The Fundamental Components of Euclidean Zoning

Euclidean Zoning is the common term that represents conventional zoning laws across the United States. Euclidean zoning is also referred to as single-use zoning.  The basic component of Euclidean zoning is the classification, or segregation, of land use types, i.e. single-family residential; multi-family residential; commercial; industrial, etc.

The term refers to a United States Supreme Court case from 1926, Village of Euclid, Ohio v. Ambler Realty Co. The Village of Euclid, as a means of preventing the invasion of Cleveland’s industrial sprawl from their community, developed a zoning ordinance with six land use classifications.  Ambler Realty Co. was a property owner in Euclid who sued the Village of Euclid for substantially reducing the value of their land by limiting its use.  The Village of Euclid won the landmark case, creating a basis for the Supreme Court on zoning laws.  Euclidean zoning spread across the United States shaping the first ring suburbs and exurban communities of our country.  Even today, 85 years later, townships and municipalities use a variation of the original zoning laws to shape our automobile-centric environment.

This bird’s eye image from Bing Maps ( illustrates Euclid, Ohio today where the segregation of land uses is evident in the photos.

I will be writing a few blog posts in the near future that relate to Euclidean zoning discussing its impact on the built environment, financial markets, and of course our country’s addiction to oil.

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