What to Read on Land Use Politics

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I write about land use politics a lot (less so here now that I’m blogging here now) and it’s a fun emerging issue in Democratic politics that progressives should strive to know more about.

I’ll co-sign on this reading list from the Stroad To Boulevard blogger, highlighting The Option of Urbanism by Christopher Leinberger as a particularly good intro to the key issues. Another five books I’d add to the pile are:

The High Cost of Free Parking by Donald Shoup – a huge tome, but an essential read. You will be spitting mad at how much money “free” parking is quietly stealing from us

Triumph of the City by Ed Glaeser – a great introduction to urban economics, and the fiscal arguments for denser development

The Economy of Cities by Jane Jacobs – everybody likes Death and Life of Great American Cities, and you should read that too, but this is heavier on the economic politics

City Rules: How Regulations Affect Urban Form by Emily Talen – once you’ve read the broader urbanist arguments in the ones above, you’ll want to dive a little deeper into why, if the urban form is so genius, that’s not the dominant development pattern. Talen shows you how hyper-regulated and prescriptive most zoning codes are, and this will provide you with plenty of ammunition to smack down people who say the suburban form is just the result of market processes at work.

The Sprawl Repair Manual by Galina Tachieva – this gets into the how issues of how to transform first and second ring suburbs into better places. Large swathes of the country are completely screwed, but many suburban places can get substantially better if local politicians have the right priorities. This book will give you an eye for spotting and fixing the stupid.

This entry was posted in Economic Development, Land Use, Transportation.

3 Responses to What to Read on Land Use Politics

  1. Michael Noda says:

    Good list! I would also add The Great Inversion by Alan Ehrenhalt, (Geeting, I can totally lend you my copy, if I can find it), and would swap in The Geography of Nowhere for Kunstler’s TED talk, because it’s Kunstler at his least polemic, even though it’s obvious that he’s no less angry when writing it, but the restraint (the constraint?) makes for a better presentation and, dare I say, better art.

    Also, your link to TOC is busted like San Francisco zoning law. ;-)

    • Jon Geeting says:

      I haven’t read Great Inversion and also forgot it existed. Is it still worth reading if you’re familiar with the major trends? I also haven’t read Geography of Nowhere :(

      Two regionalism books related to this genre that I always like to push on Pennsylvania activists are Cities Without Suburbs by David Rusk (name-dropped by Tom Wolf, FTW!) and American Metropolitics: The New Suburban Reality by Myron Orfield. Accompany with this Orfield banger from Building One PA back in 2010. You’ll be pounding the desk by the end, if you inhabit one of PA’s older central cities.

    • Tim says:

      Question for you guys: I’ve put off reading a lot of these books, partly out of a fear that it would all just be self-reinforcing and rehashing the same arguments. I’ve been a Jacobs-ian convert since I read /Death and Life/, and I no longer need convincing.

      Any thoughts on good books that challenger some of our urbanist assumptions and beliefs?