Tag Archives: zoning

Bill Would Eliminate San Francisco Zoning

California state senator Scott Wiener, who represents San Francisco, has introduced Senate Bill 827, which would effectively void all local zoning rules in “transit-rich” areas, meaning areas within a half mile of a rail station or a quarter mile of a stop on a frequent bus route. Wiener’s goal is to allow the construction of high-density housing in those transit-rich areas, thus simultaneously providing more affordable housing and encouraging more people to ride transit.

This bill would severely disrupt neighborhoods throughout San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and many other cities that currently have frequent transit service, as maps reveal that it would virtually eliminate zoning in most of the land area of those cities. While some people consider zoning to be an unfair (and possibly unconstitutional) restriction of property rights, most people who live in zoned urban neighborhoods appreciate the benefits of such zoning. By limiting the maximum density of housing, zoning minimizes traffic congestion, noise, and other problems.

Moreover, neighborhoods are built with streets, water, sewer, and other infrastructure to serve the needs of the density at which the neighborhoods were built. Major increases in density would require expensive improvements to water and sewer infrastructure–far more expensive than building new infrastructure on greenfields–and streets probably could not be redesigned to accommodate the density increases in any case. Continue reading


The Antiplanner’s Library: Zoned in the USA

A review of this 2014 book on Amazon says, “Hirt explains that in the early 20th century, pro-zoning interests argued that zoning was a means of increasing homeowners’ property values and excluding lower socio-economic classes.” Since that’s not far from one of the conclusions of American Nightmare, I was intrigued to see if she followed the same line of reasoning as the Antiplanner or reached that conclusion from a different direction.

Click image to go to the book publisher’s web page for this book. Click the link above (“2014 book”) to buy this book from Abehbooks.com.

It turns out the reviewer was wrong; Hirt briefly quotes others who argue that zoning “serves as a local immigration law that protects the rich from the poor” (p. 45), but it is hardly the focus of her book. Instead, her main question as an immigrant from eastern Europe herself is: why do Americans zone for such low densities and a separation of residential from other uses when Europeans seem perfectly happy living above stores and across the street from amusement parks? She also correctly observes that, relative to the rest of the developed world, Americans have moderate homeownership rates but high rates of single-family detached housing (p. 20), and wonders why this is the case as well.

Continue reading