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 22, 2015
Cities and Regions in Crisis
Volume 22 of Critical Planning investigates cities and regions in crisis. We take crisis as a concept with both negative and positive connotations, and as a central element in the simultaneous destruction and regeneration that characterizes the contemporary city-region.
In the spirit of Edward Soja’s work on “crisis-generated restructuring” and “re- structuring-generated crisis,” we invited submissions exploring both the destruc- tive and regenerative aspects of crisis and the implications for cities and their re- gions. In particular, we sought contributions attentive to the interactions across policymaking, planning, and social movements that characterize the process of crisis formation, and the often-contested forms of crisis response. Our scope is both global and local, providing insight into the ways in which crises at the urban and regional levels shape and are shaped by extra-local factors operating across multiple scales.
It is our hope that the collection of critical scholarship that comprises Volume 22 illustrates both the destructive and regenerative aspects of crisis. Rather than signaling the death knell for the city, this volume aims to provide insight into the conditions of possibility crisis may create.
Ed Soja died in the evening of Sunday November 1st, 2015, after an extended illness. His departure represents a huge loss to his many friends and colleagues both here in Los Angeles and all over the world.
CHALLENGES AND BENEFITS OF HOMEOWNERSHIP: Conversations with Low-Income Homeowners in North Minneapolis
Homeownership as a cultural mainstay has proved difficult for low-income Americans both post-recession and in times of post-disaster recovery. This paper examines the challenges and benefits of homeownership for low-income homeowners of North Minneapolis struggling to maintain their homes in the aftermath of two crises: the great recession and a devastating tornado. Furthermore, this research examines the challenges of ownership for this vulnerable population in light if its role in the formation of place attachment to home. Data for this paper was gathered through an ethnographic study of low-income North Minneapolis homeowners being assisted by the home repair non-profit Rebuilding Together Twin Cities. Gaining an understanding of the issues faced by low-income homeowners experiencing the adverse effects of the housing crisis as well as a natural disaster will illuminate the complex nature of ownership and place attachment, and allow us to serve communities in need in a way that is conscientious of their experiences.
Over the past 25 years, Berlin has undergone a rapid process of neoliberalization. This article argues that the city’s transformation has been heavily crisis-driven and fueled by a strong political agenda. Two watershed events are crucial for an in-depth understanding of the dynamics at work: The collapse of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in 1989, followed by a neo-conservative and nationalist, entrepreneurial strategy for the reunified German Capital; and the financial crisis of 2001, which brought a coalition between Social-Democrats and Socialists into power that strongly emphasized Berlin’s (sub-)cultural and cosmopolitan identity, but effectively put the city on a fierce austerity track.
Urban Mobility and Economic Shock: How Bangkok’s Transportation System Weathered the 1997 Financial Crisis
Bangkok is a rising global city, home to nearly 20 million people and notorious traffic congestion. Constrained mobility and accessibility have long underscored the centrality of transportation issues to managing growth. Historically, the preponderance of Bangkok’s transportation network interventions have expanded road capacity to alleviate traffic; however, major investments in the city’s mass transit network began in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. This was also a time of massive economic growth and frenzied international investment. But, in 1997, a financial crisis (centered in Thailand) contaminated economies across the region and devastated economic growth in Bangkok. While many economic indicators confirm that the crisis was a troublesome era for the city, fortunes were varied across income groups and mobility profiles. This paper examines how the financial crisis impacted Bangkok’s transportation system, tracking changes in urban accessibility before and after the crash. Lessons from the resilience and evolution of the city’s mobility patterns are instructive in adjusting transportation planning efforts today.
Transit-oriented gentrification studies in Los Angeles record contrasting findings, but yield consistent implications for station area planning. As these cases demonstrates, simply building transit will not gentrify neighborhoods; a blend of built environment factors, development, and governmental support are needed to catalyze gentrification. This paper reveals the importance of government involvement as both the precursor of gentrification and protector of residents. Given this, cities should enact multi-pronged and context-sensitive policies to protect incumbent residents from gentrification’s potentially negative effects. A mix of housing policies can help residents weather rising housing costs, remain in neighborhoods, and capitalize on increased local amenities.
Sustainable Orientalism: Hegemonic discourses for environmental sustainability and their transmission to non-Western habitats
This paper analyses the construction of the hegemonic methods for the evaluation and representation of sustainable development and their translation into non-Western habitats. The concept Sustainable Orientalism pursues to examine the adaptation and translation of contemporary dominant discourses, methods and representations that shape the idea of a sustainable development in cities and regions around the world, and their translation to growing economies of non-Western societies. A correlation of Orientalism and sustainable development determines that the study and knowledge of non-Western environments by advanced assessment frameworks do not merely reproduce the outlying territories: it works them out, or animate them, using narrative techniques, and historical and exploratory attitudes of scientific ideas generated in the West. The paper questions the pursuit of environmental justice in the 21st century based on the distortion and degradation of knowledge that is implied in the exercise of a Sustainable Orientalism.
Decades of population loss, intensified after Germany reunification, forced decision-makers in Leipzig to re-examine their planning approach. This resulted in a paradigm shift away from traditional growth-oriented planning and the adoption of a shrinking cities model. The innovative and participatory approach taken by the local government was recognized and heralded by many as musicians, artists and students began to migrate to the city. In turn, neighborhoods have begun to gentrify. Leipzig is at once growing, shrinking, developing and declining. An industrial history, a political revolution, population loss, economic decline, and controversial policy have all contributed to Leipzig’s incongruous identity.
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