Zoning to Enhance Local Sustainability: Why Local Governments Choose to Use Sustainability-Focused Land Use Tools

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The use of land use regulations to enhance a city’s sustainability portfolio is not well understood by public administration and policy scholars. Given the positive impact higher-density, environmentally conscious zoning instruments can have on a city’s overall progress toward increased sustainability, we seek to determine why some cities use these sustainability-focused land use regulations and others do not. After developing an explanatory framework emphasizing a city’s population growth and environmental stress, as well as its political institutions and economic conditions, we use an enhanced ICMA’s (International City/County Management Association) Local Government Sustainability Practices survey to test our predictions. We find that cities experiencing greater population growth and environmental stress will be more likely to include land use regulations in their sustainability portfolios. We also find that cities operating under council-manager forms of government and those with greater fiscal resources are more likely to have sustainability-focused zoning regulations in place.