Urban sprawl has been studied principally as a phenomenon produced by a lack of or weakness in urban planning, as a consequence of real estate liberalization. This article examines the Chilean case, and proposes that the state has been the engine of this phenomenon through spatial planning instruments that have both neoliberal and neostructural features, and that are best defined by the concept, new public management. The analysis tracks urban sprawl in four intermediate cities, which have experienced high rates of growth since 2000, using photointerpretation of satellite images between 2003 and 2011, and the creation of a typology to define land uses and housing types. The results show that intermediate cities follow similar trends to the capital city, Santiago, and face similar problems, in particular the concentration of services in the urban core. These similarities are produced by the application of general planning instruments: Article 55 and Decree Law 3516. While most research on urban sprawl focuses on private agency, this article highlights the role of the state in its production. It is therefore relevant to explore the nature of public agency in urban sprawl processes in different metropolitan and intermediate cities, and how planning policies can be adapted to curb the phenomenon.