Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Would zoning have helped Houston?

While rains continue to fall in eastern Texas and western Louisiana, the city of Houston now appears to be through the worst of Hurricane Harvey, though the storm dropped record amounts of rain on America's fourth largest city.

The impact of that deluge will be felt for years. While no urban area could cope with that kind of water, Houston is unique among American cities in that it has no zoning code, which begs the question, would zoning have helped Houston better respond this kind of catastrophe?

It's a question planners and city officials should study. At first blush, it is not hard to imagine a comprehensive land use vision with far-sighted planning and enforceable zoning could have better shaped both the natural and the built environment in Houston to preserve the earth's natural capacity to absorb and channel water. As Houston struggles to make sense of this flooding of biblical proportions, zoning is one of the areas they should turn their attention.