Clarity Blog

Clarity Blog

Winning support for apartment projects

A recent event titled Multifamily Building Boom caught our attention.  We haven’t seen the two words – building & boom – used together for awhile, so we bought a ticket to this Building Industry Association program.

It turns out, there is a bit of a boom happening.   Economic conditions and government policies are driving Southern Californians to rent apartments – which is great news for apartment builders.

That’s the good news that was shared.  The tough news was that the entitlement process for proposed apartment communities (typically located on infill sites) can be very difficult.  Opposition from existing neighbors is often so intense that local governments have difficulty approving even the best projects.

Small-group meetings are an effective way to introduce your project to the community in an infill area.

What’s the solution?   Laer Pearce & Associates has developed five guidelines – based on our 20+ years of entitlement consulting – for successfully working with neighbors of proposed infill projects.

  1. Start with a simple introduction: Start small. Send a letter, hold a small group meeting.  Let your new neighbors get to know more about you and your concept.  Be prepared to explain why the existing land use (be it a golf course or industrial site) is no longer viable and why your plan can be a positive alternative.  It’s critical they understand there’s a real need for change other than your bottom line.
  2. Be inclusive and responsive: Create opportunities for two-way dialog with your neighbors so you can get input during the design process, and eventual buy-in on the final plan.  If you can’t incorporate a neighbor’s idea, explain why.  He or she will appreciate that you tried.
  3. Paint the picture: Invest in professional materials that help tell your story through words, pictures, sketches and video.  These materials help neighbors overcome their concerns, and strengthen the opinion of those who want you to succeed.
  4. Build a coalition:  It is important that decision-makers see a strong coalition of supporters from diverse backgrounds.  Your supporters will typically come from neighbors who you’ve built relationships with by starting small and being inclusive and responsive.
  5. Deal with opponents: Opposition groups will form against most infill projects – especially when rentals or affordable housing are involved. You need to be prepared to respond to misleading statements that cross the line.  We add “that cross the line” because it’s important that you do not get distracted responding to every negative claim that’s made.

These guidelines will go a long way in decreasing the duration and cost of the entitlement process and increasing your chances of success.

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