Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore is joining Buckhead skeptics of the city’s new package of housing policy proposals, saying she disagrees with its “blanket” changes to single-family zoning and questioning its possible unintended consequences.
Moore — who has announced a challenge to incumbent Keisha Lance Bottoms for the Mayor’s Office — spoke at the March 2 meeting of Neighborhood Planning Unit B, whose board is also a prime skeptic of the “Atlanta City Design Housing” plan. Moore called for more details on the plan’s intended affordability outcomes and such impacts as tree-cutting.
The “Atlanta City Design Housing” document, released in December, “calls for bold zoning reform to allow more affordable housing types and stronger neighborhoods to address issues of inequality exacerbated by the city’s zoning code,” according to its introduction.
Among roughly a dozen policy proposals, the plan calls for allowing small apartment buildings in neighborhoods near transit stations, and additional or accessory dwelling units — like basement apartments or rear-yard houses — in all single-family zones. Josh Humphries, the city’s director of housing and community development, previously said the plan’s suggestions are aimed at “nuanced, subtle” increases in housing within existing patterns, not gigantic new developments or sweeping rezonings.
Those ideas — which could become formally proposed zoning ordinances within a couple of months — have drawn formal criticisms from local Neighborhood Planning Units and the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods.
At the NPU meeting, board member Robert Patterson, who heads the North Buckhead Civic Association, raised the issue of the single-family zoning proposals and asked Moore if it is “only Buckhead that seems to be somewhat worried about it.”
Moore said that awareness of the proposals seems to be not widespread since they have yet to be turned into specific legislation, but predicted that the main idea will produce a “cry across the city” from single-family neighborhoods.
She said that “one of the things that people always cherish, and I don’t care what part of the city you are [in], is the character of your neighborhood.” Regarding the proposed changes in single-family zoning, Moore said, “I think that it’ll work where people are OK with it, but I just don’t think there should be a blanket thing, and I don’t think there’s gonna be a lot of support across the city.”
Moore said she looked forward to seeing draft legislation with details. She said that “for me, I need them to connect the dots on how this will make things affordable and who is going to hold anybody to whatever affordable is.”
Moore also expressed concern with impacts on other land-use questions the city is currently also attempting to answer with legislation, including preserving trees from residential development and regulating short-term home rentals. She suggested that a detached accessory dwelling unit behind a million-dollar home is likely to cost a “pretty penny” and not be affordable, and “people could just make them a bunch of short-term rentals behind their house.”
Moore specifically criticized the plan’s idea of promoting for-sale accessory dwelling units by permitting the creation of “flag lots,” where the property is subdivided but still falls under the zoning restrictions of the parent lot. “… I certainly don’t like what I’ve read about subdividing lots… It doesn’t make sense,” Moore said.
NPU B chair Nancy Bliwise told Moore that with those comments, “you’ve got a lot of people cheering.”