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Since the adoption of the first comprehensive zoning ordinance in New York City, zoning codes have included minimum setback requirements for land uses and structures.
As cities fight to control sprawl and encourage infill, some commentators have blamed the setback for an underutilization of valuable space. Calls for increased density, more affordable housing, and sustainable cities are all leading to the question of whether setback requirements should be eliminated.
This issue of Zoning Practice explores the setback and its purpose in spatial planning and zoning ordinances. It presents a brief history of the setback, summarizes the key factors to consider when altering setbacks, and presents a case analysis of setbacks in West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
About the Author
Christine is currently a PhD Fontaine Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania in the Department of City and Regional Planning. Her research focuses on development regulation, urban design, and planning law- with specific attentions to Land Use and Environmental planning. She also currently works as a Zoning Specialist for a law firm in San Antonio, TX and most recently worked as the Director of Development and City Planning for the office of City Council District 1, also in San Antonio, TX.