Sociology Index

Zoning Laws

Zoning is the development of a city or county plan that designates various geographic areas as restricted to particular uses and development. Zoning Laws in the United States includes various land use laws to exercise authority over privately owned real property. The earliest zoning laws originated with the Los Angeles zoning ordinances of 1908 and the New York City Zoning resolution of 1916.

Zoning is used by local governments as the chief planning tool. Zoning serves as a guide for a community's future development, to protect neighborhoods, concentrate retail business and industry, channel traffic and play a significant role in the urban and small-town's enhancement. In 1926, the U.S Supreme Court ruled zoning constitutional in Village of Euclid v Ambler Realty Co.

Zoning Laws are issued by local governments to regulate the size, type, structure, and use of land or building in designated areas. Zoning Laws divide the cities into district areas according to use. It is not clear that cities would look much different in the absence of zoning. Professor Siegan points out in his book Land Use Without Zoning that Houston has no zoning, yet the market has neatly segregated industrial and residential districts simply on the basis of the differing characteristics which attract each type of development.

Zoning decisions are not unalterable. Zoning maps may be changed or variances granted. But it is never certain that zoning mistakes will be corrected through these mechanisms. Whether a zoning change is made or blocked usually does not depend upon abstract considerations of efficiency, but rather on the ability of interested parties to pressure the decision makers.

New Urbanist Zoning for Dummies
Michael Lewyn, Florida Coastal School of Law.
GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 183.
Abstract: For most of the 20th century, American land use regulation sought to separate different types of land uses from each other and to reduce population density, while American parking and street design regulation sought to facilitate driving by mandating wide streets and forcing landlords and businesses to build parking lots for their tenants and customers.

The rise and fall of discriminatory zoning in Hong Kong
Lawrence W C Lai, Marco K W Yu. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design 28(2).
Abstract. By using a modified Cheung model of price control, we show that discriminatory zoning is economically an inefficient protectionist alternative to nondiscriminatory zoning. The exclusionary zoning on the Peak of Hong Kong arose in order to give Europeans a housing area free from economic price competition with the Chinese. Documentary evidence is adduced to support this view of the law. Such zoning collapsed after the Second World War when European owners needed to realize their capital.

Zoning laws vs. home businesses
Fanselow, Julie. Publisher: U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Abstract: Most local governments try to discourage home-based businesses through restrictive zoning laws. People desiring to start home-based businesses should check on zoning laws. If there are restrictions, the person can either adapt to the restrictions, ask for a variance, or move.

On Castles and Commerce: Zoning Law and the Home-Business Dilemma
Nicole Stelle Garnett, Notre Dame Law School. William & Mary Law Review, Vol. 42.
Abstract: Most zoning laws severely restrict residents' ability to work from home. Some prohibit it outright. These regulations serve the ostensible purpose of protecting neighbors from externalities that might be generated by home businesses. But, home occupation restrictions also reflect in a particularly sharp way the central motivating ideology underlying all zoning laws, namely, that the good life requires the careful segregation of work and home. This article examines how local governments might respond to zoning law's home business dilemma.