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Urban Growth in the Metropolitan Region of San José, Costa Rica

A Spatial and Temporal Exploration of the Determinants of Land Use Change, 1986–2010

Rosendo Pujol-Mesalles and Eduardo Pérez Molina

June 2013, English

This paper analyzes the pattern of growth of the Metropolitian Region of San José, Costa Rica, and how it has changed over time. The analysis is based on maps of the build-up area of the region for three points in time—1986, 1997, and 2010. These maps were developed using both supervised and unsupervised Landsat satellite images classified using land cover metrics following Angel et al. (2005) and Burchfield (2006). The results show that the region is more dispersed and less dense than other Latin American cities. However, over time, the build-up area has become more compact than in the initial observation period. To explain the possible determinants of growth and sprawl of the metropolitan build-up area, we use econometric analysis that shows statistically significant associations, consistent with theory, among sprawl and accessibility, hydrogeological resources and population, and prevalent agricultural crops.

Keywords: patterns of urban growth, determinants of urban growth, land cover metrics, satellite images, urban sprawl and compactness, Metropolitan Region of San José, Costa Rica