Central Valley Sustainable Cities Project

The idea of sustainability continues to draw considerable attention from local government officials, planners, and stakeholders. To better understand the consequences of this phenomenon, the Sustainable Cities project has developed an environmental policy sustainability index for one hundred incorporated cities in California's Central Valley. The project seeks to understand why cities adopt more sustainable policies, the consequences of those policies, and how to encourage further action by local governments. The index builds substantially on Paul Portney's (2003) Taking Sustainable Cities Seriously and Bowman's (2005) subsequent empirical analysis, in particular borrowing their categories and lists of sustainability policies. However, these previous analyses focused on metropolitan regions throughout the US and did not have the regional variance in types of cities seen in the Central Valley. The quantitative findings to date suggest that sustainability is largely an urban phenomenon--cities that score high on the index are larger, more populous, financially independent, socio-economically advantaged, more Democratic, and have higher stores of intellectual capital. While the quantitative results are interesting, many details about the political and economic dynamics underlying the emergence of these policies in specific cities, or anything about their effectiveness is known. Thus, we are requesting seed grant money to conduct qualitative case studies of "leaders" and "laggards" from the sustainability index in order to gain a more detailed understanding of the constraints and opportunities for local government sustainability. The case studies will look at the links among different kinds of sustainability policies, including transportation. Furthermore, a general audience publication will be distributed reporting the results of this project to stakeholders throughout the Central Valley in order to help inform local government decision-making. The publication will include both the quantitative and qualitative results from the case-studies.