The purpose of this research is to examine the relationships between land, land use, real estate, the process of development, and the social implications which arise from these various
inter-related aspects. The primary source of the research will be R.W.G. Bryant’s Land, Private Property, Public Control.
Related closely to Bryant’s chapter “Ownership and the Growth of cities” is F. Stuart Chapin Jr.’s “Selected Theories of Urban Growth and Structure,” from the Larry S. Bourne edited Internal Structure of the City. Both pieces deal specifically and
theoretically with the dynamics, structures, and underlying assumptions and goals of urban design and expansion.
Bryant sets the tone for his examination of the modern city and its inevitable growth and multiple utilization: “The tissue of a city is the product of a myriad of individual decisions by individual citizens — decisions to invest, to buy or sell a piece of land, to build, renovate, or rent a building, and so on (Bryant, 1972, p. 171).
In other words, ultimately, the success of land use and
development in the urban environment depends on the unification of design structures, systems, and goals of those individuals who are responsible for that use and development. If the
individuals so responsible are disunited, either consciously at odds with one another or merely disassociated through greed or poor planning, the city will ultimately suffer, sooner or later, as the evolution of that city’s development occurs. Poor planning in the early stages of development will manifest in later years as the disassociated parts of a city (land use, architectural harmony, transportation, business Incongruities, etc.) become more obviously, visually and utility-wise, non-unified.
Chapin’s “Selected Theories . . .” piece is concerned
primarily with the subject matter of the process of planning: urban clusters, regions, and nations. Particularly studied are urban spatial structure and urban growth.
Accordingly, Chapin studies both differences and similarities between the various theories, which he examines, attempting not necessarily to favor one over the others. But rather, he arrives at some sort of general perspective, which will be useful to both students of land use and urban growth, and to city planners themselves.
Chapin emphasizes that each theoretical system of planning with which he deals is either implicitly or explicitly involved “with the development of a framework which identifies and describes regularities in patterns of human interaction in space and explains their origins and transformations in time wherever population aggregates in urban areas . . . In describing
interaction patterns, most of these conceptual system make a distinction between patterns of intra-place and inter-place interaction, the former having importance for the adaptation of space and the latter involving communications between spaces” (Chapin, 1971, p.141-153).
Chapin goes on to explain that “space adaptation” and
“communications” are “counterparts” for “land use” and
“circulation”, tenets which are of course vital to any understanding of land and urban structure. Still, whereas Chapin attempts to devise an overall perspective on various theories, Bryant warns that:
It has proved extremely difficult to devise any general theory to cover (urban land use) adequately (Bryant, 1972, p.171).
Bryant makes clear the obvious: that the city as we know it today in our society does not appear to Be conducive to the ecological realities of our time, nor does it appear to be
particularly viable in regard to its own survival:
(The city) cannot automatically renew its own diseased tissues, the slums, without direct intervention of public powers. It cannot automatically arrange its expansion into surrounding areas in an efficient and orderly way — witness the voluminous evidence of the wastefulness of urban sprawl. . . There is broad agreement that most North American cities are a mess, aesthetically and functionally (Bryant, p.171).
Therefore, relating the views of Bryant and Chapin is particularly useful, for the former is concerned primarily with relating city growth to the social institution of land ownership and the operation of the real estate market. Whereas the latter is concerned mainly with comparative theoretical approach to city growth and with specifying performance criteria in relation to those various theories.
Chapin deals with 1) a communications theory approach to urban growth; 2) a framework emphasizing human interaction; 3) a conceptual system focusing on urban form; 4) accessibility concepts and urban structure; 5) economic models of spatial structure; and 6) decision analysis and the structure of cities. For purposes of our research, a brief summary of the six approaches will suffice.
Communication theory is associated primarily with Richard L. Meier. The basis of Meier’s theory is that “the one common element in all (perspectives on urban structure and the history of the evolution of the city) is human communication” (Chapin, p. 142). Human communication to Meier means market place transactions in the concrete form, and the abstract and less easily definable transmission of culture. Meier stresses that an empirical verification of his theory is vital, that is, he is intent on discovering the viability of his theory in practice, rather than merely employing it as an abstract model. Meier believes, then, essentially, that all successes or failures in urban planning and use and growth are founded on the ability of the planners to take into account the structural patterns of human communication, both concrete and abstract.
Melvin Webber, says Chapin, also uses human interaction as the building block of his theory, but differs from Meier in the extent of application of his theory. Whereas Meier deals with metropolitan centers exclusively, Webber extends hie concerns to communications and interaction networks which extend beyond the physical urban center, relying principally on modern
transportation and communications system. Chapin says that because both Webber’s and Meier’s theories are new concepts, they are largely untested and therefore more explanatory in their efforts than normative.
Kevin Lynch and Lloyd Rodwin employ a “conceptual system”
using “urban form” as a nucleus. Urban form to these two theorists is composed of “adapted space” (space adapted to human activities) and “flow systems” (channels through which move the orderly transmission of human communications, transactions, and activities).
Chapin says of Lynch and Rodwin that “Their work 1s concerned with the rationale of planning for the city rather than a framework for analyzing the structure of the city and explaining how growth occurs” (Chapin, 1971, p. 146).
Albert Z. Guttenberg, says Chapin, represents those theorists dealing with the relationship of “accessibility concepts and urban structure.” Guttenberg sees accessibility as “a community effort to overcome distance” (Guttenberg, 1960, p. 105). The rationale of Guttenberg’s theory is that “if transportation is poor, the work places, trade centers, and community services will tend to assume a pattern of distributed facilities; if it is good, these activities will assume more concentrated patterns in the form of undistributed facilities” (Chapin, p. 147). For “distributed” and “undistributed” we may read, roughly, “decentralized and “centralized”, and we immediately see the relationship between poor transpiration and urban sprawl and spatial structural patterns in the city as we know it today.
Economic models of spatial structure in land use in the city are founded on equilibrium theory and generally view urban
development processes as phenomena based on economic transaction and conditions. “The organizing concept is the market mechanism and the sorting process it provides in the allocation of space to activities” (Chapin, p. 149).
The sixth and last theoretical approach to urban growth dealt
with by Chapin is the approach which relates decision analysis and urban structure. This framework sees, as did that expressed by Meier or Webber, explanations for urban growth patterns based on patterns of human activity and the needs which arise therefrom, but it adds to the Meier-Webber theories by viewing behavior or activity patterns as a function of human values. Additionally expanding the Meier-Webber frameworks is the fourth component of decision analysis — the strategies, plans, and/or control processes (decisions) which shape the interplay among urban growth, human activity, and human values.
Bryant’s analysis of specific urban environments, land uses, real estate transactions, and land development, allows us now to apply the theoretical framework provided by Chapin, and to ascertain which particular principles are utilized or ignored by specific planners.
For example, Bryant writes that W.L.C. Wheaton, in Wheaton’s analysis of public and private agents of change in urban growth, set out “to analyze the role of investment decisions in the
processes of urban change, using figures from the Philadelphia area as a basis” (Bryant, p. 172).
Wheaton discovered that the ratio of private to public investment patterns varies from county to county, for instance, within the overall metropolitan region. Generally, however, the national standard of public investment in urban areas in the United 5tates is from 40 to 50 percent. In areas particularly dependent on military-industrial-related investment, however, the rate may exceed 50 percent. In Philadelphia, the rate of
public investment was around 20 percent.
Wheaton says that the reason for this discrepancy in this particular area is based on “market criteria.”
There is a fact component, a Judgment component and a value component. The major issue are decided in the private sector; public investments, such as school plane, tag along in the wake of entrepreneurial decisions (Bryant, p. 172).
From that entrepreneurial viewpoint, which is based on the profit motive, it may be wise to undertake a detailed and sophisticated market study in every urban growth decision. In addition, it may be wise to construct great shopping complexes in vacant areas merely because the land would yield the greatest amount of profit in that location when utilized in that way. Bryant asks whether such profit-based strategies ultimately benefit the public viewpoint. Surely not, he answers, and the proof is one look at most urban centers, which have, one after another “exploded” into garish, disorganized, squalid centers of monetary-and-goods exchanges with little or no consideration of human value.
In other words, using the Philadelphia area as an example, we may say that none of the six theories discussed by Chapin were adequately considered by the planners of that area. This is primarily because the planners were representing private interests in competition with one another for land and profit, rather than representing the public sector which would “profit” by thorough and unified urban planning based on human activities, human communication, and human values. The theory of Meier, for example, classifies communication as the building block of urban structure, and he includes the exchange of commodities as an element of-that communications structure. However, he does not treat the exchange of goods as the only element, and much less as the most important component, of that structure. Instead he emphasizes the “transmission of culture” as the primary element of human communication, and warns that this more abstract communication must be present or the urban structure (including-land use, real estate transactions, and development) will ultimately decay into competing private interests with no unified goal.
Furthermore, as a result of the Philadelphia “planners’
ignorance of the necessity of cohesive theoretical application, and as a further result of the aforementioned ultimate decay of the city, whatever investment had originally been put into the urban center will gradually flow out to the suburbs. In other words, private, competitive, disorganized investment in land use and development will ultimately bring about the decay of the city; these private interests will react to the decay (which the private interests have created) by removing their involvement with the urban centers and investing instead in the suburbs:
The figures given by Wheaton reflect . . . the common
North American experience in “metropolitan” areas,
namely, that while the central city finds difficulty
in heading off obsolescence save in a few favored
zones (residential areas in which either upper middle
class or upper class citizens reside), the suburbs
attract a disproportionately high share of investment.
In other words, new development on the urban fringe is
more profitable and easier for entrepreneurs than
renewal of old urban tissue (Bryant, p. 173).
Finally, regarding this segment of our research, Bryant says
that a great amount of detailed data on the processes of development does not presently exist, primarily Because thorough application in real planning of organized theoretical structures had not yet taken place: ” . . . One is tempted to wonder whether the North American dream has not become the North American nightmare. Every city from Quebec to San Diego has
surrounded itself (after initial signs of decay and deterioration have set in) with a fizzy fringe of one-family houses (exemplifying poor 1and use and greed-based entrepreneurial decisions), interspersed her and there with shopping centers, gas stations, and motel alleys and the like” (Bryant, p. 174).
Suggesting an alternative to this careless, destructive, and profit-oriented private development of what 1o essentially (or should be) public land, William Alonso presents his “Theory of the Urban Land Market.” Alonso, writing his piece in Bourne’s Internal Structure of the City, is presenting a model which corresponds to “the simplest case” and Alonso admits “the model is purely theoretical. However, it is hope that it may provide a logical structure for econometric models which may be useful for prediction.” In the same summarizing passage, Alonso says that the model for a city based on human communication, activity, and value, is additionally based on
a single-center city, on a featureless plain, with
transportation in all directions. However, the
reasoning can be extended to cities with several
centers (shopping, office, manufacturing, etc.), with
structured road patterns, and other realistic
complications. The theory can also be made to shed
light on the effects of economic development, changes
in income structure, zoning regulations, taxation
policies, and other (Alonso, 1971, p. 159).
Alonso’s land use and development theory does not ignore the need for private investment and profit, incentives which he argues do not necessarily have to work against the healthy planning and growth of urban centers. But, he argues, can instead be modified and integrated with public needs in order to build a city based both on profit and on harmonious relationships between agriculture, business, and residential interests, as well as on individual and market equilibrium.
Peter Spurr, in “The Urban Land Monopoly”, from The_City Book, edited by James Lorimer and Evelyn Ross, states that his examination of “private developers has yielded considerable insight into the nature and operation of this industry (the industry of private development of public urban centers and suburbs). Metropolitan-land development is dominated by relatively few, big vertically integrated diversified producers who hold fiveto-twenty year banks of land for future use, considerable residential and commercial rental property, and a large number of smaller, subsidiary firms” (Spurr, 1976, p. 29). Though Spurr is dealing in his exhaustive study primarily with situations in Canadian urban land use and development, and though he is particularly critical of real estate developers as the prime culprits in the dissection of urban areas, his study is, unfortunately, applicable to most urban areas in North America.
Bryant not only agrees with Spurr as to the heart of the
urban disaster, but adds that the same situation threatens Europe and that the particular roadblock in North America 1s apathy and a sense of helpless malaise in the face of the overwhelming situation:
The problems connected with the ownership of land lie
at the heart of all the problem involved in the
shaping and reshaping of our urban environment. Far
too often, the land problem is simply swept under the
rug. The French . . . recognize its significance. The Germans, Dutch, and Scandinavians have their own
traditional and radical approach. . . . In North
America there is an evident gap between advanced and
informed thinking and popular attitudes. As a friend
of the writer once remarked . . . when quizzed about
the effect of real estate speculation: ‘We Just have
to live with it.’ 16
Unfortunately, the friend of whom Bryant writes is not merely a private citizen but is rather an official in an important state planning agency in the United States. Bryant says that as long as such officials shirk their social responsibility, and ignore the growing body of new theories on land development based on human needs, rather than treating land as merchandise, then cities will continue to deteriorate and the situation will become more and more truly disastrous.
The social implications of these dire straits reach backward as well as forward. In other words the profit-oriented attitudes of the private landowners did not appear one day out of thin air But instead are the results of historical ambivalences on the part of the public in its own attitude toward the land. Quoting Roger Montgomery, Bryant writes:
American planners have been defeated by their
Society’s ambivalence toward the land (a wilderness to
be burned out, chopped down, and mined away) . . . .
Our planners clutch wildly at trend guessing in the
hope that they can outsmart the speculators. They seek
to plan indirectly according to the wishful and
discredited faith in a perfect laissez-faire market.
The reasoning is simple, though results show it
fraudulent. It holds that poor information makes the
market imperfect, and that planners can make good
information available through data processing, thereby
perfecting the market and automatically building
better cities. We are surrounded by the evidence that
this reasoning does not work (Montgomery, 1966, p. 72).
William H. Form, in “The Place of Social Structure in the Determination of Land Use: Some Implications for a Theory of Urban Ecology,” repeats previously mentioned declarations that analyses of urban problems based on historic principles are simply no longer viable. Form says that the first step in restructuring examination of the urban scene involves “first isolating the important and powerful land-interested groupings in the city.” And Form says, “The forces that operate in land use change may well be studied in the socio-political struggles that are presently occurring in the area of zoning” (Form, 1971, 187).
He stresses ecological considerations over sociological
considerations in his theoretical revamping of the urban land-control hierarchy, and he believes that changing zoning laws is the most effective means of returning land use to the people, but Bryant is adamant in his claim that social implications are the first consideration as well as the goal of any urban land use change. He emphasizes the necessity of regaining ownership of land from private interests whose primary concern is speculative profit rather than human need. However, he is quick to add, and wise to understand, that “Land speculation is an outgrowth of existing market arrangements that must be looked at in a clear-headed way. One must distinguish between those elements which are peculiar to the land market, and the obvious monopoly value of land by its inherent nature. One must also distinguish between purely speculative profits and legitimate developer’s profit” (Bryant, p. 352).
In other words, urban land should not be completely divorced from profit motives, since those motives may be rearranged BO that they increase rather than decrease the satisfaction of the public need. The profit-motive must be made secondary to that public need, so that profits are made because of the satisfaction of that need, rather than instead of it.
Finally, says Bryant, the ownership of urban land must be reorganized, for if such an essential reorganization does not occur, no profound change in land use can occur. Bryant therefore argues that
Either urban land must be publicly owned, or some arrangements made whereby public authorities can decide the use of this or that piece of land, from high-rise offices to green belt (agricultural areas), without having to worry about financial consequences either to the owner or the public purse (Bryant, p. 352).
Bryant claims that truly effective control of development cannot be conceivable if such radical changes do not occur. The most desirable, complete, and effective way, however, Bryant emphasizes, is outright public ownership of land. And he suggests, in conclusion, that “in and around cities, both inside and on the fringe of the built-up area, sufficiently large tracts of land should be under some form of public ownership, to enable (the public) to play a decisive part in controlling the market, and in permitting the (socio-political) authorities to control the direction and form of development” (Bryant, p. 353). The type of public ownership would vary according to the most effective means available in each individual situation, based on specific urban conditions and governmental regulations, as well as on existing land use. Bryant stresses that the changes, while urgently needed, should take an evolutionary rather than revolutionary road.
Alonso, W. (1971). “A Theory of the Urban Land Market.” L. S. Bourne. (Ed.) Internal Structure of the City.
(pp. 154-159). New York: Oxford University Press.
Bryant, R.W.G. (1972). Land, Private Property, Public Control. Montreal: Harvest House.
Chapin, F. S., Jr. (1971). “Selected Theories of Urban Growth and Structure.” Internal Structure of the City. (pp. 141-153) New York: Oxford University Press.
Form, W. H. (1971).”The Place of Social Structure in the Determination of Land Use.” Internal Structure of the City.
(pp. 180-187) New York: Oxford University Press.
Guttenberg, A. Z. (1960, May). “Urban Structure and Urban Growth.” Journal of the American Institute of Planners, XXVI (pp. 104-110).
Montgomery, Roger. (1966, March). “Sociological Aspects of American Urban Planning.” Architectural Forum, Vol. 124, # 2, (pp. 71-84).
Spurr, Peter. (1976). “The Urban Land Monopoly.” In J. Lorimer and E. Ross (Eds.) The City Book. Toronto: James Lorimer & Company (pp. 12-30).