|Virtual Lecture (Real Audio format)|
|Transcript of Lecture|
|Discussion List (Professor Buzbee will participate from April 3 - April 7).|
Biography: After graduation from Columbia Law School, Professor Buzbee clerked for Judge Jose A.Cabranes, then of the United States District Court, District of Connecticut. Professor Buzbee then served as a fellow practicing public interest environmental law for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Prior to coming to Emory, he practiced in New York City with the firm of Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler doing environmental and litigation work. Professor Buzbee has published articles on environmental law and administrative law topics. He teaches environmental law, administrative law, property, land use, and seminars on advanced environmental law issues, urban environmental law, and regulatory reform.
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Well, I want to thank Steve and Mercer Law School for this opportunity, and I'm also especially impressed that every day, Steve tells me, y'all have football outside, barbeque, iced tea, and the sun shining. So that's particularly impressive. [Editor's note: Professor Buzbee presented his talk at Mercer on a day that the Law School held a Student/Faculty Picnic on the lawn in front of the school.]
What I'm going to do is talk, today, about sprawl dynamics and policy, and, in particular, add, to the article excerpts I believe some of you have read, some discussion of ways in which durable green space can be created, even in the more dense urban sprawl scapes. Nevertheless, I will, in part so you all can ask questions and prove me wrong or strengthen my arguments, I will try to build primarily off of parts two and three of the Fordham Law Review article that I know some of you have read. I guess the, depending on your view, my pessimistic or optimistic view about urban form in America is that urban sprawl is an enduring feature and will be an enduring feature into the foreseeable future, but nevertheless, it is not my complete answer, and I think there are ways in which the legal system can resolve or address many of the ills of sprawl far better than today.
Now, for anyone who is not yet swamped by discussions of sprawl, which, as far as I can tell, are in the paper every other day now, I want to start by offering a definition of what I mean by sprawl. By sprawl I refer to kind of typical definition, which is a metropolitan area experiencing growth on the urban periphery, usually in low density single family homes, and usually covering a multiplicity of local government jurisdictions. An additional element of sprawl that's usually in the definition, but actually is not necessarily so, is that the sprawling periphery leaves behind an increasingly impoverished central city, so I'll give you two paradoxical thoughts.
The first paradoxical take on sprawl is that sprawl would be difficult, if not impossible, to stop and we, therefore, should throw federal money at the problem. And then, the second is that in this quintessentially local area of problem, this largely municipal issue, that we should be using federal, and perhaps state, dollars to create incentives and financial support for creation of durable green spaces, particularly in municipal parks. As those of you who have lived in, I guess, larger cities than Macon, and perhaps even larger than Atlanta, substantial green spaces often act as a node for development. They often reduce the blight of unmitigated sprawl and commercial development, and they also can be essential to reducing the environmental harms that are associated with sprawl. For those of you who are environmental law students, and I gather many of you are, the consensus among many experts, and I think I share this view, is that with all the efforts to protect the environment, some of the most significant harms to the environment are the unregulated harms of growth as it moves out. ... the displacing of green space and intrusions off and on a critical river and other green habitat. One thing you'll note as you look around at the sprawl scapes around America, and Atlanta clearly is among the quintessential sprawl spaces, but other cities such as you look at, Denver, perhaps Phoenix, ...Houston .... One of the major differences between the sprawling cities of the turn of this century and the turn of the last century, such as New York, Boston, Chicago, is the absence of substantial green spaces. If you look at the turn of the last century, and you read about someone like Olmstead, there are substantial parks created in many of these cities in that point in time. And yet today, you simply don't see that kind of growth occurring. And I'll try to develop why that's happening and how we can perhaps change some of the incentives.
First, let me just start by sketching out reasons we still see sprawl. Let me stop here. What I hope to do, in part so this is useful for you all and useful for me, is I'll try to go twenty minutes to a half an hour, and then stop, and you all can pepper me with questions, and tell me how the paper can work better and how I can address the sprawl problem further. So, basically, I'll go that route. But, if at any point any of you have questions, definitional sort, particularly if I say something that isn't familiar to you, please do raise your hand. And I guess the only thing Steve has asked me to do is to repeat the question so that, as it is distributed around to other schools, they'll understand what the question was. So, I really do welcome questions as I proceed.
Ok. So why do you see sprawl? I guess one thing that you all surely are aware is that much of the press focus on sprawl, as well as a fair bit of the scholarly focus on sprawl, points out its many attendant harms. And so, one question might say, well if this particular phenomenon causes so much harm, how come it still keeps on occurring? And I guess the first, and obvious, answer for anyone who has lived in the Southeast, or lived in suburbia, is that sprawl is not all harm. Sprawl both results from, and responds to, individual choice, as well as powerful institutional incentives of market and political actors. Basically, what's the big difference between the last century and this century, as we try to figure why cities developed as they had? The answer is a three letter word: car. ... The development of the car, and then the parkway and highway systems that follow closely on the heals of the car, have made a more sprawling urban form a possibility. Before that, it simply wasn't a possibility, except in those few cities that had substantial passenger trains.
Now, sprawl, as you see it today, certainly creates many benefits for individuals and citizens, both as citizens and as consumers, and there is no doubt that it results substantially from individual choice. If any of you have not read this book, I recommend to you Kenneth Jackson's book called Crabgrass Frontier. In that book, as well as in recent surveys done by an entity called the Biodiversity Project that conducted focus groups on sprawl, there was this incredibly broad-based desire for single family homes on culdesacs. What urban planners view as a nightmare seems to still be today what people often aspire to. I should add, at the end of the Biodiversity Project's recent focus groups [that] I had the pleasure, or the shock, I guess, of attending, at the tail end, the questioner conducting the focus group stepped back and said, "O.K., now let's change the picture," and started talking about some of the more congested sprawling cities, such as Atlanta, and the way they were going. Then people started to perhaps shift their focus and expressed some interest in different urban forms. But there is no doubt, whether you are looking across racial lines, economic lines, it was a really broadly shared interest in the suburban dream. And Crabgrass Frontier, as I mentioned, is perhaps the most significant work that tracks that desire over the last century.
Now, why is it that people like this? It's not just that people like homes in the suburbs. In most metropolitan areas, as you move away from the urban core, or at least the inner ring suburbs, what you get is more house and more land for less money. And for many people, it is equal to sweat equity. ... They may not be able to afford the big house, close in, but if they're willing to drive an extra fifteen minutes each way during the day, they may get a lot more house and a lot more yard. And study after study has found that to be the case. In addition, as some of you know, who have also lived in some of the older cities around the country, the urban core in many cities that are experiencing sprawl has some, I guess, what is called disamenities. That's what economists call it. I don't call it that. But the things such as ... crumbling infrastructure in many of these cities, brownfields, the old industrial sites that often have contamination and that are viewed as a blight. ... In many cities, you have much slower land use approvals. Even people who want to develop an urban area, either for new business or residential use, often encounter substantial roadblocks in the form of slow land use approvals. In addition, substandard education is often a concern. If anyone is interested, I am going to suggest another reading. .... Jerry Frug at Harvard has written a substantial number of articles, and a recent book called City Making, where he talks a lot about the reasons cities have developed as they do, and in particular, comes up with his own set of suggestions for how cities might become more vital. He doesn't focus on sprawl, but even he, who is a great advocate for the benefits of urban life, kind of runs through the many ways in which some of the older cities in America are viewed as unattractive by many.
Now, in addition to, perhaps, the individual desire for suburban homes, the benefits of sprawl also accrue to, and are the result of, powerful institutional incentives. Now, what do I mean by institutional incentives? I am saying, looking beyond people just in their individual hearts, but looking to the institutional context in which they work. And basically, sprawl is big business. For all of you who lived in Georgia before being students here, the Department of Transportation's many highway projects are big business. And they are all around the country. In addition, real estate development is also a huge business. Anyone who looks at new housing starts in the newspaper, you realize that this is a major barometer of economic health. Each time a highway is built, one predictable thing follows. Where a new highway goes, newly accessible land booms up in value. And so rumor has it that every time a highway is built in Georgia, shortly before that happened, people have acquired the land mysteriously and make a killing later. I don't know about that. That's what I have heard. So, new highway development doesn't just benefit those who build the highways, but all those who invest in real estate and who perhaps want to develop that real estate. In addition, at the federal level, federal transportation dollars have given ... the federal government substantial clout and leverage over state and local governments. Through transportation dollars, as you environmental gurus all know, the Clean Air Act is able to be enforced, primarily because of the leverage of the threat of cut off of Clean Air Act funds. And there are numerous ways in which transportation dollars are used as a conditional federal spending lever to get to, I guess, achieve, or advocate, other federal goals. In addition, why else do you see sprawl?
An institutional incentive that is widely shared by banks and homeowners is the federal mortgage interest deduction. I don't know how many of you own homes yet, but it's an important thing to many people. Actually, that pro-sprawl incentive is often stated. It made a lot more sense when urban centers tended to all be rented, and suburban homes were all purchased. Now, as many urban areas sell co-ops and condos, that differential is perhaps less caused by that. Yet, when you look at the urban form you see today, very often, it has resulted in the past from mortgage deductions not available to renters in the urban core. If any of you have followed the anti anti-sprawl literature, ...that is, a recent wave of scholars starting to say sprawl is good, we all love it, don't even touch it. Most recently, New York Times over the weekend had a piece from a Los Angeles urban planner. Every time there are proposals that would infringe upon the discretion upon those who have up to now made their living off of sprawl, there are major political road blocks thrown up. In particular, transportation infrastructure, companies and industries, and agencies, as well, tend to be unhappy about any constraints on the usual ways of doing business.
Now, let me stop one way and just point out one thing. In this discussion, as I think those of you who read portions of my paper will find, this is not a, well, maybe it sounds like, a pro-sprawl speech, the way it comes out now, but the sprawl is, clearly, in some sense, kind of too much of a good thing. ... The variety of housing options and development forms and urban forms. The diversity of forms is viewed by many as desirable. However, as you start having more and more sprawl, and further and further development that chokes up the city streets and highways, it begins to create substantial harms. I guess the... why would... shifting gears a little bit... why would local government, in particular, allow sprawl to continue occurring? In other words, if Atlanta is choking itself on sprawl, why would Atlanta and other jurisdictions not take affirmative steps to prevent it?
One obvious reason is that sprawl cuts across jurisdictions. That is, no single local government in almost any metropolitan area in the country has the power to address or stop sprawl. However, you do see, occasionally, both market and political corrections. I guess, again, drawing on Atlanta, since you all have perhaps at least visited there, if not reside there, and that is in several jurisdictions, Portland about 20 years ago, Atlanta perhaps today, the political climate and economic climate sometimes shifts when people begin to perceive a threat. So, what do you have in Atlanta? You have the new Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA), read about by everyone, and you know what that stands for. It stands for Give Roy Total Authority--is what it's referred to. [Editor's Note: Roy refers to Roy Barnes, Governor of Georgia]. No, it's the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, but which has substantially empowered the governor to take steps to address sprawl. And, you also begin to see, in Atlanta and other sprawling cities, some revitalization of urban cores, urban downtowns, as sprawl makes exurban living unpleasant.
Now, I'm going to just quickly whip through some of the harms of sprawl, because I think this is probably where most of you already have substantial knowledge. It's in the press so much. But, first, so what is wrong with sprawl? First, the destruction of green spaces and the attendant aesthetic losses are significant. In addition, for those of you who have studied things such as wetlands, river water quality, and air quality, as you get rid of green spaces, you very often very directly cause degradation of the surrounding environment in the sense of Bambi's environment, where animals can live and where fish and others can thrive. In addition, one of the reasons we begin to see some attacks on sprawl now is an uncommon linking of an agricultural interest as well as environmental interest. In many areas, farms that want to continue working as farms are finding themselves taxed essentially out of existence, as their tax appraisals go up, as they sit there in an urban area, yet want to carry out the farm. They simply have a tax burden they cannot carry and eventually sell off the property. In addition to state taxes [that] create substantial disincentives when your valuable land is assessed, the moment Mom or Dad the farmers die, the kids suddenly have a crushing estate tax burden.
In addition, clean air problems are perhaps the most significant and well-documented harms of sprawl. Automobile traffic is the main cause, in most metropolitan areas, of air pollution.... particularly as the major industrial infrastructure has shifted to places like Mexico. Cars have become the chief polluter, and even though cars run far cleaner today than they did just about--as recently as five years ago--but certainly far cleaner than when I was a kid--in 1842 ... the cars now are larger and they also, because of the increased number of cars and increased miles driven, are yet still adding substantially to sprawling cities' air pollution problems. In addition, as part of that, what they've found is that because it tends to be the urban core areas that suffer most from this pollution, there is substantial environmental injustice felt as the urban poor, very often, are bearing the brunt of the air pollution caused by the commuter traffic. And so, you have both a combination of Clean Air Act problems, often health problems such as asthma that is triggered often by ozone exposure, and then you have all the attendant societal costs of such pollution harms.
For those of you who follow the land use literature and literature coming from urban planning and political science, perhaps the greatest focus has been on the loss of urban vitality. As the urban core loses its population, and sometimes its businesses, very often the central urban area loses its artistic and cultural, and sometimes, business vitality. This is a source of great concern. In addition, for those who are concerned about political discourse, the absence of large common spaces, such as urban streets, where people can see each other, or parks. ... As you lose those spaces, very often you find political discourse grinds to a halt. Basically, viewing metropolitan regions as a whole, urban planners have documented pretty decisively that when you look at metropolitan regions, again, not the entire country where there are many undeveloped spaces, but metropolitan areas, from the viewpoint of local governments, sprawl is highly inefficient. The cost of infrastructure is very high, and also there are many harms that flow from sprawl, many of which do fall upon local governments in the end.
So then the question is, "So why do we still see sprawl?" I guess there are two things here. Now let me step a little more into why you see sprawl. One is that your classic collective action and commons dynamics that pervade environmental law are at play with the sprawl context. Basically, sprawls ills tend to be undercounted and unpaid for by those causing the harm. They're, basically, classic externalities. In addition, the benefits of sprawl, if you call them, tend to be exaggerated. So, you have a combination of potentially exaggerated benefits of sprawl and undercounting and lack of capture of the harms of sprawl. In addition, lest anyone is laboring under the misimpression that sprawl occurs just because of private preferences, much of the federal transportation funding and tax policies represent legal structures that affirmatively support sprawl. That we're not dealing with pre-government versus government intervention. There is already substantial government intervention that influences sprawl.
Since I know not all of you are environmental law students, when I say that sprawl results from commons, collective action and externality dynamics, what am I talking about here? Very simple model. ... Each citizen sees an individual gain in the single family home on the perimeter. Ok. Basically, it's the, you know, perfect house in the suburb. Just like in the movie Arlington Road. Have any of you seen that? Well, if you haven't, you'll appreciate it when you do see it. Similarly, each business profiting from sprawl-related construction, whether it's private or public, sees substantial private benefit from that development. In addition, citizens and businesses seek, in the political and market, for it to allow those interests to go. In addition, local governments, and here I recommend a book by Paul Peterson called City Limits. It points out local governments compete with each other, or engage in combat to attract new business and jobs. If any of you followed a few years before you were all in law school, a major battle among states to attract a new BMW plant up on the Georgia-Carolina border. That happens all the time. That is, businesses basically say "We will consider your jurisdiction for our corporate center and new industrial development," and local governments desperate to attract jobs and tax base, will pursue those businesses. And so, very often, local governments act in a way that Peterson calls a growth machine. That is, they will seek to grow whenever possible. In addition, for those who figure out what motivates governing officials, if you look at the economics and public choice literature, there is pretty firm both theoretical and empirical base to say that local governments in most governments like to be able to hand out jobs. That is, political patronage motivates a lot, to the extent things like highways can be built, it's not just the tax revenues and the real estate tax value that's created. Very often, jobs go with the mix.
Now, when I say there's a tragedy of the commons dynamic here, what am I talking about? Well as you see more building and sprawling investment, and as the collective harms of congestion are externalized, and at least only partially borne by those contributing to harms, these add up to substantial collective harms. But because they are borne in common, and they tend to be borne in a way that is small amounts by everyone, virtually no one has the intention to bring the nuisance suits that probably started this environmental law course. I'm sure many of you have brought lawsuits for that diesel truck that spewed fumes on you as you're walking down the street. We've all litigated against that truck. Similarly, when you are unhappy sitting in the traffic jams, you, of course, sue the municipality. No, these things don't tend to be recovered through litigation. So these tend to be harms that are not borne and internalized by those causing the harms.
Giving a related talk a few months ago, one issue Prof. Ellickson at Yale has written very convincingly about, areas in which order will arise without law. His view is that there are certain settings where people will essentially, on their own, work out harms and sort out what they need and what they desire without the government intervening. Basically, it's unlikely to happen in the area of sprawl. But, one of the classic contexts for a private cooperation and bargaining resolving a societal harm is where people have numerous repeat contacts and basically know each other. In the sprawl markets and politics, you do not have a lot of repeat contacts of those being harmed and those benefitting. To the extent that there are repeat contacts, they tend to be between those benefitting from sprawl and government officials, which is perhaps why you see the same decisions replicated again and again. In addition, even if citizens believe that the harms of sprawl are unpleasant and should be addressed, the low individual stakes each person has in sprawl, be it benefit or harm, means that they don't really have much of an incentive to act. They will tend to free ride on the desired benefits or desired actions of others.
In addition, unlike federal environmental law, which I think is the focus of most environmental law courses, in the federal environmental law setting, you have a few very high visibility, high stakes, high expertise settings where various citizens groups act in an ongoing way. The Natural Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club, these groups tend to know the high stakes battlegrounds and will participate, and will often, some people say, be acting in their own interests, but will clearly articulate an anti-industry view that then is placed before the government. In the sprawl setting, you tend not to have those types of citizen voices, or say, not-for-profit voices. You tend not to have a counter to the substantial monetary interests that will push for sprawl. Even if grassroots groups spring up, the fact that sprawl decisions are made in thousands of small, low visibility, tribunals, makes it unlikely that citizens will be able, not only to influence, but to monitor ongoing government behavior.
Now, one point I talk about my paper a fair bit, but I won't talk about here in great depth, but actually the issue that kind of may be interesting initially is, ok, if you have sprawl and you have all these problems, can you decide a legal structure that will address it? And, I think, here what you find is sprawl is basically mismatched with the legal structures in this country.... that you have sprawl being an area that is usually locally handled by land use authorities, because it is really a quintessentially local area with minimal state involvement and almost no federal involvement, but yet sprawl crosses jurisdictions and also has much broader affects. Basically, federal, state, and local all have interests in sprawl, but sprawl itself does not exactly fit neatly into our legal structures or the usual ways of doing business in the government. In addition, if you want to look to local governments, every local government has to basically play chicken. The local government that wants to address sprawl has to be the first one to turn away that new business or development and hope that others will follow and do the same. And basically, in this setting, there's not a lot of reason to expect that to happen, although there are some reasons, as I'll get to in a few minutes. Some jurisdictions have done this and, perhaps, have started what some people call a "race to the top," that is, where jurisdictions are competing to show that they have a higher quality of life. And so there is a possibility here.
One issue, you might say, is, well, if this is quintessentially local area, can the federal government really play a role at all? And the answer there is, I think, definitely yes, even after the recent federalism decisions. If you look at those decisions, they clearly would make it difficult for the federal government to step in and force a particular regulatory structure. That's unlikely. Or force particular urban form. But, at least through conditional federal spending, the Supreme Court has, again and again, even as it has upheld the power of states to avoid citizen suits and damage actions, they have pointed out that states can be enticed through federal spending to participate essentially in federal schemes. So, the federal government can play a role here. It has not often, but it could. So, I think, my view here is that you have an area, sprawl, that is a mismatch for legal structures, but yet federal, state and local governments all can, within their respective roles, do something.
Here, I'll just introduce you to a concept that you maybe have encountered, maybe you haven't. There's an area of literature now that I think is referred to comparative institutional analysis. And the idea is if you're going to analyze a societal ill, it requires you to analyze at least two things. One is the cures or the policy choices, the ideal end state that you want. But, then, you have to look at the relative institutional competence of methods or players that could address the problem. So, in particular, in the sprawl area, and especially in the anti anti-sprawl literature that has begun to emerge of late, you really have to think about three ways, or, I guess, two layers. One is the market will just take care of it. One, that is an institution that is supposed to be responsive. And even if sprawl is bad, one possible take, and this is something you see from Public Reason Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute also has made some arguments, and that is, that you just sit back, don't have the government interfere more, and allow the market to cure the problem. I'm not sure that will happen. Then the other is that you look to local, state or federal governments, and then you look to figure out what particular regulatory strategies might work. So, you're comparing what institutions could address a problem, and then what regulatory choices. One problem here, and this fits in with the mismatch, is what do you do when you have three layers of government, none of which are exactly suited to handle this? That is, even if we all today, at the end of this discussion, had brainstormed and come up with the perfect cure for sprawl, what do you do when you don't have a unitary government authority who can enforce? What do you do when there is no one entity that can enforce and police those political choices and bargains? The answer is that you can't do it through coercion. You probably have to do it through enticement, which leads me to conclude that use of conditional federal spending and similar state spending to encourage metropolitan area sprawl measures is the way to go.
Brushing through a few quick models here. TEA-21 is the new federal transportation law that, much more than the old transportation law, gives local governments the ability to use federal dollars flexibly, including for things other than highways. For many years, dollars had to be used on highways. Then, in a statute called ISTEA, and then people wanted the new one to be called Next T, but they changed it instead to TEA-21, and I don't know why. There's a paper there for someone who's in journalism, "Why not Next T?" Basically the new TEA-21, and the earlier ISTEA statute, do give federal enticements for local governments to create things like rails to trails, to create alternative forms of transit, but if you really look at this law, it is overwhelmingly highway focused. It may be a vast improvement, but it still, basically, pushes highways. In addition, even though it allows consideration of these alternatives, the same interests that have succeeded in politics and the markets in furthering sprawl, still have a very good chance of winning out in those battles for how local governments use dollars. So, I think you'll probably find that still to be the case. There are a variety of other federal subsidies for green space, but they are very difficult to find and they tend to be focused on things like rural areas, parks. Actually there is no place you can find a comprehensive listing of all the federal dollars available to protect green space or combat sprawl. They're kind of scattered throughout the U.S. code and in various agencies' own initiatives.
What is the alternative to sprawling form? One issue that you should be thinking about is, "Yeah, great, so what are you saying, I have to live down by Georgia Tech or Georgia State? I don't want to." So what is the forum where you want to live? The alternative you often hear is something that's usually characterized in new urbanism. And for anyone who hasn't seen the new urbanism, one place that is mentioned that is hardly a diverse community ... is Seaside, Florida, as an urban form where you have smaller homes in closer proximity, walking distance from some shopping and other recreational amenities. For something more realistic, and less populated by Atlanta doctors, (apparently Seaside is almost all owned by Atlanta doctors, people who rent there, that's about it), a real life version that probably looks like what the new urbanism looks like is Park Slope, Brooklyn. If any of you have been there, it's right next to Prospect Park, one of Olmstead's jewels, and it is an economically and ethnically integrated neighborhood with very high property values, very good schools, and walking distance from mass transit. The problem is that is yet again a city built, a neighborhood built in the late 1800s, before the car, and so it's not clear that we'll get that here.
What is another means... the reason I mention something like the new urbanism is that you do have to have a vision for what you want. Jerry Frug's book, City Making, that I mentioned, he paints a pretty compelling picture of what a different urban form would be like, and he basically emphasizes at great length, address crime and improve schools. And his view is those are the two essential steps to even begin to create a ground for political support to address sprawl. In addition, information helps here. And I refer for any of you who are interested, Arthur C. Nelson is a Georgia Tech professor, he goes by Chris Nelson, and he's written a whole... for about the last twenty years, been writing about urban form, sprawl, and growth management. And he has, in article after article, shown how really far local governments that just examine what they're doing is really in their self interest to discourage sprawling forms of development. And so, information about the benefits of alternative forms is a big part of the picture.
Now, let me just spend the last few minutes, and say that the one area that I think I mentioned at the beginning, that I think sprawl, or is it sprawl policies, should focus upon, is the absence of what I call durable green spaces. Now, if anyone thinks that's all I'm thinking about, no it's not. This is just an example. That is, you think about measures to address sprawl, clearly transportation, education, perhaps efforts to make people pay for pollution, all of these are part of the picture. But one, I think, neglected part of the sprawl policy menu is the creation or protection of durable green spaces, especially in metropolitan areas. As I said at the beginning, it is the major contrast between sprawling cities of the year 2000 and sprawling cities of 1900.
The creation of substantial green spaces either within the core of the cities or in kind of ringing parks that many cities have. And the question is, is this a possibility, could we do this today? Clayton Gillette, who is a UVA professor for a long time, and now going to NYU, his response he was talking to me once, he said, no, no, Bill, you have it wrong. Parks are a thing of the past. The parks of today are the malls and the sports arenas. And he said that's what people want. You're thinking about the desired recreational space of the past. There may be something there. The question is, you know, would people still want substantial green spaces? My sense is that there are numerous reasons to still advocate and push for the creation and preservation of such spaces. One is cities that have these parks, the most valuable land in each of these cities is near these parks. When you're looking at San Francisco near Golden Gate Park, or near Central Park, Prospect Park up in Boston, Cleveland, all these areas, the most valuable land in these cities, without fail, is near these parks. Ansley Square in Atlanta, or Ansley Park. Ansley Square is a shopping center, so scratch that. Ansley Park, in Atlanta, is a group of homes ringing a beautiful park. These areas tend to create very attractive livable settings. And so, one thing is, it may just be self interest. These parks are not abandoned now. They are still used heavily in every place I just mentioned.
In addition, if you look at what is happening in the really depressed cities across the country, real estate developers in the really depressed cities have started trying to create their own new urbanism form that includes parks. And that is, I think, they've realized that home owners, given a choice, if they're in some place in Missouri where a couple of these developments have been built, that people, given the choice, have just sprawl tracked suburban homes for a new urbanism with a real green space right next door, that the new urbanism form is very attractive, especially if it includes substantial green space. And so, there, the market again indicates that people do like green spaces. But you don't tend to see it in the really larger major sprawling cities, such as Atlanta, Phoenix, Houston and a few others I mentioned earlier. In addition, why might we think that protecting green space is important? For any of you who have watched a development go up, urban areas are very often also home to substantial and important environmental amenities. And that is, cities have things like rivers running through them and often have, even in the middle of urban areas, very often really unique ecological--we should call them micro environments. But sometimes, they're also linked. In addition, in the urban areas, we have rivers running through them. The buffers along cities are often critically important for many uses, including downstream riparian users, water users, fish and fisheries. And all of these are green spaces that if preserved might substantially reduce some of the incentives to sprawl and also address some of sprawl's harms.
I guess one other interesting ... kernel for your thoughts... A colleague of mine, Howey Frumpkin, at the School of Public Health at Emory, has looked across a wide body of literature and found that numerous public health surveys have found that when people are exposed to green space environments, including things like where their hospital room faces, that the healing time for people basically exposed to green environments is much better. There is actually statistically significant public health benefits to having green spaces near human beings. So, that's not necessarily a purely environmental goal, but there may be strong public health argument. In addition, as I talked about for people living in the urban core, the lack of a green space can impair recreation and further lead to health harms.
My view in the end, as I alluded to, then I'll stop and answer any questions, is that, basically, local governments have shown little interest so far in addressing sprawl. They very often cannot. I think that, basically, you're going to have to look to state governments and perhaps federal governments to create a market for creative thinkers who want to address some of the ills associated with sprawl. However, I think any efforts to kind of micromanage urban form would be dead on arrival politically and also utterly ineffective. So I don't think that is an option. But conditional federal spending tends to be popular, and in those places such as TEA-21 where local governing officials can say we have competed for these federal funds and we have just gotten $300,000 to create a six acre park downtown, everyone views that as a win. And so, you create a very political palatable situation where some of sprawl's ills can be addressed. I'll stop there and answer any questions, but thanks for having me.
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