Sierra Club logo

Stopping Sprawl campaign home page - click here.
Get an overview. Sign up for an e-newsletter. Find out what you can do to help.
Environmental Update Main
Sprawl Main
In This Section
Sprawl Overview
Reports & Factsheets
Activist Resources
Get Involved!
Articles & Research
Population and Sprawl

Get The Sierra Club Insider
Environmental news, green living tips, and ways to take action: Subscribe to the Sierra Club Insider!


Stop Sprawl
Is Smart Growth Social Engineering? Or is Sprawl?

Some critiques call smart growth social engineering. Smart growth advocates counter that Smart Growth only attempts to correct the expensive and destructive social engineering since WWII.

The dysfuntionalism of Post WWII social engineering includes:

  • The bulldozing of highways through urban areas rupturing neighborhoods, dividing communities on either side of the freeway, destroying affordable housing and businesses, and bringing traffic congestion and pollution to the front doors of residents. In addition, these interstates subsidized housing construction on farmlands and open spaces by providing expensive transportation facilities to them -- at taxpayer expense.

  • Federal housing loan policies that redlined urban neighborhoods, drying up funds for purchase or rehab of urban housing, resulting in the deterioration of central city housing. Loans were available only for the purchase of new low- density single family housing. Add in mortgage tax deductions to create a gigantic subsidy for sprawl.

  • Massive demolition of housing in urban neighborhoods by redevelopment agencies, agents of the states, the bill paid by the taxpayer. Residents were forced to move out, often into more expensive and less convenient housing.

  • Single use zoning that separated housing from shopping, work and schools. Such zoning required wide streets, ample off-street parking, and large front and side-yard setbacks. This zoning was pushed by the federal housing policies upon local towns.

  • Migration of federal and state agencies, including post offices, and their employees from urban centers to the sprawling suburbs.

  • Huge subsidies for driving, equivalent to $3 to $5 per gallon of gas, see

* Demolition of and starving of public transit, forcing even urban residents to buy cars.

The unintended consequences of this experiment in social engineering are towns so spread out and inconvenient that residents are forced to drive, even for only a loaf of bread or bottle of milk. The additional and longer trips result in traffic congestion and waste of time in traffic. Recent scientific research shows the end result of this social engineering has been damage to our health and our environment by forcing people to drive everywhere thereby clogging our arteries and our streets.

Cities, such as New York City, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco, which grew up before this enormous government intervention, developed convenient, walkable, transit-oriented high density neighborhoods. As did non-U.S. cities like Hong Kong, Berlin and London great cities all.

John Holtzclaw
sprawl and transportation action --
This View of Density --

Up to Top | Printer-friendly version of this page