ST. PETERSBURG — Even the overflow rooms at City Hall were full, with residents spilling out into the street.
City officials are considering a major zoning change that would allow duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes in traditionally single-family neighborhoods on properties within 175 feet from a major street. The change is part of the city’s plan to create more “middle housing” — or more affordable smaller, multi-unit or clustered housing types that encourage walking, biking and transit use — to address the city’s housing crisis.
Those proposed changes drew residents in droves to City Hall for Thursday’s City Council meeting. Those opposed to the changes expressed fear of a lack of parking, increased traffic and deterioration of neighborhood character. Those in favor say this is the antidote for those being pushed out by skyrocketing rents and is the key to retaining young people, artists and young families.
The issue will come up again at a second public reading March 23.
A sticking point many had with the city’s plan is the parking requirements. Currently, the city requires one parking space per housing unit. The change would change that requirement to one space per two units, but a city official Thursday suggested keeping the current rule based on feedback.
Some speakers were in favor of the changes, but supported the city’s Community Planning & Preservation Commission recommendation. That group voted to exempt applying the proposed zoning changes to homes within a Local Historic District or with national historic designation, such as Historic Kenwood, which already have multi-family units that were allowed under old rules.
Alexander Smith, an architect and resident of Historic Kenwood and a member of Preserve the Burg, urged the city to exclude his neighborhood from the changes.
“We feel like we have enough already,” he said. “We love our neighborhood for what it is.”
Residents opposed to the changes were also concerned that there was no guarantee that these new multi-family dwellings will be affordable. One said it was “density for density’s sake.”
Anthony Close, a renter and owner of St. Pete Rising, an urban development blog, reiterated that the city’s plans have been in motion for seven years. Since then, the city has witnessed record high unaffordability.
“Every year that we wait, that we do not pass the type of zoning that allows this type housing, housing prices go up each year,” he said.