Since I have just recently began learning about urban planning, I had never known or understood the importance of zoning until I read Chapter 9 of Contemporary Urban Planning by John M. Levy. I find the different types of zoning to be quite fascinating because first, I did not even know there was more than one type of zoning. Second, I find it interesting that there are different types of zoning plans that are more beneficial to implement in certain types of places around the country than others.

As I began to think about zoning and how it is the most common way that communities and municipalities control land use, I had a question. Is zoning really necessary? Can cities work themselves out separating industry and residential on their own or do they need some type of zoning laws to grow? As I began to search the Internet for a solution to my question, I found an article regarding the only major city in the United States without zoning laws…

Houston, Texas.

According to the Houston Texas’ government website, the city of Houston currently does not have zoning nor do the city codes even address land use. As I started to look at Houston’s lack of zoning laws more in depth, it became clearer to me how they are faring out.

While you may see a few skyscrapers near residential homes, for the most part, Houston looks a lot like other big cities. I found this to be extremely interesting because it makes it seem as if zoning is not necessary for developing and planning cities. However, after further investigation, while it is true that Houston does not have any traditional zoning laws, it became clear to me that they still have some sort of government induced regulations. In the past, it was more of a problem, but it is more difficult for certain businesses to be next to residential houses. This is due to regulations such as deed restrictions and ordinances, which limit distances between specific uses and residential neighborhoods. Additionally, some developers and planners have taken matters into their own hands by creating their own comprehensive plans.

While Houston does not have zoning laws, as we can see, they do not have an anything goes mentality. Rather, they have what some call de-facto zoning: untraditional methods of zoning that in some ways looks a lot like zoning. So as I revisit my question of is zoning necessary, I have come to believe that while zoning may not be necessary, some form of government involvement in planning is definitely beneficial.

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