grocery store at mid-point named “Altar’s Market” and at the Eagle Street intersection there was the famous “Rock Garden Grille” and as the street continued on (then) to Willow Street - Bonner’s Gas Station and Garage was on the corner.
These figures show that the folks who think that everyone looking for an apartment in New Haven has a car are flat out wrong. Those who do have cars can easily choose to rent someplace in Hamden or West Haven where there is plenty of space to accumulate five or more cars in your front yard.
So, from a demand perspective, the developer’s proposal to limit parking here seems perfectly reasonable - in fact, he is probably proposing far too much parking here. The City should create a parking maximum, requiring the developer to build fewer than 100 spaces.
Some of the comments above are about how New Haven isn’t Brooklyn. But New Haven has the lowest vacancy rate in the country. There is tons of demand.
Personally, I would rather see 50 parking spaces removed from the plan, which would save a huge amount of money that could be used instead to construct 25 affordable units for families. Many cities create these types of incentives so that they can maintain diversity and provide housing for entry-level police officers or clerical workers.
By reducing the amount of parking or building a taller building, the developer can also lower his asking rents, which means that the product will meet a much wider slice of the total demand.
posted by: Henry on March 14, 2013 4:55pm
+1 to Streever’s comments on the parking issue. A building with more parking spaces to accommodate drivers will become a self-fulfilling prophecy—if it’s extra convenient to park there, we’ll end up with more cars in the area.
I’m grateful for the work Jessica Holmes has done to represent the neighborhood. The design of a project like this ought to have this sort of input from nearby stakeholders—I think it’ll make the project more likely to be successful.
There are legal processes and illegal processes. Following process is important, because it prevents corruption.
If the people opposed to this would like to work toward a better policy and process, WE WOULD LOVE THAT, we just oppose the piecemeal way they want to work, because we know that it does not work because it is *illegal* and will not hold.
The BZA can not deny this over section-8 housing. That would be over-turned.
Tackling this issues without a comprehensive zoning code in place is futile because most of the complaints will not hold water if the BZA denies this project based on them.
That is why several of us are objecting: BZA does not, *can not*, legally operate in the way that some of the general development people are agitating for.
The city needs to reform the zoning code dramatically. That is where energy will have a real output. As it is right now, if the developer accedes to any of these demands, it will be purely to not deal with bad will and nimbyism, not because they have to.
This is an *industrial* zone, which has sat vacant for a very long time. As such, it would be *very hard* for the city to establish that the use proposed by the developers is out of line with the actual character of the neighborhood. If the BZA said no, a judge would absolutely reverse the decision.
Regardless of how this turns out, I would like to commend both Jessica Holmes and Ben Gross. Jessica has spent a lot of time organizing nearby residents and, more importantly, listening to their concerns. Ben has participated in two management team meetings as well as the meeting that Jessica organized. In response to concerns raised at the first management team meeting, he substantially reduced the amount of commercial space in the proposal. As the article notes, there will be further conversations to address parking and other concerns.
posted by: HhE on March 14, 2013 7:30pm
Oh the horror, gentrification will be the undoing of us all. Less crime, people who pay more in taxes than they cost in services, and what about our blight.
posted by: fk on March 14, 2013 9:06pm
Streever, I think it would be more meaningful to compare the number of house households to the number of cars than to compare the number of people to the number of cars since many of our residents are not of driving age and many households share one car. There are 47,000 households and 41,000 cars so that means that 87% of housholds have a car. I don’t know how much of the demographic of this new development would fall into this 13% without cars but I suspect that a lot of the households without cars don’t have them either because they are too old to drive or too poor to afford them. That probably leaves 5% that just choose to live without a car. Since these are going to be “upscale” market rent apartments, most of the renters will be able to afford a car and will probably have one.
posted by: Stephen Harris on March 15, 2013 8:20am
There are three condition in granting Use Variances. 1. There must be no other reasonable use of the property. 2. The variance must be the minimum necessary to afford a reasonable use. 3. The new use won’t impair the character of the area.
Heavy industry will never come back to that site. This is a reasonable use. You can argue whether this is the minimum variance required. I think it’s a bit too much, but its fair to disagree. Since the character of the area is mixed use residential/business the proposed use matches the character of the area. The use variance is justified.
The Special Exception to reduce parking is tougher to justify which is why I’d like to see fewer units. But overall I think the proposal is good and an approval is defensible in court.
posted by: anonymous on March 15, 2013 8:30am
FK - your math is wrong, because about 1/4 of households here have two or more cars (particularly in places like Westville and East Shore, where many have three). In reality, 31% of total households and families in New Haven (over 15,000 households) have no car as of the most recent Census data.
Kevin: I think she has done them a disservice in not explaining how exceptions and zoning work. Being a leader is more than listening. It is also being able to explain and even say no when appropriate.
The approach to zoning issues that her constituents are endorsing in these comments is illegal and would open the floodgates of corruption.
FK: I made a decision to not burden myself with the cost and expense—both to myself and to others—that owning a car entails. I encourage you to consider the same decision. Ultimately, I am not in a position financially where I can be a responsible car owner, so I don’t own one.
posted by: fk on March 15, 2013 9:44am
Stephen Harris, You are absolutely correct on all counts! The parking issue seems to be the only thing that can hold this up and I think we would all like to see this project happen.
Anonymous, How many of the households without cars fit the demographic that will be rented to here? I still think that anybody that can afford to have a car will have a car here in New Haven. Again, New Haven is not NYC or Boston. There is no subway or light rail here. NYC is self contained and has more to offer than most countries. New Haven on the other hand, is a small city and we would go stir crazy if we couldn’t get out and do things outside the city. Sure there are people who don’t leave the city and there are all kinds of alternatives like taking a train or a bus to go someplace, but the alternatives tend to be time consuming and frustrating at best. The renters we are talking about here would tend to be young, busy, active people who don’t want to spend half a day riding a bus to get someplace. If we were talking about a retirement community or housing for the unemployed who have a lot of time on their hands I would agree that half of them would not have cars.
posted by: fk on March 15, 2013 11:50am
Streever, I commend you for walking the walk.
posted by: Eddie on March 15, 2013 11:52am
In a previous post you stated “We don’t need to build so that everyone in the city can park a car easily, and we should never require private developers to pay for the automobile addictions of local residents.” Are you happy to use “piecemeal” zoing decisions to get cars off the road?
@Eddie Absolutely not. I am in favor of converting our parking minimums to maximums in the zoning code and conducting a proper public process to re-write our zoning code.
In this case, the BZA is *allowed* to approve this project for a parking exception if indeed the parking requirement we arbitrarily set is specious or incorrect. All available research shows that indeed it is: that 100% of residents here will not own cars.
posted by: Proud New Havener on March 15, 2013 2:09pm
I think you are just flat out wrong when you say “100% of residents here will not own cars.” That just defies common sense.
posted by: Eddie on March 15, 2013 2:40pm
Thanks for the clarification. I guess I was confused because you initially advocated that this *particular* project advance based on your general policy goals. In fact, all of your inital posts advocate for this project by appealing to the fact that you and your friends get by without cars and we shouldn’t encourage more of them.
posted by: HhE on March 15, 2013 3:36pm
I think what streever meant was that less than 0 of residents (assuming this goes forward) will own a car.
For what it is worth, I live in one of the less bike friendly areas of our city (access to the rail trail aside). I own, and indeed effectively need, a car. Yet I can—and do—go for days without using it.
I park my car in my drive. Some of my neigboors, inspite of having an apple driveway, park in the street.
posted by: fk on March 15, 2013 3:38pm
I think that it is realistic to think that 5-10% would not have cars. There would be about a 5% vacancy rate and there could be another 5% that would not be home on any given night.
Total, that amounts to 15-20% fewer parking spaces than units, or 214-227 parking spaces if there are 268 units.
Proud New Havener: I think you’re reacting to my phrasing. Apologies. I intended to say that UNDER 100% of residents will own cars, because I am projecting that the residents of this building will follow the general demographic trends of the neighborhood they are moving into, in which it is true that under 100% of residents own cars.
Essentially, I’m just saying that it is unlikely that 1 resident will equal 1 car in this building.
@Eddie It is difficult because there are a lot of laws and restrictions that apply to the BZA, which I assumed people engaging the BZA would be briefed on. It may *feel* like my opinion when discussing how people can survive in New Haven without a car, but the reality is the city has to establish if this goes to court that this development actually does need as many parking spots as they say they do, and not just because the abutting properties are out of compliance with their zoning.
My anecdotal evidence and actual traffic studies and census surveys agree that the parking requirements are over-blown.
Furthermore, the existence of *so many* properties abutting this property that *are not* in compliance with the current parking requirement further deteriorates the cities ability to make that case.
A judge would over-turn a rejection based on parking because the city absolutely can not demonstrate that there is a real parking problem here.
That a transient neighborhood does not want to have their own parking impacted is not going to be a valid complaint if the BZA rejects this and the developer files an appeal. The city needs to actually demonstrate something to the contrary of the statistical data in place, and I don’t imagine they could find that data, because no one else has found it! I don’t think the city would pay a lawyer to fight this appeal and research parking to the degree required to hold up a rejection.
posted by: Curious on March 15, 2013 3:53pm
I was actually talking about demand for housing, not parking. Do people want apartments, large ones, studios, condos, and more? How can anyone claim what should be built, without some kind of survey?
For what it’s worth, I got rid of my car a year ago and don’t miss it. I use zipcar when I need to get somewhere outside walking range. If we had a tram system, I would be all over it!
posted by: Proud New Havener on March 15, 2013 7:25pm
Hi Streever, good- I was worried for a moment that the conversation had gone off the rails
posted by: Stylo on March 16, 2013 1:01pm
I’ve never heard of a city that’s more anti-gentrification. Not even ultra liberal cities like Portland, Boulder and Austin are this radical. They actually encourage growth. This is an incredibly sad state of a city with so much potential.
posted by: Stylo on March 16, 2013 1:10pm
Also, New Haven would be a very different, more prosperous place if it wasn’t so anti-business and anti-development. There’s interest to build here, but I guarantee this city has a terrible reputation among the developer community.
posted by: anonymous on March 16, 2013 7:10pm
Stylo - the opposition to building housing (that is only affordable for developers to build if parking requirements are significantly curtailed, if not eliminated, as they are in virtually every other city) has nothing to do with progressive politics. It’s exactly the opposite, as was eloquently summarized in the piece posted above. The pandering politicians and locals here and over on Howe/Chapel are more right-wing, destructive, and exclusionary than the worst of the Republican Party.
posted by: SteveOnAnderson on March 17, 2013 8:20am
You’re kidding, right? I’ve spent a lot of time in Portland, OR, and while I think there are a lot of great things going on there that are worth emulating, Portland is an almost entirely gentrified city. Low-income residents and people of color have been displaced and concentrated in certain areas in (and around) the city. (At least local businesses in Portland are supported, rather than run out of town like they are by Yale in New Haven. Can’t wait for Panera and Froyo World to come to East Rock!)
That is the common trend of gentrification, where an “under-valued” neighborhood becomes desirable, and lower-income housing is lost due to the loss of affordable housing. Historically, many “liberals” have been agents of gentrification, as demonstrated by anonymous’ and streever’s inversion of the concept of NIMBY. NIMBY is meant to criticize residents who oppose a development that they believe is needed but don’t want it located in their neighborhood, like a prison, housing project, etc.. The NIMBY moniker is used for the elitists who want to live in their private little paradise without having to deal with the realities of what makes that life possible. Basically, NIMBY should be used to refer to those who fear a development will bring the property values of an area down.
anonymous and streever have bizarrely inverted this concept by labeling those calling for affordable housing NIMBYs and elitists. In fact, anonymous has gone so far as to apparently making claims that there are dangerously reactionary blocs of residents at Lawrence & Mechanic and Chapel & Howe! In my opinion, there is a real danger of residents in one of the last affordable areas of East Rock being pushed out by this kind of development. An unwillingness to consider the real price of “economic development” and listen to our neighbors’ concerns is what actually smacks of elitism to me. After all, invoking Not In My Back Yard should not be used as a way to silence residents in the interest of the developer, as it is being used here.
(also, can I ask, how wealthy are all these poor people you are worried about SoA? I can’t afford Mechanic street, which right now, has apartments going from 1200 to 1500.
I can barely afford living with more roommates than are allowed in a 3rd floor half-conversion attic apartment with thin walls and poor insulation.
When I see you and PNH and Holmes dropping “last affordable neighborhood in East Rock” I think you must be talking about 3 or 4 units that are cheap. I have been looking at apartments over there for 6 years and been denied every time I’ve tried to apply for one on the basis of income being too low.)
posted by: anonymous on March 17, 2013 2:31pm
“In my opinion, there is a real danger of residents in one of the last affordable areas of East Rock being pushed out by this kind of development.”
That’s why your post is an opinion. In reality, the real danger is precisely the opposite, as eloquently illustrated by the above postings. The affordability problem will get much worse than it even is now if we require developers to provide extremely expensive parking (rather than affordable units) or if we seek to limit new housing construction in our urban centers. That’s the irony here - you are in fact advocating for removal of the poor and their eventual homelessness, which makes you worse than Paul Ryan, who just wants to reduce their benefits.
If the neighborhood politicos here were truly progressive, they would push for an incentive agreement in which the developer agrees NOT to construct 100 spaces and instead used his savings to build 50 affordable units for families. It might upset a few privileged NIMBYs but it would be good for us all, and surely earn the votes of neighbors who care about people other than themselves.
posted by: Mark Oppenheimer on March 18, 2013 11:52am
Hi all. Sorry to come late to this. As a former Goatville resident, now Westville, I do want to add that this controversy seems a bit silly. Building a lot of new units in this location would, if anything, drive rents down, by increasing supply. There is simply no possible scenario in which adding a lot of units would drive rents up on the multi-family houses and apartment buildings nearby; indeed, by giving people more options, it will force landlords to keep rents (which have already risen a lot) lower. For comparison, ask yourself why cities like San Fran, Seattle, and Portland, Oregon, got gentrified—it wasn’t because of too much building; it was because of too little. When the cities got desirable, demand went up, and landlords increased rents. Because of zoning, there were no new apts being built to handle the increased demand. Incidentally, NYC has the same problem. If you wanted to see rents go down, allow for a lot more high-rise apts. And DON’T build 3- and 4-bedrooms; build studios and 1-brs, which are better for poor and low-income people with less disposable income.
Other issue: parking. It is clear that if you want to decrease obesity, decrease pollution, and promote walking, biking, and the neighborliness that comes from contact with neighbors, limit parking.
In short, if you really care about diversity in a neighborhood, create more, not fewer, places to live. When you limit housing, you end with San Fran, Park Slope, or Boston’s Back Bay. It’s historical commissions and wealthy old-time owners who want to limit housing; poor and working-class people need more options, not fewer.
posted by: robn on March 18, 2013 12:16pm
Thank you for so lucidly boiling it down.
I add that the Q bus stops right in front of this building at least every hour (every 15 minutes during rush hour) from 5:30 am to 2:00 am the next day. This building will be well served by mass transit.
posted by: SteveOnAnderson on March 18, 2013 2:14pm
@anonymous: Yes, my comments are opinions, since I do not claim to possess the sole insight into the “reality” of the situation, nor do I think my opinions ought to override those of others. Whether or not this development actually happens (and I think it will) is not up to me, but I think the conversations that are happening among residents are extremely positive. People don’t have to agree, but the very process of getting together and considering the potential impact of this development (with the developer as a participant) brings people together and builds community. Getting together “un-anonymously” in a room seems to be a forum much more suited to facilitating the expression of differing perspectives with a community spirit, as opposed to the tone of some comments here.
On that note, I was born and grew up in Milwaukee, not too far from Paul Ryan’s district. You might be familiar with the fact that Milwaukee is consistently ranked as “the most segregated city in the United States,” and the power that has been concentrated in the overwhelmingly white suburban counties west of the city has fueled the rise of politicians like Scott Walker, and, more indirectly, Paul Ryan. Having experienced this segregation first-hand throughout my youth, I am very much in agreement with the attitude toward the suburbs that you have expressed here & in other comments sections. However, undoing this segregation is not such a simple thing, as the gentrification of many cities has been fueled by an unreflective “return” to the city leading to the suburbanization of the city. As pointed out in Gabe_Winant’s comments above, this is something to be aware of when considering these developments.
@Mark Oppenheimer: I don’t necessarily disagree, but we have to consider for whom these dense housing developments are being built and marketed. It’s not so simple as “wealthy old-time owners who want to limit housing; poor and working-class people need more options, not fewer.” That is why I would like to see a plan for affordable housing in this development.
@robn: Great point, speaking to one of my core concerns: Will the extension of the Yale shuttles to accomodate this development push out the city bus line?
posted by: SteveOnAnderson on March 18, 2013 2:24pm
@streever: What kind of apartment are you looking for? If it is a one-bedroom, it might be expensive, but most renters I know (and I was one for many years) choose 2-3 bedroom apartments & found roommates for affordability. Anyway, rents ought to be part of the conversation, but not the whole thing. What are the housing prices in the area? Property values & taxes? Impact on landlords who live on the property?
posted by: anonymous on March 18, 2013 4:07pm
Mark Oppenheimer is absolutely correct.
It is good to see folks like SteveOnAnderson backpedaling somewhat from their earlier claims. They need to communicate their findings to the misguided, obstructionist politicians in this area. Then, they need to extend their belief that we need “more affordable units.” The fact is, the only way to provide those affordable units is to provide a zoning incentive (as many other cities do) - chiefly, allowing the developer to build even FEWER parking spaces than planned, in return for providing those affordable units.
Short of gigantic State or Federal grants like the ones being used to provide workforce housing on Winchester Avenue near Yale (grants which give money to developers instead of fully funding our commitments to workers, so probably aren’t great either), saving money on parking construction is literally the only way for a developer to be able to provide affordable units in a project like this.
In other words, the best outcome here would be if zoning allowed a 500-unit development with only 100 parking spaces, and a promise of 100 affordable units in return for allowing the smaller parking infrastructure.
Unfortunately, the privileged Back Bay/UES/San Francisco-wannabe NIMBYs in East Rock would host a riot if we did that.
Their real motivation in the end, as Mark suggests, is centered around the deep-seated concern that low-income people might continue to live here and that we might end up with a diverse city.
posted by: robn on March 18, 2013 5:14pm
You’re very right about institutionalizing rational incentives to developers in return for a public benefit. I don’t know why commenter’s are patting Alderperson Holmes on the back. She’s wastefully expended emotional energy focusing the community upon affordable housing in this zoning variance process. There is no legal framework within the zoning variance process to address the issue. She could have easily taken the issue to the full BOA where it IS a subject for discussion and legislation. Instead she was telling the community what they wanted to hear to nurture votes and unfortunately diluting their relevant message to the BZA.
posted by: robn on March 18, 2013 5:28pm
Why would a bus line already in place and presumably needed to serve an existing population be negatively affected by a new project? Students at Star Supply can walk three short blocks up to Foster to catch the Yale Orange line and civilians can walk right outside their door to the Q (Both systems will have increased ridership which is considered good for the transit system.)
SoA: Thanks for the attempt to help, but I (and my 2 roommates) do have a place.
posted by: Proud New Havener on March 19, 2013 10:46am
Hi, I’ve mainly been commenting on the other parking article, but I want to point some things out.
Streever, Robn, Anonymous and others have been minimizing the reality of cars in our city. Streever gave the number 40,000 for the amount of cars registered in New Haven and compared it to the population counted in the census. That is a low-ball number and will give a lop-sided idea of how many cars are owned by residents of New Haven, especially in East Rock.
The census counts all people that usually reside here—that means, students, illegal immigrants, everybody. The registration number only counts cars that have had their registrations changed. When you move to New Haven as an in-state resident, you are given two days to change your registration, and as an out-of-state resident you are given 60 days to change your registration. People are not diligent about this—just drive through East Rock and you will see many cars, year after year, that keep their out-of-state plates (and we don’t have a way of knowing how many don’t change their in-state registration).
If you look at the 2011 American Community Survey done by the census, you will see that the overwhelming majority of New Haven residents drive to work. That is a fact. You may not like cars, but your neighbors rely upon them for their livelihood, and the issue should not be minimized.
posted by: Proud New Havener on March 19, 2013 10:48am
The supporters of this proposed development are effectively advocating rezoning. Right now, it is only piecemeal rezoning through the parking exception, but it will set a precedent. We are not just talking about the expropriation of over 1/4 mile of on-street parking, we are talking about the loss of all the on-street parking to all the future developments that demand the same treatment.
This will have a major effect on our community, especially that majority that has to drive to work because their work is faraway, or because they have kids, or because they are handicapped or injured. If we go ahead with this rezoning without addressing its effects, there will be substantial hardship on these families.
I am not necessarily against rezoning. I just believe that we need to do it responsibly. If people are expected to bike in order for this to work, then we need bike lanes and safe intersections.
Many of the newcomers to our community don’t know what Upper State Street was like before the Mill River bridge closed. It was a dangerous place to bike, especially near the highway off-ramp. Once the Mill River bridge is reopened, it will be a dangerous place to bike again. This is exactly where the Star Supply site is located.
If you insist on doing piecemeal rezoning, then you at least need a piecemeal solution to the problems it will cause.
posted by: Mark Oppenheimer on March 19, 2013 11:24am
@Proud New Havener I, too, rely on my car to get to work (often; I bike sometimes); so does my wife; we have two cars. Nevertheless, we should be moving incentives away from driving, and one way to do that is to allow developers to build fewer parking spaces. That may mean the apartments they build won’t be right for everyone; but that’s okay. Lots of developments aren’t right for me (like expensive 3,000-sq-foot houses in the suburbs, or Section 8 housing in poor neighborhoods, or lots of other housing types). Incidentally, though, what you are saying only points to the fact that these apartments may be right for poor people, who often have 0 or 1 cars and rely on the bus. Professional couples with two cars may look elsewhere, which would be okay.
@SteveonAnderson when you say “we have to consider for whom these dense housing developments are being built and marketed,” I am not sure what you mean. I presume apartments are being built for apt-dwellers. Middle-class families with 3 kids won’t want them; Yale graduate students might, but so might all sorts of other people who are transient or can’t afford houses. Certainly if there is any kind of redlining or attempts to keep minorities out, that would be illegal, and we’d all want to fight that. Meanwhile, if these apts do end up appealing to grad students, that will draw them away from apts in houses on Anderson, Eagle, Nash, and Foster, freeing those apts up for other people, promoting the kind of diversity you want (and putting downward pressure on those rents). It’s very, very hard to see the downside.
posted by: robn on March 19, 2013 11:25am
For the record, I haven’t been minimizing the reality of cars. I would like to see less city real estate occupied by structured parking and i would like to see it happen sensibly with some verifiable method of capping the number of cars allotted to developments. That could be done with restrictive covenants on the developments and car sharing and/or lease/contract agreements with tenants requiring them not to own cars (probably verified through the DMV). I’ve pointed out that two transit systems are close just to make the point (in the instance of Star Supply) that car-less people wouldn’t be stranded in the boondocks.
A clarification on what is before the BZA—it is NOT a petition to rezone the site, rather, it is a request for:
A. Three variances:
1. A Use Variance to allow residential / mixed use in an Heavy Industrial zone (The developer wishes to maintain the site’s status as an Heavy Industrial zone in order to be able to build the seven-story tall structure allowed under that designation, but not allowed under the residential zones that would be congruent with the zones adjacent to the site. Some analysts have questioned whether this is a proper procedure—they suggest that a Planned Development or a zone change to a residential designation would be more appropriate. Either of those options would require review by the Board of Aldermen, rather than BZA.);
2. A variance to allow 12 live / work units;
3. A variance to reduce to reduce the side and rear yards to 8 ft and 10 ft where 18 ft and 23 ft, respectively are required. This variance would allow the proposed seven story building to be within 8 ft of Mechanic Street yards, and within 10 ft of the Parks Department Skating Rink.
B.A Special Exception is requested to reduce the parking requirement from 385 spaces to 198 spaces.
As provocative and interesting as the fourscore plus comments on this site are, it is worth noting that most of this “Design-by-Comment” would be happily mute had the City, over the last 20 years, attended to much needed zoning reform work, and brought both form-based code and a Parking and Traffic Demand Management (PTDM) Ordinance into our regulatory structure. I say “happily mute” not to impugn the spirit and enthusiasm of my fellow commentators, but to be realistic about how plans develop.
We have advocated for a PTDM Ordinance since 2006. Cities like Cambridge, MA, where PTMD is used, have easily absorbed good density, avoided wasting land on parking, and established a system for investment in transit improvement.
In the last year, New Haven has bounced between approving projects with reduced parking and projects with excessive parking. In either case, the determination is based on the developer’s preferences, rather than a comprehensive plan for parking and transit reform. Moving from a car-dominated transportation system to a balanced one requires a clear planning framework that avoids arbitrary and case-by-case decisions—anything less is unfair to residents and developers.
posted by: TheMadcap on March 19, 2013 6:05pm
Affordable housing keeps coming up, but no one is mentioning the hard truth. There isn’t a developer who has offered to refurbish the land and provide affordable housing, arguably it can’t be done period because of the amount of investment that needs to go into the area. I would love nothing more than for 20% or even more of the building to be reserved for affordable housing. But it’s not something that was ever an option. Affordable housing doesn’t appear magically, it happens when the city(usually through a grant from HUD) agree to pay for some of the development cost. That is not happening. If you can get HUD to suddenly come up with a grant, that’d be great. Otherwise it’s not happening. Either some version of this project goes through, or the lot stays empty for more years. That’s the hard truth, pick what path you want because you can’t have your cake and eat it too in this scenario.
posted by: Proud New Havener on March 19, 2013 7:09pm
Thanks for giving an overview of the developer’s request . I don’t think anyone is offended by your “Design-by-Comment” statement. As you mentioned, we don’t have a comprehensive plan, and this issue is of enormous importance to all members of the community. I am grateful that the New Haven Independent has provided a public forum for residents to discuss it.
posted by: Proud New Havener on March 19, 2013 7:24pm
Given that we all have an interest in these issues being discussed and worked out, how can we elevate this conversation from just being between residents on a public forum to getting a comprehensive plan and PTDM Ordinance?
posted by: SteveOnAnderson on March 20, 2013 12:18pm
In the meetings with the community, the developer stated that he projects units to be affordable to people making the average county income, which is $62,497. That is considerably different from the average New Haven CITY income, which was $38,279 in 2009, and it is also more than double the graduate student stipend at Yale. Using the average county income to project affordability for prospective residents is one reason why I connect gentrification & the suburbanization of the city. It is clearly NOT targeting graduate students, and would not “free up” apartments in the area for others. What’s more, from what I have heard all of the units are planned to be studios and 1-bedroom, meaning that people will not be able to pool money together in order to be able to afford these units (as graduate students & transient residents frequently do).
Based on those comments from the developer, these units are not going to suppress rents in the area by opening up supply & competition. That is one reason why I believe it is imperative that the developer include affordable housing options such as Section 8 and Workforce Housing.
Thanks for your comment—BTW, I don’t mean to suggest that the scores and scores of comments are offensive, but that tons of comments, while indicating a problem, don’t provide a mechanism for a solution. It can be very frustrating for all the people who make an effort to engage this way to feel like they are just banging their heads against a wall. So your question about how to engage is right on the mark.
The first steps would be for people to write to the Mayor and suggest he work on PTDM, and contact their Alderperson and ask them, as the legislative body charged with creating and amending ordinances to pass a resolution on the issue and assign it to a committee. Some of the best accomplishments of the last few years, such as the Complete Streets policy, evolved in just this way—a real partnership of citizens and government.
posted by: SteveOnAnderson on March 20, 2013 12:55pm
“Certainly if there is any kind of redlining or attempts to keep minorities out, that would be illegal, and we’d all want to fight that.”
Of course I agree with this. But it has also been shown that “third wave” free market, color-blind gentrification is often just as discriminatory as the older “first wave” gentrification projects of the 50s-70s. The model of so-called “property-led” economic development has been roundly criticized for increasing disparities in cities precisely by leaving development up to the “color-blind” mechanism of the market and being more interested in the transformation of spaces than of people’s lives.
City governments & their planning boards have been complicit with “property-led” economic development by granting developers special exceptions while merely paying lip service to the development reports local communities have put together. In the development in question here, there needs to be an impact report on the effect of the development on property values & displacement. The economic impact of a development on a community is absolutely a part of its “use & form.”
posted by: robn on March 20, 2013 1:36pm
Economic Development is not an issue of Use and is not an issue of Form and is therefore not part of a zoning variance process.
There are mechanisms for a city to achieve affordable goals but this is not one of them.
SoA: Yes, some studies have shown that about gentrification: others have shown the opposite.
Lance Freeman conducted studies in his neighborhood—Harlem—and also in Clinton Hill, and found that transience rates were unaffected by gentrification.
In addition, those people who remained, tended to be more successful post gentrification.
I know that gentrification is an evil word, but the reality is that the data is in conflict on how harmful—or helpful—it actually is.
Low income populations have transience rates as high as the Yale students who don’t want to see their parking inconvenienced.
I think from door knocking and trying to get the right person at the right door, we probably both know that the transience rate in this neighborhood is off the charts, and there are few owner-occupied homes here.
Again, I suggest that it is a bit of a legend that this is an “Affordable” neighborhood. Simply look at the prices on Craigslist! 1500, 1450, etc.
This is an expensive neighborhood which does not quite square with the image of it as a haven for low-income families who are planning to live here their whole life.
Where are these people that you and Holmes are protecting?
This neighborhood: 1. Is as expensive as the rest of the neighborhood. 2. Has a high income average. 3. Does not have higher rates of owner-occupied homes: most of the owner-occupied in East Rock seems to be in the few blocks between Orange & Whitney, where homes that have been owned for 80 years are inhabited by the original occupants or their children.
None of these things have been established, at all. While you and a few others keep repeating them, it doesn’t make any of it true.
Do you have census or other data to back up even one of the assertions that this neighborhood is a lower-income and affordable neighborhood compared to other parts of East Rock?
posted by: fk on March 20, 2013 6:34pm
I’m not sure how this project can be considered “gentrification”. The only residents that will be displaced byt this are the rats and the skunks that live on the Star Supply property.
Why does anybody want to depress the rental market or the real estate market in East Rock? I lived in New Haven when those markets were severely depressed and it wasn’t pretty!
Besides, if you bring East Rock down to level of other neighborhoods who will pay the taxes to support this city?
posted by: SteveOnAnderson on March 20, 2013 11:27pm
@streever: Your statement that “this neighborhood…is as expensive as the rest of the neighborhood” is patently false. Even a cursory look at http://www.realtor.com/ shows that property valuations on Mechanic, Nash, Nicoll, Eagle, State, Mill River, and East near the development site are lower than other properties in “East Rock.”
@robn: Zoning Ordinance, Article VII. Administration, Section 63. Board of Zoning Appeals, (c) Variances, (2) Special Treatment of Use Variances: “c. The use will not impair the essential character of the area or the objectives of the comprehensive plan of the City.”
You may disagree that this project will “impair the essential character of the area,” but the concerns of the community are clearly within the language of the ordinance.
I do not know of anyone who is opposing this development. Cleaning up the blighted property is great, but the development should also be in line with the affordability of the neighborhood.