Why did we get the type of development that occured after WWII? There are theories that say our zoning that created seperation of land uses created it. There are theories that the automobile and our reliance on it created it. I think both of these theories are true but one thing we seem to forget is that we created the zoning laws that seperate uses. We chose the convenience and freedom that the automobile has allowed.
Zoning and our seperation of land uses came about after the industrial revolution when so many of the industries were very dirty and people did not want to live near them. It then became the norm to seperate the uses because that is easier to write into a code than to create a mix of uses. The car also made it possible for us to choose to seperate ourselves from our offices and other uses. And choose we did to live where we wanted to so long as the commute to our jobs was deemed feasible. Then logistics and economies of scale came in to play. For example a large grocery store with many items serving a larger geographic area can sell its groceries for cheaper than the local smaller grocer. And we chose to shop at these larger grocery stores to save money and the local grocer went out of business.
Now there has been a resurgence in wanting to have mixed use projects that are similar to the small towns of this country in the 1950’s. This is great and some of the projects that it has spawned are very cool. My concern is – Should we do away with our present zoning all together for this New Urbanism type of development? Today my answer to that is no we do not have the ability to do that today and all consumers would not go along with it.
I know that some of what I have said are generalities and the entire country does not fit neat into generalities. We have a local grocer in our town that has not only survived but done well. The point I am trying to make is that we have no general solution to our growth problems. New Urbanism is an important part of it. Other forms of development are an important part of it as well.