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I need information on zoning for a discussion

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Sarah Posted: Tue, May 4 2010 5:43 PM

The other day I read the Anti-zoning article and now I am in the middle of a discussion  on whether or not is would be possible to have a zoning free area that is also safe (in both developed and less developed countries). I don't know a whole lot about zoning and am in need of some empirical examples. Does anyone know of any links that might help me?

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gocrew replied on Tue, May 4 2010 10:45 PM

The city of Houston is almost zoning-law free, as I understand it.

Zoning really isn't used to make people safe, it just gives politicians the ability to control aspects of development, as well as reward friends and harm enemies.  Developers will be much better at pleasing customers, and centrally controlling something like the growth of a town or city would stop the creative market process from going to work.

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Here is one that was on the front page of Mises in late April. I found it insightful as I am ignorant when it comes to zoning laws and how they can  be destructive.

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Digging up an old thread:

Most zoning plans were intended to protect a certain type of development and hamper others--the quixotic "Garden City" ideal-- that protects from congestion, overcrowding, noise, tenement housing, moral turpitude, factories belching smoke from soft coal, and foul odors. However, like all central planning, this busy-body ideal has resulted in producing the opposite of every one of its goals. 

When zoning came under fire in the 1920s, the Supreme Court ruled that there was sufficient governmental interest in maintaining the legislature’s right to decide the land’s designation as a rational interest of the public’s health and safety.  The Supreme Court held that the zoning ordinance was not an unreasonable extension of the state's police power and did not have the character of arbitrary fiat, and thus it was not unconstitutional. Individual property rights were not even considered.

In the 1920s, architects and politicians shared a common certitude that rational planning was actually possible and an optimistic belief that planning bodies could control the shortsighted and uncoordinated decisions of individual landowners which had resulted in "ugly and chaotic cities". The main issue many people have with zoning emanates from this assertion. The "chaos" part can easily be disproven. Although most people will initially scoff at the notion of "spontaneous order", it can be restated as an explanation of market stimuli--business and social interactions will take their environment in stride and find a way to thrive if there is no interference.  

The argument about esthetics, however, I find slightly different. Although this argument is assuredly facile, I think it is not completely without merit. On one hand, there is a persuasion that the true beauty of cities comes from the spontaneous intricacies that could not have been planned by a central authority. On the other hand, centrally planned cities can sometimes be both functional (I think...) and incredibly beautiful, like Barcelona (google an image of Barcelona from above) and other European cities. Of course, trammeling on private property rights in the name of creating a symmetrical and architecturally proficient city is a no-brainer.

Still, where do you think urban beauty comes from?

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Jargon replied on Thu, Mar 7 2013 3:11 PM

Libertarians ought to consider that a democratized world (and a free market is a true democratization of society, wherein the demands of the masses are heeded) is an uglier world. The beautiful palaces of Vienna, Warszaw, Paris and Moscow were forged on the bloodwhipped backs of serfs. And the hideous modern architecture of today is produced by the cost calculations of entrepeneurs, as well as the new school of modern architecture.

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The Anarch is to the Anarchist what the Monarch is to the Monarchist. -Ernst Jünger

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