Very early in the administration, I would initiate complementary re-hauls of Parking Policy and Zoning Policy which would update archaic and convoluted policies to efficiently address the needs of today and tomorrow. I would abolish parking minimums in favor of parking maximums. Existing and new developments would pay a tax per spot exceeding the maximum number of spots allowed. I would also deliberately and considerately remove on-street parking and redesign/reduce parking lots to allow amenities for other modes, for example, replacing on-street parking with a bicycle lane. It will no longer be required that a parking spot be supplied for every unit or bed, nor for each new single-family house built, especially when there is on-street parking.
I would give a new direction to Invest Atlanta, allowing some money to be spent by the City itself to build housing, parks, and other neighborhood amenities. Developers would be given incentives if their design shows exemplary service and utility to the neighborhood. I will ensure that Invest Atlanta incentives are attached with specific regulations on design, such as reduced parking or street-facing retail. In some cases, Invest Atlanta subsidies would be provided specifically to construct connections to public amenities as in pedestrian connectivity or a bus bay. This will give developers the funding to build certain infrastructure that we need, which would normally not be financially justified by the developer. Some parcels in tight corridors need to give way to have adequate sidewalks and bicycle paths. I will coordinate with developers to allow yard space to be given to the sidewalk and bicycle facilities when applicable to ensure a well-connected multimodal network in Atlanta.
I would first expedite high priority projects such as the Beltline. The Beltline project is estimated at $3.5 Billion Dollars. If we invest in the beltline at the current rate ($66 Million over 5 years), we will complete it 250 years from now. Next, I would advise on the design of infill stations such as Armour and Boone to create proper transfer stations to the streetcar and have high accessibility and mobility in general. I would PROMOTE TROLLEYBUSES on certain corridors instead of the streetcar. Another project that I would focus on is to prepare a Renew Atlanta 2, with shovel-ready projects beginning 2020. I would also coordinate existing redevelopment projects with the streetcar plan, such as Carter’s redevelopment of Summerhill, where the rendering strikingly does not have a streetcar on Georgia Ave although a line is planned there.
In the spirit of “incremental planning”, I would allow the Hawks-based redevelopment to occur as long as there are full provisions for a future rail station. The Hawks would not be required to build the station now, as the station is still so early in the discussion phase, however, they will be required to build their development in a way that allows the station to be built later with minimal demolition and disturbance. Walkability is key! A parking deck is to be expected with this redevelopment, but as long as there is top-notch walkability and street-level retail, it will be acceptable.
I definitely support the idea of having dedicated transit-only lanes for buses. 10th Street, North Ave, Ralph McGill Blvd, MLK, Memorial, Boulevard, and Northside/Metropolitan are some candidates for bus-only lanes, or at least rush-hour bus only lanes. Again, I am a strong advocate for the trolleybus! It has almost all of the beneficial effects of the streetcar, without the rails. I’ve also got my eye on some other abandoned railways that could serve as vital connections for new streetcar routes and/or Rails to Trails projects that would link to the Beltline and to the MARTA Rail. Some of these locations are between Atlantic Station and Armour Station, Vine City just north of D.L. Hollowell Pkwy, and between Oakland City Station and the Beltline.
Nobody foresaw the devastating effects of the internet on physical retail. Firstly, when a retail giant leaves, I would seek to take over their contract and allow the building to be occupied by other tenants, even if it means renovating. Again the zoning policy update is important, because it currently restricts land uses for such developments. Under the new zoning policy, the type of land use will not be nearly as restricted, which would allow abandoned commercial buildings to be adapted for any number of other uses.
I have a very specific vision for the zoning policy update that will include ensuring that new growth is respectful of community character. The zoning policy will be based on an overlay system where permissions and restrictions on architectural design and amenities will be provided based on proximity to existing features such as transit stations and employment centers. Instead of having categories (R-4, I-2, etc.) that are vague and restrict land use without context, this new system of overlay districts would give weight to the existing community when determining what can be built and how. For example, new developments around a transit station or school will be required to include a sidewalk if the road doesn’t have one already.
As a transportation engineer, here is where I can stand out with very specific ideas for specific places. I toured Europe recently, noting the phenomenal pedestrian and bike infrastructure they have in some places, and also noting that even some of today’s world-class cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen have painfully but successfully fought to reverse car-centric designs. I hope to bring some of those ideas to Atlanta. Pedestrian infrastructure and transit are inextricably linked. I would highly prioritize sidewalks on transit corridors with clever and flexible redesigns to make this process cheaper and quicker. I would collaborate with DWM to repair drainage features that contribute to the perilous walking experience, and improve drainage in general by replacing metal grates with smooth pervious surfaces or bioswales. Some streets (like Headland by Greenbriar Mall) could simply reduce each lane’s width to get the 5 feet width needed for the missing sidewalk. The system of connected traffic lights will help immensely. There would be prioritized bus signalization connected with the buses that would switch to a green light when the bus approaches. No more wasted time for both transit-riders and motorists.
I would start by giving neighborhood master plans some political weight. Each neighborhood would have an overlay district in the new zoning plan which would allow neighborhood plans to affect regulation for development and ensure that amenities desired by the neighborhood are prioritized over random development. In conjunction, I would place crucial parcels in land trusts to be developed into parks, schools, grocery stores, or whatever else is needed. I would prioritize community input when deciding where TAD money will be spent.
We need 10x as much affordable housing than we have right now. So, I would invest 10x as much in building affordable housing ($250M instead of $25M). I would redirect Invest Atlanta and the AHA towards building infill housing and transit-oriented housing that suits the character of existing nearby housing. I would create more Single Family houses, Multi-family houses, and multiplexes. I would partner with nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity to have the City itself design and construct individual homes when property developers will not build what is needed because they do not see revenue to be gained. A central principle behind my accelerated housing development is the recognition that a subsidy is a failure of the market to provide a service at the market rate. Considering this, I would start to lean away from housing subsidies, and think towards constructing housing that can simply be rented at an affordable rate. Housing will naturally become more affordable when there is more supply, but in addition to that, I would reduce the costs of constructing housing by building on land trusts, working with nonprofits, and get into building multiplexes (which are significantly cheaper to build than single family houses yet completely acceptable for young working people as a shared living situation).