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A few years ago, Professor Earl Johnson of the University of Southern California wrote a useful essay on the now fashionable subject of dispute resolution. Extrapolating from the patterns of current practice and commentary, Johnson sketched four possible scenarios for dispute resolution in the world of the future. One scenario was a perfected process of formal adjudication which involved a proliferation of due process safeguards for representation, decisions on a record, and review. A second scenario was maximum decentralization, a variation on the theme of neighborhood mediation. His third scenario was "systems analysis" of whatever problem required solution. Fourth, and last, was a scenario which Johnson labeled "lowered expectations," meaning what some dispute resolution specialists describe (using a highly unspecialized name) as "lumping it."

In describing current thinking about the major issues in local land use regulation, one quite fruitfully can adopt Johnson's method, envisioning the whole field of local land use processes as a series of variations on a theme of dispute resolution. Since the beginning of modern land use regulation, courts, legislators, administrative bodies, and academic commentators have struggled to define procedures appropriate for controversies that arise over local governmental control of land use. To a very considerable degree, their efforts can be grouped and classified as alternative patterns or models for resolving disputes.

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