Street-by-street zoning

That is the theme of my latest Bloomberg column, think of it as a new way to push for YIMBY.  Here is one excerpt:

I call this idea “street by street zoning,” and it has been outlined in a recent paper by John Myers, co-founder of London YIMBY. The basic idea is simple: Let each street decide on its own how it wants to zone commercial activity, including construction. Of course, in some contexts the deciding entity won’t be a street but rather a block or some other very small neighborhood area.

That might sound a little crazy, like a 1960s hippie commune dream. Yet the idea has hidden potential. If streets chose their own zoning, city-level zoning rules could be quite general and open-ended, opening up the possibilities for more construction and also for more mixed-use neighborhoods. With that liberalizing backdrop, residents on any given street always have the option of more restrictive zoning.

The upside is that street-by-street zoning would allow so much room for experimentation. Some zoning reforms might increase home values; a street might decide to allow for multiple dwellings on a lot (an in-law apartment in a backyard barn?), or make it easier to “upzone” by making it easier to rebuild. And what about allowing, say, a small Sichuan restaurant on each residential street — would that boost home values? Maybe not, but at least there’d be a way to find out.

And:

Some of these problems may be a feature rather than a bug. If outside developers find local communities easier to manipulate than a city-wide board, it may actually result in more new construction. If neighbors on some streets really are not sure what they want, maybe it’s not a bad thing if they are nudged toward approving more new construction.

Imagine dealing with the developers on Coasean terms.  There is much more analysis at the link.

Comments

This is something that has always confused me about the Bay Area. With so many small cities, I would have expected at least _some_ of them to adopt a denser, more mixed-use set of zoning regulations, but that is not what we observe.

It is odd that a region with a history of rent control hasn't seen much investment in the residential rental space, high density specifically.

No it isn't.

Most people want affordable housing for themselves.

Suppose you have to rent housing.

You would like it to be affordable, of course.

Would you rather it be affordable because you got in early and it is under rent control or because housing is being constructed all around you in quantities sufficient to put downward pressure on rents?

It would seem that the purpose of street by street zoning is to force on residents the things that they do not want. You may not want your street turned into a slum but if the next street over votes for it then you will be living next door to a slum.

Why not simply be honest? I know, a radical suggestion. But why not just tell the citizens what you want to do and let them decide, i.e. we want to build apartments on both sides of your upscale house and put welfare families in them, what do you think about that??? Oh wait! I now know why you don't want to be honest...

It would seem the purpose of zoning is to force on residents the things they do now want. You may want a corner store at the end of your block but a group of politically connected people living on the other side of the city feel that it 'doesn't promote the character we think the city should have' . . .

Current zoning schemes *do not stop* your street being turned into a slum, because the next street over may be zoned for that. It does, however, remove the power to decide from 'Top Men' - who may not even live in the city, let alone in the vicinity - and puts it back in the hands of the people who will be affected by these decisions.

Bay Area NIMBYs when taken to the national level are basically Trumpists. They might not like that connection but once people get theirs then the gates come up.

Such a simple explanation. It's so elegant it must be correct.

You have it exactly backwards. A single open national border will force huge lengths of internal borders, with all the inefficiency and unfairness that implies. The people of the world differ enough that there must always be at least one border. People of means insist on this everywhere. No gate at the border means a country riddled with gated communities.

We have lots of gated McMansions in the forested hills around Silicon Valley. The like the high steel barred gates framed by stone pillars, may a couple of concrete lions on either side. The properties, measured in acres or scores of acres, are surrounded by fences (walls?). I guess some walls do work. It's not the wall, it's the location of the wall.

"They" like ... "maybe" a couple...

Autocorrect! Ugh!

It's actually probably easier for NIMBYs to hijack smaller and more fragmented zoning authorities. Fewer people means easier coalitions.

This is a stupid idea. What is built on one street impacts the quality of life on the next street.

One of the biggest issues is traffic. People hate traffic, it is a frustrating time waster and life stealer. Yeah yeah, public transit and self-driving cars and other fantasies ( why not Star Trek transporters?) are going to fix everything.

Of course, the elites need to find accomodations for all those third worlders they import and foist upon us. How many are storming the border with token child in tow? One hundred thousand a month? Throw in all the ones that fly in and overstay their visa and you have a little teeny weeny teeny tiny housing problem, which can be fixed with the proper nudge - no one will notice.

One solution would be the Japan approach - control immigration and find a new equilibrium. It's not that hard.

In the controlled immigration model, the elites don't get their cheap ( the costs are externalized - education, sewer, water, traffic, pollution, law enforcement) nannies, gardeners, handymen, etc. Life would become such a struggle for them, having to pick their kids up at school and care for them, mowing their own lawn, etc. Worse yet, they might even have to pay a living wage for the nanny. The horror!

Check out Emeryville.

Other issues include water and sewer.

Where does the water come from? Where does the sewage go?

SF gets it's water from Hetch Hetchy, aka the other Yosemite. The water is the pumped into a reservoir created by a dam on top of the notorious San Andreas fault. So, the city was lucky to be able to dam a Yosemite, build a 135 mile long pipeline, and build a dam on top of the fault and commandeer fish habitat and an entire watershed in Woodside. Such a thing could never happen today.

Think of all the greens in SF sucking a Yosemite - the second most visited National park in the US after Yellowstone - dry for their water.

Anyone in CA with half a brain knows we don't have enough water and it is a very contentious issue.

I once asked an urban planner who I worked with (not in planning anymore) what planning was all about, and she just said "control". With a bit of explanation it became clear that all she was concerned about was externalities, and what happens when you let a whole lot of people make decisions for themselves. It all goes to hell. In her view.

As much as I might like this proposal, as a general rule, I wouldn't expect any planner or planning sympathetic person to back it. I think they just have a set of fundamentally different objectives.

"what happens when you let a whole lot of people make decisions for themselves. It all goes to hell."

It's called democracy =)

Indeed, what Prof. Cowen is proposing is letting people choose, empower them.

I see. People choose degrade my neighborhood. I should love it. Maybe they should choose degrade another place instead.

Yours is the only same response.

You see, what this is all about is trying to thwart people, to force upon them something they don't want. Because the people are too stupid to understand that what they want is bad. Their elite overlords know what is good for them and thus must find a way to nudge the idiots in the right direction. Unfortunately for the elites, that pesky democracy thingy keeps getting in the way.

Ironically, one of Tyler's recent posts is a about a conference where the elites, no commoners invited, get together to figure why they have lost so much influence and why they are resented, perhaps even hated.

They don't get it.

"Because the people are too stupid to understand that what they want is bad."

I know that what they want is bad for me. Why don't they go degrade a gated community. Why only Middle Class folks should be harmed by real estate speculation running amok?!

Because they don't give a sh*t about you. At best, they think you are stupid, at worst they hate you.

You are deplorable.

Deplorable! No sooner is the word out than a vast image out of elections past elections troubles my sight. Somehow, we went from "it's the economy stupid" to "deplorables" in only 26 years.

Who needs Russian meddling when you have a candidate that calls ~25% of the population deplorable?

So that is how civilization dies, with hordes of savages invading it. I can't imagine it happening in Brazil.

Venezuela?

Well, if you have to be invaded by the refugees from a failed state, Venezuela is not the worst source. It was a pretty nice place until the resentful underclass elected Chavez.

It's good not to have a sullen underclass.

Yes.

Seeing you two happily misunderstand economics is like watching two retards play chess.

Watching two economists misunderstanding culture is like watching two idiot savants trying to seduce a woman.

Thiago, you're making a great display of ignorance.

Voting about development decisions is precisely what already happens at private communities, homeowners associations, whatever you name them. Voting rights are "one surface unit, one vote". Larger plots get more votes.

What Tyler is suggesting is that any urban area works like a private community.

"...private community."

Oooooo! Anything privatized gives libertarians a boner.

Maybe they should create a floating city beyond territorial waters. They can then do whatever they want. Maybe nuclear power and desalination. Low taxes. Whatever.

Maybe they will have to deal with pirates or kidnappers.

Maybe they'll get lots of boat people claiming asylum and demanding food, housing, medical care, education, a free boat ride to the mainland, or that most precious if resources - clean fresh water.

Let us be blunt: Bloomberg is pushing for more real estate development, that is, lower standards of living. We are sick and tired of meddling, greedy malefactors of great wealth.

Some city needs to test this out.

Isn't there an obvious externality problem?

If my street allows shops and bars and other commercial activity, this arguably benefits the neighboring streets. If my street allows building skyscrapers, part of the cost is borne by the neighboring streets (eg reduced amenity value). etc.

Agreed But why do you this was proposed

You would think this is obvious, but clearly it is not.

The people that propose such nonsense are blinded by their own bias.

Worst idea ever

I’m definitely sold! What could be worse than the status quo?

Dumps, meat processing plants, red light districts, slums, etc randomly distributed around a town.

District extorting money from their richer neighbors to avoid allowing such building near by.

There are all kinds of obvious externality problems that come to mind. A proposal such as this could work if well thought out and implemented. But who will be the ones to do the hard work and prove it.

"District extorting money from their richer neighbors to avoid allowing such building near by."

That's not an externality. In fact, that's how you manage externalities. Don't want your neighbor to build something - make it worth their while.

Or the best idea ever! My only quibble is how would we define "street"--i.e. how many square blocks would be included in each localized zoning board?

Is Tyler willing to start with University campuses? Do the students get to vote?

Every campus needs a pig farm.

Reading the news about the so-called NIMBYism, it seems to me that usually the neighbors are much more "NIMBY" than the city boards, no?

And it makes sense - the benefits of more construction (low prices and rents) potentially benefit every person in the city of every in the region, while the costs (more congestion, less public space, less sun, stetical change in the landscape, eventually more crime, etc.) are concentrated in the neighborhood.

How about street by street immigration laws?

Or street by street gun laws.

"Machine guns are legal on my street. We don't worry about crime much." - from Machine Gun Alley

Think about Houston where there is really no zoning. Neighborhoods do have deed restrictions that must be enforced, or if not, then the restrictions become unenforceable. This does result in some oddities, but on the whole it works very well and you can find a great deal of diversity in a small geographical area.

You are correct, essentially it works exactly like Tyler is suggesting. As a city to live in Houston works great, not so great for a vacation. Texas often is the example that proves the big government regulation lovers wrong.

It works great if you can afford to choose an area where deed restrictions - mostly gentleman's agreements at this point - invite people who also want a nice place to live. It works well for new arrivals with gumption. It works well for people who don't care to cook at home. But there is, for example, a vast sea of apartments built in the 70s, block after block, nothing else, whose promo brochures depicted swingin' sideburned young professionals partying in the communal hot tub to the strains of yacht rock with bikini babes; and within a few years, those became slums, one several-decades-long episode of COPS. And the citizenry can only be content with that state of affairs, and others like it, because Houston can reasonably say, we never promised you anything other than a cheap place to live, and freedom to build on top of our pretty old houses. It's a good refrain, but mainly because Houston's at the intersection of oil and immigrants, with ag land 3 sides around to sprawl into. The less-fortunate or less-capable are thus thrown into harsh relief as deserving no more than they get in this prosperous place. Plans? We make no plans.

Yacht Rock!? Like Journey and Aerosmith?

Okay, it was probably disco. Or Steely Dan.

That isn't yacht rock, man. That's radio/pop/regular rock, and in their early days even hard rock.

Yacht rock is Air Supply, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Christopher Cross, and yes some of Steely Dan. Soft 'adult oriented rock'

Thought experiments can be fun, and useful. Tyler's thoughts are usually more useful than this. Land use is not unconnected to other elements of the built environment - street width, pavement thickness, access to public transportation, even size of gas lines and electrical services. Some upzoning to permit additional residential units makes sense to me; and allowing for a corner store or two would reduce the frightful drabness and sterility of suburbs. But to take the proposal all the way to commercial uses - who is going to vote for putting the shopping mall next door when the mall developer does not want your parcel also? Or, less extreme, the tire repair shop or used car lot? Or the Mickey D's? Once past the level of adding a couple of residential units or a small store, this strikes me as another "too much democracy" proposal. Back many years ago when I was doing some construction inspection, I noticed that big rental apartment buildings were sometimes better maintained as rental buildings than they were when they became condominium buildings. Too much democratic decision-making at work. We have a representative democracy, not a direct democracy, and we will always have to parse that distinction. There are reasons why some - not all - zoning is done the way it is, and the reason is economic efficiency.

'street width, pavement thickness, access to public transportation, even size of gas lines and electrical services'

Yep, reality tends to intrude on these discussions in ways that economists blithely skip over. The amount of water available in the system and dealing with resulting sewage are easily ignored by an economist, and yet impossible for those actually in charge of delivering water and handling sewage to ignore.

The expansion of a waste treatment plant is not a street by street decision, obviously. Nor is the expansion of the electrical grid. Or of natural gas pipelines. There are a number of things to be covered, after all.

To put it differently - it is not just zoning that is preventing an 80 story skyscraper from being built in Clarendon,

Yes.

25 years ago an aging condo with no amenities proved to be a surprisingly good investment for a young family, but the experience left me determined not to repeat it.

I was full of naive thoughts how we might improve the place, get more for our monthly condo fee than a crew coming by to blow the leaves about; so I enthusiastically volunteered to host the meetings and borrowed a coffee urn from the church. However, business would soon be derailed when someone invariably mentioned that an animal had got into the eaves ... then someone else retailed how someone's guest had parked in their spot ... next up, the admittedly dramatic tale of some plumbing issue unique to a particular unit; and it was clear you were never going to get people to even discuss anything forward-looking. We only eventually got the place painted because a pretty realtor moved in and within a couple months, more or less singlehandedly did some mind-control trick on everybody, announced there would be an assessment, picked the color and got the work done without consulting anybody.

As to where I live now ... nobody could tell you the particulars of the deed restrictions, but I looked them up out of curiosity. They're not enforced in their aesthetic details - and the percentage of rentals long ago exceeded the prescribed limit, unrelated people living together (density by other means), boats, ancillary structures, etc. - and there exists no dues-collecting neighborhood association to do so. I don't care about these things (okay, that's not entirely true - I don't care about boats or who lives where but I'm naturally the sort of busybody who walks past your house, and inwardly questions why you bought that hanging basket from Home Depot - you never removed the plastic tag - with no intention of watering it, let it die, and then left it hanging by your front door for 3 years. Why did you mow if you weren't going to edge? Why DID you start to stain your fence (!) and then give up? And you - why did you paint the limestone? - it looks like styrofoam now. That old Nissan Maxima has no inspection tags and is never going to move, why have you permanently blocked the sidewalk with it? Why do you leave your recycling and trash bins front and center, like yard art? Why did you remove the grass, xeriscape with gravel and an agave or two, then let the grass return only now you can no longer mow it 'cuz it's all gravelly? Cool new windows but why did you buy all brown but one white one? Why NOT match?)

But the trouble is that while the neighbors never cease to come up with novel ways of disappointing me, they have no imagination in their greed. They are excited when they hear that yet another house has been sold for some astronomical sum "just for the dirt!" (and we all hope to do the same). Yet even though our own exits from the neighborhood are necessitated and assured by the building of these new million-plus homes (possibly also threatening the demographic survival of the elementary school which has been the glue for the area), no one is able to entertain the idea of anything other than single-family zoning.

Given our inner-ring, near-central location, 3 schools to walk to, and the accident of our houses dating from circa 1980, so both ugly from day one and too modest for the current market, "not what people want," etc. - it is clear to me that we just need a brave builder to bust open the facade of the supposed restrictions by boldly building the first triplex or whatever. Now your dirt is really beautiful.

The SF-mania is so entrenched - despite the fact that the most valuable real estate in our city is located in areas that developed without such zoning, and contain a mix of uses, albeit non-industrial ones - that I would be too cowardly even to posit my thoughts on the neighborhood forum, both because I don't like to be yelled at, and also because I don't want to find out exactly how stupid my neighbors are.

+1

Nice rant! Gave me a few chuckles and made me appreciate all the more the leafy craftsman neighborhood (and the neighbors) here in my Midwestern college town.

Sigh. Leafy, craftsman, Midwestern order. Still, I can't deny that having a blah, utterly blank canvas on which to do my worst all these years appeals to me on some level. When we occasionally get a notion to go look at houses for sale of a weekend, my husband will say, Wow, look at what they've done, what a great yard, and I'll agree, almost sadly, yes, but ... it's finished.

Divide and conquer. What street by street zoning does is reduce the power of (current) property owners while increasing the power of (future) property developers/owners. United we stand, divided we fall. Of course, what is being proposed here is anathema to city planning: how does a city adopt and implement a coordinated plan for development if every block can determine its own plan?

Libertarians don't care for plans, or regulations. Was it city planners that bequeathed the burbs, the cul-de-sac, the single-family home, and the expressways to get to and from them? Or was it the developers and their allies in city government? This is one of those cases where city planners and libertarians are more closely aligned than one may suppose, for most city planners prefer high density, multi-family, mixed-use development. In my sun-belt city, the planners are working with developers for high density, multi-family, mixed-use development within the urban core, while those in the burbs most affected by the development pattern that has prevailed since WWII continue to oppose the transit to and from the urban core that would make their existence at least bearable. For the mostly young and educated who are attracted to the new development pattern in the urban core, they too oppose spending money on transit to and from the burbs but for very different reasons.

I live in one of those hell hole burbs. We don't even have Crap App here.

It's unbearable. I encourage people stay away.

Good luck with that. As terrible as they are, they will kept being built because that's what people want. Dumb people just don't know what's good for them.

It was actually Le Corbusier that wanted to destroy urban street life. In his world, cities bread poverty and street life created urban ghettos. By sweeping away the street, supper blocks with beautiful garden apartment towers would become the new norm. The block and grid would be eradicated. Grand super highways could literally be built through and around major cities like New York and Paris.

The car then becomes the future of urbanism and it’s derivation suburbanism. The nasty industrial city of the past becomes a distant memory.

If only Corbusier understood even the slightest bit of micro economics he would of understood that all of those poor wretched Irishmen fleeing the potato famine came to New York precisely because of its immense wealth and not the other way around. The wealth attracts the poverty! That’s the virtue of cities being the engine of capitalism.

So to answer your question, it’s not really about developers. They sort of make plans within any system. But the grand auto vision of the future for cities and suburbs was absolutely a Corbusier invention!

Donald Shoup proposes something very similar for parking. To encourage neighborhoods to charge for parking he proposed giving more of the power and more of the revenue to neighborhoods.

I saw them attempt neighborhood paid parking in Berkeley and every night somebody would come out with a pipe cutter and chop off the meters. That went on for awhile.

I believe this was effectively tried a few times with micro-cities. Vernon, CA comes to mind. Rarely has this gone well in practice.

Off topic but FYI

https://twitter.com/nworbmot/status/1154692580807983104?s=19

I see a twitter post linking a le monde article, presumably about cost overruns in construction in France.

....???

Democracy . . . in whose image? In the public's image, with the public reaching conclusions and making actual decisions for themselves?

--or "democracy" in the image of what some Londoner ("London" being the unending municipal sprawl that has overtaken SSE England) thinks or says Americans should or might want? (I myself not only do not want a Sichuan restaurant on my street and immediately adjacent streets, I don't want to see one within entire blocks of where I live, not while I prefer Thai food as much as I do).

Perhaps "the people" 1) require and 2) desire far less "assistance" from philanthropic, benefacting, helpful elites than those elites prefer to give.

Tell you what, TC: help impose this London solution up and down the entire length of the DC-to-Boston Corridor, plant the idea locally in municipal jurisdictions in MD, DE, PA, NJ, NY, CT, RI, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to start with. Give the schemes a decade or two to go one way or the other, then return here decades hence to give us a report on the outcomes.

YES IN YOUR BACK YARD (YIYBY), we could call it.

I consider this idea mostly harmless.

For a geeky alternative, zoning changes should be approved per lot, by nearest neighbors first, following a space filling curve.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space-filling_curve

That way neighbors behind a lot have more input than same-street people further away.

A friend lives around the corner and two blocks from a fast-food restaurant. His yard and the street in front of his house gets lots of wrappers and cups tossed his way. How can we encourage people to keep commercial detritus in the commercially zoned area?

Hilbert curve ftw

The majority on a street vote to put in a grocery store at the far end of the street. The rats and garbage smell affect only the few, outvoted, families closest to the grocery store. The affected families get the money from the parking meters for their trouble. The street gets a nearby grocery store.

That's how it's supposed to work, right?

One of the biggest advantages of zoning is stability. Who would want to move into an area that could be completely refaced on the whims of your neighbors?

90 percent will never vote for 'denser' development in their neighborhood. The 'ten percent' who might are people who love noise, crowds, restaurants, clubs - i.e. New Yorkers & San Franciscans. Wait, the Frisco people block it, too! So who IS for denser development? Developers, politicians, and the 'urban elites' -- and these three groups maka da rulez in much of metropolitan America. Tyler is in the third camp -- and he loves that shit, too. 90 percent of Americans however, do not. Now, this 90 percent's wishes are held in absolute contempt by the 'trio' of power brokers, who loathe 'wasteful use of space' -- (the kind of pretty, pastoral, peaceful landscapes of old-fashioned suburbia where you aren't ass up against your neighbor, the kind that the 90 percent long for and love). But because there are just so damn many of the 90 percent, they still get to have their way -- as long as where they have 'their way' is out in the cornfields and the exurban areas where the trios have yet to extend their tentacles (areas where the trio wouldn't be caught dead, anyway.) So America, at least for the next 40 years or so, will continue to build the kind of 'wasteful, hideous sprawl' that the trio loathes, but that the 90 percent loves. After that, god knows. If Tyler had his way, you know we'd all live in Hong Kong. That god Tyler and the trio aren't in power in the way they are in Europe -- where nearly everybody who isn't rich lives in cramped little apartments. Have you driven through Spain? It's nuts. It's this HUGE country with tons of gorgeous open space...then suddenly you'll see -- in the middle of a big field - this horrible TOWER that looks like it belongs in a downtown Detroit housing project. And that's where the workers live! God help us all.

I have family that live in a gentrifying area of a top 10 metro. Their area is replacing 900 sq foot bungalows with some yard space from the 1940's with tightly packed 3 and 4 story townhouses. No yards, no parking, no kid friendly space.

They just had a kid. The schools - basically all the schools in the metro district - are mediocre to bad. So they are on a five year fuse to either pay for private school or move. If they have a second kid, as planned, its move for sure. Most of their neighbor are childless.

Traffic is horrible, so even though they live "close to work", one has a 15 minute commute, the other 45 minutes. If they move to the burbs, they could probably both have 30-40 minute commutes.

It appears the urban planning folk assumes people are childless grad students (Party!) or rich enough to buy mitigation of the problems induced by overcrowding.

Why are yards and parking necessary, or even desirable? The idea of "overcrowding" strikes me as a cultural artifact. Raising a kid doesn't require a 2,500 square house on a quarter-acre lot.

They aren't necessary, but others might have different definitions of 'desirable' than you do.

Necessary? Debatable. Desirable? Most would say yes.

It would be nice to have space to ride a trike or bike, or play catch, or do any other kid outdoor activity, other than in the street. No parking of course doesn't mean no cars, so the inevitable on street parking means two lane roads become obstructed (and dangerous to kids) one lane.

Sure, "overcrowding" is a cultural artifact. American's personal space bubble, for instance, is larger than that of most other cultures. But uncrowded living space is valued in most cultures. Look at the housing those with the greatest means choose.

To take an extreme example, Zuckerberg bought the four houses around his Palo Alto house to increase privacy, and is building a 6 foot wall around his 700 acre Hawaiian estate to increase privacy. Neighbors around his San Francisco house complain about his security detail parking in the street. His kids will have plenty of space to play.

https://money.cnn.com/2016/09/16/technology/zuckerberg-homes/

This is a solution in search of a problem.

Unless you think the problem is that we REALLY need to cram even more people into our dysfunctional, poorly-governed, already-overcrowded cities.

I mean, I guess that might be a good idea if you're trying to entrench existing disparities, but otherwise, no.

So you're positing a curve of housing approvals, where either hyper local zoning or statewide zoning might have more housing approval than municipal level? That's possible.

Certainly people would agree that truly hyperlocal zoning, where an individual property operator can set their own zoning, would have more construction built. The property owner would get all the profit from developing land (and push various externalities off). At the same time, I think there's good evidence and theoretical reasons why state level zoning can increase housing-- there's a collective action problem where a fair number of people might be willing to take "their share" of housing, but don't want to be the only city with liberalized zoning and thus the one that gets all the new housing (or all the new lower income housing.)

At the limit of the individual property owner you would have more, but as soon as you move away from that you're going to get less until you get quite large. The people who loses the most from developing land is almost always the neighbors and they're not going to get much (if any) benefit.

It is a major failure that neither the post nor the comments consider "restrictive covenants".

We used to "zone" by private contract, and it worked.

Then the socialists waddled in to save the world, and wrecked it, as always.

Restrictive covenants still work, and are still used in many jurisdictions in place of zoning laws, or to supplement them. But they were and are better than zoning and it was a stupid mistake to allow government to over-ride private contracts. Chesterton's fence, and all that.

Has any one here complaining actually spent time in Europe? Or even an older pre suburban typical american neighborhood? The density people are afraid of is imaginary, most of those who oppose density would be thrilled to live in a European city with its parks and squares and cafes. It's weird what people are afraid of, east Asia density, which is not what anyone would actually build and the and the reality of what they would actually get if there were higher density, places like Barcelona, Copenhagen or Berlin, or Santa Monica or Venice(CA) or the Mission or the Haight or Park Slope. What is so terrible about a suburban Georgetown or Park Slope? And if those neighborhoods are so awful why are they so expensive? At that level of density you get amenities like Prospect Park. How is that not preferable to a quarter acre lot with a postage stamp yard on a cul de sac?

Why would the default be European?

Because they build the best cities. But we used to build great cities and towns too. Go to any Midwestern small town and check out the center with its big public square. Pretty high density. People have this image of high density as something terrible, but the reality is these are places that people love and admire when they have the chance to live in them and in most cities these kinds of neighborhoods are often super expensive. Like most of Boston or the brownstone areas of Brooklyn. Or Miami Beach or New England town centers like those aroun Boston. Property values will not be destroyed, in fact even if unit cost goes down land prices could actually go up because each parcel can be used for more units. If we change the zoning, they will just end up looking more like America used to look before the fifties when cars and highways took over, with higher density and a mix of building types. It's so weird that people are so afraid of the kinds of neighborhoods they actually go on vacation to stay in, and dream of retiring to. We could build walkable, comfortable neighborhoods if only people could analyze this more clearly.

building slums...

...street by street

In Saint Louis, there were quite a few "private neighborhoods" usually surrounded by less grand homes or Upscale apartments. The social and/or economic gradient was rather smooth.

Now the tendency, all over, seems to be to knock something down and throw in a minimalist block of boxes for Section 8 dwellers. I don't think that there is simple "zoning" approach for that type of neighborhood destruction.

Friends lived across from the old Pruitt Igo projects. Visiting was a real thrill. A piece of that is what you are actually talking about. My old car gets me to the grocery, butcher shop, and hardware store just fine, thank you. There's no need for that on my street, or the chaos that such development will bring. There are lots of local "downtowns" if that suits you.

Way back when, only the filthy rich and the destitute lived in NYC; everyone else rode the train. It is easy. Build new off somewhere desolate where no one will complain and add bus and/or light rail lines.

Comments for this post are closed