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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.


Issue cover


Engaging Informality in the New Urban Agenda

The New Urban Agenda, the outcome document of the United Nations Habitat III conference in 2016, was adopted by consensus by all 193 member states of the United Nations. The Habitat III leadership has proclaimed that the document represents a “new paradigm” in urban planning, reversing the “over-determined” model of 20th century Western-dominated planning, and embracing more locally-determined forms of informality. This paper examines the intellectual history of the document, and compares it to its antecedents, thereby evaluating the claim that it represents a new paradigm. The conclusion assesses implications for future planning practice, particularly as we confront an age of rapid urbanization in many parts of the globe.

Power Imbalances in Favela-Upgrading Practices in São Paulo, Brazil

Favelas in São Paulo, Brazil have been undergoing major transformations since the 1980s with the rise of upgrading programs. These programs are widely seen as ways of alleviating urban vulnerability. However, the fact that they change the political structure of favelas, causing power imbalances, goes often untold. This article discusses the outcomes of upgrading efforts in Favela do Sapé, placing a special emphasis on the social actors involved in the upgrading. Characters such as favela dwellers, governments, and parallel powers are assessed through a power planning lens. The present analysis also focuses on the social actors’ relational possibilities that are aimed at changing the power scenarios of favelas.


Exploring the Dangerous Disconnect Between Perspectives, Planning, Policy, and Practice Towards Informal Traders in Durban, South Africa

While cities pursue recognition on the global scale, low-income populations are often negatively impacted by urban growth. Informal workers in Durban, South Africa have fallen victim to this trend, as the municipality’s focus shifts to drawing international investment and cleaning up the city. In this article, I explore the question: How do municipal employee perspectives, current planning and policy documents, and current practice in the city align regarding treatment of informal traders in Durban, South Africa? I find a disconnect between current well-intended perspectives and planning with policy and its enforcement in practice. This disconnect must be addressed to protect informal traders in Durban.


The Enduring Influence of Informality in Istanbul: Legalization of Informal Settlements and Urban Transformation

The phenomenon of urban informality has coincided with rapid urbanization in Turkey from the 1950s onward. By the urban transformation act that was presented in 2012, formal developments and activities have increased in informal areas. Although recent activities are legal/formal, they have caused the reproduction of informality in these areas. With focusing on this spontaneous collaboration of formal and informal activities, this article seeks to understand the new urban fabric that was created by formal and informal builders who are both rule-breakers and rule-makers. The research was carried out in the Güzeltepe neighborhood, a complex neighborhood with a mix of squatter houses and renewal areas. The field study was conducted from 2014 to 2017 with site visits, photo analysis, and archival research. We will reveal and discuss legalization and upgrading processes, and the effects of this transformation. We will then analyze how informality operates as a logic of urban life.


Integrating Home-Based Enterprises in Urban Planning: A Case for Providing Economic Succour for Women of Global South

A major challenge of urbanization in the global South has been the unemployment-led informal economy that has grown beyond the capacity of African governments in general and urban planners in particular. The socio-cultural status of women, and other inequalities in largely patriarchal African societies, have caused them to resort to the most invisible and adaptable sub-sector of the informal economy: Home-based enterprises (HBEs). This study examines the contributions and challenges for women in HBEs using empirical evidence from Enugu, Nigeria. The study employed mixed methods and made use of both primary and secondary data. The study findings confirm that HBEs provide economic succour to women excluded by the formal sector. Among the benefits of HBEs are income provision, supplementary household income, provision of goods and services, skill acquisition, social value and self-esteem, and the ability to look after sick family members. The challenges of HBEs were inconsistency and noise effects as reported by non-operators, while operators complained about multiple levies collected by government agencies, poor infrastructure, and insecurity.

A Granny Flat of One’s Own? The Households that Build Accessory-Dwelling Units in Seattle’s King County

This paper inserts itself in current debates about the legalization of Accessory-Dwelling Units (ADUs), by casting a new light on the profiles of households filing ADU permits in the unincorporated areas of Seattle’s King County. Correlations between the concentration of minority households and the permitting of ADUs might call into question preconceived notions that such legalizations benefit suburban, older, white middle-class households in the first place. We seek to address the relationship between legalizing ADUs in King County, the major county of the Seattle metropolitan area, and general characteristics of households who build ADUs, based on age, race, and income. Findings underline premises for further evidence about the fact that minority homeowners benefit from the local permitting of ADUs. These findings could be the translation of a particular adequacy between ADU legalization and the long-term projects of local homeowners to transform their residential space.


Design Dichotomy: Impact of Design Intervention on the Recreational Open Spaces of Urban India—A Photo Essay

Well performing recreational open spaces (ROSs) are essential amenities that improve the quality of urban life in the context of rapid urbanization prevalent in developing nations. In Indian cities, the quantity and quality of recreational amenities like parks and playgrounds do not compare well with global standards. Design interventions that are undertaken while developing ROSs significantly impact their value in terms of attractiveness, accessibility, and usability. To evaluate this impact, an empirical survey of select ROSs was conducted in Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Chennai. The analysis revealed the dichotomous nature of design interventions. Multiple interventions or ‘too much design’ resulted in the open space losing its ‘openness’ and allowed only an orchestrated use of space. Whereas the lack of any intentional intervention or ‘too little design’ resulted in informality, which made the open space susceptible to encroachment. Using photographic evidence, this essay illustrates the dichotomous nature of design intervention affecting the use value of ROSs in urban India.