Why Japan Looks the Way it Does: Zoning

Why Japan Looks the Way it Does: Zoning

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Language: English

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00:00
hello world if you've seen my videos about japan you may have wondered why it looks the way it does shopkeepers living above their stores small factories next to single family homes all those people walking and biking on the streets and of course the ubiquitous trains it's as if people can build things wherever they want there are many reasons for why japan looks and feels the way it does but today i'm going to explain it through zoning so what is zoning
00:34
i'm going to straight up wikipedia this definition zoning is a method of urban planning in which a municipality or other tier of government divides land into areas called zones each of which has a set of regulations for new development that differs from other zones so basically zones are areas that the government made up that tells you what you can or can't build within them the common kind used in canada and the us is single-use zoning if you played some city like i did over 30 years ago you'd know the main zone types
01:04
residential commercial and industrial the majority of land in american and canadian cities only allows for single family zoning the zone is exactly as it sounds you can only build single family homes there no apartments no offices no grocery stores just single family homes although in many jurisdictions institutional use like for schools and churches is permitted single-use zoning is probably why for canadians and americans japan looks really different from what they're used to
01:35
for example in japan even in the lowest zone category 1 exclusively low-rise residential the permitted buildings include multi-family residential units which can also be used as small shops or offices kindergartens and schools and shrines temples churches and clinics in this zone as long as the non-residential part of your home takes up less than 50 square meters which is roughly 500 square feet and is less than half your total floor space you can operate a business out of your home so it's not uncommon to see people with a shop on
02:08
their bottom floor and living area above which in the us would be considered a live work or work live unit so right off the bat with a few exceptions you can have a mix of uses within the lowest zone in japan this kind of zoning is called mixed-use zoning japan has 12 zones and in a major area like tokyo very little of the land is zoned at this lowest level [Music] so let's briefly go through the 12 zones there are three main types there's
02:41
residential where you house people there's commercial for shops offices and doing business and then there's industrial for things like factories the lowest level residential zone on the left has the most restrictions and as you move right and rise up the levels more and more types of buildings and uses are allowed you'll notice that there's a variety of residential zones many of them will allow for different kinds of stores restaurants offices and institutions so while residential is in the title
03:12
they all permit different flavors of mixed use even in the industrial zone you'll see that you can still build houses restaurants and stores they don't want schools there so that's usually not accepted this doesn't force people to build their homes or shops in industrial areas but rather it allows them to do so if they want to the land will probably be cheaper since there's always a chance a factory could open up next door the only zone where you cannot build residential buildings is in the last zone the exclusively industrial zone the
03:42
practical result of this is that you can build housing virtually anywhere except the most industrial of industrial places [Music] in a previous video i made called what a typical tokyo neighborhood looks like i showed you the shin koiwa area here's a map showing the different kinds of zones you can find there what surprised me was that so much of the area was categorized as quasi-industrial r industrial but remember quasi-industrial and industrial zones can have residential
04:15
housing and commercial facilities in fact out of all the zones quasi-industrial allows for the most types of uses it's only bath houses with private rooms and factories with a strong possibility of danger or environmental degradation that aren't permitted this is what shin koiwa's quasi-industrial zone looks like i can't see any factories in this shot this is public housing here's the riverfront that they recently put walking paths along
04:45
some mid-rise apartments and a free pullback there's a little factory or warehouse in this area it's mostly not factories and now believe it or not we're in the industrial zone for the most part you probably wouldn't be able to notice though behind the fence there's the big factory and here's the view from the front of it now let's see some category one residential zoning which is the most common residential zone in the area which can look quite different based on
05:20
where you are for example these buildings are part of the zone these are owned and operated by ur which is a semi-public housing agency it's basically public housing for the middle class and yes i've made a video about it and on the other side of the highway you'll find very similar buildings except these are run by the tokyo metropolitan government these are low-income public housing but over here this is also a category 1 residential zone but it's mostly made up of low-rise residential housing
05:53
[Music] these red areas on the map are different commercial zones it's hard to tell but there are some light red zones which are neighborhood commercial zones and darker red ones which are simply commercial zones in practice these thin neighborhood commercial zones in shin koiwa are basically shopping streets which are called shotengai the darker red areas the straight up commercial zones tend to have bigger developments and they are often centered around train stations
06:23
what should be noted is that even though there are formulas to allow for light and airflow the city is able to alter these restrictions so for these commercial areas where there's no space between buildings that's because they've decided to not have any shade regulations that's different from a residential area like here where they do have height and time-based shade regulation how big you can build and the space between buildings is based on some basic formulas if you look at the zoning map you'll see 360. those numbers mean the floor area ratio
06:58
and the building coverage ratio a floor area coverage of 300 means that the total floor area of the building is allowed to be 300 of the total area of the land so if the land is 1000 square meters then you're allowed to have three times that floor space which would be 3 000 square meters another way to look at it is that you're allowed to build up multiple stories with a building coverage ratio of sixty percent this means that the max area the building can take up is sixty percent of the total area of the land both of these ratios vary depending on
07:29
what the city decides for example in this other category 1 residential area the floor area ratio is 200 while the building coverage ratio is 60. the last technical thing you should know is the slate plane restrictions they have ratios that need to be met to ensure that there's proper air flow between buildings and that there's sufficient sunlight in practice this means the wider the street and the more room on the property the higher you can build [Music] a question that people asked me was why
08:02
some houses are built so close together versus making them into connected row homes i'm fairly certain you could build connected homes if you wanted to they exist but it's actually more versatile for the homeowner not to having a separated house means you can completely own your land and thus do whatever you want with it provided you follow the restrictions i previously mentioned the reason you don't often see homes built so closely together in canada or the u.s is because most residential zones don't allow for this there are minimum lot sizes maximum building coverage ratios and minimum
08:33
side front and backyard distances to adhere to after seeing all these spaces and buildings you may have wondered about where the cars park well there are no on-street parking requirements in the zoning laws so whatever parking you want you have to finance yourself if you have a single family home the easiest way to get parking is to have a carport or garage most basic new builds i see usually come standard with enough space to park one car if you're in an older or smaller place you may not have parking available on
09:10
your land like with these houses in this case you can rent one of the numerous parking lots dotted throughout the area in fact if you want to buy a car you first have to prove to the police that you have a parking space and that it's big enough they'll come and visit with a measuring tape to make sure that whatever vehicle you're registering will fit i'm personally a fan of this kind of parking setup since the cost to park your car is paid by car owners not everyone's taxes this works out nicely in the tokyo area since most everywhere has easy access to
09:40
public transportation but what happens when you want to visit someone or someplace where do you park well areas will also have hourly parking available whether it's simply a lot with automated parking meters or a parking garage if a store feels it's worthwhile they'll provide free parking however in the denser areas it's usually up to you to find and pay for your own parking [Music] i should mention that while the 12 zoning areas are made at the national
10:12
level it's the local level that decides how to implement them so there are areas that create special laws to protect their character like with kyoto city their latest laws dictate that the tallest buildings in the most dense zones of the city can now only be 31 meters or about 100 feet but in other areas the limit is only 10 meters or about 30 feet but it's also run into issues like facing the possibility of going bankrupt in the near future there are many issues that contribute to the potential bankruptcy but a couple of them are due to zoning in taxes because
10:44
of the height restrictions denser areas that can provide more tax revenue aren't possible also the temples and shrines that make the city so magical also pay no taxes i won't delve into this further because that would require a whole video but i have linked to sources in the description that go into more detail my point is that places can indeed be preserved through laws but they are the exception rather than the rule i think it's also hard to balance what is preserving history culture and tradition versus what is preventing
11:14
sustainability and progress i like japanese zoning overall i think it's conducive to a high quality of life this can be partially expressed as the freedom it allows you can generally do what you like with the property if you want a big plot of land go ahead and buy it a lot of landlords that own large plots of lands in previous generations will have quite sizable for japanese standards properties and homes so you can build your own mini fortress blocking the outside world if you want but you can also build homes on tiny parcels of land allowing the middle
11:52
class to still afford their own even if there's not much yard or total floor space being able to buy a small plot of land leads to better housing affordability so does the fact that you can build low rise apartments virtually anywhere [Music] here's something i'm pondering at the moment to me it feels like japanese zoning is more capitalist than the us or canada since it allows the market to decide what the most valuable use of space will be whether it's to use an area for a shop
12:22
office farm parking lot house or multi-story apartment whoever is willing to pay the most for the land will get it and do what they like with it but it also feels more socialist since the national government dictates the 12 zoning types and thus made the policy it deemed best for the country as a whole while an individual can control what they do with their own property to a high degree they have very little say in what others do with theirs so this inevitably leads some people to say they don't like japanese zoning because people can build whatever they want anywhere
12:54
this isn't true there are 12 zones and within the zones they have specific floor area and building coverage ratios so if you want to live in an area that is mostly low-rise residential with no big factories you can live in one of those areas but yeah if your neighbor wants to run a little business out of their home sorry there's nothing you can do they can also put a little vending machine in front of their home which has to be one of the reasons you can find them virtually everywhere in japan and if they want to build a really funky looking house next to yours there's also
13:25
nothing you can do there's basically no nimbyism not in my backyard or wait that's not really accurate you can say not in my backyard but you can't really say not in my neighbor's backyard
13:40
[Music] thanks for watching see you next time peace what's zoning like where you're from

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