Zoning and the American dream: Promises still to keep

| March 30, 2011

Title: Zoning and the American dream : Promises still to keep

Editors: Charles M. Haar and Jerold S. Kayden

Publisher: Planners Press, American Planning Association in association with the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

Call Number: KF5698 .Z6 1989

From the Publisher:

This thoughtful book assesses just how well zoning is meeting its goals six decades after it was introduced. Zoning and the American Dream finds grounds for both optimism and pessimism. Though susceptible to gross misuse, Haar and Kayden argue that zoning is still the most powerful tool available for shaping the environment in which we live and work.

The book starts before the Supreme Court’s 1926 landmark decision in Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Company with a look at the battles that prompted litigation. It’s a story of strong-willed individuals, surprising political coalitions, and debate on some of the major philosophical issues of the Progressive era.

This great drama is recounted with flair and detail. The dusty files of Ambler Realty Company’s lawyers are exhumed to reveal the thinking behind the case. We’re given a lively first hand perspective of the unfolding trail strategy. There’s also a look at the personal backgrounds of major and minor players and an appendix with the complete text of the decision.

The book also explores the problematic sides of zoning—for example, its use for racial and class discrimination. One chapter uncovers how some communities have even used zoning not only to exclude blacks but to destroy existing viable black neighborhoods by zoning for intrusive commercial and industrial uses.

The book casts a skeptical eye on increased judicial intervention in zoning as constitutional battles have involved judges more and more in the planning of American communities. It also examines the pervasive impact of zoning on design and questions the compatibility of zoning and traditional economic theory.

Zoning and the American Dream is the first book that looks at zoning from every imaginable perspective: historical, physical design and planning, sociological, legal, economic, and political. It’s a useful reference for professionals. And just a good read for anyone interested in the nature of American communities.

About the Editors:

Charles M. Haar, Visiting Professor of Law, earned an A.B. from New York University in 1940, an M.A. from the University of Wisconsin in 1941, and an LL.B. from Harvard Law School in 1948. A frequent visitor at UM Law, he is Brandeis Professor of Law Emeritus at Harvard Law School. Professor Haar is an authority on real property development, and was a leading participant in the formulation of Great Society Programs. He has been assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and has chaired several Presidential task forces on the environment and on model cities.

Jerold S. Kayden is the Frank Backus Williams Professor of Urban Planning and Design at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, and previously served as Co-Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design and Director of the Master in Urban Planning Degree Program.  His research and teaching focus on the relationship between law and the built environment and public-private urban development.  His books include Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience; Landmark Justice: The Influence of William J. Brennan on America’s Communities; and Zoning and the American Dream: Promises Still To Keep. He has also authored numerous articles on such subjects as property rights, smart growth, design codes, historic preservation, and market-based regulatory instruments.

On the Web: