Story Mapping the Racism in Planning History

A Story Map created by the Louisville Metro Office of Planning & Design Services offers a detailed, visual presentation of the history of racism and discriminatory in the planning and zoning of the Louisville and Jefferson County.

2 minute read

April 7, 2021, 5:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


The Louisville Metro Office of Planning & Design Services has created a Story Map titled "Confronting Racism in City Planning & Zoning" and published it online for public viewing. 

The Story Map describes past land use and housing practices as discriminatory and inequitable and offers a clear and direct reply to those who question the racist and discriminatory intentions of previous eras of planning history (in addition to the legacies of those intentions in the present day).

The Louisville Metro Office of Planning & Design Services, with support from Louisville Metro Council, Mayor Greg Fischer, and the Louisville Metro Planning Commission, is reviewing the Land Development Code (LDC) "to identify and address land use regulations and policies that have inequitable impacts on Louisville residents," according to the Story Map.

After providing an introduction of zoning and the recent planning efforts that define the vision for Louisville's future (e.g., the Louisville Metro Comprehensive Plan: PLAN 2040 that took effect on January 1, 2019), the Story Map notes Louisville's central role in the early history of explicitly racist planning by reviewing Louisville's 1914 racial segregation ordinance and the ensuing Supreme Court ruling in Buchanan v. Warley (1917) as well as providing a summary of The Man at the Center: Harland Bartholomew.

A long, detailed history of plans and zoning regulations specific to Louisville history follows, with attention to benchmarks in Louisville history like the 1931 Comprehensive Plan, the 1958 Comprehensive Plan, and zoning regulations applied uniformly to both the city and county in 1963.

"The minimum lot size or the area of land needed for a single-family home within the predominate zoning district in Louisville-Jefferson County has been minimally revised since Louisville's first zoning ordinance in 1931, and unchanged since 1963. Restricting the minimum lot size has limited housing choice and affordability," according to the Story Map, for an example of the hard truths laid out here with clear documentation and visual perspective.

The Story Map concludes with attention to the city's ongoing efforts to reform its Land Development Code (LDC) with these perspectives in mind. Planning consultants Opticos Design recently completed a "diagnosis" of the LDC, which is available online. The Story Map was included in an article published online by Planning magazine that lists six ways to "help bridge the racial wealth gap." In recent years, the metro Louisville government has made repeated efforts to confront the racism in its planning and development history, such as with the "Redlining Louisville: The History of Race, Class, and Real Estate" map created by the Louisville Office of Redevelopment Strategies in 2017.

Monday, March 29, 2021 in Louisville Metro Office of Planning & Design Services

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