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Dear Thayer -

Regulation of what is built makes sense when A. whats built has externalities and B. Those externalities have a larger cost than the costs due to the zoning.

The classic types of urban zoning are on use - seperating industrial - commercial -residential - etc. And on density - floor area ratio restrictions. The former are justified because of the impacts of uses on each other - idnustrial and heavy commercial impacting negatively on residential mostly. Density is because of the impacts of high density residential on lower density areas - and the classic response is to A. Preserve existing neighborhood form in built up areas and to enable a mix of different neighborhoods in new areas.

On mix - despite a case that some kinds of residential, and some kinds of industrial mix well (the Jane Jacobs discussion of lower Manhattan, I guess) most of us are okay with seperation of industrial and residential by zoning. We have learned a great deal about the costs of over seperating commercial and residential. I would suggest its strongly the case that those uses are overly seperated in the USA today in general, in DC, and in DC's suburbs.

As for density, the maintenance of low density character in built up areas, often goes overboard - not allowing higher density in defined corridors along busier roads, ignoring existing dense buildings when looking at neighborhood charecte, etc. In the suburbs zoning of vacant land has often without logic - too little high density, and that not colocated with transit and employment.

Additionally there are zoning limits that impact placement of a house on a lot - thats the stuff that DPZ etc have critiqued.

Its quite possible to accept zoning in principle, while wanting zoning that is both freer, and more reflective of urbanist principles.

But I zoning is not the only form of supply limitation. There are process issues as well. And in many parts of the metro area inadequate transit or bike/ped provision, or streetscape/public space issues that needlessly limit the supply of WUPs (and the corrections do not necessarily have to be a massive construction of new rail facilities, which is probably not feasible) And, as many have pointed out, reducing crime and improving schools would probably make possible the building of dense WUPS at those metro stations that are not yet in the process of development - notably those EOTR and in PG county. I do not disagree with that approach, but dont think it can be the only one.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 20, 2012 9:18 am • linkreport

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