In a comment to yesterday’s post on land use in Texas, baklazkhan notes that in spite of the libertarian myth of Houston as a completely (or even relatively) laissez-faire city with regards to land use, it actually has pretty strict parking minimums:
Additionally, it’s interesting to compare the actual ordinances. Here, for instance, are Houston’s and San Francisco’s (+more).
What’s noteworthy is that SF’s minimums are way lower. SF requires 1 space per residential unit of any size, while Houston requires 1.25-2/unit. A 6-classroom elementary school in Houston requires 9 spaces – SF requires one. An 18-classroom high school – Houston 171, SF 9 (!).
The other notable thing about SF’s requirements for commercial spaces is that, in almost every case, they don’t apply to small businesses. For instance, for restaurants, Houston requires 8 spaces/1000 square feet. SF requires 5. But in SF if your restaurant is under 5000 square feet, which all but the largest are, you’re excused from any parking requirements at all.
Anonymous saysApril 8, 2011 at 9:04 am
Better (official) links for SF:
Maximum (this applies to some areas of the city): http://library.municode.com/HTML/14139/level2/ART1.5OREPALO_S151.1SCPEOREPASPSPDI.html
Daniel saysApril 8, 2011 at 2:44 pm
Half on-topic comment: Houston is chock-full of HOAs, and I’ve often wondered how libertarians handle these entities. Sometimes I hear people like O’Toole praise them as voluntary associations that step up to the plate when government rightfully abdicates its control over private property. Yet how voluntary are they? Legal deed-restrictions prevent anyone from opting out. I suppose you could move away, but you can do that from a local government as well. You don’t have to move into one, but if they are virtually everywhere you may not have much of a choice if you have affordability constraints. Plus, who has the time to read over all of the requirements of each home you are considering before buying. HOAs don’t have to be as transparent as local governments in their expectations.
A coworker of mine wanted to live out in the countryside, but the only homes he could afford were in an HOA. I live in the city with all of the supposed trappings of meddlesome government intervention. But as we discussed what our experiences are like as individual homeowners, it became clear that he is far more restricted in what he can do than I am … down to the color of his mulch. His taxes are much less, but if you add in the HOA fees they come close (and he doesn’t get the benefit of a warm heart knowing some of the money goes to help people in need).
Is he really living in the ideal toward which libertarians aspire? Am I living in a place libertarians are fighting against?
MarketUrbanism saysApril 8, 2011 at 3:01 pm
The test is whether it is truly voluntary. My condo in Chicago has a HOA,
and I OFTEN disagree with it’s decisions, but it is something I
affirmatively agreed to when I bought the place. So, I accept that despite
the fact that I wish I could just sell the damn thing in this dreadful
It’s tricky, but at least in theory, I am not opposed to them. However, it
opens a whole can of worms in what is morally acceptable for an HOA to do,
with respect to libertarian ethics.
I would tend to think that a more libertarian society would offer your
friend a much wider variety in HOA options, and many would compete on how
liberal they are. But, in the current scarcity of voluntary
land-use arrangements, HOAs tend to attract busy-bodies and elitists.
Alon Levy saysApril 8, 2011 at 5:41 pm
In Houston specifically, deed restrictions are legally encouraged through the building standards. A developer has to provide 60-foot-wide streets in the subdivision, but this is reduced to 50 if all properties are deed-restricted to single-family.
Awp saysApril 8, 2011 at 6:39 pm
This might help explain a fact that I have noticed because of debates where “planners” often denigrate Houston as an unplanned hellhole.
The fact that I have noticed, is that development patterns in Houston do not seem to be markedly different from the “planned” cities that I have had the pleasure of visiting.*
Apparently this might just be due to the fact that Houston is not really all that unplanned.
*Except for the development along the freeways (which is due to TXDOT policy) and in as much as building space is cheaper and cost of living is lower.
Daniel saysApril 8, 2011 at 7:01 pm
Yeah, I’ve read that Las Vegas and surrounding Clark County also virtually require HOAs in all new developments by setting open space standards and then mandating ongoing maintenance of the space. I think this is pretty common.
Anonymous saysApril 8, 2011 at 7:08 pm
Given that a large fraction (majority?) of houses are already under the aegis of HOAs, how much of a “scarcity of voluntary
land-use arrangements” is there?
Re competition: it seems the details of the HOA will be pretty massively outweighed by location and other factors when it comes to decision-making on the part of buyers, which explains why they’re able to get away with so much. Also, the people who run them probably don’t see themselves as being in competition with other HOAs. I suppose if HOAs get a lot of bad publicity there might be fewer restrictions in newer ones, which may eventually filter back to older ones (depending on how many people you need to vote for change– some require unanimity, which seems unlikely to ever happen).