New Urbanist Zoning for Dummies

64 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2006

See all articles by Michael Lewyn

Michael Lewyn

Touro College - Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center

Date Written: January 2006


For most of the 20th century, American land use regulation sought to separate different types of land uses from each other and to reduce population density, while American parking and street design regulation sought to facilitate driving by mandating wide streets and forcing landlords and businesses to build parking lots for their tenants and customers. These policies have helped to create a pattern of land use often described as "sprawl": low-density, automobile-oriented development. Where offices and shops are in a different zone of a city from low-density housing, residents will often be unable to live within walking distances of such facilities. And where parking lots and wide streets surround those offices and shops, pedestrians must cross dangerously wide streets and then cross a sea of parking in order to reach those buildings. In recent decades, a group of architects generally known as the New Urbanist movement has sought to reform both conventional land use regulation and the sprawl that it generates. New Urbanists seek to build compact, walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods. Because existing zoning is hostile to New Urbanism, New Urbanists have begun to develop alternative zoning codes codifying New Urbanist principles. For example, Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company (DPZ), a leading New Urbanist architectural firm, has drafted a model code known as the SmartCode. The purpose of this article is to compare New Urbanist zoning to sprawl-oriented conventional zoning, using the SmartCode and two conventional zoning codes as case studies. The article concludes that the SmartCode is in many ways less restrictive than existing zoning, and shows how the SmartCode could be made even more libertarian yet at the same time even more pedestrian-friendly.

Suggested Citation

Lewyn, Michael, New Urbanist Zoning for Dummies (January 2006). GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 183. Available at SSRN: or

Michael Lewyn (Contact Author)

Touro College - Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center ( email )

225 Eastview Drive
Central Islip, NY 11722
United States

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