The City of Our Dreams

To many people, the absence of zoning in Houston explains every ill—whether real or imagined—that plagues the city. A comment to a recent Chronicle article illustrates this attitude:

It was too late to build the city of our dreams in 1836. They built a no zoning sprawl in a swamp and never corrected either mistake.


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A History Lesson: What We Can Learn From the 1990s Zoning Debate Typically, when we study history, we learn about the consequences of something that happened. Seldom is there a meaningful reason (or even […]

Houston’s Critics

Almost without fail, critics of Houston point to some other metropolis as an example of what a city should be like. The critics want parks and bike trails. They want mass transit and sidewalks. They want walkable communities and sustainable development. Other cities have these things, and Houston should have them too.

Interestingly, the critics […]

Planning Versus the Central Planner

You can tell a lot about a person by what he chooses to complain about. Critics of Houston’s lack of zoning stand as an example. They claim that Houston has developed without a plan. What they are really denouncing is the fact that Houston has developed without a central planner.

Complexes like Greenway Plaza, the […]

An Alternative to Government Planning: The Free Market

While Houston certainly has an abundance of land-use regulations, the city has retained a freer market in land use than any other major city. The absence of onerous regulations and controls on land use makes housing and the cost of doing business much more affordable, and this is the primary cause of the city’s economic […]

Planning and Land-Use Regulations

During the last debate over zoning in the 1990s, zoning advocates wanted us to believe that Houstonians want planning and planning means zoning. Councilman Jim Greenwood, who lead the pro-zoning efforts, named his organization the Ad Hoc Task Force on Planning and Zoning. He and his allies stressed the fact that zoning would allow for […]

Government Planning and Collectivism

When the city started the planning process, its website described the goal of the plan:

The Plan will consolidate and coordinate a vision and strategies to address neighborhood enhancement and development over the coming years….

Once complete, the General Plan will provide for a collective Vision Statement that represents the community’s view of its future. […]

The Nature of Government Planning

Planning is defined as “An orderly or step-by-step conception or proposal for accomplishing an objective.” A plan without the means to take the steps required to accomplish the objective is an exercise in futility. Government planning ultimately requires laws, regulations, prohibitions, and mandates to implement the plan.

Despite the claims of its advocates, no government […]

Houston’s General Plan

For decades, various politicians, activists, and organizations have been pushing for Houston to develop and adopt a general plan. In September 2015, City Council did so.

When the city officially began the process in 2014, Mayor Annise Parker said that “planning does not mean zoning.” In the most literal sense, this is true. However, Parker […]