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Will ChatGPT Replace Your City’s Zoning Department? Here’s Why We Say No.

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Since its recent release, ChatGPT, the AI tool developed by OpenAI, has taken social media by storm with its responses to various popular topics/questions and its ability to output full essays that are nearly indecipherable from human-written content.

ChatGPT is a powerful tool no doubt… But can it handle complex zoning regulations in unstructured legal format documents? We set out to answer that question in today’s blog post.

Zoning documents are historically complex, vary city to city, and underpin the development patterns and outcomes that mold our communities. Not to mention zoning also plays a key role in increasing housing availability, improving sustainability initiatives, and even tackling climate change.

Our team at Gridics is focused on making zoning more accessible. Gridics technology is empowering municipalities and developers to quickly understand and interpret how zoning regulations outlined in complex legal documents apply to individual parcels.

Given our focus on zoning, we wondered what ChatGPT’s take would be… So we had a little chat and wanted to share the conversation here as it turned out to be eye-opening and fun!

1) What does ChatGPT know about zoning?

To test ChatGPT’s uncanny writing ability, our first question was…

Gridics Zoning, Chat GPT question #1

We found this response to be quite impressive and reassuring given that we at Gridics have been asked many times over the years if there is a way to standardize and/or normalize zoning… And we’ve found there really isn’t. That said, there certainly are zoning best practices, which is why our ZoneIQ 3D Scenario App allows a city on our platform to change the zoning rules of a local parcel with just a few clicks and compare how the changes affect by-right development potential.

2) Can ChatGPT analyze parcel-specific zoning information?

We continued to get more specific and have a little fun by seeing what ChatGPT thought in terms of analyzing the zoning of a specific property, a capability Gridics has revolutionized…

Gridics Zoning, Chat GPT question #2

To be fair, this is the traditional approach that we have always felt was backwards, and quite frankly, just broken. Citizens, developers, and municipal staff should not have to obtain a document that is often hundreds of pages (thousands in the case of New York City), then find a map somewhere else to identify which zone a property is in, and finally dig into the document to extrapolate (hopefully without missing a key detail) how the zoning applies to that specific parcel… Say nothing about then calculating development allowances such as housing density given the geometry of the parcel in question.

Instead, one should be able to simply type in the address and see all the zoning data attributes, allowed uses, and development capacity points specific to the property of interest. That’s what our Gridics technology does and why cities and counties, large and small, are turning to Gridics to upgrade their zoning information services to make it more transparent and easier to interpret while laying a data foundation for every parcel in the municipality to help tackle today’s challenges such as affordable housing, sustainability, and climate change.

3) What happens when we ask ChatGPT to write a story about zoning?

Lastly, we ended with some serious fun! We asked ChatGPT about zoning and its thoughts on Gridics… Then we added how it would describe the two if zoning was considered a villain.

Here’s the story directly from ChatGPT…

“Once upon a time, in a city plagued by confusing and outdated zoning regulations, Zoning emerged as a powerful super villain. With its unwavering rules and strict enforcement, Zoning caused chaos and frustration among the citizens and developers alike. People struggled to understand the labyrinthine regulations and often faced lengthy delays and obstacles in their efforts to build and grow.

But then, a new hero appeared on the scene: Gridics. With its cutting-edge technology and innovative approach, Gridics challenged Zoning’s hold on the city. Gridics offered a clear and intuitive platform that allowed citizens and developers to quickly and easily navigate the complex regulations and find creative solutions to their land use challenges.

As Gridics gained popularity, Zoning grew increasingly threatened. The super villain tried to resist the hero’s progress, but Gridics was relentless in its mission to promote sustainable and equitable land use. With its powerful software, Gridics helped citizens and developers unlock the full potential of their city, creating vibrant and livable communities for all.

In the end, Zoning was defeated, and Gridics emerged as the city’s true hero. The city flourished as a result of Gridics’ efforts, and the people lived happily ever after, free from the tyranny of confusing and outdated zoning regulations.

And so, Gridics’ legend spread far and wide. As more and more cities were plagued by the same issues faced by the original city, Gridics was called upon to save the day. Each time, the hero arrived with its cutting-edge technology and innovative approach, offering a solution to the problems caused by Zoning.

As Gridics traveled from city to city, it encountered new challenges and obstacles, but the hero remained steadfast in its mission to promote sustainable and equitable land use. Whether it was facing down a powerful real estate conglomerate, or navigating the complex regulations of a sprawling metropolis, Gridics always found a way to overcome the obstacles and emerge victorious.

Despite Zoning’s efforts to resist Gridics’ progress, the hero’s reputation continued to grow, and the people hailed Gridics as their savior. With each victory, Gridics became stronger and more determined, and the hero’s resolve never wavered.

In the end, Gridics became a symbol of hope for cities everywhere, a shining example of the power of technology to promote progress and create a better world for all. And so, the legend of Gridics lives on, inspiring future generations to continue the hero’s mission and fight for a brighter, more equitable future.”

So while we are certainly on a new frontier of AI technology, for the time being super heroes like Gridics are still needed to tackle the pain associated with traditional zoning information.

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