This morning Park City City Manager, Diane Foster, was on KPCW and was asked about the Bonanza Park form-based code redevelopment. Ms Foster said that people were concerned that there would be “8 story buildings” accompanying a Bonanza Park redevelopment and they were happy to learn that they would actually be 3 story buildings with the limited potential for 4th and 5th stories if affordable housing was added to the development.
That sounds great. New development will generally be similar in height as today. If buildings get taller, only 75% of the square footage of the bottom floors can be used on the 4th floor and 25% on the 5th floor. In the unlikely event someone wants those extra two stories they will have to build affordable housing. Does that make you feel better? Maybe it shouldn’t.
First, let’s ask why we care about height at all. Most people care about height because it blocks the view of ridge lines, mountain peaks, etc. Others worry that it contributes to too much of an urban feel in our little town. So, imagine a building where there is 5 stories but the top floor has 1/4 of the square footage but runs the width of the building. It still blocks the view and it still looks like it is 5 stories. We always think of the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) in Chicago. It’s top floors are about 1/16th the square footage of the bottom floors but it’s still 1400 feet tall. Tall is tall, no matter how you slice it.
The second issue is the affordable housing component that may be required to build extra floors. That sounds good. We need to ensure that locals who aren’t millionaires can afford to live here. If that element is lost, it tears at our social fabric. We see why that argument could make sense. However, do you ever wonder why you don’t see a lot of affordable housing in Park City? It’s a little complicated, but let’s start with the way a developer can meet its affordable housing requirements:
- Construct units on site
- Build affordable housing somewhere in the city limits
- Convert current non-affordable units to affordable housing
- Construct units outside of Park City but within the school district boundary
- Pay a fee in lieu of developing the units
So, what’s the likelihood of affordable housing ending up within these buildings? Perhaps Park City will specifically write into their code that current affordable housing rules do not apply to these areas and that the affordable housing must be within the base of the building. If not, then don’t count on any affordable housing in this area. The likely outcome, which often happens here, is the fee in lieu option. The developer will choose to pay their $300,000 in affordable housing fees to build that $3 million penthouse without having to sacrifice a thing. They get to use all the square footage at market rates on floors 1-3 plus they get the bonus penthouse(s) or condos on floors 4 and 5.
If you think that you won’t notice the extra height in Bonanza Park. Good luck with that. If you think that the good done outweighs the bad. Well, god bless you.
Right now, the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is playing in the background.