Why Regulate Building Size

The City is interested in shifting toward regulating building sizes to get the right-sized buildings in the right places and facilitate more housing units by removing density limits and providing a more predictable project review process with clearer standards. The City does not currently have size limits for apartment and condominium buildings, other than required setback distance from property lines (in some areas) and maximum height limits.
The final size of a building is ultimately determined by the City's Design Review Boards, which evaluate projects for compatibility with the surrounding development and compliance with adopted design guidelines. This is often a challenging task when larger projects, otherwise allowed by zoning, are proposed near existing, smaller buildings, and may be the first of its kind on the block. Recent changes to state law now prohibit Design Review Boards from reducing the number of housing units in a project, limiting the ability to reduce building height or increase setbacks beyond what is proposed by a developer.
To provide clear, objective standards for new apartment and condominium projects, the City is developing size limits for buildings that are relative to the size of the property, using floor-to-lot area ratio (FAR) maximums. FAR is a measurement of the total area of all floors of all buildings on a lot (excluding basement areas), divided by the size of a lot. Maximum allowed FARs will be unique to different parts of the community, to be sensitive to surrounding neighborhoods and historic resources.

A move toward FAR limits will create a more predictable outcome for both developers and our community and removes density A move toward FAR limits will create a more predictable outcome for both developers and our community and removes density (the number of housing units allowed to be built on a lot, usually described as “dwelling units per acre”) as the controlling factor for how many units are proposed in a project. This would encourage the construction of needed housing and is expected to result in more units being proposed within each new building. To see an animated illustration of FAR click here.

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The City's Online Workshop for New Residential Building Size Standards has closed. There will be more opportunities for you to share your opinions on this topic in the future. Please join our email list here for updates on the project and future hearing dates.

For a quick explanation on regulating by building size, click here and watch an informative video on Floor-to-lot Area Ratio here.

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