Part I: The Genesis of Zoning in the USA
When we drive through our cities there appears to be an organization to them. A plan, sometimes well thought out, sometimes confounding. Nonetheless, the hallmarks of a plan are present. We see clusters of residential houses. Nearby apartment complexes featuring retail and commercial space. And then our business areas appropriately placed away from our neighborhoods but still conveniently accessible by car and hopefully public transportation.
Driving through the Seattle neighborhood of Ballard always gets me to thinking about zoning. The curiosity stemming from a JD is still extant, I suppose.
It had been 10 years since I studied the case of Village of Euclid v. Amber Realty Co and being the content editor for a firm working closely with AEC professionals, it seemed the perfect time to revisit.
I’ve dusted off law school outlines and consulted with peers working in the legal field regarding this case. Additionally, I have acquired law review articles and even a few books on the case. I am ready to deliver some color to a seemingly staid and boring land dispute from 1926.
Zoning has impacted the way we interact with our cities and its effects are far reaching. It is ostensibly a dry case setting a well-founded public policy. However, the effects are not simply across the board beneficial and in time we will address some of the perhaps unintended pernicious effects of zoning as it is structured in many municipalities throughout the US. In fidelity to balance, we also examine its myriad benefits.
For now, a capsule summary.
Amber Realty was a sizable landowner in the village of Euclid. Euclid being a small suburb outside of Cleveland.
The Village presciently addressed what was soon to come. Cleveland essentially annexing Euclid and create a de facto proscription on the salutary growth Euclid would provide.
What did the Village do?
They developed a zoning ordinance based of 6 class of uses, 3 classes of height and 4 classes of area.
By implementing and dividing the acres owned by Amber Realty it effectively hindered Amber Realty from developing the land for industry use.
It was an initial victory.
But as Mr. Burns from the Simpsons acknowledged, “Still Open Thanks to the USA’s Lengthy Appeals Process.”
No justice like justice delayed but a seminal battle was brewing and next week we go through the fascinating percolation of this case through the courts.
Stay tuned, stay safe and let’s meet next week!
Wally Hasslinger, JD