Sunday, November 15, 2009

Transfer Rights

I don't quite understand why transfers of development rights aren't used more in cities looking to densify areas around transit and preserve open space. It seems like a really easy way to show instantly the benefits they are recieving and make real progress instead of just hoping for it.


BruceMcF said...

What is the precise point of transferable development rights?

That is, if the primary impediment to development Why not just have an easement to develop at a sustainable concentration around a transit corridor/stop, why not just grant an easement to remove the impediment? And if that is not the primary impediment, why would transferable development rights have any impact?

Is it a way to push sprawl development toward the no-man's land between concentration that is compatible with purely auto-centric development and concentration that effectively supports TOD? But you can't stroll over a ditch like that - you got to jump.

And if you can make that jump, a cluster of effective TOD development drains the opportunity for sprawl development covering several times the area.

Anonymous said...

^Because without TDR, you still allow growth to go in the wrong places, or where infrastructure lags.

Case in point is Charlotte, where TOD is going up along their first line, but so is sprawl outside the beltway.

In every city, the worst offenders are multi-family and retail, which should be better integrated and located near jobs and transit but are instead stripping out major roads.

Yake said...

TDRs can be a very useful tool in some situations. However, it would be a serious mistake to assume that they are easy to implement. The "receiving zones" have to be convinced to accept the higher density, which can be really politically difficult in the face of NIMBY opposition. ("You mean we're getting even MORE density?! What's in it for us?! How come the people in the giving zone get LOWER density -- not fair!")

Then a market needs to develop for TDRs to be bought and sold -- it'll be much more "thin" and idiosyncratic than the normal land development market. Much more legal complexity. This makes a lot of developers skittish about buying TDRs. Plus, a given unit of FAR of TDR will probably end up being less than the equivalent being bought and sold in the typical land market.

So TDR can work great, but it's not easy and it probably won't work in most places.

BruceMcF said...

But you still require a system that first prevents TOD from being fully exploited in order for the TDR to have value on transfer, and the value created cannot be channeled into funding or financing transit and other supporting infrastructure - where an easement on zoning restrictions for areas that qualify as effective TOD zones would not require any purchase of new rights.

And a far more direct attack on sprawl development would be to eliminate sprawl cross-subsidies for things like utility hook-ups.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

Well my thought would be that you actually give land on the edge a reward by staying undeveloped. By trading the development rights, you're making sure that land on the edge isn't developed while you're giving a bonus to property in areas you want developed. You don't have to limit the development in the TOD zone, but if there is a greater demand because the area is white hot for development pressure, then developers can pay for extra development height. And to assuage NIMBYs, you're not giving it away for free, that extra development is traded for a public good. At least thats how I'd like to think it would work.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what it would be like if every petitioner of an upzoning above recommended future land use (which should already factor in growth and vision) had to find comparable downzoning(s) elsewhere in the community for decision-makers to consider simultaneously.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

That's an interesting thought anon. Everyone should have to consider the tradeoffs.