Thursday, September 17, 2009

Neighbors vs Neighbors vs Seniors?

So, Nina Cardona writes about this new Livability Task Force chaired by Diane Neighbors, who will be recommending zoning changes to make neighborhoods more livable for seniors, but not without some controversy:
The task force is recommending measures to make it easier for seniors to either remain in their homes or downsize without leaving their current communities. It set a goal of implementing zoning changes to allow a mixed-use developments and infill in a variety of housing sizes. Several parts of the city have a history of neighbors organizing to fight attempts to allow more dense housing developments of the sort proposed by the task force.

Sounds like Cardona is reporting on a noble effort except for what she leaves out. Generational diversity in neighborhoods is a good thing, but she neglects to acknowledge that organized neighbors are not some monolith preparing knee-jerk opposition to higher density. Neighborhoods face a planning and rezoning environment that tends to look like a free-for-all where developers enjoy a distinct advantage. Developers enter looking for exceptions and special conditions that will allow them the highest density possible because highest density equals most profits, and serving seniors matters little in the equation. They also demand the least resistance, and that generally means ignoring neighborhood feedback.

And speaking of developers, Cardona also fails to mention that Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors is married to a developer who stands to gain from more mixed-use, high-density developments. How is the task force prepared to protect balance between recreation/lifestyle consumers of all ages and older residents on fixed incomes in higher-density developments? Is the task force prepared to insure that developers won't use their recommendation as a way to drain communities of their character while they suck profits out? Did Cardona interview any neighborhood leaders the same way she interviewed Diane Neighbors (setting the Vice Mayor up in an adversarial role with neighbors while posing her the advocate for seniors)?

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