newsletter archive
Sprawl Watch
Volume 1, Number 12 - November 18, 1999

= = =State and Local News = = =
Silicon Valley's explosive housing market has finally hit one of the area's last affordable enclaves, the historically black city of East Palo Alto, fueling a steady exodus of families who say they are being priced out of their own community.  Hundreds of the city's working-class residents, including some of the sons and daughters of East Palo Alto's African-American founders, face a daunting combination of escalating rents and out-of-reach home prices. (San Jose Mercury News, Nov 5.)

Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Department of Community Affairs' Secretary Steve Seibert are reviewing Florida's historic growth management process. The Governor believes that the state should let local governments have more control in shaping development.

New Mexico
Albuquerque city councilors voted 6-3 to defeat a "livable wage" resolution that would have required companies moving to Albuquerque to pay a "livable wage" to be eligible for tax breaks from the city.  Similar proposals have been the subject of heated controversy in cities around the United States. Opponents have argued such measures can steer businesses away, and that wages should be determined by market forces. But groups favoring the restrictions have contended their local governments should not subsidize low-paying employers. In Albuquerque, a new version of the proposal, released Friday, includes a definition of a "livable wage" that ties it to data in the state's Occupational Wage Survey. (Olivier Uyttebrouck, Albuquerque Journal, 11/15/99) 

A group of Ohio businesses announced the formation of a new organization "Environment-Growth Alliance" which vows to fire "truth missiles" at growing "urban sprawl" and anti-growth rhetoric statewide. The alliance believes that too much of the growth debate focuses on the negative effects of growth overlooking the good that growth has provided.  (Business Wire

South Carolina
The South Carolina Conservation League (SCCL) recently released a study examining how poor school site selection affects children, the community and the environment. Wait for the Bus: How Low Country School Site Selection an Design Deter Walking to School and Contribute to Urban Sprawl, shows that schools built in recent years take up more land and are farther from city centers, making it increasingly difficult for children to walk to school.  Schools built since 1983 have lower rates of children walking and higher rates of "hazard busing"-when students who live close by are bused because streets are unsafe for walking.  For details, contact SCCL at 843.723.8035.

The Salt Lake Tribune reviewed a report by the Sutherland Institute, a conservative think tank, that has issued an 83-page report claiming government makes most growth-related problems worse. The report also questions the Envision Utah planning partnership's assertions that spread-out residential development costs taxpayers more than compact neighborhoods. The report, Growth Issues in Utah: Facts, Fallacies and Recommendations for Quality Growth, was co-written by Competitive Enterprise Institute researcher Daniel Simmons, and Samuel Staley, director of the Reason Public Policy Institute's Urban Futures Program. Envision Utah challenged most of the report's conclusions. For example, the Sutherland report said that light-rail transit will be a drain on taxpayers and will not attract enough riders to reduce traffic congestion. Nationally, the average commute time by light rail is 45 minutes, compared to 21 minutes by car. Envision Utah responded by saying "Light rail provides transportation choices and will become more effective after it attracts transit-oriented development and redevelopment near the tracks. Even with the most aggressive transit programs conceived by Envision Utah, road expenses will remain up to five times higher." The Salt Lake Tribune article provides a useful review of the reports assertions and Envision's rebuttals. 

Attacking two of Seattle's biggest problems, affordable housing and traffic, the city and Continental Savings Bank unveiled a first-of-a-kind program to give home buyers a break on their mortgage if they're willing to buy a home in the more crowded parts of the city. Under the program, called Location Efficient Mortgage, the bank will assume for the first time that people have more income available if they can get around without a car. Homebuyers particularly well-suited for the loan are low- to middle-income households and first time buyers who live near public transit and shops. Several banks plan to offer the LEM in Chicago, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area within the next year.  For details see

Wisconsin's Gov. Tommy Thompson approved budget bill A.B. 133 as 1999 Wisconsin Act 9 in late October.  The act provides $3.5 million in planning grants to local governments, establishes state goals for local land use, requires local plans and decision making to be consistent, mandates intergovernmental cooperation, and offers "smart growth" dividends to encourage more efficient development patterns. The act incorporates language and key concepts from APA's Growing Smart legislative guidebook.  (Planning, American Planning Association, November 1999.) For a copy of Act 9, see
_memo.pdf  and

= = =Nationwide= = =
A new study about traffic congestion trends released by the Texas Transportation Institute shows that congestion continues to worsen nationwide. The study named Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., as the urban areas with the worst traffic congestion in its annual rankings of congestion in the nation's 68 largest areas.

Vice President Al Gore announced a $2 billion plan to promote land conservation and create new parks in a bid to slow down urban sprawl. Gore said he would pay for his plan by reforming an 1872 mining law to require that companies pay fair-market royalties on minerals mined on federal lands.  (Mary Anne Ostrom, San Jose Mercury News, 11/15/99)

= = =New Releases= = =
During the first three years of the current economic expansion, most American cities lost ground to their suburbs in the competition for new private sector jobs, according to a new study from the Brookings Institutionís Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy. Out of 92 metropolitan areas analyzed, more than half (52) had central cities that gained jobs, but suburbs that gained jobs at an even faster rate. One-quarter (23) of the metropolitan areasí central cities actually lost jobs while their suburbs added new private sector employment opportunities. 

The Urban Land Institute recently released Smart Growth: Myth and Fact. The booklet examines eight of the most common misconceptions about smart growth and counters them with facts. Successful projects and policies are included to illustrate what has worked for others. To order a copy of the report call: 1-800-321-5011.

Best Practices: Strategies that Can Revitalize Cities and Arrest Sprawl is an overview of strategies that land use, transportation and planning experts regard as successful alternatives to sprawl-type development. Compiled by the Sprawl Watch Clearinghouse the booklet highlights case examples for affordable housing, farmland protection, tax incentives strategies and more. For a copy of the report, contact:  or

Sprawl Watch
Volume 1, Number 11- November 1, 1999

This Week's Content:
On November 2 voters across the country will decide a number
of local and state ballot measures. If passed, the initiatives will fund the
purchase of open space, check development projects and ease 
crowded schools and suburbs.  In New Jersey and Pennsylvania voters will decide whether to tax themselves to buy land, while Maine voters will decide
whether to authorize statewide purchases of open space. School districts
in Orange County, CA, will seek multibillion-dollar school bonds to
repair aging campuses, while citizen activists in the San Francisco Bay
area will ask voters to consider an urban growth boundary and a halt to
certain development projects. For more information on ballot measures
across the country, check out Sprawl Watch Election 2000 at

= = =State and Local News = = =
Rockville, Md., has joined the list of communities concerned about the
size, aesthetics, traffic impacts and lack of after-closure uses of big-box
retail stores, according to a recent article in The Washington Post. The City imposed a six-month moratorium on big-box projects - defined as single use 
retailstores of 60,000 square feet or more - until further study could be done and
citizen input gathered. Rockville, a Washington DC suburb, is home to one of the most commercially active and congested traffic arteries in the region.
Criticizing the moratorium, a local big-box retailer said the huge stores actually
generate less traffic because customers need to shop there less frequently. (Nation's Cities Weekly, 10/18/99), published by the National League of Cities.

North Carolina
Governor Hunt's 21st Century Communities Task Force is finished holding
thirteen public hearings across the state to look at growth issues. The
Task Force is preparing to report its findings to a special legislative
commission on growth that convenes in upcoming weeks.  For more
information, contact Sierra Club's North Carolina Sprawl Campaign.

= = =Nationwide= = =
On 9/29, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee reported
legislation to nullify the March 1999 court ruling overturning the
practice that allowed for road projects to be built with federal funds in areas out of
conformity with national air quality standards.  The bill's future is unclear due to the recent death of Senator Chafee; some observers believe its status will 
become clearer when a new chairman for the Committee on Environment and Public Works is named. For more information on the bill, contact Elizabeth Thompson at the Environmental Defense Fund at 202.387.3500.  (Transfer, 10/30/99)

= = =New Releases= = =
A growing obesity epidemic is threatening the health of millions of
Americans in the United States, according to CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) research published in the October 27, 1999, issue of The
Journal of the American Medical  Association (JAMA). In the Southeast,
the obesity rate jumped 67.2 percent in that time frame, with Georgia
leading the nation with a whopping increase of 101.8 percent. Two culprits were suspected for the change: urban sprawl and heat.

In the five years since passage of a landmark bill to safeguard
California's deserts,great strides have been made in the protection of
the desert's unique plants and wildlife. But the ongoing growth of
southern California and Las Vegas is placing more pressure on this
fragile area, according to "Defending the Desert", a report released
today by the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). The
Defending the Desert report can be found at the NPCA web
site. (Oct. 28)

The Environmental News Network (ENN) is featuring a three part series on
sprawl at their website.  The series includes substantial links to sprawl resources, information on statistics of growth and sprawl, an interactive poll and more.

The Urban Land Institute (ULI), has launched SmartGrowth.Net- a research
and information resource for media interested in Smart Growth and related topics.

To help Americans better understand urban sprawl, Public Agenda and the
Kettering Foundation have published a guide, "A Nice Place to Live: Creating Communities, Fighting Sprawl." The guide examines three ways to approach sprawl: 1) Concentrate spending on existing suburbs instead of on outlying areas, as Maryland has done; 2) Bolster central cities through investments and
regulations, as in Portland, Oregon, and Dallas; and 3) Let development
patterns take their own course, as is the case in Houston. To order,
click to

Last year, Brookings reported that American cities expected a downtown
residential boom in the next decade. "Ten Steps to a Living Downtown"
explains ten steps that local leaders can take to make the most of the growing
desire for downtown housing.  For the complete report, go to The Brookings
Institution, Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy,