Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Question 2 United States unregulated planning

The United States could be seen as an example of a country with both heavily regulated and highly unregulated urban development. Discuss what you see as the benefits of both approaches in terms of supporting innovation and sustainability.  


  1. As planners we regulate because the private sector cannot always be relied upon to account for externalities of activities – good regulation obviously seeks to reduce these externalities, thereby making society workable.

    However, I think the example of car parking makes a strong case for a less regulated approach. While some might argue that parking merely facilitates the exercise of freedom that is driving, I would contend that minimum parking requirements represent the very worst of regulation that makes development more expensive and less sustainable.

    Shoup (2005) argues that parking regulation distorts development and passes on the cost to everybody – “free” parking mandated by the regulation in the year 2002 alone amounted to at least $127 billion, which is passed onto the consumer. Thus, through consumption, we directly subsidise automobile dependence and all its externalities – all thanks to parking regulation.

    This is not regulation working for more innovative or sustainable urbanism.

    Liam Winter, 1448827

  2. And the reference:

    Shoup, D. 2005. The High Cost of Free Parking. Chicago: Planners Press, American Planning Association.

  3. the regulation not always works well in all fields, especially when it comes down to the urban development aspect.
    We as planners always seen ourselves as the one who making rules, and regard rule as way to support innovation. However the regulation, especially the public regulation doesn't always function in that way. Sometimes it simply just stop people from doing something, rather than making leading effort or provide way of sustainable life.
    Take an example, if you do not want people to drive automobile around in CBD, then i don't think it is a good idea to just rise parking fee. you use public regulation to stop people driving, while fail to provide an effective leading way or alternative rule to solve it! then of course it ends up with the down feeling from general public as they not happy about parking issue. One of the possible alternative regulation would be, significantly subsidise the bus company, to greatly lower the bus fee. Then the public would know that they could take bus instead of driving to CBD. When you lower the bus fee, people would of course buy less second hand car which imported from overseas!
    It is not wise to force people stop driving, but it is highly possible to proactively use regulation to lead them the way, give them alternative to change their behavior

    Jeffrey (Haoran) Guo

  4. Strong and weak regulation are two contrasting approaches to urban development. Both of these approaches, in theory, can support or stifle sustainability and innovation.

    Strong regulation utilises stringent controls for the sake of, as Liam puts it, managing externalities and filling the gap left by market-led development. These controls can be used to ensure the urban form meets sustainability criteria, while still encouraging innovation with regard to how the criteria are met.

    Weaker regulation on the other hand proposes an interesting view. By supporting market-led development the most efficient use/development of resources will lead to sustainability being achieved. The freedom of weak regulation also allows greater room for innovation as less rules = more freedom = more innovation. At least in theory...

    Jarrod Colbert

  5. As stated by both Liam, and Jarrod, strong regulation is for the purposes of internalising the negative externalities so that essentially the polluter -pays. As we live in a democratic society this seems only fair.

    However we don’t need to go further than our own backyard to see how aspects of stringent regulation, do not always work. The Resource Management Act 1991 is New Zealand’s ‘handbook’ on environmental protection. An ironic paradigm when the state of our environment has only continued to worsen since 1990 (refer to website).

    This does not mean to say that weak regulation is best for sustainable outcomes. This is because as Jarrod stated, in ‘theory’ by encouraging a market led approach it will lead to the most efficient allocation of resources and theoretically will lead to more sustainable outcomes.

    The fact is that theory is not reality. No single approach, whether market-based or otherwise, is flawless, something policy makers should understand.


  7. Strong regulation is a rule or guideline designed to manage and control the externalities for upgrading or new urban development. Thus as both Liam and Jarrod stated, strong regulation ensures urban development is on the process with sustainability criteria.

    In New Zealand the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) is the heat of regulatory framework that promotes the sustainable management of the effects of the use, development and protection of natural and physical resources. This contributes to the positive outcomes like environmental, social, economic and cultural wellbeing.

    However, this does not mean that strong regulation is best for sustainability. As Jarrod stated, RMA sometimes may limit the development of market led approach and will reduce the chances to innovate and success in areas in like economic.

  8. Zoning is an example of planning that can be both regulated and unregulated. Traditional zoning in the USA was inherently a rigid instrument that separated incompatible land uses. This often benefitted social sustainability by improving public health and enjoyment as residential uses were no longer situated next to industrial activities. However, as argued by Cullingworth (2009) this high regulation zoning resulted in the development of the right building, in the right form, in the right place. This does not support innovation. Furthermore it led to low density suburban sprawl where people are now dependent on the automobile. This is not sustainable and many US cities now suffer from this.

    Less regulated zoning is becoming more common through allowing mixed use development in previously single use zones. This is less regulated as it often allows a variety of uses to be present within a site or block. This increases opportunities for innovation (as controls are often more lenient) and it also supports sustainability by allowing several trips to be completed on foot.

    Reference: Cullingworth, B. 2009. Planning in the USA: policies, issues and processes. New York: Routledge.

    Michael - mtre046 1612148

  9. Posts have so far claimed that stringent regulations aim to reduce externalities the private sector have failed to internalise, a notion that I agree with. What I propose is that a high level of regulation can also support sustainability and innovation. For example, as of January 2011, California approved America's first mandatory green building code (CBSC 2010). Not Only will this support sustainability principles but it will spur innovation, through a process Bresnahan (1985) calls "technology forcing". That is, the standards force manufacturers to expand their technological base, creating opportunities for innovation.

    However, this does not mean that deregulation cannot achieve similar outcomes. Deregulation of development controls in planning documents combined with appropriate urban land economic conditions can lead to innovative intensifying concepts such as "hidden density" (Wegmann & Nemirow 2011) that also support sustainable development.

    Rikash Kumar I.D 1490320

  10. Here are the references:

    Bresnahan, T. and Yao, D. (1985) The nonpecuniary costs of automobile emissions standards. Rand Journal of Economics, 16 (4).

    California Building Standards Commission (2010) California Green Building Standards Code 2010. California: California Building Standards Commission.

    Wegmann, J. and Nemirow, A. (2011) Secondary Units and Urban Infill: A Literature Review. California: IURD Working Paper 2011-2012.

    Rikash Kumar I.D. 149 0320

  11. Urban development is evolutionary in nature and both highly regulated and high unregulated development can have numerous benefits with regard to supporting sustainability and innovation.

    While there are many arguements that outline the significant issues that result from highly unregulated urban environments (due to market and profit driven outcomes), having unregulated development can enable developers to be original, and innovative. While regulated development often requires everything to fit in the box, highly unregulated development places no such restrictions and with it can come developments that are exciting, vibrant and reflect the social and cultural environment in which they are located. This highly unregulated form enables developers to use new sustainable techniques that often can take time to be implemented in regulated environments (through plans, policies and rules).

    In saying this, highly regulated urban development has the benefit of being able to recognise and provide for the social and physical needs of residents at a greater scale. The use of comprehensive planning techniques means that issues of urban population growth are managed ahead of time and the maximum efficecy of land use is recognised and planned for. High regulation can require development to place a greater emphasis on sustainable building practices, and can enable land use planning to support and encourage economic development while still taking into consideration environmental and social values that are affected by urban development.

    It does seem that highly regulated planning has greater advantages with regard to sustainable outcomes, while highly unregulated planning has greater advantages with regard to more innovative development. The challange to planning systems is to create processes that enable both!

    kdur008, 1518944

  12. As a strong regulation in New Zealand, RMA, I personally think it contributes a lot for the NZ government and its people for promoting the sustainability by preventing lay too much stress on its economic profits.

    As Jarrod and others stated, it might restrict the ideas or innovation of urban planning, however, I would like to refer to Hong Kong government as the unregulated planning example. ‘High-density mixed-use buildings’ were highly encouraged since 1990s. Government barely had stringent legal documents for development, as a result, the real estate and property agent or even the government gradually turned into the economic approaching and gain more economic benefits while the public and the environment lost more social, environmental and cultural values.

    I cannot comment which one is better and rather than evaluate them, I would recommend as a planner, we should think about what a strong or weak regulation really means to our planning system. Is it simply equaled to a set of rules and limitations? Should it be a legislation or a guideline? Should we providing solutions or methods rather than only setting up numbers and figures and keep saying no to the development?

    khu009, 1538849

  13. As we can all see, the basis on which urban development occurs is dependent on hundreds of variables specific to each instance.

    The two ideas that urban development can be molded into a innovative and sustainable form through either strict regulation and enforcement or highly unregulated policy both have numerous theoretical advantages but the general consensus from the rest of the class is that an appropriate balance is required.

    The level of regulation in urban development can vary significantly in different locations, effected by culture, economic prosperity, environmental condition, climate, geographic state, etc.. In areas where the collective environment is more hazardous and may be difficult to build in, strict regulation may be a far more suitable model of urban development which caters to sustainability and requires developers to internalise the cost of development to prevent externalities that are more likely to occur in this area. This model of urban development can result in sever restriction of innovation and is not always the most suitable.

    Areas where there is little regulation, provides an opportunity for more innovation as developers are not as restricted, however this can result in bad design where developers have the opportunity to stray away from effective urban development and focus on minimising costs and increasing profits.

    ssti017, 1506222

  14. The benefits of an unregulated development include possibility, which inspires creativity and innovation. In an unregulated environment, the market drives the efficient use of resources cultivating sustainability.

    A more regulatory approach directs development to ensure a sustainable criteria is met, while also internalising negative effects. Developments are required to support environmental, social, economic and cultural well-being.

    In comparison, an unregulated approach, driven by market forces will be actively seeking new and innovative applications beyond the current capabilities of technologies available. The regulatory approach requires a standard of sustainability, supporting the overall sustainability of a development and the unregulated approach encourages innovation.


  15. A high level of sensible regulation can reduce the risk of unsustainable externatilities or extreme cases of bad decision making or in some cases can be argued necessary to counteract the selfish nature of markets. On the other hand a tightly rule-bound system can stunt creativity and without any 'wiggle room' to account for particular circumstances and different cases overbearing regulation can lead to a 'one size fits all' approach which, aside from breeding monotony, can also be highly inefficient.

    The unregulated approach allows for freedom of innovation (as far as market forces will allow)but individuals and corportations in the private sector are not obliged to take into account any values they don't choose to or which are not relevant to business objectives, such as for example, the rights of future generations or the value of biodiversity, so there is no safeguard for sustainability. a common knowledge example of this is how war often leads to great technological innovation driven by market forces, yet are large-sale explosive devices really what we consider sustainable innovation?

    But as mentioned in previous comments there are examples where regulation can get in the way of sustainability, or where market forces can drive sustainable development, or where regulation can encourage innovation. so the idea of highly regulated vs. highly unregulated planning approaches should not be thought of as a clear-cut fundamental dichotomy, but rather two approaches than can be used in different ways, in different situations, for different ends and do not necessarily have to be separate from one another as can be seen in case of the United States.


  16. We have rules and regulations in planning so urban design principles are upheld. It ensures the design that is meant for that area is maintained and no developers stray from those design criteria’s or the ‘status qou’.

    However, not all cases of regulated planning ensures good design principles are maintained. It can restrict developers from using their imagination which again restricts innovation. It can also slow down the design and development process which means it takes an extended period of time for any developments to actually take place.

    Unregulated urban planning can entice developers to stray away from good urban design principles and focus on costs and profits that can be achieved. However it also gives developers freedom in the design process. It encourages use of the imagination and innovative ideas. It can lead to better urban design than regulated planning, in some cases.

    So overall there are positives and negatives for both regulated and unregulated planning for obvious reasons. For the best urban design to take place their needs to be a balance between the two.

    Craig Mathieson 1645513

  17. Regulation can have varying effects on innovation and sustainability. The outcome depends, as others above me have alluded to, the quality and intentions of regulation. Luke Stewart(2010) provides a market perspective on the matter, arguing that there are three dimensions of regulation that dictate how effectively it can carry out innovation within the public sector: flexibility, information and stringency.

    Flexibility determines the cost burden of market failures and setbacks, with incentive based regulation preferred to command and control regulation as a means to maximise the decision making ability of organisations.

    Regulation can produce uncertainty and it is therefore important that both consumers and producers have access to full information. With more complete information, producers can have full confidence over whether innovation will comply with current regulation.

    The stringency of regulation refers to the degree of change needed in order to achieve successful innovation. This includes moving target regulation, whereby the stringency of regulation increases over time. The other is disruptive regulation, which disrupts existing products and forces radical change.

    Despite the paper's emphasis on the private sector and innovation, the principles discussed can also be applied to how public policy determines long term sustainability.

    Reference: Stewart, L.A. (2010). The Impact of Regulation on Innovation in the United States: A Cross-Industry Literature Review. Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, June 2010

    pbro820, 5971615