Is Houston Really Unplanned?

Stephen Smith at Market Urbanism looks at the truth behind the cliché, and finds that while Houston does not have Euclidean zoning, it does have more unconventional means of controlling land use beyond the invisible hand of the free market.

December 12, 2008, 6:00 AM PST

By Tim Halbur


Smith quotes a paper by Planetizen blogger Michael Lewyn that says that minimum lot sizes are common in the supposedly unplanned Houston.

"Not to be outdone by minimum lot restrictions, the parking planners are also hard at work in Houston. As Donald Shoup explains in his magnum opus on parking regulations and the free market, minimum parking regulations are an oft-used and under-appreciated way for city planners to decrease density, push development farther from the city's core, increase an area's auto dependency, and decrease walkability and the viability of mass transit. Houston's planning code mandates that developers, regardless of what they perceive as the actual demand, build 1.25 parking spaces per apartment bedroom, and 1.33 spaces per efficiency apartment. Retail stores are also saddled with these parking minimums, and even bars as Lewyn notes are required to build "10 parking spaces per 1000 feet of gross area," flying in the face of common sense. To add insult to injury, the city requires that structures on major roads have a significant setback from the street, and the only rational thing to do with this unbuildable space is to put the mandated parking there, meaning that Houston actual codifies the hideous and inconvenient parking lot-out-front model of sprawl that is so typical across the US."

Thursday, December 11, 2008 in Market Urbanism

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