The last two decades have witnessed a rapid increase in state and local government activities intended to influence future physical development within their jurisdiction. But nowhere has this growth management movement been as widespread as in California.

Beginning in the early '70s, a rising number of city and county jurisdictions began to adopt policies and regulations to guide the rate, amount, type, location, quality and timing of development. In southern California, the late '80s saw a surge of growth management activity, jumping from a low annual average of 4 measures per year between 1975 and 1985, to an average of 26 measures between 1985 and 1990 for the 116 cities in the sample studied here. These attempts to limit or shape growth were often undertaken under the banner of environmental protection and preservation of community character.

Today, the popularity of Smart Growth initiatives reflects the ambivalent public opinion towards unregulated growth and its consequences on traffic congestion, pollution, loss of open space, destruction of historic buildings and fiscal stress.
While on the one hand many communities welcome growth as a source of income, jobs, and improvements, on the other hand they reject development if they believe it will require additional expenditure, alter the lifestyle and appearance of their cities and towns, and threaten the environment (Kee and Molotch, 1995).