Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Balancing neighborhood character, new housing designs

The cities of St. Petersburg and Tampa have plenty to offer millennials and young families, including beautiful parks, bustling bar and restaurant scenes and improving job prospects. One challenge is housing, much of it aging and small by comparison to the 3/2s of modern suburbia. Developers are eager to resolve the mismatch by building bigger, modern homes that can appear out of scale in established neighborhoods. As the Tampa Bay area evolves, urban planners should strive for a better balance between preserving the character of neighborhoods and encouraging a housing renewal that meets the needs of younger residents.

The growing pains are being felt in signature neighborhoods like St. Petersburg's Historic Kenwood and Snell Isle and Tampa's West Tampa and Seminole Heights. The Tampa Bay Times' Susan Taylor Martin recently reported on a rift in Kenwood, which boasts one of Florida's largest concentrations of craftsman-style bungalows dating from the 1920s. But many have just two bedrooms and one bathroom and cover a tight 1,300 square feet. In some cases, they are being replaced with much larger houses, offering more space and more amenities — and slowly altering the look of the neighborhood. Another common complaint on both sides of the bay: small homes on double lots being knocked down and replaced with two large houses with minimal setbacks. Neighborhoods need breathing room, and while maximizing size and density boosts developers' profits, it does not serve the greater community interest.

Design standards are more subjective and more challenging for city planners. In Seminole Heights, another bungalow enclave, residents objected to new homes popping up featuring "faux" porches — glorified front stoops that couldn't hold two rocking chairs. In Kenwood, boxy, modern homes don't blend in with the quaint bungalows. But one person's eyesore is another's dream home, and imposing rigid standards like those in deed-restricted subdivisions would be an overcorrection.

That's where codes and zoning come in. One builder's representative said in an email to St. Petersburg officials that it's not "the government's business to tell a family what size home they should have.'' Maybe not what size, but certainly where, and with reasonable conditions. When uniformly enforced, zoning preserves the integrity of neighborhoods by limiting home size, requiring setbacks from neighboring properties and providing incentives to make new houses fit in. St. Petersburg, for example, is considering sensible new guidelines that would limit home size but allow builders to exceed the maximum if they incorporate design enhancements that mitigate the "big box" feel of new homes. Those kind of incentives leave flexibility for people to build the house they want while having a positive long-term effect on how neighborhoods evolve.

Through smart investment in community amenities, Tampa and St. Petersburg have grown into thriving urban centers where more and more people want to live. The eagerness of developers to build attractive, spacious new homes helps revive communities, add local tax revenue and create safer neighborhoods. It's a great problem to have, but it's crucial that local governments provide steady oversight that preserves what is unique about each city while encouraging development of new, viable housing.

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‘Happy hour’ tax cuts may result in hangovers

Evidence is mounting that the $1.5 trillion tax-cut package enacted in December by congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump was a bad idea, not only for the long-run health of the economy but for the short-term political prospects of the ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

A St. Petersburg waste-to-energy plant now under construction has been billed for years as an environmentally friendly money saver. Now it looks more like a boondoggle, with the cost and mission changing on the fly. It’s yet another example of a city...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Published: 04/23/18
Updated: 04/25/18

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18