From time to time, our Omnibus columnists check in to provide commentary on issues of design, policy, and history and their impact on the life and form of the city today. Stephen Rustow’s first column scaled the heights of New York’s skyscrapers to consider “The Privatization of Prospect.” Here, in his second installment, Rustow looks at three intangible forces that greatly influence the shape of our built environment: zoning, finance, and the building code. — urbanomnibus.net
The tax breaks, rent-control laws and building restrictions that make up zoning codes in many major cities require lawyers to decipher. Whether by design or effect, a housing regime that is intelligible only to highly trained professionals is one that spells endless power for owners and endless misery for tenants. Zoning codes must be simplified — quickly, radically and without mercy. — Al Jazeera
Developed with the help of a team of volunteer researchers, urban planners and designers, this new online tool allows anyone to view the staggering amount of publicly-owned lots that once had an urban renewal plan in the pipeline but were scrapped due to bureaucracy. By mapping out all of the vacant spaces across the city, 596 hopes that we as a community can take a top-down approach to turning these urban blights into public gardens, play lots, and spaces where people can “co-create.” — 6sqft
From 1949-1974 NYC took on an urban renewal project that resulted in the bulldozing of "slums" across Manhattan. The vast majority of the proposals planned for the land floundered and today nearly 15,000 lots across the city lay vacant. 596 Acres, a grassroots land access nonprofit, had developed...
Friday, August 8:Guggenheim Bullies Journalist: Molly Crabapple reports for Vice on inhumane immigrant labor conditions on Saadiyat island in the UAE, where a new arm of the Guggenheim (and Louvre, and NYU) is being built. The Guggenheim holds its cards close and skirts responsibility when...
...Countless contradictions [are] embedded in Los Angeles' zoning code, the 800-plus-page document that governs what can be built where in the city, and what it should look like [...] City planning officials are hoping to iron them out by rewriting the 70-year-old code, with an eye to making development here more predictable, less expensive and more in tune with the needs of a modern city. — LA Times
Throughout his neighborhood of Lanier Heights, developers are buying up two-story townhouses and building an extra floor or two, additions that are known as pop-ups. They’re also extending the structures as far back as allowed, to within 15 feet of the property line, obliterating backyards in the process. [...]
A few doors down the other way is a deafening construction site, where a single-family home is being turned into eight units, taking full advantage of what was once the backyard. — washingtoncitypaper.com
Tokyo’s extreme housing production and resulting market is a product of Japan’s uniquely liberal zoning rules. Taken along with its dense network of profitable, private railways, Tokyo is the closest thing this planet has to a city that has completely surrendered itself to market forces. And its construction numbers show it. — nextcity.org
“In New York, development is a three-dimensional chess game,” said Dan Kaplan, a senior partner at FXFowle Architects, “and the reason we’re seeing an increase in the use of cantilevers above neighboring buildings is linked to the complexity of finding a site that can utilize all available development rights.” — nytimes.com
For the past six years, professor Zhang Lin has been moving rocks and rubble to construct his dream mountain home in the Renji Mountain area of Beijing, China. The catch? It's actually on the roof of a 26-story apartment building. And according to the South China Morning Post, the structure is completely illegal, as he never received the necessary planning permission for this extreme dwelling. — huffingtonpost.com
A "snob zone" is a place that uses restrictive zoning in a residential area to keep certain types of housing -- and therefore people -- out, says Lisa Prevost. Prevost’s book, Snob Zones: Fear, Prejudice, and Real Estate, comes out today and focuses on several towns in the Northeast [...].
For instance, one zoning law considered by the town would require people to have a minimum lot size of four acres in the town. — marketplace.org
“Our approval will facilitate development of a significant new building with a distinctive pyramid-like shaped design and thoughtful site plan that integrates the full block site into the evolving residential, institutional, and commercial neighborhood surrounding it,” Ms. Burden said before voting in favor of the project. — observer.com
The reason for all this quarrying is not the discovery of a coal-rich seam beneath the Wrenaissance streets, but the local enthusiasm for subterranean development. Over the past four years, this local authority alone has granted planning applications for more than 800 basement extensions, refused 90, and has a further 20 outstanding. It is the most densely populated borough in the country, with no room to build outwards, and no permission to build upwards – so the only way is down. — guardian.co.uk
Los Angeles was one of the first large cities in the U.S. to adopt a kind of modern zoning to keep the industrial away from the residential.
If the city would have more mixed use, with people living closer to retail and workplaces, Los Angeles would feel like another city, with less of its land area dedicated to low density, single family residential neighborhoods, and more streets with shops and businesses on the ground floor and homes above. — kcet.org
"The Laws That Shaped L.A." is a weekly series on LA-based radio station KCET, spotlighting regulations that have played a significant role in the development of contemporary Los Angeles. These laws - as nominated and explained each week by a locally-based expert - may be civil or criminal, and...
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