I don’t believe Ryan’s claim that height limits don’t affect the presence of empty lots in a downtown, because observational reality directly contradicts his theory. It’s not anti-intellectual to note that the country is full of examples of cities with strict height limits that are more tightly packed and pedestrian-friendly than their peers. Washington, Portland, Boulder, and Madison are all good examples. Even downtown Chicago has noticeably more above ground parking lots than downtown Washington, despite Chicago having both more downtown office space and a larger downtown residential population.
But whatever. That isn’t all that important, nor are some of the other issues I continue to have with some of Ryan’s statements.
The important thing here is that relatively minor differences aside, we seem to be at a general point of agreement, which is that the current height regulations are too blunt, that it is desirable to find a way to allow taller buildings in some cases, and that we can produce a better city using some variety of height regulations and/or incentives than by simply eliminating the height limit completely.
Policy prescription may not have been Ryan’s purpose, but I think there’s more value in exploring potential ways to achieve our shared goals than in staking out dogmatic extremes. I like Ryan’s idea to price height bonuses, and think it would be worthwhile to investigate other tools we might use to sharpen the city’s blunt regulations.