First International Conference of Young Urban Researchers (FICYUrb)
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Fionn MacKillop

Towards greater "sustainability" in the Los Angeles metropolis? The challenge of water supply and land use integration

Fionn MacKillop
Université Paris-Est, LATTS-ENPC, Paris

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     Last modified: May 1, 2007
     Presentation date: 06/12/2007 11:45 AM in ISCTE-II C201
     (View Schedule)

The Los Angeles (USA) metropolitan area is currently having to face the associated issues of strong population and economic growth, a dwindling supply of developable land and a combination of threats on its water supply. This has lead to widespread calls from authorities, citizens and developers alike, for the legal and technical integration of water supply and land use planning in order to achieve greater “sustainability”. This takes place in the context of a highly fragmented and uneven metropolis, marked by the struggle between communities to attract growth, and the presence of a myriad agencies in charge of water and land use management. Developers benefit from this situation to obtain various incentives and subsidies for their projects, while opponents are deeply divided between environmentalists and “nimbies” but also from a socio-economic point of view.
In this context, my paper will question the effectiveness and relevance of water supply and land use concurrency requirements as well as the overarching goal of “sustainability”, and show how public policy can be shaped by an ever-evolving “growth machine”, while consensual debates over sustainability and “smart growth” tend to obscure relationships of power, and inequities, associated with the constant socio-natural (re)shaping of metropolitan areas. We will analyse how the concept of the “environment” (and the natural resources that are water and land) is socially constructed and mobilized in conflicts around land use policies, and thus open a reflection on how the metropolis as a socio-natural construct is a contested arena.

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