Past is Prologue: 100 Years of Zoning

Fri, Mar 4, 2016    1pm

Patrice Derrington, Holliday Associate Professor, Director of the Real Estate Development Program, Columbia GSAPP
Michael Gerrard, Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice, Columbia Law School
Raquel Ramati, Architect and Urban Designer, President of Raquel Ramati Associates
Elliott Sclar, Director, Center for Sustainable Urban Development, The Earth Institute, Professor of Urban Planning and International Affairs at Columbia, GSAPP

Moderated by Charles Bagli, Journalist, New York Times

2016 marks the centennial of New York City’s 1916 Zoning Ordinance, the first comprehensive zoning law adopted in the United States. Zoning is both a regulatory tool and a social practice. Over the last century, zoning has transformed from an instrument designed to mitigate industrial development and perpetuate racial segregation to a tool intended to shift urban travel behavior and development patterns. Today, the aims, role, and impact of zoning in New York City -and beyond- remain contested.

The anniversary of the 1916 ordinance presents an opportunity to critically assess the current state of land regulation. Zoning shapes the daily transformation of cities, yet has attracted relatively little critical attention. This gap is especially surprising considering zoning’s considerable impact on a wide range of theoretical and practical dilemmas currently facing cities, including threats from climate change, rising inequality and spatial disparities, declining access to jobs, opportunities, and affordable housing, and unstable economic productivity. And although zoning policies have cast their goals in terms of an increasingly larger range of social issues over time, zoning practice has been largely left to experts engaged in closed-door negotiations.

Here we engage a senior group of scholars and practitioners from planning, law, architecture and real estate, to chart out zoning’s past - and future as one of the most potent public tools to influence urban development.