Sunday, November 19, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Balancing neighborhood character, new housing designs

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The cities of St. Petersburg and Tampa have plenty to offer millennials and young families, including beautiful parks, bustling bar and restaurant scenes and improving job prospects. One challenge is housing, much of it aging and small by comparison to the 3/2s of modern suburbia. Developers are eager to resolve the mismatch by building bigger, modern homes that can appear out of scale in established neighborhoods. As the Tampa Bay area evolves, urban planners should strive for a better balance between preserving the character of neighborhoods and encouraging a housing renewal that meets the needs of younger residents.

The growing pains are being felt in signature neighborhoods like St. Petersburg's Historic Kenwood and Snell Isle and Tampa's West Tampa and Seminole Heights. The Tampa Bay Times' Susan Taylor Martin recently reported on a rift in Kenwood, which boasts one of Florida's largest concentrations of craftsman-style bungalows dating from the 1920s. But many have just two bedrooms and one bathroom and cover a tight 1,300 square feet. In some cases, they are being replaced with much larger houses, offering more space and more amenities — and slowly altering the look of the neighborhood. Another common complaint on both sides of the bay: small homes on double lots being knocked down and replaced with two large houses with minimal setbacks. Neighborhoods need breathing room, and while maximizing size and density boosts developers' profits, it does not serve the greater community interest.

Design standards are more subjective and more challenging for city planners. In Seminole Heights, another bungalow enclave, residents objected to new homes popping up featuring "faux" porches — glorified front stoops that couldn't hold two rocking chairs. In Kenwood, boxy, modern homes don't blend in with the quaint bungalows. But one person's eyesore is another's dream home, and imposing rigid standards like those in deed-restricted subdivisions would be an overcorrection.

That's where codes and zoning come in. One builder's representative said in an email to St. Petersburg officials that it's not "the government's business to tell a family what size home they should have.'' Maybe not what size, but certainly where, and with reasonable conditions. When uniformly enforced, zoning preserves the integrity of neighborhoods by limiting home size, requiring setbacks from neighboring properties and providing incentives to make new houses fit in. St. Petersburg, for example, is considering sensible new guidelines that would limit home size but allow builders to exceed the maximum if they incorporate design enhancements that mitigate the "big box" feel of new homes. Those kind of incentives leave flexibility for people to build the house they want while having a positive long-term effect on how neighborhoods evolve.

Through smart investment in community amenities, Tampa and St. Petersburg have grown into thriving urban centers where more and more people want to live. The eagerness of developers to build attractive, spacious new homes helps revive communities, add local tax revenue and create safer neighborhoods. It's a great problem to have, but it's crucial that local governments provide steady oversight that preserves what is unique about each city while encouraging development of new, viable housing.

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Editorial: Good for Tampa council member Frank Reddick to appeal for community help to solve Seminole Heights killings

As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "I’m pleading to my brothers. You ...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

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Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

St. Petersburg City Council members are poised to raise the minimum wage for contractors who do business with the city, a well-intended but misguided ordinance that should be reconsidered. The hourly minimum wage undoubtedly needs to rise — for every...
Published: 11/16/17

Editorial: Make workplaces welcoming, not just free of harassment

A federal trial began last week in the sex discrimination case that a former firefighter lodged against the city of Tampa. Tanja Vidovic describes a locker-room culture at Tampa Fire Rescue that created a two-tier system — one for men, another for wo...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Barely a week after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman promised to unite the city following a bitter and divisive campaign, his administration has fired an employee who dared to criticize him. It seems Kriseman’s own mantra of "moving St. Pete forwar...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17
Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

The University of South Florida recently surpassed its $1 billion fundraising goal, continuing a current trend of exceeding expectations. At 61 years old — barely middle age among higher education institutions — USF has grown up quickly. It now boast...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

American military members hurt in service to their country should not have to wait a lifetime for the benefits they deserve. But that’s a reality of the disability process at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which hasn’t made payi...
Published: 11/14/17

Editorial: Deputies’ rescue reflects best in law enforcement

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Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/17/17

Another voice: An untrustworthy deal with Russia

President Donald Trump’s latest defense of Russian leader Vladimir Putin included — along with a bow to his denials of meddling in the U.S. election — an appeal to pragmatism. "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,"...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/14/17