newsletter archive
Sprawl Watch
Volume 2, Number 17- September 28, 2000
The Sprawl Watch Clearinghouse has published its first monograph on growth issues in gateway communities “The Last Best Places: The Impacts of Sprawl on Gateway Communities in the American West.”  The first in a series the Clearinghouse will publish, the monograph reviews the unique challenges to gateway communities in the context of land use and sprawl.  "Last Best Places" addresses the economic incentives in place that encourage growth in gateway communities, the attendant environmental impacts, and social and quality of life issues such as rapidly changing demographics, congestion, overcrowding, and inadequate provision of public services due to costs of provision.  The piece also offers a 'what’s working and what’s not' review of projects currently in place that address the problem of gateway community growth.  To order a copy, please contact

Up-To-Date Initiative List
Sprawl Watch Clearinghouse has been tracking state and local initiatives qualifying for the Fall 2000 ballot that address sprawl.  These may include public bonds for open space and farmland purchases and easements, sales tax increases for public transit, funding for brownfield redevelopment, etc.  Please visit  to view our current list.
If you know of other relevant initiatives not listed, please contact

= = = State and Local News = = =
The Tri-Valley region of the San Francisco Bay Area, located in the eastern section of Contra Costa County, has long been known for its windmills along Altamont Pass, nuclear research in Livermore, and idyllic, golden rolling hills.  Many in the Bay Area know it now for some of the worst traffic in the region.  The Tri-Valley, straddling the junction of the heavily traveled I-680 and I-580, is repeating some of the worst mistakes of the Silicon Valley with a combination of auto-dependent low-density development and chronic lack of affordable housing. 

Delaware Street Commons, a project of the Lawrence Cohousing Group, will be the first cohousing development in Kansas.  Cohousing, a type of residential development where a cluster of homes is centered around a common house, began in Denmark in the late 1960's and is beginning to make inroads here as well.  The development fits in well with the smart growth goals of the local government, which seeks to have more people living in or near the city center, as it neighbors Lawrence's vibrant downtown.
To learn more about cohousing, along with existing and planned developments near you, visit

New Jersey
New Jersey Governor Christine Whitman has proposed a series of initiatives designed to encourage infill development.  Gov. Whitman, much praised for her goal of saving a million acres from development, says it is also "vital to our quality of life to take care in how we use, reuse, maintain, and improve the other 4 million acres we share."

Light Rail Now, the leading organization working to pass Austin's upcoming light-rail initiative this November, has put together a highly informative and useful website  Although tailor made for the Austin campaign, there is a wealth of information for people involved with other transit campaigns nationally, and others interested in how rail transportation can benefit a region economically, socially and environmentally.

Washington, DC Metropolitan Region
Pedestrian concerns have never been the highest priority for State Departments of Transportation or County Planning Departments nationwide.  However, thanks both to changes in federal transportation law allowing for increased local control over transportation expenditures (ISTEA and TEA-21) and increased citizen activism for pedestrian safety, walking is slowly becoming a more acknowledged, and funded, transportation mode by planners and engineers.

One of the many ways sprawl is subsidized is through the extension of public services (roads, sewage, electricity, etc.) further and further away from existing infrastructure (development impact fees rarely cover these expenses).  As such, many of the most contentious battles over growth happen not in city council chambers, but in rural water districts, municipal utility districts, and other public entities that maintain public infrastructure and provide community services.  The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District has proposed a "policy direction" of limiting some suburban sewer hookups and making approval conditional on proximity to a developed area and the ability to serve more than one community.

The urban renewal projects of the 1960's and 1970's wiped out much of what was special and unique about American cities.  Some lucky cities escaped the worst of the wrecking ball.  One such city, Racine, Wisconsin on the coast of Lake Michigan, has discovered that it is this very uniqueness, which is seen by many as key to its successful renaissance.

= = = New Releases = = =
Preservation Bill
In an analysis of 870,000 homes that could benefit from the passage of the Historic Homeownership Assistance Act, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has
found that nearly three out of five are within historic districts with a poverty level of more than 20 percent.  National Trust officials said the analysis demonstrates the legislation would aid a broad segment of society and called for its enactment this fall.
The legislation would establish an income tax credit (up to 20 percent of the cost of rehabilitation) for homeowners who rehabilitate or purchase newly rehabilitated historic homes as their primary residences.
To review other federal legislation relating to smart growth, please visit

Heritage Rebut
The Heritage Foundation released a report criticizing the National Governors' Association's report "Growing Pains:  Quality of Life in the New Economy".  The report titled "Growing Pains:  The NGA's Flawed Report on Sprawl" argues the approaches recommended by the NGA rely too heavily on federal intervention.  To read the report, visit 
To read the National Governors' Association's report, please visit

Brookings Study on Growth in Phoenix
Arizona State University's Morrison Institute for Public Policy has released a report on the major growth trends and challenges facing the Phoenix region. "Hits and Misses: Fast Growth in Metropolitan Phoenix" is a preview of the work they are doing on part of the Urban Center Metropolitan Initiative Case Study project at the Center for Urban Metropolitan Policy and the Brookings Institute.  To read either the executive summary or the full report, visit

= = = National News = = =
Wilderness and Sprawl
Many experts see sprawl development as the leading threat to America's remaining wilderness areas.  This was the consensus at the Wilderness 2000 conference in Denver, CO which brought together land managers, scientists, and advocacy groups to discuss the fate of our shrinking and fragmented wilderness as recreation demands increase.

Sprawl and the 2000 Election
Though taxes, education and health care dominate much of campaign rhetoric from the Presidential and Senatorial campaigns, many House—and a few Senate—races have sprawl front and center, especially in the valued suburban "swing" districts.  Although many have historically considered land use a local issue, candidates are discussing possible federal assistance to promote mass transit, purchase open space, and redevelop brownfields among other programs to address sprawl.

Transit Vote
A broad based coalition of transportation, environmental, citizen groups, unions and policy organizations have joined together to sponsor TRANSIT VOTE, a campaign to involve transit riders in the electoral process. Organizations in 11 states are conducting voter registration and education campaigns in over 20 cities between now and the November 7 election day.  To learn more about Transit Vote and how you can get involved, visit

Sprawl Watch
Volume 2, Number 16 - September 14, 2000

Sprawl Watch Clearinghouse hosted a successful and very well attended commendation ceremony for our Smart Suburbia Design Exploration on September 13 with Maryland Governor Parris Glendening as the award presenter.  Also in attendance were Maryland State Delegate Peter Franchot, Syllabus coordinator and architect Travis Price, and Dean Greg Hunt of the School of Architecture and Planning at The Catholic University of America (CUA).  Initiated by Sprawl Watch Clearinghouse, the goal of the Summer 2000 semester program and competition was to explore a new design language for redesigning older suburban communities and providing an incentive for students to think differently about design and how it affects our daily lives.  The study site for the semester was the Silver Spring Triangle in Silver Spring, Maryland.  To learn more about the event, please visit

= = = State and Local Information = = =
City officials in Oxnard, CA are set to begin a program to provide incentives for developers who build new homes or offices on vacant lots in blighted neighborhoods within the city, as opposed to the outlying agricultural areas.  The plan is viewed by many as a logical progression from the Save our Open Space and Agricultural Resources (SOAR) initiative that passed here two years ago which, in addition to preventing farmland loss and sprawl development, was intended to encourage infill development.
A very similar initiative to SOAR is currently proposed in neighboring San Luis Obispo County  To learn about other smart growth related initiatives that have qualified for the Fall 2000 ballot, please visit

Maine Governor Angus King (I) lent his support for a $184 million redevelopment plan for Bangor's industrial waterfront and downtown.  The plan, utilizing $144 million and $40 million in private and public funds respectively, will incorporate housing, business, and recreation along 36-acres on a 1-mile stretch of the Penobscot River.  The Governor was in town attending a meeting of the Smart Growth Forum, an ad hoc group consisting of planners, town and state officials and businesses that looks at ways to balance ecology and development in the state.

South Carolina
The American Civil Liberties Union may sue Richland County over their proposed county land-use plan which, they claim, could violate the federal voting rights act and discriminate against minorities.  The county claims the plan is designed to stem urban sprawl by preventing development on the urban fringe and encouraging development in the existing urban area.

Southern Rocky Mountains
The Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project released a report entitled "The State of the Southern Rockies Ecoregion".  The report finds sprawl to be the greatest threat to the ecological health of the Southern Rockies "bioregion" as a whole.  To view the report, please visit

= = = New Releases = = =
The Best and Worst of Sprawl
The Sierra Club released "Smart Choices and Sprawling Growth: A 50-State Survey of
Development," which singles out good and bad development across the country and shows that there are alternatives to more sprawl. The good news is that innovative communities and forward-thinking developers are finding better, smarter ways to grow. The state-by-state examples in the report demonstrate that successful, practical solutions to suburban sprawl exist.  To view the report, please visit

GAO Report
The General Accounting Office (GAO) released a report entitled "Local Growth Issues—Federal Opportunities and Challenges".  The GAO surveyed nearly 2000 city and county governments and visited five metropolitan areas.  This is the GAO's second report examining the influence of federal policies on patterns of growth.  The first report, issued in April 1999, was based primarily on an evaluation of published studies and other publicly available information examining the link between federal policies and urban sprawl.   The GAO commissioned the report at the behest of Senate Smart Growth Task Force co-chairs Sen. Carl Levin and Sen. James Jeffords along with House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bud Shuster and Rep. Deana DeGette.  To view the report, please visit 

= = = Events = = =
Conference on Smart Growth and the Law
The George Washington University Center on Sustainability and Regional Growth is hosting its inaugural conference on September 21 in Washington, DC on "Smart Growth and the Law."  The one-day summit will bring together the top experts in the field to explore the key legal issues associated with smart growth.  It is designed for lawyers and non-lawyers alike.  For more information and to register, see