zoning, legislative regulations by which a municipal government seeks to control the use of buildings and land within the municipality. It has become, in the United States, a widespread method of controlling urban and suburban construction and removing congestion and other defects of existing plans. Great Britain, Germany, and Sweden preceded the United States in zoning for the purpose of controlling building in new areas adjoining cities, but now use comprehensive plans. The zoning resolution adopted by New York City in 1916 was the first in the United States and has profoundly affected New York architecture, while the standard it set has been followed by other cities. By this law (often amended since 1916) New York City is divided into use districts, area districts, and height districts. Use districts are of four classes: residential, business, retail, and unrestricted. The height and area limitations serve to insure light and air for the occupants of city buildings. In the United States the state legislatures hold the power to authorize zoning, within which the separate cities enact their own zoning ordinance and it is typically closely integrated with a city planning program. Zoning has been used to maintain the suburban, and class character of a municipality, however, and as such has been called exclusionary zoning; it has produced racial and economic segregation. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against such zoning in directing that public housing in Chicago be spread beyond the city limits. The New Jersey courts have gone further, declaring that developing communities have an obligation to accommodate their fair share of a region's needs for modest homes and apartments.
See S. J. Makielski, Jr., The Politics of Zoning: The New York Experience (1966); N. Williams, The Structure of Urban Zoning, and Its Dynamics in Urban Planning and Development (1966); S. I. Toll, Zoned America (1969); R. B. Andrews, ed., Urban Land Use Policy: The Central City (1972); R. E. Babcock and C. L. Sieman, The Zoning Game Revisited (1985); A. J. King, Law and Land Use in Chicago (1986).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.