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land use

Last night I went to a panel discussion on land use hosted by Imagine Austin. The city is planning to revise/rewrite our zoning/land use regulations now that we've adopted a comprehensive plan. There were panelists from Raleigh, Denver, Madison, and Dallas. Here are the general themes that I remember coming up:


Codes get added onto and become overly complicated and hard to navigate. Revising the code can be a good way to simplify it and make it more accessible.

oning might make sense in the city while another kind of zoning makes sense in the suburbs.</p>

Inclusionary zoning (ie, mandating a certain amount of affordable housing) is illegal in some states, but revisions in the zoning code can eliminate barriers. Denver has eliminated minimum parking regulations for senior and low-income housing, figuring that residents often won't own cars anyhow. Also eliminated a 600 sq ft minimum dwelling size.


Denver has never had minimum parking requirements downtown, and things have always worked fine, according to the planner who was there.


General planning issues can come up in a zoning discussion, and zoning might not be the right place to address them--it may not make sense to write regulations around solar access for buildings if there is no policy anywhere else intended to address it. Some cities have created a "parking lot" for these kinds of things where the decision is made not to address them as part of the land use discussion while it might be worthwhile to consider them in some other context.


Young people often can't/don't want to drive, and seniors often can't drive, so it should be possible to get around a city without having a car.


If you say "no" to something, then you're saying "yes" to something else. If you say no to rentals, then you're saying "we're not sure that we want you here" to young people and seniors. (I think that this applies to a lot of kinds of policy decisions.)

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July 2014

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