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Journal of Planning Education and Research
The online version of this article can be found at:

DOI: 10.1177/0739456X03258638
2004 23: 229 Journal of Planning Education and Research
Edward J. Jepson, Jr.
and What Role for Planners?
The Adoption of Sustainable Development Policies and Techniques in U.S. Cities : How Wide, How Deep,

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10.1177/0739456X03258638 ARTICLE Jepson Sustainable Development Policies and Techniques
The Adoption of Sustainable Development
Policies and Techniques in U.S. Cities
How Wide, How Deep, and What Role for Planners?
Edward J. Jepson Jr.
n this article, the results of a survey that was sent in October 2001 are reported. The
survey was concerned with characterizing the condition of local policies in the
United States that are consistent with the three Es or core elements of sustainability,
namely, protection of the environment (including the preservation of natural
resources), promotion of social equity, and the achievement of place-based economic
development (Berke and Kartez 1995; Concern, Inc. 1995; Healey and Shaw 1993;
Scruggs 1993).
Specifically, the survey was designed and intended to provide answers
to three questions. (1) To what extent are sustainable development policies being
enacted in U.S. communities, and what is their nature? (2) What are the principal
impediments to the enactment of such policies? and (3) What is the role of the plan-
ning office in their enactment?
The relevance of this research effort rests on the notion that both local effort and
planner involvement are important to the achievement of sustainable development.
Regarding the need for local effort, the presence of a clear relationship between a
global condition of nonsustainability and the everyday lives of ordinary people has
been posited in the sustainable development literature (Rees 1995; Roseland 1994).
Thus, public policies that provide individual opportunity and/or guide the behavior of
individuals in their communities become an important operational component of sus-
tainable development. In addition, it has been proposed that local appreciation of the
importance of sustainable development is a necessary ingredient for it to become a
guiding development paradigm (Jones 1996; Williams 1996; Rees 1995). One form of
evidence of such local appreciation (at either the citizen or governmental level) would
be the presence of public policies that are consistent with sustainable development.
With respect to the role of planning, a significant feature of the environmental and
sustainable development literature has been the recognition of an essential interrela-
tionship between land use regulation and environmental and social problems
(Christensen 1996; Shaw and Kidd 1996; Geis and Kutzmark 1995; Jacobs 1991; Smit
Journal of Planning Education and Research 23:229-241
DOI: 10.1177/0739456X03258638
2004 Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning
In this article, sustainable development is
defined in terms of thirty-nine policies
and techniques. In October 2001, a survey
was sent to U.S. cities that (1) measures
the extent to which actions are being
taken relative to these policies and tech-
niques and to local planning offices being
involved in the taking of such actions and
(2) identifies the principal impediments
to the taking of action. Among the find-
ings were that communities of all sizes and
in all parts of the country are active in a
wide range of policies and techniques,
planning offices are playing an important
leadership role with respect to the adop-
tion of such policies and techniques, and
impediments to such adoption are less re-
lated to politics and institutional capacity
and more to motivation and knowledge.
Keywords: sustainable development; local
planning; impediments
Edward J. Jepson Jr. is an assistant professor
at the Department of Urban and Regional
Planning, University of TennesseeKnoxville.
He received his masters degree in re-
gional planning from the Pennsylvania
State University and his Ph.D. in urban
andregional planning fromthe University
of WisconsinMadison. His research focus
is on planning for sustainable develop-
ment, growth management, economic
development planning, and land use
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and Brklacich 1989; World Commission on Environment and
Development 1987; Manning 1986; Brown 1981). Moreover,
the planning process itself has been cited as the crucial arena
in which sustainable development conflicts will be encoun-
teredandresolved(Luther andBorner 1996; Healey andShaw
1993). In addition, planningperhaps more than any other
professionis closely associatedwithsustainable development
in terms of both principles (White 1994; Sargent et al. 1991)
and the requirements of professional intervention
(Christensen 1996; Hersperger 1994; di Castri and Hadley
1986). For these reasons, the extent and nature of local plan-
ning office involvement in the enactment of sustainable
development policies are of essential concern.
In the planning literature, there is no shortage of descrip-
tions of the principles that should be incorporated into local
planning for it to become more reflective of sustainability.
There are also numerous case studies that reveal various ways
that sustainable development is being translated into local
development policies and techniques. However, there has
been little analysis of the extent to which a defined set of poli-
cies and techniques that is consistent with sustainability is
being integrated into local planning and development efforts.
In fact, the only other study of which I am aware in the plan-
ning literature that deals directly with this issue is that of Berke
and Manta Conroy (2000). In their research, they developed a
typology by which the presence of certain keywords in plan-
ning documents indicated consistency with six sustainable
development principles they identified from the literature.
Among their findings was that the use of sustainable develop-
ment as the organizing concept of a planning document did
not translate into a higher level of integration of sustainable
development principles into planning policies. Their analysis
also revealed a significantly stronger emphasis in the plans on
policies related to the built environment than those related to
other dimensions, such as nature and regionalism.
Survey Development and Distribution
Because there is still nouniversally acceptedunderstanding
of what sustainable development means with respect to local
development (Harris et al. 2001), many of the books that have
been written on the subject are exploratory in nature, being
either focusedontheory or descriptive of different community
approaches. Standing out among the attempts to collect the
range of efforts into a comprehensive framework of public pol-
icy alternatives are Beatley and Mannings (1997) The Ecology of
Place, Mark Roselands (1998) Toward Sustainable Communities,
and the Web site of the Center of Excellence for Sustainable
Development ( Organized
around substantive dimensions such as transportation, land
use, housing, andso forth, the two books have beenpraisedfor
their comprehensive provision of guidelines for community
sustainability (Rees 1999), accessible . . . real life models of
what works (Zuccaro 2002), bottom-line tactics (Schildgen
1999), and policy changes (planners) can work toward
(Knowles-Yanez 2000). Both books have been cited extensively
in the planning and community development literature,
including in A Survey of Sustainable Development (Harris et al.
2001) andThe Practice of Sustainable Development (Porter 2000).
The Center of Excellence for Sustainable Development
Web page is maintainedby the U.S. Department of Energy and
was selected by PLANETIZEN (
as one of the top fifty Web sites for professional planners. Its
express purpose is to offer information and services on how
your community can adopt sustainable development as a strat-
egy for well-being. Especially useful were the links it provided
to other, more functionally specialized Web pages, many of
which included definitions and descriptions of development
tools andtechniques. For example, a link for the Trust for Pub-
lic Lands ledto the identificationof greenprint plans as a tech-
nique for the protectionof natural resources andopenspace.
Onthe basis of these considerations, the twobooks andone
Web page were reviewed and cross-referenced to identify and
define thirty-nine techniques and tools that can contribute to
the achievement of sustainable development at the local level.
These are shown in the appendix. Consistent with the notion
that sustainable development policies will/should vary accord-
ing to the individual circumstances and conditions of commu-
nities (Hardoy, Mitlin, and Satterthwaithe 1992; Tolba 1987;
Dubos 1981), in many instances the survey definition of a tool
or technique is conceptual rather than prescriptive. For exam-
ple, respondents are not asked whether their communities
have implemented high-occupancy vehicle lanes as part of a
transportation demand management strategy; rather, it only
asks whether any actions that would fall under a transportation
demand management strategy have been taken. Also included
is an inappropriate or unnecessary response regarding why
actionwas not taken; this makes it possible to identify instances
when a technique is deliberately, rather than unavoidably or
inadvertently, omitted from a communitys development strat-
egy. Finally, respondents were asked only to indicate whether
action was taken relative to each of the techniques, not
230 Jepson
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whether some specific law, legislation, or administrative
procedure was implemented.
Taken together, this set of thirty-nine tools and techniques
is proposed to constitute a comprehensive collection of the
current state of sustainable development as it can be
operationalized at the local level. A community that claims to
have takeneffective actionrelative to all thirty-nine techniques
can be identified as being on a path of sustainable develop-
ment in terms of that frameworks core, three E components
(Berke and Manta Conroy 2000) and near the center of Camp-
bells (1996) sustainable development triangle.
The survey was designed as a table in which participants
were asked to indicate the best response to the following ques-
tions about eachof the techniques includedinthe appendix:
Question 1: Has your community taken legislative or adminis-
trative action relative to the achievement of this initiative,
either on its own or in collaboration with another unit of
government? The response choices were taken, not taken,
and not permitted (state-enabling legislation needed).
Question2: What inyour viewis the principal reasonthat direct
legislative or administrative action has not been taken rela-
tive to the achievement of the policy? The response
choices were fiscal constraints, administrative limitations, oppo-
sition fromcommunity groups, lack of knowledge/information, low
public interest, and not appropriate or necessary in relation to com-
munity goals and objectives.
Question 3: As a result of your experiences and observations,
what has been the nature of involvement of the commu-
nitys planning office relative to the action that was taken
regarding the policy? The response choices were took and
retained lead role from the beginning, became an enthusiastic part-
ner, contributed appropriately as requested and needed, and was
minimally involved.
On the survey table, each policy or technique had a sepa-
rate line, and respondents were asked to mark the appropriate
response to each of the three questions with an X and then
return the survey back to us by mail, fax, or e-mail. A descrip-
tion of each of the policies was included at the end of the table
and so noted on each page of the survey.
The survey was sent in October 2001 to 390 cities in the
United States that had a 1999 estimated population of more
than fifty thousand people, which represents 67 percent of the
entire population of cities in that size range. The survey was
attached to an explanatory e-mail message and sent to one of
the following individuals, in descending order of selection
preference (i.e., if an e-mail address for the city manager was
not available on the communitys Web site, the survey was sent
to the mayor; if not the mayor, then the director of develop-
ment; etc.): (1) city manager, (2) mayor, (3) director of devel-
opment, (4) planning director, and (4) city councilor. In most
cases, the person who was sent the survey forwarded it to
another member of the citys administrative staff for comple-
tion. In all cases, the positional affiliation (i.e., mayors office,
city managers office, etc.) of the individual completing the
survey was recorded.
Of the 390 surveys that were distributed to cities in the
United States of at least 50,000 persons, 103, or 26.4 percent,
were completed and returned. The rate of response varied
from a low of 19 percent in the West (32 out of 169 surveys
sent) to a high of 37 percent in the Midwest (26 out of 70 sur-
veys sent). The vast majority of respondents identified them-
selves as planners (67 percent), a few(5 percent) as being affili-
atedwiththe office of anelectedofficial, andanapproximately
equal number were from either some other administrative
office (e.g., community or economic development) or the
office of the city manager (17 percent and 14 percent, respec-
tively). The average population of the responding communi-
ties was 212,000, with the population distributed as follows:
fewer than 100,000, 35 percent; 100,000 to 249,999, 44 per-
cent; 250,000 to500,000, 13 percent; andmore than500,000, 8
The total number of times that action was taken relative to
the thirty-nine policies and techniques by the 103 respondents
was 1,490. Since there could have been 4,017 action-taken
responses (103 39), no action-takenresponses are dominant.
Table 1 shows the distribution of the surveys in terms of how
many times anaction-takenresponse was given. Since there are
thirty-nine policies and techniques, the surveys can be allo-
cated according to four equal intervals of 9.75. Thus, a score
(i.e., number of times an action-taken response was given) of 8
Sustainable Development Policies and Techniques 231
Table 1.
Distribution of action-taken responses
by survey score intervals.
Number of Surveys Percentage of Surveys
Action-Taken with Scores in with Scores in
Score Interval the Interval the Interval
19.75 21 20.4
> 9.7519.5 60 58.3
> 19.529.25 20 19.4
> 29.25 2 1.9
Total 103 100.0
a. Exampleof survey placement intoanaction-takenscoreinterval:
if the total number of times action was indicated as being taken
among the thirty-nine policy areas was twelve, that survey would be
placed in the > 9.7519.5 action taken score interval.
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would fall in the first interval of 0 to 9.75, a score of 13 would
fall in the second interval, and so on. By organizing the scores
inthis way, a sense of the overall activity level for the thirty-nine
policies and techniques can be gained. As can be seen, the
majority of respondents fell in the second interval, and a rela-
tively small minority fell in the upper two (> 19.5 to 39).
Figure 1 shows the distribution of the action response cate-
gories, calculated as the percentage of times it was cited across
the thirty-nine policy areas. As can be seen, a condition of
action being taken was indicated far less frequently than a con-
dition of action not being taken. This indicates a prevalent
condition of inactivity relative to the thirty-nine policies and
techniques among the surveyed communities.
Table 2 shows the distribution of specific policies and tech-
niques across the three action-response categories. Under
each of the action-response categories, the policies and tech-
niques with the highest percentage of affirmative responses
(i.e., an indication that action was taken, not taken, or not per-
mitted) are listed in descending order, from most frequently
indicatedtoleast. It canbe seenthat policies andtechniques in
whichthe most actionhas beentakentendtobe relatedtoland
development and land use planning, whereas those in which
the least actionhas beentakenpertaintoa wide range of strate-
gic dimensions, from economic development to alternative
energy development. Among the five policies and techniques
inwhichactions are not permittedwithout state-enabling legis-
lation, three relate directly and one indirectly (transfer of
development rights) to the local farming sector.
There is little evidence of action tending to cluster around
certainpolicies or techniques. As showninFigure 2, the profile
of actual responses almost exactly follows a pattern of equal
increments rather than some sort of spiked pattern that would
be indicative of clustering (the policies and techniques are
arranged on the x-axis in decreasing frequency of action being
Action levels can also be characterized in terms of the
extent to which a policy or technique is more mainstream.
This is done by grouping them according to the extent to
which lack of knowledge/information is identified as being
232 Jepson
Table 2.
Policy areas that were cited most frequently under
each of the three action-response categories,
arranged from high to low.
Action-Response Category Percentage
Action taken
Infill development 83
Bicycle access plan 82.4
Greenways development 79.4
Neotraditional development 79.4
Pedestrian access plan 68.7
No action taken
Import substitution 93.8
Heat island analysis 93.1
Eco-industrial park 85.3
Wind energy development 85
Life cycle public construction 84.4
Action not permitted
Tax base/tax revenue sharing 11.1
Right-to-farm legislation 10.5
Transfer of development rights 10.1
Rehabilitation building codes tied with
agricultural district provisions 8.2
a. The percentage of times the actionresponse category inthat col-
umn was indicated.
b. State-enabling legislation is indicated by respondents as being
required for action to be taken.
Taken Not taken Not permitted
Figure 1. Percentage of times eachaction-response category was indicated.




Policy areas 1-39
Survey results Equal increments
Figure 2. Increments comparison, number of times action-taken response
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the principal impediment to action being taken. In Table 3,
these groupings are labeled Category 1 to 4, with Category 1
being most mainstream, due to lack of knowledge being indi-
cated comparatively infrequently as the principal impediment
to action being taken, and Category 4 being least mainstream,
due to the opposite condition in relation to the knowledge
impediment. As can be seen, Category 1 policies and tech-
niques had a level of action taken (51.2) that was significantly
higher than the other three, less mainstream categories. It can
also be seen that the level of planning office leadership
remained relatively consistent across all categories.
Figure 3 shows the nature of impediments to action being
taken relative to all thirty-nine policies and techniques. Low
public interest is indicated as the principal impediment to
action more than one-third of the time, followed by not appro-
priate or necessary and lack of knowledge/information. The
least frequently cited impediment is opposition from commu-
nity groups, being indicated less than 4 percent of the time.
In Table 4, the five policies and techniques that scored the
highest in terms of the number of times each impediment was
cited as the principal impediment are shown. For example, the
technique that is most impededby fiscal constraints canbe seen
to be purchase of development rights, withbrownfield reclama-
tion being second and urban ecosystem analysis third.
Figure 4 shows the nature of the involvement of the local
planning office in the taking of action relative to all thirty-nine
policies and techniques. As can be seen, by far the dominant
relationshipof planning offices tothe policies is one of leader-
ship, with that role being cited nearly 50 percent of the time.
The remaining roles are citedat far lower levels, ranging from
14 percent (enthusiastic partner) to 20 percent (contributed
as requested).
Sustainable Development Policies and Techniques 233
Table 3.
Relationship between lack of knowledge/information (as principal impediment) and action taken.
Impediment Frequency Category
Average Proportion of Times
Average Number of Times Action the Planning Office Took the Lead
Was Indicated to Have Been Taken
When Action Was Taken
Category 1
Policy areas 1, 2, 3, 4, 10, 15, 18, 19, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28,
31, 33, 34, 35, 36, 38 51.2 .56
Category 2
Policy areas 6, 7, 21, 29, 30, 32, 39 24.0 .33
Category 3
Policy areas 5, 8, 11, 12, 14, 37 27.3 .47
Category 4
Policy areas 9, 13, 16, 17, 20 16.4 .51
Average, all categories 38.2 .49
Note: The descriptions corresponding to each policy area number can be found in the appendix.
a. The maximumnumber of times lack of knowledge was indicated as the principal impediment was thirty (for policy area 9). This number
(30) was dividedintofour equal segments as follows: < 7.5, < 15.0, < 22.5, and> 22.5. The thirty-nine policies were thenassignedtoone of four
categories that correspond to the equal segments, ranging fromCategory 1, which consists of policy areas that were least impeded by lack of
knowledge(most mainstream), toCategory 4, whichconsists of policy areas that wereimpededthemost (least mainstream, or most esoteric).
b. The numbers in the column are the average number of times action was taken relative to the policy areas in each of the impediment fre-
quency categories.
c. The numbers inthis columnare the result of applying the followingformula: the average number of times the planning office tookthe lead
when action was taken divided by the average number of times action was taken relative to each of the impediment frequency categories.
Fisc Admin Opp Info Public Not nec
Figure 3. Percentage of times impediments were cited as the principal
impediment to action.
Note: Fisc = fiscal constraints; Admin = administrative limita-
tions; Opp = opposition from community groups; Info = lack of
knowledge/information; Public = low public interest; Not nec =
not appropriate or necessary in relation to community goals and
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Table 5 depicts the roles of the planning offices in relation
to specific policy areas. As would be expected, planning office
involvement is strongest in matters of zoning and land use,
such as neotraditional development and open space zoning,
and weakest in more specialized, technical areas, such as solid
waste life-cycle management and low-emission vehicles.
Chi-square analysis was conducted in relation to action
taken and certain community characteristics. Specifically, the
objective was to discover whether a statistically significant rela-
tionship existed between the distribution of action-taken/
action-not-taken responses and the population, educational,
and regional location characteristics of the surveyed commu-
nities. The identification of any negative associations (i.e., lim-
iting factors) is mainly important for the additional questions
that it raises. For example, a finding that small communities
have lower activity levels than large communities might lead to
the initiation of a qualitative research effort that will explain
and possibly eliminate such intergroup variation; that is, does
it have something to do with governmental organizational
capacity? Research based on the discovery of a positive associa-
tion between educational and action levels might reveal cru-
cial dimensions of individual awareness that are important for
support of sustainable development policies; that is, are there
certain core beliefs that are common among more educated
individuals? Evidence of low activity levels in communities in
certain regions may lead to research to help identify crucial
top-down policy or fiscal interventions; that is, should national
policies be especially directed to the protection of southern
forests? The results of this chi-square analysis are shown in
Table 6. As can be seen, no statistically significant association
was discovered to exist between action level and any of the
three community characteristics.
Finally, these data offer the opportunity to determine
whether there is a relationship between planning office
involvement and level of activity. Dalton and Burby (1994)
found that the level of local planning office commitment is sig-
nificantly associated with the quantity of local development
management approaches. This study confirms their findings:
there was a significant positive association between the
234 Jepson
Table 4.
Policy areas with highest frequency in each
impediment category, arranged from high to low.
Impediment to Action Being Taken Percentage
Fiscal constraints
Brownfield reclamation 36.8
Purchase of development rights 31.6
Low-emission vehicles 26.7
Infill development 26.3
Urban ecosystem analysis 24.6
Administrative limitations
Rehabilitation building codes 32.6
Transfer of development rights 24.3
Environmental site design regulations tied
with open space zoning 23.5
Greenways development 20.0
Opposition from community groups
Urban growth boundary 16.9
Neotraditional development 14.8
Incentive/inclusionary zoning 13.9
Living wage ordinance 9.7
Bicycle access plan 9.5
Lack of knowledge/information
Green maps 41.8
Community indicators program 40.9
Ecological footprint analysis 40.0
Life-cycle public construction 37.3
Green print plan 36.7
Low public interest
Cooperative housing 62.5
Solar access protection regulations 59.7
Community gardening 55.4
Eco-industrial park 49.3
Environmental site design regulations 44.1
Not appropriate or necessary
Agricultural district provisions 72.4
Agricultural protection zoning 71.0
Right-to-farm legislation 57.8
Urban growth boundary 45.8
Wind energy development 33.8
a. The percentage of times the impediment was indicated as being
the principal impediment to action being taken with respect to
that policy area.
Lead Partner Contribute Minimal
Figure 4. Percentage of times each planning office involvement category
was cited in relation to the policy areas.
Note: Lead= took and retainedleadrole fromthe beginning; Part-
ner = became an enthusiastic partner; Contribute = contributed
appropriately as requested and needed; Minimal = was minimally
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number of times each local planning office took a leadership
role (the independent variable) and the number of times
actionwas taken(thedependent variable), as showninTable 7.
The 390 communities in the United States that were sent
the survey represent 67 percent of the total number (578) of
communities with populations greater than fifty thousand.
Thus, the 103 responding communities constitute only a small
proportion (18 percent) of the entire study population. This is
too small a sample on which to base the extension of findings
to the population. Moreover, it is reasonable to expect that
individuals associated with active communities in terms of
their sustainable development policies are less likely to be
nonrespondents than those associated with communities that
are not very active. Thus, the survey results can be assumed to
be skewedtowarda high-activity scale, meaning that it is proba-
bly true that more than 80 percent of communities have taken
action on less than half of the sustainable development poli-
cies, as was shown in Table 1. In other words, the actual level of
activity among U.S. communities is likely tobe somewhat lower
than that reported here.
Still, there are important questions that can be answered in
relation to the nature of revealed dynamics. For example, can
Sustainable Development Policies and Techniques 235
Table 5.
Policy areas with highest frequency in each
planning office involvement category,
arranged from high to low.
Nature of Planning Office Involvement Percentage
Took the lead
Ecological footprint analysis 85.7
Urban growth boundary 81.8
Neotraditional development 79.2
Incentive/inclusionary zoning 75.4
Open space zoning 74.1
Became an enthusiastic partner
Purchase of development rights 33.3
Green procurement 25.0
Transportation demand management 24.6
Transit-oriented development 23.9
Bicycle access plan 23.2
Contributed as requested
Solid waste life-cycle management 38.2
Transportation demand management 36.1
Green print plan tied with wind energy development 33.3
Living wage ordinance 31.3
Was minimally involved
Living wage ordinance 56.3
Green procurement 50.0
Community gardening 48.6
Low-emission vehicles 48.0
Tax base/tax revenue sharing 47.4
a. The percentage of times the planning office role was indicated
as being the principal planning office role with respect to that pol-
icy area.
Table 6.
Chi-square analysis of distribution
of action-taken responses.
Action No Action
Community Characteristic Taken

= .61, V = .09
Less than or equal to mean
education level
13.3 23.7 58
More than mean education level 16.2 19.8 44

= .51, V = .08
Fewer than or equal to mean
13.8 22.9 78
More than mean population 16.6 19.7 25

= .36, V = .07
Region 2 (South)
12.1 24.8 35
All 14.5 22.2 103

= .03, V = .02
Region 3 (Midwest) 14.8 20.9 26
All 14.5 22.2 103

= .39, V = .07
Region 4 (West) 17.2 19.6 32
All 14.5 22.2 103
a. The average number of times that an action-taken response was
given across all thirty-nine policy areas.
b. The average number of times that a no-action-taken response
was given across all thirty-nine policy areas.
c. Educational level is defined in terms of the percentage of resi-
dents twenty-five years or older with a college degree. The mean
percentage among the surveyed communities was 26.3.
d. The meanpopulationof the surveyedcommunities was 212,000.
e. The regions correspond to the definitions of the U.S. Census
Bureau. Region 1 (Northeast) was not included in the analysis
because of the small sample size (ten).
Table 7.
Regression results, with office leadership as the
independent variable and action taken
as the dependent variable.
Regression coefficient .91
t-test significance level < .0001
Adjusted R
F ratio 161.49
Significance < .0001
n 103
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the fact that most of the surveyed communities have taken
action on less than half of the policies and techniques lead to
the conclusion that there exists a condition of paucity, abun-
dance, or something in between? To a large extent, the answer
to this question relates to the nature of the policies and tech-
niques included in the survey. The absence of action-taken
clustering as shown in Figure 2 can be interpreted to reflect a
condition of abundance in the sense that communities are not
limiting their efforts to just a few policies or techniques. More-
over, while Table 8 revealed more mainstream policies and
techniques to have higher average levels of action, there is still
a fairly high average action-taken frequency of 16.4 associated
with the policies and techniques that can be considered to be
most esoteric. And while planning office leadership tends to
fall off as policies and techniques become less mainstream, it is
also the case that the most esoteric policies and techniques
(category 4) had a planning office leadership level (.51) that is
almost equal to that of the most mainstream, category 1 (.56).
These results are evidence of (1) a public policy framework
that is fairly abundant in terms of the range of coverage of
policies and techniques that relate to sustainable development
and (2) a high degree of planning office contribution to such
As was shown in Figure 3, there is scant evidence that the
taking of actioninrelationtosustainable development is being
prevented to a significant extent by interest groups that are
protecting a position of privilege. In fact, it was mentioned
least frequently as a primary impediment among the six possi-
ble impediments listed. Rather, the profile that emerges is of
inaction being the result of low public interest (the most fre-
quently mentioned impediment), inappropriateness, andlack
of knowledge. This reveals the relationship of respondent
communities to sustainable development to be primarily not
one of political or institutional incapacity but rather a combi-
nation of low motivation, deliberate choice, and staff inability,
which, inturn, indicates that significantly more couldprobably
be accomplished under the existing institutional fabric. While
there are some policies and techniques that would probably
benefit from intergovernmental revenue transfers (i.e., those
with fiscal constraints as the principal impediment) and insti-
tutional reorganization (i.e., those with administrative limita-
tions as the principal impediment), stronger arguments,
stauncher advocates, and more knowledgeable municipal staff
can be identified as key requirements for communities in the
United States to become more active with respect to sustain-
able development policies.
The information in Table 4 can be used as an organiza-
tional framework for a strategy to increase the extent to which
communities are adopting sustainable development. For
example, it is indicated that brownfield reclamation and
purchase of development rights will most likely benefit from
increased intergovernmental transfers. Local administrative
change has the potential to lead to progress with respect to
rehabilitation building codes and transfer of development
rights. A strategic analysis of stakeholders and interests is nec-
essary for the implementation of policies related to urban
growth boundaries and neotraditional development.
Research and expert communication will improve the likeli-
hoodof greenmaps andcommunity indicator programs being
implemented. Educational initiatives may be the appropriate
approach with respect to such techniques as cooperative hous-
ing and solar access protection regulations. Finally, there may
be the need for planners themselves to become more fully
appreciative of the importance of progress being made insuch
dimensions as local agricultural preservation and land
This study provides evidence that planners are playing an
important role in the achievement of sustainable develop-
ment: on average and among all thirty-nine policies and tech-
niques, they took the lead nearly 50 percent of the time. Fur-
thermore, a significant statistical association was found to exist
between the communities activity levels and the leadership
character of the local planning offices. While a leadership role
was especially played in such traditional planning concerns as
zoning, neotraditional development, and pedestrian access
planning, planning offices also took the lead an average of
236 Jepson
Table 8.
Planning role distribution in
needful and neglected policy areas.
Primary Planning Role Policy Area
Cooperative housing
Solar access protection regulations
Community gardening
Eco-industrial park
Environmental site design regulations
Green maps
Community indicators program
Ecological footprint analysis
Life-cycle public construction
Green print plan
a. Policy areas that share the characteristics of (1) low-action level
not due to a perception of it being inappropriate or unnecessary
and (2) a minimal level of planning office involvement.
b. Policy areas with the characteristics listed in note a and in which
low public interest was the most frequently cited impediment to
action being taken, arranged in decreasing order of need for the
particular planning role.
c. Policy areas with the characteristics listed in note a and in which
lack of knowledge/information was the most frequently cited
impediment to action being taken, arranged in decreasing order
of need for the particular planning role.
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nearly 14 percent of the time among the five policies and tech-
niques in which there was the lowest level of planning office
involvement (as shown in Table 4). This indicates that it is pos-
sible for planners to stretch their roles in local government so
as to be advocates and catalysts with respect to a wider range of
issues than just those that are directly related to land use
planning and regulation.
By cross-referencing information fromTables 2, 3, and 4, it
is possible to develop a strategic matrix that will guide the
efforts of planners with respect to policies and techniques that
are most lagging in terms of both progress and planning office
involvement. The incorporation of information about the
nature of the impediments can lead to the identification of a
primary planning role for these most needful and neglected
policies andtechniques. Table 8 shows a suggesteddistribution
when the two possible planning roles of advocate and expert
are considered.
One question that occurs is whether a high score in terms
of actions taken relative to the thirty-nine policies and tech-
niques actually corresponds to a high level of commitment to
sustainable development as a development paradigm. Is it
more likely that communities are selectingcertainpolicy initia-
tives in a piecemeal fashion without regard for, or real under-
standing of, the larger sustainable development framework
into whichthey canbe placed, that is, one that requires aninte-
gration economy, equity, and environment. To help answer
this question, the policies andtechniques that are least directly
related to environment were identified and organized. One
the community indicators programwas identified as being
inherently integrating; threecommunity gardening, incen-
tive/inclusionary zoning, and living wage ordinancewere
deemed to be most related to the equity dimension of sustain-
able development; and twoeco-industrial park and import
substitutionwere considered to relate mainly to the eco-
nomic dimension. The results of the analysis were mixed.
While it was found that the action-taken scores on the seven
nonenvironmental policies and techniques were highly corre-
lated (+.83) withthe total action-takenscores, it was also found
that only nine communities indicated action being taken in all
three of the groupings (i.e., community indicator programs
plus at least one from the equity dimension plus at least one
from the economy dimension), and two of those registered
total action-taken scores that were lower than the average
among all respondents. Thus, the incorporation into public
policies of sustainability as an integrated framework can be
characterized as being limited to just the seven communities
listed in Table 9.
Finally, statistical analysis reveals no relationship between
howactively these policies are being developedandthe charac-
teristics of community, specifically regional location,
population size, and educational attainment. This indicates
that all communities have an essentially equal potential to
implement the types of policies that have been identified in
this article, whether they are small or large, located in the West
or in the South, or are highly educated or less so. The chal-
lenge to their activationina given community would appear to
lie in a consideration of the principal impediments and the
extent to which planning offices are taking an appropriate
leadership role, that is, as advocate or expert.
While conclusions cannot be made about all communities
in the United States, this analysis reveals there to be fairly high
activity levels among communities of all sizes and in all parts of
the country with respect to a wide range of policies and tech-
niques that are consistent with and supportive of sustainable
development. Progress is being made in the most esoteric
areas (i.e., ecological footprint analysis and solid waste life
cycle management), as well as the most mainstream (i.e.,
neotraditional development and open space zoning), and
planning office leadership can be expected at both extremes.
Planners can use the results of this analysis to develop strate-
gies that will overcome the principal impediments to action
with respect to specific policies and techniques. By doing so,
the planning profession can enhance its already substantial
contribution and become positioned to move beyond its tradi-
tional focus on land use planning and regulation toward
becoming the holistic discipline that was envisioned in the
1920s (Sargent et al. 1991), one that is involved in virtually all
aspects of community development. Such an approach is con-
sistent with the concept of the sustainable city as going
beyond one which is energy efficient or transport efficient,
but explores (the totality) of the city as a place in which to live
(Banister 1992, 180).
Sustainable Development Policies and Techniques 237
Table 9.
Communities with high levels
of action and integration.
Community Score
Minneapolis, Minnesota 28
Oakland, California 26
Tacoma, Washington, and Ventura, California (tied) 23
Tucson, Arizona 20
St. Paul, Minnesota 21
Elizabeth, New Jersey 15
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Still, as many questions are raised as are answered by the
results of this survey. For example, what explains the variation
in terms of activity level between the communities? Future
research might focus on determining whether this is due to
local political culture and leadership, proximate environmen-
tal conditions, the nature of state laws, the effectiveness of
interest groups, or some other characteristic or collection of
Another question raised by this research is why some plan-
ning offices are more actively involved in some communities
than in others. It would be particularly interesting to answer
this question with respect to policies and techniques that had
the lowest average levels of planning office involvement. Is
there something about the planning office itself that causes it
to be more active, or is it rooted more in the overall institu-
tional character (i.e., political environment, citizen participa-
tory traditions, or the nature of the community in terms of the
problems and opportunities that exist)? Identifying and char-
acterizing a causal relationship between planning office
involvement and factors such as these will help clarify how sus-
tainable development might be more firmly and fully inte-
gratedintolocal public policy andwhat the ultimate role of the
planning profession might be.
A third possible area of research would be to examine the
nature of the impediments that are associated with the various
policies and techniques with the aim of determining ways that
they might be overcome or neutralized. It may be that opposi-
tionfromcommunity organizations regarding some particular
policy or technique is mainly teleological rather than
deontological (Howe 1990) and, thus, perhaps more prone to
discussion and compromise. Strategies might be derived
through an investigation of respondents who indicate impedi-
ments as being less significant than was the case among other
respondents; that is, why was low public interest not a primary
impediment in Community A while it was in Community B?
Was something done in Community A that neutralized this
impediment, and, if so, is it something that could be tried in
Community B? As another example, communities might learn
from those among them that break from the majority and do
not cite administrative limitations as a principal impediment
to action being taken. Is there something about their govern-
mental structure or institutional fabric that can be applied
Inaddition, establishing the exact nature of the actions that
were taken would help communities avoid beginning from a
starting or square one position. The policies and techniques
presentedinthis analysis couldserve as a convenient reference
to determine whether there are any existing approaches that
they can use or adapt to achieve progress with respect to an
area of public policy interest. For example, it is one thing to
understand the concept of a green map, whereas the actual
form it will take and the process that will lead to its develop-
ment may not be so easy to conceptualize. In essence, such
research would provide real-life examples that would help
communities progress from the point of conceiving the
achievement of a policy or technique to that of actually
realizing its achievement.
Finally, the question regarding whether communities are
actually adopting sustainable development as their develop-
ment frameworks or merely choosing policies and techniques
for other reasons is one that has not been convincingly
answered. This analysis provides some evidence that the latter
is probably closer to the truth. If so, does that indicate the need
for more work tobe done by planners andother public officials
to guide public opinion toward a more comprehensive under-
standing of sustainable development? Or is it sufficient to mea-
sure progress in terms of the implementation of policies and
techniques that are consistent, or at least not contradictory, to
the principles of sustainable development? Given that imple-
mentation unguided by overarching principles can be inher-
ently self-defeating (i.e., policies to reduce energy consump-
tion are combined with policies that increase energy
consumption), satisfaction with the current reality as it has
been disclosed in this analysis is probably not appropriate.
238 Jepson
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Sustainable Development Policies and Techniques 239
List and definition of surveyed sustainable development policy areas.
Policy Area Name and Number Policy Area Definition
1. Agricultural district provisions Allow farmers to form special areas where commercial agriculture is encouraged and protected
2. Agricultural protection zoning Zoning districts with low maximum-density requirements (i.e., one dwelling unit per fifty acres
or more) in which uses that are incompatible with commercial farming are restricted or
3. Bicycle access plan A separate plan document or section of a comprehensive plan that provides a strategy for facili-
tated commuter and recreational bicycle access through the extensive use of separate bicycle
trails, bike lanes, and below- or above-grade road crossings
4. Brownfield reclamation A strategy that involves the application of financial and regulatory assistance to encourage the
reclamation and development of brownfield sites
5. Community indicators program The formal incorporation of community indicators into planning and development monitoring
6. Community gardening Provisions incorporated into the comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance that provide for,
permit, and/or encourage the subdivision of land into individual garden plots, which are then
leased short term for crop cultivation
7. Cooperative housing Land use plan provisions that permit a multifamily, shared-living housing development in
which residents have both private and shared spaces and that is under cooperative ownership
and management
8. Eco-industrial park Land designated for development and sale to companies that collaborate to enhance their eco-
nomic performance through improved environmental performance through the conversion
of wastes into valuable inputs, the cogeneration of energy, and the minimization of material
9. Ecological footprint analysis The formal incorporation of ecological footprint analysis into a communitys planning process
10. Environmental site design
The application of landscaping and configuration standards in the review of site development
proposals so as to achieve maximum energy conservation and environmental protection
11. Green-building requirements The use of a point system to require new residential units to achieve substantially reduced
energy and material consumption during both construction and operation
12. Green procurement Municipal contracts that include requirements that vendors take back packaging and unused
materials and products and that specify environmentally responsible management practices
13. Green maps Maps that chart urban areas in a manner that illuminates interconnections between the natural
and designed environments through the location, identification, and explanation of ecologi-
cal and social resources
14. Green print plans A municipal plan specifically intended to serve as a guide for a funded program of land acquisi-
tion for the purpose of natural resource protection
15. Greenways development A plan or strategy that has as its objective the linking of natural areas, historic sites, parks, and
open space through linear natural corridors
16. Heat island analysis Evaluation of development proposals in terms of their heat radiation/absorption capacities to
help reduce the urban heating effect
17. Import substitution A development strategy that involves the application of municipal fiscal and/or administrative
resources to encourage the creation of new locally owed businesses that produce products that
can be substituted for products that are presently imported
18. Incentive/inclusionary zoning Zoning regulations that encourage or require the provision of lower cost housing, open space,
or urban amenities
19. Infill development Encouraging the development of vacant, abandoned, or underdeveloped urban lots through a
strategy of subsidization and regulatory adjustment
20. Life-cycle public construction Public building project assessment process that is based on an analysis of the environmental
impact of the products used in construction from point of origin, through shipment, to use
and ultimate disposal
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1. Much of the sustainable development literature holds local
self-reliance as an important component of a local sustainable
development strategy relative to economic development (see, for
example, Maclaren 1996; Garbarino 1992; Daly and Cobb 1989;
Tolba 1987; World Commission on Environment and Develop-
ment 1987). In this article, I subscribe to that viewand consider an
240 Jepson
21. Living wage ordinance An ordinance that sets a minimum wage standard that makes it possible for families of munici-
pal employees and the employees of businesses that contract with the community to be ade-
quately housed, clothed, and fed
22. Low-emission vehicles The application of air pollution emission criteria in the selection of vehicles for municipal use
23. Neotraditional development (also
known as traditional neighborhood
development and smart development)
Zoning ordinance provisions that permit integrated development projects characterized by
mixed uses, narrower streets, backyard alleys, higher densities, centralized common areas, dis-
tributed and accessible open space and recreational facilities, and an integrated system of
walkways and bikeways
24. Open space zoning Site development regulations that require new construction to be located on a designated por-
tion of the parcel, with the remaining open space permanently protected under conservation
25. Pedestrian access plan An integrated plan of walkways for the purpose of improving pedestrian safety and facilitating
access to neighborhood and community points of employment, leisure, and entertainment
26. Purchase of development rights A program through which development rights are purchased by the municipality from landown-
ers in districts that have received special conservation designation
27. Rehabilitation building codes Special building codes to encourage and facilitate the reuse of older buildings
28. Right-to-farm legislation Laws to provide protection for farmers from legal suits and antinuisance ordinances and unrea-
sonable controls on farming operations
29. Solar access protection regulations Protection of access by property owners to incoming sunlight for the purposes of heat and/or
electricity generation
30. Solid waste life-cycle management Accounting for the complete set of environmental effects and costs associated with the entire
life cycle of municipal solid waste
31. Tax base/revenue sharing The redistribution of tax revenues among the communities in an urban region on the basis of
an equalization formula
32. Transfer of development rights A publicly administered process through which land development rights are purchased by own-
ers of land in designated receiving districts from the owners of land in designated sending
33. Transit-oriented development Special designation in the zoning ordinance of high-density, mixed-use districts around public
transit stops
34. Transportation demand
The reduction of automobile use through the application of strategies related to traffic control,
public parking, and public transit
35. Urban growth boundary The establishment of a line around a community and the conjunctive application of zoning reg-
ulations that restrict high-density urban development to the area inside the line and permit
only low-density rural development outside the line, to be in effect over a long-term period
36. Urban forestry program A municipal strategy of planting and maintaining trees with the specific intent of reducing car-
bon emissions and energy expenditures for heating and cooling
37. Urban ecosystem analysis Measurement of the structure of the green landscape, with an emphasis on tree cover, through
the use of Geographic Information System technology for application in the community plan-
ning and development review process
38. Wildlife habitat/green corridor
The development of a plan for the systematic identification and strategic protection of biologi-
cally significant open spaces in the region and corridors to connect them
39. Wind energy development Through the inclusion of wind energy conversion systems as a conditional use
Appendix (continued)
Policy Area Name and Number Policy Area Definition
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the economic development component of the sustainable
development framework.
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to Campbells (1996) property conflict (involving moderationof
the profit-maximization imperative relative to the use of land for
production), four to the development conflict (involving the
simultaneous resolution of social and environmental problems),
and eighteen to the resource conflict (involving moderation of
the exploitationof nature and natural resources for profit maximi-
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Campbells triangle, in that they involve a reconciliation of all
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