Last night, after months of delays and revisions, the City Council passed an ordinance that will change the zoning landscape across Jersey City. The new ordinance creates new residential and commercial districts, allows accessory dwelling units, and overhauls various existing zoning districts and standards.
This morning, in a tweet, Mayor Fulop praised the development. “Last night we passed the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Ordinance for #JerseyCity. This is some of the most progressive housing policy adopted in the country not just the state.”
The ordinance passed 7-1, with Ward C Councilman Richard Boggiano as the lone dissenter.
Boggiano expressed his steadfast opposition to the ordinance, claiming that concerns from the community and neighborhood groups were not taken into consideration, even after months of revisions. “The amendments have a lot of zoning changes. 85% of them are supported by the residents,” he said, “but 15% of it is not supported.”
One of Boggiano’s concerns is the accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, that are now permitted in residential zones. An ADU is an additional building on a lot that can be used for housing apart from the primary residence, for example, a finished apartment above a garage. The landowner can then rent out the ADU for additional income.
“Realtors and developers will manipulate ADUs” and cause an excessive increase in density, said Boggiano. He was concerned that the rezoning would encourage developers to come from New York City and force Jersey City residents out by taking advantage of the new zones.
Before public comment on the ordinance, Boggiano put forward a motion to carry the ordinance to the council’s meeting on November 8. No other member seconded the motion, so the council proceeded to public comment.
Several members of the public spoke about their concerns to the council.
Charlene Burke said that the rezoning and ADUs could potentially allow up to four units on a property that is currently only zoned for one or two families, which would make density skyrocket. She was also concerned about maintaining the integrity of historic houses, saying, “Developers will buy them, they’ll gut them. So, in fact, these beautiful homes that have wonderful interiors can be lost.”
The prospective increase in property value was both “a gift and a curse,” said Erica Walker. “A gift only to those who can immediately afford the renovations necessary to make a profit on renting an additional unit, a curse to those who cannot.” Walker called for a strong marketing push so current residents can “take necessary steps to prepare for these changes.”
Kayla Burell, president of the Lincoln Park North Neighborhood Association, said that the rezoning could be great for some lots, but “it doesn’t take into account what it would mean for neighboring homes.” Specifically, Burell said increasing density at this rate would lead to a lack of privacy, increased noise, and falling hazards from new roof decks.
Following public comment, Boggiano brought forward another motion to table the ordinance for reconsideration at another time. “Listen to the people,” he said, denouncing the potential of building houses in backyards and demolishing current houses to create bigger, denser residential buildings.
Boggiano’s motion to table failed 2-6. Ward F Councilman Frank Gilmore voted with Boggiano to table the ordinance.
When casting his no vote on the final ordinance, Boggiano said, “Well, now I know why everybody’s moving out of this city.”
Ward D Councilman Yousef J. Saleh pushed back against the ordinance’s opponents. The Heights has the most demolitions in the city, according to Saleh, and “these changes make it less attractive to demolish a home. It removes the automatic curb cut. It reduces the height of the building from 44 feet to 35 feet.”
The ADUs are meant to address economic sustainability for long-term residents with “marginal increases in density so that people can be able to afford these continuous tax increases, inflation, higher costs of living,” said Saleh. “If this doesn’t pass, they’re gonna continue to demolish the homes and give peanuts to homeowners so that they can build two-million dollar condos.”
Councilwoman at Large Amy DeGise said that developers are already in Jersey City, turning houses into condos. This ordinance encourages homeowners to stay in their home, demands green space in the city, addresses affordability concerns, encourages commercial growth, and promotes “a walkable city,” she said. Historical preservation “will make sure these homes and places are not easily demolished.”
Boggiano disagreed. “Half of the stuff that these councilpeople said, they don’t know what they’re talking about because more houses are going to be torn down,” he said.