Also: Mapping America’s water insecurity, and a Depression-era mural’s very contemporary controversy.

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What We’re Following

Zoning out: Municipal zoning codes evolved in the 20th century to shape how we build cities and how we live in them. But zoning, simply put, can be hard to understand. Discussions quickly fall into a maze of jargon and acronyms that can flummox all but the most attentive planning and policy nerds. When cities debate how to use their land—and when that can have such a wide range of consequences—shouldn’t the public be able to follow along?

(Giordano Poloni)

In the latest installment of CityLab University, Benjamin Schneider offers a history of zoning and a glossary of key terms that can help anyone better understand how zoning works, and why it’s so important. These regulations are getting a growing amount of public scrutiny today, thanks to efforts in many cities and states to build more housing, boost sustainability, and remedy historic inequities. Here’s a cheat sheet to help you and your community join in those conversations: CityLab University: Zoning Codes

Andrew Small

More on CityLab

Mapping Water Insecurity in the U.S.

“Plumbing poverty”—a lack of access to running water, a flush toilet, and an indoor bath or shower—is skewed across racial and socioeconomic lines.

Richard Florida and Claire Tran

A Depression-Era Mural, Caught in a Very Contemporary Controversy

At a public viewing of a 1930s mural depicting the life and legacy of George Washington, San Franciscans argued about preservation, racism, and erasure.

Sarah Holder

Americans Shouldn’t Have to Drive, but the Law Insists on It

The automobile took over because the legal system helped squeeze out the alternatives.

Gregory H. Shill

Can ‘Pods’ Bring Quiet to the Noisy Open Office?

Now that office walls have come down, workers are ducking into closet-sized “pods” for privacy and quiet. Is this a retreat from the open office or the next phase of it?

Sarah Holder


Nobody says it’s pretty here; nobody says it’s easy either. What it is is decisive, and if you pay attention to the street plans, all laid out, the City can’t hurt you. … Do what you please in the City, it is there to back and frame you no matter what you do. And what goes on on its blocks and lots and side streets is anything the strong can think of and the weak will admire. All you have to do is heed the design—the way it’s laid out for you, considerate, mindful of where you want to go and what you might need tomorrow.

— Toni Morrison, describing 1920s Harlem in her novel Jazz
(February 18, 1931 - August 5, 2019)

What We’re Reading

The El Paso shooting terrorized Hispanic communities across Texas (The Texas Tribune)

New housing organization urges San Diego to say “Yes In God’s Backyard” (Next City)

How Bill de Blasio went from progressive hope to punching bag (New York Times Magazine)

Can new U.S.-funded park help make El Salvador safe again? (Slate)

The 120-degree heat waves of the future could melt streets and bend train tracks (Vice)

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