“For several reasons, planning generally takes place in a highly politicized environment” (Levy 91). Is the first sentence in chapter six of “Contemporary Urban Planning” by John M. Levy. The author then points out six reasons how and why planning is closely tied and connected to political authority. This seems like a basic and universal concept that people are able to comprehend because of planning and its effect on communities and the state. It is also stated in the text, that in the past planning was not as politicized and became so over the years because of the importance and lasting impacts of decision-making when it comes to planning and development. The author also elaborates on limitations and powers given to the government that are related to planning. These include: eminent domain, right of way, zoning, federal involvement in planning, and even property rights.
One surprising concept that can be extracted from the text is how all of these planning limitations relate to our constitutional rights to private property. The Founding Fathers made it very clear that each individual has certain unalienable rights and among them are life, liberty, and property. When an individual owns a piece of property, with the thought process of the founding fathers in mind, one would think that they could do whatever they like with their land. In today’s world, that is not true. This however is not necessarily a bad thing. It is not denying said property owner of his rights, instead, it is protecting the rights of others that live, work, and commute near his property. This idea can best be summed up as public control over privately owned land, which Levy reiterates repeatedly in the text. An example from the text is the origination of zoning that Levy explains. With the rapid development of enormous skyscrapers in New York City in the early twentieth century, the large buildings often cast shadows onto the streets below, which would extend several blocks in any direction. In order to prevent this from happening, setbacks and building height maximums were set. This is a basic example of how zoning works – state control over privately owned land.
But what if these zoning laws prove to fail society one day? Or have unintended consequences? No doubt that it has happened in the past, with things such as Redlining, and government having too much power over individual’s rights. Things such as lobbying and corporate takeover of government can have a great influence on planning and development for the self-interest of a select few individuals against the entire community. How can things like this truly be prevented is a life-long question of many people. But for the planner, it is all about consensus building and compromising of both sides to any issue.