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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.

New Spaces of Insurgency

Issue cover

Editorial Notes

Editor's Note

A note from the editor of Volume 25.

Looking Back: Perspectives From Five Former BPJ Editors

Five former BPJ Managing Editors weigh in on their experiences with the BPJ and what they meant to them, and their opinions on the role of student journals in general.

Retrospective on BPJ

Hilda Blanco reflects on her experiences as Founding Editor of the Berkeley Planning Journal, the underlying values with which she imbued the Journal and that the BPJ carries on today, and relates larger trends in planning and in our political economy from the mid 1980s to the present day.

The Berkeley Planning Journal: Change and Growth

An essay reflecting upon the the role of student journals in higher education, upon the occasion of BPJ's 25th anniversary.

Insurgency in Academic Publishing

This year marked an important transition for the Berkeley Planning Journal: we are now an electronic, open access publication. Our new publication method of record is eScholarship, a service of the University of California. eScholarship allows us to publish our articles online, in an indexed publication, while granting our readers a wide range of rights to download, print, and share our author's work. We are part of a movement in academia in which many scholars are taking a closer look at the way access to their research is controlled.

Book Reviews

Insurgent Public Space: Guerilla Urbanism and the Remaking of Contemporary Cities, edited by Jeffrey Hou

A review of Hou's recent book, a collection of essays on insurgent use of public spaces around the world.

Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism, by Stephen Graham

A review of Graham's recent book on ways in which cities of the global south and parts of cities of the global north are increasingly militarized, and why.

Two Takes on Sunbelt Urbanism: Bird on Fire by Andrew Ross, and Beyond Privatopia by Evan McKenzie

A review of two recent books on the rapidly growing cities of the American southwest.

Just Growth: Inclusion and Prosperity in America’s Metropolitan Regions by Chris Benner and Manuel Pastor

A review of Benner and Pastor's most recent book on economic growth and social equity.

Making Healthy Places: Designing and Building for Health, Well-Being, and Sustainability by Andrew L. Dannenberg, Howard Frumkin and Richard J. Jackson

A review of the recent book by Dannenberg, Frumkin, and Jackson which proposes a “toolbox” of solutions to reshape the built environment for posterity.



Home-Based Enterprises in Urban Spaces: An Obligation for Strategic Planning?

One major manifestation of rapid urbanization and underdevelopment is the re-emergence of informal sector activities. This trend includes the escalating growth of informal economic activities, among which are home-based enterprises (HBEs) in urban residential neighborhoods. This type of informal development, mostly undertaken by low-income urban residents, has defied government attempts to set standards or enforce compliance and is therefore a challenge for urban planners. There is a need to reconsider HBE activities in light of their positive contributions, which offset their negative effects on urban space. This paper draws urban planners’ attention to urban land use patterns and the alternative planning directions HBEs are prompting. It then calls for further research on how urban planners could plan and redesign the urban space with appropriate consideration of HBE operators. This paper has implications for national economies, especially in African and other developing countries.


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Housing Policy, Neighborhood Development, and Civic Participation in Cuba: The Social Microbrigades of Santa Clara

The article will introduce the reader to the Cuban situation concerning neighborhood development, civic participation, and housing policy. Its intention is to demonstrate a concept of government-introduced self-help housing in Cuba called microbrigades, using case study analysis of Santa Clara, Cuba. Comparing Cuban microbrigades with other self-help housing projects from different countries highlights the particularities of this extraordinary concept.

Welcome to Black Rock City: Ephemeral Homes, Built Environments, and Participatory Negotiations

By applying Bourdieu’s ideas of habitus and doxa, this paper explores how Burning Man participants negotiate ideological and pragmatic limitations in transforming a vast desert landscape into an urban physical and social space. The ephemeral city serves as a model for radical self-expression with an internal society that creates an engaging participatory experience among differing and sometimes conflicting social institutions. Black Rock City LLC, committed to democratically and collaboratively engaging with festival participants in the production of space, demonstrates a realistic possibility for successful negotiation of pragmatics and ideologies while still allowing ample room to foster freedom and community. In examining these dynamic negotiations and their resultant influences on the physical landscape through varied lenses, this article suggests how Black Rock City might be a portable adaptation for other spaces of insurgency.

Gerrymandering Politics Out of the Redistricting Process: Toward a Planning Revolution in Redrawing Local Legislative Boundaries

Jurisdictions in the United States are granted considerable discretion in choosing the method by which they redraw their political boundaries following a decennial census. Two common methods are allowing legislatures to redistrict or creating a citizen commission to perform the task. Yet each of these processes frequently results in gridlock and/or political gerrymandering. This paper proposes an alternative method for local jurisdictions: a “planning approach” to redistricting in which it is suggested that districts can be created through the amalgamation of neighborhoods in a process driven by professional planners. This approach lends no consideration to politics. Rather, the research presented here posits that empowering planners to lead legislative redistricting processes will aid in the reduction of politically anticompetitive behavior, thereby increasing the efficiency, effectiveness, and logic of the process. A local redistricting problem using data from Buffalo, NY, is modeled and then solved using the proposed planning framework.



Rapa Nui on the Verge: Easter Island’s Struggles with Integration and Globalization in the Information Age

Rapa Nui (Easter Island, Chile), though previously cast in mystery and misunderstanding, has emerged as a global focus for indigenous land rights, thanks largely to increased global awareness made possible via  internet-enabled social media platforms. Beginning with the arrival of the first human settlers on the shores of this island paradise, the adverse consequences of human ingenuity, overpopulation, and globalization have pushed the island’s ecosystem beyond its carrying capacity, leading to cycles of environmental and sociocultural development and collapse. As a global microcosm, this cycle holds valuable lessons for how the rest of the world can sustainably manage environmental, cultural and economic resources. Applying modern tools and techniques, the inhabitants of Rap Nui now hold the promise of achieving an environmentally sustainable lifestyle, while maintaining their cultural and economic autonomy.

Spectacle in the New Green City

Nation-states have been criticized for their collective failure to aggressively combat climate change. Amid the foot-dragging, many cities have styled themselves as climate insurgents, ‘taking the lead’ through bold, creative efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Emerging from these efforts have been high-profile, highly symbolic projects: the green roof atop Chicago’s city hall, New York City’s MillionTreesNYC program, and San Francisco’s network of parks reclaimed from parking spaces (called ‘parklets’). This paper argues that such projects represent a new “mobilization of the spectacle”—a reflection of a popular desire to reimagine the city, but produced on the terms of (and even on behalf of) market forces and neoliberal reason. With the parklets of San Francisco serving as a case study, this paper attempts to reveal the influence of the neoliberal economic order in the production of the green urban spectacle.

Landscapes of the Dead: an Argument for Conservation Burial

The American funeral industry has long influenced how and where we bury the dead. Current industry-standard burial practices harm the environment through the use of embalming and hardwood caskets. This article argues for a different model for burials, one which will preserve open space, incorporate cultural landscapes into cities and regions, and increase the ecological sensitivity of burial practices and social acceptance of death as a natural process. Conservation burials support ecological restoration and can help finance public open space and preserve ecological lands. City planners are in a unique position to promote this new model of burial practice by framing cemeteries as green infrastructure.


Contestation of Space

This photo essay traces the evolution of a wall located between a newly established “public fitness park” in Ramallah city and a neighboring refugee camp. It seeks to narrate the social and spatial transformation that is taking place between Ramallah, a city in the process of substantial change, and the neighboring refugee camp. The public park reflects a site of social contestation occurring in Ramallah between refugee and non-refugee space.



Kaye Bock Student Paper Award

This year's winners of the Kaye Bock Award.

Call for Papers

The call for papers for Volume 25.

Theme Section

The ‘Occupy’ Movement: Emerging Protest Forms and Contested Urban Spaces

The Occupy Movement represents the evolving nature of contemporary social movements. It employs traditional tactics as well as new tools of technology and alternative forms of organizing to articulate concerns. In an era of widening income inequality, record corporate profits, and government austerity measures, Occupy protestors claimed urban public spaces as sites of resistance this past year. By framing their cause as one driven by “the 99%”, corporate interests were successfully linked to a diverse set of economic impacts that united the masses, from diminishing prospects of employment to record foreclosures and crippling student debt. In claiming their right to the city, Occupiers created physical and political space for reasserting the power of the people. Occupiers’ seizing of public spaces and use of social media to promote and report acts of resistance suggest that in mediated societies, protests configured for virtual audiences are likely to become mainstays of urban social movements. The Occupy Movement embodies these developments and underscores the need for new thinking on how public spaces can facilitate participatory democracy. Using scholarly blogs and news reports, this paper tracks the movement and explores its implications on the governance of public space and the future of urban protests.


Occupying the Noosystem: The Evolution of Media Platforms and Webs of Community Protest

This article suggests the emergence of a new dominant ecological system in civil discourse and protest: the noosystem. The idea of a vibrant noosystem is taken from the concept of the noosphere which was introduced near the beginning of the 20th century. The noosphere is a complex, uniquely human system of activity where individual minds use meditational tools to engage in the transfer of information and problem solving activities. The Internet has given the idea of a noosphere new vibrancy, creating a platform where that is capable of augmenting and extending humans minds so that they are capable of engaging in joint activity in ways that transcend traditional boundaries of time and space. The noosystem is offered as a subcategory of the noosphere, an ecological system that not only allows human intellect to guide our perceptions of more concrete settings, but to actually participate in defining and redefining these activity settings. Nowhere has the noosystem had more impact than in the current Occupy movement (exemplified by Occupy Wall Street). This article argues that our burgeoning noosystem is redefining both protest and social change. This idea is illustrated through an analysis of Occupy Youngstown, and Occupy Wall Street affiliated group.

Reactivating the Social Body in Insurrectionary Times: A Dialogue with Franco 'Bifo' Berardi

The Italian theorist Franco “Bifo” Berardi has spent a lifetime participating in revolutionary movements and thinking through their complexities. He is best known in the English-speaking world for his association with the Italian autonomist movement Operaismo (“workerism”) and its prominent attempts to transform communist politics by resituating the “needs, desires, and organizational autonomies” of workers at the foundation of political praxis (Genosko and Thoburn 2011: 3). This text assembles excerpts from three interviews we conducted with Berardi over the course of the insurrectionary year 2011. Each of our conversations coincided with notable developments in last year’s mobilizations and our interviewee’s enthusiasm about those events is evident at certain points in the transcript. Yet while Berardi is generally optimistic about the revolts and the “reactivation of the social body” that they seem to imply, he reminds us that protest alone will not be enough to win the genuine kinds of autonomy that he suggests are necessary. He argues that dogmas of growth, competition and rent have so colonized every sphere of “human knowledge” that they have begun to threaten the very survival of what he calls “social civilization.” The hegemonic grip of this “epistemological dictatorship” has altered our capacity to feel empathy towards one another, severing fundamental bonds of inter-personal connection. Yet in spite of this dark diagnosis, Berardi is not a doomsayer and he always leaves open the possibility of transformation and escape. He counsels that our best shot at deliverance lies in the development of new strategies of withdrawal, refusal, sabotage, and the negotiation of new “lines of flight” from the late-capitalist forms of domination.

Mic Check: How the 99% Pitched a Movement from Occupy Wall Street to Occupy Cal

The University of California, Berkeley, became a site of the Occupy Movement in fall 2011. On November 9, the university found itself in the company of financial hubs, civic centers, and parks and plazas the world over when Sproul Plaza was re-appropriated by the sleeping bags and “mic checks” that came to symbolize the disenfranchised majority, "the 99%." Occupy Cal was immediately subject to a brutal suppression of student protest by the police, as both students and the university administration struggled to impose their respective meanings upon the university's "Main Street," Sproul Plaza. Like other Occupy encampments, controlling public space on the university campus became a way of projecting meanings of the "public":  how the public is constructed and represented, and what types of voice and access it would have in determining the future of public education and social justice.