Re: Is zoning the root of all evil?
From: Tim Mensch (
Date: Thu, 29 May 2008 20:02:01 -0700 (PDT)
Brian Bartholomew wrote:
Tim Mensch <tim-coho-l [at]> writes:

> 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.
Actually, near the refineries in Martinez, CA, there are several "emergencies" a year where large residential neighborhoods are exposed to toxic chemical releases, or smoke from uncontrolled fires, or what have you. So the problem I'm talking about isn't hypothetical.
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.
UMmm... Sanitation is a real concern. Increased crime is also: simply having an area look less nice actually raises the chance of random vandalism. A single broken window invites more broken windows. And shabby housing next door messes up my property values. Period--no oil refinery necessary.
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?
That's a strawman argument. The religion they practice doesn't affect my property values unless the only people who I can find to buy my house are extreme (for this day and age) bigots. Maybe areas with that concentration of bigots exist, but I would hope not--and I tend to not live in them.
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.
Cities don't want to look shabby either. Can't hardly blame them. There are areas where mobile homes can be used in most cities I'm familiar with. Sorry, but I still have to side with the cities here.
> 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".
I think that zoning is here, and won't go away, no matter how much you complain about it. So the objective is to work within the constraints you're given. One option is to live outside of a major city--I suggested one location where you could buy a piece of land for $5000 and put a trailer on it. If you don't like that location, then you need to be clever and find a way to achieve what you want within the constraints of the laws in the area you need to deal with.

No one on this list has the power to make zoning go away, so complaining about it here is pointless. It's much more interesting to talk about solutions than failures.

Tim Mensch

Currently at Wild Sage (Boulder, CO):

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