By co-incidence I read two views on zoning. This resonated with me because I haven’t thought about zoning being optional, that is, that there could exist Western cities without proper zoning.
First, about San Francisco:
Imagine you’re searching for an apartment in San Francisco – arguably the most harrowing American city in which to do so. The booming tech sector and tight zoning laws limiting new construction have conspired to make the city just as expensive as New York, and by many accounts more competitive.
Second, about Houston:
Houston is the largest city in the United States without any appreciable zoning. While there is some small measure of zoning in the form of ordinances, deed restrictions, and land use regulations, real estate development in Houston is only constrained by the will and the pocketbook of real estate developers. […] This arrangement has made Houston a very sprawled-out and very automobile-dependent city.
Having lived in the capital area of Finland, that I surmise suffers from a similar effect as San Francisco, I wonder if there are cities that strike the balance right? The housing costs are (too?) high, but I enjoy the beautiful, walkable city.