Rohit Ammanamanchi
Responses to the ThreadATL Mayoral Candidate Questionnaire, 2017
Parking question
ThreadATL: "The ubiquity of free/cheap parking is considered a threat to walkable cities and to the competitiveness of public transit. Are there parking-management strategies, or zoning changes, that you would put in place to decrease automobile dependence and increase walkability?"

Response...

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.

Invest Atlanta Question
ThreadATL: "As mayor, you’ll have significant control over Invest Atlanta. Luring companies through tax incentives and the issuance of bonds is a chance for us to invest in good urban design, walkability and the reduction of car dependence in our office developments. What can you do to guarantee this happens with Invest Atlanta projects?"

Response:

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.

Streetcar Question
ThreadATL: "After years of ridership and operational challenges, the City of Atlanta recently announced an agreement to transfer responsibility for the Atlanta Streetcar to MARTA. What specific additional steps should the City take to ensure the streetcar's long-term success?"

Response:

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.

Gulch Question
ThreadATL: "A large entertainment-focused development in the "The Gulch" of Downtown has been proposed, where there are also long-standing plans for a regional multimodal transit terminal. How will you ensure that this potential rail service can be integrated with development in the Gulch?"

Response:

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.

Bus Lanes Question
ThreadATL: "In the interest of improving transit coverage along major bus corridors and in other areas not served by heavy rail, do you support dedicated, transit-only lanes for buses, even if it means reallocating existing roadway space from cars?"

Response:

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.

Small Retail Question
ThreadATL: "Economic challenges for brick-and-mortar retailers creates instability for neighborhoods when large “anchor” chains disappear, leaving blighted spaces behind. What policies will you seek to assure that developments include retail spaces that are not too large to be reused, in the event the large anchor tenant leaves?"

Response:

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.

Preservation Question
ThreadATL: "New developments in our neighborhoods can result in the loss of buildings that hold cultural or historic significance. What policies would you support that would preserve the historical built identity of the city in the midst of new growth?"

Response:

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.

Safe Walking to MARTA Question
ThreadATL: "Walking to a bus or rail transit station in Atlanta should be a thing that you want to do — not a dangerous chore that you do only when you have no other choice. How will you help the city partner with MARTA to strengthen pedestrian infrastructure around bus stops and rail stations?"

Response:

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.

Neighborhood Master Plan Question
ThreadATL: "The car-centric Fuqua development under construction at 17th Street and Northside Drive runs counter to the Loring Heights master-plan’s call for a walkable, neighborhood-focused center of activity in this property. How will you ensure that developments respect neighborhood master plans and the work that residents have put into them?"

Response:

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.

Affordable Housing Question
ThreadATL: "How will you increase the availability and accessibility of good-quality new housing that is affordable for a variety of household sizes, including owners and renters?"

Response:

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).

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