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Former state Rep. Bob Irvin responds

To the Editor:

The issue of whether to end single-family zoning in Atlanta, as the City administration has proposed, is a contest between urban planning theorists and homeowners. Theorists are for it; homeowners are against it. Councilman Amir Farokhi does his best, in his column on 30 May, to make the theorists’ case – but it is still a weak case. Here are four examples, from that column, of just how weak the case is.

First, the column implies that the City’s proposal does not really amount to ending single-family zoning, and criticizes me for saying that it does. Yet the very first point of the proposal, in the City’s own document, is “End…single-family zoning.”

Second, the column’s main argument about how this proposal is actually a good thing, is that hardly anybody will make use of it. An odd way to sell a proposal, you’d think. And if hardly anybody will make use of it, why do it?

Third, the theorists (and the column) spend more time talking about the past than they do painting a picture of an attractive future. Yes, it’s true that Atlanta’s first zoning ordinance was struck down for racism – 97 years ago! A lot of things have changed since then, to put it mildly. The law is for the living. Zoning today protects homeowners of all races.

Fourth, the column exposes the theorists’ fundamental bias, summing up by saying that “allowing for greater density is a necessity.” The urban planning theorists love high density, but not all residents do. Some people want high density, and they should be able to, and do, have high-density areas to choose from. Others, however, want lower density, and they too should be able to find what they want inside the City limits. As the City Planning Department itself said in The Atlanta City Design, “By organizing growth in already-dense zones like Downtown, Midtown, and Buckhead [business/commercial districts] we can easily accommodate our anticipated growth without encroaching on existing neighborhoods.” What changed? Apparently the theorists got hold of them!

The City administration’s proposal should be a non-starter. It is up to Atlanta residents to make sure that it is.

Bob Irvin

2 June 2021

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