WHAT THE PLANNERS ARE REALLY DOING
Statement to Planning Commission 6/6/2012
By Peter Naughtom
The LUCE, while pretending to be about the public production of urban space, in fact is to enable Santa Monica to achieve a “market edge” in the ever intensifying race between cities to capture “footloose capital”. It is yet another example of a city government using planning to attract capital and “desirable” residents. Even though we are tonight at the stage of talking about the form of regulations, control over buildings — their location/footprint, we are still talking about this goal o enable Santa Monica to achieve a ‘market edge’ in the ever- intensifying race between cities to capture ‘footloose capital.’”.
The goal of Euclidian zoning, the system you are replacing, was also “to enable Santa Monica to achieve a ‘market edge’ in the ever-intensifying race between cities to capture ‘footloose capital.’” So why change it?
Good question! Easy answer – -because the one you are discussing allows a select few to capture “footloose capital” without public scrutiny by shutting off access to the decision-making processes. Urban spaces produced by this system are the outcome of private discussions between the developer and government agencies.
This system-form-based zoning is not reform, it is increased control. It is control implemented behind closed doors, shrouded in professional rhetoric to exclude public participation at decision-making time in order to increase the space for capital to the detriment of any class or group deemed “undesirable”. It advances the interests of social elites and dominant groups who are now pushing this forward in a rush to secure the apparatus of control over land use decisions and put the roles of planner beyond public intervention except by those they wish to placate.
To say that this new zoning is to combat sprawl is to misguide the public. It is to organize and facilitate capital accumulation. Euclidian zoning with its greater potential for public scrutiny has thwarted the increasing greed of that capital. The reason we are now getting this form-based system is to satisfy that greed.
The form of zoning you are now proposing represents a homogenizing process that privileges the central ‘core’ culture — in your case,young, rich, white — at the expense of alternative ways of life and is therefore a form of social control. It’s ability to do that is exemplified by what is happening to Village Trailer Park, and its Residential Mobile Home designation — it disappears. Today it’s Residential Mobile Home, tomorrow it can be anything planners fancy to dislike.
Finally,this week Portland, Oregon,the poster city for form-based zoning, was accused of using it to ignore the Fair Housing Act and segregate the poor and people of color away from desirable areas. Which goes to prove that once this system is in place the temptation to use it against the weak, the poor or anyone not in the “in crowd” proves too great, no matter how exemplary a city may be!
NOTE: I have a Masters in Land Use Planning from Cambridge in England and I have spent 31 years working in this field.. I also helped the Norwegian Government develop a land use strategy for urban areas in the Kingdom of Norway to cope with the development of North Sea oil.
— Peter Naughton