Regulating Place: Standards and the Shaping of Urban America

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

CHAPTER 10

The Benefits of Non-Zoning

BERNARD H. SIEGAN

A major purpose for the establishment of zoning was to protect the exclusivity of single-family housing development. Supporters of zoning contended that single-family developments were frequently invaded by adverse and incompatible uses that were destructive to home ownership. The six-to-three U.S. Supreme Court decision in Euclid v. Ambler, which ruled that zoning was a constitutionally valid limitation on the exercise of property rights, 1 was authored by Justice George Sutherland, who is usually identified as a staunch conservative. Apparently he set aside his ideological propensities because he was persuaded that zoning was required to preserve the integrity of home ownership. Very often, he wrote, “the apartment house is a mere parasite, constructed in order to take advantage of the open spaces and attractive surroundings created by the residential character of the district.” 2

The Euclid decision was strongly supported in the planning community. The protection of single-family exclusivity was a prime concern until the arrival in recent years of the concept of smart growth. In the belief that it greatly contributed to urban sprawl, urban planners attacked the protection and exclusivity accorded home ownership. Sutherland's parasites were now welcome in residential areas. To this extent, the security of home ownership and investment was left to the marketplace. However, whereas zoning was exclusionary, smart growth went further and virtually sanctified exclusion, a practice that in our diverse society is morally and legally offensive and economically unwise.To curb sprawl, smart growth walls cities by imposing urban growth boundaries and extinguishing for many personal choice in residence outside these boundaries. The cure is worse than the disease.

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