Most suburban subdivisions are planned so that the majority of lots are similar to the Duncan residence, with a public street on one side and other single-family properties on the remaining adjoining sides. However, a small portion of the lots in most subdivisions are located at the corners of intersecting streets. Corner lots are typically rather square-like in area with two sides that face the public right-of-way. This lot configuration creates a number of distinct site conditions that require special attention.
Special Site Conditions
Double Front Yard A unique quality of the corner lot is that it faces two intersecting streets and therefore has two “front yards.” The corner lot may have as much as two to three times the length of adjoining street and curb as a typical lot (Figure 13—1). Thus, all the attention that is commonly afforded the front yard in a typical property must be doubled on the corner lot. The site areas that directly face the streets must establish “curb appeal” and provide the proper “public image.” This requires extra effort and sometimes twice the expense. Even the tax or charge for public services such as sidewalk installation, lighting, and sewer or water line replacement is frequently more expensive for a corner lot because of the double frontage.
Majority of Site in the "Public Realm" Directly associated with the double front yards of a corner lot is the fact that the majority of a site area is located in the “public realm” (Figure 13—2). That is, the largest area of the site is located between the house and the two intersecting streets. This situation results from both the double street frontage and the setback requirements that locate the house toward the back of the site. The house placement increases public surveillance of the site and simultaneously reduces privacy. It may force activities such as lawn recreation or outdoor sitting that are normally reserved for the backyard to take place in the more public area of the site.
Limited Backyard Space While the majority of a corner lot’s area is located in the public realm, the private domain or backyard is simultaneously reduced to a relatively small area (Figure 13—2). In fact, some houses are located on corner properties in such a way that the backyard is reduced to the size of a standard side yard, leaving little room for outdoor activities. Common outdoor features such as decks, terraces, recreational lawns, and vegetable gardens must be drastically reduced in size, moved to the “public” street sides, or eliminated altogether.
Front Entry Confusion The double frontage sometimes creates puzzlement about where the front of the house is and where the appropriate location is for entering the house from the street or driveway. This occurs for several reasons. One cause is that the front door of houses on some corner lots faces one street while the driveway connects to the other street. A second reason for confusion is that some corner lot houses have several doors, one facing one street and another facing the other street. Which one is the front door? Unless there is a clear distinction about entry, the first-time visitor may well end up entering the site from the wrong street or arriving at the improper door.
Lack of Privacy Privacy on the corner lot is reduced because of the increased public surveillance from the two adjoining streets and from the close proximity of the house to the back and side property lines. On some corner lots, views from the streets not only extend into the front yard, but also directly into the backyard (Figure 13—3). In this situation, the house and yard are seen from almost three different sides of the property. Furthermore, the reduced backyard area easily allows views, sounds, and smells to extend back and forth to the neighbor’s yard. Limited area also means there is less space for screen planting. The house location on other corner lots reduces privacy by orientating the back of the house directly toward the backyard of the adjoining property (Figure 13—4). The result is that the neighbor’s backyard is directly seen from windows and spaces located at the back of the house.