A minimum level of land use regulation by local governments is necessary for cities to function properly, especially big cities. Imagine the worst-case scenarios of a city with zero land use regulation: a landfill next door to a pre-school, or a row of houses within an animal slaughtering complex. However, big cities often go overboard with their regulatory powers. Watch the TED Talk below for a great example of ridiculous local government regulations in Los Angeles.
Now, a city that has a reputation for over-regulating is Portland, Oregon. In some circles (urban planning schools) Portland is hailed as a utopia, while in other circles (libertarian think tanks and political groups) Portland is despised. The truth is a bit more complicated. While Portland is very active in big-picture land use regulation (its regional Urban Growth Boundary is a good example of this), it does not engage in the type of micro-managing of land uses that Los Angeles is guilty of as noted in the TED Talk above. The results are quite interesting. Throughout Portland, you will find numerous examples of adaptive reuse of buildings including: old fire stations converted into condos, dozens of former industrial buildings that now contain retail space and apartments, and even an old elementary school that was converted into a hotel/microbrewery. Check out the video below for a close-up look at the McMenamin’s Kennedy School, Portland’s elementary school turned hotel/brewery.
What are your thoughts about land use regulation in cities?