crown CU Home > Libraries Home
[x] Close window

Columbia University Libraries Digital Collections: The Real Estate Record

Use your browser's Print function to print these pages.

Real estate record and builders' guide: v. 88, no. 2285: December 30, 1911

Real Estate Record page image for page ldpd_7031148_048_00001075

Text version:

Please note: this text may be incomplete. For more information about this OCR, view About OCR text.
Vol. LXXXVIII DECEMBER 30, 1911 No. 2285 REAL ESTATE POLICIES OF GERMAN CITIES. Municipalities Invest and Speculate in Land the Same as Private Indi¬ viduals, and Build and Rent Houses—The Unearned Increment Tax. T OA\'N planning in Germany is char¬ acterized by a comprehensive unity fully in keeping with the scientific char¬ acter of the nation. Nothing is hap¬ hazard, nothing is left to chance, noth¬ ing is omitted from the calculations. Analysis of all the elements controlling the city and its proper planning precedes constructive work. It is this frank in¬ vestigation of every inhuence affecting municipal life that distinguishes the town-planning movement in Germany from that of America. In this country the oity planning movement is thus far ineffectual to produce permanent and fundamental change because of our un¬ willingness to face the controlling in¬ fluence of transportation, the unchecked license of the landowner, the unrestrain¬ ed freedom of property in all its forms. Thus far, city-planning in America has limited its vision to those sides of the question whieh do not conflict with the claims or abuses of private property. This fundamental difference between the German city and our own is most plainly seen in the laws and municipal ordinances of the two countries relating to land. In Germany the city is sover¬ eign. It controls the landowner and the builder in the interest of the community. The rights of the community are superior to the rights of any individual, and the health, convenience, comfort and well- being of all the people are superior to and must control the rights of lhe land¬ owner or the speculator. In America, on the other hand, the city is almost help¬ less. It has very limited powers and these are specially granted—usually after it is too late for them to be of value. Rights of eminent domain are strictly construed against the city and must he exercised with great care. Excess con¬ demnalion, in order that the city may ac¬ quire some of the profits accruing from its own improvement is denied, as is the ac¬ ciuisition of land for any other than enumerated things. The right of special assessments for benefits conferred is care¬ fully prescribed by statute, varies great¬ ly in different communities and leaves but little discretion to the cities. The indi- viduai can lay out streets of such width as he wills. He can sewer them and pave them, build them up with cheap tene¬ ments or skyscraping apartments and the city cannot successfully protest. In the face of all our knowledge of the vice, crime and disease which the tenement produces, old conditions in our larger cities are certainly reproducing them¬ selves and the cities are helpless to pre¬ vent it. The German eity controls the land within its limits in a variety of ways. It fully recognizes the importance of its foundations. The principal methods of regulation are the following; Sfrcel Bnilding and Plannins- In the decades which immediately fol¬ lowed the Franco-Prussian war, the Ger¬ man city followed the rectangular grid¬ iron type of streets so universal in. America because this street plan was satisfactory to the land speculators. This period of city building in Germany pre¬ sents the same monotonous suburban sec¬ tions as are to be found in this country. A revolt arose against this type of streets in the closing of the nineteenth century when street planning assumed the im¬ portance it deserves. To-day every city has a street plan as has Washington, D. C, mapped in the City Hall far in advance of the city's present growth. All street construction work is done hy the city directly with its own engineer, landscape artists and contractors. A large area Is undertaken at once, thus de¬ creasing the cost and enabling it to be done in a symmetrical way. To these •This paper constituted the principal portion of an address read hy Mr. Howe at tiie Na¬ tional Conference on City Planning at Phila¬ delphia. By FREDERICK C. HOWE.- plans the private owner must acquiesce. He is not permitted to lay out his own streets, to pave or sewer them or con¬ trol their width or character. Broad radial avenues or boulevards in conform¬ ity wilh the original cily plan run through every new section. These streets vary from 100 to i:00 feet in width. They are parked and beautified and serve as a recreation and promenade way. Side streets are of ample width and are de¬ signed to harmonize with the city plan. The cost of such development is first paid for by the city, but is assessed back upon the property benefited according to established rules. A considerable time is permitted within which the assessments can be paid by the owner, the cost being carried by the eity at a low rate of in¬ terest. Thus the suburban developments of German cities are harmonious, beauti¬ ful and suited to the needs of the city. Slum areas are forever precluded, while great economy in cost is secured through the permanency of the construction. At the same time the landovi'ner is pro¬ tected from his irresponsible neighbor, who often disfigures an entire territory by cheap construction and speculative in¬ difference to the rights of the adjoining community. The landowner is required to dedicate a certain percentage of his holdings for streets and open spaces and the city is authorized to take from 30 to 40 per cent, without compensation. The assumption is that the development work enhances the value of the adjoining property sufficiently to pay lor the street development as well as the area dedi¬ cated to public uses. Tlic Zone System. Gei'man cities are divided into build¬ ing zones in each of which the height of buildings and the amount of land which may be covered by improvements are strictly prescribed. These building zones are like the flre zones of our cities, but are prescribed to prevent congestion and the reappearance of the tenement slum. They are hygienic regulations in¬ suring beauty as well as proper sanita¬ tion. A larger area can be covered by structures in the business section than in the outlying zones, the percentage be¬ ing determined by the uses to which the land would naturally be put. In Frank¬ fort, in the inner city, buildings may cover from one-half to five-sixths of a lot and have a maximum height of 65 feet 6 inches. Usually they are limited in height to the width of the street upon which they front. In the inner zone the residence section buildings must have a minimum space between them of 19^^ feet, a maximum height of 59 feet and a maximum num¬ ber of stories of three above the ground story. In the outer zone of the residence section buildings must have a minimum space between them of 2G feet, a maxi¬ mum height of 68 feet, a maximum num¬ ber of stories of two above the ground story, and may not exceed the width of the street. On certain streets only one - or two story houses are permitted. In Cologne the yard area which may be occupied ranges from 25 to.60 per cent, depending upon the location of the lots, the maximum of 60 per cent, being al¬ lowed in the business districts. These building regulations preclude the reap¬ pearance of tenement conditions and in¬ sure beautiful and harmonious develop¬ ment with a uniform sky line in each zone of the city, ludiistrinl Sections. Within certain limits municipalities control the nature of suburban develop¬ ment. Factories which in any way of¬ fend the neighborhood^in which they are located mav be required to move to the suburbs, on the general theory that a man must so use his property that it does not interfere with a like use on the part of his neighbor. Municipal by-laws also control the factory and industrial areas. This is done by the building regulations referred to above as well as by the natural proximity to railways, docks and harbors. The territory immediately adjoining the railways is dedicated to industrial uses, and factories are required in many cities to locate on that side of the city away from the prevailing winds. This reduces the smoke nuisance to a minimum. These regulations are not made arbitrarily, but are fixed by obvious conditions. In ter¬ ritory surrounding an industrial area house building regulations are adjusted to working men's homes, as are the street plans, Lnad 0«-nership, The German city has always been a landlord on a large scale. From earliest times German villages have owned for¬ ests and other land in common and have used it for the gathering of fuel, for for¬ estry and agriculture. With this heritage of tradition, the transition was easy into the ownership of municipal land, and German cities are buying, holding and selling land the same as private indi¬ viduals. Berlin, for instance, owns land to the extent of 210 S-10 per cent, of its total area, including the land held outside of its boundaries. Frankfort, a city of 335,000 population, owns -IS 9-10 per cent, of the land within its limits; Mannheim owns 35 4-10 per cent, of its own land, and Hanover 37 7-10 per cent, of the land within its limits. The total amount of land within and without a number of Ger¬ man cities is given in a foot note here¬ with attached: Total area of city. Acres. Berlin ........ 15.689.54 Munich ....... 21.290.24 Leipzig ...... 14.095.25 Strassburg ... 19,346,45 Hanover ..... -9.677.25 Schoncberg , . . 2,338.60 Spandau ...... 10,470.37 Zurich ....... 10,894.64 Vienna ....... 67,477.57 Total amount of land owned by city, Acres. 39.151.28 13.597,02 8,406.84 11,866.98 5,674.90 1,633.33 4,480.79 5,621.53 32,062.48 Much of the land so owned is in streets, open spaces and parks, but very large areas are also owned and rented or held for speculative purposes. Cities anticipate their future needs in a far-sighted, intelligent way. Before a new territory is opened up for residence, the city authorities acquire land for play¬ grounds, gardens and sites for school houses and other public buildings. The purchase of these lands far in advance of the city's growth, saves the city from prohibitive prices and the necessity ot cramping the sites of public buildings. It also makes possible the most generous provision for recreation and open spaces, and in the new suburbs of German cities, playgrounds and gardens of the greatest variety are found within easy walking distance of almost every home. This policy of land acquisition is but part of the far-sighted outlook on ordinary city growth and is defended on the grounds of ultimate economy as well as on those of proper city building. Only by this policv it is possible to provide adequately for the orderlv and harmonious develop¬ ment of the city. E.Tieess Coadeninniion. Increasing land values arc made to pay the cost of many municipal undertakings. Within the last ten years the Rhine cities like Duisburg. Dusseldorf, Cologne and Frankfort have carried through immense harbor projects by means of which the water traffic of these cities has been greatly increased, and the industrial de¬ velopment of the Rhine region rapidly stimulated. These municipal harbors are equipped with the most perfect mechani¬ cal devices for the loading and unload¬ ing of boats, the transshipment of freight of steam railroad.';, and the warehousing of various kinds of products at the mini¬ mum of expense. The whole undertaking Is planned as a unit rather than an Iso-