THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION HUSTLE by Bernard J. Frieden

THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION HUSTLE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Under the guise of protecting the general public, a ""growth control and environmental coalition"" has really ""protected the environmental, social, and economic advantages of established suburban residents."" The result, says Bernard Frieden of the MIT-Harvard Joint Center for Urban Studies, is ""legitimation of arrogant public policies designed to keep the average citizen from enjoying a good suburban life."" Not a new idea, and not without merit, but Frieden's arguments are largely judgmental, and his examples--chiefly restricted to the San Francisco area--don't make his case. For instance, he cites challenges to prospective housing units between 1972 and 1975 in the 'suburb of Livermore, whose population went from 16,000 in 1960 to 38,000 in 1970. Frieden admits that schools were getting crowded, while sewage, water, and air pollution problems were developing. But he is critical of a successful ballot initiative mandating a building moratorium. In Oakland, plans for a housing development were scaled down after complaints that it would destroy significant open space and strain area schools. ""Governmental reviews of housing development plans stack the case against them,"" claims Frieden, and ""they fail to represent housing consumers who have the biggest stake in new homebuilding."" But what about the stake of residents already in an area and the practical concerns about taxing resources? True, ""environmental"" arguments are sometimes specious--the Pale Alto zoning fiasco cited by Frieden--but most of his examples are' at best inconclusive. Frieden says that anti-development moves have pushed housing prices up in certain areas, although nationally 1976-77 saw ""near-record levels of single-family homebuilding""; the implication is that environmentalists are spreading out development, not killing it. Considering its source, a surprisingly simplistic study.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1979
Publisher: MIT Press