Volume 3, Number 3 - January 31, 2001
Due to high interest, Sprawl Watch will begin
publishing its bi-monthly newsletter on a weekly basis.
= = = State and Local News = = =
While a decade ago public officials were agonizing
over how to get people onto their trains, now that BART ridership has dramatically
risen (15.6% in the past year!), officials are grappling with over-crowded
trains and years of deferred maintenance. The San Francisco Chronicle
recently published a series on the challenges BART faces as its ridership
continues its ascension.
A new bill introduced in the Colorado State Senate
will require motorists to maintain three feet of clearance as they pass
bicycles and yield right of way if cyclists turn in front of them.
Less than two months after the deadline to apply
for funding under Gov. Roy Barnes' new green-space initiative, 13 of 40
eligible counties have been cleared to receive land-preservation grants.
Mayor Daley has released a plan for improving
transportation in downtown Chicago that includes dedicated bus lines and
increased penalties for double-parking.
The Detroit News completed a two-part special
on the challenges of brownfield redevelopment in Detroit and how other
mid-western cities have succeeded.
According to a report by the State Legislative
Auditor's office, Minnesota has the third lowest vacancy rate for rental
housing in the country, hovering at around 1.5%. This extremely low
vacancy rate has led to an acute shortage of affordable housing in the
In her final state budget address before becoming
EPA Administrator in the Bush administration, Governor Whitman approved
a rule that will require developers, who build in areas without adequate
public sewer systems, to undergo a rigorous permitting process.
Many view Ohio's brownfields program as a model
for other states to emulate. It has recently come under attack by
some environmental organizations and developers as burdensome and not sufficiently
protective of public health.
Governor Dean is hoping to avoid a lawsuit challenging
construction of a new highway in Chittenden County by meeting with all
the stakeholders to work out a compromise.
Developers and slow-growth advocates have announced
a cease-fire over controlling growth in Virginia. In lieu of battling
it out in Richmond, they have agreed to conduct a year-long study on how
best to manage growth in fast-growing communities.
Washington D.C. Region
Montgomery County officials announced a $6.4
million farmland preservation program to protect 2200 acres of farmland.
Most of the easements are being purchased through Maryland's Rural Legacy
program, a four-year old state effort that provides funding to local jurisdictions
to protect large contiguous tracts of rural land.
= = = New Releases = = =
Transit Ridership at Record High
In the year 2000, more Americans decided to leave
the driving to someone else. Last year, usage of U.S. public transportation
systems grew by an estimated 320 million rides, to a total of 9.4 billion
trips, according to preliminary estimates released today by the American
Public Transportation Association (APTA). This record ridership represents
the highest level of use in public transportation in more than forty years,
according to APTA. www.apta.com
New EPA Report on Smart Growth
In "Our Built and Natural Environments," the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) summarizes technical research
on the relationship between the built and natural environments, as well
as current understanding of the role of development patterns, urban design,
and transportation in improving environmental quality. "Our Built and Natural
Environments" is designed as a technical reference for analysts in state
and local governments, academics, and people studying the implications
of development on the natural environment. www.smartgrowth.org
Mayors Call for National Rail Policy
At their recent conference, the U.S. Conference
of Mayors called for a national rail policy and urged President Bush and
the Congress to make passenger rail service a top priority and a solution
to the growing crisis of traffic and air congestion. U.S. Conference
of Mayors also released a nationwide poll that showed strong public backing
for passenger rail investment, with a vast majority of respondents (82%)
supporting funding for a rail service network as an option to driving their
= = = National News = = =
New President at Rails-To-Trails Conservancy
Keith Laughlin, executive director of the White
House Task Force on Livable
Communities, will become president in February
of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), the nationís largest trails organization.
He succeeds David Burwell, who co-founded RTC in 1986 with environmentalist
Peter Harnik, and has served as its president for 15 years. To learn
more about Rails-to-Trails, visit www.railtrails.org
Volume 3, Number 2 - January 17, 2001
= = =State and Local News= = =
After years of speculation, a light rail link
between BART and Oakland International Airport is viewed as a real possibility.
Not all transportation advocates believe, however, that this would be the
best use of the region's transportation dollars.
Although the job growth rate is shrinking in the
Bay Area, the transportation bottlenecks and the income gap between the
richest and poorest workers continues to increase, according to a study
released by the Silicon Valley Network.
In the aftermath of the bitter battle over Amendment
24, a coalition of businesses, homebuilders, environmentalists, and local
governments are working on a compromise growth management plan with the
Colorado Forum. http://www.denverpost.com/news/leg/leg0105.htm
District of Columbia Region
In an effort to increase the supply of affordable
housing in Montgomery County, the County Executive is proposing to double
the amount of affordable housing units built each year using a combination
of financial incentives and money from the county's general fund. http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A34069-2001Jan8.html
Branding a commercial airport ``inappropriate''
near two national parks, the U.S. Air Force reversed an earlier ruling
and rejected Miami-Dade County's proposal to convert hurricane-ravaged
Homestead Air Force Base into a bustling hub with more than 600 flights
a day. The fight against the airport has become analogous to many
other land-use battles nationwide around the expansion of regional airports.
Georgia Governor Roy Barnes abruptly cut off
negotiations with environmental and equity groups over the air-quality
impacts of Atlanta's long-delayed transportation plan. Most transportation
projects in the Atlanta region have been delayed over the past two years
due to the region's non-conformity with the Clean Air Act. http://www.nytimes.com/2001/01/04/national/04ROAD.html
Gov. Parris Glendening wants to expand Maryland's
efforts to purchase open space throughout the state with $145 million during
the next five years. In addition to the open space proposals, the
Governor promised $45 million each for neighborhood revitalization and
recreational facilities over the next three years.
The American Planning Association has released
a list of 29 recommendations for changes to Montana's land-use and planning
laws. Included in these changes are a tightening of Montana's subdivision
rules and the promotion of affordable housing.
In Governor Whitman's last State of the State
address before taking over EPA for President-elect Bush, she pledged $25
million for state parks and historic sites. The money would be concentrated
on 10 parks, forests and historic sites.
In the last decade, Ohio has spent over $100
million to restore its county courthouses. Some see Ohio as the bellwether
for a national trend to restore civic architecture.
Seeking a regional solution to their transportation
challenges, planners in southwestern Pennsylvania met at an inaugural conference
titled "Transit Visions. Imagine the Possibilities.." organized by the
Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission planning agency for the nine-county
The Piedmont Environmental Council took title
last week to most of the 1400-acre Ovoka Farm part of which borders the
Appalachian Trail and Virginia's Sky Meadows State Park. This picturesque
piece of farmland located in Fauquier County had been one of Scenic America's
Last Chance Landscapes.
= = = New Releases = = =
Does Affordable Housing Lessen Property Values?
The Family Housing Fund, a nonprofit advocacy
group based in Minneapolis, has published a report finding that affordable
housing does not have a negative impact on the property values of surrounding
Property Tax Reform in Minnesota
1000 Friends of Minnesota released "Taxing Our
Stengths: How Minnesota's Property Tax System Weakens Our Communities,"
which describes how Minnesota's property tax system inhibits strategies
to promote livable communities. Though specific to Minnesota, the
report is useful to all seeking property tax reform in their respective
Contrary to common perceptions, not all high-tech
cities are alike. In most well-known high tech regions, high tech employment
is concentrated in only a few industry segments, according to a new survey
released today by the Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan
Policy. The survey analyzed tech-related employment concentration, patent
activity, and venture capital flows in 14 U.S. metropolitan areas. www.brookings.edu/urban
Smart Growth and the Clean Air Act
The federal Clean Air Act has been both criticized
as a cause of sprawl and praised as a useful tool to curb it. This 56-page
publication, released by the Northeast-Midwest Institute, attempts to reconcile
the contrasting views of the law by examining its application in several
major metropolitan areas. The results suggest that the act can complement
efforts to promote growth in areas with existing infrastructure. http://www.nemw.org/SGCleanAir.pdf
Ten Most Endangered Stations
The Great American Station Foundation released
its annual "Ten Most Endangered Stations" report. The report seeks
to bring national attention to rail stations around the country that are
at risk of destruction or serious damage due to neglect or inattention.
Visit www.stationfoundation.org to see the list and view the stations.
Florida Growth Commission Releases Report
The Growth Management Study Commission, appointed
by Governor Jeb Bush to determine the effectiveness of Florida's growth
management system, released its draft report of recommendations and policy
proposals. Significantly, the draft report includes, among others,
proposals to make sprawl development "pay for itself" by correlating impact
fees with proximity to existing infrastructure. To read the draft,
visit www.floridagrowth.org. (The Chairman of the Commission is Mel
Martinez, President-elect George Bush's nominee for HUD Secretary.)
Highway Construction and Sprawl
An aggressive rate of highway construction has
been a primary cause of sprawl in Maryland, according to a new report released
today by the Maryland Public Interest Research Group (MaryPIRG). The study,
"Paving the Way," gives concrete evidence using detailed data from the
State of Maryland documenting the effect of highways on property development.
To view the report, click on www.marypirg.org.
= = = National News = = =
National Resources Inventory
The National Resources Inventory (NRI) is a statistically
based sample of land use and natural resource conditions and trends on
U.S. nonfederal lands. This site contains results from the 1997 National
Resources Inventory (revised December 2000). The NRI has been reissued
because in March 2000 an error was discovered in the results originally
issued in December 1999. http://www.nhq.nrcs.usda.gov/NRI/
Ten Most Underrated Cities in America
The current issue of the Utne Reader focuses
on the changing American city; both the promising developments and the
not-so-promising. Especially interesting is an article by Peter Katz
titled the "Ten Most Underrated Cities In America" that publicizes ten
great American cities that were, only recently, dismissed by many as bad
news. To read this article and check out the whole issue, visit www.utne.com.
Volume 3, Number 1 - January, 2001
= = = State and Local News = = =
After decades of severe disinvestment the revitalization
of West Oakland has begun. No doubt buoyed by a housing affordability
crisis in San Francisco and a BART station that gets you to downtown San
Francisco in 12 minutes, the neighborhood is changing to both the delight
and consternation of many in the neighborhood. http://sfgate.com/columnists/lloyd/
A year after one federal agency found fault with
it, another U.S. agency is challenging the accuracy and quality of the
$1 million Hartman-Hammond bridge study, which the Grand Traverse County
Road Commission and Michigan Department of Transportation have submitted
for final federal approval. Smart growth advocates believe the new
bridge and some related road widening projects will induce sprawl, and
they are suggesting a more modest project. http://www.mlui.org/projects/transport/tcbypass/fishwildlife.html
Many places throughout America probably should
be on the National Register of Historical Places but are not because many
people are unaware of the nomination process. In Nebraska, preservationists
fear historical sites may be lost due to this inaction.
As many new suburban communities seek strategies
to reinvent their image after years of unplanned growth, some are trying
to, at least, gain some control over the prevalence of large, unattractive,
business signs that dot the landscape. Critics of this approach refer
to it as mere "window dressing," that does nothing to prevent the root
causes of sprawl.
In an effort to return passenger train service
to Wyoming and southern Montana, the Montana/Wyoming Passenger Rail Association
has begun a lobbying campaign to regain the lost Denver-Seattle Amtrak
= = = New Releases = = =
Smart Growth and Climate Change
What is the relationship between "smart growth"
and climate change? A new report by the Conservation Law Foundation
documents a number of studies that consider the question of how to correlate
VMTs and vehicle trips with greenhouse gas emissions. They conclude that
discouraging low density, "sprawl" development and fostering concentrated
development can significantly reduce both VMTs and vehicle trips, and is
therefore an important component of a greenhouse gas reduction strategy.
Conservative Principles for Growth Management
The Competitive Enterprise Institute, along with
over one hundred other co-signers, announced ten principles for "freedom
and livability" in America's cities and suburbs. The Lone Mountain
Compact spells out "free market" principles for decision makers to follow
when evaluating growth-related issues. http://www.cei.org/PRReader.asp?ID=1317
Economic Benefits of Open Space
The East Bay Regional Park District commissioned
Economic & Planning Systems (EPS)to conduct a study of the economic
benefits the District confers on the East Bay region. The study considers
not only the benefits the District now receives from the park district,
but also focuses on enhancing the current acreage. Although specific
to the East Bay, it is useful for all who seek to justify park and open
space purchases on economic grounds. http://www.epsys.com/documents/10030.pdf
Vacant Land in Cities
More and more city leaders recognize that they
can reuse vacant land and abandoned structures to promote economic growth.
But little is known about the amount of vacant land or number of abandoned
structures in U.S. cities. This survey is designed to fill that information
gap. It examines cities with varying densities and population growth patterns,
and uses new data to estimate the amount of vacant land and abandoned structures
The National Trust for Historical Preservation
released a survey documenting that more than half of U.S. states have established
statewide heritage or cultural tourism programs, compared to virtually
none a decade ago. Twenty of those programs are less than five years
old. By definition, heritage tourism requires communities to preserve
and enhance its historical resources. http://www.nthp.org/main/frontline/pr_ht2000Full.htm
= = = National News = = =
The Science of Smart Growth
The December 2000 Scientific American published
an article from Smart Growth America Executive Director Don Chen titled
"The Science of Smart Growth," which reviews many of the successful smart
growth projects already in existence. The issue can be ordered through
the Scientific American website, www.sciam.com. To learn more about Smart
Growth America, visit www.smartgrowthamerica.com.
The Secret Life of AAA
While known largely for it roadside assistance
program, AAA has always been tinged with a political agenda. That
agenda has typically aligned itself with the automobile industry to the
detriment of transportation reform advocates.
Smart Technology and Transportation Policy
In response to increasing congestion and decreasing
safety, the U.S. has invested billions in smart transportation technologies.
This essay from the Winter 2001 Brookings Review examines the public and
private sectors' role in this revolution and its impact on transportation
An essay in the new Conservation Law Foundation
Journal highlights a promising trend in American Cities--"Daylighting".
Daylighting consists of removing asphalt and concrete and rediscovering
our paved over waterfronts.http://www.clf.org/pubs/index1.htm