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Wednesday, May 17, 2023

May Luncheon: Prosperity Through Zoning Reform

Time: 11:30 am

Location: Online (Zoom)

Cost: Free, but registration is required

More and more, US cities are recognizing the exclusionary and classist origins of their zoning ordinances and are realigning them to build more affordable, vibrant, equitable, and sustainable cities. Zoning reform can be a tool to work towards these goals, allowing more diverse housing options to alleviate affordable housing shortages; reducing minimum parking requirements to make communities more walkable and transit-oriented; and reducing the racial and economic segregation that was originally enabled by zoning.

This virtual event, moderated by M. Nolan Gray, author of “Arbitrary Lines: How Zoning Broke the American City and How To Fix It”, will begin with a discussion on the problematic history of zoning laws, the harms and limitations they pose for effective planning in modern cities, and the case for radical reform. Planning leaders from Minneapolis, MN and Buffalo, NY, will then describe the significant reforms their cities have enacted in the last few years, which have already contributed to strides in housing opportunity in the case of Minneapolis, and reversing population decline in the case of Buffalo.

Specific reforms that will be discussed are form-based codes; legalization of ADUs, duplexes, and townhomes; denser development along transit and commercial corridors; and eliminating minimum parking requirements. The panelists will also describe the advocacy work and foundations which led to their success in enacting these reforms.


M. Nolan Gray, Research Director at California YIMBY

M. Nolan Gray is the research director for California YIMBY and an expert in urban land-use regulation. He is the author of Arbitrary Lines: How Zoning Broke the American City and How To Fix It. Gray previously worked as a planner in New York City, where he worked on the front lines of zoning. He is a widely published author, with work appearing in outlets such as The Atlantic, Bloomberg Citylab, and The Guardian. He lives in Los Angeles, California and is originally from Lexington, Kentucky.

Meg McMahan, Director of Planning, City of Minneapolis

Meg McMahan, AICP, is the Director of Planning for the City of Minneapolis, where she works to leverage development and regulatory systems to drive equitable outcomes. Prior to Minneapolis, Meg worked for the City of Brooklyn Center, MN as the Community Development Director where she led the department through a transitional time, which resulted in new ordinances, policies and approaches that were community-centered and met the needs of a diverse and dynamic citizenry. She received her Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and her B.A. in Sociology from Hamline. When she isn’t working she is most likely camping with her family along the North Shore of Lake Superior or the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Northern Minnesota.

Chris Hawley, Senior Planner, City of Buffalo

Chris Hawley is a city planner in Buffalo, NY. Since 2009, he has worked in the City of Buffalo’s Office of Strategic Planning, where he is focused on historic preservation and zoning reform. He was instrumental in the writing and adoption of Buffalo’s Green Code, a city-wide form based code which went into effect in 2017 and was the recipient of the Form Based Codes Institute’s Driehaus Award in 2019. Chris previously worked for US Senator Charles E. Schumer and Buffalo developer Howard Zemsky. He has a degree in Metropolitan Studies from New York University.

Register here.

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