After the ten years of blood, sweat and tears over the new Title 21, have you ever wondered where the people who made these new rules live? If they have been afforded the opportunity for home ownership, do they live in what they are advocating? So, we decided to do a little internet home work and find out. We looked at the MOA tax records and Google Earth of twenty-three planning staff or assembly members’ homes. We found only seven that we felt met with the new design standards. Without divulging locations or ownership for the benefit of privacy, the vast majority of staff and assembly members live in homes that do not meet the new code. Three homes do not have clearly visible entrances from the street. Several homes do not have roof coverage of a minimum of sixteen square feet at the entrance. One had roof drainage that falls on the walkway. Several garage doors exceed fifty percent of the width of the front elevation. Even larger homes lack the required 15% window coverage, particularly in those homes that are attached dwelling units or condos.
Some homes have more than one potential non-conformity. Garage doors are more than 67% of the front elevation. There was no visible entry from the street. Windows are not 15% of front elevation. The garage is greater than 50% of the width of the dwelling. The seven homes where conformity appeared to occur were larger and located on lots over 11,000 square feet but even in those instances, there was potential non-conformity for lack of window size on the front elevation. These potential non-conformities make me wonder what could change in the new Title 21 if the staff and assembly tried to apply the new regulations to their own home, if due to some unfortunate circumstances, their homes would need to be rebuilt under the new code? Could they be rebuilt as an identical structure? Not as the new code has presently been approved. Double garage doors would need to be reduced to a single car garage. Side entrances would not be allowed. Bringing the entrance to the front of the home, so it is visible from the street, would require a major reconfiguration of living areas.
But, let me be fair and make my own personal disclaimer. I live in a two-story owner occupied duplex (I am the owner.) My street-facing windows will comply. My garage doors are in the alley so no worry there. However, the entrance to my home is not wide enough and although my porch has a covered entry it is not 16 square feet, perhaps only 12 square feet. It was designed by a local architect, permitted and built 19 years ago and conforms to all land use and structural permits at that time. I like the way it lives, as probably do the staff and assembly members who live in their own homes. I do not want to have to make changes to my entry that will affect my living space, although I have remodeled my kitchen and taken out a couple of interior walls.
I suspect that two thirds of the homes currently occupied in Anchorage, whether owned by staff, assembly members, or myself, will not comply to the new Title 21 regulations if for some reason they needed to be rebuilt or voluntarily are remodeled. Although well-intentioned with a desire to make Anchorage a more aesthetically desirable residential environment, the current implementation of Title 21 is a serious misstep. I challenge the planning staff and the assembly to apply the new Title 21 to their own personal residences. My recommendation is to allow all existing structures to be rebuilt under the code in effect at the time of the original permit, with the exception of safety and energy ratings. After all, not everyone, including assembly and planning staff members, are going to want to give up their front facing double car garage for a single door.