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Chapter Summary

Frug, Gerald E. 1999. City Making: Building Communities without Building Walls. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Chapter 7)

Frug dedicates Chapter 7 to examining local land use controls as a state-enabled tool of social exclusion. Support for local zoning policies has often been articulated in the anti-urban language that the best place to raise a family is a quiet, wholesome setting replete with clean air and unthreatening neighbors. Although zoning has been decried as fostering suburban homogeneity, its exclusionary impact is widely accepted as legitimate because it is a safeguard against declining neighborhood standards and property values (due to the encroachment of diversity, a lower class of people, different race, etc.). Exclusion has also been a central tenet of urban redevelopment policy throughout the 20th Century. Fixated on economic growth, city leaders sought to create sanitized business and shopping districts to increase central cities attraction to middleclass metropolitan residents, leading to the displacement of poorer residents.

Thus, states Frug, local zoning and redevelopment policies have sought to achieve two central goals: fostering nice neighborhoods (high property values and economic growth) and excluding undesirables. Our author suggests that, in order to undermine the popular support for this type of policy, heterogeneity has to be shown as being compatible with neighborhood prosperity, safety, and stability. The principles of New Urbanism promoting urban vitality, fostering a dense mix of uses, and encouraging participation - seem to be congruous with this aim.

In order to get support for heterogeneous communities, the effort is necessary to attract converts to propagate the popularity of this vision by attracting groups disserved by the existing model:

Women: With the decline of the traditional family, suburban women are now finding it difficult to manage their dual roles of homemaker and full-time employee.

Inner-Suburb Residents : There is an increasing cost on these individuals, imposed by an increasing outward expansion of wealthier suburbs. These middle-class areas continue to decline, leaving their residents with few relocation options.

The Elderly: Many elderly homeowners prefer to age in place, but maintaining a large residence in a car-centric environment makes it difficult for them to do so.

African Americans: As long as an urban policy of separation is maintained, the exodus of middle-class black residents from poor traditionally-black neighborhoods will continue. Even these middle-class individuals continue to face considerable barriers of discrimination by real estate brokers, mortgage lenders, homeowners, and landlords.

Between these groups, there exists the potential for a considerable coalition that might support a change in American land-use policy. The fear that exists between different groups (including the four referenced above) prevents people from recognizing and remedying the problems of fragmentation. Thus, in order for there to be meaningful change, city leaders and residents must be willing to begin a cross-boundary dialogue about how difference, integration, and togetherness continue to shape urban policy.