Planning Rules in Sydney Regulate Balaconies, Bike Spaces

Everytime I think planning is bad in the US, I look abroad to see how much worse it could get. Sydney, Austrlia just released a draft of hundreds of new planning regulations that will force new apartments to have balconies and bike spaces to meet the city’s “livability requirements.” According to the Sydney Morning Herald (October 12, 2010):

“The draft Development Control Plan replaces a requirement that all new apartments have a private outdoor area with a new balcony provision the council says will increase the amount of light and space in apartments.

“The new rules on balconies are among hundreds of provisions in the DCP, which the city says amalgamates 62 separate planning policies into one document regulating the detailed look of buildings ranging from single homes to big office blocks.

“Other changes include a requirement for commercial development to include separate electricity meters to allow exact monitoring and billing for lights, air-conditioning and power.

“New residential and commercial developments will include car-share spaces as well as the capacity to install charging stations for electric vehicles in the future. Every new private home will need a bicycle spot as part of the city’s effort to encourage cycling.”

At issue is how much discretion private renters and home owners have over their property. In Sydney, the answer is: not much. But, minimizing private decisionmaking over land use and building is a goal of planning. The intent is to make the built environment a political decision, not a private one.

Thus, unfortunately, Sydney may be a sign of what is to come in the US if land use and building decisions are further politicized and take out of the realm of private decisionmaking.