Graduated density: A way to assuage homeowner concerns? 


Single-family zoning is by far the most common type of zoning in Los Angeles, covering vast swaths of the city. The map above of the Expo/Westwood neighborhood shows single-family zoning in light yellow, multi-family in orange, and manufacturing in blue. (Image: LA Metro via Los Angeles Times)

Homeowners in single family neighborhoods along key transportation corridors often fear the specter of new development—especially denser development. The resistance often puts a damper on any project developers hope will move towards construction in a reasonable amount of time. But in order to change the discussion on the construction of housing near transit that can drive ridership, famed UCLA professor Donald Shoup has offered up a potential solution: graduated density.

The idea for graduated density is relatively simple. Zoning will allow apartments or condos on the site if the developer is able to assemble adjacent single family properties such that the land accumulated totals over a certain size such as an acre. The benefit of this approach is an increase in value and sale price for the property owner coupled with higher values for the developers through assembly. It also allows property owners to refuse to sell if they don’t feel like it is in their interest.

There are examples of graduated density in practice that Shoup points to in Simi Valley, CA, Glendale, CA, and Jersey City, NJ which have resulted in new, dense development. And as Shoup says, “If graduated density zoning stimulates land assembly in the right places in Los Angeles, it will create more housing and increase transit ridership. If it does not stimulate land assembly, it will do no harm.”

For more information about land use impacts on transit check out for reports such as Land Use Impacts on Transport and The Effects of TOD on Housing, Parking, and Travel.

Recent TOD news

Here are a few things that have been happening this week with TOD projects across the country.

  • Beaverton presents downtown design framework for area around transit station (Oregon Business)
  • Nashville Metro Council denies TIF near transit station (The Tennessean)
  • Resetting the Atlanta Beltline’s focus on equitable development (Next City)
  • Zoning code rewrite could spur mixed use development near transit (BizNow)