Smart Growth, Dumb?

It may be, if the main rationale is sustainability, according to this story from New Geography.

An excerpt.

“A new analysis from the United Kingdom concludes that smart growth (compact city) policies are not inherently preferable to other urban land use policy regimes, despite the claims of proponents.”The current planning policy strategies for land use and transport have virtually no impact on the major long-term increases in resource and energy consumption. They generally tend to increase costs and reduce economic competitiveness.” The article goes on: “Claims that compaction will make cities more sustainable have been debated for some time, but they lack conclusive supporting evidence as to the environmental and, particularly, economic and social effects.”

“These would not be surprising findings to Newgeography.com readers, who are accustomed to similar analyses rooted in economic, demographic, and environmental data. However, this article appeared in the Spring 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Planning Association, under the title, “Growing Cities Sustainably: Does Urban Form Really Matter?

“Moreover, the authors are urban planning insiders, including Marcial H. Echenique, a land use and transport professor at Cambridge University, Anthony J. Hargreaves from the Martin Centre for Architectural Studies at Cambridge, Gordon Mitchell from the Faculty of the Environment at the University of Leeds and Anil Namdea of the School of Engineering at the University of Newcastle.

“Smart Growth Criticisms

“Many of the British critiques parallel those made by critics of smart growth for years. They focus particularly on the concern that smart growth generally has neglected economic and social costs. For example, smart growth policies lead to higher house prices by rationing land (such as with urban growth boundaries). Higher house prices lead to less discretionary income for households, so that there is less money for other goods and services, lowering employment levels. The resulting densification leads to more intense traffic congestion, with resulting economic losses and more intense air pollution, which is less healthful.

“The Research

“The authors modeled land use and travel behavior in three areas of England, subjecting them to three land use alternatives: compact development (smart growth), planned development (which I would label “smart growth light”) and dispersal, the generally liberal approach common in United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand for decades after World War II (and still in many US and some Canadian markets).

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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