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Sep 18, 2016

Building Height Restrictions Create Traffic Jams in Silicon Valley

Palo Alto, California, doesn't want new jobs, because the traffic is too bad.  But removing zoning restrictions on building height could fix traffic.  The classic solution to car traffic congestion is elevators.  High rise office buildings allow people to walk to where they work from their high rise apartments and condos.  High Rise buildings also can provide more affordable housing.  High density downtowns also encourage park and ride solutions.  People can walk to work from the train or bus station.  Pedestrian traffic density is far higher than any vehicle density can ever be.  

California's traffic problems and urban sprawl are largely the result of height restrictions imposed on buildings.  If you are worried about earthquakes, impose engineering standards on the high rise buildings to make them earthquake resistant.  But you have to make a choice.  You can't have both less car traffic and height restrictions.  You have to choose one or the other.

Eminent domain is not needed to clear land for tall buildings.  Just changing the zoning will slowly force the turnover in land ownership because the property values and taxes will rise to the point that selling and moving becomes to attractive for a few property owners.  After some development, the holdouts will decide that they don't like high rises as neighbors, so they will take the money and run. The train stop in Palo Alto is already in place.  With property values as high as they are right now, the money should be available for water, power and sewer infrastructure.  The only impediments will be NIMBY protests and related endless environmental suits to stop infrastructure improvements. 

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