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Monday, July 7, 2008

Zoning Revolution!

Neighborhoods are the heart of what makes Cincinnati an incredible city. Each neighborhood is different, and has developed over time into the vibrant places they are today. Hyde Park, Mt. Adams, Clifton, Over-the-Rhine, are all great neighborhoods. They are also illegal under current laws. So what happened? Why can we not build neighborhoods like this anymore? My theory… Euclidian Zoning.

The conventional city zoning code deals with uses. It tells what you can or cannot have at a certain place (example: commercial separated from residential). This separation of uses effectively prohibits a traditional neighborhood or mixed use development from occurring. What if, instead of thinking of buildings in uses, we thought of buildings in form? If we select certain elements that the form of the building has to have, then we can work towards creating traditional neighborhoods, instead of a series of random buildings surrounded by parking.

Andres Duany has championed this neo-traditional development form. He has asked us to do nothing more than create the places where we all want to live. If we like places like Over-the-Rhine, why not create a zoning code that allows new development to be built like Over-the-Rhine? This isn't about recreating history, or making "fake" cities, it is about creating smart, pedestrian friendly, diverse, and beautiful neighborhoods.

Let's make smart design legal again.

Councilwoman Roxanne Qualls' is pursuing a plan to bring "Smart Codes" to Cincinnati. She believes that "a combination of traditional zoning codes and auto-oriented, suburban street design has threatened the built form and the design quality of our neighborhoods and business districts". I for one, support her in this effort.

Learn More about SMART CODES HERE!

14 comments:

UncleRando said...

You're not alone in wanting a "Smart Code" for Cincinnati. It just seems to make a lot of sense...and at the same time it would make the land development process smoother and more understandable.

Anonymous said...

Weren't the zoning laws overhauled just recently? My community got screwed during the time lapse between the existing code and the revision and lost the fight against a beverage drive-thru at the heart of our community as a result.

Paul Wilham said...

Code revision makes sense, at this statge of the game. A key issue I think is that especially in Urban neighbrohoods lihe OTR and West End they need to get ahaead of the game on infil housing which will inevitale, comes to both areas as they turn around. You can drive to suburbia and find these neo cities. For example in Carmel Indiana there is "The Villages of West Clay" a neo victorian village with its own town square. Unfortunately these types of devlopments tend to compete with Urban restoration. I wish the council would concentrate more on fixing what we have instead of being so bulldoze happy.

5chw4r7z said...

I think CityKin had a whole post at one point detailing exactly what the codes would entail,and some diagrams to show how they would work. Maybe he'll drop a link for us. It seems like a no brainer, probably the reason it has so much resistance in government.

Hawse said...

5chw4r7z, I think that we are definetely moving in the right direction, but priority #1 is to get the public to buy in. That may be harder than we think. The Public HATES change.

WestEnder said...

First, I think candidates in the next election should be asked about Euclidean zoning. I just want to take a picture of their faces when they hear the word "Euclidean."

Second, while these ideas seem eminently practical, let's not overlook the importance of financing political campaigns. Land developers pour plenty of money into campaigns and as a result they basically determine land use policy.

I can't see how smart zoning would help elect candidates and therefore I would have to predict that it will never catch on.

The only way, as hawse said, is if the public foments the momentum. I just don't see that happening.

Too cynical?

UncleRando said...

I think that developers would generally like the idea of Form-based zoning better than the less flexible Euclidean zoning model. They would have to be informed on what is under discussion and really learn all about it. Once that happens I think you would start seeing a greater push from the land development community. Too optimistic?

WestEnder said...

How to inform them? Maybe if some people got together and organized some sort of forum and invited developers, planners, officials, etc. to listen to experts on the issue...

justforview said...

Form based is interesting, but there are a lot of questions. There are a lot of legal and social processes, good and bad, that are implicit in Euclidean based system.

Can it just be replaced wholesale in a place like Cincinnati. Wouldn't we still need to rely on regulating use to keep out sexually oriented business, and other "non-compatible" uses?

It seems like it could just add another layer of regulations, or design guidelines.

UncleRando said...

In most cases cities aren't ready to get rid of their Euclidean zoning code wholesale and replace it with a form-based code. Therefore what usually happens is that they do it for a specific area/district. In Cincinnati's case it might make most sense for Downtown and OTR initially, and any other neighborhoods that may seem to embrace the idea (i.e. Northside).

While a form-based code wouldn't directly regulate "non-compatible" uses like sexually oriented businesses (SOBs) or industry...it would be done indirectly in most cases. For example if an industrial use wanted to locate within the Downtown or OTR area then it is going to have to adhere to the form-based code. Most likely the industrial use will not want to locate in that particular district do to the extra costs involved with locating there.

CityKin said...

Here is my post about this subject a few months ago.

Qualls is definitely pursuing this. Community leaders in College Hill and Westwood have expressed interest in overlay districts, perhaps along Hamilton and Harrison Aves.

While I would support wholesale removal of the use regulations, this is very unlikely to happen.

Kevin LeMaster said...

"How to inform them? Maybe if some people got together and organized some sort of forum and invited developers, planners, officials, etc. to listen to experts on the issue...

This is going to happen this year.

We're going to be pursuing this issue on Soapbox, so look for some features in the upcoming months.

Kevin LeMaster said...

^ The second sentence does not relate to the first sentence. It should say "Also, we're...."

Quim said...

This kinda sounds like it's just, in the case of Cincinnati, a case of the city respecting/codifying the neighborhood community council's land use plans.

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