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idle musing: why do we zone so strictly?

simulcra

Member
Messages
127
Points
6
it seems to me like it's contrary to the organic nature of city growth.

i mean, if a neighborhood has developped to the point where it can support a healthy local commercial economy (whether offices or like eateries) and market trends point to that being a highly desirable trend, then city planning seems like it's suppressing natural growth and the ability for a neighborhood to mature into something more than just a neighborhood.

i suppose it's a Bad Thing(tm) if a waste treatment plant opens up right next to some luxury condos, but is it a same bad thing if an entrepreneur converts a residential lot into a small pizzeria?

plus, isn't designating "downtown" with specific borders kinda damaging? psychologically, isn't this sort of like a segregation of economy and growth? as in, "we're downtown. we're hip. but if you're located south of pratt st., then you're not in downtown, and you're not hip. doof." plus, as in say austin/chicago's zoning, downtown has this huge massive zone something like CBD or DMU (which in Austin basically mean anything goes, yay), but this is all landlocked by huge swaths of single use zoning, keeping any mixed-use, potentially transit-oriented growth within arbitrary boundaries.

long point short: maybe dont't let the market swing all the way, but don't try and control so much? after all, it seems that the best neighborhoods tend to have mixed-use within or nearby, and it seems hard for me to picture that planners regularly, when working on remapping or something, anticipate market forces and can properly zone land in an adequate fashion.
 

tsc

Cyburbian
Messages
1,905
Points
23
Solipsa said:
i suppose it's a Bad Thing(tm) if a waste treatment plant opens up right next to some luxury condos, but is it a same bad thing if an entrepreneur converts a residential lot into a small pizzeria?
In some areas,,, definately yes. The Pizza Place will have a dumpster.... lit parking lot.... a lit sign.... people hanging out in groves (if the pizza is any good), lots of pavement... lotsa traffic... delivery trucks.... it would certainly diminish the quality of life for the residents that live nearby.
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
13,887
Points
56
Re: Re: idle musing: why do we zone so strictly?

ts corbitt said:
In some areas,,, definately yes. The Pizza Place will have a dumpster.... lit parking lot.... a lit sign.... people hanging out in groves (if the pizza is any good), lots of pavement... lotsa traffic... delivery trucks.... it would certainly diminish the quality of life for the residents that live nearby.
This is assuming that the pizza place "must" have a parking lot, and "must" have car traffic to be viable. yes, the place will have a dumpster, but don't residences also have trash cans outside all the time too?
 

boiker

Cyburbian
Messages
3,889
Points
26
Re: Re: Re: idle musing: why do we zone so strictly?

A nearby parking lot could be a benefit to a resident who has family get togethers and no on street parking too :)

you can grab a bite to eat without having to drive. you could have 1 or 10 drinks and walk home.

A lot of activity in the nearby area may reduce the probability of property crime to your home.

An adjacent lit parking lot would shed some light onto your property eliminating additional security concerns. Don't residents like to have lots of street lights for the same reason?

Delvieries usually occur when your at work, during the 8-10am period.

I used to live next to a brake shop and the only infrequent impact to me was a garbage truck once a week at 6:30am. It made a good alarm clock.

Oh ya.. a nearby commercial dumpster comes in handy when you have large items to dispose of :)
 

Seabishop

Cyburbian
Messages
3,838
Points
25
In general, I think most communities probably zone too strictly. Its gone from protecting children from tanneries to protecting your property values from "renters." But, I think auto-dependency is what makes uses less compatible than they were in the good ol' days. Living next to a bakery in the 1920's got you foot traffic, and the smells of bread and maybe garbage. Living next to Dunkin Donuts in the suburbs gets you auto traffic, drive through backups, a dumpster, and a giant sign. The effect is less pronounced urban areas where more customers can walk or take transit. Commercial uses have also grown from family businesses to big boxes that are incompatable with any neighborhood.
 

Zoning Goddess

Cyburbian
Messages
13,852
Points
39
My beef is having too many zoning districts, which seems to be due to morons who think any little aberration is gonna "decrease my property values" (god, they're so obnoxious). Anyway, having vented a little... I formerly worked for a county that had 3 residential zoning districts. The county I'm in now has maybe 15. Seems that every time there was a zoning case seeking slightly smaller lots next to an established neighborhood, the County Commission would create another intermediate district, so we end up with districts where the minimum lot sizes are only 1,000 s.f. smaller and 5 feet narrower than the subdivision next door.

Then we have a mathematical formula that takes hours and hours to run, to determine compatibility between the proposed zoning, and zoning in the area. Quite often, just to distinguish between 2 potential zoning districts that are almost identical. It's idiotic.
 

tsc

Cyburbian
Messages
1,905
Points
23
It really depends if you are in the burbs, city, or rural.... the whole point of home rule...(which is very strong in New York State)

I didn't say it would have... but that it could parking lots..etc... depending on the area. Of course in Manhattan you wouldn't... but 30 miles out in the burbs... it would.

.. and a pizza place generates a heck of a lot more trash than a residence.

I think there are extremes.. but I would never move into an area if there wasn't the strictest of zoning.... I was an Zoning Administer for 9 years... in a struggling area... heard it all.. but it still doesn't change my mind. I wouldn't want some one to pave their lawn and sell cars next to my house....

I am pround to be a NIMBY
 
Messages
148
Points
6
Has anyone had any experience with doing away with zoning and establishing performance standards instead? Ie: decibels emitted shall not exceed 35dBa, particulates shall not exceed such a level and so on... It seems to me that establishing the standards that would allow for mixed-use to occur without harmful impact might allow for blending. You could have a hairdresser next door and have no problems with them, meanwhile an industrial software developer could be setting up shop on the other side of you, with you none the wiser.

Perhaps this could only really work in inner-city cores to allow industry, commercial and residential to flow together, but I can't see any reason why it couldn't be useful in the suburbs as well to allow some home-based entrepreneurial business to develop.
 

BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,463
Points
29
alleycat

To a certain extent, I think a performance standard land use system would be "better"-for the reasons given (although our zoning code would allow some of your uses as a home occupation with limited (8 per day) customer visits anyway).

Zoning districts are a somewhat crude system, as are many of the development regulations.

However, such a system would be difficult to administer and provides less certainty to property owners about what they can do with their property.

Plust, many people today, especially suburbanites, have fully bought into Euclidean separation of uses. It ain't just the commie planners imposing separation of land uses-the residents usually don't want ANYTHING other than more single family homes next to them (preferrably more expensive ones at that.)

Even cities without zoning like Houston have very stringent private codes in wealthier areas to provide this certainty.
 
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