Sustainable Communities or the Next Urban Renewal?

56 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2020 Last revised: 1 Feb 2021

See all articles by Moira O'Neill

Moira O'Neill

Center for Law, Energy, and the Environment; Columbia University - Sabin Center for Climate Change Law

Giulia Gualco-Nelson

Columbia University - Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation

Eric Biber

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law

Date Written: February 5, 2020

Abstract

California has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) to address climate change. But in California, the sector that produces the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions is transportation, and reducing those emissions depends on reducing total vehicle miles traveled (VMT). And that, in turn requires rebuilding urban and suburban areas in California to become less car-centered and more oriented around mass-transit and walkable neighborhoods: transit-oriented infill development (TOD). Critiques of the transition from sprawl to TOD raise concerns that TOD is pushing low-income communities out of our urban core and into to exurban areas. A key question is the role of local versus state control over land use in addressing the dual challenges of climate change and the state’s housing crisis. To address this debate, we built a first-of-its-kind data set that examines entitlement, or the local approval process to obtain a building permit, in relationship to present day zoning as well as historical discriminatory land use policy. We find that local government choices about zoning reflect past racial discrimination around land use, directing dense TOD almost entirely into neighborhoods that were subject to those discriminatory practices.

Keywords: land use, local government, zoning, housing

Suggested Citation

O'Neill, Moira and Gualco-Nelson, Giulia and Biber, Eric, Sustainable Communities or the Next Urban Renewal? (February 5, 2020). 47.4 Ecology Law Quarterly, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3532672

Moira O'Neill (Contact Author)

Center for Law, Energy, and the Environment ( email )

Berkeley Law
390 Simon Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.law.berkeley.edu/research/clee/about/people/moira-oneill/

Columbia University - Sabin Center for Climate Change Law ( email )

Jerome Greene Hall
435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://climate.law.columbia.edu/

Giulia Gualco-Nelson

Columbia University - Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation ( email )

New York, NY
United States

Eric Biber

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law ( email )

215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

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