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Green growth machines? Competing discourses of urban development in Playa Vista, California

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Playa Vista is a massive mixed-use development built on coastal wetlands in west Los Angeles. Its land use story illustrates how strategically constructed discourses shape contested urban spaces. Through an analysis of newspaper reporting and government documents, this paper traces how pro-Playa Vista interests changed their growth discourses rationalizing the development between 1979 and 2015. Findings suggest that pro-growth coalitions are resilient when they modify their discourses to negotiate new regulatory and political contexts, specifically pursuing sustainability fixes. They are not dogmatic in their adherence to orthodoxies of private property rights and “highest and best use” of land but rather continually reconstruct growth discourses incorporating enough of the values of their opponents (i.e. “green” values such as growth management and smart growth) that some environmental and homeowner citizens’ groups join the growth coalition, forming a “green growth machine” that not only profitably builds on the land but finances ecological restoration.
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Keywords: Growth coalitions; Los Angeles; contestation; discourse; land use; sustainability fix

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Geography, California State University, Long Beach, CA, USA

Publication date: March 16, 2018

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