One method of zoning land for development and use. The idea behind single-use zoning is to assign a section of land as being used solely for residential, commercial, or industrial purposes. (This should be quite familiar to all persons familiar with SimCity) Land designated for one use cannot be used for other purposes.

Single-use zoning started appearing in the 1920's, in the United States, as a change from the mixed-use zoning that had been the case long before then. Suddently, land was being set aside for a single purpose, and usually in large, sweeping tracts. No longer would there be buildings with grould-floor businesses and upper-story residences. A building would either entirely for living, or entirely for business purposes.

It was the automobile that really enabled this method of zoning. Before the automobile, people had to rely on walking, public transportation, or a horse-drawn carriage. Because of what was involved with horses, this more or less required people in the city to live near where they shopped and worked, so there was a necessity to mix all the various types together. This led to the establishment of well-defined and known neighborhoods that people didn't have to venture out of for their needs.

After the automobile, it became possible to travel longer distances for shopping, entertainment, and work. Some people started to desire leaving the city, finding the less dense and busy lands a ways away, and living there, commuting. The growing demand gave rise to zoning for large residential areas - and often the residential zoning even specified whether there would be single-family homes, multi-family homes, or apartments. As the people migrated out, there arose the opportunity for commercial areas nearby the residential ones, and keeping with the new idea of single-use zoning, the stores were seperate from the housing.

This method of zoning was also influenced by the desire to move highly-polluting factories and industrial plants away from residential areas to improve quality of life. This is still considered a good thing - nobody wants to put a power plant in the middle of residential neighborhoods.

The single-use zoning of residential and commercial areas has directly resulted in surburban life today. Large tracts of housing, surrounded by large arterial roads to handle the large amounts of automobile traffic. These roads offer a perfect audience to sell things to, so commercial areas arise along these roads, increasing traffic. Industrial areas, where so many people work, are tucked in pockets in out of the way places, or even better, in another community. Thus commuting becomes necessary, and congestion.

As the zoning continued, urban sprawl started to form, and the decline of the third place. Some people are trying to fight against single-use zoning, feeling that the sprawl and lack of community it forms are harmful to the culture of the area, and even the country, as people lose their connections with each other.

Single-use zoning has caught on around the world, and is not even limited to cities with high numbers of privately-owned automobiles. Any city with a transportation system capable of moving significant numbers of people between residential, commercial, and industrial areas can make use of single-use zoning, with varying results.

There seem to be few arguments in favor of single-use zoning, but it remains so popular because it's taught to civil engineers and city planners as the way to do things, and the inertia of years of doing it that way. It's become so ingrained as the only way to zone that even the computer game SimCity only allows single-use zoning. There's also the surburban population, having mostly grown up in such areas, that often don't consider the possibility of anything else. Points in it's favor may include the fact that more mixed-use zoning would discourage single-family homes, and make the ones that do get built more expensive, as otherwise more could be done with the land. Though some might not consider those to be bad things.

Saige's writeup gives an excellent overview of American single-use zoning and its drawbacks, but things are a bit different in those parts of the world with (shock horror!) functional public transportation.

Consider Tokyo, the largest city on the planet. If its 30 million inhabitants all commuted to work by car, the result would be the world's biggest traffic jam, and nobody would ever actually reach their workplace before it was time to turn back. Yet Tokyo still uses single-use zoning, and the key to making this work is integrating zoning with public transport.

In Japan, most train companies are part of gigantic zaibatsu (conglomerates) like Seibu or Tokyu, and it is not only possible but common for one of these companies to construct an entire suburb by itself. The company buys a big chunk of land, runs a railway through it, and then builds up a huge number of residential apartments. At the other end of the line is one of the gigantic commercial centers that make up the core of Tokyo, offering jobs and shopping opportunities -- often at companies and department stores owned by the same conglomerate -- to the future residents of the suburb. People commute along the railway, which pollutes a lot less than the equivalent amount of cars on the road. There is also no inner city decay problem, since proximity to the center is very desirable, keeping demand high and ensuring that land is efficiently used.

If the above sounds a bit too utopian, rest assured Tokyo has its quirks too: much of the historical center of Tokyo has mixed-use zoning, resulting in factories mixed among houses and a particularly infamous garbage incinerator smack dab in the middle of the major center of Ikebukuro. (These are gradually disappearing though, and in theoretically-mixed places like Shibuya and Shinjuku many former apartment buildings have been converted to house only businesses and leisure/entertainment facilities.) Some of the danchi (government-built cheap rental apartments) in Chiba could give most Stalinist satellites a run for their rouble in terms of sheer bleakness. The desirability of a central location also plays a large part in making Tokyo rents some of, if not the, most expensive in the world. And finally, the car congestion is transformed into people congestion -- but this is limited to a few specific times and spots, and even at the height of rush hour trains run on schedule and the time to commute remains the same.

The close ties between transportation and construction companies place Tokyo a few steps ahead of most other countries, but in much of Europe similar trends can be seen. For example, while the Helsinki metro area is pretty uniformly zoned, the availability of public transport has made a big difference in the cityscape. Eastern Helsinki, well served with a subway line, has developed along the Japanese model with residential suburbs growing around the subway stations and Scandinavia's largest shopping center Itäkeskus at the (former) terminus of the line. Western Helsinki and the neighboring county of Espoo, on the other hand, are much more reliant on the private car, the inevitable result being daily rush hour traffic jams on the highways connecting to central Helsinki and the development of American-style strip malls for car-owning shoppers. (After decades of battle, Espoo County has grudgingly concluded that this is probably not a Good Thing, and the subway is being extended west.) As in Tokyo, there is no inner-city urban decay and it seems unlikely to appear, but some of the outer suburbs are fairly grotty (by Finnish standards, a resident of Mogadishu might disagree). Unlike Tokyo, the mixed-zone center has mostly stayed that way in reality as well; here in Töölö, where I live, the first floor of almost all buildings is commercial but the upper floors are all residential. Then again, this would probably change rapidly if Helsinki suddenly acquired an extra 29,000,000 inhabitants...

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.