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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Sustainable Urban Development: A Literature Review and Analysis

Creative Commons 'BY-NC-ND' version 3.0 license

This report reviews current literature on sustainable development and proposes a framework for applying this concept to city and regional planning. It begins by exploring interpretations of the concept of sustainability itself, next looks at some urban planning traditions toward an urban planning framework that can incorporate this concept. The following definition of sustainable urban development is proposed:

Sustainable urban development seeks to create cities and towns that improve the long-term health of the planet’s human and ecological systems.

Means to achieve this objective include protecting and restoring natural ecosystems in urban areas, creating community environments that nurture human potential, using land and resources wisely, and facilitating human lifestyles that contribute to global sustainability.

The author argues that sustainable urban development is indeed possible if 1) some degree of consensus is reached on values that can underlie it, 2) methods are developed to evaluate progress towards or away from sustainability, 3) specific policies, designs and programs are developed to implement sustainable urban development based on these values and yardsticks, and 4) the necessary political organizing, leadership development, and public education can be carried out.

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