Stacy Harwood, PhD, Urban Planning from USC, is Associate Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the Department of Urban & Regional Planning at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dowell Myers, PhD Urban Planning, MIT, is a Professor at USC and Director of the Population Dynamics Research Group.
Harwood and Myers examine how rapid growth in Santa Ana’s immigrant population changed convention municipal governance and planning from the 1970s through the 1990s. While immigration helps the nation’s overall net gain, states and localities stuff from losses due to local expenditures (Smith & Edmonston, 1997). This fact was brought well to bear on the “stresses and strains on the [city’s] residential environment” (89). In that time, direct (e.g. “overcrowding” legislation) and indirect (e.g. Neighborhood Improvement Program, Pro-Active Rental Enforcement Program [PREP]) steps were taken to address impacts of immigration. Santa Ana now has the enhanced community pride that comes with less crime and cleaner neighborhoods, “but immigrants are still regarded as the [city’s] biggest challenge” (86) notwithstanding the city’s accomplishments over the preceding twenty years.
They present three lessons: (1) culture and social expectations drive urban planning and land use policy, for better or worse; (2) the immigrant population, by virtue of its unauthorized status and overall dynamic movement, wields little control over policies; and (3) embracing immigrants is still politically risky, despite their proven contribution to a community’s economy. Harwood and Myers recommend future research comparing this city’s story with others in southern California to create best policies indicators.