Tuesday, September 28, 2010
I blogged recently on the publication of the Notre Dame Symposium on Urban Development. John Mixon (U. of Houston) has just posted to SSRN his contribution, Four Land Use Vignettes from (Unzoned?) Houston. The abstract:
Houston has been called "the hair shirt of city planners." The profession's discomfort stems from the city's repeated rejection of land use zoning – the essential tool of their craft. The unrepentant city touts itself as a model of enlightened differentness: a public-private combination that provides a better formula for managing growth in a modern city. But beneath that Chamber of Commerce gloss, Houston's land use is a far cry from free enterprise in action.
What this article calls "The Houston Way" combines: (1) An adamant refusal to use government power prospectively to guide growth and protect existing investment; with (2) A willingness to respond to specific developer-citizen conflicts with ad hoc solutions that assign the City Planning Commission a unique role in mediating the constant battle between homeowners and developers. Rejection of traditional land use solutions oftentimes places the city at the borderline between legal and not-so-legal regulation.
Of course, as an observer of land use in the Unzoned City, I find this fascinating. Prof. Mixon is the leading academic authority on local government zoning in Texas (and on non-zoning in Houston). Read the whole thing.