I noticed an interestingly ironic thing today.
The usual argument for the necessity of use-based zoning is that it protects homeowners in residential area from uses that would potentially create negative externalities – ie: smelting factory, garbage dump, or Sriracha factory.
Urban Economics teaches us that such an event happening is highly unlikely in today’s marketplace. (nevermind the fact that nuisance laws should resolve these disputes) The business owner who is looking for a site for a stinky business would be foolish to look in a residential area where land costs are significantly higher.
However, as Aaron Renn pointed out in the comments of my last post on Planned Manufacturing Districts, the inverse of this is happening in many cities as residential uses begin to outbid other uses in industrial areas:
I think part of the rationale in this is that once you allow residential into a manufacturing zone, the new residents will start issuing loud complaints about the byproducts of manufacturing: noise, smells, etc. I know owners of businesses in Chicago who have experienced just that. They’ve been there for decades but now are getting complaints from people who live in residential buildings that didn’t even exist when the manufacturer located there. This puts those businesses under a lot of pressure to leave as officials will almost always side with residents who vote rather than businesses who don’t get to.
It’s clear this is a more relevant defense of use-based zoning than the one we usually hear. Of course, I’d argue that segregating uses through zoning isn’t a just way to resolve these disputes, and my last post discusses some of the detrimental consequences for cities.
It seems ironic, because it inverts the usual argument in-favor of zoning. Residents are choosing to move near established industrial firms, and PMDs are a tool used to defend incumbent industries from residents. Despite it’s lack of economic soundness, zoning is typically rationalized through an emotional appeal to defend incumbent residents from dirty industry.
This doesn’t decisively refute use-based-zoning in itself. In-fact, I’m afraid it may bolster the case, but it does help expose the appeal to emotions used to defend zoning.