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Andre Sorensen

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Urban sprawl, smart growth, path dependence
What the sprawl debate is really about is what kind of environment and city we want to
build. One way is to look at policy from the past, compare what happened with what was
Urban sprawl
It is a form of urbanization distinguished by leapfrog patterns of development,
commercial strips, low density, separated land uses, automobile dominance, and a
minimum of public open space
Leapfrog pattern is development of housing over undeveloped land
Dispersed development, lower densities than existing urban areas
Development with large areas of single-use development (ex. Only residential spaces)
Automobile dependent development (congestion)
Sprawl has a lot of space, but not public spaces
Why did this new urban form develop?
Growing car ownership
Economic growth, increase in wealth
Urban problems congestion, pollution, housing costs, racism, poor schools
Poor public transit outside of big cities
Emergence of large scale housing industry
Fragmented government
Cheap land
When everybody does sprawl, it becomes a problem
Major arguments against sprawl
High cost (cost for services are more expensive, shift in who pays shift in balance of
private costs and public costs, public costs (schools, roads, hospitals etc), higher
social costs are not developers concern, local government get stuck with the bill)
Car dependence (suburban layout make it difficult to walk, destinations are too far,
many loops)
Self-reinforcing cycle
- Car needs a lot of surface parking and road
- Reduce density
- Makes walking, biking, transit less viable
Less community
Some argue that sprawl make development of community and neighbouring harder
Health issues
Major health issues associated with sprawl
- Obesity
- Traffic accidents
- Asthma
- Mental illness
Municipal fragmentation
Connected to sprawl
Weak governance leads to sprawl
Less able to plan large areas of development
Larger cities have lesser sprawl due to more powerful governance
Positive feedback
Sprawl is described as self-reinforcing and hard to change course
Very hard to redevelop into higher density, walk able, mixed use places that are
viable for public transit
Raises question about short-run vs. long-run priorities
Benefits of sprawl
Cheap, big housing
Large lots
Less congestion, shorter travel times
Close to nature/better air
Smaller government units
Smart growth
Prevent sprawl, achieve efficient patterns of development
Only provide government infrastructure spending to support development in certain
Ensure that costs of development are fully paid by developers
Creates more mixed use, mixed housing types
Encourage diverse modes of transport, includes walking, public transit
Encourage higher densities, more compact development
Protect green lands
Political preference
Government intervention is a greater problem than sprawl
Planning, development control are seen as bigger problems
Destroying the American dream
They advocate market oriented approaches
Private property rights (the balance of how much is enough)
Political conflicts
Its about larger political debate
- Role of government
- Acceptable degree of intervention in market
- How to balance environment and economy