About Seth Zeren:


Contact: seth.zeren@gmail.com

Posts by Seth Zeren:

Planning Challenge 1: Commercial Aggregation and Subdivision (Part 3)

In the first part of this series we discussed the theory, mechanics, and value of the subdivision process, typically associated with carving up farms to make suburban houses. The second part focused on how developing big parcels as single developments can create problems for urban vitality in the future. In this, the third part, we will walk through how the practice of subdivision might lead the way to a new tool in managing urban redevelopment.


Planning Challenge 1: Commercial Aggregation and Subdivision (Part 2)

Levittown, Pennsylvania

At the dawn of the 20th Century, cities were ascendant, dense, and prosperous, if also iniquitous and polluted. By mid century cities reached their zenith, and a slow decline lead by the flight of the white middle class and industry to cheaper land in the suburbs, subsidized with mortgage insurance and federal highways, free of urban crime and overcrowded school districts. By the last quarter of the century, American cities appeared to be in free fall, many having lost more than half their population, leaving behind the poor and marginalized. Then, in the last decade of the 20th Century the dense city once again showed signs of life.Young, creative professionals were heading to cities after college, crime rates began to reverse, … Continue Reading

Planning Challenge 1: Commercial Aggregation and Subdivision (Part 1)

Colorado suburbs. Courtesy David Shankbone.

The word “subdivision” is almost synonymous with the “suburbs.” The building blocks of many suburbs are subdivisions with names ranging from the biblical (“Green Acres”), to the pompous (“Kingdom Heights”), to the pastoral (“Pheasant Run”). The problems of inner-city rejuvenation, brownfield restoration, and strip-mall redevelopment are miles away from the great subdividing maw of suburbanization at the rural fringe. But the theory and practice of subdivision may have something essential to teach about re-vivifying blighted commercial and industrial properties in the urban core. Read more…

Zoning Matters

This is the first in a series of articles written by Seth, a new PlanningPool contributor, that will highlight land use challenges and explore innovative ideas on the cutting edge of zoning thinking and practice, in pursuit of sustainability, justice, and prosperity.

Yaroslavl General Plan (2006). Courtesy of ЦНИИП Градостроительства.

I’m not sure exactly when I fell in love with zoning. Zoning’s an odd thing to love – intensely technical, opaque, and jargony. But the invisible logic of zoning – that language and maps (symbolic forms) could manage and transform the complex character of a city – drew me in. Zoning evokes the most boring, stodgy, and opaque subject imaginable, yet at this moment of urban and environmental transformation little could be more important.

The great challenge for urban planning … Continue Reading