From Elaine's Idle Mind, May 25:
Good Zoning Laws Make Good Neighbors
Three years ago, FT had an article praising Tokyo’s laissez-faire zoning laws. Landowners can build and demolish as they see fit; the rules are set at the national level, so local governments have no say in the matter.
The article suggests that San Francisco could learn a thing or two from relaxed development rules. Ha. Hahahahaha. Why on earth would San Francisco residents want to liberate housing development??
In Japan, a housing development is the developer’s business. In San Francisco, it’s everyone’s business. Neighbors appeal building permits based on traffic considerations, shadow effects, environmental impact, historic preservation, and all manner of other stuff.
Here’s what they really want to preserve
The upper blue area is North Beach and Little Italy. The red cluster to the right of that is Chinatown, port of entry for Chinese immigrants during the railroad and Gold Rush years. The red blocks on the west are the second, third, and fourth Chinatowns, formed after 1965. The orange area is the Latino Mission District; the dense blue spot down south is the Jewish retirement community. Source: Dotmap
San Francisco is culturally diverse, but the diversity* is strictly segregated. We call this historical character, and character can only be maintained by keeping outsiders out. Neighborhoods can’t exactly come out and impose cultural segregation, but they can enforce zoning laws. By blocking new buildings and preventing the renovation of old ones, residents ensure that the demographic makeup stays the same year after year.
When policy initiatives aren’t enough, diversity can be preserved in other ways. In Chinatown, landlords often advertise vacancies only in Chinese newspapers and sites, ensuring that incoming residents are also Chinese. The Mission District promotes gentrification resistance movements such as the Yuppie Eradication Project and Causa Justa, which tracks the number of Latino households displaced by white residents.
In any other city, we might start slinging the r-word around. Here in San Francisco, it’s a reasonable fear of displacement. I suspect that most of what we call racism today is this same type of fear....
...City residents are right to be scared: The Fillmore District used to be known as the center of West Coast jazz, the Harlem of the West, until it was targeted for redevelopment in the 1960s....MUCH MORE