Forum Connect

Zoning, Segregation and Preservation

  • 1.  Zoning, Segregation and Preservation

    Posted 12-09-2017 08:48
    We currently have a discussion group reading the book THE COLOR OF LAW by Richard Rothstien. It has just been published a few months ago. It documents among other things how zoning was created to make sure neighborhoods became and remained segregated and then was converted to a non-racial based system concerning lot size and housing type but again meant to insure segregated neighborhoods. This system was institutionalized through real estate boards, mortgage regulations, banking practices, insurance practices and mortgage clauses. It grew from a strong period of racism in the Woodrow Wilson era with some of the bureaucrats that supported it drifting through several presidential administrations right into the Roosevelt era. The policies, though actually illegal under the understood interpretation of the 13th Amendment, were none the less maintained as national policy. I am wondering about the impact of these policies on preservation - the creation of  estate dominated neighborhoods with the intention of keeping blacks and other minorities out and insuring that the neighborhood would be wealthy and white. My curiosity on this was triggered by a post by someone else who outlined how old homes on estates in a north shore Chicago area were being demolished and replaced with smaller though still highly expensive McMansions on reduced though still rather large property lots.

    I am wondering of anyone has any thoughts on this and the tie in with the intentional and policy driven segregation of neighborhoods and communities. 


  • 2.  RE: Zoning, Segregation and Preservation

    Ambassador
    Posted 12-09-2017 11:44
    At one point during the 80s I worked for a regional community development agency and one of my jobs was to serve as professional staff for several small towns that couldn't afford a dedicated city planner, but still chose to implement zoning regulations through volunteer planning and zoning commissions. There were problems with this arrangement as you can imagine, but for the most part the planning commission members were well-intentioned, with a focus on keeping incompatible land uses separate, which was the prevailing philosophy of land use planning at the time. During those years, I saw no overt attempts to use planning and zoning regulations to foster racial segregation, although this may have been the case in earlier times and different places.

    A by-product, however, of the emphasis placed on keeping residential land values high by keeping commercial, industrial, and agricultural uses away, did result in housing segregation by income, which, in turn resulted in de facto racial segregation. It also resulted in the sterility of sprawling subdivisions and non-walkable communities, which strategies such as form-based codes are designed to address.

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    Jim Sparks
    Glasgow KY
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  • 3.  RE: Zoning, Segregation and Preservation

    Posted 04-18-2019 17:07
    I am trying to recall and perhaps I should just look it up but there was one story in THE COLOR OF LAW where a community understood that the land lot sizes would result in a segregated community because of the level of income required to buy the lots and created smaller lots between the large ones. I think this is the kind of foresight that is required to build balanced communities.

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    Paul Stewart
    Co-Founder
    Underground Railroad History Project
    Albany NY
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  • 4.  RE: Zoning, Segregation and Preservation

    Posted 04-19-2019 10:04
    @Paul Stewart I know that there have been some discussions on Connect about this and was going to share with you, but saw that you've been part of those discussions (like African American communities and slum clearance).

    Just wanted to let you know that our Research & Policy Lab here at the National Trust will be publishing a report early this summer on Cultural Heritage and the Risk of Displacement in African American Neighborhoods that you may find interesting.

    And that book sounds very interesting, I'm going to have to add it to our Book Recommendations thread ... if it's not already on there, though I believe that thread is a year old by this point.

    Thanks for you post!

    Colleen


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    Colleen Danz
    Forum Marketing Manager
    National Trust for Historic Preservation
    Washington DC
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  • 5.  RE: Zoning, Segregation and Preservation

    Ambassador
    Posted 04-19-2019 11:07
    Relating to my post above, in my experience, city and county governments have become more sensitive to the legal ramifications of including minimum lot size and building size in their zoning regulations. Developers of new subdivisions, however, still include them in their subdivision regulations in order to exclude low - income households and protect land values, and many smaller jurisdictions are reluctant to challenge  developer-imposed land-use restrictions.

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    Jim Sparks
    Glasgow KY
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  • 6.  RE: Zoning, Segregation and Preservation

    Ambassador
    Posted 04-19-2019 12:54
    @Paul Stewart I'm glad you brought this thread back up from the basement of the discussion board. Over the last few years I've been thinking about the same topic in relation to both zoning and specific preservation incentives, like the tax credit program. You might be interested in the Mapping Prejudice project. The associated exhibit, Owning Up: Racism and Housing in Minneapolis, recently received an award from the National Council on Public History. Minneapolis is in the process of adopting our 2040 comprehensive plan, which lays out some very lofty goals in relation to affordable housing, inclusivity, and eliminating disparities of all types. It will be interesting to watch how the City begins to implement the plan and it is my sincere hope that in 2040 Minneapolitans can look back and see a marked change to what we see today.​ Given our history, however, any change in a positive direction will be welcome.

    Barbara

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    Barbara Howard
    Stonebridge Learning, LLC
    Minneapolis MN
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  • 7.  RE: Zoning, Segregation and Preservation

    Posted 04-19-2019 14:42
    Hello Paul,

    This week's Indiana Landmarks newsletter included a story about students studying the history of racial displacement and urban transformation in historic neighborhoods on Indy's west side, caused by development of IUPUI beginning in 1969. Here is the full article. It's a fascinating project - perhaps contacting these folks may provide some fresh insight?

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    Michelle Prior
    Coordinator, Publications and Programs
    National Trust for Historic Preservation
    Washington DC
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