December 26, 2010
Tarlock on Land Use Regulation as the Weak Link in Environmental Protection
A. Dan Tarlock (Chicago-Kent) has posted Land Use Regulation: The Weak Link in Environmental Protection, Washington Law Review, Vol. 82, No. 651 (2007). The abstract:
Professor William Rodgers is one of the handful of legal academics who have shaped and influenced environmental law since it was created out of whole cloth in the late 1960s. The staggering quantity, quality, breadth, and creativity of his scholarship are perhaps unrivaled among his peers. It is easy to criticize the gap between the environmental problems that society faces and the inadequate legal tools and institutions that we have created to confront them. Professor Rodgers has always been able to see both the deep flaws in environmental law and the possibilities for more responsive legal regimes.
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I am always astonished by the persistence of the myth that what environmentalists want is dense urbanism and what developers want is more and more suburbia. It is the kind of urban legend that makes its way into academic papers unchallenged, but shouldn't. In fact there is huge appetite on the part of developers to urbanize inner ring suburbs, add walkable mixed use projects to former industrial and waterfront areas, etc., and there is huge resistance to the same, often on ecological grounds, by environmentalists. Take Marin and San Mateo Counties, not known for being hostile to nominal environmentalism. Yet they locate their working class in remote, hot places that can't be survived without air conditioning and are only accessible by car -- all so that their cities can remain resolutely suburban! American suburbia is the greatest ecological catastrophe in human history, and yet everywhere with any sort of environmental politics (CA, WA, OR, CT, MD, NJ) is defiantly, overwhelmingly suburban, even in the teeth of market forces pushing for something less atrocious. Tarlock kind of misses this, as if the lack of urban environments in the US is the result of some vague hostility to Europe and European integrated, orderly imaginary Europeanness. We have also apparently insufficiently empowered the people who decry sprawl while living in the seven-figure suburban ruins of orchards. You wouldn't find one builder, architect, engineer, developer, or banker in a hundred who wouldn't gladly trade the ability to do suburban subdivisions for urban infill -- and you are lucky to find one out of a hundred Sierra Club members who correctly realize just how urgent it is that their railway suburb be bulldozed and replaced with an affordable urban environment.
Posted by: Anon | Dec 27, 2010 12:24:11 AM