Naked City

Super Duplicity

Since Naked City last toured superduplexes, the specimen at the corner of 35th and Duval -- begun mere weeks ago -- has been just about finished. The imposing beige structure symbolizes the grand consternation of many a central city homeowner obsessed with "neighborhood integrity" -- a concern that leads to today's (Thursday) City Council hearing to regulate construction of these structures, the aluminum-sided virus of residential construction. Last month, the council approved a resolution directing staff to develop recommendations that effectively placed a temporary moratorium on new superduplexes, defined by city staff as buildings with six or more bedrooms (or greater than 2,800 square feet) built on single-family lots. The moratorium will end May 31, or sooner if a permanent change to the land development code is adopted.

Staff has suggested limiting height and impervious cover -- objective standards to avoid compatibility issues when two-story structures are erected next to bungalows. Planning Commissioner Maggie Armstrong says the matter might be harder to resolve than it seems -- in part because it might involve reducing the number of unrelated adults permitted to share a housing unit from six to three, as many cities do.

"If we start tinkering with [residency limits]," Armstrong says, "we really have to understand the implications." Such a change could affect large households of immigrant workers and some student housing arrangements. The Codes Committee has explored an alternative to the staff's proposal: Creating a separate use category for high-residency duplexes, which would allow neighborhood plans to apply conditions and additional regulations to superduplexes without eliminating them altogether.

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