Transforming Rainey Street

The decoupling of equity from environment in Austin’s smart growth agenda

Authored by: Eliot Tretter , Elizabeth J. Mueller

The Routledge Handbook on Spaces of Urban Politics

Print publication date:  April  2018
Online publication date:  April  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138890329
eBook ISBN: 9781315712468
Adobe ISBN:


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The 1987 Bruntland report, Our Common Future, is noted for galvanizing international attention on the environmental limits to growth through the concept of sustainability (Keil 2007). While the aspirations of the original concept – to foster development that meets present needs without compromising future generations – were potentially radical, over time the term has come to be embraced so widely as to be emptied of any meaning (Rosol 2013; Swyngedouw 2007). Instead, sustainability is invoked apolitically to justify ‘techno-managerial’ approaches to urban development, where aspirations have retreated from changing the nature of development to shifting the pattern of development (Miller 2015). ‘Smart Growth’ and/or ‘New Urbanism’ are primarily terms used to describe a range of ‘sustainable’ urban planning techniques, policies, initiatives and strategies that attempt to achieve sustainable growth by encouraging denser urban development, particularly in proximity to mass transit lines (American Planning Association 2000, 2002). While tensions between the three pillars of sustainability – economy, environment and equity – are acknowledged by some advocates of Smart Growth and New Urbanism, attention to equity concerns has been modest and far from the strong commitment to ‘just sustainability’ advocated by critics (Agyeman 2003; Campbell 1996; Krueger and Agyeman 2005; Oden 2016).

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