Apartment Densities for Medium-Size Cities

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AMERICAN SOCIETY OF PLANNING OFFICIALS

1313 EAST 60TH STREET — CHICAGO 37 ILLINOIS

Information Report No. 166 January 1963

Apartment Densities for Medium-Size Cities

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The zoning ordinance provisions regulating apartment densities in several medium-size cities are summarized in this report to supplement the ASPO Planning Advisory Service Information Report No. 139, Planning for Apartments (October 1960). This earlier report discussed at length various aspects of apartment density and the establishment of zoning regulations. However, with the exception of a short tabular section on selected suburbs in the Chicago metropolitan area, the zoning requirements reported were all extracted from the zoning ordinances of about a dozen of the nation's largest cities. The following tables present provisions controlling apartment density that appear in the zoning ordinances of selected cities in two other population groups: 100,000–200,000 and 50,000–100,000.

Obviously, it is impossible to recommend standard requirements for cities of various sizes. The minimum lot area for apartments in some cities is as large as the average single-family lot in other cities.

It is extremely difficult to prove that a particular requirement is essential to the public health and safety. A controlling factor in the adoption of specific density requirements is the expected impact of the proposed density on public services: the number of school children that will have to be served, the amount of traffic that will be generated, the recreation facilities that will be needed, the number of police and firemen that will be required, and a host of other services that must be provided.

Other factors that must be considered by the planning commission and the legislative body include the local attitudes to various kinds of multi-family housing and the demand for accompanying amenities. In one city, apartments with only small yards and with "available" parking spaces on the street may be acceptable to prospective apartment dwellers; in another city, tenants may demand off-street parking and spacious, landscaped open areas. For these reasons, the following examples of zoning ordinance provisions for regulating apartment densities should be considered as illustrative only.

The trend noted in Information Report No. 139 of establishing minimum lot area on a room, rather than on a dwelling, basis is evident in many of the following regulations adopted by medium-size cities.

MULTI-FAMILY (APARTMENT) DENSITY PROVISIONS IN SELECTED CITIES OF 100,000 TO 200,000 POPULATION

City 1960 Population Date of Zoning Ordinance District Designation Ht. Limit (Stories) No. of Rooms Lot Area Required per D.U. (Sq. Ft.) Max. Allowable Lot Coverage (%)
Arlington, Va. 163,000 1950 RA 6-15 6, 81 1 600 35
          2 900 35
          3 1,200 35
          4 or more 1,500 35
      RA 8-18 6 1 800 30
          2 1,200 30
          3 1,600 30
          4 or more 1,800 30
Berkeley, Cal. 111,000 1960 R5 None -- 4002 503
          -- 500 50
      R3, R4 6 -- 6504 35–405
          -- 800 35–40
Madison, Wis. 127,000 1950 D 6 16 500 --
            1,000 --
Pasadena, Cal. 116,000 1949 R4 6   3007 --
            600 --

1. Eight stories applied to projects of over ten acres.

2. For lots of 10,000 square feet or more.

3. Applies to "interior," i.e., non-corner lots.

4. For lots of 15,000 square feet or more.

5. 35 per cent applies to interior lots with apartment structures of three floors or more; 40 per cent applies to interior lots of 15,000 square feet or more.

6. Refers to bedrooms.

7. Applies to dwelling units of less than 400 square feet floor area.

 

MULTI-FAMILY (APARTMENT) DENSITY PROVISIONS IN SELECTED CITIES OF 50,000 TO 100,000 POPULATION

City 1960 Population Date of Zoning Ordinance District Designation Ht. Limit (Stories) No. of Rooms Lot Area Required per D.U. (Sq. Ft.)
Durham, N.C. 78,000 1959 RA 7-16 9 1 700
          2 1,000
          3 1,300
          4 or more 1,600
      RA 12-18 6 1 1,200
          2 1,450
          3 1,650
          4 or more 1,800
      RA 16-24 3 1 1,600
          2 1,900
          3 2,150
          4 or more 2,400
      RA 20-30 3 1 2,200
          2 2,600
          3 2,700
          4 or more 3,000
Lexington, Ky. 63,000 1961 R-4 6 None1,2 750
          1 1,000
          2 1,500
      R-3 3 None 1,000
          1 1,500
          2 2,000
Newton, Mass. 92,000 1953 Residence D 2 1/2 -- 3,000
Rock Island, Ill. 52,000 1961 R-5 6 -- 1,000
      R-43 3 -- 2,000
Richmond, Cal. 72,000 1960 R-3 6 -- 400
      R-2 2 1/2 -- 1,250
Santa Barbara, Cal. 59,000 1957 R-3, R-4 3 -- 1,000

1. Refers to bedrooms.

2. "None" refers to efficiency apartments.

3. One- to six-family residence district.

 

REFERENCES

Information Report No. 139 should be consulted for a list of references on the subject of multi-family {apartment) densities. Two other recent sources of information are:

1. Exchange Bibliography No. 18, "Residential Densities," April, 1961. Council of Planning Librarians, 6318 Thornhill Drive, Oakland 11, California. $1.25. (Gives an extensive list of references dealing with theoretical aspects of the problem.)

2. Density Zoning: Organic Zoning for Planned Residential Development. Technical Bulletin No. 42. Urban Land Institute, 1200 18th Street, N.W., Washington 6, D. C. (Stresses the need for flexible regulations to allow variety in dwelling types and land uses, as well as permitting maximum site design freedom. Also emphasizes the need to think and plan in terms of over-all densities rather than on a rigid, lot-by-lot basis.)

Copyright © 1963 by American Society of Planning Officials