Academic journal article UCLA Journal of Environmental Law & Policy

Environment in Context

Academic journal article UCLA Journal of Environmental Law & Policy

Environment in Context

Article excerpt



The interrelationship of problems locally requires a holistic understanding prior to the initiation of public policies.(1) Sprawl, crime, the disappearance of open space, lack of adequate affordable housing, gridlock, unequal access to educational opportunities, and urban decay ought not be assessed and addressed in isolation. Incrementalism,(2) a hallmark of governments and their policies, contributes to the existence of these problems and hinders the formulation and implementation of public policies designed to correct them.

There is voluminous literature analyzing these problems at the local level (particularly within metropolitan areas). However, scholars and practitioners disagree about the nature of the problems, their causes, and possible solutions. Differing views are presented by Gerald Frug in City Making, Charles Haar in Suburbs under Siege, and contributors to an edited volume published by the Urban Land Institute ("ULI") entitled Smart Growth. Professors Frug and Haar both have extensive experience as practicing attorneys in addition to their current roles as professors at Harvard Law School. The contributors to the ULI volume are planning and policy practitioners.

City Making is the most theoretical of the three books.(3) A lesser proportion of Suburbs under Siege is theoretical; however, Professor Haar concludes that the events analyzed in the book provide evidence to support certain theoretical propositions and rebut others.(4) The focus of Smart Growth is upon the development of "smart growth" as a concept in planning and law.(5) Contributions to the volume are descriptive but not theoretical.

In this review, I examine the approaches of each book to local problems with particular reference to the environment. None of the books is about environmental law and policy per se, and the only book that prominently features environmental law and policy is Smart Growth. Nevertheless, all three have important implications for scholars and practitioners of environmental law and policy. Together the three books demonstrate the interrelationship of seemingly disparate fields of public policy alluded to above.



Identifying the critical problem or problems that plague communities in the United States is not a simple task. There is not agreement on this issue, although common ground does exist among the authors of Smart Growth, City Making, and Suburbs under Siege. ULI has formulated an explanation that is arguably most widely accepted.

   In the suburbs, the problems are urban sprawl, loss of open space and
   farmland, growing traffic congestion, absence of a sense of place, crowded
   schools, and air pollution resulting from auto dependence. In the central
   cities and older inner suburbs, the traditional problems of crime, blight,
   unemployment, poor schools, and poor quality housing remain.(6)

Whether these problems identified by ULI are problems or the symptoms of underlying problems (or both) is not necessarily evident.(7)

Professor Frug provides a more parsimonious description of the problem. "Every American metropolitan area is now divided into districts that are so different from each other they seem to be different worlds."(8) The problem, according to Professor Frug, is the segregation of the United States. This segregation does not simply occur along racial lines--it emanates from a fear of other.(9) The other may be differentiated on the basis of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or more ephemeral attributes such as living arrangements or dress. We know the other when we see her and, as Professor Frug states, "[w]e all know where we belong."(10)

Professor Haar provides an even more pointed description of the problem that communities face. "No domestic issue is more troubling to American society today than the economic and social division between the races. …

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