Equity Metrics

Zoning Reform

Zoning has historically been used to restrict admissibility and to create racially exclusive communities. Rooted in racist past and discriminatory intent, the effects of restrictive zoning in current times are still discriminatory even if the intent is not explicitly racist. Single-family zoned areas, that do not allow development of multi-family housing, has been shown to increase in racial segregation and income inequality through research and practice. Single-family zoning is a mechanism to keep people of color and low income away from neighborhoods that are heavily white and are resource rich. There are many policy solutions to alleviate the role of zoning in perpetuating racial inequity and harm. Equity Metrics has been involved with research and analysis of residential zoning and its effects. Our team has completed the following projects, and is looking forward to exploring and analyzing this issue further:

  • Single-family zoning in the Bay area, California: As part of our series on racial segregation in the San Francisco Bay Area, we examined the relationship between restrictive zoning (and single-family zoning in particular) and racial residential segregation. That investigation led us to a broader understanding of the effects of single-family zoning. To conduct this research, we created original color-coded municipal maps displaying single-family zoning, other residential zoning, and non-residential zoning for 101 municipalities in the Bay Area across nine counties. Our maps were constructed from the parcel level upward and accounts for residential land use not publicly attributed to specific housing types, allowing us to assess the effects of restrictive zoning with a far greater level of precision than has generally been done by others. Our goal is to convey a broader appreciation of the ramifications of restrictive zoning.
  • Mapping Opportunity and Upzoning in California: Researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and the California Housing Partnership utilized available data and research on opportunity mapping to create an online, interactive map of California to help inform statewide zoning reform legislative proposals by creating and publishing an evidence-based approach to identifying opportunity-rich, exclusive areas most appropriate for up-zoning. The mapping tool provides data and evidence-based framing around the types of neighborhood characteristics policymakers should consider to ensure zoning reform encourages more housing production in high-opportunity and jobs-rich areas, and does so in ways that could make the state more inclusive and help meet environmental goals by reducing commute distances. The maps were created as a collaboration between the Othering and Belonging Institute, the Terner Center for Housing Innovation and the Urban Displacement Project at the University of California, Berkeley, and the California Housing Partnership. This project was made possible by the generous support of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
  • Statewide zoning reform (ongoing): Data collection process is ongoing to map residential zoning for the entire state of California. This project will be an extension of our Bay area project, and would highlight the impact of residential zoning, especially single-family zoning, on people of color and low-income folks and their life outcomes.