Urban planning community

+ Reply to thread
Results 1 to 20 of 20

Thread: Bashing zoning - does it really help?

  1. #1

    Registered
    May 1997
    Location
    Williston, VT
    Posts
    1,371

    Bashing zoning - does it really help?

    After reading ablarc’s blast in the “planning chaos” thread, I realized that it would take a lot of work to reply. So, I thought about just surrendering. That would be implicitly admitting that I am a tired, old bureaucrat, a closet Marxist, and … Well who knows what people who don’t hate zoning might stoop to? It would also allow the anti-zoning bashfest to continue without hindrance, at least from me. As a former outback planner, I have been called lots of things. But I don’t much care about that. And why spoil the fun?

    I also had to ask myself if I really have a dog in this fight. The record shows that I have been advocating and, in sympathetic places, implementing the reform of conventional zoning for a long time. I have a set of slides dating back to 1979 that lays out a critique of zoning that would fit perfectly into the current threads. Indeed, I am 99% sure I was the first in this electronic ‘burb to bash conventional zoning. I wrote my first performance-based system in 1977. 30 years later, I am attempting to reform Williston’s conventional rules into something that will implement the goals of creating a denser, pedestrian-friendly town center, sustaining the historic village center, and protecting open space. That means dismantling a lot of conventional zoning. So why should I not join in the fun?

    There are two problems. One is probably peripheral to most zoning-bashers, however important it might be to sustaining communities. The other goes back to the heart of the discussion.

    I – A Definition

    To begin, however, I want to do something that no one has yet done in these threads. I want to define “zoning”. It occurs to me that we are not all on the same page.

    When I say “zoning,” I am using it as shorthand for local land use regulations. When I defend zoning, I am defending watershed protection buffers, regulations that prevent building on hazardous slopes, prohibitions on off-premise advertising, standards that protect the night sky, and all of the other regulatory systems that attempt to gently integrate development into the natural world and existing communities. I am never, at least at first, thinking about use charts, minimum lot sizes, setbacks, and the other typical standards of conventional zoning. I use those tools as little as possible. BUT, I do use them, and here is the reason why.

    II – Practicality

    An older couple has a nice garden, next to a vacant lot. Someone moves in and proceeds, in their unregulated community, to build a large garage and shop that almost completely shades the garden, effectively ending its long-tended usefulness and beauty. This shading would have been prevented by a typical zoning ordinance, with suburban setbacks and limits on the placement and height of accessory structures. As it is, the only recourse these folks have is to go to court (if they can afford to) and the only settlement they could likely obtain would be cash, not the sunshine they lost.

    I acknowledge that applying the same dimensional standards on a vacant parcel down the road would limit a developer’s options. We’ll get to that. But where I am used to working the choice is NOT between crappy conventional regulations and progressive regulations. The issue is NOT how to develop or re-develop relatively large tracts. The choice in many communities is between some minimal oversight of development and no rules at all. The first issue is not the design of the entire city, it is how to protect peoples’ right to enjoy their properties from neighbors who simply do not care.

    If we value property rights, there has to be a way to prevent (where possible) and remediate (when necessary) land use conflicts between neighbors. That way has to be more or less available to all citizens, not just those who have the resources and tenacity to use the courts. It also has to be simple enough to administer with limited resources. The daily grind of zoning is part of what having a community is about. It is how reasonable people have learned to share space. .

    I know that you zoning-bashers are thinking at a grander scale, but I am not willing to let you throw the interests of ordinary folks out in your philosophical bathwater. Making places work requires vision. It also requires attention to individuals and their needs. Wherever big picture thinking leads us, it has to scale back down to an effective way of protecting the sunshine on that garden.

    III – Two Questions

    I am going back to the first principle ablarc acknowledges as true. Treat the cause, not the symptom. I have read nothing in the threads about zoning’s ills that persuades me that conventional zoning is the disease. I don’t deny its impacts, although I believe that they are often overstated. I just do not believe that either eliminating or changing the zoning will solve the problem. I am going to start with two questions zoning-bashers must answer if they are to persuade me that their critique is useful.

    First, if conventional zoning is the problem, why is development in unregulated and essentially unregulated communities the same as in those with zoning? I have posed this question on Cyburbia (and in other places) before and never gotten a cogent answer. Is it not because the pattern of development in this country is driven by:

    a) cultural preferences that have been developed and reinforced over many decades from many sources – the home plan books you can buy at any supermarket, the coffee table architectural books, Sunset magazine, etc., etc. - and that have been reflected in zoning as it developed through the political process, and
    b) economic or market forces that channel developers’ energies in very specific ways. Those forces reflect peoples’ preferences, the strange workings of financial institutions, the IRS code, building technologies, and a myriad of other factors. The way we regulate land use, which is determined by the political process - constantly adjusts and adapts to all of those forces.

    Second, if conventional zoning is the problem, why would communities abandon better regulatory systems and return to conventional zoning? The most remarkable example is Fort Collins which had a highly successful, award-winning performance based system that allowed all sorts of flexibility (and which is reflected in decent quality development) for 14 years and returned to conventional zoning. My own example is from a small county in Idaho, which had another award-winning performance-based system. After 7 or 8 years of that system, they adopted zoning districts. In both cases, the planners resisted, so you can’t blame them. Who promoted the change?

    It was the landowners and “developers.” Those the zoning bashers say will benefit most from the end of conventional zoning. How can that be? What they said, in both cases, was that they were seeking predictability. What they meant, in both cases, was that they were seeking the right to speculate. It takes a lot of hard work, talent, and risk to make money actually developing land. It is a lot easier to buy cheap (or at least cheaper), get a permit, and sell it. That is where the profits in real estate have always been, all the way back to the frontier, where the speculative abuses of various Federal land grants have been well documented.

    That leads us to my critique of both conventional zoning and capitalism. It also leads us back to ablarc’s contention that I am flip flopping. Let’s deal with that first.

    IV – Embracing Contradictions

    Since I didn’t know that I was going to be challenged in such an assertive way, I didn’t take a debater’s care in framing my arguments. But I am not contradicting myself when I say: a) that zoning is driven by “market forces,” and b) that zoning can run counter to those forces. I may be guilty of mixing levels of analysis/thought in a way that is confusing, but I am not being inconsistent.

    In the big picture, zoning is very much a mirror of the cultural preferences, financial policies, etc., etc. that shape real estate development, as acted out in the political process. Zoning also mirrors other forces, like environmental awareness. So, when I shove a structure back 150 feet from the stream to leave a riparian corridor, I am countering a market force with another force, an awareness of water quality issues. There’s no contradiction there, just the complexity of the political process.

    But as the examples I gave above illustrate, there is no question that zoning – conventional and otherwise – responds more to the demands of the development community than to anyone or anything else. There are a handful of communities where that is not true, but they are exceptions to the rule.

    So, if the development community shared ablarc’s perspective, local land use regulations would be quite different. The development community has the power to make that happen. The reality is that ablarc, as he admits, is representing a tiny segment of the landowner/developer community. Most of those folks, particularly the speculators, love conventional zoning and resist change just as hard (and with more political impact) as the weariest bureaucrat.

    V – Capitalism

    I am going to pause here only briefly. It is a vast topic and a particular understanding of the economy isn’t really necessary to making my point. I do want to say, however, that I had to cope with Marxism and Neo-Marxism a long time ago as a student of anthropology (a discipline in which Marx may have had his most lasting influence). It didn’t do much for me then. It doesn’t do much for me now. The flaws in the works of Marx seem to me to be about the same as the flaws in the works of Adam Smith, the intellectual godfather of capitalism.

    My economic understanding is rooted in the works of anthropologists like Karl Polanyi, the various psychologists who have demonstrated that the rational, individual behavior economists like to pre-suppose is mostly myth (or at least that defining rationality is no simple matter), and the observations of America’s greatest political economist, Henry George. As George learned while watching the real estate market in San Francisco after the gold rush, the root of our land use (and many other) issues is in speculation, and the speculator’s ability to capture value without actually producing anything. That impulse - the desire to make money without any sweat involved - is reflected in conventional zoning, and is why conventional zoning’s apparent adverse impact on development isn’t perceived as a problem by many people. Even those of who know, have a hard time not buying into the system. Would Karen and I actually forgo the appreciation on the houses we own and sell them for a price that working people like us can actually afford? We haven’t had to answer that question yet, and it will be real ethical problem when we do.

    VI – Getting Out of the Way

    Enough disputation. Whether zoning is a symptom or a disease is an intellectual issue, and it is deadly boring when you are compelled to write this many words about it. The issue is that conventional zoning is making it hard for those who want to, to do good development.

    I agree with ablarc that the usual approach to injecting a little flexibility into zoning, the PUD, is not of much help. There are probably places where it works, or can be made to work, but most PUD ordinances (we had a thread about this some time ago) impose a lot of extra paperwork and process. They also tend to be suburban creations, requiring lots of open space in exchange for the flexibility the developer wants. I don’t think that facilitates the type of development ablarc is talking about. The planning tool that better addresses ablarc’s issues is the specific plan, as it is used in California, Nevada, and probably some other places. But it, too, involves a load of upfront paperwork and is only reasonable for large projects.

    If we really want to promote a specific type of development, we have to make it the course of least resistance. We just did that here in Williston’s rural areas. To use an open space development pattern, one formerly had to use the PUD process. That adds both time and paperwork to the normal subdivision review process, so why bother? It also has strange, intimidating rules. Williston’s ordinance actually says that to be a PUD, the project must have “exceptional merit.” Needless to say there is no definition of that term! So now, based on the advice of yours truly, open space subdivisions are the use-by-right. To do a conventional subdivision, you’d have to do a PUD! And prove that your conventional large lot project has “exceptional merit.” Perhaps all you zoning bashers will at least appreciate that.

    This leads us to one more problem. Writing regulations that facilitate creative development while protecting legitimate public interests is not easy. Again, ablarc is right. It only takes a few minutes at the photocopier to “write” a zoning code for a new conventional PUD, but writing one for a more diverse, more creative type of project takes a lot of work.

    So, yeah, it is hard to write good regulations. But thinking that the zoning is the problem doesn’t make it easier. I once worked, briefly, for a large landowner who finally gave up on a performance-based, neo-traditional approach because every time we went to hearing on the proposed code, the developer heard, over and over again, that no builder would buy a block of lots. The place would just be too weird. They couldn’t take the risk. I also note that financing mixed use projects is difficult in many communities, including this one. Bankers don’t much like risk either.

    The locus of change HAS to be the perception of the folks who make investments in development, not the zoning code. If the landowners and development community decide that a different pattern of development is desirable (i.e. profitable) the rules in most communities will change within a few months. The reality is that the development community isn’t there, yet, and most landowners are even farther out.

    So, ablarc, encourage one of your clients to come shopping in Williston. There are two sizeable parcels that I suspect could be had (though not cheap in this market) that would make a huge difference in how this community looks and works. They are both available for mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly development. The limits on the capacity of our sewage treatment plant create an obstacle, I can’t change. Only so many units are possible. But we are changing a lot of other things. By this time next year (unless I get an unpleasant political surprise) doing a good project will be considerably easier.
    Last edited by Lee Nellis; 15 Jul 2005 at 3:08 PM.

  2. #2
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
    Registered
    Apr 1996
    Location
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    7,691
    Bravo Lee. Great post. You say a lot of the things I wish I was eloquent enough (or had enough time) to say.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  3. #3

    Registered
    Oct 2001
    Location
    Solano County, California
    Posts
    6,468
    Very well-thought out and eloquent. Lee. Thank you. Not sure I could add very much to this well-thought-out essay. You should submit it to APA for publication.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Champlain-Adirondack Biosphere Reserve
    Posts
    3,387
    Quote Originally posted by BKM
    You should submit it to APA for publication.
    Why preach to the converted? It would better serve its purpose if submitted to each newspaper in his fair state. (I'm betting the Burlington Free Press would love this!)

    Well stated, Lee.
    All these years the people said he’s actin’ like a kid.
    He did not know he could not fly, so he did.
    - - Guy Clark, "The Cape"

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    The Cheese State
    Posts
    10,055
    Thanks for another great commentary, Lee. Although a frequent critic of zoning, I am not one to argue for its elimination or even for adopting ideas such as performance-based zoning, urban transects, etc. Conventional zoning needs reform, not replacement. It needs to be flexible and situational. That it is not is often the result of "model ordinances," lazy consultants, or planners who do not have your broad grasp of not just planning, but development, economics, environmental issues, - even human nature, etc. Development control ordinances need to be written specifically for the community in mind, in a way that allows the development desired by the community, and permits the developer to diverge from the normal to produce a higher-quality project.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  6. #6
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Clayobyrne, CB
    Posts
    2,581
    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    Conventional zoning needs reform, not replacement. It needs to be flexible and situational.
    Don't forget: rational and logical.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
    Registered
    Jan 2005
    Location
    BC
    Posts
    1,584
    Interesting read, thank you.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2003
    Location
    San Diego, CA
    Posts
    7,061
    I finally managed to read it this evening. A few random comments:

    A) I am reminded of an article published by Habitat for Humanity about how hard it is to develop in countries where clear possession of the land is not available. I can't remember the details, just that it creates nightmarish problems.

    B) I am reminded of the situation on most tribal lands in the U.S. where the land is held in common, for the good of the people -- and the housing is almost always severely substandard because you cannot get a mortgage because the bank cannot foreclose if you miss a payment because the land cannot be sold or change hands as it belongs to the tribe, not the individual.

    C) I have already made a few comments to ablarc in a couple of places about how ineffective it is to tell someone everything they are doing wrong without giving them the means to do it right. In the interest of not making him feel like I am personally hounding him, I won't say any more than that here.

    D)
    the only settlement they could likely obtain would be cash, not the sunshine they lost.
    If even half of Americans understood this point thoroughly, we wouldn't have anywhere near the problems we have. Americans seem to confuse "price" and "value" routinely. Many people cannot seem to comprehend that there even is a difference.

    E)
    Treat the cause, not the symptom.
    I am reminded of some things I have written about "variant cystic fibrosis" and how doctors think that CF is defined as "constantly being sick with respiratory problems". My son and I define CF as "a genetic variation which causes our bodies to work differently and requires accommodation but does not mean we MUST be sick". He has been off antibiotics for more than 7 years -- and the doctors question whether he REALLY has CF, since he isn't SICK -- and I have now been off antibiotics 20 months after a lifetime of illness. Most people do not know how to ferret out real answers to the "cause/symptom" question. My genes do not make me ill. They make me different and treating me the same as other people is what makes me ill. It is a subtle difference in defintions but with substantially different outcomes. I propose that much of the source of haranguing about this topic is because real causes haven't been adequately ferreted out. I propose that if real causes were known and properly understood, something which Works would be blossoming from that knowledge, just as actual health is blossoming at long last for me.

    (PS: Lee, I expect an update on what blooms in your neck of the woods when you are done prepping the ground there, in a year or two. )

  9. #9
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
    Registered
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Land of Confusion
    Posts
    3,776

    A lesson from Florida

    I don't know if anyone is familiar with the tradition of land-scamming in Florida, but there was once an era where developers would come in and plat thousands of residential lots on vast tracts of land, without any public infrastructure (no sewer/water) or other land uses needed to support a community. Wetlands and fragile cosystems were routinely destroyed to make room for all the new homes. And I'm not talking about a few subdivisions here and there but miles and miles of them (see Port Charlotte, Cape Coral, Lehigh Acres, Port St. Lucie).

    Anyway, as you can imagine, most of these places turned into suburban slums with all problems you can imagine from such a built environment- environmental degradation, horrible traffic due to problems accessing jobs/shopping, and a lack of civic/institutional uses or land available for them.

    This was all done of course due to the lack of any real zoning or land use regulations. As local governments evolve in Florida, zoning has become a crucial tool in helping prevent future planning disasters. As someone who works in one of these land-scam communities, I know first hand how zoning and future land use planning has helped up repair broken neighborhoods and ameliorate environmental problems. Don't get me wrong- there are still major problems with Florida's Growth Management system, and sadly environmental destruction continues- but the importance of elementary zoning regulations such as frontage, depth, and minimum lot size regulations has benefitted our planning efforts tremendously.

    The New Urbanists and other zoning bashers don't care about any of this. Intelligent people such as Andres Duany actually tell us to throw away our zoning codes, as if they serve no useful public purpose whatsoever. Their ideological fervor has essentially blinded them to the basic public purposes of land use planning: fairness, justice, safety, and environmental stewardship. Their vision of community is entirely one of streets and buildings, based on the promise of an ideal outcome that everybody will accept. Yet the process of community-building is much more complicated, and involves taking into issues beyond our physical environment; the social, political, and legal underpinnings of our democracy.

    Conventional zoning, for all its shortcomings, has provided our local land use policies with consensus betwen development interests and public interests. In an environment of constant negotiation this should not be taken for granted. Until New Urbanists and other zoning bashers come up with a system that takes community seriously, and seeks the goal of consensus, there is no reason to abandon the status quo.

  10. #10
    Developers demanding zoning rights isn't an example of the market demanding zoning. Zoning is a set of laws, and laws don't come out of the market. It is in fact the opposite, markets are established by laws. There is one word that defines a market special interest shifting the laws in its favour: corruption. When the auto industry gets to determine how the government regulates auto emissions it's called corruption, because the commonwealth is being reduced to provide benefits to a specific interest group.
    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone
    C) I have already made a few comments to ablarc in a couple of places about how ineffective it is to tell someone everything they are doing wrong without giving them the means to do it right. In the interest of not making him feel like I am personally hounding him, I won't say any more than that here.
    The alternative is simple. The planners must act more like architect-developers instead of acting as law enforcement. The planners must make sure that the city is fully equipped in housing and industry by creating the development projects themselves instead of creating a plan and waiting for an independent speculator to maybe follow the plan. That is their role and the essence of their expertise. The cure for speculation is pre-empting the speculation by building in adequate quantities.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2003
    Location
    San Diego, CA
    Posts
    7,061
    Quote Originally posted by jaws
    The alternative is simple. The planners must act more like architect-developers instead of acting as law enforcement. The planners must make sure that the city is fully equipped in housing and industry by creating the development projects themselves instead of creating a plan and waiting for an independent speculator to maybe follow the plan. That is their role and the essence of their expertise. The cure for speculation is pre-empting the speculation by building in adequate quantities.
    I have serious reservations about such a top-down approach. It makes me think of "Seeing Like A State: How certain schemes to improve the human condition have failed". It goes into a number of examples of utopian cities and such that were designed top-down and utterly failed to work. Having raised kids, my experience is that humans function best when given certain parameters for what is okay and then let loose to do their thing. Micromanaging kids doesn't work. I can't imagine that micromanaging city growth would work. Thinking you know what is best for folks whose lives are a complete mystery to you only causes problems.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone
    I have serious reservations about such a top-down approach. It makes me think of "Seeing Like A State: How certain schemes to improve the human condition have failed". It goes into a number of examples of utopian cities and such that were designed top-down and utterly failed to work. Having raised kids, my experience is that humans function best when given certain parameters for what is okay and then let loose to do their thing. Micromanaging kids doesn't work. I can't imagine that micromanaging city growth would work. Thinking you know what is best for folks whose lives are a complete mystery to you only causes problems.
    Of course it's impossible for architects to know what's best for people, but it's also impossible for people themselves to know what's best for them because they don't have the knowledge and expertise. You don't let your kids experiment with everything. There are some things you know are good for them and others you know are bad for them, because you are the responsible, educated, experienced adult. City architects should know when their expertise trumps that of the speculators and residents, and they should act out on that expertise instead of restricting themselves to preventing action. You tell your children to go to school, to brush their teeth, to eat vegetables, just as often as you tell them not to do bad things.

    We have developed in our society an economic system that functions well because it is tuned in to the needs of the customers. Note that this shouldn't mean the customers get everything they want. Simply that when they express a desire (through demand) and it is profitable to fulfill that desire, some enterprising individual or institution will attempt to fulfill it. That institution will eventually become an expert in the fulfillment of that desire as it interacts with the customer. The city is an institutional enterprise. A cooperative enterprise, but an enterprise nonetheless. Its purpose is to capture the profits of good city management for its owners. A single land speculator cannot capture the profits of building a pleasant-looking building because the benefit is spread to everyone in the city. It is, in economics nerd lingo, a positive externality. The city however will capture the profits, as a group of pleasant-looking buildings will increase one-another's property values. The residents of the city will become wealthier. The city architect who executed the plan will have done a succesful job. If the city architect's work reduces property values by having created a poor city, his future career will be jeopardized and he may be replaced by the city's owners. That way there is always an incentive for the architect to provide the highest quality urban environment to his customers-bosses.

    Your fear of top-down designed utopian failures is unjustified, because we know by now they are failures. No one will embark on a project they know is doomed to failure. Some will try new utopian visions, and most likely fail at it. That is necessary and part of the process of improvement and discovery. Some risks must be taken. Failure will happen. A lesson will be learned, and the competition between cities will drive the art of urbanism forward. The fear of failure is a phobia. Failure is part of the learning process, and failure is only one point on the scale of utopia, success, mediocrity and disaster. A risk must be taken if we want to hit the upper end of the scale. Deplanning by zoning condemns the city to mediocrity in its attempt to prevent disaster.

    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller
    I don't know if anyone is familiar with the tradition of land-scamming in Florida, but there was once an era where developers would come in and plat thousands of residential lots on vast tracts of land, without any public infrastructure (no sewer/water) or other land uses needed to support a community. Wetlands and fragile cosystems were routinely destroyed to make room for all the new homes. And I'm not talking about a few subdivisions here and there but miles and miles of them (see Port Charlotte, Cape Coral, Lehigh Acres, Port St. Lucie).

    Anyway, as you can imagine, most of these places turned into suburban slums with all problems you can imagine from such a built environment- environmental degradation, horrible traffic due to problems accessing jobs/shopping, and a lack of civic/institutional uses or land available for them.

    This was all done of course due to the lack of any real zoning or land use regulations. As local governments evolve in Florida, zoning has become a crucial tool in helping prevent future planning disasters. As someone who works in one of these land-scam communities, I know first hand how zoning and future land use planning has helped up repair broken neighborhoods and ameliorate environmental problems. Don't get me wrong- there are still major problems with Florida's Growth Management system, and sadly environmental destruction continues- but the importance of elementary zoning regulations such as frontage, depth, and minimum lot size regulations has benefitted our planning efforts tremendously.
    Protecting wetlands is the domain of environmental regulation, not city planning. Any land use on wetlands is unacceptable. They have to remain wetlands. There's no point to zoning wetlands because they shouldn't be in private ownership.

    As for the outcome of the "land-scamming", I point out that a failure was recognized as one financially and efforts have been made to fix that failure. You have to ask yourself however if the result would have been better in the hands of a competent architect instead of lawyers? You admit yourself that there are major problems to the system. Tell us honestly, is the solution to these problems more zoning or more action?

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2003
    Location
    San Diego, CA
    Posts
    7,061
    Quote Originally posted by jaws
    City architects should know when their expertise trumps that of the speculators and residents, and they should act out on that expertise instead of restricting themselves to preventing action. You tell your children to go to school, to brush their teeth, to eat vegetables, just as often as you tell them not to do bad things.
    I am not up to adequately reading through your post at the moment. However, my kids don't attend school, don't brush their teeth, and don't eat their vegetables. CF patients have difficulty with vegetables. The assumption that vegetables are "good" for everyone is one of those things where folks THINK they know what is best for everyone and they are wrong. My oldest son's serious gum problems are better since he stopped brushing teeth. He and I have had long, interesting discussions about that and his theory that saliva also has protective stuff in it and overcleaning actually destroys the health of the mouth. I have seen a study that poor kids in Italy had fewer cavities than more well off kids. The conclusion was that the lack of sweets in their diet protected them more than the dental visits the wealthy kids could afford. However, the assumption the study starts with is that cleaning teeth is a good thing, without question, and so that is a confounding factor not adequately looked at. I think you could easily argue that the study supports my son's hypothesis that over-cleaning teeth causes dental problems. And if I cared to, I could find the data that literacy rates went down when public school was instituted and education became mandated. I see such things quoted a lot on homeschooling lists.

    I am not trying to be a smart @ss. I just know that I have a child with a form of Cystic Fibrosis who has not been on antibiotics for more than 7 years because I don't listen to "experts" who think the way their profession frames problems is the only "right" way. I listen to people who ask questions which ferret out more useful answers. Doctors ask things like "which drug should we prescribe?" Drugs are the last thing I desire to have as an answer for my health problems. The people I hang with address diet, removing chemical cleaners from the home, keeping the ph balance of the body healthy (something which is apparently a MAJOR factor in how healthy one is and I have never heard a doctor even address it), and many other things. A disease model of thinking results in a "battle" against that which is wrong and only intercedes WHEN things go very wrong. It will never get you to a model of actual health. If you want healthy cities, you must abandon the present course of questioning and start someplace else entirely.

    Respectfully,
    Michele

  14. #14
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
    Registered
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Land of Confusion
    Posts
    3,776
    Quote Originally posted by jaws
    Your fear of top-down designed utopian failures is unjustified, because we know by now they are failures. No one will embark on a project they know is doomed to failure. Some will try new utopian visions, and most likely fail at it. That is necessary and part of the process of improvement and discovery. Some risks must be taken. Failure will happen. A lesson will be learned, and the competition between cities will drive the art of urbanism forward.
    You really ought to move to the Soviet Union- err Russia.

    Quote Originally posted by jaws
    Protecting wetlands is the domain of environmental regulation, not city planning. Any land use on wetlands is unacceptable. They have to remain wetlands. There's no point to zoning wetlands because they shouldn't be in private ownership.
    Are you kidding? Don't tell me how things should be when I tell you how they are in the real world, which you obviously haven't visited in a while. I suggest you go on google and type in "Florida Growth Management", read up on a topic called "mitigation" as well. No offense, but you should really be better informed on this topic before you start blasting away.

    Quote Originally posted by jaws
    As for the outcome of the "land-scamming", I point out that a failure was recognized as one financially and efforts have been made to fix that failure. You have to ask yourself however if the result would have been better in the hands of a competent architect instead of lawyers? You admit yourself that there are major problems to the system. Tell us honestly, is the solution to these problems more zoning or more action?
    I don't even understand what you're trying to say here. All I can say is that that the land scams were more than a failure financially; the planning failures I noted are well-noted by those in our profession.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller
    You really ought to move to the Soviet Union- err Russia.

    Are you kidding? Don't tell me how things should be when I tell you how they are in the real world, which you obviously haven't visited in a while. I suggest you go on google and type in "Florida Growth Management", read up on a topic called "mitigation" as well. No offense, but you should really be better informed on this topic before you start blasting away.

    I don't even understand what you're trying to say here. All I can say is that that the land scams were more than a failure financially; the planning failures I noted are well-noted by those in our profession.
    Here I am defending deregulation and free enterprise and I get labelled a communist. Strange times. I'm not sure on what ground you criticize me for stating how things should be as the whole argument over zoning is whether or not it should be done. Things work with zoning in the real world you say? We already knew that. Is that a good thing? You have yet to make your argument, so I'm asking you again: what are you going to do to fix the mistakes that occurred there? Is zoning going to help you accomplish that or prevent you from acting?

  16. #16
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 1998
    Location
    On the Mother River
    Posts
    4,598
    Quote Originally posted by jaws
    Developers demanding zoning rights isn't an example of the market demanding zoning. Zoning is a set of laws, and laws don't come out of the market. It is in fact the opposite, markets are established by laws.


    Did you miss this in the OP or just choose to ignore it?


    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    First, if conventional zoning is the problem, why is development in unregulated and essentially unregulated communities the same as in those with zoning?
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  17. #17
    Quote Originally posted by giff57
    Did you miss this in the OP or just choose to ignore it?
    It isn't true. There is plenty of development done that is different outside of zoned communities. The increasingly popular new urbanist developments are the one major counterexample to that claim. Change doesn't happen instantaneously. The important thing is that without zoning the new kind of development can challenge the old one in the marketplace until it becomes obvious which one is superior. That some developers choose to continue the old practices with or without zoning is nothing surprising. The old system is familiar, standardized and believed to be low-risk. However for a new, better system to take its place someone must take that risk and face the possibility of failure. With zoning taking such a risk is impossible. One size fits all, for ever and always.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2002
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    3,729
    When Duany and crowd say "thow away your zoning codes" the advise makes a lot more sense in dense urban areas than it does in most other parts of the country. Urban areas need the flexibility to adapt and redevelop easily. What New Urbanist preachers don't see too clearly is that about 1/3 of people in the country live in suburban communities which try to balance new development with environmental preservation. Throwing out the baby with the bath water in these places would ruin lots of commuinties real fast as places get overrun with development that can't be supported with adequate infrastructure. More common sense is needed that would protect the environment without being a slave to artificial constraints like 300' frontage requirements.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
    Registered
    Apr 2003
    Location
    Packing to move out of the icebox.
    Posts
    13,539
    Quote Originally posted by Seabishop
    When Duany and crowd say "thow away your zoning codes" the advise makes a lot more sense in dense urban areas than it does in most other parts of the country. Urban areas need the flexibility to adapt and redevelop easily. What New Urbanist preachers don't see too clearly is that about 1/3 of people in the country live in suburban communities which try to balance new development with environmental preservation. Throwing out the baby with the bath water in these places would ruin lots of commuinties real fast as places get overrun with development that can't be supported with adequate infrastructure. More common sense is needed that would protect the environment without being a slave to artificial constraints like 300' frontage requirements.
    I think that is a common misunderstanding with the idea of Form Based Codes. Currently most zoning codes in America look very similar in many regards. One of the things about FBC is that they are not only community specific, but neighborhood specific. There is no “Set” requirement for setbacks, required lot frontages, or anything else for that matter.

    Another think that I have noticed is many municipalities will zoning codes that change at the center line of the road. With FBC they would match up with the rear property lines, preserving the characteristic of the street.

    Form Based Codes seem to be a good balance between current zoning and new urbanism. They can regulate any aspect that you would need with just about any requirements that you could want.
    "A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. Time makes more converts than reason." - Thomas Paine Common Sense.

  20. #20
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
    Registered
    May 2003
    Location
    Staff meeting
    Posts
    8,836
    I am intrigued by the connections you make between the preference for "conventional" zoning and reversal of performance zoning.

    I understand the predictably that is inherent in most zoing codes and what effect that has on land/development "value". It is interesting that some communities have repealed performance zoing because there wasn't enough predictably in the value of the land to make the developers/financiers satisfied (If I am correct in your asseration). I get realtors and developers calling all the time asking about the "potential" for certain pieces of properties. Though I would assert, with little more than historical presumption, that land/development had a distinct "value" prior to institution of land use controls and development did occur, but I do understand that land markets are relatively more stable with the land use controls and consequent predictability, therefore, I may be answering my own question, though.

    I believe a plurality of the content of the conventional zoning codes I have worked with should have been revised or dismantled, but far from all of it.

    Though, Lee, I have difficulty with your "shaded garden" example. I think that was a bit heavy handed and misleading, because the garden owners were previously enjoying a "good" for free, and the parameters changed without their control. Although you state that they live in an unregulated area, it wouldn't matter even with typical suburban setbacks, which in my experience would still have put the garden in shade.

    I do think that use lists should be substantially changed and function more on a performance-based manner than simple names of different forms of businesses. Though I do see how performance based codes for bulk and density could be problematic.
    Last edited by mendelman; 18 Jul 2005 at 11:46 AM.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

+ Reply to thread

More at Cyburbia

  1. Replies: 10
    Last post: 15 Apr 2012, 11:17 PM
  2. Replies: 5
    Last post: 19 Jul 2005, 1:37 PM
  3. Replies: 4
    Last post: 28 Jul 2004, 12:03 AM
  4. Replies: 18
    Last post: 10 Jul 2003, 10:57 PM