The most common way to own multi-family homes, in the United States, is condominiums. Condominiums have been around for years, but they have some problems:
.Home Owners’ Association fees, rules and conflicts with owners
.Increased liability for developers, architects and owners.
A new form of ownership has been developed to address these problems – the Small Lot Subdivision (SLS). In a small lot subdivision an infill lot (a lot in an existing multi-family neighborhood) is subdivided into smaller lots. A house is put on each of the lots. The homes may look like they are attached to each other, but in fact they are separate, connected only by the sheet metal that covers the air space between them. There is no Home Owners’ Association.
Los Angeles adopted this concept in 2005. San Diego is working on its own Small Lot Ordinance. I designed this Small Lot Subdivision prototype to test San Diego’s current draft ordinance.
I decided to design for a difficult condition (small lot, limited access and high density) because that’s where you learn the most about the possibilities and limitations of an ordinance. I chose a 50’ wide x 100’ deep lot. I used the most limited automobile access, from the street in front of the property. There is no alley or side (corner lot) access. And I chose one of the highest density SLS zones, which allows the most homes, the most building mass and the tallest building height.
Because each house in a SLS sits on its own small lot, solutions favor townhouses (multi-story homes with small footprints). In this design townhouse homes are grouped around a motor court, accessed from the street.
The design illustrates some of the advantages of small lot subdivisions over more conventional high density, condominium buildings:
. Less bulky than the maximum allowed by zoning (see blocks representing the maximum bulk allowed on either side of image 1).
.Variety in the design. From top to bottom the same unit isn’t just stacked on top of itself from floor to floor. To emphasize that these are separate homes, each unit can have a different but compatible design.
.Building mass has more variety, with more stepbacks, offsets and recesses
.Private front doors on the street emphasize the individual nature of the homes and bring activity to the street.
.Click on second image from top to download my 1 page pdf flyer on my SLS prototype
.Front yard design includes a low water use landscape design, with a little help from my friends.