Regulating Place: Standards and the Shaping of Urban America

By Eran Ben-Joseph; Terry S. Szold | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8

Facing Subdivision Regulations

ERAN BEN-JOSEPH

While regulations are intended to guard against the evil results of ignorance and greed on the part of landowners and builders, they also limit and control the operations of those who are neither ignorant nor greedy; and it is clear that the purpose in framing and enforcing them should be to leave open the maximum scope for individual enterprise, initiative and ingenuity that is compatible with adequate protection of the public interests. Such regulations are, and always should be, in a state of flux and adjustment-on the one hand with a view to preventing newly discovered abuses, and on the other hand with a view to opening a wider opportunity of individual discretion at points where the law is found to be unwisely restrictive.

Fredrick Law Olmsted Jr., 19161

To the private sector, professional consultants, as well as some public officials, Fredrick Law Olmsted Jr.'s statement made almost a century ago still holds much truth. Many are still apprehensive about the extent and effect of development-related regulations on their practice. They often see regulations as costly, inconsistent, and superfluous and tend to blame regulations as a barrier to housing affordability and innovative design solutions.

In Ecological Design, Sim Van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan wrote, “City planners, engineers, and other design professionals have become trapped in standardized solutions that require enormous expenditures of energy and

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