Zoning Powerless Against the Storm
Henry Grabar refutes the common narrative that unregulated zoning exacerbated Houston’s flooding, and turns the problem on its head by suggesting that current regulations actually contributed to the damage.
“The most important thing is this: No city is or should be designed to accommodate a one-in-a-million-year flood, which is what Harvey turned out to be. As Houston Chronicle writer Dylan Baddour put it last year, “Cars don’t have airbags to absorb a hit from a train.” If our probabilities about the likelihood of such storms are wrong because of climate change—and it sure seems they are—that’s a separate problem and one for which local planners shouldn’t be held accountable. After all, rural areas at the fringes of the Houston metro are also underwater.
That’s not to say flood-control planning in and around Houston has not been shortsighted. But zoning would not have saved Houston.”
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