Over on Environmental Economics, there’s an interesting review of what looks like an interesting book: Zoned Out: Regulation, Markets, and Choices in Transportation and Metropolitan Land Use, by Jonathan Levine. It directly addresses some of the questions raised in this much-discussed post on new urbanism.

Here’s how it starts:

For much of the country, the debate over sprawl and smart growth takes the form of contrasting what people want to do — live in detached houses with large yards in the suburbs — with what people ought to do — live compactly in cities. Everyone takes this framework for granted: for good or ill, the free market drives sprawl. Opponents of sprawl decry developers and the rampant free market and call for governments to do something about it. Defenders of sprawl praise the American dream of home ownership and the free market system that makes it.

In Zoned Out, Jonathan Levine argues that everyone is wrong. … Levine views discussion of the free market in land use as a fool’s errand: land use is one of the most highly regulated markets in the country. Zoned Out, then, is Levine’s extended argument that we live in a world where sprawl is the outcome of planning failure, even though we act as if we live in a world where sprawl is the result of market failure (or, if you swing that way, market success). …

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His argument attacks three traditions. First is research into the connection between transportation and land use. Second is research into the economics of land use and zoning. … Third is the legal tradition treating zoning as a local property right (the right to an urban form rather than just a style of house) rather than as an exercise of the police power (regulation in pursuit of public health and welfare) delegated from the states to cities.

Interesting stuff. I really should read a book or two on new urbanism and urban planning. Anybody got any recommendations?

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