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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.

Crisis: Is planning at a crossroads?

Issue cover

Editorial Notes

Editor's Note

When the editorial board of the BPJ met in late 2009 to decide on a theme for this volume, we took two issues as starting points. First, while the current economic crisis (entering its third year at our meeting time) had been conceived in the ether of the financial sector, its on-the-ground manifestations – from the foreclosed neighborhoods in the American inner cities and remote suburbs to the unfinished skyscrapers in Dubai – were, in fact, ultimately urban in nature. Second, we grappled with the question of what to make of the apocalyptic discourses of “crisis” ubiquitous in media, academic circles and, to be fair, even our own conversations. In other words, we decided that we did not want to publish an issue of the BPJ iterating that the crisis has arrived, is here to stay, or is on its way out; instead, our focus and main concern for this issue is exploring what this crisis, or more specifically, what all the “discourses” of crises for planning, whether as practice or as academic discipline, mean for cities and for city dwellers around the globe.

Book Reviews

The Housing Policy Revolution by David J. Erickson

There is a familiar story about the history of government-subsidized housing in the United States, and it goes something like this: during the Great Depression, amidst widespread public concern about degraded dwelling conditions amongst the poor, federal housing programs of unprecedented scope and ambition are approved and implemented. An enormous burst of public housing construction ensues, and continues through most of the 1960s as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society. Unfortunately, much of the housing is ill-conceived: it is architecturally out of scale with its surroundings, and designed in such a way that it eventually becomes unsafe. Furthermore, its management is ensnared in a tangle of hopelessly incompetent and unresponsive public housing authorities and federal bureaucracies. By the late 1960s, public housing has become a nightmarish trap for its impoverished denizens, worse than the original slum neighborhoods that it often replaced, which at least offered a modicum of safety and social connections to their inhabitants. This ill-conceived overreach of the American welfare state, along with a sharp rightward lurch amongst the U.S. electorate with the election of Richard Nixon in 1968, eventually leads to an almost total retreat of the federal government from financing below-market housing. Ever since, the message from the American public sector to the poor has been that they are essentially on their own for finding adequate, safe, affordable housing.

Developing China: Land, Politics and Social Conditions by George C. S. Lin

In Developing China: Land, politics and social conditions, George C. S. Lin has produced a much-needed comprehensive account of the dramatic evolution of land use in China in the post-Mao era. He begins by focusing not on “land use” per se but on “land development,” which he defines as the “process in which land has been brought into more productive and profitable use” (p. 14). The key point here is Lin’s attention to the ways in which land in China is being connected into the circuits of capital, leading to dramatic changes to the social meaning of its use. In the course of his analysis, he demonstrates that this is not a background issue in China’s overall transformation, but, in fact, is absolutely central to the dramatic political, economic, social, and cultural changes reshaping the country today.

Ethnoburb: The New Ethnic Community in Urban America by Wei Li

Wei Li’s recent book, Ethnoburb: The New Ethnic Community in Urban America proves beyond a doubt that the American suburbs are not what they used to be. This account of the new geography of immigrants and minorities over the latter half of the 20th century argues that a new type of ethnic community has emerged, which is not simply an urban ethnic enclave in suburban dress. Rather, Li argues that this new community differs socially, economically, and politically from its urban counterpart and has evolved from separate factors, including a series of international, national and local changes favoring the suburban migration of wealthy, highly educated and skilled new immigrants.

City Bound by Gerald E. Frug & David J. Barron

Most planning students are required to take courses on Land Use Law and Planning History, and many also take courses on Urban Development and Urban Theory. In their coursework, they learn about the legal basis for planning, the process of city decision-making, the controversies and history of urban revitalization strategies, and the theory and outcomes of urban politics and socioeconomic structure. Few planning courses combine these topics plus the legal basis for the existence of cities, within a pragmatic legal framework for understanding why cities pursue certain policies and not others. In their current book, City Bound: How States Stifle Urban Innovation, co-authors, Gerald E. Frug and David J. Baron make this link in an eye-opening and easy to understand analysis of state laws and city policies in major U.S. cities in seven different states; Boston, MA Atlanta, GA, Chicago, IL, Seattle, WA, Denver, CO, New York, NY, and San Francisco, CA.

Miami Modern Metropolis: Paradise and Paradox in Mid-century Architecture and Planning Edited by Allan Shulman

Miami Modern Metropolis—MMM—takes the reader to the moment in Miami’s urban history when the city became modern. To support this claim this handsome volume, edited by University of Miami professor Allan Shulman, offers an unprecedented catalogue of images, cases and archival evidences that will certainly make this publication a platform for the future scholarship of architecture, urban design and planning in that chimeric place known as Miami.

Indeed, when imagining Miami, the glitzy façades of South Beach Art Deco buildings come to mind. Perhaps, vague memories of the 1980’s conjure up a blurred collage: Miami Vice collides with Scarface to render a tele-genic city with splashes of cool pastel visuals set against xenophobic epitaphs. From this decade’s portrayal of danger, tumult and excess, Miamians crafted an urban imaginary of sensual glamour and multicultural difference. Today, a distinctive urban brand mixing tourist leisure and carnal abandonment sell city’s image as a site of global consumption, investment and paradisiacal living.

Sidewalks: Conflict and Negotiation Over Public Space by Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris and Renia Ehrenfeucht

Concern for the design and use of city streets and sidewalks has long been a preoccupation of city planners and urban designers. Middle class reformers of the late 19th and early 20th century, from whom the roots of our profession spring, sought to cleanse industrial cities of their physical and social “maladies.” Later, the modernists attempted to design human interaction out of the street altogether, turning the city in on itself and the street over to the automobile. By the 1960s, Jane Jacobs and others were calling for reclamation of city streets and sidewalks and helped planners recognize the value of an active public realm. In Sidewalks, Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris and Renia Ehrenfeucht sensitively continue this long- running discussion of the proper role of sidewalks for creating a diverse and just urban environment.


California Water and the Rhetoric of Crisis

Water management in California has always been politically charged and fraught with controversy. In the summer of 2009, the last year of a three-year drought, a specific type of “water crisis” emerged in political rhetoric, in which constructing new dams and lifting protections for endangered fish species could solve California’s water problems. This piece critically examines these claims by presenting a brief background on how water is used and managed in California, highlighting the disconnect between the cost to deliver water and the price users pay, and explaining misconceptions that led endangered species protections to be attacked. California needs to take a proactive stance in water management by examining how water is currently allocated, reforming our water rights system, and dealing with difficult water issues before they reach a “crisis” level.

Too Much Riding on Climate Change?

Over the last decade and a half, climate change and its impacts have become increasingly important to local, regional, national and international public policy debates. Since settlement patterns, built form, and transportation contribute significantly to climate-changing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, urban planners are taking a lead in promoting compact, transit, and walk friendly urban development to lower carbon dioxide and other GHG emissions. This paper argues that focusing on climate change as the catalyst for a Kuhnsian paradigm shift in how we think about transportation, rather than as a complex and elusive public policy problem, has a number of risks. Specifically, an overemphasis on reducing the carbon impacts of transportation projects may lead to weak coalitions for transportation projects, bad decision-making processes, and even some poor planning decisions. Although transportation planning and policy will likely continue to play an important role in efforts to stem the effects of climate change, an excessive focus on GHG emissions may lead to mistakes along the way.

A New Conception of Planning in the Era of Climate Change

Climate change represents the largest planning challenge humanity has ever faced. Past planning has not only failed to confront the global warming crisis, but has helped increase emissions. Climate action plans being developed by governments at all levels still do not address underlying drivers of the problem such as unsustainable levels of population, consumption, and inequity. Nor do debates around climate change planning address the core reasons why societies to date have been unable to deal with such sustainability challenges: dysfunctional democracy, poorly regulated capitalism, and unhealthy social ecologies. Achieving a sustainable, carbon- neutral society requires that planning confront these realities and develop a new conception of itself as a far more proactive endeavor to help societies prepare for a sustainable future.

Crossing to the Other Shore: Navigating the Troubled Waters of Cultural Loss and Eco-Crisis in Late-Socialist China

Using the dual crises of cultural loss in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China, and environmental degradation at adjacent Dianchi Lake as background, this paper coins a new term, ignowledge, to describe a particular “technology of rule” in the Chinese political system. Ignowledge is a power tied to culturally specific conceptions of modernity, development, politics, ecology, eco-politics, and environmentality.

Open Source Practice

As global ecological problems pose increasing risks to human well-being, design and planning can play an important role in developing solutions. However, there is a need for alternatives to centralized, hierarchical, inflexible, and exclusionary approaches that have contributed to problems in the past. We propose an “open source” practice, which links participatory development with networked planning and design, fostering collaboration between government, business, nonprofits, and individual citizens in addressing ecological problems at the local level.

Shrinking Cities in a Time of Crisis

The intractable decline and relentless depopulation of certain cities and suburbs in the U.S., Japan, and Western and Eastern Europe—exacerbated by the current global financial crisis—have stimulated scholarly research into causal explanations and new ways of understanding the synergies of decline and growth beyond classic formulations. In the midst of this search, which is by no means complete or conclusive, “urban shrinkage” has acquired a new meaning connoting a variety of urban afflictions and encompassing both the global North and South (Audirac and Arroyo forthcoming).

Shrinkage at the Urban Fringe: Crisis or Opportunity?

Shrinkage in suburbia has not been widely researched yet. This paper examines communities and towns in Berlin’s suburbs undergoing processes of shrinkage and regeneration after the fall of the Wall. The communities which experienced population decline in 1992- 2008 were concentrated in the eastern suburbs. In two thirds of 63 communities, employment declined (1994-2006). Selective population in- and out-migration, lack of land demand and investments, increasing competition, accompanying shock-like transformation and globalisation, plus disadvantageous location factors all tend to cause shrinkage. The Berlin-Brandenburg Metropolitan Region is a unique urban laboratory where growth and shrinkage occur side by side and de-centralization and centralisation occur simultaneously, all in a heterogeneous, polycentric urban region. Hence, a patchwork pattern appears on every scale. The paper concludes that shrinkage is not “abnormal” nor is it always negative and needing to be concealed. Rather, suburban shrinkage is an integral, indeed inevitable, part of every city’s life, and it often presents interesting and valuable positive planning opportunities. A major future challenge for urban studies is to discuss how to shift paradigms from “perpetual linear growth” to “cycles that include shrinkage”.

The “Perforated City:” Leipzig’s Model of Urban Shrinkage Management

Leipzig, Germany has been continuously shrinking since 1966, a phenomenon accelerated and transformed by the post-socialist transition since 1989. The term “perforated city” was created to describe a new era of cities characterized by simultaneous demographic decline and urban sprawl. Unlike other East German city authorities, such as Dresden’s, Leipzig’s decided to adapt to shrinkage and perforation at an early stage in an attempt to manage the shrinkage process and take advantage of change. City planners aimed to build the image of a dynamic, sustainable city serving as a model of urban shrinkage management. Three main axes can be identified in their planning strategy: preserving the architectural heritage, considered a trademark of the city, creating green spaces and open spaces to replace dilapidated housing estates, and supporting the creation of a micro-scale hierarchy of centres. In practice, these strategies were largely limited to a marketing campaign based on the traditional rhetoric of urban regeneration, as planners lacked the financial and legal tools to fully implement them. Some interventions lead to conflicts with land owners about land use and might further intensify social and spatial differentiations in a context of territorial competition and polarisation. This case study is based on empirical research, including interviews with actors involved in shrinkage management, and an analysis of statistical data. It concludes that Leipzig’s image-based strategy could be, like Maya’s veil, a decoy aimed at hiding lack of influence and financial power to achieve the aim of managed shrinkage.

The Effects of Globalization in the First Suburbs of Paris: From Decline to Revival?

In the context of globalization, cities have come to the foreground and are now thought of as nodes in the global economic network. This evolution has had various consequences for urban regions, depending on whether one focuses on the centers or the peripheries. It has been beneficial to some areas, but detrimental to others. Urban territories are now experiencing various forms of growth and/or decline, whether demographic, economic, or social. This study aims to analyze the specific processes of decline and revitalization that have affected the cities, and to identify which part public policies have played in this respect.

In order to grasp the varieties of decline in these “first suburbs,” a typology based on socio-economic indicators has been elaborated, which differentiates between four types of evolution patterns for suburbs lying within urban areas faced with globalization. Some of those first suburbs have indeed managed to resist decline: one group uses globalization as a way to become part of the economic center and to attract wealthy households; the second group is confronted with simultaneous social decline and economic success; a third group consists of cities fulfilling a mainly residential function; and the last is made up of localities in transition between the above orientations.

This change of economic and social pattern can thus be seen as a revival, but its consequences are of particular note amidst a global crisis. The sustainability of such a revival must be questioned.

From Shrinking Cities to Toshi no Shukushō: Identifying Patterns of Urban Shrinkage in the Osaka Metropolitan Area

Japanese cities losing population represent an emerging research field among international studies on shrinking cities. Japanese- speaking works exploring this topic (Oswalt et al. 2008; Yahagi 2009) use the words toshi no shukushō to translate “shrinking city”, as a notion originating in Western research on urban decline, which particularly affects cities from OECD countries at the beginning of the 21st century (Pallagst et al. 2009). This paper explores the transfer and the idea and whether some Japanese cities in decline constitute a Japanese-specific version of this global phenomenon, combining de-industrialization waves, socio-economic crisis and demographic transition. To see how shrinking cities/toshi no shukushō relates to the evolution of Japanese urban spaces, this article investigates the factors behind urban decline within a metropolitan area considered shrinking in Japan, the Osaka Metropolitan Area. Osaka’s decline is particularly affecting its distant suburbs, where depopulation and devitalization are associated with the rapid aging of its remaining residents in addition to the decline in the manufacturing base of the area. The paper discusses the problems that such patterns of urban decline raise for urban planners in Japan. While certain actors within the public and private have responded to depopulation by creating local policies to serve elderly residents, at a higher level, there are gaps between metropolitan and local views on strategies to address peri-urban decline, as well as between cities and suburbs within regions. This gap suggests urban shrinkage requires regional governance and coordination, in addition to local solutions.


Reading Stories of Crisis and Recovery: What Next for the American City?

Economic crisis makes for compelling stories: coming back from lunch to find the office emptied out, planting backyard vegetable gardens, walking away from their foreclosed homes. The crisis thus becomes a series of tales of individual suffering, resilience, hard luck and fresh starts.

Such narratives of crisis permit certain kinds of discourse to become normalized: discourses about the need for wholesale change, for desperate measures, for painful adjustment, for facing reality. As their plots reveal conventional ideas about the roots of the crisis, they also become stories about particular forms of recovery. Such stories help to justify, frame, and naturalize arguments about what the future holds and what responses are necessary. As a planner, I find myself wondering which pieces of this conventional wisdom will be quoted in urban plans and development pitches. How will these stories shape discourse about what’s necessary for American cities to “win”?

Can Planning Affect the Economic Crisis? Barely, and not unless planning changes radically

To begin with, we should be clear that “urban planning and development” is not a single subject, but have, in fact, a tense and awkward relationship despite being implicitly merged in the theme of this issue of the Berkeley Planning Journal. Leaving aside Richard Florida’s rather superficial analysis of such issues, David Harvey certainly does not look to planning as a source of the economic crisis; he might argue it is the lack of publicly- oriented planning that has permitted development to metastasize within the economic system, setting off the present crisis. Planning is hardly an independent force in urban development; our long history shows how dependent, indeed generally subservient, planning is to the market, barely influencing it at the margin. “The market” is not considered an actor, and we avoid facing reality when we glibly speak of “the market” doing this or requiring that. There are specific actors in the market: developers, builders, bankers, Wall Street traders, investors, residents of various kinds, marketing firms, tenants and owners, and of varying economic positions, of various ethnicities, with various preferences. All significantly influence and are influenced by public portrayals of what is desirable (and what is not desirable) in cities. These actors do interact in the market, but they are present in government, in the media, educational institutions. (What do we teach, and what do we assume in our teaching?) Today, whether developers are more active in the market than in influencing governmental decisions is a toss-up; they operate both in the private and in the public sphere. In the public sphere these stakeholders are a more decisive force than are planners (i.e. planners working in the public interest).

Restraints on European Recovery Structural and Ideological Impediments to Reviving Greece and the Eurozone After the Crisis

Since October 2009, the Greek sovereign debt problem has spiraled into crisis. By the end of last year, Greek national debt stood at 115% of GDP, and the deficit had been revised up from 6-8% to 13.6%. On April 27, 2010, international ratings agencies decreased Greek bonds to junk status. On May 1, Greece agreed to a series of austerity measures that convinced the previously reluctant Germany to support a bailout package for Europe but also set off massive strikes throughout Greece. An initial 110 billion euro bailout was replaced days later with a 750 billion euro ($100 trillion) bailout of which IMF will provide 250 billion euros and EU institutions the rest. Even this news did not prevent stock market drops worldwide. Spain too lost its AAA credit rating at the end of May, further fanning fears that the crisis could spread to the rest of Europe.

Unfortunately, Greece faces two major obstacles to taking a truly proactive approach to recovering productivity. First, as a member of the Eurozone, which takes monetary policy out of national hands, Greece is unable to use monetary and fiscal measures in ways traditionally applied in such a situation. Second, this structural difficulty has been further exacerbated by the prevailing ideological approach to the European debt crisis, which has been framed in terms of restoring international creditworthiness and protecting foreign creditors, rather than in terms of ensuring employment and basic social needs for citizens.

Three Takes on Responding to Crisis as Berkeley’s CED Turns 50

The University of California, Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design (CED) held four lectures during the first week of February 2010 to commemorate its fiftieth anniversary. CED, at its inception, became the first school in the US to combine the disciplines of architecture, landscape architecture, and city planning into one college. I attended three of the four lectures, finding them to be edifying and thought-provoking and, moreover, directly related to the theme of “crisis” that we are exploring here in BPJ Volume 23.

Photo Essays

Envisioning Transmission Transition: Denmark’s Incremental Shifts Towards Energy Independence

On the surface, Copenhagen, Denmark is the ultimate green city. Bike lanes thread the medieval cobblestones like smooth ribbons. Old, European stone architecture is inflected with modern, steel and glass, and highly efficient buildings. And wind turbines file like soldiers in the Baltic Sea. Yet, as this photo essay will show, the huge coal plants that ring the city are not what they seem.


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 Journal 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 Planning Journal. The Kaye Bock Student Award Paper Award is accompanied by a $250 cash gift.

DCRP Class of 2010

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

Urban Fringe

The State of Haiti

The scale of the disaster in Haiti is hard to describe or even conceptualize. The numbers—up to 300,000 fatalities, 1.3 million living in tents, 600,000 displaced, 100,000 buildings destroyed—are bewildering in their enormity. They are also shocking in their uncertainty—Haiti is a country in which death and displacement are counted to the nearest 100,000.

Driving from the airport, my first glimpse of the destruction that spawned such horrifying guesswork was building after building collapsed, a nightmarish vision drilled home by series of floor slabs stacked on top of each other. On one drive past a pile of rubble, only a spiral staircase indicates that it was once a building, let alone Haiti’s biggest super-market.

Going Home Again

In Thomas Wolfe’s 1940 novel You Can’t Go Home Again, the main character, George Webber, writes a novel that depicts his hometown in an unflattering light, leading to death threats and exclusion of the author from his home community. More than simply a case of vigilante exclusion, Webber’s severed connection with his hometown is part of his exploration of a changing America, about the relationship between city and country and the tensions that surround a rapidly urbanizing country. This nostalgic disconnect has entered our lexicon to refer to the line between those who have moved to the “sophisticated” metropolis from the rural backwater (or perhaps now the bucolic suburb or exurb), and for whom a return, as Susan Matt has suggested, might constitute a failure.

Journal Submissions

The Profitability of Obscured Inequality: Toward a Social Theory of the Housing Bubble

The post-1970s U.S. economy is characterized by stagnant wages and a transition to “financialized” profitability—the growing tendency for financial and non-financial firms to depend on financial profits. The same global and domestic politics that liberated flows of capital also opened credit to a broader consumer base. Credit dependency since the 1970s served the triple function of maintaining profitability by sustaining consumption in the context of unequal wage distributions, generating profit from financial services and new forms of financial classification, and obscuring inequality by creating an illusion of wealth disconnected from wages. After an exploration of the transition to credit-dependant profitability and consumption, I situate the housing bubble and the rise to prominence of the mortgage as a financial instrument in this profitability fix. I focus on the social dynamics that enabled the American home to become the value-carrying asset that justified low-wage credit dependency and temporarily quelled the negative effects of rising inequality.

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