Testing the Results of Municipal Mixed-Use Zoning Ordinances

This article tests a novel methodological approach to understand mixed use zoning (MUZ) ordinances and their impact on neighborhood walkability.

Creating walkable neighborhoods is one strategy for improving the health of a community. Municipal mixed use zoning (MUZ) reduces separation of daily activities by allowing residential, commercial, public, and civic uses and creates more walkable neighborhoods.

This article tests a novel methodological approach in 22 California cities to address MUZ ordinances and the degree to which use variation is correlated with variations in walking opportunities. Cities included had populations between 50,000 and 500,000. Ordinance data collection included creating criteria for ordinance selection, search terminology, measures and instruments, and quality control guidelines. Data included 168 mixed use ordinances and daily use activity destinations in 265 city zones to provide a measure of walking potential.

Key Findings:

  • The novel methodological approach was found to be reliable and valid for conducting comparative analysis.
  • Of the 168 ordinances examined, 29 percent explicitly mandated MUZs.
  • The range and precision of uses mandated by MUZ ordinances, and the mixture and breadth of zone walking destinations were significantly related.
  • Ordinances adhering to the American Planning Association MUZ model were positively related to greater potential walking opportunities.

MUZ ordinances can enhance individual and community health by creating more walkable neighborhoods. Going forward, the novel approach discussed in this study can help inform researchers and policy-makers as they work to create healthier communities.