The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 84, July 1980 - April, 1981 Page: 134
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
their "special interest," they claimed that zoning, besides leading to
corruption, was inherently unworkable.2
In 1948 and 1962, however, due to the exigencies of the referenda
and to changing political realities, the tactics and the rhetoric of the
anti-zoners shifted. Though keeping and expanding the earlier argu-
ments against zoning that were clearly enunciated in 1938, which em-
phasized that zoning was inherently unworkable and corrupt, op-
ponents now laid their greatest stress on private-property rights, which
they placed at the center of American values and society. In 1948
opponents capitalized upon the public's weariness with wartime gov-
ernment controls and equated zoning with overregulation and stifling
governmental bureaucracy. By 1962, after the frustrating and fright-
ening years of the Cold War, zoning opponents charged that zoning was
communistic and socialistic. In addition, while realtors in 1948 and
1962 were the foundation of the anti-zoning organizations, they did not
continue to stress the allegedly harmful effects of zoning upon their
profession; rather, they emphasized the "un-American" nature of gov-
ernment land-use controls.
It is difficult to assess the role and impact of political rhetoric; how-
ever, due to the referenda in 1948 and 1962, both sides mounted
educational campaigns to sway the voters. Unlike the residents of most
other American cities, the citizens of Houston determined the fate
of zoning, and their response can thus be perceived as a barometer of
Houston's political climate. Taken by itself, outside the context of cam-
paign rhetoric, the vote on zoning would tell us little: a study of the
zoning history of numerous communities has suggested that there is
no one " 'conservative' viewpoint" on this issue.3 Although the central
question has always been whether zoning protects or violates the rights
of private property, the answer reached by conservatives has varied
from city to city. In Houston, the conservative response has been that
zoning poses a threat to private property and to personal liberty, and
opponents to zoning in Houston have thus far carried the day.
This situation raises an interesting question: why did conservatives
in Houston, in contrast to those in some other American cities, perceive
2Unidentified newspaper clipping dated May 24, 1938, in an unidentified scrapbook,
City Planning Department, Record Group A-4 (Houston Metropolitan Research Center,
Houston Public Library). This library facility is cited hereafter as HMRC; Record Groups
are cited hereafter as RG.
3Babcock, The Zoning Game, 20-27, 28 (quotation), 29, 3o.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 84, July 1980 - April, 1981, periodical, 1980/1981; Austin, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101225/m1/170/?rotate=90: accessed March 22, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.