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Custodians of Place

Governing the Growth and Development of Cities

Paul G. Lewis and Max Neiman

Publication Year: 2009

Custodians of Place provides a new theoretical framework that accounts for how different types of cities arrive at decisions about residential growth and economic development. Lewis and Neiman surveyed officials in hundreds of California cities of all sizes and socioeconomic characteristics to account for differences in local development policies. This book shows city governments at the center of the action in shaping their destinies, frequently acting as far-sighted trustees of their communities. They explain how city governments often can insulate themselves for the better from short-term political pressures and craft policy that builds on past growth experiences and future vision. Findings also include how conditions on the groundùlocal commute times, housing affordability, composition of the local labor forceùplay an important role in determining the approach a city takes toward growth and land use. What types of cities tend to aggressively pursue industrial or retail firms? What types of cities tend to favor housing over business development? What motivates cities to try to slow residential growth? Custodians of Place answers these and many other questions.

Published by: Georgetown University Press

Series: American Governance and Public Policy series


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pp. vi-vii


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pp. ix-xii

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pp. xii-xviii

This book might carry the alternate title, Against Single-Mindedness. Our project was born in part of our frustration with the instinct that we perceived, among both scholars and popular observers, to reduce local government policymaking—particularly with respect to urban growth—to a set of heuristics or rules of thumb. Discussion of cities has not lacked for metaphors and simple story lines.

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1 Introduction: Contingent Trusteeship and the Local Governance of Growth

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pp. 1-28

Although most students of American political institutions and policy focus on the activities of the state and federal levels, it is often the politics of everyday life that is most important to citizens. Whether neighborhoods are safe, whether it is possible to get around in a predictable and efficient way, whether water is drinkable,...

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2 The Context for Local Choices: Growth Pressures, Fiscal Incentives, and the California Setting

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pp. 29-50

City governments confront growth—and often agonize over development policy—because they must. Like it or not, population increase is an inexorable fact of life for communities in much of the United States. The nature of development is, moreover, not simply a matter of aesthetics or lifestyle; rather, the built form of the nation’s cities is linked to their fiscal health and the resources available to support public services.

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3 What Type of City to Be? Evaluating Different Kinds of Growth

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pp. 51-82

During the high-technology boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s, a proliferating number of Internet startup firms were seeking space throughout the high-priced real estate market of the San Francisco Bay Area. With traditional office spaces having few vacancies, many of the dot-com firms moved into warehouses, industrial spaces, and even retail storefronts in San Francisco and its suburbs.

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4 The Vision Thing: Pursuing a Future Ideal

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pp. 83-106

In chapters 1 and 2 we argued that city governments retain, to a substantial degree, both the authority and the motivation to exercise real self-governance and, thus, possess at least the potential to steer their communities’ development in particular directions. Chapter 3 described how city governments’ orientations toward specific types of new growth tend to vary...

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5 Firm Ground: Competing for Businesses and Jobs

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pp. 107-129

In November 1993, Lego Group, the Danish company that makes the popular plastic block toys, announced that it would build a Legoland amusement park in Carlsbad, California. This decision was the culmination of a particularly intense competition between Carlsbad and an out-of-state economic adversary, Prince William County, Virginia.

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6 Hustle or Balancing Act? Regulating Residential Growth

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pp. 130-160

In the late 1990s, Pamela Miod, in her own words, was so angry she “snapped.”1 So much construction and development was taking place in her rapidly growing Southern California community of Temecula in Riverside County that her seven-mile drive across town took a half hour. When the City Council did not respond adequately to her questions about growth, she contacted another private citizen, Sam Pratt, who had made a name for himself locally as an opponent of growth...

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7 Custodians of Place: Systemic Representation in Local Governance

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pp. 161-184

After years of research regarding local policies in such areas as the adoption of municipal reform, police response times, school desegregation, fluoridation, equal opportunity in municipal employment, transportation, air quality, and homelessness, among others, a kind of consensus has emerged among social scientists that the core policy domain for local governments is development policy.

Appendix A: The Consistency of “Visions” with Other Officials’ Views: Comparing Responses across Surveys

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pp. 185-188

Appendix B: Detailed Results of Multivariate Analyses

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pp. 189-194


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pp. 195-226


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pp. 227-240


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pp. 241-247

E-ISBN-13: 9781589015906
E-ISBN-10: 1589015908
Print-ISBN-13: 9781589012561
Print-ISBN-10: 1589012569

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: American Governance and Public Policy series
Series Editor Byline: Gerard W. Boychuk, Karen Mossberger, and Mark C. Rom, Series Editors See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 430964825
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Custodians of Place

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Urbanization -- Government policy -- California.
  • Housing development -- Government policy -- California.
  • Cities and towns -- California -- Growth.
  • Urban policy -- California.
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