City Planning. Hearing Before the Committee on the District of Columbia United States Senate on the Subject of City Planning. 61st Congress, 2nd Session, Senate Document No. 422 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1910):48-50.

The law whose text appears below provided the legal basis for numerous municipal regulations in German cities that established city planning as a major function of local government. At the turn of the century German city planning was widely admired in Britain, the U.S., other English-speaking nations, and Scandinavia as far ahead of any other country in the successful direction of urban development according to public regulations and designs. the meaning of some of the law's provisions as set forth below is not altogether clear. Perhaps a careless translation is the fault. Or, the difficulty may arise in trying to understand legal concepts and devices that differ from those of our own legal system and tradition.
Paragraph 1. The street and building base line set by common council agreeing with the municipality for the laying out or alteration of streets and squares in cities and country places with respect to their alteration, according to the public need, are to be established with the consent of the local police authorities.

The local police authorities can demand the establishment of base lines if the police consideration to be observed by them demand the establishment of the same and the sidewalks are regarded as streets in this sense. The building base line regularly forms the street base line, etc.; i. e., the boundaries beyond which building is forbidden.

For special reasons a building base line may be established differing from the street base line, but regularly receding from the latter a maximum distance of 3 m.

Paragraph 2. The base line, paragraph 1, can be established for single streets and parts of streets, or, according to the apparent needs of the near future, can take place by the issuing of building plans for larger areas. If the building of whole localities is in question, resulting from a complete destruction by fire or other accidents, then it is the duty of the municipality to decide as quickly as possible how and to what extent a new building plan can be issued for the locality in question, and, in case of emergency, to effect the immediate establishment of the new building plan

Paragraph 3. Traffic, fireproof conditions, and the public health are to be taken into consideration in establishing the base line, and no disfigurement of the streets is to be permitted.

For that reason provisions must be made for the establishment of a sufficient width for the street and a good connection between the new lots and those already existing.

Paragraph 4. In establishing base lines in every case (par. 1) there must be an accurate specification of the lot and parts of lots in question and a specification of the line of survey as well as the intended drainage of the streets and squares in question.

Paragraph 5. The consent of the local police authorities (par. 1) may only be withheld in case the police considerations to be observed demand it.

In case the common council is not satisfied with the refusal, then the county committee decides the case at its request.

The same decides upon the expediency (of the case) at the request of the local police authorities, if the municipal council refuses the conditions demanded by the local police authorities. (Par. 1, Alnea 2.)

Paragraph 6. If the place of the intended base line (par. 4) affects a fortress, or if they fall in public streams, country roads, railways, or railway stations, then the local police authorities are given sufficient time and opportunity to protect their interests.

Paragraph 7. Following the approval of the local police authorities with regard to the county committee, the council must make the plans available to the public. When this has been done the announcement is made, according to local customs, that objections to the plan must be filed within a fixed and definitely limited time of at least four weeks. If specifications are under consideration that affect only single lots, then notification to the participating owners is sufficient, instead of the announcement and publication (above mentioned).

Paragraph 8. The provincial committee must give the decision about the objections that have been raised, wherever these have not been finally dealt with in the transactions of the county council and the complainants. If objections have not been raised, or if the same have been finally dealt with, then the council must specify the plan plainly, make it available to the public, and wherever it is necessary publish it in the customary manner.

Paragraph 9. If several localities are concerned in the establishment of base lines, then the interested council shall come to an agreement. The committee settles points upon which the above parties can not agree.

Paragraph 10. All base lines that have been affected before, as well as after, the issue of this law can be remitted or changed only according to the specifications of the above conditions.

The royal consent is necessary for the establishment of new building plans, or alterations in those already existing for the cities of Berlin, Potsdam, Charlottenberg, and their near vicinities.

Paragraph 11. On the day on which the opening of the street set forth in paragraph 8 begins, the limitations the owner is subject to go into final effect, i. e., that new buildings inclosing and surmounting (i. e., superstructures) buildings are not permitted beyond the base line. The municipality has equally the right to take the areas set aside for streets and squares by the established street base lines, from the owner.

Paragraph 12. A local statute may determine that dwelling houses may not be erected that have an exit on streets or parts of streets that have not yet been prepared for public traffic and building according to the specifications of the local building police authorities.

The local statute is to determine the further particulars within the limits of the above regulations, and has to have the approval of the circuit council. Objections to the decisions of the circuit council are and may be filed with the provincial council within a limited time of twenty-one days. After the statute has been passed it must be published in the customary manner.

Paragraph 13. An indemnity can in no case be demanded for the limitation of freedom to build, regulated according to paragraph 12, and can only be granted in the following cases, where property that is affected by the establishment of new base lines is taken away or limited:

First. If lots intended for streets and squares are surrendered for purposes of public traffic at the demand of the municipality.

Second. If the streets or building base lines touch existing buildings and the lot up to the new base line is kept free from buildings.

Third. If the street base line of a street that is to be newly laid out touches an empty lot that is qualified to be built upon, i. e., a lot lying at the line of the establishment of the base line, on another street already existing and prepared for public traffic and building, and also when the building follows along the base line of the new street. An indemnity will in all cases be granted for taking away property intended for streets and squares. Moreover, in these cases of 2 that have to do with the limitation of property following the establishment of a building base line different from the street base line, indemnity will be granted for the limitation of that part of the property that was built up. (Par. 12 of the law for indemnification for property of June 11,1874.)

In all the above cases the property owner can demand that the whole lot be taken over if it is entirely encroached upon by the base line or only so much as to render the remaining area unfit for building purposes according to the local building police authorities regulations. Every connected piece of property belonging to the same owner is regarded as a lot under the regulations of this paragraph.

Paragraph 14. The laws (paragraph 24 ff.) for the possession of property for June 11, 1874, go into effect in dispossessing and in establishing indemnities according to paragraph 13. Disputes over the validity of applications for indemnity are to be decided in court. The indemnity is to be defrayed by the municipality in whose jurisdiction the respective lot lies, in so far as no official who is subject to special legal measures is held responsible for the sum.

Paragraph 15. A local statute can determine that a suitable advance or compensation for the expenses for all the following measures be rendered when a new street is laid out or an existing street is lengthened in case that it is intended for building purposes, as well as upon the building of already planned streets and parts of streets by the man who has taken over the new location or by the owners of neighboring properties (by the latter as soon as they erect buildings on the new streets). The expenses are for the survey, preliminary preparations, drainage, and lighting of the street in a suitable manner, as well as for the periodical (a maximum period of five years) repair. For these assessments the bordering properties can not be taxed for more than half of the width of the street, and if the street is wider than 26 m., for not more than 13 m. of the width of the street.

In calculating expenses the expenses of all the laying out of streets and the maintenance of these, respectively, is to be added and the properties are to be taxed in proportion to frontage of the boundary touching the street (i. e., according to frontage).

The superior authority can establish the more detailed regulations within the limits of the above regulations. The regulations in paragraph 12 are valid with reference to its ratification, disputability, and publication. For the capital, Berlin, the regulations of the statutes of December 31, 1838, remain in force up to the establishment of such a statute for Berlin.

Paragraph 16. Against the resolution of the county council the interested party can file a complaint with the circuit council within a limit of twenty-one days. Instead of this twenty-one days limited time a time of one week is substituted for the cases dealing with the rebuilding of whole localities that have been totally destroyed by fire or other accident.

Paragraph 17. The rights and duties assigned by paragraphs 5, 8, and 9 to the county committee and in higher resort assigned to the circuit council are carried out in cities of more than 10,000 inhabitants belonging to a county (or if such a city exists among several participating municipalities) by the circuit council and a higher resort by the provincial council, in the city circuits (or if such a city circuit exists (par. 9) among several participating municipalities) by the provincial council and at the petition of the municipality, in still higher resort, by the secretary of commerce. In the lands belonging to the Hohenzollerns the official committee is substituted for the county committees and has the right to confirm the local statutes. (Pars. 12 and 15.) The provincial legislature is the court of resort for appeals.

Paragraph 18. Until the circuit committee and county and provincial councils are developed in the various provinces of the Monarchy the circuit government has to take charge of the affairs mentioned in this law. The final decision in higher resort in cases mentioned in paragraphs 5, 8, and 9 falls to the secretary of commerce, and in cases of paragraphs 12 and 15 to the governor. Until a province of Berlin has been formed the secretary of commerce exercises the functions assigned to the circuit committees in paragraphs 5, 8, and 9, and the secretary of the interior must approve the statutes mentioned in paragraphs 12 and 15.

Paragraph 19. All the general and detailed regulations contrary to the provision of this law are hereby invalidated. All regulations of building laws given by the executive officials and all other building police regulations and local statutes that conflict with the regulations of this law are invalidated.

Paragraph 20. The secretary of commerce is commissioned with the execution of law. 

Selected, scanned, edited, provided with headnotes, and formatted as a web document by John W. Reps, Professor Emeritus, Department of City and Regional Planning, West Sibley Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA. Tel: (607) 255-5391, Fax: (607) 255-6681, E-mail: 
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