Planning in the USA
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Planning in the USA

Policies, Issues, and Processes

J. Barry Cullingworth, Roger Caves

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  1. 522 pages
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eBook - ePub

Planning in the USA

Policies, Issues, and Processes

J. Barry Cullingworth, Roger Caves

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This extensively revised and updated fourth edition of Planning in the USA continues to provide a comprehensive introduction to the policies, theory and practice of planning. Outlining land use, urban planning, and environmental protection policies, this fully illustrated book explains the nature of the planning process and the way in which policy issues are identified, defined, and approached.

This full colour edition incorporates new planning legislation and regulations at the state and federal layers of government, updated discussion on current economic issues, and examples of local ordinances in a variety of planning areas. Key updates include:

  • a new chapter on planning and sustainability;
  • a new discussion on the role of foundations and giving to communities;
  • a discussion regarding the aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans;
  • a discussion on deindustrialization and shrinking cities;
  • a discussion on digital billboards;
  • a discussion on recent comprehensive planning efforts;
  • a discussion on land banking;
  • a discussion unfunded mandates;
  • a discussion on community character;
  • a companion website with multiple choice and fill the blank questions, and 'test yourself' glossary terms.

This book gives a detailed account of urbanization in the United States and reveals the problematic nature and limitations of the planning process, the fallibility of experts, and the difficulties facing policy-makers in their search for solutions. Planning in the USA is an essential book for students, planners and all who are concerned with the nature of contemporary urban and environmental problems.

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Planning is a purposive process in which goals are set and policies elaborated to implement them. Such is the theory; but the theory is affected in many ways. There are problems with the concept of planning, with the forces of urbanization which it seeks to regulate, and with the very nature of government. This first part of the book introduces this complex of issues which make planning such a difficult, frustrating, and fascinating subject to study.
Chapter 1 discusses the nature of planning. How far is it a rational activity akin to mathematics? The question appears absurd at first sight: surely a planner would not proceed in an irrational way? Do cities always engage in rational comprehensive planning? The discussion shows that the issues are much more complicated than this suggests. Rational goals are elusive, and apparently sensible methodologies are strangely difficult to implement. Moreover, though it may seem intelligent to attempt to plan comprehensively, experience shows that this is an ideal which faces formidable obstacles. Rational planning is a theoretical idea. Actual planning is the practical exercise of political choice that involves beliefs and values. It is a laborious process in which many people and private agencies are concerned. These comprise a wide range of conflicting interests. Planning is a means by which attempts are made to resolve these conflicts. This is particularly difficult in land use planning because of the cultural, legal, and constitutional aspects of property rights. This chapter also discusses the importance of informing citizens on planning matters and engaging citizens in planning through traditional mechanisms and through the use of various technologies that enhance opportunities for participation.
Since this book is focused on urban planning issues, it is appropriate to examine the nature of world urbanization and, specifically, its trends in the United States. Chapter 2 does this in a summary way. The original settlers formed a rural society, and towns were very small. Urbanization accelerated in the second half of the nineteenth century, and by 1920 a half of the population was urban. The proportion increased to almost 70 percent in 1960, to 75 percent in 1990, and to approximately 81 percent in 2005. Urbanization was followed by suburbanization, largely as a result of developments in transport, highways, and innovations in the finance of home ownership. In this the federal government played a major role. Suburbanization eventually led to inner-city decline as people and (later) shops and jobs moved out. By 1990, over a half of the American population lived in the suburbs. Over a sixth of the population moves every year. Though most of these moves are short-distance, huge regional movements have taken place. These have resulted in enormous growth in states such as California and Florida. The nation's center of population in 2000 was in Missouri, some 32 miles west of the center of population in 1990; in 1850, it was in West Virginia. Migration is still taking place on a larger scale, but its character is now complex and volatile. This chapter also examines current issues surrounding deindustrialization and the problems associated with shrinking cities.
Having discussed the nature of planning and the history of urbanization, Chapter 3 extends the historical account and examines the development of urban government and planning. This helps in an understanding of the historical and intellectual heritage of urban planning. Previous generations have battled with questions of how to make planning effective in a democratic society: their experience is of relevance to the contemporary scene. Issues highlighted in this account include a discussion on federalism, the persuasiveness of privatism, the reform movement, the City Beautiful movement, and the growth of planning.
The idea of sustainability is covered in this new edition as Chapter 4. It starts with a discussion of the definition of sustainability and why it is important. The chapter includes discussions on international activities regarding sustainability, federal actions in the US regarding sustainability, state and local programs devoted to sustainability, green building regulations, and the increasing role of community gardens in sustainability.

The nature of planning

If we can land a man on the moon, why can't we solve the problems of the ghetto?
Nelson 1977: 13
We must first exorcize the ghost of rationality, which haunts the house of public policy.
Wildavsky 1987: 25

The character of planning

Planning is a process of formulating goals and agreeing the manner in which these are to be met. It is a continuous process by which agreement is reached on the ways in which problems are to be debated and resolved. It is a process involving multiple participants with multiple perceptions, beliefs, and objectives.
Definitions of planning abound: there is a large literature devoted to exploring the meaning of the term. One generally common element in these definitions is that planning is forward-looking; it seeks to determine future action. At the simplest, one may plan to go to the library tomorrow. Such a ‘plan’ involves a choice between alternatives — not to go to the library tomorrow, to go elsewhere, or to stay at home. The plan may also be based on explicit assumptions; for example, the decision to visit the library may be dependent upon finishing the books that have already been taken out of the library, or on the weather being fine. On the other hand, if the books will be overdue, and subject to a fine if they are not returned tomorrow, the plan may override other considerations.
This is, perhaps, a trite example, but it does contain important elements which are present in more sophisticated forms of planning: forethought, choice between alternatives, consideration of constraints, and the possibility of alternative courses of action dependent upon differing conditions. Of course, when a plan involves other people (which it usually does), the plan must incorporate an acceptable way of reconciling differences among the participants: this is a major feature of any type of planning; and the more numerous and diverse the participants, the greater the difficulties of planning. At the extreme, fundamental clashes in outlook, beliefs, or objectives may make planning impossible. At the worst, there is a resort to violence — of which there are, tragically, all too many examples around the world.
This underlines another important aspect of planning: there has to be a sufficiently sound basis of agreement for planning to be possible. In democratic societies, large numbers of diverse interests not only have to be considered but also have to be involved in the planning process. Much of ‘planning’ then becomes a process of reaching agreement on objectives. But, as will be shown repeatedly through this book, objectives and ways of reaching the objectives are not easily separable. Many may agree that a comprehensive system of health care is needed, but it may prove impossible to fashion an acceptable method of providing this — a point dramatically illustrated by the collapse of President Clinton's health proposals. In the debate, differences appear in both means (such as methods of financing) and ends (such as the extent to which health care is to be ‘comprehensive’ in terms of both the people to be included and the health conditions to be covered). Very speedily, ends and means become confused.
By contrast, where there is full agreement on a planning objective (putting a person on the moon, for example), the debate focuses on methods. When the nation agreed that it was a national priority to devote the necessary resources for this incredible feat, there was no problem with defining the problem, or of obtaining the necessary funding. Though the objective was incredibly difficult, it was simplified by the agreement that supported it. There was, for example, no argument on whether it might not be better to build a transoceanic tunnel, or to build a 10-mile high city, or to attempt any other seemingly impossible enterprise. More realistically, there was little serious debate as to whether the resources could not be put to better use in, for example, eliminating poverty.
The planning of wars contains many lessons on the problems of planning, but consider how much more difficult is the planning of a ‘war on poverty’. In his first State of the Union message in 1964, President Lyndon Johnson declared such a war: ‘This Administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America.’ Sad though it is, no such ‘war’ was possible: the single aim of destroying the enemy of poverty inevitably broke up into a myriad of problems concerning a proliferation of programs aimed at constituent parts of ‘poverty’, their financing, their administration, their adequacy, and their effects. Poverty proved to be a hydra-headed monster, encompassing an incredible number of issues — from food stamps to regional development, from model cities to education, from health to income maintenance: 370 new programs of assistance to states and local governments were introduced between 1962 and 1970.
The issues are discussed further in Chapter 16. Here it is important to note the types of questions that the plans raised. Is poverty an economic issue (in which case the answer would lie somewhere in the policy area of maintaining incomes)? Or is it a matter of personal inadequacy (in which case, what scope is there for remedying this)? Or is it a market failure (which might be dealt with by market incentives)? Then there were questions as to how far the state could — and should — interfere with the market. Do public programs destroy individual initiative? Where should resources be concentrated: on individuals, communities, urban redevelopment, or job creation? And so the questions multiplied. Distinctions between ends and means proved baffling. Poverty became seen as an umbrella term for a wide range of problems of modern post-industrial society. The problems were difficult to define, let alone to resolve.
Similar problems arise with any form of planning where there is not a single, clear, and accepted objective — which is usually the case. To take a further example, which is a major focus of this book: land use planning. How does one plan urban development? The first question is why it should be planned at all. The answers to this are legion, and they are usually expressed in very general terms: to achieve ‘orderly’ development, to minimize the loss of agricultural land, to reduce transport needs to the minimum, to encourage economic development, or to facilitate private investment in property.
Typically, there are several objectives. There may be a general desire to provide a spacious environment while, at the same time, maximizing the use of public transport and safeguarding rural land adjacent to the built-up area. These objectives involve conflicts: spacious environments consume a greater amount of land (often previously in agricultural use); and low densities present problems for public transit which operates most effectively in high-density corridors.
Planning necessarily involves restraint on the actions of individual landowners and residents. Such restraints arouse opposition and claims that property rights are being infringed. This is an important limitation on the scope of planning, more so in the United States than in those countries where a high degree of public command over land development is politically acceptable. In fact, there is a considerable amount of control over the use of land in the United States and, though it is a source of continual controversy, the principle of some degree of regulation is generally accepted. (To use the customary example, no one wants a glue factory to be located in their neighborhood.) The issue then is not whether there should or should not be planning, but how much of it there should be, and how it should operate. There is an extensive literature on this, replete with a wide variety of concepts. Immediately apparent is the divorce between planning theory and planning practice.

Planning theory

Ideology plays an important role in planning. It defines planning and forms the body and basis of planning, our values, how we frame issues, and how we set and achieve goals. Our ideology poses a number of questions on how we plan. For example, how do our views influence the identification of issues? How do our views influence the development and implementation of plans? Are our goals to improve the public interest? How do we measure the goals and progress towards achieving the goals? Are there competing ideas and goals that must be taken into consideration? How do we choose among the competing ideas? Should we advocate public in...

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