Growth control is in bad odor in the urban studies literature. It is associated with NIMBYism, exclusion of lower-income people from suburbs, and the desire to enjoy the benefits of urban life without having to help pay for them. It has been argued that growth controls drive up the price of housing; by limiting the locational options available to developers (Babcock and Bosselman 1973; Mallach 1984; Fischel 1990; Logan and Zhou 1989), they shift the costs of development from one community to another (Rosen and Katz 1981) and exclude the poor from suburbs (Downs 1988).
Perhaps the most damning indictment of growth controls comes From Baldassare (1986, chap. 3), who dissects the apparently confused thinking of its advocates. Growth limitations, he noted, tended to gain support for environmental reasons from higher-status suburban residents and for economic reasons from lower-status, more fiscally conservative residents. People who did not work favored limits on roads; others wanted limits on industry, apartments, or high-rises. "Yet growth per se had little influence on these attitudes, as evidenced in weak relationships between city growth rates and government attitudes, public service ratings and perceived rapid growth" (Baldassare 1986, 99). In short, Baldassare's study appears to suggest that support for growth limitations is more apparent than real because there is no commonality of either motivations or objectives among its supporters.
Baldassare's (1986) data offer interesting insights into the thought processes of his respondents, but insofar as they are to be interpreted as a comment on growth management, they are less than helpful. Given the way the study is structured, it is hard to see how the respondents could have avoided appearing wrongheaded and disorganized. Baldassare's public opinion survey (Baldassare 1986, 211-30) and his methodology for extracting data load the dice in favor of a conclusion that his respondents are confused by offering highly differentiated reasons for their opinions while defining the subject of his enquiry very broadly. A category as broad as "growth limitations" takes in a wide variety of possible policies and even more possible reasons for them. It all but goes without saying that people are likely to have a lot of different reasons for supporting one or another of the measures, and their various reasons, taken together, will contain contradictions. A more differentiated approach to the subject is needed if one is to reach useful conclusions.
In this article, I begin by defining a cluster of approaches to control that avoid some of the most obvious pitfalls. Taking a cue from Oregon's planning system--undoubtedly the most thoroughgoing and best-established system of growth control in North America (DeGrove 1992; Abbott, Howe, and Adler 1994; Hales 1991; Knaap and Nelson 1992; Leonard 1983; Leo 1998)--I call it regional growth management (RGM). Its concern is the management of growth, not the fool's errand of trying to stop it.
My purpose, however, is not to engage in an abstract planning exercise but to initiate a discussion of the political feasibility--in North America, generally--of RGM. The time for such a discussion has arrived because a new body of evidence, now accumulating rapidly, suggests that the political balance of forces, which previously tilted decisively against growth management, may be beginning to shift. I will consider the elements of that shift, discuss the reasons for it, and try to decide whether, on balance, it is enough to make a serious difference. To keep the argument on track, it is important to stress that it is not my intention to make a case for RGM. That job has already been done--insofar as a controversial case can ever be deemed to have been satisfactorily made--by Blais (1995), Downs (1994), Rusk (1993), DeGrove (1992), Knaap and Nelson (1992), Leonard (1983), Mantell, Harper, and Propst (1990), and others. My purpose is twofold: (1) to establish a distinction between growth control and RGM and (2) to examine and assess the significance of the apparently shifting balance of power vis-a-vis this issue in North America while seeking some insight into the political dynamics of the issue.
ELEMENTS OF REGIONAL GROWTH MANAGEMENT
Meaningful metropolitan-wide growth management is a far more ambitious undertaking than local growth control. It involves the attempt to set out rules for development that are designed to preserve the livability, viability, and attractiveness of an entire urban area--especially the inner city--from deterioration as suburban and exurban areas expand. Necessarily, such a venture is far-reaching and difficult, involving the achievement of a complex set of political trade-offs that, together, address the conditions for the vitality and health of the metropolitan area. These conditions necessarily include a concern with inner-city and suburban communities, as well as rural areas beyond city limits, that have inherently far-ranging environmental and social considerations. Furthermore, as Baldassare's (1986) study implies, its aim must be not to stop growth but to accommodate it where it is occurring while checking its destructive potential. Portland, Oregon, has achieved a relatively rigorous version of such a system (Leo 1998), and an even more comprehensive approach is proposed by Orfield (1997). However, I will not limit my investigation to any particular system or proposed system. Instead, I will define a range of possible approaches.
Experience in Portland and elsewhere suggests that metropolitan growth management measures require either some combination of taxes and charges designed to create the necessary incentives for balanced metropolitan growth, restrictions on where growth can take place, or both. But that is not the end of the matter. It also appears that such measures cannot retain the political support necessary to implement them unless they are combined with other measures designed to ensure diversification of housing locations and types.
In Portland, for example, a crucial element in the establishment and maintenance of RGM was a decision by environmentalists to match their support for a growth boundary on the urban periphery with opposition to restrictions on the development of mixed-income and higher-density housing within the growth boundary. That brought developers onside by convincing them that growth management could become an instrument for promoting housing development, not just an obstacle (Leonard 1983; Leo 1998). Urban sprawl has been driven in large part by the fact that it accommodates both developers looking for business opportunities and consumers looking for favorably located housing at moderate prices. The limitation of sprawl, therefore, necessarily involves ensuring that ample opportunity remains for the provision and acquisition of suitable housing.
For purposes of this study, therefore, metropolitan growth management is defined as including policy measures in the following categories:
* Suburban and exurban growth controls of either or both of two types:
* Development charges and/or taxation measures designed to provide incentives for cost-effective patterns of urban growth (Blais 1995). This would involve raising the relative cost of low-density, single-use development at the urban fringe and lowering that of more compact, mixed-use development within the city.
* Measures that would have the effect of forbidding costly dispersal of urban development, as well as forestalling environmental problems and conflicts between agriculture and urban development. Such measures could range from a comprehensive growth boundary on the Oregon model, through zoning controls designed to protect agricultural land and/or environmentally sensitive areas from development to a case-by-case review of subdivision applications by provincial or state officials or an appointed board.
* Diversification of housing locations and types: the easing of a variety of restrictions on the development of housing to permit more compact forms of development and more mixed-use developments, including some restraint on the kind of NIMBYism that resists compact and mixed-use development in established neighborhoods. A further step would be a systematic rewriting of the zoning code to encourage mixed-use development, as opposed to just permitting it.
I have defined RGM in such a way as to allow for a range of possible measures. Nowhere are all of them invoked. Even Portland does not include development charges or taxation measures in its system of RGM. Nor has it revamped its zoning system to provide systematic incentives for mixed-use development, an omission that is regarded by some observers as a major flaw in the Oregon approach but one that has not prevented Oregon from being recognized as a pioneer.
It is not my suggestion, therefore, that all the elements on my list must be in place for a planning system to be called "regional growth management." Indeed, much less than the full list will do, and the full list may be too much. The essential elements are that the management scheme be regional in scope; provide for cost-effective, environmentally sound development; and contain provisions designed to prevent the demand for housing from outpacing supply--in other words, that it offer at least the potential of avoiding the major objections to growth control: NIMBYism, the shifting of costs from one jurisdiction to another, the escalation of housing prices, and the exclusion of lower-income people from the suburbs.
SOURCES OF POLITICAL SUPPORT
Oregon--especially the Portland metropolitan area--offers the clearest demonstration of possibilities for the achievement of RGM. Investigation of the Oregon example also yields interesting hints as to the possible sources of political support for such a venture. Already in the 1960s in Oregon, advocates of farmland protection were agitating for measures to prevent the loss of prime agricultural land to sprawl. In 1967, the chambers of commerce of the Willamette Valley, which includes the metropolitan Portland area, sponsored a conference on land use and chose a farmland protection advocate as their keynote speaker (Abbott and Howe 1993).
Subsequent legislative initiatives won the support of Republican Governor Tom McCall, a charismatic speaker and ardent environmentalist. The environmental impetus later found organizational expression in 1000 Friends of Oregon, a dogged interest group that took up the cudgels for growth management. These three groups--farmers, businesspeople, and Environmentalists--became the key sources of support for growth management in Oregon and proved to be the main players in the process of generating and maintaining the necessary public support. The state government, together with Portland local government bodies, went on to formulate and implement the most wide-ranging and thoroughgoing set of measures in North America for the control of metropolitan growth (DeGrove 1992, 164; Knaap And Nelson 1992).
It is important to emphasize that the establishment of RGM in Oregon is neither seamless nor flawless, and it was not achieved in an atmosphere of harmony and consensus. As Robert Liberty, executive director of 1000 Friends of Oregon, said recently, "If it was a tea party, we buttered our toast with axes" (American Architectural Foundation 1996). Like any outcome of hard political bargaining, Oregon's growth management system is vulnerable to a variety of criticisms. For example, it has been argued that the limitation of sprawl is little more than perfunctory; in fact, sprawl development continues undeterred by the growth boundary and, indeed, beyond it. It also has been suggested that the boundary has driven up the cost of housing or will drive it up. Finally, it is argued that political support for growth management is paper thin and that the boundary is maintained only by a barrage of lawsuits launched by supporters.
The evidence on these questions is mixed. Sprawl development has certainly not been ended either in the Willamette Valley or in the rest of Oregon. In a political compromise that was particularly painful to environmentalists, areas already platted for residential development before the growth boundary was drawn were declared "exceptional areas," within which large-lot residential development was and is allowed to continue. Therefore, the growth boundary not only does not prevent sprawl, it leaks. However, a variety of evidence supports that average development densities within the Portland metropolitan area are substantially on the increase. And the Metropolitan Housing Rule, adopted in 1981, has made serious inroads on municipal zoning restrictions that excluded lower-income and higher- density housing (Hales 1991; Knaap and Nelson 1992; Leo 1998; Ehrenhalt 1997; Leonard 1983, 104).
On the question of whether there has been an increase in the cost of housing, the evidence is mixed as well. Upward pressure on the cost of housing resulting from the growth boundary is balanced more or less well, depending on whom one asks, by the favorable impact of eased restrictions on the development of higher-density, moderate-income housing within the boundary, understood development rules, rapid response to development proposals, and ample supplies of developable land within the growth boundary (Hales 1991; Knaap and Nelson 1992; Downs 1994, 127).
In recent boom years, the cost of housing has been sharply on the rise in Portland. Opponents of the growth boundary like to point out that Portland land prices, which were 19% below the U.S. average in 1985, were 6% above it in 1994, and Portland has gone from being the 55th most affordable city to a ranking of 165th out of 179. They are less likely, however, to make the point that housing prices in some cities without growth boundaries have risen even more sharply than those in Portland (Ehrenhalt 1997). Indeed, the question of how much of Portland's increase is attributable to the growth boundary and how much stems from the city's prosperity is in dispute.
As to political support for RGM, there is no doubt that the system is the subject of …