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Open Access Publications from the University of California


The Berkeley Planning Journal is an annual peer-reviewed journal published by graduate students in the Department of City and Regional Planning (DCRP) at the University of California, Berkeley since 1985.

Social Equity and Planning

Issue cover

Editorial Notes

Editors' Introduction to Volume 13

As we approach the beginning of a new millennium, planning for social equity remains an important and relevant subject of planning inquiry and practice. Amazing technological advances in the tools for communication, industrial production, data processing and research, combined with the rise of democratic governance processes, have transformed the ways in which society functions. Devastating wars, shifts in political and economic borders, population movements, and environmental disasters have contributed to changes in social and physical landscapes. To\f;:y we are faced with a process of uneven development and persistent concentrated pockets of poverty within dynamic and growing regions.

Book Reviews

Human Settlements and Planning for Ecological Sustainability: The Case for Mexico City by Keith Pezzoli

From 1 983 through 1 985, a group of several hundred destitute families living in a squatter settlement on the outskirts of Mexico City attempted to organize their self-built community into something that they called a colonia ecologica productiva, or productive ecological settlement. The goal of the colonia was to enable the community to derive its livelihood from the land on which they had settled through sustainable agriculture techniques, reforestation projects, and the use of inexpensive, small-scale, solar-powered technologies. This short-lived initiative was a response to the Mexican government's efforts to evict them from the land, a national park known as the Ajusco, and eradicate their settlements. Located on the urban edge of one of the fastest­ growing cities in the world, the Ajusco zone has been and remains under intense settlement pressure, not only from the thousands of rural migrants arriving in the city each year, but also from real estate speculators and developers catering to the country's elite.

Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster by Mike Davis

In Ecology ofFear, Mike Davis contends that Los Angeles is exceptional in the number of major natural and social disasters it experiences, and that both types of tragedy are intensified through similar types of human (in)action. The former argument largely fails because Davis does not control for the enormous size of LA. Nor does he compare the results of these disasters to other dangers threatening residents. He thus makes pointless an assessment of the overall importance of these avoidable tragedies. Unfortunately, his gloomy tone has led many critics to dismiss him as paranoid and to miss the importance of the latter argument. Here, Davis relates three historical accounts where social and political factors are at least as important as the truly natural in determining the understanding and attempted management of "natural disaster." The unsupported argument that LA is exceptional and the narrative power of the case studies, combined with the rest of the nation's latent contempt for LA, may leave readers fantasizing about the ruin of the City of Angels when, in fact, they ought to be bringing this insightful analysis to bear on their own disaster policy questions.

Left Behind in Rosedale: Race Relations and the Collapse of Community Institutions, by Scott Cummings

Beginning with the Chicago school of sociology in the 1 920s, scholarly works on inner-city decline have tended to adopt an almost antiseptic scientific approach to the study of "neighborhood invasion and succession," often neglecting in the process to describe the actual experiences of inner-city residents. In Left Behind in Rosedale, Professor Scott Cummings of the University of Louisville promises to add a human element to the analysis of social and economic decay in an inner-city section of Fort Worth, Texas. Guided by the ethnographic principle that a researcher "should allow the subjects to speak for themselves," Cummings employs the techniques of participant observation and in-depth interviewing to portray the full complexity of institutional and cultural change in Rosedale.

One Nation After All: What Middle-Class Americans Really Think About God, Country, Family, Racism, Welfare, Immigration, Homosexuality, Work, The Right, The Left, and Each Other by Alan Wolfe

In the midst of an identity crisis and morality tug-of-war, intellectuals on the far ends of the socio-political spectrum have declared the country to be in the midst of a "culture war." Public opinion polls asserted the existence of deep cultural divisions that threaten the future of the nation as a democratic society. But what do everyday Americans think about these critical topics? In the current turmoil of the political landscape, there exists a compelling need to reassess what common values inform American identity and join us as a nation.


Reconsidering Social Equity in Public Transit

Over the course ofthis century, public transit systems in the U.S. have lost most ofthe market share ofmetropolitan travel to private vehicles. The two principal markets that remain for public transit systems are downtown commuters and transit dependents- people who are too young, too old. too poor, or physically unable to drive. Despite thefact that transit dependents are the steadiest customers for most public transit systems. transit policy has tended to focus on recapturing lost markets through expanded suburban bus, express bus, andfued rail systems. Such efforts have collectively proven expensive and only marginally effective. At the same time, comparatively less attention and fewer resources tend to be devoted to improving well-patronized transit service in low­ income, central-city areas serving a high proportion of transit dependents. This paper explores this issue through an examination of both the evolving demographics ofpublic transit ridership, and the reasons for shifts in transit policies toward attracting automobile users onto buses and trains. We conclude that the growing dissonance between the quality of service provided to

inner-city residents who depend on local buses and the level of public resources being spent to attract new transit riders is both economically inefficient and socially inequitable. In light of this. we propose that transportation planners concerned with social justice (and economic efficiency) should re-examine current public transitpolicies andplans.

Combining Artistry and Technology in Participatory Community Planning

A key principle of neighborhood planning is that residents know what is best for their communities. All too often. however, community residents are put in the position of reacting to the visions of "outsiders, " planners and designers whose understanding of the neighborhood is less immediate and comprehensive. This can result in an in::omplete meeting of the minds about community design, with residents limited in their abilities to visually express their ideas andplanners and designers - however well-meaning - limited in their local perspective. This paper describes how the resources of a Geographic Information System (GIS) were combined with the talents ofa graphic artist to stimulate participatory planning in Chicago 's Pi/sen neighbor­ hood. The GIS provided community leaders. planners, architects, and designers with spatial analysis, a comprehensive set of images of the existing neighborhood. and prototypes of appropriate designs. The artist. on the other hand, translated neighborhood residents ' ideas into quick sketches. merging them into a shared vision for the community. Both of these elements - the GIS and the artist - helpedresidents to visualize past. present. andfuture neighborhood conditions, better enabling them to direct the work oftheplanners and designers. Ourfindings reinforce the view that a clearly articulated vision for the future is a key component in public participation, one that can be greatly enhanced through combining traditional and computerized visualization tools.

The Privatization of Residential Water Supply and Sanitation Services: Social Equity Issues in the California and International Contexts

This paper reviews the theoretical andpolicy debates behind the global wave of infrastructure services privatization, focusing specifically on water and sanitation services. It explores two questions: first, what is the place ofsocial equity considerations in the rapid spread of privatization endeavors in water supply and sanitation services around the world? Second, why has the water services privatization movement been so much slower to catch on in the United States? Equity in water services is defined along three dimensions: physical access to safe drinking water, economic access or ajfordability, and access to planning and decision­ makingfor the services. Thepaper briefly reviews cases in France, Great Britain and Argentina, then examines the case of California in more depth, and shows how equity concerns are constructed difef rently in these various settings. After discussing the pricing and regulatory implications of privatization from an equity standpoint, the paper concludes with some directions for further research.

A Moral Argument in Favor of The Voluntary Provision of Social Services

In this paper. I make the argument that if the devolution of the welfare statefrom thefederal /eve/ to the local /eve/ is planned and implemented properly. then Americans could end up being better off I say this because I have found that volunteering to provide a social service in a local voluntary institution can have a profound moral impact on all involved. Such participation can produce better people. and that. I believe. is the essential starting point for the production of a better society. As planners look to affect change they don 't very often look at the level ofthe individual. We need to correct /his omission. as we are currently being presented with a great opportunity to profoundly affect the nature of this country. Citing political theory and the experiences of the volunteers at The Partnership for the Homeless in New York City. Ogilvie contends that voluntary participation in a local organization can create better citizens. His central point is that it is a prime responsibility ofevery law maker andplanner to create these good citizens, that is, citizens who are capable of making informed and sensitive decisions. Furthermore, he argues that these sorts of citizens can only develop out of habituation, usually through voluntary participation in a local organization. Plans about social service provision need to recognize this. and create as many situations as possible for people to be active in decision making and service provision.

Urbanization and the Transition from Agrarian to Industrial Society

One of the defining issues in the transition from agrarian to industrial society is the role played by urbanization in the creation ofindustrial modernity. The approach to this issue derivingfrom "urban history " consists of intensive case study research focused on particular urban places. A second approach, inspired by traditions in geography, demography. and planning. focuses on systems of cities and the role of such systems in promoting and reflecting the process of economic development. Practitioners of this approach insist that urban history should be a history of urbanization that transcends the experiences of individual urban communities. This essay is a comparison and critique of models developed by theorists from this second group. The comparison focuses on how four broad themes - trade, production, population. and state-building - function as prime movers of urbanization and economic modernization. The results of this comparison suggest that population movements play a decisive role in urban development and the transition to industrial modernity but these population shifts are best understood in conjunction with the impacts of trade patterns. production activities. and state-building.


Social Equity in Planning

Planners are called upon to promote equity in their work, to assure fairness in their procedures and secure justice through their plans and programs. Equity, fairness, justice - what exactly do these terms mean in planning? In this essay I shall use them essentially as synonyms, although there are nuances.


Abstracts and Titles of Student Work

Recent PhD Dissertations, Masters Thesis and Professional Reports from the Departmet of City and Regional Planning.