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North American vs. Japanese zoning (devonzuegel.com)
224 points by oftenwrong 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 320 comments



Somewhat tangential: One of the things I was most disappointed in when visiting Japan was discovering (at least in Tokyo, Kyoto etc.) that they don't really seem to have the concept of a public green space as it exists in Europe.

Instead most of these parks have fences around the grass, and you're not allowed to lie down there and hang out. Some are also "temples" and have guards that'll yell at you if you even sit down out of the way on some stairs for a second.

I live in Amsterdam, and in general I'd much prefer living in a smaller house with no yard of my own if there's a big park nearby, but in Japan I'm not so sure. If I can't use the park for anything worthwhile (lie in the sun, have a BBQ etc.) I'd rather just live in an American-style suburb with my own small yard.


There are plenty of parks in Japan where people hang out, lay in the grass, play instruments, practice their lines, drink socially, enjoy their lunch, walk their dogs, go for runs, etc.

I suspect what is a park and what isn't might not be easy to tell as a tourist. If you are trying to lounge in something that isn't technically a park, there's a good chance it won't be received well.

That being said, in Tokyo, most of the central public parks are packed during the weekends. Tokyo could definitely use a lot more, imho.


I'm not familiar with public green spaces in Europe, but there are definitely traditional parks all over Japan. In one place I lived, there was a sizeable park with a nice walking path through the woods just off the train into the city; it was always nice to look out the window and and see all the families hanging out there on the way into town. Where I studied abroad, there was an open park that regularly had town events, but more notably had beer vending machines, so it was always full of loud foreign college students; there was a quieter one with hills and trees where locals walked their dogs a little further away. Osaka castle park also has a lot of grassy area to just hang out; everyone goes to picnic (read: drink) there when the cherry blossoms are blooming. Parks did seem a little more sparse in Tokyo.

Edit: Here's one of those parks: https://www.hamamatsu-pippi.net/docs/2014030700074/


RE: the stairs, sitting on stairs anywhere is sort of bad manners in Japan (considered to be rude), but in most places it would be excused, especially for a visitor who doesn't know better; temples are a different story though. Same thing for sitting directly on the ground IIRC?

Source: https://www.amazon.com/Amys-Guide-Best-Behavior-Japan/dp/161...


Grass just doesn't grow as well in East Asia as it does in much of Europe and North America. Something about the climate or soil type, I'm not sure. If you want pretty grass in Japan, you have to keep people off it. I suggest looking up at the beautiful trees instead.


Strange, I just came back from a trip to Japan and didn't really notice this. In fact I was surprised at how packed the parks were with families in tents on the grass. Maybe it is just Tokyo, since I didn't visit any parks there besides Ueno.


Shinjuku Gyoemmae in Tokyo had lots of grass and people sitting on it including from what I can tell Japanese people. Hiroshima has green areas along the rivers complete with park benches. Kyoto has Arashiyama but that is on the outskirts of the city. That has beautiful walking paths and benches. What I didn't see is people sunbathing. That doesn't seem to be a thing like it is in Europe.


One of my fond memories I have from a trip to Japan is sitting on the grass in a park in Tokyo and sipping on green tea acquired from a nearby vending machine.


I find these types of articles invigorating and demoralizing at the same time. I think the reason why, and something I've thought about a lot lately, is: what would it actually take to do something like this? It'd probably involve a series of steps like this to do _exactly_ this:

* Decide to run for office

* Raise an enormous amount of money, somehow without indebting yourself to private interests

* Convince a large amount of people to vote you into office

* Bring to bear an enormous amount of political capital to convince other people to enact these changes

That involves no small amount of luck and personal charisma. I probably have none of these things, so that leaves me out.

There are other methods that are potentially easier (the one that comes to mind is effectively paying off an incumbent politician), but I'd roughly guess that there's only a 40-60% chance to get the outcome you want. Even easier actions, like calling your representatives, I'd peg at 2-5% expected value. Voting is <0.1%.

Are these really our only options? Am I thinking about this problem wrong? Is this just the great struggle of human governance we've been trying to solve for millenia?


A real problem is that public service is underpaid. I live in a state with a part time legislature that is paid $27k/year. I'm never going to run for office and derail my life by earning next to nothing and being co-mingled into a system I find full of corrupt and detestable people.

America has a perverse relationship with politics, politicians, and governance. Politicians do some of the most important work possible in our society, but by underpaying you only attract certain types of people. Either those just hungry for power, using office as a stepping stone to wealth. Or those already wealthy looking to maintain existing structures and protect their wealth.

I don't mean to sound flippant. Our system of government is an evolved process settled on over millennia. It's really close to some local maximum.

My gripes are mostly centered around complaining that we "all know" there are obvious problems with the system but there isn't some obvious "continuous" path of from here to a better system.

If I were benevolent dictator I'd like to see something like futarchy. And even while saying that I'm not sure if it just appeals to my hyper rationalism or if it's genuinely better. I assume current legislator suffer from this same bias on all kinds of issues.


It's true; here in San Francisco, the annual city budget is $11B, and each of the 11 members of the Board of Supervisors makes $110,000 a year (which sounds like a lot until you find out that thanks to our housing shortage, HUD defines the local "low-income" threshold as $117,400).

The 11 supervisors are the equivalent of senior executives. How much do you think a senior executive of a company with $11B revenue gets paid?

As a result, we get supervisors like Aaron Peskin (who's a landlord on the side and pushes civic policy that obstructs the creation of new apartments) or Chris Daly (basically a clown).


it's $117,400 for the family of 4


You don't think a city supervisor should be able to support a family of 4 without being classified as low income?


I live in a state with a part time legislature that is paid $27k/year.

If it's part time I expect most of them have a full time job on the side?

Similar to NH. A ton of reps that don't meet all that often. Everyone has a day job.


Depends on where you are. My nearest major city council has a member that gets paid just shy of 100k a year and misses roughly a third of the meetings. Great job if you can get it.


Frankly, running for office is the worst way to effect change of this sort.

Zoning isn't really driven by politicians in most polities in the US as it is the public who firmly believe their NIMBY-ism is necessary to protect their children, property values, and way of life (although not necessarily in that order of priorities). The local planning boards and town councils are mostly responding to whatever signals they receive from their constituents.

If you want to change things, you need to change public opinion. The best case scenario of jumping to the top with some sort of majority cabal and changing things against public opinion is that you'll be voted out in the next cycle and all of your changes undone.

Instead of campaigning for public office, you should start a campaign to inform the public with concrete, incremental, individual proposals for changes to zoning and explain how those proposals will increase property values, protect children, and improve the quality of life in a way consistent with people's desires.

If you succeed, whoever is currently in office will happily put your proposals into practice as a feather in their own cap.

And if you can't convince a majority of the people in your community, well, should your desires and opinions have priority over theirs?


Most decisions in life do not require a permit or discretionary review from one’s neighbors. The level of deference to community opinions and desires that we require of building projects is unique and probably excessive. Curtailing individual freedom to this extent should be done to protect people from real harm, not shadows.


Litigation has historically been an option when public opinion isn’t on your side. I dream of anti-NIMBY impact litigation, but haven’t figured out a good legal theory yet!


In The SF Bay Area Sonja Trauss, SFYIMBY and friends actually did bring a lawsuit against the suburb of Lafayette for housing development. https://youtu.be/91g6N_JNnQE

They also established a legal agency for doing exactly that: https://www.carlaef.org/

I wonder if this kind of thing will happen more often for other urban policy related things!


Thank you for the link--this is amazing.


I don't think even luck and charisma would make a difference. Humans just don't deal with change well, and "you're going to change the character of my neighborhood" is going to make a large subset of any neighborhood violently angry.

Look at the backlash over 'gentrification'. No, we like our squalor just the way it is!

What we really need to do is force every resident abroad for a year so that they can see the alternative to "life as I've always know it".


> Look at the backlash over 'gentrification'. No, we like our squalor just the way it is!

This is highly dismissive of all the actual and legitimate problems gentrification has.


Which are? There was a recent study which showed low income people in gentrifying neighborhoods don't move any more frequently than low income people do generally. And for those who actually own property, they get a huge windfall.


A 'huge windfall' of sorts - they can sell their property for much more than they paid, but they may not be able to stay in the neighborhood, because their property taxes will have grown proportionately.


Are we supposed to care if people that get a huge windfall can't stay in their neighborhood? Like seriously, who cares? This isn't a real problem.


Because moving sucks. I hate moving and I do it a lot. And one thing I hate even more than moving is being forced to do something unpleasant through no fault of my own.


Yeah but, what rights are being violated? Less importantly, why do you expect me to care that you don't like moving? Is there a more irrelevant thing to be brought up for public policy discussions?


It is very cool and pragmatic of you not to care about the misfortunes of others. I am deeply impressed.


Getting a windfall and having to move is not a misfortune. Having to move is not a misfortune of any magnitude meriting sympathy. I don't like tying shoes. Big deal, who cares?


Boo hoo hoo you made a lot of money. You could sell some of that value to pay the property taxes, even doing a leaseback.


The property tax thing would not be true in California. Tax value is based on purchase price.


Low-middle income people get evicted. Poor families tend to not move very much -- those transition numbers don't reflect that as the hardcases are very mobile.

My city, which is basically at the median for prices nationally has a 60% home ownership rate. The poorest wards have a home ownership rate between 10-20%.


Maybe some residents benefit from gentrification, but it seems that gentrification actually speeds up housing prices.

Sources: https://journalistsresource.org/studies/economics/real-estat...


Summary: Nice houses in nice neighborhoods cost more than crappy houses in crappy neighborhoods.

This seems... reasonable.


So you're agreeing with the criticism then? Property owners get stacks of cash, rich people move in and "take over" the neighbourhood, and the "commoners" get zilch.


Owning a generally appreciating asset then selling it generates more income than renting it and leaving. That seems pretty tautologically correct, doesn't it? I don't see how stating basic economic/mathematical facts can be considered a "criticism."


There are workshops to prepare you for running for office, and it doesn't have to be all consuming.

I'd like to see more support for credentialed STEM professionals who are willing to take time out of a career to hold public office, but there are at least a couple of options out there already.

Edit: Actually, working with a think tank like Rocky Mountain Institute might be even more in line with your thinking. Let me know if you're curious and I'd be happy to make some introductions.


If a majority of the populace supports your position, you'll have a much easier (though by no means easy) time doing the above.

If a majority doesn't, then it's a feature of democracy rather than a bug that you probably won't be able to do it.

But lets assume you've identified a real winner of a platform. You don't have to start from zero to make it happen — there will be existing candidates and organizations looking to achieve the same goals as you, and you should just join those campaigns.

For example, many American cities have YIMBY clubs. Join yours and they'll have lots of great input on how you can put your finite volunteer time to effective political use.


Zoning is particularly tough as the people who would benefit most from improved cities often don't yet live there and can't vote. Thus, the agencies that regulate zoning are effectively captured by local residents who, for completely rational concerns about their uninsurable property values, push for lots of legislation designed to mitigate change.

I found chapters 6 and 7 of "The Captured Economy" by Lindsey and Teles to be the best exposition on this. They also detail a few ways one could change the system (eg. paying staffers more to attract better talent would make lobbyists jobs harder).


Quiet resignation is always an option! (I get so jealous when I go to Tokyo or Munich and see that they have a functioning society. But I'm resigned to the fact that I live in a country where the trains don't run on time, and people are just okay with it. As an immigrant to the U.S. to begin with, I can hardly complain.)


I fully support your right to complain.


even as a natural-born citizen, the fact that we accept crappy public transportation really chaps my hide. how do we (re-)instill pride in such things?


It’s an emergent cultural phenomenon. Who knows how you change it, if you even can. My complaints that my scheduled 24-minute Metro ride regularly takes 30-35 minutes are met by blank stares and “so whats?” It’s like being outraged in India or Bangladesh that you had to make a small “facilitation payment” to access some service. So what? People don’t really care, or even realize it can be different.


it certainly can be cultural. for example, as noted in another comment, the idea of sitting on, and blocking, stairs strikes japanese folks as rude (i tend to agree, even if mildly). most other cultures wouldn't give it a second thought.

i'd love to see a shift toward pride in craftsmanship (a japanese cultural value), over the pride in ownership americans seem to principally exhibit. you see a rennaisance of this in certain parts of the culture, like fancy barbershops and coffee shops. if we give esteem to bus drivers and train conductors for being on time (a form of craftsmanship), maybe we'd get better service (a tall order, i know).


These decisions are made by zoning boards. My borough's zoning board consists of:

* 3 retired people who asked or were asked to be on the zoning board * 3 vacant seats

Quorum is - you guessed it - 3.

If you live in my borough and you ask to be on the zoning board, you'll be appointed at the next council meeting. They almost never meet except when someone dies, someone new is appointed, or they need to reorganize (yearly).

Yeah there is a lot of paperwork and headache if you want to massively change the currently zoning of your area, but provided you're violating state or federal law in doing so it's not a remotely insurmountable task.


This problem is solvable, but not by a single person acting alone - we have to build a movement, and being the actual candidate in office is far from the only role. Getting sympathetic candidates elected is one of the later steps in a long process. Before that, we need lots of people working on movement building, small fights, activism, research, organizing... there's so much to be done!

I'm part of a group working on this problem in NYC. If you (or anyone else reading this) are in New York and potentially interested in helping, shoot me an email! (my HN username at gmail dot com)


Because zoning is not national (thankfully!) in the United States, you should be able to do a lot at the local level.

I don't think you'll have to raise a lot of money to do this. Typically you really only need to have the desire to do it. Hardest part is probably convincing people to vote for you.


Zoning is far too local: each municipality, acting in its own self-interest, protects its own and plans to make growth someone else’s problem. If we had zoning at a regional, state, or national level, this passing of the buck wouldn’t make sense, and those negatively affected by restrictive policy (people stuck commuting from elsewhere or simply unable to access job centers) would have some power over the decision.


If it was in the interest of each municipality to plan together for the area to grow, wouldn't that be a solid outcome much preferred to a state-level where you might be encumbered by a completely different set of interests with no interest in your growth? Townships and other inter-governmental organizations seem to handle this pretty well throughout the United States to reduce overhead and plan.


A municipality will not participate in “planning together for growth” when it does not want to grow. We have such a regional planning process in the Bay Area; the plans it makes are pure fantasy. You could have 75% support among the 9-county population that commutes to SF for more housing in SF; something like 5% as many voters could defeat them, because only San Francisco residents have a say in San Francisco policymaking.


Do something like what? Move from a local to a nationally defined zoning scheme? That's not trivial for a country of any size. But moving your local zoning from exclusionary to inclusionary is theoretically possible, specifically because the consensus required is much smaller.


A politician isn’t supposed to enact their own will. In theory all you need to do is convince the constituents or the people who pay the politician with a public media campaign.


There are a lot of YIMBY organizations and similar things popping up these days. It's a good way to get involved without doing everything yourself.


For the land of the free, some US rules are a shock to me.

Like how in many places you are not allowed to have a brown lawn, or one with taller weeds instead of grass.

> Grass or weeds taller than 8 inches is in violation of Minneapolis ordinance. If grass or weeds are taller than 8", an inspector may issue an order to the property owner giving them at least 3 days to cut it. If the violation is not corrected, inspectors may authorize a contractor to cut the grass and assess the costs and administrative fees to the owner.


>For the land of the free, some US rules are a shock to me.

A few things.

1. We are the Land of Liberty, and liberty is described by our founders as "Freedom from onerous government intrusion", not anarchy. People get hung-up on 'freedom' and don't understand that Liberty is the core American value, which is called "freedom" but which is really Liberty.

2. US Freedom is misinterpreted to mean individual freedom at all costs. US Freedom is not just individual freedom, it's local rule and local soverignity. People often don't realize that the US has a dual-sovereign system where States and the Federal government share soverignity. This is a critical factor in "freedom".

Going further, counties, towns and local governments have a lot more freedom to rule as they please than you might think. You'd think, it should all be top down federal law to ensure equity, but in reality, every county is it's own fiefdom, especially in more lax states, as it is states that reign in local governments, not the feds.

So, when you consider American liberty to mean respecting individual, local, state and federal authority, and not just individual total freedom, you can see a system designed to put lots of power in the hands of local governments, which actually creates localized zones of not-so-freedom!

After all, the US is free enough where counties and cities can enforce a lot of silly things!


> US Freedom is misinterpreted to mean individual freedom at all costs. US Freedom is not just individual freedom, it's local rule and local soverignity.

Not even that local. With the few exceptions from the Constitution, U.S. states wield supreme power and can override any actual local attempt at governing.

Freedom is freedom for the States, not the people.


> Not even that local. With the few exceptions from the Constitution

Disagree. A perfect example is the subject of the article you're commenting on - zoning laws.


Zoning power is delegated from states to municipalities, but this is not required. States can and do impose limits.


This is correct. Or was, until article 1 section 8 and the 14th amendment were reinterpreted to mean the 10th amendment de facto obsolete.

Which is crazy btw. I hear a lot of people saying "I'm not a tenther". Like, oh really, I didn't know I could own slaves again just by being "not a thirteenther"

Humans are weird.


> People often don't realize that the US has a dual-sovereign system where States and the Federal government share soverignity. This is a critical factor in "freedom".

Every complaint about the Electoral College is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of this aspect of our system of government.

Living in NYC now after 30+ years in Missouri, I'm more convinced than ever that this is a critically important check on mob rule and that the implementation of a nationwide popular vote would be a disaster for our democracy.


The Electoral College is a terrible system for trying to resist mob rule. It was never designed for such a thing and trying to backport that reason onto it is dumb bullshit.


Well, it (along with the structure of the Senate, the 3/5 rule, and other features of the Constitution) was intended to protect the institution of slavery from expected popular moves to abolish it (a role to which the slave states apparently found it inadequate by the mid 19th century). General limits on government protect against mob rule, disenfranchising particular people to overrepresent others just chooses which particular interests are favored, it doesn't protect against mob rule (it makes it easier, so long as the advantaged groups are part of the mob.)


Federalism isn’t disenfranchisement. You’re arriving at false conclusions because you’re starting with the invalid — dare I even say motivated? — premise that a system that groups votes is less fair to people who reside in larger groups.

Nobody here is actually making this case. You’re all assuming it.


> Federalism isn’t disenfranchisement.

Federalism is not.

Unequal representation is.

The former does not require the latter; the fact that the two are both present in through US system is the result of a deliberate choice to implement systematic selective disenfranchisement along with federalism, not inherent in the nature of federalism.


If I'm understanding your argument correctly, then I think you're still smuggling in an assumption about "unequal representation" that doesn't hold. It isn't inherently unfair to group votes in such a way that two groups get the same number of votes in some domain despite size differences between them. [0]

I think that's an assumption that needs argued for (and one that ignores powerful cultural, historical, geographical forces).

[0] I'm sure we could think of all kinds of situations under which people collectivize precisely because their numbers would be too small to otherwise matter. I wouldn't want to argue that such systems are in principle unfair (and I don't think you would, either).


Respectfully, the notion that the coasts, by virtue of their larger population, should set policy for smaller, more rural states is dumb bullshit.

The Electoral College isn't a perfect system, and I'm not opposed to defining a set of rules to take its place that explicitly codify its federalist intentions. It doesn't have to be the EC.

But the alternative is emphatically not a nationwide popular vote, which, again, would be an unmitigated disaster.


The question is, if you’re going to design a system where 1 person != 1 vote, how can you argue that it is in any way more fair for someone’s vote to count double (or more) simply because they have chosen to live in a sparsely populated area? Why is basing it on the local population density a good method of deciding the strength of a vote?


Because the United States is a collection of states. This piece seems to be missing from your analysis. It's not about rural vs urban. It's about being in a different state. That still matters!

An analogy:

Imagine a subdivision with 10 houses. Nine of those houses have a single person living in them. One house has a family of 15. When we go to vote on new rules in the subdivision, the unit of voting is the house. We don't let the family of 15 control the entire block.

It doesn't matter that this means those 15 people get the same vote as all the single people, because that's not the voting unit. The logical unit is the house. They can vote within their house about policy within the house, but they vote as a group on neighborhood policy.

This is federalism.

The unit is the state. Missourians combine to form a vote, just as Californians combine to form a vote, and so on. Individuals within the state vote individually on issues within the state. But they don't vote as individuals on national policy. Their votes are aggregated by the state in which they reside.

If this seems odd, it's only because modern Americans have largely stopped thinking of the United States as, well, a set of united states. But that's exactly what they are.


This is a bad analogy on so many levels:

- The direct proximity and very small population allows changes to be discussed in person and in detail. A citizen of a nation is not able to discuss changes with his/her fellow citizens and develop anything meaningful out of those discussions due to this inability.

- The types of policy changes a small block of houses would vote on is almost NIL, with maybe an exception for HOAs.

- Your're analogy doesn't consider that that house of 15 people generates 90%[1] of the GPD of the subdivision. This isn't to say votes should be based on wealth generation, but rather to remind you that there's so much wealth generation there because of the larger population, and it's in the interest of everyone to create policies that facilitate the growth of the GPD (and policies that will attract and allow intelligent people of all nationalities and backgrounds)

- A family of 15 is still two parents, who count as two votes, not 15.

[1] 15/24 = 63% --> 63% * 50(states) = 31 states. The top 31 states generates 90% of the GPD


> - A family of 15 is still two parents, who count as two votes, not 15.

As a sort of meta-point: it’s never useful to point out the ways in which analogies fail in this way. [0] You know exactly what is meant by the analogy, as does everyone else. This isn’t responsive or helpful. All analogies are leaky.

In general, I’d encourage you to try to find the ways in which an analogy may elucidate. Anybody with an ounce of motivation can note the ways in which they don’t. If you start with that motivation, you’ll succeed every time, to no particular end.

[0] All this does is send us into a back-and-forth where I shore up the analogy by specifying that the 15 are all adults, and then specifying that, yes, in this neighborhood that's allowed, and so on, until eventually we've hashed out every pointless detail of the electoral system in this fictional town.


> If this seems odd, it's only because modern Americans have largely stopped thinking of the United States as, well, a set of united states. But that's exactly what they are.

Yes, this is exactly my point. The EC comes from an earlier time when the US are instead of the US is. But that has clearly changed. Its a vestige of a different form of governance. The power of government derives from the people, not the past. How people currently view the US is how the government should operate.

So using the EC as some excuse for resistance against mob rule is not only against its original intended purpose but also against what people actually want currently. People want the US to be viewed as the identity of the country, not the individual separate countries. People want to elect the President, they don't want the States to.


Right, but I want to convince people that they're wrong to want this, which is why I'm arguing that they're wrong to want this.


In 1850, the year California became a state, its population made up 0.4% of the country.

Today, Californians are 12% of the US population. It's just an accident of history that all those people happen to count as one "state" – if it were to join the union today as a collection of states of the same relative size as 1850 California, that would be 30 states. If it were to split into individual states each with the population of today's Wyoming, that would be 67 states.

So yes, the unit of federalism is the state. But the way state lines are drawn are largely an accident of history, so state-based representation feels pretty arbitrary.


Im not too familiar with politics, so this might be wrong, but I think both systems cause the same problem. With the EC, the vote ends up hinging on a few swing states. AND, since most states use a winner-takes-all arrangement [1], this means the swing states (smaller population) end up the policy makers.

About two thirds of the population lives on the coast, and this grows every year. It doesn't make sense that each coastal person has only 2/3 (and decreasing) of a vote. Or, rather, it doesn't make sense that they don't have any vote because the votes are all in the swing states.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swing_state#Criticism

EDIT: Looks like someone replied with a similar argument while I was typing this up


I'm inclined to agree, but can you say more about that?


The EC was arguably created (in it's existing format) to protect the interests of southern, slave-owning states. At the time, roughly analogous to resisting tyranny of the majority (as the urban north had more people, especially as slaves weren't fully recognized as people), but not exactly.

And we should not forget that the balance of the EC (as it relates to the ratio of Senators and Congressmen to residents) has swung hugely in favor of rural states. As the number of residents per district has grown, with a capped number of Congressmen, states like CA and TX have effectively lost representation. If we adjusted the size of a Congressional district down to match the population of the smallest state, and increased the size of the house accordingly, the large states would pick up quite a few Congressmen, and therefore Electors.


1. I take your point regarding the EC's pro-slavery origins, but it doesn't invalidate the larger purpose. People can wield good tools for bad causes.

2. I also take your point about proportionality, but, again, it doesn't invalidate the larger purpose (nor is it an argument for a nationwide popular vote). If the proportions are wrong, then the correction is to adjust the proportions.


You pretty much made the case for why claiming that the EC was not intended to prevent the tyranny of the majority is an inaccurate statement.

You need the state level contests to moderate elections. Just because reactionaries control one party today doesn't change that. The country would have been a shambles if the northern political machines of the 20th century had unchecked power.


At its inception, the EC was a parliament solely elected to pick the president; as a result, not all the electors in a state elected the same person. This started changing in the 1800s; states that wanted to increase campaign time in their state moved toward the winner-takes-all method, which then every state had to move to if they wanted to matter equally.

If EC votes in a state were allocated according to popular vote, then the existing system would be a lot fairer. Proportional EC essentially reduces the advantage of campaigning in swing states, since many more states become swing states due to the relative ease of swinging a single EV vs. a whole state. And it manages to do so without completely screwing over smaller states.

I did some napkin math a while ago for this, but if this was the case, Bush v Gore would've been decisively for Gore, Bush v Kerry would have been as close as OTL Bush v Gore, and Trump's margin of victory shrinks to about 20 electoral votes from 77.


I explored the same thing but got different results from you. Bush v. Gore almost a dead tie and 2016 a slight Hillary win.

http://mrgris.com/blog/2016-12-06-538-problems-but-a-swing-s...


"Back of the napkin" was quite literal. Staring at tables on the internet makes you go blind if you do it hard enough.


>The EC was arguably created (in it's existing format) to protect the interests of southern, slave-owning states. At the time, roughly analogous to resisting tyranny of the majority (as the urban north had more people, especially as slaves weren't fully recognized as people),

I don't know that this is true.

1789, 1st Congress

Slave States (40 representatives)

Delaware 1

New Jersey 4

New York 6

Maryland 6

Georgia 3

North Carolina 5

South Carolina 5

Virginia 10

Free States (25 representatives)

Connecticut 5

Massachusetts 8

New Hampshire 3

Pennsylvania 8

Rhode Island 1


New York and New Jersey had pretty small numbers of slaves, so while they did allow slavery, they were more politically aligned with the free states.

Another factor is that there was a much larger disparity in numbers of voters than there was in number of people. Many of the southern states had very restrictive requirements (such as needing to own a large amount of property) to be allowed to vote while while northern states had less restrictive requirements. In the 1789 election[0] Massachusetts had more than four times as many votes cast as Virginia while having fewer electoral votes and New Hampshire had more votes cast than Virginia while having less than half as many electoral vote. Massachusetts and New Hampshire alone had more than half of the votes cast in that election.

The biggest reason for the electoral college was to accommodate the aristocratic tendencies of some of the states. Contrary to what is often claimed, it wasn't intended to prevent the large states from dominating the small states; ironically it was the exact opposite. They wanted to prevent a tiny state like New Hampshire from being able to out vote, Virginia, the largest state.

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_e...


The southern states were counting 3/5 of each slave. Without the 3/5 Compromise and the EC, the North would have dominated Congress and the WH.


Its a remnant from a time when the US was a collection of states instead of a single country. The proverbial change of "the US are" to "the US is". The President is elected by the States just as Senators used to be. It was not about individual representation in the federal government, but representation by the States. This is what the EC was for. The States elect the President.

The US started out as a federation more like how Switzerland is. But over time more and more authority was placed into the federal government and more and more cultural identity was placed there as well. So there are vestiges of government that persist from that earlier time.


> Its a remnant from a time when the US was a collection of states instead of a single country.

This is stated as fact, but it's begging the question, of course, because the tension described is exactly what we're talking about. The United States still are a collection of states, to varying degrees, and the degrees are exactly what's under scrutiny here.

That's not a remnant from another time; it's the central conflict, still relevant today.


Any idea why centralisation happened to the US but not to Switzerland?


> Every complaint about the Electoral College is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of this aspect of our system of government.

No, you can understand dual sovereignty, and support it and the separate powers of federal and state government, and still prefer both sovereignties be based on equal representation and democratic norms within their respective scopes.


That's an interesting hypothetical, but it's not, by and large, how Americans understand the Electoral College :)

More seriously, I agree with you. As I said below, I have no ideological opposition to adjusting the levers of the EC (or even replacing it with some other system that more explicitly defines its goals within a modern framework), so long as that system is not based on a simple popular vote (which I do oppose).


If states allocated their electors proportional to the popular vote within each state, the results would track national popular vote to within 1%. They don't, and rather use winner-take-all for game theory reasons... swings states weren't part of the original plan, and you can just as easily argue they're the true disaster for democracy.

Also, don't know what mob you're referring to... that NYC and LA would rule the country without the EC is another trope that's easily debunked.


The rules are a bit crazy but they're not born out of malice -- they basically exist to control negative externalities and protect the property values of the neighborhood.

It's a very real fear that one of your neighbors will drive people away from your neighborhood, tank property values, and suddenly you have 20 families underwater on their mortgage. These rules are kinda dumb and often go way far because HoA members get a little drunk with power but they're essential for mobility in suburbia.


Many of the rules were in fact created out of racial animosity, as a way to deal with the fact that explicit discrimination in housing was made illegal. (You can tell this is true because Euclidian zoning arose long after industrialization. The common law of nuisance handled the "metal smelter next to the elementary school" negative externality situation just fine. What it didn't handle was keeping black people out of white neighborhoods.) That they may now have vitality beyond their initial racist origins is a different assertion.


The common law of nuisance handled the negative externality situation just fine

Isn't specific standards of property care, basically a more formal codification of nuisance law? Subjective laws being a pain to apply consistently, I was under the impression we frequently did this- some objective rule is established under the rule of an existing subjective rule, to improve enforcement & fairness.


No, because for nuisance law you have to prove that failing to meet some standard is in fact causing interference with the use and enjoyment of your own property. "I don't like tall grass it looks ugly" is not a cognizable claim under nuisance law. Nor is "the tall grass might cause a rodent or insect problem that affects my property.* Under nuisance law you have to prove that actual harm exists, not merely the theoretical possibility.


I have literally seen in person the claim that grass tall enough for seedheads exacerbates grass pollen allergies. This was in a small town surrounded by farmland with some of the most fertile soil in the world. A person with grass pollen allergies would have to be a fool of the highest caliber to blame them on a neighbor's unmowed lawn rather than the wind blowing in from the sod farm, or the hay farm, or the wheat farm. Sometimes, I had to mow twice a week to keep the grass at a reasonable height. If I had a grass pollen allergy, I think maybe I could have been better off moving to Phoenix than becoming a lawn-height snitch--or as a UK person might put it, a grass grass.


excessive mowing, and perfectly manicured monocultured lawns are of negative ecological value. I think I ought to have grounds for complaint.


As it happened, "reasonable height" was defined by town ordinance to be 12" or less. With sufficient rain, towards the end of summer, the grass could grow 2-3" per day.

I never tried to stop other plants from growing. The grass kept itself a monoculture through sheer density. I have never seen its like since I moved away.


From the article: "Japan zones limit the “maximum nuisance" in a zone, and allow for any development below that threshold (e.g. a factory can’t be built in a residential neighborhood but housing can be built in a light industrial zone)."

So, by this understanding, the author isn't completely correct and that if the factory is not a nuisance it can be built in a residential neighborhood and it has to be proven that the factory causes harm?


Consider BAC. Technically, you're just not allowed to drive impaired. And different people function better or worse at the same BAC. But we have adopted a de-facto standard of 0.08%. The police don't prove in fact you were too impaired to drive, and posed a hazard to someone else. They just lock you up.


No, because your failure to maintain damages others.

I recently had to a file a code complaint because a landlord neighbor refuses to maintain his backyard, and out of control vegetation has damaged the fence, created a flood problem and is causing other nuisances.


Family homes should have stopped being investment vehicles a long time ago.

If we want affordable housing, housing costs must necessarily fall behind inflation, which is the thing brown lawn regulations are trying to prevent.

I'm not saying brown lawns are the way to lower housing prices, but the whole point rests on the value judgement that expensive housing is better.


> If we want affordable housing...

There is no “we”. Non home owners want affordable housing. Home owners want appreciation and have the power to make brown lawn regulations a reality.


At least it's brown lawns people don't want in their neighborhoods these days.


It's still both.


It's still both everywhere, but not as much anywhere as some would like to believe. It's better now than it ever was, and as long as it keeps moving in that direction that's a good thing.


I mean, schools are more segregated now then they were 40 years ago. So no, it's not better than it ever was, it's just more quiet.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2013/08/...


That's just one data point in one area, and doesn't necessarily reflect racism. My general statement is still accurate - racism has been and still is on the decline.


Property values derive mostly from:

  1. Location
  2. Location
  3. Location
  4. Fads and marketing
When I shop for a home, counting the dandelions and measuring the grass height on the neighbors' lawns is the least of my concerns. These rules are 1% to do with protecting property values, and 99% to do with control freaks enforcing their prejudices and their version of order on other people.

They are not born of malice; they are born of fear.

The rules of the nearest HOA explicitly ban vehicles on blocks in the front yard. As though anybody around here would actually do that.

They go to the neighborhood with the worst property values, and they note, cargo-cult style, all of its salient features. Then they write up their rules, banning all of those features in their neighborhood. In this manner, they reason, their neighborhood will never have the worst property values in town. In reality, their neighborhood will never have the lowest property values in town because the commute to the major employers is twenty minutes, there are four grocery stores and two pharmacies within a ten minute drive, and all the houses are single-family with at least 2 bedrooms and 1500 ft^2 of finished floor area.

HOAs would mandate granite countertops and stainless steel appliances if they could come up with a decent rationale for it.


they may not be out of malice but you get little power tripping potentates enough to make us question the rules and how they are applied. While many bemoan HOA rules you can just have problems with cities that just increase revenues by fines [1]. For the most part I think just as many states have limits on how much of a budget in a city/county can come from traffic violations that such limits needs to be applied to all fines. these fines tend to hit the poorest the hardest and there is no remedy for them

plus much of zoning still serves to discriminate against "undesirables" but now is masked behind feel good terms related to environment, pollution, quality of life, and historical. politicians and groups simply got the same results but learned how to dodge the courts and sway public opinion

[1] https://reason.com/blog/2018/05/24/georgia-town-brags-about-...


>These rules are kinda dumb and often go way far because HoA members get a little drunk with power

I'm sure that's often true. And I know that I mostly give nature relatively free rein on my country property. That said, I can at least appreciate the point of view of why suburban neighbors on fairly small land plots who keep meticulously neat lawns, gardens, and homes are going to have an issue with the person whose house has peeling paint, an unmaintained lawn, and generally looks abandoned.


This has nothing to do with zoning in most cases and has to do with neighborhood HOA or municipal rules.

Why shouldn’t a city be able set a specific image based on what their voters want? Same things happens in Europe, I doubt Rome would allow some massive modern looking building right next to the Colosseum.

If you have a problem move to the country (rural area). Shoot guns, grow your lawn, live in a trailer or don’t, no one cares.


Unfortunately, the IBC specifies a maximum height of grass, and while I live in the country my county enforces grass height. The country is not a panacea for freedom.


The IBC? As in the International Building Code? Where is grass height in there?


You could still vote against it. I was only implying that generally rural areas are less stringent.

I was think more like people living near farm land than rural areas where folks live in town.


> For the land of the free, some US rules are a shock to me.

The emphasis on freedom in the US, like many things around the world (like religion), is mostly a result of the conditions then the other way around. What would you do if you find yourself in a disorganized country of inequality and insecurity? You build the most available home construction of the most available material on the most available land. So if the economy crashes, you get sick with poor coverage or the government goes haywire you can still, in theory, live a decent life. It doesn't have that much to do with "everyone do whatever they want".


Our grass is quite a bit taller than 8". It's been uncut since spring as we're trying to get a bit of an ecology going instead of the usual ecological desert that is the modern lawn. Good thing we don't live in Minneapolis. (We have planted native meadow flowers as well, though they haven't fared so well.)

Also, it hasn't rained for weeks in our part of the UK. Our lawn is very brown, as are most of our neighbours'.


Thanks for doing that. The UK (and Ireland for that matter) have turned in to little more than sponges soaked in pesticides and covered in monoculture agriculture or the odd green field to please the tourists. There's a lack of understanding that almost nothing "natural" remains.

Relevant: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jun/29/natura...

"... farmers have sent me images of verdant monocultures of perennial ryegrass, with the message: “Look at this and try telling me we don’t look after nature.” It’s green, but it’s about as ecologically rich as an airport runway..."


Minneapolis does have an exemption to the 8" height for "managed natural landscapes".


I think if I lived in Minneapolis, I'd rip out all the grass and put in white clover. The neighbors can then poise their hands over their snitch-phones, waiting in vain for a plant to grow past 8".


8 inches of weeds is a pretty solid amount of weeds


Where I grew up (rural Southern US) weeds could shoot up to 8 inches within 3 days with the right mix of sun, rain, and warm weather.


>> For the land of the free, some US rules are a shock to me.

US-style freedom isn't only the individual freedom of action that people commonly believe. US freedom is also about allowing people to organize communities however they want. The US is the land where people can form neighborhoods of like-minded people and enforce their own local rules. Strata boards, neighborhood zoning, water control boards, "home rule"... it is all about little collectives organizing themselves in different ways. The individual's freedom is the right to move amongst these collectives. Don't like the neighborhood? Move.


Very interesting. I quite like the UK form of freedom where I can grow my grass as long as I like.


> Like how in many places you are not allowed to have a brown lawn, or one with taller weeds instead of grass.

Living in a place where there is no control, I'd say the US is right on this. If these laws are not enforced, the place will look like a 3rd world dump in a few years.


I doubt that ordinance is enforced very heavily, but it does have a legitimate purpose. When you have tall grass rodents will move into the neighborhood and then chew their way into the nearby houses. They can cause considerable damage to nearby homes.


> Like how in many places you are not allowed to have a brown lawn, or one with taller weeds instead of grass.

That's a fire protection rule. Both tall and dry grass/weeds are fire hazards and dangers to surrounding properties.


As a Brit something that always struck me as strange was that Americans all seemed to own large, detatched houses. It just seemed odd to me, and whilst it's true that a lot of the US is less dense than the UK I find it fascinating that the zoning laws seem to massively encourage and protect single family homes.


Partially this is social engineering. Progressives at the time zoning became popular thought that if you isolated people with their families and made it less convenient to get to, e.g., taverns then they would become more responsible. This was considered particularly important when the people affected were Irish, Italians, Poles, etc who were considered in need of becoming more responsible at the time.


I don't think that's quite right. Such groups wouldn't be able to afford detached homes, which in many cases was the point (Atlanta, on an infamous example, also is deliberately designed to make it impossible for buses to get to done neighborhoods).


What I'm talking about took place in the 1910s, things were different then.


As a European living in a large-ish American city, it's very entertaining to me to listen endlessly to Americans complain how "bad traffic has become lately with all these people moving in!"

They want:

1. Large, sparsely populated suburbs, away from everything. 2. Cars to drive long-distances from their suburbs to "the things we want to actually go to when not sleeping". 3. No heavy traffic, please!

Good luck achieving all 3!

And yeah, public transport sucks here. For obvious reasons - nobody can design effective public transport when the average commute from someone's house to their work is fifteen miles one-way and there's no population density to speak of to make it cost-effective.

I consider myself lucky that I can just walk to a nice grocery store and don't have to get in a car to go buy some milk.


Do you not want a large, detached house? :) I think part of it has to do with the fact that that is what people want... When you have such a place you don't have to worry as much about how much noise you're making or if you're disturbing your neighbors.


Sometimes I think I’m the only person on HN who strongly prefers a detached, single family house with plenty of space between neighbors. I’ve done apartment living and condo living and will never voluntarily return to it. Some benefits of owning a single family detached home:

1. I have a small kid with a lot of running energy who plays in the yard every day. Having to walk to the nearest park (if one exists) is inconvenient especially if it’s miles away.

2. I’m done with loud neighbors. Constant parties, loud bass music rattling the shared walls, loud sex at all hours, loud conversations right outside my door. It was a constant attribute of dense urban living.

3. Hobbies that require lots of private space and machinery, like sheet metal working and carpentry. Not going to be possible in a townhome without being yourself the annoying loud neighbor.

4. Freedom to customize. If I want to mount a huge antenna on my roof or build a backyard shed, only a detached home allows this.

5. Related to 4: Authority to fix things when they break. If my roof is leaking I can choose if and when to fix it. I can shop around for contractors to make sure I’m not overpaying. I can inspect and approve the work. In an apartment or condo these important tasks are out of my hands and done (always poorly) by an incompetent committee or landlord.

6. (For car owners) Indoor car parking and protection from the elements measurably reduces the maintenance cost of those cars. And fixing cars is tons easier in a garage. Nothing worse than replacing your power steering system in a 2 by 4 meter parking space surrounded by your neighbors’ cars. Ask me how I know.


It comes down to: do I get more value out of space with other people in or space without them? Would I rather my kid have lots of space to play by themselves, or lots of other kids to play with (but only one park between them all)? Would I rather have space for my own carpentry shop, or enough neighbours that there will be a few carpenters among them (but only one workshop between us)? Would I rather have car parking spaces or cafes and theatres?

I think more people around me is a net positive overall, though there are definitely exceptions.


At this point I'm thinking I need two homes that I can swap between every couple of years. I'm currently living in a nicely secluded property in the corner of a rural county in Ohio. It's like a living sanctuary and I'm addicted to being here. However, my kids haven't proven to be inclined to make use of the particular advantages it provides, and time is a-wastin'.

So now we're thinking about moving into an urban area to give them more opportunity to engage with others. The problem is that I've lived like that before as well and it makes me nearly homicidal after a very short while. It's clearly a personal flaw, but I don't know how to fix it. I could be surrounded by 99% awesome people, but it just takes that special mongrel to spoil it all. Maybe I've matured enough in the past few years to handle it better, but it sure would be nice to have the option to bail if we choose poorly.


Your examples contrast the two extremes of housing density: detached home surrounded by lots of land vs high density apartments.

There is a huge swath of possibilities in between, including dense, detached housing, smaller condo developments, and villages that provide many of the benefits you attribute only to detached low density housing, including self maintenance, private parking, etc.

With higher density, these places also provide easy access to greenspace for children, with the qualification that it is usually public greenspace.

You are not as likely to find this setup in big city centers like Manhattan or Chicago, nor in the vast low density suburban sprawl, but rather in older pre-car towns that have retained their human scale development pattern.


I want it because that's what I grew up with. I loved everything about it. We had a 3 bedroom house with living room and kitchen and 2 car garage. In the garage my dad had a workbench with a bunch of tools and a radial saw. He added on a 20x30ft family room which he mostly built. He built it to be somewhat sound proof because he played drums, bass, and guitar semi professionally.

Because it was opposite side of the house from his bedroom and because it was semi-soundproof my sister and I could have slumber parties with 4-8 friends over and be as loud as we wanted.

Why wouldn't I want that again?

I loved being able to be loud. To watch an action movie at 2am . My dad's stereo had 8 sets of speakers floor to ceiling. Him and my mom would host an 80 person New Years Eve party every other year.

Ever since I moved out 30 yrs ago I've lived in nothing but apartments where I mostly have to tiptoe to not annoy the neighbors. Can't have a dog. Can't have a workbench with tools. Can't have more than 2-4 guests over at once. Have to watch TV with headphones on if I want any volume.

I get the desire to live downtown near other things but I also get the desire to own a single family detached house. They're awesome!


4 -> local hackerspace (but like 1 whether or not city has this depends on your location) 5. You could buy a condo and then be responsible for repairs if you so wished (though this adds another point, sometimes you'll have to deal with e.g. upstairs neighbors toilet leaking) 6. Of course one of the biggest appeals of urban living for many would be not having to own a car


> Do you not want a large, detached house? :) I think part of it has to do with the fact that that is what people want

If people truly wanted this, we wouldn't need a large zoning law apparatus to legally enforce it, now would we?

Historically these laws came about due to White Flight and wanting to keep the "other" people out.

My hypothesis is these laws persist due to effectively creating legally enforced housing cartel, pushing up house prices. Throw in some rent control to turn some poor folks against new housing, and you've got a recipe for ever increasing house prices, falling fertility rates, and the squeezing of the middle class.


Is white flight really the cause of zoning laws? We have very similar laws in Canada, but they happened at a time when downtowns were almost entirely white.

My suspicion is that car based planning is the cause.


At least in my corner of the US, a huge majority of prospective home owners would consider a non detached house to be markedly less desirable.


People absolutely want large detached houses, but housing developers want to build densely packed multi-family housing because they're more profitable.

Here's the problem:

- Start with a nice, quiet, picturesque suburban neighborhood.

- Naturally people want to move into this neighborhood because it's so nice and want it to be affordable so, absent zoning, developers build apartments and condos to fill the need.

- Then all the people move in and the neighborhood slowly learns that the reason it was actually nice and picturesque was the low density and high buy-in.

- Property values start going down, along with tax revenue, the schools decline, $/student plummets, and all the people with the means move somewhere else.

Without at least some laws it's incredibly difficult to break this cycle.


> People absolutely want large detached houses, but housing developers want to build densely packed multi-family housing because they're more profitable.

They also cost less per unit, which is a thing people (i.e. new homeowners) like even more.

> - Property values start going down, along with tax revenue, the schools decline, $/student plummets, and all the people with the means move somewhere else.

This can be solved by adjusting the mil rate to generate the original amount of property tax revenue per unit against the lower housing prices.

I also don't see how the cycle is not self-defeating. If there are a hundred low density units and someone builds a hundred high density units near them so the original inhabitants leave and build a hundred new low density units somewhere else, now there are three hundred housing units available. The higher supply reduces the profit in building new condos anywhere in the region. If the cycle repeats then even more housing is constructed. At some point the profit in building new condos falls below the construction cost, because people don't want to live in a condo in the otherwise low density area more than they want to have a much smaller mortgage payment.


In this scenario a lot of people probably still have to commute to the city or nearby so moving to further and further rings out has real disadvantages


> In this scenario a lot of people probably still have to commute to the city or nearby so moving to further and further rings out has real disadvantages

This is obviously an argument in favor of high density zoning. Even if you want to live in a detached single family home, you want as many other people as possible to be able to live in high density housing to minimize the amount of land you have to drive through between your home and the city.


Perhaps, but you can see how this is not necessarily a situation where what's good for the goose is good for the gander.


"Screw all of you, I've got mine" seems like it shouldn't be a winning policy argument.


> Then all the people move in

> Property values start going down

So you're saying that because it's so desirable, property values go down?


Two ways to answer this:

* Yes, the existence of less expensive high-density housing in a neighborhood puts downward pressure on the price of single-family homes.

* Yes, because the value of an affluent, quiet, low-density neighborhood is just that -- exclusivity.


Are there any instances of this happening, ever?

> Yes, the existence of less expensive high-density housing in a neighborhood puts downward pressure on the price of single-family homes.

That's false. If land can be redeveloped into high density housing, developers will pay top dollar for it. An 80-story tower going up next to your bungalow may seem annoying to you, but some developer is going to pay you a mountain of money for that bungalow - way more than you could get for it from a regular purchaser - knock it down, and build their own 90-story tower.


You have it backwards, increased density results in higher prices.

However, there are multiple cycles going on. If you build a development you end up with a lot of people of similar means all buying homes. But, over time things change as people get fired / retire / inherent homes etc you revert to the mean over time. On top of that as homes age and become less desirable you get massive downward pressure on property values over time.

In the other direction you have artificial scarcity and sometimes increasing population propping up home values.


PS: To thous who disagree, I will point out Manhattan as a classic case of high density and high cost. Feel free to pick some real counter examples.


It's expensive in Manhattan but it's affordable nearby. It's still possible to buy an apartment in Jackson Heights for $200k and take the F train to work.

In the Bay Area it's expensive near job centers but it's still expensive 40 miles away. The sprawling mess is too low density to sensibly cover with trains so poor people end up with insane highway commutes.


> It's still possible to buy an apartment in Jackson Heights for $200k and take the F train to work

It's possible to find a listing for an old studio apartment in Jackson Heights, possibly with an existing tenant you'll have to evict, and possibly with a long walk to the train. Throw in the condo fee ($300+ per month maybe?) and you've got yourself a deal.

At ~$400 / square foot that's relatively pricey. I think typical construction costs are like $125 - $150 / square foot, so this could be a $80k or less free standing house in a truly cheap region.


Here's a 2 bedroom for $199k ($240 per square ft):

https://www.redfin.com/NY/Unknown/112-50-Northern-Blvd-11368...

Try getting anything like that near public transportation that gets you to work in Silicon Valley.

But my point isn't that it's cheap, it's that it's relatively cheap compared to Manhattan while still being close to the city.


That's still expensive.

Anacostia DC has apartments for 90k despite people paying 4+x as much to commute into DC from the suburbs. However, those prices are very much on the rise.

SV prices are limited largely by geography and local parks. Having less land area available for development relative to commute distances drives up prices on top of other issues.


I don't understand your point here.

It sounds like you are saying that Anacostia is cheap, dense, and close to jobs and that there's also a demand for luxury housing farther away. That all sounds reasonable to me.

In SV we don't have cheap housing close to jobs. I argue this is because we don't have dense housing.


My point was markets are complex and 200k is not cheap.

Anacostia is an example of less expensive, but also not cheap. You can get a 'cheap' condo in much of the US for 35k. However, Anacostia is not staying that way prices are very much on the rise, became larger forces are at work.

SV does not have cheap housing close to jobs largely due to geographic issues. It has a tiny strip of land that can be developed so all of it is going to be expensive. On a block by block basis low density is driving prices down, while on a regional basis lack of housing anywhere drives prices up.


I'm still not following you here. Sure, housing is cheap in and around Detroit or wherever but you explicitly requested we discuss Manhattan.

Now, in Manhattan the city center is expensive. However, very near the city center, housing can be affordable while still having a reasonable commute. This is because of density.

> SV does not have cheap housing close to jobs largely due to geographic issues. It has a tiny strip of land that can be developed so all of it is going to be expensive.

You are totally wrong here. The housing is expensive due to undersupply which is brought about by restrictions on zoning. There is a huge amount of land to build on but zoning laws require that most of the land here be used for detached single family homes.


> The housing is expensive due to undersupply

I agree that it's a massive factor, but it's just one factor among many. Look at a satellite map of the area, in the middle you have the bay which not only takes up space but also chokes traffic. West you have the ocean, and north is again limited by the bay. South and east you have mountains and parks which limit where you could build transit or housing.

For comparison look at D.C. it's zoned to be low to mid density, and has terrible roads. But becase people can commute from a huge area to the hart of the city it's prices are not insane. Further, many office buildings clump up in various areas around the city. That can't really happen to SV which props up land value.


Manhattan is high density and high cost but that's because the desire to live there is nigh-infinite. The prices aren't high because it's dense, they're high despite.

You're essentially arguing that housing is a Giffin Good and exists outside the normal laws of supply and demand. Don't get me wrong, after a point there is a tipping point where more people start pushing prices up in general because they exhaust the supply of things you can't just produce more of. But building more housing still decreases the price of housing.


Housing is not interchangeable like a true commodity. Sure, over the next six months prices may drop but consider longer term.

Take an island city of say 1 million people living in single family homes. Now, over 50 years replace 1/2 of those with 5 million high density apartments. Assuming steady growth the apartments are going to fill with workers, but the number of single family homes dropped. Further, the total number of highly paid professionals like Doctors and Middle Management increases which increases demand for those single family homes.

Now, block growth for 30 years and you reduce the number of people that can actually make enough money to drive up prices. Net result people move elsewhere and even if the market is tight and people pay a higher percentage of their income they simply make less money on average.

PS: And to be pedantic while more housing is being build to total supply drops because nobody is living in the demolished buildings.


Manhattan also has one of the world's largest concentrations of jobs and various cultural things to attract people. You will not see the same effect at work if you are comparing suburban apartment complexes to suburban single-family homes.


People absolutely want large detached houses, but housing developers want to build densely packed multi-family housing because they're more profitable.

To me it has always seemed that presented a big empty plot of land, large detached houses are more profitable for the builder- I figure single houses are probably easier to slap together. Then, as an area grows and land is suddenly constrained in supply, then the developer wants to build dense.


You're right, single family houses are very nice for the builder. Simple, relatively cheap, build-sell-and-move-on.

Multi-family houses are more profitable for the owner. You pay some maintenance costs but you also collect a profit on recurring condo fees, services you provide, and deals you might make with other companies (like internet providers).


Interestingly, metro areas with high to very high density, like Seattle or Austin or New York, are pretty popular recently, in many regards because of the density and walkability.

But likely they attract a different kind of people than those who want quiet and picturesque low-density suburbia.


Yeah, I don't think you're going to find a lot of people who are considering both options.


FWIW, I have three kids and we very much appreciate having a detached house and large yard.


I'm glad you enjoy your detached house and large yard. I truly do.

So long as you don't try to use zoning laws to make that the only game in town, I think we'll get along quite well.


The zoning laws are not there because people need to be forced into detached single family homes. On the contrary, I think you would be hard pressed to find many families with 2+ children who don't want to live in detached single family homes.

Zoning laws exist because people don't just live in houses, they also live in neighborhoods. And when they buy into a neighborhood, they want the neighborhood to generally maintain it's character (since that's part of what attracted them to the neighborhood in the first place). In fact, neighborhood character is so valuable to many people that they will opt into restrictions (CC&Rs) above and beyond what is required by law in order to achieve an even more uniform character in their neighborhood.

I tend to have a more libertarian bent, personally, when it comes to people building what they want on their land, but zoning laws are not about oppression of private property owners. You see them as a bug, but many people see them as a feature.


> If people truly wanted this, we wouldn't need a large zoning law apparatus to legally enforce it, now would we?

No. You are confusing residents with all people. Left to their own economic devices, a company will get what it wants before a person in most cases. How many companies want large, detached houses? If they truly did then yes, we wouldn't need zoning laws.


Also, with no zoning at all, you can end up with all kinds of scenarios like your neighbor selling to someone who wants to open a nightclub or something, even if nobody else in the neighborhood would want that.


Are you referring to housing demand in and around high population areas? Well, I'm not making a claim people don't want to live close to these areas, but as someone who isn't buying a million dollar house, I don't even consider it as an option.


It's all over. Memphis to Miami, New York to Nevada, San Francisco to Syracuse.

The historical ratio of house price to income that was considered affordable was about 2.6. If you earn $100k, you should spend $260k at most on your house under this rule.

Nowadays very few metros have median house prices at a level where the median household income would qualify, using that 2.6 ratio. Almost all of the cities with cost levels at that ratio or better are Rust Belt cities, and even many of them are right at the threshold.

Check out the full list: https://www.citylab.com/equity/2018/05/where-the-house-price...

Obviously interest rates, tax policy, etc. can change the monthly expense equation, so what may have been too expensive in the past might be more affordable now with lower interest rates.

However, even with a reduced cost to finance, there are still hefty down payments that need to be saved up for which are cost prohibitive. And higher property values need to pay higher property taxes. Maybe even "mansion" taxes in a few places.


That doesn't make a lot of sense. If everyone hated the laws so much they could presumably advocate against them


> Do you not want a large, detached house?

No, because if everyone else had them too that'd mean living in a very low-density area, likely without anything in walking distance or decent public transport.


Remove your effects and retry it. What if you were the only one in your city with a large detached house, and everyone else wasn't. Suddenly you could have the best of both worlds, the advantages of a large detached house, and everything in walking distance including good public transit.

Yes you have to be ultra rich for this to be possible, but what if you actually were that rich? Would you still live as you do?

There are advantages and disadvantages to everything.


I feel like it would involve a lot of vacuuming and random maintenance.

That doesn't sound like a very realistic scenario, though; I think I'll stick with my small terraced house that's walking distance from the city centre.

We have large detached houses in Ireland; they're probably the primary type of rural housing. I get that some people like them, but they definitely wouldn't be for me.


> what if you actually were that rich?

Living in a detached house is annoying. I grew up in detached houses. I now live in a nice Manhattan building. Having to worry about maintenance, heating, lawns and all that junk seems parochial. For a vacation home? Sure, you can get a management company. For a primary residence? How do people have time for that!?


[flagged]


Please don't post this sort of flamebait to Hacker News.


Sorry, feel free to delete it. I would, but I don't see the delete option any more.


To be fair, driving 20 - 30 minutes for work is not strange, and on a highway with a 65mph speed limit you can go far fast.

If you have some data to correlate low density housing to obesity that would be really interesting though.


As a loose metric, obesity rates are definitely higher in rural areas vs cities.

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/26851...

It doesn't look like you can correlate directly on city density though: https://wallethub.com/edu/fattest-cities-in-america/10532/

Feels like obesity rates are a large part culturally driven - the foods and lifestyle you and your relatives/those around you encourage. That's sorta why the South is "winning" the game.


This stuff is definitely true. I've lived in and spent significant time in a bunch of different parts of the US: South, western states, northeast, mid-atlantic, rural and urban and suburban. It's really shocking just how different people look between, for instance, rural-ish Deep South areas and Manhattan, downtown DC, urban California, etc., especially in terms of body size.

Even in the DC area where I currently live, it's downright shocking just how different people (esp. 20-50yo women) look between, say, downtown DC and areas merely an hour's drive away. Urban DC is full of very attractive, slim women. An hour+ away? They're almost non-existent, but there's tons of overweight ones.

There's really a giant cultural divide going on in this country, and it's disturbing if you think about it; it doesn't seem sustainable. It kinda reminds me of the Eloi vs. the Morlocks, except in our reality, the Morlocks aren't really that productive economically and things really don't look good for them.

As an aside, another interesting difference I've noticed with body sizes is that people are noticeably taller in the west-coast urban areas than in the east-coast ones. I'm a little over 6' and I feel very tall on the east coast. When I've traveled to the west, I feel more average.


The Atlantic has this article that explores that cultural divide in depth:

http://www.theatlantic.com/article/559130/


I'm amazed that such an idiotic, racist comment like this has not been down-voted into oblivion.


Please don't react to a bad comment by posting a bad comment of your own. That just makes this place worse.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


I live in a hole of an apartment in a European city and contrary to most Hackernews I'd love a detached house with a hobby shed to house some metalworking equipment and a driveway were I could wrench on my motorcycle. Also, there's no "sense of community" that comes from condensed living quarters in my urban hellscape, it's a dog-eat-dog world of depressed people.


Same, down to the metal shop! In the 10 years we owned an apartment, we didn't get to know any neighbours except that asshole who had a habit blasting music 2am on Saturdays. Life is so much more mellow in a house.


> Do you not want a large, detached house?

Not in the sense that that is somehow the only way to define 'success' in living arrangements.

Personally I value community and amenities to a vastly higher degree than I do the house itself.

Totting it up so far I think I've lived in 9 different houses in 3 different countries. Some house were large and detached, some were semi-detached, one was end terrace. If the house was large enough to live in and put my things in it became essentially a utility that performed a function.

The most important thing was who lived next to or near me, what services and amenities were around and how easy access was to them and what were schools like for kids.

Perhaps that's because I didn't own them but rented them, but I do own a house that I haven't lived in yet and I feel no more attachment to it than the rest. Instead choosing the area and community over the bricks and mortar themselves.


"Do you not want a large, detached house? :) I think part of it has to do with the fact that that is what people want... "

I don't want one. They also say that people want SUVs but I don't want that either. I think there is a lot of cultural conditioning in what people want.


Do you have more than two kids?


If people wanted it so much, counties wouldn’t have to make it illegal to build other kinds of housing through zoning laws.


I mentioned this to another commenter, but you are confusing what residents want with what people want. If companies + individuals (i.e. what makes up the economic group of "people" in an area) wanted it so much, then yes you wouldn't need the laws. You shouldn't confuse what people want with what people can/will buy or do with their money, votes are more equal than wallets.


Not exactly. Most people want it that much. A few people want otherwise, if we didn't have zoning laws those few would build something different and ruin it for the rest of us.


Explain how that would work. People who want detached homes with big yards wouldn't be able to buy them because developers would only build multi-family dwellings? Despite the majority of people wanting detached homes?


No, people want detached homes in a neighborhood with only detached homes. However one person will build a store or apartment and ruin the entire neighborhood.

(Note that I'm playing devils advocate here)


So it's not just that people want a detached home, it's that people want a detached home and want other people to have a detached home. Which is an infringement on private property rights I don't thing the law should condone.


Do you have in mind a large, detached house and a long commute, or just a large, detached house? The answer you get always depends on the question you ask.

Me, I'd love to have a large, centrally located, detached house at an affordable price. It's not a realistic desire though, and that lack of realism means that any policy based on it will be equally unrealistic.


> Do you not want a large, detached house? :)

The smiley implies a lot of people want that. That's true, but the flip side of that question is "Do you no want to drive for everything you need?" which, especially in Europe, is going to get a lot of people answering "Hell no".


In the Netherland you can definitly have such a house at a reasonable price, 25km+ outside of cities.

You can also choose a smaller, non-detached house for the same prices inside a denser neighborhood. You then don't need a car and can bike or take publish transport to everything.

Most people prefer the latter.


My ideal is a 5 bedroom house on about 1/2 acre of lawn right smack in the middle of Manhattan.


It's yours after your first few billion. I wonder if you had the money could you pull this off?


Hehe, I wouldn’t even really want it. Was just needling the people who want their nice big houses without thinking about the isolating car culture it creates.


You wouldn't want it even if you could do it; it would be permanently overshadowed unless it was actually in Central Park or somewhere.


...or on top of an existing building.


That already exists as penthouse. I was thinking if you would get permission to build a farmhouse with lawn around it in the middle of Manhattan if you could afford the land.


Speaking for myself, I'd love a small house with no parking and without a backyard. These houses are basically impossible to find because of zoning rules.


Note that in Japan, where people are allowed to build what they want, there are tons of detached houses with no yards or small gardens. http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4113/4983103056_ec5b955217_b.j...

http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2143/2206169789_71e4f452b3_b.j...


Huh? In most suburbs this is the only type of housing being built. Go look at any new construction in San Jose etc, its all vertical townhouse stuff with one parking spot and communal green space.


Perhaps this is because most suburbs are not in the Bay Area?


What reasonably large metro in the US has no available townhouse-style housing?

edit: responses below are moving the goalposts. I didn't ask what major metros are missing culturally vibrant dense communities with a great mix of walkable amenities, I asked what metros didn't have townhouse-style developments (small house, no yard).

The answer is obvious if you spend ten minutes in redfin - every major metro has plenty


Most of them. What makes Japanese dense detached housing work is mixing residential and low impact retail. In many US suburbs, you have town house style housing, but vast swaths of it with no retail. So you need to get in a car (and cross a giant parking lot) to pick up milk. It’s a problem even in mixed residential retail areas. I lived in a development in Atlanta that had a Target. But going there meant crossing an enormous, unshaded parking lot. Very different than Japan, where you might walk down some tree lined streets to get to the corner store.


It's possible that the GP doesn't live in a large metro area and therefore doesn't have access to a good supply of townhomes.


Townhouses are tough to find in medium size metros in good school districts. And the ones you do find are over 55 communities.


There's tons of this stuff in the northern Virginia/DC metro area too.


Modern construction is reasonably sound proof so that you don't have to worry too much about your neighbors even if there is no yard separating you.


> Do you not want a large, detached house?

No. In most central and southern Europe there are laws to ensure that density stays above a threshold, cities stays walkable and apartments are built with proper walls and corridors to prevent any noise from the neighbors.

This led to much cheaper housing and less need for driving.


I think it mostly just reflects the age and histories of our cities, and the cultures that comes from that.


>. It just seemed odd to me, and whilst it's true that a lot of the US is less dense than the UK I find it fascinating that the zoning laws seem to massively encourage and protect single family homes.

You have to understand that in the US houses are not just houses. They are the primary vehicle by which the middle class is able to build wealth. There are scores of tax regulation and perks to home owning that don't exist for any other asset class.


>Americans all seemed to own large, detatched houses

That's only really true for the suburbs and rural areas. Most Americans live in cities, where rowhomes and apartment complexes are more popular.


I'd like to see a source for your claim that most Americans live in cities. As far as I know, the census does not differentiate between suburban and urban areas so we don't have any "official" numbers on how many Americans live in suburban areas. They are just lumped into the urban population.


Yes, the census "80% of people live in cities" thing really just means "incorporated areas". In reality ~2/3 of housing stock in the US is detached[1]. Traditional detached houses and mobile homes combined are around 78 million. Now I have not seen detailed statistics about the exact number of people living in each type but it seems pretty safe to say that the average household size for detached housing is at least as high as for apartments, and most likely higher. US average household size is 2.58 people which would imply ~200 million people in detached housing, well over half the population.

[1]https://www.census.gov/hhes/www/housing/census/historic/unit...


In fact the US census definition is even wider than that for urban. My town's a good example. It's essentially a 7K population rural town; I'm in the middle of about 100 acres with a couple neighbors. But I'm fairly near a major city and I'm solidly urban per the census.

It's complicated to determine what's urban and suburban--much less exurban (which is what ESRI calls where I live). [1] But the census uses a measure where the areas it counts as "rural" are mostly very rural.

[1] https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/how-suburban-are-big-am...


As a European I guess this explains why Sim City's zoning never made much sense to me.


Not mentioned: In America, owning a home is considered the most important investment you can make.

Who would've thought that mindset would lead to unaffordable housing!

Or parents telling their children that they won't be able to live near their parents because... well... investment! Like this guy: https://twitter.com/nextdoorsv/status/999364778907914245


I would think owning your place of residence would be a pretty good long term investment most anyplace. It's practically a fundamental rule of the market; more expensive to rent than own long term.


> I would think owning your place of residence would be a pretty good long term investment most anyplace.

The problem is that residential real estate values fluctuate unpredictably, and sometimes wildly, and the investment is almost always made using considerable leverage. Housing is unusual among the commonly made investments in that a person can seemingly do all the sensible things and lose all the money they've invested.


This is mainly a psychological trick: people are more disciplined about paying a mortgage under threat of foreclosure than they are about actually investing the savings from renting. But if you do actually invest the savings, they come out pretty close. There are a lot of costs to owning a home beyond the principal payment.


Even after the mortgage is paid off?


You have a pretty good chunk of capital (and capital gains) after investing in index funds for 30 years. That is, after all, how retirement works.


It's practically a fundamental rule of the market; more expensive to rent than own long

That's not generally true. Look at the house price to rent scores. In many cities it's cheaper to rent than to own.


Comparisons between the governments of homogeneous states like Japan and sprawling unions like the USA are not particularly helpful. The nature of the problems the governments face is too different.

Instead, compare California to Japan. From this article, run the thought experiment of a California-wide zoning board.


So the linked article doesn't directly cite any work but does provide highlighted notes for an article, which I followed... which also doesn't actually cite anything. So I went down a rabbit hole of researching early zoning laws to evaluate a very specific claim: that the origin of zoning laws is racist.

In 1917 Buchanan v Warley mades directly racist zoning illegal... which affected a single city in Kentucky and otherwise had very little effect. In addition, the very first zoning laws didn't get passed until 1910 in the US and zoning didn't exist much until the 1920s [1] so that seems to undermine that claim as an emotional, not a factual one.

Everyone seems to suggest that the fix for high housing prices is to simply build more densely (more supply, same demand, therefore prices should go down right?). Yet that appears to not be the case either - as buildings get taller and more dense, costs seem to increase outside the direct supply/demand system [3] and those units which are built are typically more expensive then low density options.

[1] - https://www.dartmouth.edu/~wfischel/Papers/02-03.pdf

[3] - https://www.forbes.com/sites/joelkotkin/2017/08/31/high-rise...

--

[2] - http://marketurbanism.com/2017/11/01/does-density-raise-hous...


Zoning laws were created by progressives for racist reasons

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/livable-city/la-oe-vallianato...

https://reason.com/archives/2014/04/02/zonings-racist-roots-...

Federal policies were also motivated by racism

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/05/the-rac...

and the federal housing project program created ghettos under the guise of providing adorable housing for the poor. They just wanted to concentrate the poor (read "black people") in certain areas.


It's not really fair to blame this kind of stuff on progressives.

For instance, that Reason article calls "Barry Mahool" (actually J. Barry Mahool), a progressive and doesn't really elaborate beyond that, letting the reader assume that his progressivness extending to racial thought at the time. Looking into it, he seems to be thought of a progressive because of his out spoken support for women's suffrage, but as for black people he created the zoning laws as "Blacks should be quarantined in isolated slums in order to reduce the incidents of civil disturbance, to prevent the spread of communicable disease into the nearby White neighborhoods, and to protect property values among the White majority".

That's like calling Dick Cheney a progressive because of his out spoken support for gay marriage.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._Barry_Mahool

https://www.asu.edu/courses/aph294/total-readings/silver%20-...


The first progressives came out of the eugenics movement. They were all huge racists. Woodrow Wilson, one of the first progressive presidents, was responsible for segregating the military.


Words change meaning over time. The progressive era of 1890 to 1920 is a completely different movement than that of today.


Ok? I never said it was the progressives of today.


Without context that you're using a word with a century old archaic definition, yes, the assumption is that the progressive movement of today has racist roots.


The progressive movement can't just isolate itself from the evil, bigoted legacy it has.

Modern progressives support most of the same policies, but for supposedly different reasons. They still see older progressives as heroes for implementing those policies, despite their bigoted intentions at the time.


They're two different progressive movements. One that died out around 1920, and the current one today. Just because they use the same word, doesn't mean it's the same movement.


> Everyone seems to suggest that the fix for high housing prices is to simply build more densely (more supply, same demand, therefore prices should go down right?). Yet that appears to not be the case either - as buildings get taller and more dense, costs seem to increase outside the direct supply/demand system [2] and those units which are built are typically more expensive then low density options.

The issue is that density attracts people when it's scarce, because people like it. You can walk to shops etc. So if you build a little bit of density, people want to live there and the price goes up.

What you need is to build a lot of density, so that the supply satisfies the whole demand and it actually gets the price down.


>Yet that appears to not be the case either - as buildings get taller and more dense, costs seem to increase outside the direct supply/demand system [3] and those units which are built are typically more expensive then low density options.

This is a correlation/causation error. Prices rise beyond marginal cost of constructing an additional unit in the presence of supply restrictions and increasing demand. Those conditions are often true in areas with high rise buildings (and the second is rarely true in areas without).

Separately, the marginal cost of construction is higher for a unit in a high rise than a unit in a single-story building.


Your second link doesn't appear to support your point. It says lower density increased housing costs.


Imagine we immediately changed to Japan’s system - do you think us Americans would do a good job utilizing it?

I think the Japanese system is better, I just fear that part of the benefit they have is cultural (harder to implement than laws).


This blog post is based on posts from the Urban kchoze blog, which has been linked on HN previously. I liked it so much I read the entire archive. One great post is about a possible remedy to American zoning: dynamic zoning.

http://urbankchoze.blogspot.com/2014/05/how-to-make-urban-ho...

It doesn't provide a direct route to move to Japanese-style zoning, but it would allow densities to increase organically based on demand in areas, which is a major component of Japanese zoning that is missing from American zoning.

If you are interested in these topics, I recommend the entire Urban kchoze archive.


Changing to it immediately would be impractical, but a steady transition would be pretty easily feasible, outside of the political concerns.

It's not like dense, mixed-use areas don't exist in the US -- NYC being the most obvious example. They're just uncommon because regulations force them to be uncommon. Where they do exist they work fine.


But voters at a town hall on live television will rightly reply that anyone who wants to live in NYC is free to go there, and anyone who feels victimized by the situation in the Bay Area is free to leave.


> But voters at a town hall on live television will rightly reply that anyone who wants to live in NYC is free to go there, and anyone who feels victimized by the situation in the Bay Area is free to leave.

The problem being that there is more demand for that kind of high density living than there is existing supply. Hence the desire to create more.

By contrast, if you want to live in a detached single family home, there are plenty on offer around Houston or Portland or dozens of other cities that already have a lower population density and thus less pressure for new high density housing.


The whole point is that sometimes rules are better handled at a high level, rather than a local one.

The result of local dominant zoning is rampant NIMBYism, with unsustainable and anti-environmental suburban sprawl, people unable to afford rent in the areas with the most good jobs, and widespread economic segregation.

The system is working for some definition of working, but not terribly well.


You call it NIMBY’ism, they call it the people who actually live and invest in an area wanting to have the final say, not distant interests which might just be interested in developer kick backs.


It's both of these things.

There's a reason we have governments at a higher level than neighborhoods and cities. Not every decision makes sense there.

We've tried city level zoning, the result is that economically booming areas fight new residents, drastically raising rents while preventing others from joining in in the economic success. It's a disaster, just look at the bay area.

Or look at the cost of sprawl in how much nature we've cut down and our per capita energy usage. What part of that looks good to you?

If you zoom in too far, people get selfish and you hit externalities. Zoning isn't unique, sometimes you need more coordination for things to work.


Another way to look at the Bay is that s previously unique American cultural center has already been irrevocably destroyed by yuppies and big tech firms who felt the need to drop anchor there. Maybe some pressure to spread out the impact of that “economic success” beyond a single city is more valuable than building ArcologySF? The world’s cities don’t need to be aggressively homogenized for the sake of affordable rents for an influx of techies. It’s a big world, stop crowding into one tiny, devastated corner of it.


The interest of the region in a municipality’s zoning is exactly analogous to the interest of a neighborhood in an individual property owner’s land use.

Free for all zoning would be letting the people who actually own particular properties have the final say.

/s/actually live there/are upper-middle-class, white, and born at the right time/


I suggest you pick up a small-town paper talking about any proposed development at all to get a sense of issues that exist beyond just whatever old zoning laws are on the books. People have lots of reasons for not wanting that to happen -- some, granted, are silly, but not all of them are.


They’re all silly (often racist). In Annapolis, there is opposition to redeveloping City Dock, which is old and gross, for “historical preservation.”


I don't know anything about Annapolis and won't weigh in on that one. But I do understand why people don't want compressor stations or nuclear waste near their homes, for instance.


Nobody is suggesting we build a compressor station inside Annapolis. A property owner near the waterfront wants to use his property to build a hotel and retail areas in the heart of downtown. NIMBYs oppose it because of their personal aesthetic preferences: https://www.google.com/amp/www.capitalgazette.com/opinion/co...


Getting pretty sick of this strawman. Nobody's ever suggesting getting rid of zoning rules that keep polluting factories and similar buildings away from residential areas.

Like, this is very explicit in the article for this thread even, and somehow it still comes up.


The compressor station thing is on the top of my mind because they want to build one in my town. Anyway there is a wide gradient; a bar isn't quite as undesirable as some of the industrial facilities, but it can still be disruptive to someone who lives nearby.


A bar is a fair example, nuclear waste really isn't (we can't even collectively agree to put it under actual fucking mountains in apocalypse-proof vaults).

Anyway if you look in the article it talks about how you still exclude things from residential areas based on level of nuisance. Presumably a compressor station could qualify.


It kind of gets to the anxiety about handing over control though. Towns do not get to decide whether they'll have a compressor station so a number have been built over community objections. I'm not really a local-government fetishist but I would be worried about how responsive a more centralized system would be to resident complaints.


[flagged]


Personal attacks aren't allowed here, so please don't do that, even if someone else is biased.


I'm sorry, it wasn't intended to be an attack, I was trying to point out that someone that they are biased. How can I word that better so that someone sees what they are? (this might be an unsolved problem)


There are quite a few options for wording that in a way that doesn't sound like a personal attack. Example: "you're saying X but I perceive Y, so I wonder if you might be biased because of ABC". Also, putting things in the form of a question—as long as it's a genuine question and not sarcastic—can go a long way for communicating openness.


I'm aware that some of the reasons are understandable.

It's understandable that people want their neighborhood to stay similar to when they bought in. It's understandable that people who drive everywhere don't want more traffic or competition for parking. It's understandable that rich people don't want poorer, less academically accomplished families at their schools.

But just because the reasons are understandable, doesn't mean they're good, or that they outweigh the bad. Zoning in the US has a number of hugely negative effects, and it desperately needs reformation.


I suppose my issue is that these advocacy pieces that are posted here frequently rarely engage with the viewpoint of people they call NIMBYs. If the object is to preach to the converted then that's fine but otherwise maybe it's not ideal.


One very common issue is that new developments, especially those that cater to younger families, tend to increase the demands on the local schools and therefore taxes for those and other services.


"More people require more services."

Well yes, of course that's true. But more people also means more taxes to fund those services.


Yes, but people with families tend to cost more than they pay in taxes given that the school system is something like 90% of my town's budget.


90% sounds ludicrously high, you sure about that? I mean I realize schools are expensive, but damn surely there are other expensive things local governments do?


My impression was that number was higher (perhaps because there was a time a few years years back when there was some mismanagement and significant incremental funds needed for the school system). But it's still about 65% and I'm not sure that accounts for all the transfer payments.

https://www.ci.lancaster.ma.us/sites/lancasterma/files/uploa...

It's a smallish rural town. There is police, fire, library, water, DPW, etc. but we don't even have services like trash collection which are private. Schools are significant.


Of course not. It's an awful idea because as a diverse, representative democracy you'll be subject to the whims of the congress.

Do you really want rural conservatives who hate cities dictating urban land use as you would today?

Do you really want democrats with tight ties to big real estate interests (key members of the California delegation, for example) dictating land use policy?

Silicon Valley is Silicon Valley because everyone fled cities in the 50s and 60s to buy the then-american dream in the old orange groves. Whatever the next phase is, it isn't going to happen there.

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