Last night Tacoma's planning commission held a hearing regarding the proposed changes to the comprehensive plan. Specifically, the infill of new housing and conversion of historic single family homes into duplex and triplex configurations. Naturally, it can be expected for people to get upset in a situation like this, after all: their neighborhoods are changing. But do their objections make any sense?
The prevailing argument against residential infill and conversion of existing structures is that the character of the neighborhoods will be violated. But what does that mean? Neighborhoods are organic, the character of a neighborhood is defined by the character of the people who live there. So if more people move in to a neighborhood, it stands to reason that the neighborhood will indeed change. But is change bad? Probably not. Do people have a right to be afraid? Maybe, we are human after all. Will modern boxes start popping up all over the place? Who knows. Will it really make their historic homes less beautiful? Of course not.
I live in a historic craftsman, right next to a gigantic brand new home. Is my house worth less because of it? No, in fact, the value of the lot next to mine increases the value of my home. My neighbor has a questionably legal accessory dwelling behind his home, does it hurt me and my home? Nope, not even a little bit. It is well built, fits the character of the neighborhood and, frankly, is nicer looking than some of the other homes on the block. He did a great job when he built it. Perhaps instead of resisting change, residents in neighborhoods should work with the change. Neighborhoods change, and they will never stop changing, and the Planning Commission should not restrict change simply because current residents feel they have the right to deny new people moving into the neighborhood.
One resident that The News Tribune quoted in a story on the hearing said
“Why do we have to plan for growth?...If an area is built out, people can live elsewhere.”
What is uglier: increased density, or the notion that new people are not welcome?
We all have a right to live where we want to live, and increased housing creates an environment where people can live where they want to live. When people live where they want to live, the character of the neighborhood becomes more vibrant. People who are going to pay the high price of living in the North End or Proctor are going to respect the neighborhood and take care of it. Nobody is going to pay a premium rent unless they want to be a part of the neighborhood, and denying density is simply telling those people they are not welcome.