newsletter archive
Sprawl Watch
Volume 2, Number 19 - October 25, 2000

New Poll Shows Americans Support Efforts to Stop Sprawl
Fed up with traffic gridlock worsened by runaway sprawl, Americans favor “smart growth” to reduce traffic congestion, preserve existing communities and protect the environment and open space, according to a new national poll.  These findings, (released 9/16) show strong public concern about land-wasting development. Commissioned by Smart Growth America, a new nationwide coalition of over 60 public interest groups, the poll shows that 78 percent of Americans support policies to curb sprawl. Over 80 percent of respondents think government should give priority to maintaining services and infrastructure in established communities before subsidizing sprawl. For a copy of the report and the poll results, go to

= = = State and Local News = = =
A rising tide of urbanization engulfed almost 70,000 acres of California landscape from 1996 to 1998, according to a California Department of Conservation report that tracks land use conversion statewide.  More than 43,000 acres of this new urban land, an area about the size of the city of Modesto, was developed on agricultural land.

As deer hunting season begins in most of America, urban sprawl has become a leading culprit in diminishing the locales available for hunting.  Hunters are discovering that as sprawl encroaches closer and closer to hunting territory, not only is habitat lost, but the new neighbors become skittish about the shotgun blasts.

The Michigan Supreme Court began its 2000-2001 session considering a case on whether the city of Holland violated state law by passing an ordinance banning new billboards.  If the court strikes down the ordinance, it could threaten other ordinances around Michigan and the country.
There is currently a ballot initiative in Missouri to stop the construction of new billboards throughout much of the state.  To learn more about this and other initiatives, please see

Although many of the people who have flocked to Montana over the past twenty years were inspired by its wide, open spaces, the types of communities they are building and the services they are demanding, is fragmenting the open spaces and creating a "two-tiered" society for many of the communities.
Sprawl Watch Clearinghouse has recently published its first monograph on growth issues in gateway communities titled “The Last Best Places: The Impacts of Sprawl on Gateway Communities in the American West.”  To order please contact John Bailey at

New Jersey
The Garden State Preservation Trust recently appropriated $12 million for the preservation of 49 historic structures in New Jersey.  Though most known for preserving open space and farmland through New Jersey's million-acre initiative, historic preservation is also a mandate of the Preservation Trust.

The Cincinnati Post has been running a series of articles on suburban sprawl in America.  The series is intended for Cincinnati's civic and political leaders to see the creative strategies many communities are adopting to arrest sprawl and promote livable communities around the country.

1000 Friends of Washington recently released "Washington's Most Endangered Places".  The report presents updates on areas of Washington most threatened by sprawl and over development and highlights new threatened areas.

= = = New Releases = = =
Neighborhoods and Smart Growth
Learn about community-based organizations and coalitions that are tackling the negative consequences of sprawl and disinvestment in their neighborhoods and making growth smarter for low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. In Smart Growth, Better Neighborhoods, a 204 page report released by the National Neighborhood Coalition, organizations share in their own words the lessons they have learned from working on such regional issues as public transportation, affordable housing, brownfields, schools, and more. 

= = = National News = = =
Smart Growth and Government Efficiency
Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, in partnership with the Ford Foundation, announced its "Innovations in American Government" awards which strive to identify and celebrate outstanding examples of creative problem-solving in the public sector.  Half of the award winners this year are programs working toward more livable communities:  Brownfield Economic Redevelopment Program (U.S. EPA), HOPE VI (HUD), Metro Commute Partnerships (King County, Washington), Partnerships for Parks (City of New York), and Smart Growth and Neighborhood Conservation (State of Maryland).  To learn more about the award winners, please visit

Sprawl Watch
Volume 2, Number 18 - October 11, 2000

= = = State and Local News = = =
A new report released by the Surface Transportation Policy Project (STPP) finds that pedestrians throughout California are in serious danger navigating streets and intersections that are increasingly built for speed and traffic. According to the report, "Dangerous by Design: Pedestrian Safety in California", Sacramento, Contra Costa, Los Angeles, Santa Clara and San Mateo are the state's five most dangerous counties for 1999. Regions characterized by rapid growth and sprawling suburban-style development, with wide streets and fast-moving traffic, typically pose the worst problem.  To read the report, visit

When people think about smart growth, Orlando, Florida is not the first place that pops into people's head.  Orlando Mayor Glenda Hood is seeking to change that, and she spent her state-of-the-city address discussing the important role smart growth principles will play as Orlando's population continues to grow.

New Jersey
It has been said that after we shape our environment, "our environment shapes us."  Public architecture, at one time, reflected the importance society placed on its built environment.  Since World War II much of America's public architecture has reflected utilitarian rather than aesthetic qualities.  Bridges are often the signature architectural landmarks for cities both big and small.  New Jersey, to its credit, has begun a concerted effort to design its bridges with an increased emphasis on aesthetic and community design standards.

As sprawl development continues to leapfrog further and further away from the urban core, many of the people who moved to the "inner suburbs" encounter the same problems they thought they were leaving; decaying infrastructure, diminished tax base, poor schools, etc.  To combat this cyclical trend, a group of northeastern Ohio cities have formed the Northeast Ohio First Suburbs Consortium to attract people and businesses back, and stem the hemorrhaging of those that continue to leave.

In a state known for its many and fiercely independent municipalities, regional planning has gained popularity amongst elected officials as a strategy to prevent farmland loss and sprawl.  North Whitehall Township has joined six other towns in northern Lehigh County to form a regional plan.  Regional planning is especially difficult in Pennsylvania with 2,568 municipalities in 67 counties, but when Gov. Tom Ridge signed "Growing Smarter" legislation in June, Pennsylvania joined a chorus of other states encouraging their municipalities to work together for more coordinated land use planning.

The Washington Public Interest Research Group released "Breaking the Gridlock:  Real Solutions for Transportation Problems" in coordination with their "Unlock the Gridlock:  No on I-745" campaign.  I-745 is an initiative in Washington State this fall which, if enacted, would require 90% of all transportation funding to be directed toward roads.  A large coalition of public officials, businesses and activists believe this will be a turn away from increased transportation choices and encourage more driving and gridlock.  To read the report, visit and to learn more about the I-745 see Sprawl Watch's "Election 2000" section at

Washington, DC Metropolitan Region
The Forest Conservation Council and Friends of the Earth warned the Small Business Administration (SBA) in a recently released report that it is violating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and its own regulations by failing to disclose and mitigate the effects of its lending programs on urban sprawl in the Greater Washington D.C. metropolitan area.  According to FCC and FoE, the SBA is fueling urban sprawl by providing hundreds of millions of dollars for new businesses located in sprawling, low density suburbs without considering how these actions impact the environment and contribute to urban sprawl.  To view the official complaint, see, and to see the map indicating where the $391 million in SBA loans have gone to in the DC area, visit

A group of landowners in Loudoun County, the Washington area's fastest growing county, have sued the county for its slow-growth policies.  County supervisors fear that the two lawsuits—both dealing with growth controls around the small town of Hamilton—will set a precedent for increased litigation as they seek to increase growth controls.

= = = New Releases = = =
Real Estate Investors Acknowledge Trend Away From Traditional Suburbs
Land Lease Real Estate Investments, a highly respected financial services company focused exclusively on real estate, each year releases its "Emerging Trends in Real Estate" report which advises investors on the direction of the real estate marketplace.  Continuing on a theme prevalent throughout much of the real estate literature over the last decade, the "Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2000" report repeatedly notes the frustration and emerging disinterest with traditional suburban development.  It goes on to list mass transportation as a "definite edge" for cities, and notes that "political tides are finally turning against sprawl, as quality-of-life issues force government officials to look at smart-growth controls and put the brakes on development."  To view the report, visit

Housing Affordability
The National Low Income Housing Coalition recently released their annual "Out of Reach" report containing income and rental housing cost data for the fifty states and District of Columbia by state, metropolitan area and county.  For each, it calculates the income that renter households need in order to afford rental housing and estimates how many of these households cannot afford to pay the Fair Market Rent (FMR), and what they would need to earn to pay the rent and keep their housing costs at 30 percent of their income, the generally accepted standard for affordability established by Congress and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  To view the report, see

= = = National News = = =
HUD Increasing Vouchers 
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo last month announced a new policy designed to help hundreds of thousands of low-income families keep pace with America’s booming economy. The new policy will increase the pool of apartments affordable to families receiving federal housing vouchers by 25% or more than 1.4 million units nationwide.  By increasing the Fair Market Rent in these communities, more than 1.4 million additional apartments will become affordable to families receiving Section 8 rental assistance.

Journalism Supporting Smart Growth
By virtually any measure of civic energy, public attention and media prominence, one of the most promising social movements in the United States is the grass roots effort to tame sprawl, rebuild cities, and conserve farmland and open space. In recent months, though, Smart Growth has been attacked as elitist, racist, unnecessary, a challenge to private property rights, economically damaging, and a waste of time.  In response, the Michigan Land Use Institute established the Elm Street Writers Group, a communications project to syndicate articles by a select corps of nationally prominent writers whose work has played a significant role in advancing growth management goals.  The project is specifically designed to quickly counter critics and simultaneously build public support for Smart Growth by preparing 15 exciting, penetrating and readable opinion pieces on land use and sprawl in the coming year.  To read the most recent Elm Street article about Pennsylvania Republican Gov. Tom Ridge's support for smart growth, please visit