Kasim Reed is pandering to NIMBYs who oppose growth near MARTA. That stinks.
Atlanta mayoral candidate Kasim Reed is pandering to anti-density voters in the Ansley Park neighborhood by promising he’ll oppose the (very good) proposal to allow small apartment buildings, with only eight to twelve units each, to be built within a half mile of MARTA rail stations in the city.
The proposal that Reed opposes is part of a concept that the city’s planning department put together that offers some much-needed change to Atlanta’s overly-suburban zoning.
The contents of the proposal rightly echo the Atlanta City Design document from several years ago which was, ironically, created by Kasim Reed’s administration and adopted and approved before he left office. That document makes a very clear call for inclusionary zoning, and for eliminating barriers to ‘missing middle’ housing.
Essentially, Reed is pandering to the NIMBY tendencies of Atlanta by opposing a good concept for urban density that grew out of his administration (arguably one of the few commendable things from his storied time in office).
All mayoral candidates should support this proposal, not oppose it, and they certainly shouldn’t be catering to NIMBY fears.
The proposed level of sensitive growth near our high-capacity transit lines is the kind of move the city should have made years ago. We need Atlanta’s built environment to do a better job of supporting transit in many ways. Adding small multi-family buildings in walking distance to rail stations is a logical step, and it will help undo the harmful, car-centric products of the ‘war on density’ this city waged in the past.
In the letter to Ansley Park residents quoted in full below, notice how Reed wrongly states that this is a “drastic” up-zoning, fanning the flames of fear for his benefit.
He also refers to these small apartments as a step that will “sacrifice” neighborhoods, implying that they’re being killed. Which is ridiculous — instead of dying, they’ll actually be joining the ranks of the MANY wonderful places in Atlanta where detached homes and small duplexes and apartments have already been mixed for many decades, such at Cabbagetown (pictured above).
KASIM REED FOR MAYOR
September 22, 2021
Dear Concerned Ansley Park Resident,
I am proud to be the only mayoral candidate to have unequivocally opposed the recent proposal to drastically up-zone all property within a half-mile of certain MARTA stations. I have a record of fighting for Atlanta’s neighborhoods. In my eight years as your mayor, I fought to protect historic neighborhoods against encroachment, inappropriate redevelopment, and up-zoning. Atlanta’s historic neighborhoods are our crown jewels, unique to most American cities in terms of their proximity to the urban core. We cannot sacrifice such irreplaceable assets.
I reject the false idea that Atlantans must make a choice between affordability and historic preservation.
It is true. Atlanta needs to take bold action to increase its supply of affordable and workforce housing. If you elect me as your Mayor, I will look for ways to site more housing near transit and the Beltline. But those vital efforts shouldn’t come at the expense of Atlanta’s unique and historic neighborhoods. One of the ways in which Atlanta is special is our legacy of historic neighborhood development radiating from activity centers. It is that vitality that makes Atlanta a great place to live.
As Mayor, I fought to protect and preserve our historic neighborhoods. I commit to you that I will do so again, with your support and your vote. Working together, with our neighborhoods and community leadership, we can channel growth and density purposefully. That’s how we can build an affordable Atlanta for the 21″ Century — not by mindlessly tearing down historic neighborhoods.
I have a proven record and a cutting-edge vision for our city. I would be honored to serve as your Mayor again. If you’d like more information about how we can build a safe and prosperous Atlanta, please visit my website www.kasimreed.com. Thank you.
Opposing this good improvement to Atlanta’s urbanism — which is much need of help — is simply idiotic.
We need our city leaders to be more forward-thinking than this. Yes, the zoning change is not an affordability solution in itself, but it’s an essential piece of the puzzle that will work with other tools to create more-affordable homes **. And without this piece we’ll be unable to create the equitable, human-centered city we need.
The overly car-centric neighborhoods near some of our MARTA stations cause too many challenges, mismatching the urban design of the places with the transit infrastructure we have. Reed was fond of the phrase “world class city” during his previous terms. Opposing transit-supportive urbanism is absolutely the wrong way to try to reach goals for world-class status.
** [There is an optional density bonus included in the proposal, which allows developers to add more units if 1 of 2 of them are offered at affordable prices.]
Darin Givens is co-founder and board member of ThreadATL. Follow on Instagram at @atlurbanist