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My (off-blog) review of Max Holleran's Yes To The City
I can’t give you the full review here, because, y’know, I wrote it for them and they paid me good money for it and they deserve your clicks.
However, the article is free, very nicely typeset in a rather gorgeous font, and there’s no paywall. It’s exactly the kind of thing I would have written for De Civitate, except I wrote it for Law & Liberty. Here’s a sample, then read the whole thing:
Max Holleran’s new book, Yes to the City, chronicles a hot front in the culture war. The battle rages through every city in the land. The outcome will shape America’s future more than inflation, covid, or the war in Ukraine.
I speak, of course, of zoning codes.
You seem unconvinced. Yet city planning touches every part of our lives, and there is a rich, albeit neglected, conservative literature on the topic. Obdurate towns, hoping to shield themselves from change, have built regulatory mazes that serve as potent weapons in the hands of any canny culture warrior. The result: fissures in American society between young and old, rich and poor, Right and Left.
In January 2020, Guiding Star Wakota, a crisis pregnancy center serving moms in the independent city of West Saint Paul, Minnesota, sought to expand its overcrowded facilities. It wrote up exhaustive plans for how the project would meet each rule of my hometown’s sprawling zoning code, and requested only one small variance: an exception to its parking minimums. West Saint Paul’s code required Wakota to have 37 parking stalls. Everyone knew the requirement was absurd for this lightly-trafficked facility, and variances were granted as a matter of course to projects of all kinds. (The city cut the requirement by half zonewide barely a year later.) Wakota reasonably expected smooth sailing when they sought approval with only 29 stalls.
Instead, dozens of locals, who opposed Wakota’s mission, persuaded the commission to reject the plan. Wakota desperately struck a parking deal with a neighbor, withdrew its request for a variance, and, backed by hundreds of locals, appealed to the City Council. City Council members did all they could to block it, but, faced with the threat of a lawsuit they would lose, they chose acquiescence.
Yet it all hinged on Wakota making that lucky, last-minute parking deal. If they had not, the City Council majority would certainly have denied the variance, and the moms Wakota serves would be out of luck. Naturally, the Council would have rubber-stamped the variance for anyone else. They just hate crisis pregnancy centers.
As I dug deeper into city planning, I learned this is totally normal.