Snow Removal and Zoning

On September 19, City Hall announced it’s new pilot program for removing snow from 20.1 miles of city sidewalks this coming winter. Mayor Ben Walsh had promised to do something about snow-covered sidewalks in his 2017 campaign, and this plan is a good first step to keeping that promise.

There’s a lot to like about the pilot program. City Hall put it together after getting lots of input from the community, it’s based on hard data on which streets pedestrians use most, it came out quickly, and it’s something DPW can expand in the future.

This pilot program is also an example of the real negative impact of restricting housing opportunity through zoning laws.

City Hall is going to clear snow from the sidewalks along Park Street on the Northside. In the February 2017 draft of City Hall’s new zoning map, the land around the northern end of Park Street was colored blue. That meant that you could have apartment buildings on that land. In the most recent draft of the zoning map (from March 2018), a lot of that land is now yellow. That means that City Hall only intends for a maximum of two families to live on any of those lots, so fewer people will be able to live within walking distance of Park Street.


That means that this new municipal service–something as basic and necessary as clear sidewalks–will be available to fewer people. It’s the same with parks, buses, and schools. When you’ve got a cash-strapped city offering place-based services, restrictive zoning rules reduce the number of people who can benefit from those services. That’s why zoning matters.