Contentious Global Issues
Edited by H. S. Geyer
Chapter 12: Smart Growth as ‘New’ Metropolitan Governance: Observations on US Experience
G.O. Braun and J.W. Scott Introduction The ‘smart growth’ (SG) movement in North America, and especially in the United States, is an example of metropolitan planning informed by global paradigms of sustainable development. At the same time, SG is also an example of how global governance and sustainability paradigms are being translated locally into practice. SG can be described as a set of urban development practices that has emerged from US (and, to an extent, Canadian) policy experience since the 1970s. As a ‘continental’ agenda, SG can be understood as a comprehensive strategy of regional sustainability that suggests that economic eﬃciency, environmental protection, a high quality of life and social equity can be achieved through concerted and negotiated land-use polices. Among other things, SG envisions compact development and redevelopment of existing cores, reduced suburban sprawl and transit-oriented land use. Furthermore – and signiﬁcantly – SG strives to oﬀer urban living and the advantages of proximity to services and amenities to an increasing portion of the population. SG has evolved out of governance quandaries in North American urban regions: these have been characterized by a continued trend towards political fragmentation and local no-growth policies, exacerbated in the United States by a remarkable increase in plebiscitary planning initiatives. These, in turn, have served to facilitate sprawl in outlying areas, drastically increase housing prices in more attractive suburbs and detract from coherent attempts to address sprawl-related issues. The spatial contradictions of urban economies, particularly evident in the case of US metropolitan areas,...
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