Theses Doctoral

Institutional Change in Urban Environmentalism: A case study analysis of state-level land use legislation in California and New York

Connolly, James J. T.

This study examines how community development and mainstream environmental groups form coalitions in state-level urban environmental legislation and the effect these coalitions have upon larger processes of institutional change. I argue that the alignment of community development and environmental interests is essential in the efforts to flatten the existing power hierarchy around land use decision-making and open up new possibilities for urban form. It helps to form a "counter-institutional" response which combines "pragmatic" and "purist" interests to resolve the social and environmental dilemmas of land use. This study begins by establishing the extent of the institutional divide between community development and environmentalism through an archival analysis of the 1970s debate over national land use legislation. It then presents two case studies of policies which seek to close this divide: (1) the New York Brownfield Opportunity Area Program of 2003 which was initiated by community groups and (2) the California Senate Bill 375 of 2008 which was initiated by environmental groups. The case studies employ interview data, surveys of organizations, observations of public meetings, and document review. The cases examined provide examples of attempts to expand potential governance outcomes by forming "heterarchic" alliances across policy silos in order to make land use regulation responsive to the wider concerns of urban environmentalists. I find that heterarchy is achieved in the California case, but not in the New York case. The varying degrees to which urban and environmental advocacy groups are able to bridge the institutional divide between them is determinant of these outcomes. The extent to which heterarchic governance is achieved, in turn, impacts the ability of each policy to change the institutional structure of land use regulation.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Beauregard, Robert
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 15, 2014