Publication Detail

City Adoption of Environmentally Sustainable Policies in California's Central Valley

UCD-ITS-RP-11-108

Reprint

Available online at: DOI: 10.1080/01944360902952295

Suggested Citation:
Handy, Susan L., Richard Feiock, Mark Lubell (2011) City Adoption of Environmentally Sustainable Policies in California's Central Valley. Journal of the American Planning Association 75 (3), 293 - 308

Problem: Sustainability remains “the current object of planning's fascination,” as Campbell described it in 1996, but it is unclear what causes local governments to adopt environmentally sustainable policies and whether they are effective once adopted.

Purpose: The goal of this article is to explain why communities adopt environmentally sustainable policies.

Methods: We develop an environmental policy sustainability index for 100 incorporated cities in California's Central Valley using a combination of survey and archival data. We then use regression and cluster analyses to test which independent variables expressing three theoretical perspectives (Tiebout's public goods development model, Peterson's fiscal capacity model, and Logan and Molotch's interest group/growth machine model) are best at explaining this index.

Results and conclusions: The results suggest that sustainable policies are more likely to occur in cities with better fiscal health and whose residents are of higher socioeconomic status. These findings raise important questions about the relationship between developed and developing cities that were not raised in previous studies, which focused only on major metropolitan areas in the United States.

Takeaway for practice: Our results suggest that small, less-developed cities will need substantial technical, financial, and planning assistance to move toward greater sustainability. Many medium-sized, more developed cities may also need technical assistance, but are otherwise capable of becoming more environmentally sustainable. Any new policies should not discourage the largest cities from continuing to pursue their current sustainability activities, but should pass the lessons they have learned along to smaller cities to help them change to more sustainable development trajectories.