For decades, planners have been called evil or obsolete. A housing crisis might offer a chance at redemption. In 2018, Scott Wiener, a California state senator representing San Francisco, introduced a co-authored bill that detonated a debate over housing. The aim of Senate Bill 827 was to override local regulations on building height in order to allow denser, high-rise construction near transit hubs. At once radical and simple, its target was nothing more, and nothing less, than zoning—the most common American way to control land use. Zoning determines whether a building is commercial or residential, how big it can get, whether it’s a single-family home or a high-rise tower. Though zoning is a legislative act, it is sometimes influenced by the efforts of a handful of well-connected people at a neighborhood association, or sometimes by a single, well-connected member of a zoning board. S.B. 827 would have overridden many such rules and made it easier to build.
In the midst of pandemic, business models are wide open for transformation. From my perspective, the corona virus is just a precursor to the larger