Four Land Use Vignettes from (Unzoned?) Houston

28 Pages Posted: 23 Sep 2010

See all articles by John Mixon

John Mixon

University of Houston Law Center

Date Written: September 22, 2010


Houston has been called "the hair shirt of city planners." The profession's discomfort stems from the city's repeated rejection of land use zoning – the essential tool of their craft. The unrepentant city touts itself as a model of enlightened differentness: a public-private combination that provides a better formula for managing growth in a modern city. But beneath that Chamber of Commerce gloss, Houston's land use is a far cry from free enterprise in action.

What this article calls "The Houston Way" combines: (1) An adamant refusal to use government power prospectively to guide growth and protect existing investment; with (2) A willingness to respond to specific developer-citizen conflicts with ad hoc solutions that assign the City Planning Commission a unique role in mediating the constant battle between homeowners and developers. Rejection of traditional land use solutions oftentimes places the city at the borderline between legal and not-so-legal regulation.

Keywords: Ad hoc regulation of land uses, Traffic control as leverage for land use, Subdivision restrictions as alternative to zoning, Politics of nonzoning, Unconstitutional delegation of regulatory power

Suggested Citation

Mixon, John, Four Land Use Vignettes from (Unzoned?) Houston (September 22, 2010). Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics and Public Policy, Vol. 24, p. 159, 2010, U of Houston Law Center No. 2010-A-31, Available at SSRN:

John Mixon (Contact Author)

University of Houston Law Center ( email )

4604 Calhoun Road
Houston, TX 77204-6060
United States

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