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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Critical Planning

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Critical Planning is published annually by the students of the Department of Urban Planning in the Luskin School of Public Affairs in the University of California Los Angeles.

Critical Planning welcomes article submissions from students, scholars and professionals that demonstrate a critical approach to the study of cities and regions.

Volume 21

Issue cover

After celebrating our 20th anniversary the year prior, the Editorial Board of Critical Planning decided it an opportune moment to revise the mission statement of the journal. While our theme last year, "The Future", sought new perspectives on the future of urban planning and design, our intention this year was to reframe our goals within these new and emerging debates. The four core values of Critical Planning are: 1) advancing non-traditional analyses of contemporary issues, 2) encouraging criticality of the status quo, 3) elevating underrepresented voices, and 4) connecting individuals to the global movement for social justice.

Guided by this vision, all of the works contained in Volume 21 were carefully selected in the hopes that this new mission statement can provide a platform from which the journal can evolve.


Agenda 21: Pathway to a Better Tomorrow or Global Conspiracy to Subjugate Individual Rights?

Agenda 21 is a United Nations (UN) action plan designed to provide a practical framework for implementing the sustainable development model, which has been defined by the UN as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (World Commission on Environment and Development 1987). Although it is not a legally binding treaty, the 178 countries (includ- ing the United States) that participated in the 1992 Earth Summit unanimously adopted Agenda 21. In doing so, they signaled their commitment to promoting consideration of the environmental and social impacts of development decisions at the national, regional, and local levels.

License to Ride: Free Public Transportation for Residents of Tallinn

The City of Tallinn, capital of Estonia, with a population of 420,000, recently became the world’s largest municipality offering free public transportation. Tourists still have to pay to ride the city’s bus, trolley, and tram network, but registered residents—including a large population of Russian-speaking non-citizens—only have to tap their municipal transit cards once onboard. This article presents a qualitative account of the world’s largest free public transporta- tion experiment to date. The results challenge and inform the conventional measures and objectives of transportation experts. The analysis is meant to complement the existing literature surveying free public transportation experiments and evaluating transportation pricing schemes.

A Forgotten Dimension: The Significance of Power Dynamics in Assessing Female Employment and Empowerment in Urban Bangladesh

Through the lens of female formal employment, this paper aims to highlight the complex lives of female garment factory workers in urban Bangladesh and subsequently challenge the theoretical foundations of current policies that seek to empower them. Based on the assumption that employment guarantees empowerment, we identify the significant power imbalance that exists between men and women at all levels of Bangladeshi society. In doing so, this paper provides a more complex understanding of how socio-cultural struc- tures significantly impact women’s experience of space, and ultimately provides practical and theoretical recommendations to help inform effective policy development.

The Re-Urbanization of Catalhoyuk

Çatalhöyük is the site of an ancient Turkish city that stands as a timeless reminder of so- cial equality. I visited Çatalhöyük in September 2013, intent on exploring the city and its enduring legacy. What I found was an awe-inspiring Neolithic site that showed no signs of division of labor, specialization, or related social classes. There was also gender equality in Çatalhöyük and, perhaps even more compelling, an almost complete absence of violence during the roughly 1800 years that the city was inhabited.

Where Health, Planning, and Community Empowerment Meet: A Rapid Health Impact Assessment Model and its Application in Los Angeles

There has been a surge of interest in Health Impact Assessment (HIA) in the United States, contributing to a range of practices that vary in their effort, duration, and complexity. HIA is a systematic but flexible process used to increase discussion of impacts to human health in decisions, such as in planning, which traditionally would not consider mental, social, or physical health and well-being but can affect them. Stakeholder partici- pation is a core element of HIA practice, yet research suggests a gap between the intention of including meaningful participation and its implementation. This is particularly true in what are known as rapid HIAs due to their especially short timelines and the resource-in- tensiveness of meaningful community participation. We sought to address that gap, draw- ing on standard HIA practice and a Consensus Conference approach from Denmark to develop a rapid Health Impact Assessment model that includes meaningful participation and fosters empowerment among impacted residents using limited resources and within a short decision-making timeline. This paper describes a 2012 piloting of the rapid HIA model on a proposed stadium development project and findings about the HIA’s impact, based on interviews with project stakeholders and a review of project outcomes. Findings indicated that the new model was successful: it contributed to a broader strategy that won a variety of health benefits and measures for the community; residents were engaged and felt empowered by the process; the rapid HIA helped organizations meet their goals; and the project contributed to changes in the stadium proposal that benefit health. The findings suggest that the model helps address a potential conflict practitioners and planners face between conducting a project with a short timeline and more fully engaging community stakeholders in the process.

Eco-Certification of Natural Rubber: Demand, Supply, and Potential Implications of Private Global Environmental Governance

In recent years, concern over the environmental impacts of natural rubber culti- vation has generated considerable interest in eco-certification, a form of private environ- mental regulation designed to encourage more sustainable land-use practices. This paper explores the emergence and potential sovereignty implications of this approach to envi- ronmental control with an emphasis on the natural rubber industry. I argue that although eco-certification is advocated as a form of networked governance representing a range of political interests, the way certification programs position themselves as transparent and accountable alternatives to state-based regulation potentially serves to delegitimize the role of the state in the arena of environmental regulation.

Sustainability or Connectivity? The Neoliberal Logics of Train Station Area Development

Addressing conceptual and empirical lacunae in existing work on train station (area) development (TSAD), this paper seeks to systematically bring into conversation re- search on TSAD with literature on neoliberal urbanization. Two major sets of driving factors for urban redevelopment have been identified by TSAD research: economic restructuring and concerns for sustainability. I argue that this conceptual dichotomy is problematic. Con- temporary TSAD is overwhelmingly driven by the logics of neoliberalization: political ac- tors use sustainability discourses to create place-based competitive advantages so as to attract business and capital by enhancing network connectivity and revalorizing central urban space. Using the mega-project “Stuttgart 21” in Germany as a case study I demon- strate that it is essentially designed to secure nodal functions of Stuttgart Central Station (enhance network connectivity) and upgrade the station and adjacent area (revalorize the urban core)—whereas questions of sustainability play a subordinated role at best.

Costa Del Sol: Living Between the Lines

Our research has culminated in an experimental documentary that takes a close look at Costa del Sol and its voices. The film denies the linearity of the N-340 and depicts it as a cloud of vaguely located points, perceived and experienced by the area’s inhabitants. The film is divided into twelve episodes, apparently unrelated, that depict a divergent social landscape whose coherence is achieved through the collective sense of belonging. This urban imaginary brings to light a pronounced and invigorating diversity, a Costa del Sol that constructs itself according to the ways in which citizens relate with their environment.

The film can be seen in its entirety at:

In the Crosshairs: The Role of the Local State in a Contemporary Process of Neighborhood Redevelopment in Central Illinois

This essay seeks to locate the role of the local state in the redevelopment of an African American neighborhood in Central Illinois during a time of broad neoliberal urban restruc- turing. By critically engaging emergent discursive practices, housing policy shifts and changes to state power at multiple levels, we interpret the ongoing importance of private capital in advancing racialized dispossession.

Transit Access and Regional Coordination in Metropolitan Detroit

Since peaking at 1.85 million residents in around 1950, Detroit’s population has declined to less than three-quarters of a million in 2010.1 Detroit has effectively traded population with its suburbs, with the regional population holding steady despite a rapid outflow of peo- ple from Detroit proper (see Figure 1). A trip to Detroit in March 2014 brought UCLA Urban Planning and Policy students face to face with the challenging environment Detroit citizens cope with. While the mostly low-income population that remains in Detroit requires ad- equate public transportation for job access and basic mobility, transit competes with all city services for extremely scarce resources. Furthermore, the city’s mismanagement, coupled with a lack of regional integration, has catalyzed the deterioration of transit provisions. In addition to funding and management problems, Detroit area transit has two disjointed and dysfunctional systems, one for the city (DDOT) and one for the suburbs (SMART). Meaning- fully improving the transit access of city residents will require a true regional transit opera- tor, in turn requiring that Detroit and its suburbs learn to live and work together. Reflecting on our weeklong exploration of city neighborhoods, we evaluate the poor coordination be- tween transit agencies in the Detroit region, and use census data and a city-to-suburb com- muting example to illustrate the barriers transit users face in the current system.