I recently read a book (Zoned Out, by Tom Angotti) stating that New York City needed “community-based planning.” By this the author apparently meant that each neighborhood regulated its land use. This is already the case to some extent; if a neighborhood doesn’t want new buildings, its residents complain to their city councilor, who’s likely to heed their voices if s/he wants to be reelected. In fact, New York has already institutionalized the voice of neighborhood activists, through community boards that make recommendations about rezonings.
Such localism is the junk food of urban planning: it sounds sweet but can be dangerous in large quantities. Why? Because what’s good for a neighborhood’s existing residents is not always good for the entire city. Existing residents, if they are homeowners, want to keep prices high so they can sell their homes at profits. But the city is more attractive–and better functioning overall–if new residents can actually afford to live there.
Michael Lewyn is an associate professor at Touro Law Center in Central Islip, NY. His scholarship can be found at http://works.bepress.com/lewyn , and he recently wrote the book "Government Intervention and Suburban Sprawl: The Case for Market Urbanism."
A podcast on Market Urbanism, or the cross between free-market policies and urban issues. We discuss how a liberalized urban approach would lead to more housing, faster transport, improved public services, and better quality of life. Tap to listen.
Market Urbanism Report is sponsored by Panoramic Interests, a progressive developer in San Francisco. Panoramic, which is owned by Patrick Kennedy, specializes in 160 sqft micro-units (called MicroPads) that are built using modular construction materials. Panoramic has long touted these units as a cost-effective way to house San Francisco’s growing homeless population. But Panoramic also builds larger units of between 440-690 sqft. To learn more about Panoramic’s micro-unit model, read MUR’s coverage on the firm in its America’s Progressive Developers series. Or visit Panoramic’s website.