Remove zones alone, and HOAs will get areas into legally binding covenants that are also just as tough as their current zoning regulation.
To solve the US density issue, localities have to be severely restricted in what they can block, but we also have to look at the bigger picture: What is making people want to restrict their neighborhood to extremely low density suburbs? The answers are very uncomfortable.
Are they? Isn't it possible that people who live in beautiful neighborhoods with mature trees, nice big yards, and low traffic streets that are safe for kids to play around, want to keep them that way for primarily those reasons?
Of course their desires alone shouldn't be the final word on proposed changes to codes, but implying that all of these homeowners are primarily driven by prejudice is a pretty big leap given the many obvious benefits of the status quo for them.
I imagine you could take almost any demographic and put them in a low density neighborhood with big yards, trees, low traffic, and neighbors that they've known for decades, and they're going to resist change.
Actually, suburban streets are significantly more dangerous than urban streets, in terms of number of children killed, as a fraction of both population and miles driven.
> Motor vehicle traffic was the leading mechanism of unintentional injury death among children aged 5–13, with the rural rate (3.1) twice as high as the urban rate (1.5)
> Motor vehicle traffic was the leading mechanism of unintentional injury death among children aged 14–17 in both urban and rural areas; the rate was 2.5 times higher in rural (12.5) than in urban areas
> cul-de-sac communities actually have some of the highest rates of traffic accidents involving young children. In fact, children in suburban communities are five times more likely to be killed in a pedestrian accident than urban children.
> City streets safer than suburban roads, study finds
> Cul-de-Sacs Are Killing Us: Public Safety Lessons From Suburbia
The chance remains the same but for the ones that survive there is a better quality of life.
My neighbors have a basketball hoop facing their street. They consider the street, the street that cars drive on, a basketball court. And the neighborhood I grew up in was dotted with cal-de-sacs. Which, again, are streets that cars drive on, and all of which were baseball diamonds by kids' God-given right.
Half of you know that I literally mean every word of what I said and half of you are equally certain I don't.
All drivers in the whole neighborhood understood this as normal.
That said, as kids we’d be equally fine with a dedicated lot specifically to play various types of street ball. As long as it allowed random pickup games, always had a free spot for us, and didn’t require us to pay $100/mo each to some sports league organization.
Abundant free sports facilities for each neighborhood are fine. We don’t need to play in the literal street.
But the fact remains that kids get hit in suburbs more often. We feel like drivers in suburbia understand this, but the roads are actually designed to encourage speed, and accidents happen.
That people tend to speed when you build a road as if it were a 100 km/h rural road doesn't seem too surprising, sadly. Now, as a parent I still think people are driving too fast, especially around the kindergarten (30 km/h speed limit doesn't automatically make that the desired default speed for that street), but it's probably night and day compared to American suburbs.
I couldn’t unsee it. This pristine suburbia, optimized for families, perfect weather, but no kids to be seen. It seemed so weird to us who’d grown up mostly outdoors. In Ireland.
Mostly, I think, because those areas are where tech workers live and they tend to skew younger and childless (or few children). So you end up with tech bros crammed into single family homes, with no need for the front/back yard.
Areas around FAANG campuses really just need higher density zoning. It's stupid that the neighborhoods surrounding all Google, Apple, Amazon campuses are single family homes when there is a massive demand for tech workers to be as close to the office as possible.
(And the trade-off for this level of remoteness, for those wondering, is I have about 200 square miles of public lands walkable from the house without crossing a highway. Ever taken a two-hour walk from your house, with your dogs off leash, without seeing another human?)
I'm an hour south of Colorado's mountain ranges, in a little pocket of microclimate where most storm clouds sweep past you on both sides, where winter still exists but where you don't need to shovel snow, and where summer days stay below 100 F. We looked at houses in 3 states before settling on this.
Look into Arizona, New Mexico, Utah (Moab is an outdoor sports mecca), California (around highway 395, and on the coast outside of big cities, are some pretty areas), Colorado (if you love skiing etc), maybe Texas (e.g. "Hill Country").
And if you want more free space, move to Wyoming or Montana (but good luck with the groceries).
We spent just under 3 years roaming the Western US with a motorhome. I've seen a lot of natural beauty, you just have to leave the cities and it's there. The rest is mostly a matter of what climate, plant life, etc you prefer, and how close do you want to live to a good hospital, groceries, UPS & mail delivery, etc.
I say this as someone who grew up around some places that fit your description.
A core reason for this is developers want to maximize the number of houses they can fit on a given plot of land which will often have odd shapes etc. So kids simply walking to a friends house are often in real danger.
I regularly have to slow down for children riding bikes, playing basketball or hockey in the street, etc. to this day when I visit my mom in the suburbs. I have never seen a single child playing in the streets in nearly five years living near Boston.
Could give a lot of anecdotal stories, but here's the stat -- Boston is the 3rd worst in the nation for auto accidents.
Typically they're just using insurance reported events which has a huge bias against areas where cars are newer on average (rich areas and against states that heavily use road salt) because nobody reports when two 20yo shitboxes trade paint but everybody calls in The System(TM) when two expensive new cars do (and these sorts of small accidents make up the majority of collisions).
Even if we knew it's still skewed heavily against dense metros because it uses miles instead of operating hours.
And this is coming from someone who hates the people of Massachusetts and wants to believe they are rightfully at the top of the list...
> nobody reports when two 20yo shitboxes trade paint
And few people drive lambos around in Boston winter, the salt wrecks really nice cars. Also, SF is richer and ranks lower.
>skewed heavily against dense metros because it uses miles
If people are going slow, the accidents are more minor and they would be less likely to need reporting. Also, NYC is denser and ranks lower.
Anyway, this has gotten too far from housing discussion.
edit for formatting
Leave wide straight roads for segregated highways and build streets for people, not just cars.
That sounds like the PR branding for a positive externality of developers making streets narrower because they can and it allows them to maximize the space they get to charge for when they sell.
I live in one such neighborhood, and enough people park on the street that even without two cars needing to pass each other it feels unsafe even at slow speed, because if you're taking a turn you can't see oncoming traffic, and if some kid ran out from behind a car there would be no room to maneuver to avoid them without hitting something else, even at a slow speed.
If it wasn't about money they would just put speed bumps in, like they do in lots of places.
This isn't just because of the width of the roads, because these didn't exist 30 years ago (in the states at least; they were starting to become common in the UK 30 years ago), but the houses haven't suddenly merged closer together.
I see in another reply you say these underperform. Citation? Fatalities are still lower in cities.
Now I moved out of NYC to the suburbs - I know every cyclist in the area, and that's me plus 2 other people. I barely ever see bikes...
The wide roads and large front yards promote higher driving speeds. For a long time the thinking was even that front yards can work as a place for cars to stop safely if they fly off the road.
They talk about this in Strong Towns iirc
Now I live in Lake View during the summer and I haven't really seen any kids playing in the streets either.
Where are you at in Chicago and what do they play if I may ask?
Most of Chicago doesn't look like the loop. It's a big city.
The University of Chicago is in Hyde Park, 10 minutes south of the loop. It's one of the safest neighborhoods in the city. This is what Hyde Park looks like:
Kids play on the sidewalks and in the streets in Chicago all the time. I mean: of course they do? It's a city of 2.7 million people. Did you think all the kids were just kept inside all the time?
Thats 3 blocks from the original link. Thats a park on the right that I saw kids playing outside in today when it was 2 degrees (F) out.
Is the street I saw the pickleball kids playing on last summer. It's one block away from my first link.
This is the problem with the zoning debate: people exclude the middle, and say that zoning is either good single-family regions where kids can play on the streets, or terrible industrial zones that look like Giede Prime. We don't have to carefully reason through the alternatives --- good, functioning cities are full of them.
Kilwins, a popular Hyde Park ice cream shop, was damaged in the shooting.
The shop's owner and employees spoke Wednesday about their safety concerns in returning to work, and Cole returned to where he was shot at.
"We need the partner in federal government to step up. Somebody has to have a sense of urgency," he said. "You can't nonprofit your way out of this. We can't program our way out of these shootings," he said.
According to the city's Violence Reduction Dashboard, as of Nov. 8 shootings in the neighborhood have more than tripled compared to 2020, with 16 this year compared to five last year.
The same data shows that for violent crimes of all time, Hyde Park has had 196 so far this year, up from 155 in the same period in 2020.
Kilwins owner Jackie Jackson said the most recent violent crime, along with increasing rent and fewer customers, may force her to close the business she opened nearly 10 years ago.
If you go look at the actual Violence Reduction Dashboard referenced in the article you'll see that Hyde Park has less shootings per capita than the loop and the near north side. Its tiered in the safest neighborhoods in Chicago. Its used as an example of what the Dashboard calls "The Safety Gap" to distinguish how much safer some neighborhoods are than others.
Chicago has a violent crime problem, in some neighborhoods its an absolute multiple generation failure and an outrage. But if you aren't comfortable with Hyde Park's crime rate, you aren't comfortable anywhere in Chicago or you have some other bias at play. Thats fine! Feel free to make your own choices about where you go but Hyde Park isn't rough by any American statistical observation.
And it certainly isn't germane to whether kids play outside! You'll find that in the absolute roughest neighborhoods in Chicago as well as the poshest.
They absolutely do
Not to mention people tend to be much lore cautious in high traffic areas.
Basically how things were built pre-WW2?
The Oh the Urbanity channel has a video on the (misguided) idea that "urban living" = Manhattan / Hong Kong apartment blocks:
Fifteen minutes pedalling in one direction is downtown Amsterdam, fifteen minutes in the other is farm land.
The majority of America was not some idyllic "streetcar suburb" even pre WWII. Majority of it was either grid based urban development or rural residential / agriculture in large plots (often 20, 40, 80, 160, 320, 640 acre plots).
As agriculture got more efficient, and raising food for ones self became less common, and as cars became more prevalent these large rural plots often got sold to developers who would be tasked with breaking up the land into parcels and installing new roads and infrastructure.
Even in 1906 in San Francisco, you can see that cars are beginning to overtake the cable car and horse carriage as the central form of transport: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHkc83XA2dY
So it's natural that majority of American land was developed around the automobile.
There's nothing "natural" about car-centric design and giving priority to cars:
It's a policy choice, one which (e.g.) the Dutch started moving away from in the late 1970s:
Jane Jacobs wrote The Death and Life of Great American Cities in 1961:
The book Crabgrass Frontier was published in 1985:
The Geography of Nowhere was published in 1993:
We've know for decades about the consequences of sprawl.
> There's nothing "natural" about car-centric design and giving priority to cars
Look at the video footage of San Fran in 1906 I posted. It is just about as perfect of a model as you could find. It was a premier city at the time. It had cable car infrastructure across the city that survives to this day. However, even in this footage people are foregoing the cable car for the automobile. More people are jetting around in their car, far before any real infrastructure even existed specifically for the car. It was a consumer choice.
People like to think it was some kind of conspiracy that streetcars and railroads fell out of favor for cars.
No, cars replaced horses and horse carriages, which were flexible in path movement, did not depend on central operators, asynchronous in that they could be deployed any time, and also like horses, cars were owned.
Independence, ownership, empowerment, etc. Huge American cultural values in part shaped by the sheer geography of the U.S.
For the United States, based on its geography and culture, absolutely inevitable that independent and self owned forms of transportation would dominate.
Sprawl, in a sprawling country, is inevitable.
The communities listed in this page were suburbs, just not car-centric suburbs:
Development could have continued to be denser communities around either tram lines, rail stations, or existing towns. LA's 'sprawl' started around the trolley system:
Some of the original bedroom communities were based around rail stations. But those communities still had 'urban-ish' communities that one walked around, and long distance travel was rail, or horse, later car.
And I know well communities not around any dense urban area, as I visited my grandparents' farm in Communist Europe numerous times when I was young: my aunts/uncles had cars back in the Old Country, but my grand parents still used horses for a lot of work and even going into town.
A random farm, in a rural area, in a sprawling country is not the same planned development on a parcel of land, which required government approval and permits. Low-density development, cul-de-sacs, restrictive zoning where residential is not with-in waling distance of commercial/industrial were all policy choices. There was nothing inevitable about it. Certainly in the 1940s and 50s maybe folks didn't know any better, but that's harder to say by the 1970s and 80s.
(Parenthetically, originally people used to live in towns and commute to their farms: living right on the farm was a later development (relatively speaking).)
Or, like many places still build them today?
Because they were so close to dense housing, they also had the added benefits of public transit and being walking distance to several grocery stores. Much better than suburbia in my opinion.
I go on trips and need to be able to load lots of stuff in and out of "my" or "a" car without living in terror of all of my stuff getting stolen while I'm inside.
Where should I live?
Note: I lived in three different boroughs of NYC for 25 years
There will be demand for neighborhoods you want and they will exist but it won't necessarily be in the middle of major population centers like it is now.
well if that's based on land area that's not a very informative number. you'd want to do it by population.
Land is the resource you're dividing up. The question is how much of the divided-up land is allocated to an (allegedly) niche usage.
Doing it by population is like saying "almost no one is a billionaire, almost everyone is basically poor and equally-poor, so there can't possibly be a wealth inequality problem". (I'm not saying there is/isn't a wealth inequality problem, I'm only saying that's a dud argument.)
The "living in terror" part sounds like you could use some work on mindfulness though.
And this, despite the Redmond PD apparently going on strike the last few years (when's the last time you saw a RPD car north of 85th St., fellow Redmondites?).
However, if we're addressing the dark and noise part, well, it's a suburb and you don't get dark and quiet here.
The child poverty rate was halved under an emergency declaration in 2020. That policy was allowed to expire in 2022 and that, along with unchecked inflation and labor-averse federal monetary policy, is naturally producing misery and desperation.
Everybody thinks this is a local problem, but the reality is that, in developed nations, property crime is quite strongly correlated with wealth inequality, which has been growing in most of the western world for the past couple of decades.
And yet, I still can say that a city is still one of the safest places to be.
Your experience isn't invalid, it's just how it impacts everyone. The outcome of your and mine experiences are subjective, and people who go through them(you and me both) should stop pretending that our experiences are universal.
This is not a problem in cities in Asia. It was not a problem before the '60s. It is still not a problem in the dense downtowns of a few small American cities that have avoided the modern homelessness crisis. It is a specifically recent American major city phenomenon that nobody wants to accept as the norm.
Words have meaning, and "extremely traumatizing" should be reserved for slightly more damaging things than getting ready to leave the restaurant and realizing your phone is gone. I realize word inflation is a battle that is lost every day, but it's still annoying. See what I did there? I didn't say that word inflation is extremely enraging or plunges me into a mental breakdown. It's just annoying.
If you just want less human noise, somewhere with a large lot. On my 9 acre lot I can still hear human noise, but usually only big things, which tends to be daytime, and not a lot of it. Oh, and backyard roosters; they're everywhere around here, but only noisy when the sun is up. Vehicle noises carry a long way when people have more horsepower than brains, though; gunshots and fireworks too. Not sure how to avoid those noises. I don't get a lot of artificial light from the neighbors, but there's some; more forest or a larger lot would help.
On the other hand, there's a lot of noise from local wildlife, and wind and rain and hail and other natural phenomenon that creates noise. And sometimes the moon is pretty bright at night. I guess you could live somewhere with caves and avoid some of that, but critters are everywhere.
But then you have a crappy range of very expensive food at the local supermarket, pretty much everything else you have to order in or pick up from Reykjavik (or abroad), if you want to see live music your choice is “Ja Ja Ding Dong” at the (only) pub one night a week or (again) going to Reykjavik. Want to see the latest musical (or a Grand Slam tennis tournament, or a million other events that are on all the time in NYC) live? Hop on an international flight. And everybody in the street will know pretty much everything you do.
But the mountains are stunningly beautiful, the crime rate is almost zero and you can drive your Super Jeep around to your heart’s content.
I get the desire for solitude but it comes with tradeoffs.
We moved from Williamsburg to Cornwall(NY). We live in a rural area and there's a tonne of noise(interstate traffic is audible from 5+ miles away) and light pollution(Hudson Valley light pollution is high).
Warm months can get noisy. Especially the god-damned locusts, but there are crickets and all kinds of things at night, even when those are dormant. Coyotes—those even, and perhaps especially, in Winter, but at least they're not so unpleasant to listen to unless your dogs are out or you forgot to put the fowl in for the night. Seemingly-endless Canada geese flocks low overhead, honking from horizon to horizon. God help you if you're near water. Frogs. Ugh. Frogs.
But, not so much neighbors' lawnmowers, or cars. Or car horns. Or people yelling. Or anyone else's music. That is nice. And man are the Winters peaceful.
Dust from gravel roads (you have no idea how much if you've not experienced it—dust every surface at 9am, can write in the new dust on the kitchen table by 4pm, on a bad day when the wind's wrong and it's dry), "snow" from combines and various ag processing plants (pretty sure this stuff's terrible on your lungs, but at least it's not all the time and only in some places). That shit smell for a few days when the next farmer over spreads manure. Your hour-plus drive (each way) every two to four weeks for your "big shopping" (and they say cities have food deserts! LOL—and if you think there aren't rural folks so damn poor they have trouble keeping a car running and need tons of help just to get groceries... well, there are, and lots of them) and needing to have a deep freeze or two and maybe even two refrigerators depending on how big your family is. Having to drive that far, too, if your kid needs clothes or shoes and the limited selection at the tractor & feed won't cut it. Forget walking anywhere that ain't your own land.
Got its own challenges. But, sometimes, it is very, very quiet.
[EDIT] Oh, and gunshots! Pretty often, mostly far off, varies a little depending on what your neighbors are like, but common enough I think it's fair to call that a normal part of the rural soundscape.
People are expected to go up to 30 mph here. They don't.
I think a lot of people just assume that the only kind of suburbia that exists is endless tract housing as far as the eye can see. I'm absolutely positive that does happen, but I've never lived in a suburban neighborhood that fit such a description. We have stores. We have business parks here and there. Heck, we even have public transit.
This is probably why there is such a dichotomy between those who hate suburbia, and those who love it. Different experiences piggybacking on the same terminology.
Contrast to NJ, where the NYC suburbs extend way outside Midtown and the city limits.
As a result, it is very rare to feel like you are in the middle of nowhere.
If lots of people want it, the price will skyrocket, so then somebody will buy some land just outside the city and build suburbia there so more people can afford it.
Rinse and repeat.
Yes that is absolutely something people want. You can get that in cities if you give up on yard and instead share with parks. That said, some of the reasons people want it are uncomfortable.
Some people don’t like change and moved somewhere based on how it looked in <year>, understandable, but change is a part of life especially as our population grows. Streets that are safe for kids are common in many parts of the world, in many different city structures, not just suburbs. So the “family friendly” myth about suburbs isn’t true.
Regarding uncomfortable truths, if you go and listen to some of the town meetings, you’ll walk away with a couple points, of varying degrees of prejudice.
Some people simply want it to be “exclusionary” to keep prices up, and to keep themselves feeling special. Those people in town meetings may suggest paying for affordable housing in another town to keep theirs as is.
Some people will say they don’t want affordable housing because “we all know that those people bring crime”. This can be a varying degree of prejudice, whether it’s low income people or racial minorities, but invariably someone always says it.
I totally agree parks are an amazing solution and can create really nice places for kids to play safely. We love our parks. That said, even if the end product is objectively better for the current homeowners due to new amenities, etc. there is still a long period of lots of construction they'll have to endure that might be the only years their kids are at an age where they'd normally be wandering the previously quiet neighborhood. None of this is simple, and it's going to be a trade-off between the valid interests of the existing property owners and the valid interests of the larger metro area population that needs a place to live.
If I were living in an apartment, then a park would be better than nothing.
But I can't grow a vegetable garden in a park. I can't enjoy the park while I have stuff inside my house that I need to check on in 15 minutes. You can't let a 5 year-old go to the park alone but, if your backyard is relatively secured and you can see them out of your window, then you can let them play in the backyard. I can't let my dog out to run to the park in order to "do its business" etc. I don't have the same level of privacy and solitude at a park as I do in my backyard.
While there are certain things I would prioritize over a backyard (like having a garage to set up a "makers shop" in), there's not much I would trade a backyard for ... least of all a park.
Beyond the "yard solution" I also have a very hard time living in even medium-sized cities, let alone large ones. I don't like noise, traffic (street or pedestrian) or crowds. Public transportation is a nightmare for me and grocery delivery services have actually saved my life so I don't need or want a grocery store within walking distance (I find shopping to be one of the most stressful activities in life). Rural living is for me.
It's funny how common things like vegetable gardens are in Internet rhetoric and how comparatively rare they are in the world I actually walk around in.
This is a thread about development policy. If you actually want to raise a vegetable garden, you're in a small minority. Nobody is forcing you to live anywhere, and there is certainly no need to prevent the growth of cities or preserve low-density neighborhoods in the inner region of a major metropolitan area to ensure there will be space for the small fraction of us who want to grow their own tomatoes. In fact the opposite is true: allowing dense development to take place ensures that there will be more unspoilt land available on the outskirts for those of us with a green thumb.
My point is simple: you are not being forced to live in a city.
>Why did you zero in on that
It helped highlight the irrelevance and myopia of your post.
>That has literally nothing to do with my comment.
Your concluding sentence was "Rural living is for me". Do you see the connection now?
This is a thread about how some people make life more expensive for everyone because the world around them is changing and they want to use the government to stop it. This is a thread about development policy. Development policy does not make your backyard disappear. It is a question about whether you should ban other people from living in ways you don't personally enjoy.
>I was wondering what problems they solve. The fact that most people don't grow vegetable gardens is cherry-picking one example I gave of something you can do in a backyard but that you can't do in a park.
Why did you cherry-pick one example the poster gave about what he enjoys about living in a city and go off on a rant about all of the things you can do in a backyard but not in a park?
See how silly that sounds?
But that has nothing to do with anything. I never once said or even implied that I, or anyone else, was.
> It helped highlight the irrelevance and myopia of your post.
I re-read the thread and come away with a different conclusion. My post was neither myopic or off-topic IMO.
> Your concluding sentence was "Rural living is for me". Do you see the connection now?
You misunderstood my point and concluded that i was implying that everyone is being forced to live in cities. You are being argumentative, I was making conversation.
> Why did you cherry-pick one example the poster gave about what he enjoys about living in a city and go off on a rant about all of the things you can do in a backyard but not in a park?
Re-read the parent, troll.
The thread is about policy. Every post before yours in the tree you responded to discusses the motivations of people, particularly people in large CA metropolitan areas, for supporting particular policies, or discusses the impacts of the policies themselves. I attempted to respond to your post as though you were trying to say something relevant to policy, and in so doing, tried to explain that your personal preferences are not necessarily a good guide to policy, particularly in the areas in question.
You have pulled the less important sentences out of my posts and chosen to repeatedly attack me personally:
>You are being argumentative
>Re-read the parent, troll.
In fairness, it was not the post you responded to that mentioned parks as an amenity of cities, but the one before that. I regret that my attempt at a humorous illustration seems to have been missed.
It doesn't seem like further exposition on my part is likely to help you see what you missed. Please understand that there are many people like you who interject these sort of unhelpful anti-city anecdotes in discussions about local land use regulations, so I showed a little annoyance.
Zurich has community gardens because of that. Of course, demand is high, you’ll need to get on a list for a plot.
But it sounds like you really need rural living, but just a heavy socialized municipality.
No, that is definitely just an urban legend. First, the law would depend on the state, and second, most states don’t have restrictions for kids once they are 7-8 years old, which I consider way too young to be by themselves but I wouldn’t get arrested over it.
> Phillips, Debra Harrell’s attorney, confirmed there is no age at which a child can be left on his or her own specified in South Carolina law. The challenge for the prosecutor will be to prove that this child’s needs and care were not adequately arranged before she was left at the park, he said.
There is no law against it (in South Carolina at least). The law they are using for the charge is reckless endangerment. And usually at the end of it, prosecutors drop all charges due to lack of evidence.
All these things make public playgrounds just extremely inconvenient. It's such a treacherous hazard I can't in good conscious consider it as anything close to a substitute.
Yes. You know where you should be.
I'm very adaptive and can do both(to a degree), and a lot of people are like you, me and city dwelling socialites(that pay $5000 for a shoebox apartment in the middle of Manhattan).
The issue arises, is when people with your mindset also want to be close to big social life. Then they may, and NIMBYs do, stifle natural city growth. << That is the problem here
I'm 100% sure that there is a way to negotiate better outcomes for everyone.
Very few people here are implying this. It’s true that some people are doing it out of prejudice, and that some of American culture has been conditioned to like the suburbs, out of historic prejudices.
> there is still a long period of lots of construction they'll have to endure that might be the only years their kids are at an age where they'd normally be wandering the previously quiet neighborhood.
Those people will still have the yards they had yesterday though? They’ll still have everything they had the day before zoning changed. Nothing is lost for homeowners. The whole neighborhood isn’t going to be under scaffolding overnight and quiet neighborhoods are far more dangerous for kids to play outside than a more developed area.
And just as development isn’t instantaneous, neither is childhood growth - the people that move into new houses that are built will likely be pre-child families looking to move somewhere (still quite) quiet to raise a kid.
> trade-off between the valid interests of the existing property owners and the valid interests of the larger metro area population that needs a place to live.
Completely false dichotomy. This isn’t about metro vs suburbs. It’s those homeowners vs all of society, or more precisely current town residents vs future town residents.
The suburbs need more housing, and the cities. All of American society has too few houses for the population, and people have to live somewhere. Some want to live in a big city, but some want to live outside a big city. This population should not be looked at as “city overflow” and more than the current residents should be considered city dwellers. Plenty of people would rather live in a 5% more dense Hillsboro than a 5% more dense San Francisco. And both towns may need to be 5% more dense to support housing needs.
Perhaps not, but it's the people who attend town meetings and complain (more often than not for prejudiced reasons, IME) who influence housing policy. City planning leadership reacts to and votes on the opinions of those people primarily, not the people who don't show up.
So it's even more non-representative than that!
Cars are currently two tons noise and pollution machine. It's no wonder why people feel unsafe around them.
You could restrict traffic to only bicycles and pedestrians combined with mixed zoning.
Also, lawn mowers....They're extremely loud.
You mean like all the medium-density neighborhoods of San Francisco? American R-1 suburbs are a nightmare for kids, and that's why you never see any kids outside there, tell me how this: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Menlo+Park,+CAemail@example.com...
, in one of America's most expensive suburbs, is any sort of safe for kids.
But, yes, they also play at the park. They all run all over the damned place -- because it's a safe place and, culturally, the people living in the neighborhood have a high degree of trust and look out for one another. It's very difficult to replicate that in high density urban developments with the attendant problems those areas recruit (e.g., crime, homelessness, etc.).
How do they get there? What might not be obvious is that the parks are often far away, because you can't afford to maintain many parks because the tax base is too small.
Uncrowded is subjective I suppose but it's certainly no Manhattan.
No, we just can't comprehend why you would expect the big city to be quiet and uncrowded. It's like moving to the tropics, and complaining that it rains too much, and that the skiing sucks.
If you want quiet and uncrowded, there's the 99.9% of the country's land area that isn't taken up by coastal metros in the middle of a crippling housing crisis.
The anti-density crowd can't imagine allowing well planned towns and cities to exist in the US.
Low traffic → Less cars driving
How do you get less cars driving? People need realistic options. How do you get those options? Density to support transit and Density to support having businesses close to everyone's homes so they can just walk or bike. Car-dependent suburbia IS the problem, and the more of it you have in the city the bigger the problems of traffic and unaffordability get.
> want to keep them that way
Look, don't get carried away. Unless a very significant block of homeowners in your beautiful leafy neighborhood are itching to sell, you have literally nothing to fear. Maybe when a large mall is demolished a mile away from you, someone will build something other than single-family tract homes. Big whoop.
*Nobody is coming for your suburbs with bulldozers* just because "SFH" might not be enshrined as the only way anything can be developed.
I'm not advocating for low density suburbs or for things to remain unchanged.
My point was that the implication that some kind of nefarious prejudice was the main reason for homeowners wanting to keep the status quo, isn't fair or accurate.
I grew up on a cul-de-sac. There were 8 houses on the street. The only time there was a car on the street is when someone from one of those 8 houses went somewhere. There was zero traffic and the street was safe for kids to play in.
Only if you arbitrarily cherry-pick the unit of analysis to support your argument.
The only way to actually reduce cars per unit of land across all available land is to increase housing density so that sensible transportation alternatives like bicycle and metro become viable for the lazier marginal population.
You're describing European cities, there. That is literally how I grew up in a big city, and we were lower middle class at best.
I'm from the Netherlands, and for the first 24 years of my life have lived in lower working class neighborhoods, 3 in total. Low income families, people on wellfare, the like. In this case all white, so it's not a racial thing.
All of these 3 neighborhoods were awful. Relatively high crime, vandalism, the public dumping of trash, alcoholism, very loud music blasting, shouting, just general anti-social behavior.
The biggest quality of life improvement in my lifetime is that eventually I was able to afford living in a good neighborhood. Middle class to a bit above it. Families, stable citizens, civil, considerate, sane. The piece of mind this gives is invaluable. This is just one step up the ladder, I'm by no means rich.
It's not elitism. It shouldn't be a high bar to feel comfortable, safe, and not constantly frustrated by obnoxious people, or the spaces ruined. But at the same time we should acknowledge that this "bar" is strongly correlated with class. For obvious reasons, in the lower classes more people have what I'll categorize as "social issues".
And here's the thing. It's a rotten apple dynamic. Perhaps as little as 5-10% of the inhabitants are responsible for all this shit, yet the entire neighborhood becomes unlivable because of it. The real issue here is that these rotten apples are not addressed. Because it's near-impossible to address. The behavior is petty crime at best and often merely obnoxious and anti-social behavior. You can't put people in jail for that and they have to live somewhere. This is already the lowest end, there's nowhere else to go.
So the positive here is that it's not racism (in my example), and not even classism. 90% of people in the lower classes are decent and social people. The real issue is the inability to deal with the 10% that is not. The dysfunctionals and anti-socials wrecking the place.
I'm sure that each has their own story, but I'm not going to suffer my entire life at their whims. I've done plenty of that. You could say that this "prejudice" is very much grounded in reality. Sometimes you need to a reality check.
When each neighbor bought into the neighborhood, they all signed up for this same basic deal. Many of them would likely have chosen to not spend their money on the property had their neighbors not been bound by the same rules.
What is being proposed is a significant change to those rules that every owner at some point agreed to. This absolutely does affect everyone in the neighborhood because an older neighborhood is more than a collection of unrelated properties, it is a collection of actual homes of similar size and character with a particular feel and aesthetic.
A change to the rules may absolutely be necessary for the health of the city / population as a whole. Totally agree with this. Don't pretend though that it's not coming at the cost of infringing on the existing homeowners' reasonable expectations of what they bought into when they purchased their properties. Again, maybe it does need to happen, but homeowners are not unreasonable for wanting to keep their neighborhoods as they've always known and loved them.
Sure, because the law is changing, at least ostensibly due to the will of the people. The didn’t initially “agree to the rules,” and the new rules aren’t optional either. I’m obviously not so naive to think that all changes in law reflect the will of the people, but it’s pretty easy to see why this is likely the case, especially in these particular places that have enormous demand for housing and extreme restrictions on new housing developments (I bet that’s not a coincidence!).
From a contractual/legal perspective, sure.
From an emotional perspective though, it's different. Nobody buys a house on a whim, people spend a huge amount of time researching the best spot to buy based on all their preferences. To suddenly change all that is going to be distressing to any person who has ever bought a house.
It’s all about kids.
Without kids in the picture sure, go ahead, make cities look like Coruscant from Star Wars.
The instant you have kids you see how important open spaces safe enough for unstructured minimally supervised play are. Without spaces like this all you have are kids drooling on Roblox and YouTube all day. There’s nothing for kids in an urban core.
Those spaces don’t have to be undeveloped or even outdoor but I have yet to see a city successfully create an environment safe enough that I’d let my small daughters run around.
So while I agree that zoning is dumb and complicated, I also think it’s important to understand where people are coming from.
Our playgrounds were(they still are) larger and more accessible, than anything my current neighbours kids get on their 2a of land in rural USA.
Even the new developments in Eastern Europe provide a kid friendly courtyard. Shielded from all traffic and observable by literally the whole community.
Suburbia should be reserved for the insane rich people, that hate their neighbors.
When they have coirtyards, they looks lile prisons.
I think the key with Japan is that they have several big HOA style restrictions at the very front of their property - the border. Immigration and existing cultural norms of being super respectful and following conventions in public places make this possible - the HOA style rules are built in at the country level.
There's also a very strict police presence apparently to ensure HOA compliance. 
It'd be awesome if there was experimental urban (or suburban) development in the US/CA that existed that was very high density and had very strict HOA rules and enforcement similar to Japan/Singapore.
 Japan, a "heaven for cops" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DAri8cD4kN8
I have acres of woods _in my backyard_. There are also no homeless people sleeping on the benches.
Zaragoza in Spain. Walked from the old city centre to the edge of the city (which was apartment blocks) in a reasonable time. It was mostly agricultural land, but I recall
some forest along the river.
San Sebastián, also in Spain. You can walk into the hills, but we went to the beach.
Parks covered in homeless people is a US problem, in my experience. I've been around most of Europe and haven't seen anything like that. The homeless problem in the US is a policy choice, just like the urban development is. It's easily solvable given political will.
Can you walk to a cafe?
Offhand, from relatively recent experience:
Singapore and Hong Kong contain forests, and when living there I regularly walked to them. Hong Kong is more than half green space.
The east side of Cologne is around an hour's walk from a proper forest.
Central Salzburg is an easy walk from several forests.
Hiroshima is surrounded by gorgeous forests, easily reached on foot, where you occasionally encountered secluded temples along the paths.
I live in Prague, my parents in a nearby town. Walking 10 minutes gets me either to a metro station or an "urban forest"/heavily wooded park called Stromovka. I think it's a very appropriate place for kids to play in nature. My parents have walking/biking access to similar places.
Not every place in Prague is this close to nature, but it's common enough that someone seeking that kind of housing can get it at basically no premium.
Mah suburbia people do not even grasp the alternatives they are missing
> but implying that all of these homeowners are primarily driven by prejudice
This is a good example of why being coy rather than explicit is bad for productive discussion. Bigotry of its various forms is certainly one possible uncomfortable answer to the question. But there are others, like crime, or the effect of local property-value-to-enrollment ratio on school quality, or plenty of other problems that systematically occur in American cities.
NIMBYism is by no means the exclusive domain of homeowners in low-density neighborhoods. Even when it comes from them, they are often concerned with developments that are not actually in their neighborhoods — their trees and yards not being in jeopardy. There's a fundamental distrust of the overall process of development that animates anti-growth sentiments not only in middle-class neighborhoods but also in, for example, the Mission.
For one if zoning laws change tomorrow no one is going to bulldoze those neighborhoods on Thursday. So everyone already in their "safe" neighborhood will remain "safe". Except in rare circumstances no one is going to build a 10-lane expressway behind that tract of "safe" houses.
Second you've got to be realistic about the socioeconomic factors behind those "safe" suburbs.
The small, often winding suburban streets are largely impenetrable to buses and completely immune to light rail. This means public transit often used by "those people" (for whatever local definition of "those") is inaccessible from inside the "safe" suburban housing tracts. This is exacerbated by many suburbs lacking sidewalks. Inaccessibility of public transit was a design criteria for early suburbs preventing anyone that could afford a house but not a car from moving to them.
I’m so in favor of up zoning, but some parts of California will be quickly thrust into a new reality.
Santa Monica was the first town to
fail the housing element. They previously had 1600 houses built in the last 8 years. Since failing recently, developers have submitted permits for 4000 units. That’s 20x above the yearly average. If I was a “desirable” town, I’d be very nervous to not comply.
If I owned property in one of those towns I’d have been advertising it to developers hard too.
*Until the city decides they want to change it
That's why people want to ensrine in law that those trees don't change. They don't trust the city to maintain homeostasis for the duration of their residency.
What happens when people want to build a new apartment building but those trees are too big to safely build next to?
If I or my neighbor wants to cut down a tree is a completely different conversation.
I appreciate your snark though, even though it's completely irrelevant.
Suburban streets are extremely dangerous to kids (in fact being hit by a driver is the leading cause of death to kids under 14).
You know what is safe? Walkable cities, pedestrianised streets, speed bumps wherever cars do drive inside the city, etc.
In the end it should be their right... but... what happens now, is that they underpay for the infrastructure and services they get.
This. Houston has little or no zoning and is terribly sprawling and car-centric. Despite the lack of zoning, in most neighborhoods you can't just build whatever you want because of restrictive covenants. Developers build massive car-focused single-family-only developments and load them with covenants that prevent anything else from being built on the property after it is sold.
Yes, they're the most local demonstration of the fact that "democracy" is not an acceptable approach to decide what color I can paint my house, or what plants I can plant, or how soon after the 6am garbage pickup my garbage can has to be brought inside.
They're also, often, not even a democracy: they're a loudest-ocracy, because most people have better things to do with their time than dictate what their neighbors can do.
Destroy HOAs with fire.
To be clear, echoing a point from elsewhere in this thread: nobody should have to have an asphalt manufacturing plant next to their home. But that same premise doesn't extend to "nobody should have a house next to them with an Unapproved Paint Color".
But like I think states like Michigan should do things like get rid of townships (which end up being a redundant layer under counties given modern infrastructure and administrative capacity).
The dumbest meeting I ever went to was a township zoning discussion where one group disingenuously argued that wind towers were the worst thing that could ever happen, another group argued that they should be able to put a wind tower anywhere they want regardless of any impact on their neighbors, and a guy that liked his own voice talked about how natural gas is a conspiracy, or something like that.
We moved from Manhattan an hour north into a rural area. Our town clears our road continuously during winter, while are property taxes are low single thousands. We get three trash pickups per week and other trash removal services included.
We woefully underpay for those services.
You can see also see this in New York.
It seemed to me that you could double the population density of that kind of neighborhood by replacing a single family lot with a 8 story tower every other block and filling in an occasional duplex, triplex or small apartment building. Such a neighborhood would be different but still pretty nice by most people’s standards, you can see neighborhoods like that in L.A. or São Paulo.
To be devil’s advocate though I’d say there are larger scale reasons why people might conclude that ‘California is full’. One is that the population density of California overall is about the same as Germany even though most of California is uninhabitable or massive farm fields. Certain regions of the coast are highly populated by U.S. standards even if they are nothing like Hong Kong or Singapore. The linear pattern of dense development means the radio spectrum is utilized like nowhere else in the US such that there are more OTA TVs channels in LA than some cable plans.
California struggles with water and any population addition would require adding more infrastructure of all kinds. It could be more highways, it could be more public transit but it has to be paid for. And the US is a country that spends 10’s of billions to duplicate a train station in NYC or run rail from Bakersfield to Fresno. A reasonable person could very well try to gum up the gears in that machine no matter how they can.
You might say that more population means more economic activity and more tax base but I am not so sure. A lot of it seems driven by inequity and monopoly power. Google and Facebook could not double their revenue by doubling their hiring in California and it is not so plausible that the next big startup in the U.S. would be able to accomplish what they’ve done. There was a time you could dream of selling a company like WhatsApp to Facebook even if going public was not in the cards but the monopolists would hate to have to spend that much to defend their positions and surely try to shape the environment to prevent that. (Now from Genshin Impact to Tik-Tok innovation in social/entertainment is happening in the PRC because that economy is more open to competition.)
And you could probably maintain or even increase the amount of ground-level "yard" space per capita even while increasing population density. Of course it would need to be parks that you share.
Like treat HOA as a commercial entity for purposes of trash, water and sewage. (HOAs are, de facto, incorporated organizations). Tax land under the roads as plain land.
As for localities - they should be mandated to reassess property values every X years and distribute infrastructure maintenance costs appropriately. I now live in a rural area, and I underpay taxes for the services I get... while smaller houses in town overpay.
Except they can't go begging to the feds, because they've also have been voted in under platforms of "minimize tax increases" for 40 years, so they're also indebted.
I didn't mention that bad HOAs should definitely have the option to not have to pony up... However, suburban homes have to get their taxes ramped up, because they are unsustainable at current levels.
Like cleaner air, safer streets, less traffic and a better place to raise a child and/or dog with backyards and privacy.
So, you ban cars from streets and allow only pedestrians and cyclists. Next, you allow local amenities to pop up so you don't feel the need to get a car out.
The suburban pattern of development as it currently exists isn't the only way to facilitate the quality of life you're looking for.
In suburban hell what are you supposed to play with? And with whom? The only other two kids on the street?
So, like in European cities.
But in any case, it does not change the fact that I grew up in a big city, with, as listed above, "cleaner air, safer streets, less traffic, a better place to raise a child and/or dog with backyards and privacy", and that that was common all around me. Children, me included, played on the streets. It's literally called a "Spielstraße", and they are very common. We just walked over to school, too, maybe took the bus for a few stations.
I've been living in the US for close than a decade now, and it's markedly different. I don't blame the US, I just hate zoning with a passion. I so miss living in a nice area in the city and being able to walk over to a small supermarket, a café, a barber, within the same area. Just live my life, without having to hop into my car and make it a journey for every tiny thing. It's so isolating here.
These news give me hope.
For what it's worth, the US is huge. I've lived in a number of places around this country, and I can't generalize much of anything between them. This is probably why I love suburbia and you hate it. My neighborhood is awesome and sounds just like you describe your ideal neighborhood to be. It's also suburban by any definition.
Sometimes I wonder if people just assume that all of the US has Midwest-style tract housing that sprawls for miles, or if we're all like California, etc. It's so variable, and the generalizations unhelpful (but hilarious).
So what’s stopping you? Move to the downtown area of any decently-sized city. You make it sound as if such areas don’t exist at all in the US.
But it is true that I don't know every larger city. So if there is a city where the zoning laws I'm lamenting do not apply, great, let's have that in California as well, please.
Single and duplex zoning was a great deal for cities and close suburbs because they are operationally efficient - less services are required; fewer parks, fewer schools, fewer calls for fire and police service. It’s a good deal for people because financially it has been historically better to own a building and land vs rent or buy into coops.
For existing, pre-1990 low density urban neighborhoods, retrofitting medium density housing is usually a shitshow. Why?
- The areas of were detached houses that usually have yards, no parks, fire stations, etc.
- Because of healthcare and tax policy, it’s very difficult to run the types of small businesses that are needed to support an urban lifestyle. Boutiques, restaurants/bars and similar
- Because there are no local amenities, people still need cars, and there’s rarely enough parking to meet demand.
- Schools are tied to geography, and changes in school assignments are impactful and traumatic to families.
- Developers usually get tax credits for including street level retail, but have no financial incentive to rent them as tax policy pays them to do nothing.
If you look at functioning urban environments like NYC, you see it all over the place. I grew up in Brooklyn and Queens. As small retail fades away, major big box scaled retail moves in. The neighborhood 20-40k sq ft grocery stores of my childhood (Key Food, Finest, A&P, ShopRite) are being displaced by bodegas at the low end and big developments on the high end - which drive demand for cars and exclude people relying on transit.
You can only fix this stuff with fairly radical change, that will be very painful for lots of stakeholders.
> Because there are no local amenities, people need cars
Seems like the definition of inefficiency
> - Developers usually get tax credits for including street level retail, but have no financial incentive to rent them as tax policy pays them to do nothing
In a typical average HOA neighborhood:
* The HOA pays for landscaping of all the common areas like green belts and parks within the tract. If you don't have an HOA, you either are benefiting from your city choosing to locate and maintain those kinds of amenities right by where you live, or you just don't get any of those.
* Obviously one of the big ones, the other main HOA budget item is pools, clubhouses you can rent cheaply for parties, tennis courts, etc. For rich people they don't care since they have their own pools, but it's a great boon to people not rich enough to have a pool to have easy free access to one that isn't crowded and is close to home.
* They, in theory, fine you for outwardly living like an absolute slob or selfish jerk. NOTE: In practice nobody cares about most of these little rules, like mailbox color or a patio chair left on your lawn, unless you're acting wildly outside the norms. The rules are there to let them enforce them selectively on the person who's making everyone miserable.
* They regulate architecture and paint color. This may be my least favorite because it seems like we shouldn't need this, I have taste and why should I have to submit my stuff for approval to these jerks? But really, this is only there because there would be SOMEBODY who would paint their house an absurd garish color or build a giant ugly addition in their front yard or something that looks wildly out of place.
There are also HOAs that place a lot of weird restrictions on what you can do. It really depends on the HOA, some are good, some are very bad.
That said, for the place where I personally am in life, a HOA is bad and I refuse to live in one.
You cannot buy without being a part of the HOA.
At a high level, anyone can sue you to enforce a deed term, as long as the organization/person with an interest is around to do it and knows to do it. As an easy example, a long time ago people added racist stuff to deeds, but those family descendants no longer enforce it. HOAs don’t die like people and collect dues so they don’t run out of legal fees.
You can try to get dead HOAs removed from a deed, and you can try to get a living HOA removed from a deed. Obviously one is a lot easier because it doesn’t fight back. You can also get the residents to vote to dissolve an HOA. Some HOAs expire after so long if the residents don’t renew.
TLDR you can’t buy the house without agreeing to the HOA.
I'd be curious about people's experiences and successes with this. Has anyone successfully pulled that off with a still-existing HOA?
I'd be extremely interested in cases of any modern HOA being successfully removed from a deed and thus rendered moot, ideally administratively without a massive legal battle.
To get at what your really implying though, what's wrong with maintaining some degree of cultural homogeneity in a neighborhood? It's a good thing in that it makes for high trust communities.
If I'm in a city and and I own one of these houses, it's clear economically that wanting to limit building multi-unit housing near me enhances the value growth of my property - because you can't build nearly as many SFH as you can apartments. I'm sure racism and fear of the other is still an issue (I'm from the south, I know it's an issue based on personal experience) but it's far more economic imho today. The end result is the same, people want to hold on to what they see as part of their "intrinsic value" in their neighborhood setup.
This argument never made sense for me. Being able to put more units in the same space drastically increases the value of the land. It of course reduces the value of other things like having towering buildings around your 2 story home which blocks your view. In this sense, home owners need to turn to zoning to prevent that despite it being detrimental to their land value.
So rarely if ever is new apartment development targeted at a mansion district, and I've never seen an apartment dweller oppose that concept. I don't know why they would and I wouldn't expect them to.
Most of all people want exclusivity. Only having a handful of neighbours is something that is hard to buy. It's easier enforced through regulation.
Established neighbourhoods push for regulations to keep people out.
In the past it absolutely was for racist reasons. Today more likely economic ones. Apartments means renters which means less wealthy people. Exclusive detached home areas are pretty much guaranteed to have a high floor of wealth.
People don't like to be casually accused of racism when there are other perfectly reasonable explanations.
That’s just urbanists smearing people with innuendo about racism to advance unrelated policy goals. It’s actually ironic, because one of the major population trends right now is “black flight” to the suburbs.
People, especially families, like low density suburban zoning because it’s convenient. I live in a pre-zoning code suburb with houses packed tightly together. People are always fighting over parking spots, contractor trucks can block people into their parking spots or block the road, etc. There’s a lot of retired people, and they complain about families with young kids moving in due to the noise. (And these are white and white adjacent kids too.) My parents refused to move into the subdivision, and instead moved nearby to a 1 acre plot surrounded by trees where they didn’t have to interact with their neighbors.
Because it's actually what many people want. They want a house in the quiet suburbs that they can sell in 30 years for much more than it's worth. This is obviously all because nearly everyone alive that can vividly remember a time before WW2 are dead. All they know are car-centric architecture. And we all know how much people love change.
Sooner or later this will collapse disasterously
They need a way of keeping out black households without violating the legal prohibition on an HOA saying "no black owners".
(1) Minimum parking lot size requirements (as others mentioned). Commercial properties are required to have X amount of parking spaces available.
(2) Political issues and how money gets invested: despite public "protests" (maybe more like "kvetching"), there's continued investment in freeway expansion / car-centric infrastructure due to lobbying/other political efforts instead of public transportation.
Our sprawl is more due to (1) and (2) rather than lack of zoning regulation.
But also to Houston's credit, things are slowly (SLOWLY) getting better.
This one irks me the most. we have 8 parking spots for every car and giant shopping malls are surrounded by parking lots that take up twice their size and are 50% empty for 95% of the time (more if you count night time)
Japan has strong national zoning laws that are very strictly applied. The biggest differences are the zones allow for a looser range of outcomes than the American ones, and the zoning approach is not controlled by local government (which often is NIMBYs)
Usually commercial and some level of manufacturing overlap in zoning, but smelters are in a different category.
Rent has gotten so outrageous that this is a good thing now.
My place overlooks a freeway. I really, truly dislike that freeway. But one thing I do like about it is the noise that it makes, even at night. I find it very hard to fall asleep in silence.
Oh and I should mention that most of the units in my building do not face the freeway, and therefore, those who prefer quiet can also get that, even in the same building.
I'm of the persuasion that highways should never go through cities. I'd never argue living by a highway is good. It's just that one isolated aspect of it that others may find bad, I find good, due to preference.
and I would happily just play some white noise on a speaker instead in exchange for being rid of it. Oh well.
I read an article a year or two ago (maybe posted here?) about Japan's zoning laws and they just make sense.
- Rather than dozens of categories, there are just 4 or 5 in increasing amounts of annoyance (e.g residence -> retail/office -> manufacturing) and areas approved for one level can always be used by lower levels.
- The laws are uniform nationally.
- Zoning decisions get made at higher levels (prefecture or national?) so they can consider what the whole region needs, and get less NIMBYism / maximize-my-near-term-property-value-ism.
I don't recall whether they even have the distinct single-family versus multi-family dwelling categorization that seems to cause so much of the housing supply shortage in the U.S.
Houston technically has no zoning laws, but it has a combination of other laws that end up behaving similarly to exactly how zoning laws work. Giving you a link to City Beautiful which works as a great primer.
Aesthetic judgments aside, seems like a winning strategy for housing affordability?
It's easy to have cheap housing when you ignore common sense and just build wherever. (Also, part of the expense for LA and SF is that we have earthquakes, and our buildings have to be built to withstand earthquakes. For example: a 5.4 earthquake in 2011 caused over $300 million in damage on the East Coast. A series of CA earthquakes stronger than that in 2019, including 6.4 and 7.1 quakes, only caused a few thousand in damage near the epicenter. A 5.1 earthquake earlier this year in SoCal caused so little damage that most people slept through it and only know it happened because the news reported it. Note that each "magnitude" is about 30x difference in strength, so the 6.4 quake was 30x stronger than the 5.4 quake, and the 7.1 quake was nearly 900x stronger.)
Specifically, Texas just uses the ICC's IRC, while California has the California Building Standards Code, which has additional requirements to account for our many earthquakes (https://peer.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/peer2019-05_ss...).
even at our grossly inflated land costs, simply allowing density throughout the Bay Area would enable much more housing affordability, allow more transit, and reduce our emissions and enhance our social contact. But a side benefit of broad legalization of density would be that those land costs would drop dramatically too, as there would be a much greater supply.
- Is it a desirable location, and the zoning laws cause the prices to skyrocket because not all the people that want to live there can
- Is it desirable because the zoning laws make sure it's a certain type of environment, and the desirability is what causes the price to increase
- Is it a combination of the two.
I think any reasonable person would say it's a combination of the two. And removing the zoning laws would both make it less desirable _and_ lower the price of housing. It would not leave it just as desirable, but with more people living there.
Houston has had a stable population (per square mile) over the past decade and has a median income of ~$50,000.
Sacramento has had the population per square mile increase by ~15% in the past decade and has a median income of ~$71,000.
San Francisco has had the population per square mile increase by ~9% in the past decade and has a median income of ~$126,000.
In Houston, we have what is effectively zoning. It's just that we do it at the neighborhood level. You want to go into the museum district or third ward and develop x, or y, or z? No problem. So long as the neighbors agree with you.
Hint: Once they gentrify to the point of being called "The Museum District", they will definitely not be agreeing with you.
I saw someone above throw out a figure of 3 or 4 hundred k as a price point and I had to chuckle. If all you want to do is build a low-rise for workforce housing? Yeah, this neighborhood wouldn't care if you had the money or not. Piss off peasant. The people in the Museum District no longer wish to reside in proximity with your kind. Some neighborhood get togethers you almost get the impression that people would like to put gates to the city at all the 610 exits. Keep the riff raff out. And don't even get me started about what I hear from friends behind the gates down Sunset.
In Houston, the zoning is way worse than in other cities. Because people can literally stop anyone they want. No city council permission necessary.
That's what zoning laws are.
Houston is a huge urban/semi-urban sprawl, the kind that used to be popular in LA a few decades ago. Dallas is similar, Austin gets that way outside of its downtown, San Antonio does also but at least has a much more interesting urban core. It always seemed you get what you pay for in Houston, there isn’t anything wrong with that, but many people don’t want it.
Houston, which also has loose zoning, looks totally different because most Texans want to live in suburbs and drive cars.
In other words, zoning laws are generally an expression of what the majority of people already wanted.
I can tell you for sure that in most parts of California (and most of the rest of the USA) the majority of people want to live in a detached single-family home that they own, and prefer driving cars to public transit.
People who prefer a denser arrangement are an especially vocal minority on the internet, but if you put it to a vote, you'd end up with pretty much what we have today -- the fact that people wanted them is why they got built in the first place!
Certain types of housing are illegal because people don’t like them, and voted to ban them! Zoning laws don’t just magically appear out of nowhere.
They key is that they don't do Euclidian, or exclusive zoning. You can build housing in almost every single one of their (iirc) fifteen different zoning designations.
So to US norms, this feels like "no zoning," but it's still restrictive in many ways. Just not in a way that says "only housing here" or "no housing here." (again on that last one, in the vast majority of cases, but not strictly speaking all.)
Suburban sprawl is fine and coming from NJ, going to a place where it doesn't exist feels very strange.
My brother lives just outside Charlotte - outside of the airport and city proper, you hit what I would consider rural areas within roughly 20 minutes.
It's a thing...I guess?
For people that like the quiet living they can live in a nearby town (Duvall has around 10,000 people living in the town), the density of the town means you’ll probably be close to a grocery store and other amenities, and probably even a bus line or a commuter train to the nearby city if you need to commute to work. Meanwhile the countryside is open for everyone (including city dwellers) to enjoy.
It feels like sacrificing this for boring monotonous suburban sprawl (as is tradition in California) benefits nobody while ruining a good thing many have.