Suburban Land Conversion in the United States: An Economic and Governmental Process

By Marion Clawson | Go to book overview

5
THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS IN URBAN EXPANSION

The decision-making process in urban expansion is highly complex and diverse. It is incredibly fragmented and diffused among a wide variety and large number of private individuals and organizations and among many public agencies at each of the major levels of government.1 Some decisions are made more or less by default, in the sense that agreement among the necessary parties cannot be achieved. For instance, a tract may be passed over in the suburbanization process because the owner, the possible builder, and the planner cannot agree.

The size of the unit for which decisions are made varies also. Sometimes the decision unit is a single house, as when a potential buyer is considering purchase of a home or a lending agency is considering a loan to a buyer. Sometimes it is a subdivision or development, as when a builder is contemplating a project or a planner is considering a land use zone. Increasingly, the unit of decision-making is growing larger. Even the home buyer tends to consider the neighborhood as well as, and perhaps as much as, the house itself.


ROLE OF THE DEVELOPER

A description of the decision-making process in urban expansion could begin almost anywhere because it must always get back to the starting place. That starting place seems often to be the developer, though it must be said that he himself starts with a background of personal knowledge or the experience of others in the remainder of the process.

To take a piece of raw land, lay it out into building lots and streets, install needed services such as sewers and water lines, erect houses or apartments, and sell or rent them to occupants is obviously a complex and highly involved process, or series of processes. For simplicity's sake, this chapter will consider these processes as all carried out by a single firm, to be called "developer." But several persons or firms -- land assembler, broker, site planner, builder, subcontractor, sales agent among them -- might also be involved with the developer. A variety of such specialists might work together on some basis to carry out some or all the processes here

____________________
1
The National Commission on Urban Problems, both in its report, Building the American City ( U.S. Government Printing Office, 1968) and in its five volumes of Hearings and in extensive research reports has assembled and published a great deal of useful information directly relevant to this chapter.

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