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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.

The City as a Problem Space

Issue cover

Editorial Notes


A collection of poems.

Editor's Note: Putting the Pieces Together

When we put together the call for Volume 22 of the Berkeley Planning foumal: Tlte City as a Problem Space, we knew full well that we were casting a somewhat amorphous, and at least for the BPf, unconventional net. We did not have a specific set of ideal submissions in mind, no checklist for writing style or methodology. Ours was a purposefully broad call, one that would put emphasis on good writing, research focus and provocative inquiries in an avenue for creative and erudite writing about planning and urbanism.

Book Reviews

The Evolving Arab City: Tradition, Modernity and Urban Development By Vasser Elshestawy

This edited collection, a sequel to Elsheshtawy's Planning Middle Eastem Cities: An Urban Kaleidoscope in a Globalizing World, is a timely and original addition to the (critically lacking) literature on contemporary Arab cities and urbanism. In particular, the contributing authors attempt to link discussions on the development of these cities with the global city discourse, tying in a variety of perspectives-sociological, political, architectural, historical and more.

Landscape and Race in the United States by Richard H. Schein

"All American landscapes are radalized", claims Richard Schein, editor of a new collection on race and landscapes in the United States (4). Schein's provocative claim and the larger goal of this work is to challenge the common geographical readings of landscape as a reflection of cultural processes, rather than as a political and soda! project whereby landscapes come to reinforce radalized systems of power, hierarchy, and control. Its larger ambition is to develop critical discourse and interdisciplinary scholarship on radalized landscapes and radalization asaprocessoccurringinandthroughlandscapes. Itproposesonlytobe a starting point for such research, rather than a definitive collection.

The City as Suburb: A History of Northeast Baltimore Since 1660, Updated Edition by Eric L. Holcomb

Eric Holcomb is a planner who specializes in historic preservation in Baltimore, and his love for and expertise in his discipline shine in this difficult-to-categorize work. Divided into three parts, the book looks at Northeast Baltimore before there was a place called Baltimore, the middle period during which the area was tied to yet separate from the city, and the modern era, when Northeast Baltimore is part of the city itself.

Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family·S(hool Partnerships by Anne T. Henderson, Karen L. Mapp, Vivian R. Johnson, and Don Davies

Over the past decade, we have witnessed a steadily growing interest in schools on the part of planners. In the 1930s, school districts were separated from City governments in order to shield public education from patronage hiring and the ups and downs of dty finances. While well­ intentioned, the separation has not been entirely benefidal for schools or cities. Recognizing the problems created through isolated decision making, schools and cities have started working together on some issues, namely transportation and fadlity locations. But coordinated work on other issues, such as community development, social service provision, and affordable family housing. is much less common. I had hoped this book might provide examples and recommendations for planners interested in partnering with schools on issues beyond transportation and land use.


Dilemmas in a General Theory of Fieldwork

Rittel and Webber’s article “Dilemmas in a general theory of planning” serves as a valuable guide today as Western planners increasingly study and work in the global South. In addition to the complex processes within each city and urban regime, and the challenge of studying and trying to understand those processes, there is the “wicked” ethical problem of the Western planners own role and commitments within cities set off as different. For instance, how does the Western planner reconcile a desire to learn and listen with Western planning’s strong normative opposition to segregation?

Lessons from the Western Landscape: Environment, History, and the Lens of Ideal Planning Practice

This article explores how planning has accrued what can be considered an ideal of practice over a century of addressing “the city as a problem space” and uses this compound ideal as a lens to examine the Western landscape. This process of utilizing an urban-focused practice ideal on the unique environment and history of the rural West reveals, I argue, the relevance of each era’s contribution to planning’s development, the folly of relying too heavily on any one single era’s trends, and the underlying causes for much of the tumultuousness experienced over the past generation in this storied region.

Whose City is it Anyway? Jane Jacobs vs. Robert Moses and Contemporary Redevelopment Politics in New York City

For decades the legacies of the Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs have loomed over redevelopment politics in New York City, serving as ideological opposites in ongoing struggles to influence the form of the urban built environment. In truth, the narrowness of this prevailing logic obscures the fact that both Jacobs and Moses represent a distinctly class-based strategy for remaking the city, one that fits neatly within the Bloomberg administration’s ambitious plans for redeveloping neighborhoods from Manhattan’s Far West Side to Willet’s Point in Queens.

Vancouverism: Actualizing the Livable City Paradox

This article provides a cautionary tale about the progressive tendency to construct and improve upon livable cities. By showing how Vancouverism has actualized the livable city paradox - one part rural romance of living close to nature, and one part urban romance of diversity and complexity - it is able to draw out some of the pernicious implications of doing so. There are no ready solutions to the complex scenes that are sketched, but we can get a better sense for how to respond appropriately within and to these scenes, by looking backwards rather than ahead.

Metro Vancouver: Designing for Urban Food Production

This article focuses on the role landscape architects and planners can take in the creation of urban food production landscapes. It draws upon a series of local projects and visions to demonstrate how this can be accomplished. Within the context of Metro Vancouver, there are significant constraints to expansion due to geographical limitations, a steadily growing population, and large low-density residential areas. Successful food production strategies for the future can be achieved by integrating urban agriculture into a wider city planning context, and transcending the creation of community gardens. The challenge is to provide custom solutions for specific neighborhoods, at all scales, from the urban core to the suburbs, and beyond. The design of food production sites within the urban core and, particularly, the edge condition between residential development, and farmland, will challenge landscape architects to create real places of interaction between man and land.

Consensus Building in Shopping District Associations and Downtown Commercial Re-vitalization in Japan

This paper examines the impact of the Japanese model of placing responsibility for downtown commercial vitalization with incorporated Shopping District Associations (SDAs), via a comparative study of successful and unsuccessful shopping districts in downtown Chiba City, Japan. Under the Japanese model, small property owners must agree to part with, or upgrade their properties, in order to implement vitalization plans. SDAs are responsible for “consensus building” among property owners. However, the complexity of the issues, SDA organizational characteristics, and the failure to utilize mediators to resolve conflicts, have made consensus building a difficult undertaking. SDAs that experienced difficulties in consensus building often lost opportunities to utilize public funds for downtown commercial vitalization, which has contributed to the continuing decline of those shopping districts.

Modernizing Kuwait: Nation-building and Unplanned Spatial Practices

This is a study of city planning intentions and their unintended spatial practices as manifest in Kuwait’s urban center. Focusing on Kuwait’s public space, Duwwar El-Sheriton, its weekly migrant labor gathering is traced back to Kuwait’s first master plan in 1952 up until the present. In a modernizing city built on a very specific regime of labor migration and modernist/nationalist city planning that strategically censor the city’s duality, migrant worker’s spatial practices in Kuwait’s public space subvert their explicit exclusionary nature, injecting a brief public vision of communities rendered invisible by the official plan of the contemporary state.

Public Space Praxis: Cultural Capacity and Political Efficacy in Latina/o Placemaking

Public space has increasingly become a critical issue in American urbanism. This article examines how the act of Latina/o identity formation in public spaces of American metropolises contain the possibility of new democratic formations. The evidence of Latino/a heritage and culture in spatial interventions, appropriations and practices are a type of place-making activity. This identity-based spatial practice harnesses public participation and carves out spaces for democratic interventions in the city. By focusing on the value of culture as a political capacity, Rios exposes a set of case studies centered around three types of spaces– adaptive, assertive, and negotiative – along a continuum to discuss different ways Latina/ os make group claims in the city and whereupon cultural identity becomes a usable resource for community development practice and local urban policy.

The Tragicomic Televisual Ghetto: Popular Representations of Race and Space at Chicago’s Cabrini-Green

The production of cultural perceptions in mass media is linked to the project of urban renewal and institutionalized racism. Popular television shows like Good Times, so infused with progressive ideals and issues of social relevance, were able to convey a normative view of “the projects” as an inherently failed space. This article presents a history of cultural translation and racial relations against a backdrop of American housing policy in the post-war era.


Residual Meaning: Assembling Thick Urbanism

The preservation and promotion of rich urban environments demands more than logical and functional understandings alone. Although these types of understanding are important to the life of vital cities, what is often overlooked in these views is the role that the incomplete, the messy, and the complex play in constituting the wholeness and viscerality of real urbanity. Aided by perspectives from philosophy and film this article promotes the “residual” aspects of the urban experience and suggests why these aspects might be of even greater importance than more controlled elements of urban life to the continuation of thick, whole, urban settings.

Welcome to Theoretical Las Vegas

Las Vegas, a city often theorized as the ultimate spectacular city, has a commensurate history of spectacular theories. This essay explores the connections between urban theory and spectacle through etymology, a brief history of the literature on Las Vegas, and an encounter between a Las Vegas urban planner and a theorist.

JCDecaux as an Indicator of Globalization

Jean Claude Decaux’s claim to inventing street furniture is not his to make. What did happen in 1964 is that he lobbied the French government to allow his company to install bus shelters across France. He provides bus shelters as a “public service amenity” in return for control of their integrated advertising panels. As such, the JCDecaux brand has transcended into an indicator of globalization in both the “space of place” and the “space of flows.” The company’s ubiquity both mimics and drives the growing reach of a globalized cultural economy, in which corporate advertising imagery becomes the backdrop of urban life. Decaux’s true contribution—a model of public-private partnership which calculates the demand of corporate advertising into accounting for transit service – is now part of decision-making processes which determine the level of service in neighborhoods around the globe.

An Interview with AbdouMaliq Simone

AbdouMaliq Simone is an urbanist and professor of sociology at Goldsmiths College, University of London. Since 1977 he has many jobs in different cities across Africa and Southeast Asia, in the fields of education, housing, social welfare, community development, local government and economic development. His best known publications are In Whose Image: Political Islam and Urban Practices in the Sudan and For the City Yet to Come: Urban change in Four African Cities. A forthcoming book is entitled Movement at the Crossroads: City Life from Jakarta to Dakar.


Kaye Bock Student Paper Award

The Kaye Bock Student Paper Award is given to the author of the paper that is both an outstanding example of scholarship and exemplifies Kaye's commitment to underrepresented issues or peoples. The award in named in loving memory of Kaye Bock to honor her unbounded concern for and commitment to graduate students in the Department of City and Regional Planning. It is also intended as an expression of gratitude from the Berkeley Planning Joumal to Kaye for her critical and caring support of the journal during our first two decades of publication. The winner is chosen by the editorial board of each volume of the Berkeley Plarming Journal. The Kaye Bock Student Award Paper Award is accompanied by a $250 cash gift.

DCRP Class of 2009

Recent Doctoral Dissertations, Master's Theses, Professional, and Client Reports

Urban Fringe

All Urban Problems now Problem Spaces

The International Association of Urban Intellectuals, meeting this week for their 112'h global symposium at the Walter Benjamin Conference Center in Paris, announced that forthwith all problems associated with urbanization and metropolitan living would be converted to problem spaces. The change will go into effect on January 1", leading some to specl}late about the challenges faced by cities and their residents in anticipation of the conversion. Discursive shifts of this sort, while not unprecedented, often come with significant epistemological and pecuniary costs, including altering one's outlook on daily urban living and buying lots of new books.