This and That

  • Park Lane – I wanted to report on just what this development is going to be, but every single source of information I have found is showing different plans.  1200 units or 1600?  Grocery store or no grocery store (my bet is no)?  There are no permits filed for real construction to track.  The developer Reno Land is on record bitching about the permit process, and this is why their projects have a hard time gaining traction – lack of transparency and a moving target.
  • Smithridge – Smithridge is a 600+ unit condo complex from the ’70’s that is of my bellwethers.  Units got bid up to over $225,000 on the boom, fell to $75,000 in the bust, then appreciated to $140,000 and held there for at least 6 months.  Then instantly jumped to $155,00 with takers, and now $165,000.  Rents were around $850 in the bust, but are now $1250+ according to the Craig’s List listings.
  • University Housing Part II – There is an application to abandon the alley from 6th to 7th between NVA and Center.  I can’t tell what the actual extent of the abandonment really is – The Travelodge seems to need the alley for fire separation, access, and garbage pick-up.  I can only speculate that the Berengo parcels are included, but Schneider would not be proposing this without NNUD as the master.  Sniping the Standard  or equal from Italian Capital across he street?  Priceless!

The Greens at Town Center

A 10 unit townhouse/condo development is coming towards Somersett.  Sited on the “golf lot” adjacent to the Club, it is an allowable use under the CCRs for the community.   The project will be a lump roughly the size of each Town Center commercial building, so should fit in rather OKish scale wise.

Toll Brothers is dismantling their double-wide sales center with “$25,000” pergola at their Boulders project, and is presumably moving over to Village 6.  Lots of Quick Delivery homes at the Boulders.

The developer lots in Somersett are starting to run out.  Lennar is building up Verdi View now (there will in fact be some spectacular views), Ryder is getting started in SBE, Hillbrow is also active in SBE, and Lewis is getting active again.  The only surprise ahead is Toll Village 1A – a bead of 96 narrow lots taking off from the formerly “exclusive” River Hill Way and dying back into Somersett parkway at Whisper Rock.

What’s above Somersett?  Well it ain’t public land, that’s for sure.  Maybe a 1000 acres with guaranteed access within the development starved Reno Sphere of Influence.   So much of what we consider as “public lands” on the periphery of current developments are in fact in private hands are are develop-able.  Look at Caughlin  Ranch.  It is NOT the end of potential or proposed development.

Stonegate Gets Stonewalled

Stonegate is a proposed 4217 unit primarily residential development west of 395 in the North Valleys.  I believe the 2nd or 3rd largest single project currently proposed up there, which gives you an idea of just how many units are in the pipeline.  It is coming before the Planning Commission Thursday evening at 6 PM.  The meeting is live on Charter 214 or you can stream it on the City’s website or go to City Hall in person, but don’t miss this meeting.  Reno appears to have grown a pair is saying “no”.

HERE is the Staff Report – it clocks in at 362 pages, but it is well worth reading.  Some take-aways:

  • Reno would prefer that the zoning remain unchanged, primarily Industrial which creates jobs (though generally near minimum wage).
  • The tone of the Staff Report is clearly irritated.  It would appear that back room negotiations have broken down.
  • This Staff Report uses a lot of new jobs and housing data from the studies that are informing the Master Plan update.  There are nuggets here (though some look to be pyrite).
  • For the first time I have seem, Reno Planning is “suggesting” percentages of affordable housing they might find acceptable, and the income levels that should be targeted.
  • The developer owns at least 336 acres east of 395 that are not part of this development proposal.  I could be developed to include the service Planning found to be lacking in the Stonegate submission.
  • Reno has already approve bigger and farther out projects in the North Valleys, so their reticence on this one is a little hard to defend.

This appears to be a shot across the bow, a line in the sand from Reno Planning as to what sort of development they currently find acceptable.  I don’t disagree with them, but I know the “development community” of the Old Boys is going to go apoplectic.

Never forget that the Planning Department’s Staff Report is purely advisory to the Planning Commission.  The Planning Commission can accept it, reject it, or ask or additional conditions.  Nothing will be resolved Thursday evening, but the tone of the debate and the players who start showing their cards should be fascinating.  When finally approved by the Planning Commission, Council will have to approve the project.   McKenzie No.  Brekhus No.  Delgado No.  Duer No after discussing it for at least an hour.  My guess is Jardon No, Bobzian No, and Mayor Shieve No.

This is going to be great a test case with far-reaching implications, and I am not really sure what the legal grounds are to reject the Project.  So watch and listen!


This is where I honed my miniature golf skills during high school.  And right out front is where Dad handed over the Beetle and let me go solo an a stick shift for the first time.  Good memories,and I’m glad to see Par-King is still around 50 years later.

But I want to drop the hyphen and talk about parking in Reno.  HERE are the general requirements, though they are adjusted in specific Districts.  Midtown and Wells do not require parking for Bar, Restaurant, or Retail uses.  Downtown Reno Regional Center California District does not require parking for ANY land use – go figure.

Why?  Who came up with the parking standards currently in use?  Sedway.  Has there ever been any attempt to prove out their assumptions on what should be parking requirements?  No.


From what I can tell, these images were taken sometime on a work day – all the spaces downtown at the Courthouse were full.  Just look at how much of our city is useless, unused asphalt.  It seems retail parking standards assumed the worst case of 3:00 PM Christmas Eve as the baseline.  I have NEVER seen the W parking lot at the NW Home Dept serve as customer parking, and I have never seen the E parking lot even 50% full.  Same with the NW Wally World and Total Wine on SVA (with another vacant parking lot at the Home Depot across the street).


Why is the parking requirement for DRRC generally 1 per unit, when the actually populated and walk-able Midtown and Wells Districts are higher?  Why does Reno (alone in the region) round parking requirements UP, making Midtown parking requirements actually higher than Somersett for an equivalent unit?  Sparks specifically rounds down, and has in fact eliminated guest parking requirements from the MUD districts (Mixed Urban Development, their equivalent to Reno’s transit corridors).


Reno is in the process of revising their Master Plan.  As far as I can tell, they are changing some titles and really doing nothing substantive.  Huge gaffes in existing zoning are just being played forward.  HERE is their interactive map to see what is proposed in your neighborhood and citywide.

Reno is planning to get around to looking at Title18 Zoning Code at some point, which includes parking standards.  There is a backlog of several hundred text amendments already in the queue, and Planning continues to focus on things like Bedroom definitions to placate squeaky wheels instead of big picture issues.  STFU works in the private sector, but the public sector needs to respond to constituent input.  I wish it were being done in a much more proactive way instead of constant capitulation to whoever bitches the loudest.

I’m am obviously frustrated that the ReImagine Reno process doesn’t seem to re-imagine anything at all.


Walks Like a Duck…..

What is the difference between an Efficiency unit, a Boarding House unit, and a Single Room Occupancy unit (SRO)?  And why does it matter?  Parking!

An Efficiency Unit per Reno Code: Section – Dwelling Unit, Efficiency.

 A dwelling unit consisting of not more than one habitable room, together with kitchen or kitchenette and sanitary facilities.
A Boarding House unit defined:
Section – Boarding or Rooming House.A building or portion thereof (not a hotel or motel) where, for reasonable compensation, lodging is provided for more than five guests. Cooking facilities may or may not be available.
And SRO:
Section – Single Room Occupancy.A commercial residential hotel providing sleeping and living facilities that may rent on a weekly or monthly basis as a primary residence. Cooking and sanitary facilities shall be provided within the unit. Does not include any building, structure, or property in which persons are housed or detained under legal restraint or hospitalized or otherwise under medical, nursing, or psychiatric care.
You can do a long-term lease on an Efficiency unit, but only month to month for Boarding House or SRO uses.  Parking requirement for an Efficiency is 1.12:1 City wide and 1:1 in Midtown and Wells.  SRO is 1:2.2 or 1:4.4 if within 500 feet of a transit STOP (not just transit line).  SROs require a common entrance which is tough to comply with neighborhood plans that require street facing entries.  So Boarding House land use seems to be the killer app – there isn’t even a restriction that would prevent a full 1 bedroom unit being considered a BH.
Planning intent trumped by their own code and Business Licensing requirements?  I’m not weeping.
This post may sound petty and esoteric, but Planning and Land Use decisions are being made based on archaic land use and parking standards.  There are huge development opportunities right now if you where to look and know how to work within a dysfunctional code.   Think Wells CC!

What is a Bedroom?

Yes, I’m a bad boy, and this Administrative Decision was probably based on a project I have in the permit loop.  “Bedroom” is not a term defined in the International Residential Code (nor IRC Commercial for that matter), NRS or Reno Code.  So Planning came up with one.  They missed the IRC requirement that a  habitable room requires a  minimum 7′ dimension, the missed the Washoe Assessor’s definitions, and they missed generally accepted MLS standards.  But they have covertly established a new definition of “bedroom”.

The complaint that initiated this Administrative Ruling came from a disgruntled neighbor who’s own property is a Code Compliance complaint in the flesh.  Why Planning is taking his vacuous ravings seriously is beyond my ken, but it has cost  my client several thousand of $$$ to respond to.  And in the end, the unit count and parking is A-OK.  Who can we back-charge?

Planning’s ruling was meant to “clarify” an issue in Midtown/Wells, but has far reaching impacts.  Every “office” in every production builder’s portfolio now needs an additional parking space.

Local decisions have regional impacts.  And COR will be held accountable on this one.

Smooth Bourbon

The last remnant of the old Silver Club / Bourbon Square casino in Sparks just sold to Smooth Bourbon LLC.  That looks like it track to Marnell out of Vegas.  This piece never seemed to get any traction, and Marnell seems to be able to make things happen, so positive news.

The Great Western Market Place on the NW side finally closed last month.  Finally.  The property is rumored to have been sold, but nothing is showing up on the Reorder’s site yet.  The site is just short of 20 acres and is on multiple RTC bus routes.  CC zoning (65′ max) with no maximum density for multi-family.  A smart developer can get 1500+ units here, and I hope a smart developer is the buyer.

1/1.5 Midtown Apartment for $1500 (plus parking)

That’s the future of Midtown as I see it, and these are type the projects the owner/developers have me working on.  We are replacing/renovating the existing 7/-8 plexes the City hates with prettified and market rate units of the same density and building type.  The market is saying 1 bedroom units rule, so that’s what will will get built.

I’m sort of the heretic that doesn’t buy into the Myth of Midtown, but Dog knows my clients have.  So what will be built will be about double the rents the already struggling (they say) residents are paying.

Change for the better or worse?


Urban Infill Cheat Sheet

Why is Midtown and the rest of Downtown such a pit today after over a decade of redevelopment work?  Maybe it has something to do with what the potential developers have to work with courtesy of COR.  I’m not dissing the requirements, just telling you what they are.

  • Trash Enclosures – Buried in the Landscape and Screening section of the code. Trash Enclosures are required for BUILDINGS containing more than 4 units.  You can have as many tri-plexes as you want without triggering the 11×10′ trash enclosure.  Go figure.
  • Handicapped Parking – The requirement for HC parking gets triggered at 5 units total on a parcel.  Reno Planning should be picking this requirement up on the ir Plan Check Reviews, but they routinely miss this.
  • Sprinklers – A duplex doesn’t have to be sprinkled. but anything from a 3-plex an up does.  $5000 per unit on the average.
  • Codes – 2 units are IRC (International Residential Code, 3 and above are IBC (International Building Code).  A tough estimate is an additional $5000 per unit based on the code upgrades.
  • Code 2 – We have adopted the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code.  Conservation is good, but complying with the code is adding $5000 in cost per unit in compliance costs alone just to document, plus another $5000 per unit for the energy conservation upgrades.
  • Planning – Improving density is the goal, until you try to increase density, then the 1236 pages of our Development Code kicks in.  I have a benign duplex infill project pending that Planning has now reviewed 4 times because of a nasty neighbor, with new requirements each review.  It is costing my client thousands in fees to respond to issues Planning should be dismissing,