Happy 85th Birthday, Zoning

Let's see, we'll put the single family homes over here away from the commercial districts

The Urban Land Institute has reminded us that zoning law turns 85 this year; the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of local zoning law in 1926 with Euclid v. Ambler Realty.   Envision Minnesota juxtaposed Zoning at 85 with We need more zoning and asks “More zoning or no zoning?” but they got the question wrong since both articles favor more land use planning, but less emphasis on traditional zoning (no matter what the titles may read).

Zoning is an extremely blunt instrument – Euclidian zoning the bluntest of all since it does not attempt to regulate the relationship of buildings to one another and doesn’t usually reflect much in the way of community character or encourage innovation, but is primarily a government tool to prevent nuisances.  Form-based codes are slightly sharper by planning and regulating the physical shape and the relationships among buildings and to the street.

But the articles above (and many others) are starting to get beyond zoning and city planning to placemaking, a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces.

But placemaking is not like more zoning or more top-down city planning.  We don’t need more zoning-like regulations, we need fewer.  Rather placemaking is bottom-up, grass-roots community building with an emphasis on improving the spaces we all share, like streets, parks, and public places.  Government’s role is to enable private groups to shape the vision and do the work.

If placemaking becomes the new model for development, will zoning live to be 100?