Friday, October 23, 2009
I have written before about how Houston's Montrose neighborhood recently made it into the American Planning Association's Top 10 Neighborhoods in America. Montrose is an eclectic neighborhood that is home to Houston's arts and LGBT communities, as well as a critical mass of museums, restaurants, and other cultural amenities. This story is about the relative success of tattoo parlors in the area: Body Art: "Tattoo Zone" makes mark along Lower Westheimer.
For most businesses, having a clump of competitors within walking distance would be a bad thing. Not so, say the tattoo artists on lower Westheimer, where five shops are clustered between Dunlavy and Yupon streets.
“Actually, it's good for business,” said Larry Shaw, a third-generation tattoo artist and a 30-year mainstay at Shaw's Tattoo, 1660C Westheimer. “It's like a tattoo zone, more or less. People think of tattooing and say, ‘Oh, Westheimer. Lower Westheimer.' ”
Now of course, neither the text nor the map of the local zoning ordinance (oh wait, Houston doesn't have a zoning ordinance!) declares an official "tattoo zone." But I do find two points from this article to be relevant:
First, even in the Unzoned City, land use regulation has so pervaded the culture that people tend to instinctively think of geographically-clustered land uses as "zones."
Second is the interesting point that the individual tattoo parlors consider themselves to be economically better off because they are located in an area (or "zone," if you must) that is also home to business competitors. Is this fact part of the argument for zoning, or for free market ordering?