Flagstaff’s High Occupancy Housing Plan was approved in 2018 and staff is starting to bring to Council changes to the zoning code promoted in the plan. What are your thoughts about the goals in this plan regarding building height, location and size and do you think they are adequate to deal with the concerns people have expressed about this type of housing going into the future?
I understand the concern about increasing density in new developments as it’s unnerving to see buildings like the Standard or the Hub built in low-density areas. I support increased densities in new development; however, it should be scaled and better suited to nearby neighborhoods. For this reason, I support reducing building heights to 45 feet near existing and historic neighborhoods. Forty-five feet is a three-to-four story building, depending on the type of building and construction materials. My main issue with recent denser development is that it’s student housing and not suited to Flagstaff families.
I support many of the goals. My concern is about how the implementation of the HOH Plan will work. The Private Property Rights Act of 2006 (Proposition 207) requires local governments to compensate private property owners if the value of their property is reduced by new land use laws, such as building height restrictions. It appears that the City could never possibly compensate all of the property owners who file a Proposition 207 claim because it doesn’t have the money, so the only other alternative is for the city to grant waivers. If this happens, then it’s likely we’ll have a hodge-podge of building height restrictions, which really defeats the whole purpose of the change in the first place.
Articulating the criteria for what constitutes multi-family housing within High Occupancy Housing units is one way to curtail excessive student-housing when developing these projects. Everyone in our community can agree that we have enough student focused housing but need more workforce housing. It is imperative that we as a council encourage an Affordable/Workforce Housing component integrated within the HOH plan. High Occupancy Housing is a more efficient form of housing many people with the least amount of environmental impact. Keeping HOH within Activity Centers, as planned, will help alleviate density from our neighborhoods and promote more equitable housing for all.
I voted for the HOH plan and support it. I’m working with staff to address not only mega projects but also medium sized projects that are causing neighborhood issues. The plan will not completely remedy the building height and other issues because of voter-approved Proposition 207. Under this measure, the city would have to pay millions of dollars to landowners if we reduce their property values, like by only allowing shorter buildings. The city does not have the funds to do this. Nonetheless, we are working within the rules and with landowners to make changes.
There is no guarantee by increasing higher-density housing within activity center locations would that lead to walkability, less need for parking spaces, or a decrease in traffic congestion. Based on existing activity center locations still struggling to fill commercial spaces from a lack of demand, people tend to travel for supplies. Regarding building height, the 60’ allowance still seems high considering the loss of our viewsheds but I think it’s important the public understand that a Conditional Use Permit could bypass any limitation we set. The Neighborhood Community Commercial zoning may help as it restricts some heights to 45’.
Right now we are having discussions concerning the Community Commercial zoning that has 60 feet height allowance. This type of zoning is north part of downtown, south part of downtown, and in Sunnyside. The proposal is for a new zoning called Neighborhood Community Commercial with height limitation at 45 feet. I like the height limitations in neighborhoods could be reduced to scale, but we need to have “buy-in” from the communities and we will have to consider Prop 207 concerns.
I believe that the Housing Plan is a valuable tool that should be better put to use for future developments. The Housing Plan aims to provide affordable, diverse housing for Flagstaff’s citizens. Future developments like Milltown fail to achieve that goal both in aesthetics and purpose, as the majority of units are marketed toward students. By implementing the Housing Plan more effectively in the future, we can pursue higher density housing projects for Flagstaff’s citizens that enhance Flagstaff’s culture and character. We can and should use the Housing Plan effectively in order to solve Flagstaff’s affordable housing crisis in a responsible way.
Flagstaff is experiencing growing pains. The High Occupancy Housing Plan outlines our goals and policies and can influence new housing developments. Our state has a robust private property law with Prop 207, making it difficult to downzone parcels. Flagstaff has decided to grow up and not out which helps promote multimodal transportation, while increasing the types of households, all while promoting sustainability and affordability. Building HOH buildings will need to be in the right place, built to the right scale, and have the right features for residents to have the support of Flagstaff residents.