In August of 2019, I attended a training with Al Gore to become a Climate Reality Leader. One of the most enjoyable sessions was when the sister city mayors of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Melvin Carter and Jacob Frey, spoke about how both cities were united in finding climate change solutions that would benefit their communities while emphasizing equity and climate justice. Mayor Frey spoke of their planning process for new communities within downtown that would include increased density with little or no parking, universal access to public transportation, and smart “green” building practices.
For a person who has lived in 11 states, the concept was foreign. What? Discourage urban sprawl? Expect people to live closer together to reduce greenhouse gases, require smaller housing, ride a bike or walk instead of owning a car, and work from home whenever possible? I felt my mind shift and thought, “yes, that makes sense.” So, when I heard about ADU’s (Accessory Dwelling Units), I was intrigued. What are they, you ask?
Think of them as a small casita or home sharing a lot with a larger single-family home, intended for 1-2 people who want to rent it or are extended family. They are an affordable housing option in areas that are out of the reach of home ownership for many. They provide a home for extended family who want to live near their loved one. They increase the value of a property. They increase the density of the population, reducing urban sprawl and encouraging use of pubic transit. They make sense.
ADUs can be a powerful tool for addressing carbon emissions from transportation. Adding ADUs in walkable areas encourages use of public transit and other sustainable transportation options. Many cities require no parking for ADUs, while communities such as Austin TX and Tampa FL have come up with solutions that align ADU parking regulations with transportation services.
In Alexandria VA, they approved a zoning amendment to allow ADUs. If Fredericksburg wants to remain a community that is affordable, diverse, easy to navigate, and as friendly to our Earth as possible, Fredericksburg should follow Alexandria’s lead and legalize new ADUs in our City.
ADUs must be part of Fredericksburg’s arsenal for fighting climate change.
Julie Kay is co-founder of Fossil Free Fredericksburg and leader of the Climate Reality Project.