Re: Is zoning the root of all evil?
From: Brian Bartholomew (
Date: Thu, 29 May 2008 17:27:13 -0700 (PDT)
Tim Mensch <tim-coho-l [at]> writes:

> Even in Houston, where there are no zoning laws, individual
> subdivisions have deed restrictions to protect the value of the
> people who buy in.

Houston has zoning, they just call it "land use regulations", "parking
regulations", "city code", "street design rules", "development
controls", "legal covenants", "block designs", etc.  Same thing.


> Would you want to move into a neighborhood only to discover that
> they were going to put in an oil refinery across the street, because
> there weren't zoning laws to restrict where they could build?

I think there's a bait-and-switch in this line of argument.

BAIT: A problem with siting an oil refinery next to housing is that
the factory can explode and/or poison the neighbors, who did not agree
to accept that risk.  However, the substantial risk of such an event
is already illegal via laws like reckless endangerment, negligent
homicide, 3rd degree murder, etc.

SWITCH: tents, camping trailers, and other less fancy housing doesn't
explode or poison the neighbors.  The life safety objection raised to
the bait doesn't apply to the switch.  Oil refineries are a red
herring when we're talking about laws against camping trailers.


> But frankly, I also support the idea of zoning: I wouldn't want to
> live next to an evolving campground, for fear that it didn't evolve,
> or at least didn't evolve fast enough at a point when I needed to
> sell. And yes, I'd also worry about property values, even after
> everything is built--you know what they say: "Don't own the most
> expensive house on the block."

Suppose if what lowered your resale price was not your neighbor's
unpopular tent, but his unpopular religion?  We have freedom of
religion, mostly.  Why don't we have freedom of housing?


> But as Jessie mentioned in this thread, it's bad zoning laws and
> inflexible implementation strategies that are the problem, not the
> concept of zoning.

I believe every one of 30,000 US cities ban a park model travel trailer
(designed for permanent sewer connection) on an urban infill lot.
With a record like that, the claim that every single one of 30,000
zoning codes is merely a poor implementation seems undefendable.


> If you don't like the laws in cities, then live somewhere else.

I think urban-ish zoning that de facto mandates a minimum house cost
is the modern version of "Let them eat cake".

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