Arbitrary Lines: A Conversation About Zoning in American Cities with Nolan Gray

Join author Nolan Gray for an evening of conversation and celebration of the launch of his book “Arbitrary Lines: How Zoning Broke the American City and How to Fix It.” Writer Jerusalem Demsas will host a Q&A with Gray.

Location & Details

Busboys and Poets

(2021 14TH ST NW, WASHINGTON, D.C. 20009)

Tuesday, June 21, 2022 | 5-7pm | Light refreshments will be provided

About the Book

What if scrapping one flawed policy could bring U.S. cities closer to addressing debilitating housing shortages, stunted growth and innovation, persistent racial and economic segregation, and car-dependent development?

It’s time for America to destroy the arbitrary lines of zoning maps across the country, argues city planner and Mercatus Center Affiliated Scholar M. Nolan Gray in Arbitrary Lines: How Zoning Broke the American City and How to Fix It. With lively explanations and stories, Gray shows why zoning abolition is a necessary—if not sufficient—condition for building more affordable, vibrant, equitable, and sustainable cities.

These rules control many aspects of American life and work patterns, which in turn has forced cities into segregated and sprawling design. But, it doesn’t have to be this way, writes Gray. Many cities and states are embracing reforms, like Minneapolis, Fayetteville, Ark., and San Diego.

In Arbitrary Lines, Gray outlines why the thriving city is so essential for economic growth and advancement, how zoning has stymied us from the pursuit of such growth, and why such a regime should be overthrown. He lays out a blueprint for city planners on how to build the American cities of the future—without these arbitrary restrictions that so cripple us from maximizing our potential.

About the Author

M. Nolan Gray is a PhD student in urban planning at University of California, Los Angeles and an Affiliated Scholar with the Urbanity Project at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Gray earned a Master of City and Regional Planning degree at Rutgers University and received BAs in philosophy and political science from the University of Kentucky. His research focuses on land-use regulation, housing affordability, and urban design. Gray was a Mercatus Center Frédéric Bastiat Fellow during the 2020-2021 academic year.

About the Speaker

Jerusalem Demsas is a staff writer for The Atlantic and has been a leading journalist examining the affordable housing problem. She was previously a policy reporter at Vox and hosted The Weeds podcast.

Book Purchasing

This book is now available for purchase on AmazonBarnes and Noble, and on the Island Press site.