GENERAL BACKGROUND Most of Oakland was built before the first City of Pittsburgh zoning ordinance was approved in 1923.


Most of Oakland was built before the first City of Pittsburgh zoning ordinance was approved in 1923. That means the existing conditions at the end of World War I guided the zoning rules and contributed to defining different land use categories and how they related to actual physical geography of the city. The current zoning ordinance is a modification of the 1923 ordinance.

The Color of Law discusses zoning as one of several US government policies and instruments that shaped land use in American cities in the 20th century. The main question when reading the chapters in The Color of Law: what role specifically did zoning play in segregation and exclusion of certain racial groups from home ownership? How did zoning ordinances – which are enacted by municipal and city governments – relate to policies enacted at the Federal level?


Starting with the zone in North Oakland you studied in Project 3.c. — see attached.

Comparing your zone with the current zoning that applies to the same part of the neighborhood:

Which buildings / parcels fall into which zoning categories? Are the parcels you studied part of a single zoning area or multiple zoning areas? Which ones?

Are there inconsistencies and exceptions when you compare the use of specific buildings and the uses authorized by the zoning map?

Compare your parcels with the Federal Home Owners’ Loan Corporation [HOLC] map of (1937)

What was the state of your neighborhood deemed to be?
What were its “detrimental influences”?
What were its “favorable influences”?

Based on reading The Color of Law Before Renaissance:

What aspects of the built environment do zoning ordinances define?
How does zoning shape development?
What seem to be the guiding objectives of zoning?
How do those objectives create exclusions?


Introduction: overview of zoning in the Pittsburgh and the American context; how your studied zone of North Oakland from Project 3.c. fits into Pittsburgh zoning.

Part 1: referring to the Color of Law, discuss how zoning shaped the urban fabric of American cities and how zoning was used to achieve specific goals.

Part 2: referring to Before Renaissance, what were the objectives of zoning in Pittsburgh when the first ordinance was approved by City Council in 1923? How do those objectives relate to the issues described in the Color of Law? What are the points of contact between the analysis of zoning in Before Renaissance and The Color of Law? What issues are elaborated in The Color of Law that aren’t covered in Before Renaissance?

Part 3: referring (1) the zone you researched in Oakland (2) the Federal Home Owners’ Loan Corporation [HOLC] map of 1937 (3) the current zoning ordinance — what patterns of land use do you observe? What exceptions or “non-conforming uses” can be identified? How does the existing built environment you have studied – the pattern of buildings, the changes in height, building use, ownership, etc. – reveal the effects of zoning?

Conclusion: A key element of the analysis of zoning in The Color of Law and Before Renaissance is the emergence of zoning ordinances in the United States at a specific moment in time, guided by a small group of individuals. What characterizes those individuals and how are their objectives apparent in the built environment today?

Link to all sources and notes: