“As land use planning changes, ‘zoning’ is no longer appropriate”

If you’ve read anything in this blog yet, you’ve quickly discovered that we’re not big fans of “Zoning”, legislating land use based on function or use, and then only single-use at that.

Zoning Map of RLB's "Central Commercial" area...

Zoning Map of RLB’s “Central Commercial” area…

Fortunately, there is a rapidly-spreading awareness of everything we’ve lost, the inefficiencies we’ve built-in to our environment, and all the resources we’ve wasted over the years by substituting zoning for actual planning. Suburban denizens expecially have been aware for decades that something about the design and arrangement of their villages wasn’t quite right, but didn’t even have the vocabulary to describe the problem.

Now, thanks for the maturing discipline of “Sprawl Repair“, we know not only what is wrong but have a proven toolbox of techniques to fix it.

This article by Roger K. Lewis (a practicing architect and a professor emeritus of architecture at the University of Maryland) examines this need for the shift away from “modern” zoning and the many benefits of doing so.

“Principles and methods of land use planning, transportation, regulation and real estate development are changing, as are demographics and social norms. Zoning conventions are no longer conventional.

Fortunately, mixed-use development is at last beginning to supersede single-use development, especially to make new or revitalized areas more walkable. No one proposes building factories in the middle of residential neighborhoods. But today’s master plans, despite current zoning, increasingly envision communities that encompass not only diverse housing types but also retail shops and stores, restaurants, offices, cultural destinations and recreational facilities.

Linked to density are increased building heights in appropriate locations and on sites that make urban design and architectural sense. Places exist in cities, towns and suburbs where higher buildings can become iconic landmarks, better enclose civic spaces, take advantage of favorable views and topography and contribute to activating streetscapes. Owing to greater tax receipts, higher buildings and denser development also yield fiscal benefits.

Zoning usually requires parking to serve each discrete use as if each use stood alone. But differences in parking demand timing can lower parking needs. At night, residents can park in empty spaces designated for retail and office during the day. During weekdays when retail and office parking demand is high, as is retail weekend demand, many residents are away. Thus, in the aggregate, some spaces can serve double duty.

Dropping the word “zoning” necessitates using an alternative vocabulary. It’s time to talk less about zoning restrictions and limits and more about visionary plans, urban design goals and architectural aspirations.”

Link to entire Washington Post article: As land use planning changes, ‘zoning’ is no longer appropriate”

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This entry was posted in Bicycling, Economics, Planning, Transit, Walkability. Bookmark the permalink.

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