Town Planning Review

Sustainable development in American planning: A critical appraisal

Town Planning Review (2006), 77, (1), 99–126.

Abstract

This paper provides a critical review of sustainable development practice in US town planning. Sustainability has become intellectually embedded in American planning, but implementation and practice remains problematic. Little attention has been given to the institutional context in which sustainable development planning takes place. Few cities have attempted to develop and implement a broad-based sustainable development programme. Those that have, most notably Portland, Oregon and Santa Monica, California, have fallen short of their goals and their progress has been uneven. This reflects fundamental flaws in the sustainable development framework, including a lack of appreciation for economic markets and their ability to efficiently allocate resources in an intertemporal setting, a failure to recognise the role technology plays in changing relative resource endowments at any given time, and a failure to appreciate the complexity and dynamics of urban communities. Sustainable development practice would be improved if planners would take account of these weaknesses and recognise town planning's inherent inability to manage urban settlements as comprehensively as the sustainable development framework implies.

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Author details

Staley, Samuel