Island Press and Seattle Town Hall Presents Nolan Gray and a movement to abolish zoning.
Date: WEDNESDAY • June 8
Time• 7:30 PM Pacific Time
You can register by clicking this link.
How Zoning Broke the American City
As regions across the country grapple with how to solve the growing housing crisis, join city planner and Arbitrary Lines author, M. Nolan Gray as he shares vital insights contending that it’s time to abolish zoning. Moving beyond zoning could help U.S. cities address housing shortages, stunted growth and innovation, racial and economic segregation, and car-dependent development.
As regions across the country grapple with how to solve the growing housing crisis, city planner M. Nolan Gray shares vital insight in his new book, Arbitrary Lines: How Zoning Broke the American City and How to Fix It. He contends that it’s time to move beyond zoning and abolish it, which could help U.S. cities address housing shortages, stunted growth and innovation, racial and economic segregation, and car-dependent development.
But the approach is not without controversy. As discussion continues around loosening long-standing zoning rules, some residents worry that zoning changes will impact the “character” of neighborhoods, while others see the current zoning rules as an impediment to much-needed change.
Could our region benefit from a reimagined approach to single-family neighborhoods? Through explanations and stories, Gray shows why zoning abolition could help produce more affordable, vibrant, equitable, and sustainable cities.
M. Nolan Gray is a professional city planner and an expert in urban land-use regulation. He is currently completing a PhD in urban planning at the University of California, Los Angeles. Gray previously worked on the front lines of zoning as a planner in New York City. He now serves as an affiliated scholar with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, where he advises state and local policymakers on land-use policy. Gray is a contributor to Market Urbanism and a widely published author, with work appearing in outlets such as the Atlantic, Bloomberg CityLab, and the Guardian. He lives in Los Angeles, California, and is originally from Lexington, Kentucky.
Co-sponsored by Town Hall Seattle.
I understand the need to distill one’s message into a simple, bite-sized package, but “abolish zoning” is as unwise as “stop eating”. It’s certainly true that the practice of zoning has been extended to some absurd degrees and abused but much like unions, it exists for a very good reason.
If anyone thinks we’ve somehow evolved or even learned from the 19th century, they are delusional and/or high. Form-based codes have their place, but without land use-based regulation of some kind, we will have mine tailing ponds leaching kindergartens within weeks of zoning abolition. The strict and automatic segregation of every individual type of land use needs to end (like many forms of commercial and residential) but “zoning” should not be abolished outright. As abused as it’s been, at its core it still protects the weak from the strong.
Thank you for your thoughtful comment. Zoning came about to separate noxious uses, and the molasses disaster in Boston was one of the precipitating factors when a molasses factory was located in a working class neighbourhood, the cisterns exploded, and killed many people. There is much dissing of zoning but it is there for a practical reason: safety, health, well-being.