Regulation of hillside development in the United States

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This paper examines the range of issues concerning hillside development in the United States. Hillside development is regulated for a variety of masons: aesthetics, public safety, and environmental quality. Sometimes these reasons conflict. In part this reflects differing views among the design and construction disciplines: architects, engineers, engineering geologists, landscape architects, and planners. This paper presents a history of hillside planning, lays out some of the differing points of view, and summarizes the contents of hillside plans and ordinances collected from 190 local governments throughout the United States. The documents reflected a variety of purposes. Thirty-four specific purposes were identified and 43% of the documents identified five or more purposes. Most ordinances emphasize protection of scenic quality (75%) and natural phenomena (71%), with a significant number also promoting public safety (64%). The study also identified 31 specific implementation strategies to achieve those goals. On the one hand, this study shows a rich variety of goals, policies, and strategies for managing hillside development. It is possible, however, that many of them accept, without resolving, the conflicting professional views toward hillside development management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)383-392
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1998


  • Hillside development
  • Hillside regulation
  • Land-use planning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Pollution


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