Arbitrary Lines: How Zoning Broke the American City and How to Fix It

M. Nolan Gray
Wednesday, October 25, 2023
5:30 pm
6:00 pm
Truman Auditorium
In Person Event
Online Event
Event Videos

We want Kansas City – and cities across the country – to be more affordable, more equitable, more vibrant and sustainable. Among the necessary fixes, former New York City planner Nolan Gray says, is this: Scrap zoning.

In a discussion drawing from his book Arbitrary Lines: How Zoning Broke the American City and How to Fix It, Gray prescribes an end to the use of arbitrary lines that have come to dictate where Americans may live and work, forcing many cities into patterns of growth that are segregated and sprawling. Most noticeable among the ramifications is a dramatic rise in home prices – 42% from 2019 to the end of last year.

The no-zoning solution is gaining traction. Key pillars of zoning have come under fire in Minneapolis, Fayetteville, and Hartford, among other cities, with the removal of bans on apartments, minimum lot sizes dropping, and off-street parking requirements disappearing. Houston, the country’s fourth-largest city, makes land-use planning work without zoning.

The presentation by Gray is part of the Library’s Making a Great City series, which is aimed at fostering the healthy growth of Kansas City. Now in its sixth year, it is co-presented by Multistudio, the Hall Family Foundation, and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Gray is the research director for California YIMBY (Yes In My Back Yard), a Sacramento-based housing advocacy organization that has successfully backed eight state bills to increase home building and expand access to opportunity. He previously worked on the front lines of zoning as a planner in New York City’s Department of City Planning.

A widely published writer, his work has appeared in outlets including The Atlantic, The Guardian, and Bloomberg’s CityLab

His discussion is livestreamed at (for which no RSVP is necessary).