This is a tale about the 22 houses on the left. The 1300 block of Chesapeake Street.
The lots are long and skinny, they are zoned R1s, they are intended for residential use.
The houses’ average age is 75 years old, half of them were built by the end of World War II, the other half were finished at the end of the Korean War.
The homes were built by blue-collar people.
To this day, not one of them features a garage or a swimming pool.
Nine of the houses are rented, thirteen are owner occupied
The houses don’t tend to flip, the average last date of sale was twenty-two years ago.
Over the years I’ve made the acquaintance of a handful of the residents while walking by.
I’ve met a librarian, a plumber, a teacher, a postal worker, a United States Marine
a boat captain, students, an X-ray tech, a museum worker and an IT person.
These houses average 1100 square feet finished living area.
The average lot the houses sit on is 0.18 acres, that is five dwelling units per acre (DUA).
Their average assessment is 290 thousand dollars.
The 22 homes, are stable, they are occupied, they are the refuge of families who moved to the neighborhood and planned to stay.
I believe that painting this block with a medium intensity residential (MIR) land use designation is not acceptable planning.
The MIR designation is unfair to the residents
The designation will target their houses for demolition, it is an economic bulldozer.
The Woolen Mills neighborhood requested a small area plan from the City in 1988.
If the City had provided a framework for public and private investment decisions to the Woolen Mills by means of a small area planning process decades ago the current action could make sense.
But there has been no small area plan.
I encourage Council to get scientific, to use the tools of Archimedes and Galileo, math and maps.
Pick some baselines to trigger small area plans in neighborhoods with significant proposed up-zoning.
For example, if a rezoning will potentially displace 50% of the area’s existing residents, perform a Small Area Plan.
If a rezoning will increase DUA by more than 10X, perform a Small Area Plan.
Effective city planning is done by having comprehensive neighborhood plans that share the benefits and burdens required to keep the City humming along in an equitable, healthy fashion.
The 2021 Comprehensive Plan is intended to guide the coordinated harmonious development of the territory within the City to promote the health, safety, order, convenience, prosperity and general welfare of the city’s inhabitants.
City Council will decide on the fate of these 22 houses in the next few weeks when they vote on the Future Land Use Map, a part of the not yet approved Comprehensive Plan. Currently, the map shows these humble houses being “redesignated” to a much more intense use known as “medium intensity residential”.
About the medium intensity residential (MIR) the urban planners say:
Medium Intensity Residential: Increase opportunities for housing development including affordable housing, along neighborhoods corridors, near community amenities, employment centers, and in neighborhoods that are traditionally less affordable.
In the case of the 22. These houses, on the spectrum of CHO housing, are affordable. To me, they don’t seem to fit the planners’ criteria. These houses are on a neighborhood street not a “corridor”. The houses aren’t near employment centers.
The MIR designation will potentially result in the demolition of these residences.
What could replace one of these houses once it was demolished? The planners say:
Form + Use:
Allow up to 12 residential units (depending on site characteristics and context, to be further defined in the zoning ordinance; many areas may be limited based on lot size and other factors)
Allow structures up to 4 stories (depending on site characteristics and context, to be further defined in the zoning ordinance; many areas may be limited based on lot size and other factors)
All the neighborhoods in beige are similarly threatened.
(I would encourage all concerned to write to City Councilors and to participate at the Council meeting on this subject November 15, 2021. Details of how to participate are available here) https://cvilleplanstogether.com/
Medium-Intensity Residential: Maximum-Intensity Pain
Medium-Intensity Residential needs to be scaled back in both scope and intensity. It is too much to ask people who bought in R-1 neighborhoods (over 60% of the parcels designated for Medium-Intensity Residential) to accept 12-unit (and possibly larger) buildings and 4+ stories, and it is not necessary for making our housing market more flexible, given other changes under the FLUM. The areas designated – changing up the last minute — do not make sense. MIR areas actually have a lower average Walkscore than General Residential. They lack critical infrastructure and some are so far below required density to support commercial amenities that their ultimate arrival is highly uncertain. There is no precedent for buildings above 3.5 stories in most of these areas. High-Intensity residential, on the other hand, shows clear differences — high walkability, transit access, existing infrastructure and height. With MIR, we could end up with a “worst-of-all-worlds” situation of having a scattering of MFH buildings isolated from amenities. And folks living in MIR feel targeted, because there is no compelling explanation of why their blocks should face a much more extreme transformation than nearly identical blocks nearby. If you need the MIR category to exist, scale it back to a few areas already adjacent to amenities, existing density and infrastructure.–CFRP
The Comprehensive Plan can go forward without a finalized land use map. Move head with the CP, move ahead with the many non-map aspects of the Affordable Housing Plan. But the map ought to be done in conjunction with plot-by-plot zoning. This is how planning usually works.–CFRP
Excellent study. You captioned one : The average lot the houses sit on is 0.18 acres, that is five dwelling units per acre (DUA).
Not sure what you are getting at….5 houses on the street take up about one acre so that is 5 DUA……are you offering that as a comparison for the reader when confronted with something else like 12 DUA? Just clarifying
Dear Bill, What an incredible format and argument you have made for all us little people and neighbor hoods under threat. Thank you. I hope you are well. Thank you. Elaine, long ago C&O.
Nice presentation, and good argument, Bill. What is “affordable housing.” anyway?
What guarantees are in place to ensure any new units remain ” affordable” and don’t drive up the prices of rent or ownership in the area? It does seem very unfair to rezone and change the character of this historic neighborhood. You’re right, Bill, these houses are in a neighborhood, not a “corridor.” I hope City Councilors agree. Thanks for the call to action.
This is a cogent and compelling presentation. Unquestionably, the MIR land use designation will make the Chesapeake 22 demolition targets. The FLUM will not yield affordable housing, but it will surely destroy what’s left of modest homes in vintage neighborhoods. It is an assault on preservation and conservation values, without any verified public purpose.
LOVE THESE HOUSES! The current draft of the Future Land Use Map (FLUM) is severely flawed – it is , indeed, a Faulty FLUM that will lay the groundwork for the destruction of these affordable and charming homes that are still the fabric of much of Cville…not only in Woolen Mills, but also in other neighbohoods as well. Citizens of Charlottesville, please do not accept the false promises being made for “affordable housing” with this plan. According to the the 2011 Build Out Plan, under our current land use map and zoning regulations we have more than enough to meet our housing needs through 2040. The City has had more than enough time over the past 20 years to stop bowing down the the money interests in Cville and allowing developers to provide paltry pecentages of “affordable housing” at 80% AMI (which is not at all affordable). Why is the City choosing to ignore their own study? Could it be because it does not feed the money hungry development monster?
Bill, Thanks for this excellent presentation. The proposed rezoning is another “gift” of the Woke to this community and, if adopted, will transform the appearance and liveability of our City forever…and not in a good way in my view.
Hey Roger. The consultant that suggests a “medium intensity residential” designation for areas all over Charlottesville has, to date, avoided speaking about density in terms of dwelling units per acre (DUA). These 22 house sit on 4 acres collectively so that is approximately five DUA. The proposed designation, if put into play, might end up with a DUA here of 66 dwelling units per acre. Much denser than Carlton Views…
once again, bill brings reality and common sense to the table, if only the coucillors could exhibit the same perspectives. thanks to bill for his everlasting care of what matters to our woolen mills community.
This is a thoughtful and scientific analysis of how the Comprehensive Plan and the FLUM will negatively affect this neighborhood. It illustrates how little thought and analysis went into the Plan and FLUM. Unfortunately, almost every neighborhood in the City has a similar tale to tell: the plan is based on increasing density, the planners acknowledge density will not increase affordable housing, there are no studies that demonstrate that increased density will increase affordable housing, the City has admitted it does not not have the funds or staff to implement this flawed plan and the City has no idea what the cost of the plan will be to the City, meaning the cost to everyone who lives here. And sadly, as this post demonstrates, the plan will have the unintended consequences of destroying affordable neighborhoods that have been working for years. This begs the question, what is the objective of this plan if it will not and cannot increase affordable housing? The planners, the planning commission and the City Counsel have not answered that question. The planning commission and the City Council have failed to rally the City around an objective everyone agrees with: more affordable housing. And, instead of unity, the Commission and Council has implemented a plan that will divide us while destroying our neighborhoods.
Right on, Bill.
How can one afford a starter home in Charlotttesville?
If one of these were for sale, the price would likely be affordable.
I’m in the county so they won’t necessarily listen to me.
City Council should look to preserve, not further divide up the charm of Charlotttesville up into smaller bits so rich developers can make more money. Why not spend their time looking to create public spaces and efficient walkable and bikeable streets.
The destruction of this neighborhood would be unforgivable. The Charlottesville planners are following a national trend that is not suitable for historic neighborhoods and they should carefully consider what they will be doing to the City if the Missing Middle is implemented. By way of explanation: The term “missing middle housing” was introduced by architect Daniel Parolek in 2010. Many forms of what is now described as “missing middle” housing were built before the 1940s including two-flats in Chicago, row homes in Brooklyn, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, two-family homes or “triple-decker” homes in Boston, and bungalow courts in California. Post-WWII, housing in the United States trended significantly toward single-family with zoning making it difficult to build walkable medium density housing in many areas and, therefore, reducing the supply of the now “missing” middle. Missing-middle housing comes in a variety of building types and densities but may be characterized by location in a walkable context, lower perceived density, small building footprints, smaller homes, reasonably low amounts of parking, simple construction, and focus on community. Forms of missing middle housing may include side-by-side duplexes, stacked duplexes, bungalow courts, accessory dwelling units (carriage houses, basement apartments, etc.), fourplexes, multiplexes, townhomes, courtyard apartments, and live/work units.
The resurgence of missing middle housing is due to many factors including resurgent market demand for this type of housing, demand for housing in amenity-rich walkable neighborhoods, the necessity of housing affordability, environmental efforts to support walkability, and transit-oriented developments, and changing demographic trends.The American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) released a report, which showed that more and more, Americans want to “age in place,” and need easy access to services and amenities available in walkable, urban, transit-oriented communities. Millennials have been shown to drive less, and seek housing choices in walkable neighborhoods close to transit. The number of automobile miles traveled increased each year between 1946 and 2004; today Americans drive less than 2004, and no more per person than in 1996. The decline in driving is most striking among young people aged 16 to 34, who drove 23% fewer miles on average in 2009 than their age group did in 2001. Furthermore, research suggests that Millennials prefer amenity-rich, transit rich, and walkable neighborhoods. The structure of the traditional American suburb has failed to live up to the expectations of many who settled in suburban neighborhoods, and new ways are being sought to re-engineer suburban living and re-build those settlement patterns.”
Bill, I hope to meet you someday—and will respectively disagree when I do 🙂 As a resident of this neighborhood, I would be surprised if any of these homes sold for 290 today. Surrounding homes have been going for closer to 350-400. Even if you could assess them at 290—and in most cases, you couldn’t—that’s not particularly affordable to those who most need housing, nor to young families. To say these homes are targeted for demolition feels overstated, especially since, as you note, they so rarely turn over. Also, I would point out that this neighborhood is absolutely near employment centers. Indeed, many days, I can be found walking to my job downtown. Perhaps one morning, I’ll see you around! 🙂 🙂
How about showing up what affordable means? What will be the prices of the future housing here. Will these same families be able to still live in this hood? Jan (concerned citizen)
Leave us alone
As always thank you Bill for informing us. This neighborhood does not need to change any more those houses on Chesapeake belong to people who have lived here for a long time how dare we consider moving them out. I say leave us alone to the city were quite happy here as it is maybe builder some sidewalks so that people can walk safely that’s all we ask ask
Fifeville Neighborhood Association signed onto the Livable Cville letter to Council in support of the Comprehensive Plan. Wanted to share with you some of the comments made by neighborhood association members when we discussed our support for the proposed Comprehensive Plan.
– Talked about history of displacement in Cville and how it has created and reinforced inequities in our community, including lack of access to a good education for children in neglected neighborhoods.
– Separation of communities by race/ethnicity and socioeconomic levels leads to generational challenges.
– In 2017 when white supremacists terrorized Cville — especially communities of color — many folks said “that’s not Charlottesville.” But that is Charlottesville — that’s our history, and it’s sad that the connection between racial violence and injustice in Charlottesville’s past and the current opportunity we have with the Comprehensive Plan to work toward redressing that injustice is getting lost in the opposition to potential changes to neighborhood “character.”
– As our neighborhood has learned about the proposed Comprehensive Plan and interacted with the Cville Plans Together team, we’ve expressed that Fifeville wants to be part of the solution for affordable and deeply affordable housing, and we welcome increased density at human scale.
– But neighborhoods like ours can’t be expected to resolve the issue alone; neighborhoods across the City need to be part of solution as well. Can’t say you support affordable housing as long as it means no changes for your immediate neighborhood — that’s not genuine commitment to positive change
Bill Emory here. I wanted to provide a disjointed response to your letter.
Regarding displacement, I am concerned that the FLUM will displace the 75 families in the Woolen Mills whose homes have been designated “Medium Intensity Residential”. Have any small houses in Fifeville been designated MIR?
Woolen Mills is a highly diverse community in terms of race, socioeconomic level and housing stock. We have it all and are blessed!
Comprehensive plans are intended to promote good urban planning, not to punish people that we might think are too rich or influential. The link below explains all that.
I am glad Fifeville has had constructive interaction with the Cville Plans Together team. They did a pop-up in Riverview Park one morning but to little consequence. I’ve invited them multiple times to take a substantive Woolen Mills walking tour. Begged them to come here. Still waiting. They have not reached out to people whose work of a lifetime will be affected by this plan.
From my back porch I can see the best supported affordable housing in Charlottesville (Timberlake Place) and the worst (Carlton Views). Our neighborhood welcomes well planned density. Along those lines we were intensely involved with the planning for Timberlake Place.
We remain committed to positive change.
We don’t see positive change in the current FLUM.
Bill, it’s unclear to me how the FLUM would displace 75 families? Again, that feels massively overstated.
What i see now is that these old, immensely valuable homes are being flipped (or will be flipped soon) and turned into larger, more expensive homes that very few working class folks could afford. Change is happening in this neighborhood no matter what. The question is, what kind of change do we want to see?