Custodians of Place

Governing the Growth and Development of Cities

Paul G. Lewis and Max Neiman

"[One] of the more original works in urban politics to appear over the last several years."
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Custodians of Place provides a new theoretical framework that accounts for how different types of cities arrive at decisions about residential growth and economic development. Lewis and Neiman surveyed officials in hundreds of California cities of all sizes and socioeconomic characteristics to account for differences in local development policies. This book shows city governments at the center of the action in shaping their destinies, frequently acting as far-sighted trustees of their communities.

They explain how city governments often can insulate themselves for the better from short-term political pressures and craft policy that builds on past growth experiences and future vision. Findings also include how conditions on the ground—local commute times, housing affordability, composition of the local labor force—play an important role in determining the approach a city takes toward growth and land use.

What types of cities tend to aggressively pursue industrial or retail firms? What types of cities tend to favor housing over business development? What motivates cities to try to slow residential growth? Custodians of Place answers these and many other questions.

Table of Contents


1. Introduction: Contingent Trusteeship and the Local Governance of Growth

2. The Context for Local Choices: Growth Pressures, Fiscal Incentives, and the California Setting

3. What Type of City to Be? Evaluating Different Kinds of Growth

4. The Vision Thing: Pursuing a Future Ideal

5. Firm Ground: Competing for Businesses and Jobs

6. Hustle or Balancing Act? Regulating Residential Growth

7. Custodians of Place: Systemic Representation in Local Governance

Appendix A: The Consistency of "Visions" with Other Officials' Views: Comparing Responses across Surveys

Appendix B: Detailed Results of Multivariate Analyses





"[One] of the more original works in urban politics to appear over the last several years."—Choice

"[An] important book that should be read by students of urban politics and planning."—Political Science Quarterly

"This is an important book. . . . Lewis and Neiman draw upon but move beyond existing theories of urban policymaking, leadership, and representation . . . and make a major contribution to the field of urban politics and to our understanding of the way urban government works."—Harold L. Wolman, director, George Washington Institute of Public Policy

"A careful, thoughtful, balanced, timely, well-written analysis of growth politics and policy in California cities. The results provide readers with a rich and nuanced portrait of the development policies pursued by various types of cities."—Elisabeth Gerber, University of Michigan

"Custodians of Place lays out an innovative framework for understanding city land use and development decisions."—Richard C. Feiock, Augustus B. Turnbull Professor of Public Administration, Askew School of Public Administration and Policy, Florida State University

"Analytically crisp and well researched, Custodians of Place is a major contribution to the literature on urban development policy. The authors convincingly show how the future (vision) and the past (community history) shape how city officials make all-important land use and development decisions. This is must reading both for urban scholars and practitioners."—Steven Erie, University of California, San Diego

"Lewis and Neiman's conceptualization of urban development politics reaches a higher level of abstraction than previous work. The authors do not throw away existing theory, but instead offer the more generalized concept of 'contingent trusteeship' thus allowing for the shading and hues of local governance to be recognized and examined. This book is a valuable read and an important resource for students of urban politics and planning."—Victoria Basolo, University of California, Irvine and editor, Journal of Urban Affairs

"Lewis and Neiman move our understanding of local development policy forward by positing a more complex model of local policymaking that goes beyond the constraining effects of local economic imperatives. Not only do politics 'count' in local development, but Lewis and Neiman provide a compelling framework for understanding how."—Edward G. Goetz, director, Urban and Regional Planning Program, Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota


Supplemental Materials


About the Author

Paul G. Lewis is assistant professor of political science at Arizona State University. His previous book, Shaping Suburbia: How Political Institutions Organize Urban Development, was named an Outstanding Academic Book by Choice.

Max Neiman is a senior resident scholar at the Institute of Government Studies,
University of California, Berkeley.

272 pp., 6 x 9

Mar 2009

272 pp., 6 x 9

ISBN: 978-1-58901-256-1
Mar 2009

272 pp.

ISBN: 978-1-58901-590-6
Mar 2009

American Governance and Public Policy series
Gerard W. Boychuk, Karen Mossberger, and Mark C. Rom, Series Editors

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