If you’re nostalgic for the past, give it up. We’re not going back. We must start with what has been given us and figure out what to do with it.
Whereas the late 20th century saw a wave of efforts to “downzone” urban neighborhoods, limiting the possibility of change and redevelopment, today the momentum is firmly on the side of upzoning advocates. And the fire fueling this trend is unquestionably a widespread sense of alarm about the high cost of housing.
Most Americans have never lived in a time when “the inner city” wasn’t a locus of poverty, physical blight, and social disintegration. Yet many of us fail to grasp the extent to which public policy had its thumb on the scale from the start in creating those conditions.
Our systems of planning and permitting too often give large developers an unfair advantage over local builders. And one little-discussed planning concept does a lot to explain why.
Mid-size regions like Kansas City don’t have the affordability struggles of, say, a fast-growing Denver or Seattle: they have their own unique challenges instead. Here’s how the “natural” affordability of homes in these places can be turned into an opportunity for an urban renaissance.
If a local resident or business owner with a high school diploma can’t sit down and figure out what she can and cannot do with her property in less than an hour, the zoning regime is exclusionary. Here are five guidelines for making it more accessible to laypeople.
Professional planners are trained to yearn for tighter urban design controls, as if cities without comprehensive, top-down planning would devolve into chaos and disorder. In reality, cities evolve according to mechanisms that allow us to gradually discover optimal urban design across time.
Historically, a decentralized, trial-and-error process was how cities “discovered” which urban design features worked best for their own circumstances. Let’s look at the evolution of front setbacks in New York to understand how this works.
Most cities’ zoning and development regulations obsess over things that are easy to measure, like building height and density, at the expense of the things that actually determine whether we’re building quality places.
Why is your city dotted with vacant lots? Probably because it’s functionally illegal to build on them.
These 5 steps will help you test the development potential in your town.
"A History of Zoning" (3-part series)
At Strong Towns, we talk a lot about zoning. Most people have a vague idea what it is, but where did it come from? Why do we do it? In this three-part series we examine the history of zoning, its growth throughout the last century, and its implications for building strong towns today.
Cities are complex…which means that our regulations shouldn’t be.
In this series, Strong Towns member and contributor Alexander Dukes proposes a design concept for redeveloping a neighborhood in his college town of Auburn, Alabama. We hope it serves as valuable inspiration when thinking about design options for your own neighborhood.
Chuck Marohn talks with Nolan Gray about his new book, in which he shows why zoning reform is necessary for building stronger towns and cities.