Saturday, April 21, 2018

Why Houston does NOT have "basically zoning" with deed restrictions+permitting, Austin's foolish transit plan vs. Houston's wisdom, and more

I want to kick off this week with an excellent piece by Nolan Gray at Market Urbanism explaining why Houston does not "basically have zoning" with our deed restrictions and permitting.  He really gets the details right on how things work here and how flexible Houston is with our adaptive land use.  It also has a stat I hadn't seen before estimating that less than 25% of the city has deed restrictions, allowing the other 75% to pretty freely adapt.  There is too much great stuff in it to adequately summarize here, so definitely read the whole thing. But I will share the concluding paragraphs:
"Siegan concludes his discussion of this topic by perceptively noting that zoning implicitly tries to answer two very difficult questions:
  1. What is the extent of protection to which property owners are entitled?
  2. What powers should existing residents have to exclude other people and things from the municipality?
Zoning addresses these questions using an opaque political process in which certain privileged special interests—namely homeowners—may impose their particular preferences across all time. Houston’s deed restrictions, on the other hand, are constantly rediscovering the answers to these questions. It all comes back to consumer preferences: if consumers desire things like large lots and ample off-street parking and are willing to pay more for the extra land, developers will respond by bidding up the land and implementing tight deed restrictions. If they either don’t want these restrictions, or aren’t willing to pay more for them, developers might still build the houses but with deed restrictions that allow for smaller lots, higher lot coverage, or certain complimentary commercial uses. 
In this way, the process of identifying the optimal mix of land-use regulation is a dynamic discovery process, subject to ongoing changes in local conditions. As the costs of zoning stasis in cities like San Francisco become clearer, the value of understanding Houston’s uniquely dynamic system of deed restrictions only rises."
Moving on to some smaller items this week:
"If Capital Metro were serious about relieving congestion, it wouldn’t propose light rail, which typically carries about a quarter as many people per day as an urban freeway lane yet costs five to ten times as much per mile to build."
While the jury is still out, some people believe that Houston has managed to avoid the huge ridership declines suffered in Austin, Charlotte, and other cities because it restructured its bus routes to a grid system rather than a hub-and-spoke system centered on downtown."

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At 2:17 PM, April 23, 2018, Blogger Andrew Lynch said...

As the costs of zoning stasis in cities like San Francisco become clearer, the value of understanding Houston’s uniquely dynamic system of deed restrictions only rises.

Great line ! Thanks for sharing

At 2:46 PM, April 23, 2018, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Total agreement - thanks!

At 5:11 PM, May 31, 2018, Anonymous C3 Permits said...

Great read. I met a fellow from Dallas that bragged about their Zoning being better since they dont have industrial right up against a residential area etc, for example. Its interesting that deed restrictions are a similar tool just more flexible. Permitting the ability to change the lands use etc after a period of time has passed.

At 8:24 AM, July 18, 2018, Blogger VeracityID said...

I find that a lot of the critiques of Houston's "messiness" come from people who live in cities that were even more messy during their rapidl growth phases. I suspect that rapid growth and evolution cease when the forces of stasis get strong enough. It is to Texas' benefit that we are more tolerant of creative destruction than other regions. Enjoy your blog.


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