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Alleys in Residential Areas


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#1 RD Milhollin

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Posted 10 September 2015 - 10:04 AM

Council member Kelly Allen Gray raises the city's attention to the state of alleys in residential areas. 

 

http://www.star-tele...le34293606.html

 

The proposed 2016 budget for mowing alleys about $410K, and the number of alleys to be maintained is 832, but it was twice that last year...

 

I suppose there are three ways to deal with alleys. Some homeowners in affluent neighborhoods might like to have the alley used as a common driveway to rear-facing garages, although this might necessitate expensive modifications to their existing properties. There are some blocks in heavily blighted areas with one or no houses remaining on a block where new construction projects could use this sort of design as a sales amenity. Another way to deal with alleys would be to deed them to owners, but as the article points out there is a cost to replatting, which could be apportioned over time via the water bill, but for now this option has been shelved by the city. Of course the option of doing nothing is the cheapest and easiest, and this is the course the city has chosen up to this point. Poorly maintained alleys can be health and safety hazards, harboring feral animals, trash and debris, and criminal activity.

 

Gray is right, the city needs to get a grip on this problem. The continuing costs associated with maintaining unproductive property is wasteful, any of the two uses other than inertia would add to the property value and reduce negative aspects of the neighborhood. The costs needed upfront to address the alley problem would be recouped over time in reduced maintenance costs.



#2 John T Roberts

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Posted 10 September 2015 - 11:12 AM

I have always taken it on myself to maintain the alley behind my house as my own property.  I mow the entire width of the alley along the length of my property.  This make me technically maintaining the portion of the alley that is my neighbor's portion behind me.



#3 pelligrini

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Posted 10 September 2015 - 02:42 PM

I like the option that was put forth in 2004; make it part of the homeowners responsibility to maintain, like a parkway.


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#4 Doohickie

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Posted 10 September 2015 - 03:29 PM

...or like the right of way between the sidewalk and the street.


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#5 johnfwd

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Posted 10 September 2015 - 03:48 PM

...or like the right of way between the sidewalk and the street.

Most alleys are rights-of way, actually utility easements.  The alley behind my house is an easement for TXU Energy and Oncor.  Oncor cuts the top of trees in the alleys and at the edges of private property yards (at no direct cost to homeowners)  to make sure the trees don't interfere with the transformers.

 

I get upset when the homeowner on the other side of the alley behind my yard uses it as a garbage dump.



#6 Volare

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Posted 10 September 2015 - 03:54 PM

Or we could just keep diverting tens of millions of tax dollars every year to buy more cop cars.



#7 Dismuke

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Posted 12 September 2015 - 10:43 AM

In the suburbia where I grew up all of the alley ways were paved.  Homeowners were responsible for maintenance of the portion between their property line and the pavement - which usually was the area between the back fence and the pavement.  But even if they did not maintain it, it was such a small strip of grass that even if it was overgrown it really didn't hurt anything.  

 

The nice thing was that it was where people put their trash and where the garbage trucks came through.  Newer neighborhoods had garages facing the alley.

 

When I moved to Fort Worth I was amazed that people had to place their trash by the front street and that the alleys were unpaved and, in some cases, very difficult to drive down.  To this day I find having to lug my trash to the front to be an annoyance - and, of course, it is certainly not very nice aesthetically.

 

Not sure what it would cost to pave the alley ways.  In suburbia the alleys were put in place by the developers and were concrete which I am sure is the most expensive material.  My guess is asphalt would be cheaper.   My guess is even that would be extremely expensive - which is why it is probably not discussed as an option in the articles.


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#8 Roger_H

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Posted 15 September 2015 - 02:18 PM

Since the majority of Fort Worth neighborhoods do not have alleys, spending a lot of money from the city's general fund to maintain alleys for a small percentage of the population does not strike me as a good use of tax money. Considering the relative handful of property owners it would benefit, the $410,000 mentioned in the first post strikes me as excessive.

 

However, I also don't want to see a bunch of high weeds and trash in our alleys. I would support an optional Alley Maintenance Fee, to be paid by the property owners who adjoin the alley. If a majority of the property owners in a block opt in, then the city would take over maintenance of the alley, and assesses all the properties in that block the fee. That way the residents who benefit from the service are footing the bill.



#9 McHand

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Posted 20 September 2015 - 03:13 PM

Since the majority of Fort Worth neighborhoods do not have alleys,

 

Source for "majority"? Anecdotally, I don't know this to be true. 


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#10 McHand

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Posted 20 September 2015 - 03:18 PM

Sometime last year, the city cleared our alley and put down gravel to prevent plant growth. It's been nice to A) not maintain it ourselves like we were and B ) have a clear space that discourages lurkers between houses.  It was a good use of tax money.


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#11 PeopleAreStrange

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Posted 20 September 2015 - 10:28 PM

 

Since the majority of Fort Worth neighborhoods do not have alleys,

 

Source for "majority"? Anecdotally, I don't know this to be true. 

 

Alleys are common in older neighborhoods (primarily pre-WWII neighborhoods), but not in newer suburban neighborhoods.

 

Go to Bing Maps (or any map source) and look at satellite imagery of any given neighborhood built since WWII. Very few have alleys.


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#12 mmmdan

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Posted 21 September 2015 - 09:56 AM

I would guess the dividing line would be closer to 1950.  My current house built in 1958 in Ridglea Hills does not have an alley, but my previous house in Ridglea North, built in 1947 does have an alley.

 

Ridglea North was built like a streetcar suburb whereas Ridglea Hills was built more like a modern suburb, with the exception that there are only a few cul-de-sacs and there are numerous ways into and out the neighborhood.  I like to think of it as a transitional neighborhood.



#13 mmiller2002

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Posted 21 September 2015 - 11:15 AM

Sometime last year, the city cleared our alley and put down gravel to prevent plant growth. It's been nice to A) not maintain it ourselves like we were and B ) have a clear space that discourages lurkers between houses.  It was a good use of tax money.

 

In our North Hi Mount house, some of the neighbors behind us dumped gravel for their McMansions' rear facing garage.  That gravel makes it hard to mow...

I was of the understanding that owners need to get abutting neighbors' agreement before paving a part of the alley.  Maybe gravel is a loophole or maybe they didn't care.



#14 RD Milhollin

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Posted 22 September 2015 - 08:45 AM

Local architect Joe Self of Firm817 weighs in on the issue of alleys in residential areas:

 

http://www.star-tele...le36026967.html



#15 John T Roberts

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Posted 22 September 2015 - 10:18 AM

Joe Self is also a former Downtown Design Review Board member and is a current Historic and Cultural Landmarks Commissioner for District 9.



#16 RD Milhollin

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Posted 22 September 2015 - 11:23 PM

Joe Self is also a former Downtown Design Review Board member and is a current Historic and Cultural Landmarks Commissioner for District 9.

 

 Probably a lurker on the Fort Worth Forum as well. 



#17 Urbndwlr

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Posted 24 September 2015 - 03:29 PM

The City of Fort Worth should make it as easy as possible for developers and home builders to construct alleys so that most houses have rear-facing garages rather than ones that face the street.  This is especially important on streets where the lot widths are 50 - 60 feet.  

The reason this is so important is that it is extremely difficult to avoid a front-facing garage on a lot that is 50 feet wide. 

 

Neighborhoods where the street is dominated by garages rather than front doors or (better) front porches look much less attractive than those where the cars enter through the rear.  

 

With these front facing garages, the front yard often turns into a de facto parking lot - which, when replicated down a street, looks absolutely terrible. 

 

Developers, understandably, resist installing alleys because it consumes land that would otherwise be dedicated to the lot footprint, and they cost A LOT of money to pave. 

So, without some combination of City requirements and incentives to build alleys, the status quo is unfortunately neighborhoods with front yards that look like parking lots.. 

 

My proposal for requiring alleys in certain situations:

A combination of carrot and stick could be appropriate. 

The City should require alleys on streets with lots under 75 feet in width. 

In those cases, the City should pay the cost to construct the alleys (developer constructs them through a Community Facilities Agreement). 

Lets keep the alleys and streets as narrow as possible, thereby reducing the total amount of land and concrete that needs to be poured (we currently require overly wide lane widths). 

The City should require a minimum of 10 foot setback on the face of a garage from the front of a house, on all lots. 

 

Incentive/ Requirement to create tree-lined streets all over our city.    Home builders should be required to plant and provide irrigation to 2 "large shade" trees  (live oaks, red oaks, pecans, etc) in front of every house, between the sidewalk and street, the City should provide a $200 credit per tree, up to 3 trees.   Presumably enough for a builder to bother to do it and fill out the paperwork.  I think the current ordinance requires the trees to be on the private property - not out at the sidewalk but I could be mistaken. 



#18 mmiller2002

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Posted 28 September 2015 - 11:47 AM

While trees in the location are pretty for a while, when they get bigger they are a problem for garbage and delivery trucks.  And their roots can damage the sidewalks



#19 hannerhan

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Posted 30 September 2015 - 02:50 PM

I think the front garage thing is taking care of itself.  IE everyone pretty much agrees at this point that they're ugly and you don't see front garages going into any trade-up or luxury communities...only starter communities.  And alleys are coming back as well.  The Westworth Park and River Heights neighborhoods on the West side both contain alleys on their smaller lots.






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