A great piece in the Houston Business Journal defends Houston against those who criticize the city's lack of zoning:
So, almost 20 years [after voters rejected a city zoning ordinance], Houston remains as the poster child for land use abuse and the butt of running jokes from smart growth groups.
Well, I would submit that urban Houston has a particular style of zoning that works rather efficiently.
We frequently run stories about conflicts over commercial encroachment into inner-city residential neighborhoods.
Near downtown, well-heeled homeowners posted lawn signs protesting a planned dental clinic.
Out southwest, a civic group stalled construction of a hospital expansion.
Up the Loop, outcry from a single-family community threw up a roadblock to development of an apartment complex.
These are just three examples from recent months. Hundreds of such confrontations, most unreported, have taken place and continue to unfold since zoning was zapped nearly two decades ago.
In most cases, a resolution is reached through a process of compromise and accommodation.
It usually goes like this. One elected official, a city council member representing the district, brings parties to the table. After some give and take, an agreement is reached without input from a downtown cabal of zone-meisters.
While the system may not be perfect (and what zoning system is?) this grassroots approach to development seems to work as often as not in "The only major U.S. city without zoning."
Full article here.