Planning in Houston: No Longer an Oxymoron
Josh Stephens writes:
Houston is famous among urban planners as the only major U.S. city without conventional zoning, which typically dictates what types of land uses can go where. The market decides what to build. “Sprawl” is no dirtier a word than “petroleum” (or “hydrocarbons” in local vernacular), and residents gladly consume the region’s signature product. Both the city and its suburbs are defiantly spread out and auto-oriented.
Such growth calls for something slightly more strict than laissez-faire planning — particularly for a place positioning itself to be America’s great 21st-century metropolis. In September, the city did adopt its first general plan. Called Plan Houston, it arrives like the blueprint to a building already half built. Addressing far more than land use, Plan Houston covers everything from economic development to education to public health to arts and culture. It acknowledges 140 existing studies, neighborhood plans, parks plans and other previous planning efforts.