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PLAN103 Chapter Notes - Chapter all: Urban Sprawl, Urban Growth Boundary, The Sprawl

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Markus Moos

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Week 1 Introduction to the course and topic
Chapter 1 The Price of Sprawl
- Costly sprawl has been in the past, the stakes are even higher today and into the future
- The scale of sprawl itself is increasing
- The impacts per unit of sprawl are increasing
- The world is changing in a way that makes sprawl issues even more critical now than they have been
- Population growth in Canada is increasingly concentrated in cities (large urban regions)
o 90% of population in 2001-2006 is in metropolitan areas
- Majority of population end employment growth is taking place in the outer suburbs
o Form of low-density, single-use suburbs on former farms or natural areas
- The amount of land required for each person and job has been increasing (using more land per person)
- Levels of car ownership is rising along with distance driven per car
- No gains in efficiency even with improved fuel efficiency
o Larger vehicles and increase in truck traffic
- Emissions from pollutants from motorized vehicles have continued to rise
- Issues in the twenty-first century are intimately related with sprawl
o Water shortages
Urban growth taking place in locations with least water
Drought spreads across the agricultural centre of the continent
o Food securities
Maintain farmland in close proximity to secure local food supply
GHG emissions associated with long-distance food transport
- Gas Prices continue to rise as cheaper oil sources become depleted
- Rising prices intensifies the strain on car-dependent neighbourhoods, households, and businesses
- Communities and business districts are built so that the car is the only way to access to and within them
- Short term repercussions of high gas prices were already evident
o Decline in the demand for larger vehicles and the closing of the auto plants that produced them
- Persistent high prices alter decision making
o People will look to reduce the need to drive by seeking out urban environments that support
walking, cycling and transit
- This is difficult in the kind of urban environment that has been built
- Excessive vehicle travel associated with urban sprawl is a key contributor to GHG emissions
- Attention for GHG has been within the home but it should be on cities and urban development
- Urban location and local context determine how much travel occurs and by what mode
- Household-related transportation creates significantly more GHGs than running the home itself
o 2/3 of GHGs is related to transportation
- Even the greenest house in the suburbs (energy saving everything) consumes more energy than a
conventional home in the urban are
o Due to the need to drive long distances from the suburban home
- Changing the location of a household from outer suburb to inner area will reduce travel GHG emissions
- Location within the city and local context are critical determinants of GHGs and are more important than
housing features
o But this is rarely addressed in GHG reduction strategies
- Need to retrofit existing suburbs to diversify the mix of jobs and housing, improving local accessibility of
jobs and services, and increase transit viability, walking, and cycling
o Ensuring that newly built suburbs are mixed in terms of housing types and land uses, compact,
and designed for other modes of travel
- Cities are expensive to build but slow and more expensive to change
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- Despite the spread of planning across communities, and its increased depth and focus on sustainable
urban development patterns, it is not delivering results
The Sprawl Debate
- One side views sprawl as undesirable
o Comes with costs: social, economic, and environmental
o Movements like smart growth, new urbanism, and sustainable development fell in this side
o Sees sprawl as a problem due to the high social and private costs
Low-density development pattern at the urban edge
Loss of farmland and natural areas in proximity to the city
Car dependency in the low-density, single-use development pattern that characterizes
Driving costs, congestion, pollution, health costs, etc.
Other infrastructures are also raised when density is low
Sewer, water, utilities
o NA sprawl began in post WW2 when it was supported by subsidies (housing programs for
returning veterans and highways) and then entrenched in an array of planning regulations
o Want to create more integrated, mixed-use, dense, and walkable neighbourhoods and districts
taditioal eighbourhood development
- The other views it as benign and natural
o Sees more recent urban development patterns as the result of economic and technological
Expressed through a property market working to respond to consumer demand
o Rising real incomes and falling transportation costs allow homes and businesses to locate farther
from central cities
Consumes more land in comparison to central locations
o Sprawl is the natural and largely benign result of rising standards of living
Ipoed ualit of people’s lives
o Consumers demand sprawl
The market provides
o Apparent that it will be difficult for public policy to alter current trends as the market forces will
work in the opposite direction
o There will be unintended secondary effects from anti-sprawl policies that may make people
worse off
o These development patterns (public demand) is not so undesirable
o The way design and implementing land-use policy to further commonly held goals become
o Recommends a laissez-faire approach
Guided by the market forces, and foresees lower population densities and car travel as
Spend less on transit and more on roads
Reduces overall congestion
The Price of Sprawl
- Sprawl is the result of few key decisions made millions of times everyday by everyone
o Together they determine how cities grow
- 4 key intertwined decisions shape urban development patterns
o Regarding location
o How much land
o How much building
o Mode of travel
- Which are then governed by factors like proximity and price
- Price is intended to give an accurate signal of the actual costs associated with the decision
o Ensures the efficient allocation of resources
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o An accurate price signal ensures neither overspending or under-allocation of resources occurs
- Prices that accurately reflect costs actual costs associated with different locations and local contexts,
different sizes of buildings and lots, different modes and amount of travel
- Only when accurate prices are charged can efficient urban development patterns be achieved
o This applies not only to the prices of the property itself but also the prices of all the other
components that are considered: transportation prices, mortgage servicing, property tax,
electricity, phone, internet
- The prices charged for the property and related services rarely if ever reflect their actual costs
o Act in a manner that encourages the overconsumption of land, building, and transportation
o Discourages the efficient use of these resources
- Inefficient development is priced as discount, but efficient development is inflated
- Prices currently provide incentives to sprawl and disincentives to efficient development
- It is usually the efficient development that directly subsidizes the inefficient development
- Common flaw: prices are based on average costs rather than marginal costs
o Occurs when costs vary with location, density, context, or type of land but prices do not
- Lower densities mean higher infrastructure costs per unit, but prices charged for these services rarely
reflect the higher costs of servicing a larger or more distant lot, rather, prices based on average costs are
- Costs are averaged across a range of different types of development associated with a range of actual
o Leads to lower-than-average cost properties pay less than their costs
- Mis-pricing leads to cross-subsidies
- Created a set of perverse subsidies that provides financial incentives for inefficient development and
disincentives for efficient development
o Inflict negative, unintended consequences
- Subsidies are an important tool of government and are used to promote an activity that is considered
beneficial to the economy overall and to society at large - benefits that would not occur without this
- Perverse subsidy is one that exerts adverse effects on the economy, environment, or society
Chapter 2 Sprawl: A Planning Problem
What is Sprawl
- Can be viewed as an aesthetic judgement, the cause of an externality, the consequence of an action or
condition, a pattern of development, a process of development
- Commonly defined as an urban landscape having certain characteristic physical elements
- Also sometimes defined by its component parts: housing subdivisions, shopping centres, etc
- The typical form of most types of late twentieth-century suburban development
- Also sometimes defined as a process, one in which the spread of development across the landscape far
outpaces population growth
o Involved comparing the rate of land development to the rate of population growth
- Common planning definition a pattern of land use with some or all of the commonly cited physical
characteristics and that not all suburban expansion or decentralization is necessarily sprawl
Why is Sprawl a Problem
- Pattern of development is associated with high economic, social, and environmental costs
- Provides the rationale for many policy and other interventions aimed at curbing sprawl
What Causes Sprawl
- Post WW2 when sprawl was stated by federal housing programs for returning veterans and massive
investments in highways, promoting suburbanization
- Suburbanization of population then precipitated the suburbanization of shopping and jobs
o Using techniques of standardization that created the classic suburban configuration
- Pattern was then entrench in an array of planning regulations and engineering standards that governed
urban growth patterns for decades to come
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