James Sept-Oct 2021 web - Flipbook - Page 61
“In a Georgia Planning Association
presentation, an urban planner from
Savannah specifically criticized
Atlanta and Sandy Springs. So both
cities should be on high alert.”
Any of these things can be done now, as a zoning
variance, but that requires the property owner to start by
going before the local Neighborhood Planning Unit (NPU)
and “selling” their neighbors on why the proposed change
is good for the neighborhood. So why create these blanket permissions? Obviously, the reason is to force these
changes into neighborhoods that don’t want them.
That’s the substance of what the urbanists want. The
process by which they’re pursuing it is deceitful.
First, they pretend that it’s about “affordable housing.”
Everybody’s for that, but these proposals are not about
housing. They’re about zoning.
Second, when Atlanta’s mayor backed off of these proposals after receiving too much pushback from Northside
and Southwest Atlanta homeowners, Tim Keane, the
Commissioner of Planning, promised to remove them from
the (supposedly routine) update of the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) which is currently moving through
the process of adoption. They did, but only moved them to
the Appendix, reworded some to appear more innocent,
and promised in writing to keep pushing for them!
Then, without any warning, Councilman Amir Farokhi
introduced legislation, with a disguised title, for an unprecedented mass rezoning of 2,200 residential parcels
all over the city from single-family to multi-family. What
this would do to an old historic neighborhood Ansley
Park, for example, would be to allow 5,700 apartment/
condo units on lots currently occupied by 118 single-family homes. This is what the city urbanists call “gentle and
subtle” changes. This legislation, and the accompanying
CDP changes, have sparked a firestorm of neighborhood
protests, including 1,000-plus opposition phone calls to a
constituent hot line. But as of this writing, this legislation
is still moving along.
Zoning protects all homeowners. This fight is the urban
theoreticians against the homeowners. Mayor Keisha
Lance Bottoms has backed off her original proposal, and
leading mayoral candidates Felicia Moore and Kasim Reed
have both spoken against it. Now, during an election year,
most of the Atlanta City Council members seem unenthusiastic— at least until after the 2021 November election.
So why pursue it? At least three reasons: first, the urbanists have an insatiable desire for density (their target:
10,000 people per square mile, tripling the current density); second, developers, already circling neighborhoods,
sense enormous profit opportunities; and third, the most
insidious of all reasons, some politicians want to keep
trying to divide Atlanta by race.
The Bottoms administration sought advice from Dan
Parolek, a University of California, Berkeley urbanist,
on a strategy to abolish SFZ, including things like the
“right words” to use when selling the idea to Atlantans.
He recommended, for example, “Avoid conversations
about increasing density. I often recommend that we
stop using the scary “D” word because you will never
convince any neighborhood that increasing density is a
good thing for their neighborhood. Consider terms such
as housing diversity and housing choices rather than
density.” In other words, he advises, lie to neighborhoods
about what you are doing.
There is movement at the federal level as well. Originally, as part of Biden’s $1 trillion dollar infrastructure bill,
there was a provision to limit single family zoning and
allow multi-family apartment buildings to be built next to
a traditional house. That provision appears to have been
removed, but who knows for sure because the Senate
passed the bill before it was completely written. If not in
this legislation, there is talk of inserting it in the yet-tocome $3.5 trillion dollar bill.
This is a nationwide effort, supported by President
Biden and his urbanist administration.
Watch out! It may be coming to your community. If so,
know it will come by misinformation and stealth.
Atlanta businessman Bob Irvin was the GOP minority leader of the state
House of Representatives from 1994-2000 and a former board member of
Common Cause Georgia. His wife Lynn is a community activist.
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