SimCity Zoning Guide: Starting Small SimCity Zoning Guide: Starting Small
This guide is to help you build a small community of workers before choosing a speciality. If you're not interested in a speciality, you... SimCity Zoning Guide: Starting Small

If you want to build the thriving residential metropolis you dream of, you certainly can without completely abiding by SimCity’s apparent need for strict zoning. However, you can build up your Treasury by sticking to the franchise’s renowned zoning system, without the need to invest in social services to provide jobs for your residents.

This guide is to help you build a small community of workers before choosing a speciality. If you’re not interested in a speciality, you can choose to build a metropolis instead, but you won’t earn anywhere near as much money.

The Power Of Three

Much like how the roads connect power, electricity and most of your city’s services (like garbage and sewage disposal), the zones are very much interlinked.

This means that zoning an industrial area in a place where the wind blows towards a residential area isn’t going to sit well with your citizens, and you’ll most likely see a significant drop in land value, even if you have parks in the area. Pollution is a big downer for residents.


This one’s pretty simply: “Green” residential areas gives your sims a place to live. Without homes, your industrial and commercial areas won’t have anywhere for its workers to live, and, therefore, probably won’t have any workers.

Keep your residential areas far away from industrial area, but easily accessible to wherever your sims work. If sims are within 400 meters of their desired location — commercial or industrial — they will work, so try and balance distance with accessibility, ie. don’t put your industrial area on one corner of the map, and residential on the other.


Freight from your industrial sector — made by the sims living in your residential sector — arrives at the commercial sector. This means that without industrial, commercial will struggle to attract freight and therefore won’t be able to sustain the requirements of those living in the city, especially if land value is high and you have wealthy residents.


While the industrial sector creates pollution, traffic and crime, it acts as a particularly important resource in ensuring your city has a thriving, active commercial sector, as well as places for your residents to live. It provides power, water, storage and resources needed for any city’sa growth, and is a great job creator if you’re not prepared to invest in jobs.


SimCity has an intricate class system that dictates land worth, resident wealth and happiness. Residents are either low wealth, medium wealth, or high wealth, determined by the type of city that is built around them.

It is far more desirable to have wealth residents in your city, as they will be willing to spend more and will also build houses that increase the overall land value.

Residential Growth

Residential growth is dependant on a few things: wealth, safety, air pollution (or lack thereof), jobs, services, and, of course, overall happiness. If your sims are unhappy, they will leave your city.

Residential happiness is key to keeping sims in your city. Place plenty of parks in and around residential areas, ensure transport, roads and services are offered in high density residential areas, and keep taxes low to keep residents happy. Wealth is important because if the land value is too low the sim will move out, or if they’re poor they will leave the home, which will lead to homelessness and more crime.

Commercial Growth

Commercial areas provide the number one place for sims to spend their money. Medium-to-high wealth commercial areas will be built along the same class of residential areas, so this is why keeping your residential land value high is important: it attracts wealthy shoppers!

Tourist attractions are also fantastic for attracting tourists to your city and keeping wealthy residents happy. Make sure you putting tourist attractions close to commercial areas, as this will keep business owners happy and profit high.

Industrial Growth

Unlike both commercial and residential areas, industrial areas are not dictated by the wealth of your residents. Rather, the literacy levels will determine what sort industry comes to your city. If your education levels are low, then your industry sector is going to be at the bottom of the barrel, which increases pollution and crime, which in-turn brings down land value (do you see how all the zones are connected this way?)

Industry needs to commercial sector to thrive, as it needs somewhere to ship freight, so keeping these two zones close is wise. Industry needs residential for workers and commercial to sell freight to, which demonstrates how important each zone is to one another.

Zoning The Zones

You want to keep the ratio of the three zones 2:1:1 (residential:commercial:industry). This way both commercial and industry have workers and buyers, residential has a place to work, and industry has a place to ship.

You obviously have to be careful with where you place the industrial area, as you don’t want pollution blowing directly into the residential area, or into areas where you plan to zone more residential.

RCI Meter

Keep an eye on the RCI meter: it’s a series of bars that tells you what zones are in demand. Don’t take it to heart: these bars tell you overall demand, which can be a little misleading. You might see industrial demand right up, but clicking this for a more indepth reading will show you which areas need more intention.

If the RCI meter says your city is in demand of a high tech industrial sector, this mean you’ll need to enhance the education levels of your residents, meaning you’ll need wealthy and happy residents with easy access to school. So in this case, while industry demand is high, you’ll actually need to develop some more residential neighbourhoods.

A Good Way To Start

Seeing as though you start with 50,000 in the bank, start with some low density roads, and by sticking to the 2:1:1 ration, you can build a nice little community.

Zone 4-6 residential blocks (the game plots some recommended road planning guides — following them) and 2-3 commercial and industrial zones.

So, if you zone four residential blocks, zone two commercial and two industrial.

As you can see in the images below, treasury is making a small profit, residents are happy and relatively wealthy (considering the youth of the city) and RCI demand is low.

If you stick to this zoning guide you will keep demand low — with the occasional high demand to keep you active — therefore allowing you to focus on a city speciality and increase your treasury coffers further.

Gaetano Prestia Editor in Chief

Gaetano loves Doritos and always orders Mountain Dew with his KFC. He's not sorry. He also likes Call Of Duty, but would much rather play Civ. He hates losing at FIFA, and his pet hate is people who recline their seat on short-haul flights.

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