Upzoned

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September 2, 2020  

Can the Right and Left Come Together on Zoning Reform?

September 2, 2020

As the suburbs—and, more specifically, single-family zoning—emerge as a political issue in the presidential election, what can get lost is context, nuance, and even the opportunity for consensus.

The irony is that, in the first half of the 20th century, the Suburban Experiment—an approach to growth (not actually limited to the suburbs) in which Americans build human habitats in large blocks and to a finished state—was launched and sustained through nonpartisan consensus.

Today, ending the Suburban Experiment should have broad bipartisan appeal. Because the Suburban Experiment hasn’t worked. In fact, it’s been a disaster. People on the political Left and the political Right might get there via different paths and priorities, but moving on from the Suburban Experiment could be an opportunity for common ground and the chance to point our towns and cities toward financial strength and resilience.

That’s the topic of this week’s episode of Upzoned. Host Abby Kinney, an urban planner in Kansas City, and Strong Towns president Chuck Marohn discuss a recent article in The American Conservative, “Zoning Reform Is Not Leftism.” They look at how we’re being pressured to view this issue through an increasingly partisan frame, why the predictability of single-family zoning is necessary when building at huge scale, and how the Left and the Right could actually find consensus on this topic.

Then in the Downzone, Chuck talks about a new book he’s reading on the life and death of ancient cities. And Abby recommends The Geography of Nowhere. She also talks about a recent visit to a lovely town in Northwest Arkansas.

Additional Show Notes