Releasing zoning data is an important first step to developing a better public understanding about this local government process that impacts the most physical elements of neighborhoods. Having better standards for releasing this information could lead to even better understanding of zoning and its impacts, encouraging more reuse and analysis of the data in apps, news stories and beyond.
While zoning is an especially complex dataset because of its its many variables from city to city, among other reasons, there are a few steps cities could take to improve the quality of this data and its ability to be reused and analyzed. Many of these ideas can be found in our Open Data Policy Guidelines.
1. Mandate timeliness -- Releasing zoning data in a timely manner, and updating it when changes are made, gives people a chance to be aware of and react to changes that might impact them.
2. Use open formats -- Open, structured data helps encourage reuse and analysis, and for zoning data releasing several different kinds of open structured data might be helpful for different levels of users. CSV or XML files are formats that can be used for spreadsheets with zoning information. File formats specific to geospatial software, from shapefiles to GeoJSON, can help encourage the development of more advanced apps and mapping of zoning data.Continue reading