SimCity-Style Interactive Map Seeks to Make Zoning Understandable

In an essay for Next City, Juan-Pablo Velez, member of the Chicago-based civic tech collective Open City, explains the rationale behind their latest project, which aims to make the city's zoning "digestible by humans."

Utilizing Chicago's open data push, Open City "has built tools that show who’s lobbying city hall, whether the city has plowed your snow-covered street and how the city’s economy is doing." For its latest project, Second City Zoning, Velez and his colleagues "set out to make make [sic] zoning—one of the most important forces shaping cities, and yet one of the most impenetrable— digestible by humans."

The site is what Velez describes as a "SimCity-flavored interactive map of Chicago’s zoning districts," that "allows residents to answer the question, 'what can I build on this property?'”

"Punch in an address to discover how a building is zoned, and see a human-readable description (written by us!) of what that actually means," he explains. "On top of the map, we’ve also distilled much of the zoning ordinance into a beginner-friendly cheat sheet, so residents can dig into the particulars of their property’s land use and density rules."

"Besides looking up a specific property, you can also use the app to explore Chicago’s zoning patterns and learn why the city’s urban landscape looks the way it does."

Full Story: SimCity for the Second City

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