Panorama 2020

Page 1


Cover: Towers, Hong Kong by Allison Lau



his year marks my third as the chair of the Weitzman School of Design’s Department of City Planning, and I could not be prouder of the work our students are doing. Every day in our classrooms and out in the field, they apply new technology to vexing problems, challenge conventional theory, and build the kind of toolkits necessary for improving our world. The unique political moment we’re living in has highlighted challenges in which planners must play important roles, and our students are diving right in. From planning for climate change to developing strategies for community-led design and political organizing, this issue of Panorama highlights the ways our students have taken the skills and perspectives they have developed here at Penn and applied them to the most pressing problems of our time, both domestically and internationally. This year’s edition of Panorama, which includes articles from across the Weitzman School of Design, illustrates the reach, range, and interdisciplinarity of the field of planning. From the streets of Oslo to wetlands of India’s West Bengal state; the geographic and carbon footprint of data centers to the growth of machine learning in the Global South, if planning is involved, so are our students. The 2020 edition of Panorama is packed full of examples of the work Penn students take on every day. I hope you will enjoy this issue of Panorama as much as I have. It is my honor to work with so many talented students, and this journal is proof positive that good work will move the needle in the direction of positive change.

Lisa J. Servon Chair, Department of City and Regional Planning

Lisa Servon was previously Professor of Management and Urban Policy at The New School, where she also served as Dean at the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy. She conducts research in the areas of urban poverty, community development, economic development, and issues of gender and race. Specific areas of expertise include economic insecurity, consumer financial services, and financial justice. Servon holds a BA in Political Science from Bryn Mawr College, an MA in History of Art from the University of Pennsylvania, and a PhD in Urban Planning from UC Berkeley.




elcome to the 28th edition of Panorama, the Weitzman School of Design’s City and Regional Planning student journal. As a student-run publication, we strive to share the best and most innovative work from our peers: the next leaders of planning and design. The work included in this edition explores critical planning issues from the U.S. and around the world—confronting global water management challenges, the responsible use of technology in planning, nuanced analyses of municipal housing and transportation policy, and reflecting on planning history to organize for a more equitable future. In addition, this journal represents several City Planning studios that make up the core of our graduate work. This year’s studios ranged from proposing designs to strengthen the social fabric in Cyprus and Puerto Rico, to implementing a congestion pricing system in New York City; from adapting to climate change in cities like Newport and Austin, to constructing a new narrative to pass a Green New Deal.

This year’s edition includes student photography that showcases the range of talents within our program and unique perspectives on contemporary planning. While the diversity of topics in this publication is wide, each piece in Panorama represents a facet of planning’s future and the critical decisions that we must make. It is our pleasure to share the 2020 edition of Panorama with you. Yours, The Panorama Editors (left to right) Nour Jafar, Copy Editor Tyler Bradford, Copy Editor Selina Cheah, Senior Copy Editor


Tiffany Hudson, Senior Copy Editor Claire Jaffe, Senior Graphics Editor Jamaica Reese-Julien, Graphics Editor

Tyler Bradford is a Copy Editor for Panorama and a first-year student in the Master of City and Regional Planning program. Tyler is new to Philadelphia but loving every minute of getting to know the city. Prior to Penn, Tyler attended Dartmouth College, served in the Peace Corps in Madagascar, and worked for a bikeshare company in New York City. When he’s not planning, Tyler enjoys travel, urban parks, and trying out new recipes. Selina Cheah is a Senior Copy Editor for Panorama and is a dual-degree student in the Master of City and Regional Planning and Master of Landscape Architecture program. She is most interested in the design of spaces for and by the community— adaptive and flexible spaces that are also able to address environmental and social issues. She enjoys exploring new cities on foot, sitting in parks and people-watching, and broccoli. She also needs sleep. Tiffany Hudson is a Senior Copy Editor for Panorama and a second-year Master of City and Regional Planning student. With a background as both a category analyst and an artist, she loves using her creativity to connect the dots—taking a systemsbased approach to problem solving. Her studio may be over, but she’s still focused on making the Green New Deal a reality.

Nour Jafar is a Copy Editor for Panorama and a first-year Master of City and Regional Planning candidate. After receiving her Bachelor of Architecture from Kuwait University in 2017, Nour has practiced as an architect in Chicago, as well as a jewelry designer in Kuwait. Her interests revolve around gentrification, architectural theory, human behavior, and racial and feminist planning.

Claire Jaffe is a Senior Graphics Editor for Panorama and a second-year Master of City and Regional Planning student concentrating in Urban Design, but she is equal parts design nerd and transit nerd. She wants to design streets and public spaces that are safe and welcoming for everyone, especially the people most often overlooked. In her limited free time, she enjoys consuming all types of art, scrolling through niche Wikipedia articles, and finding the perfect font for every situation. Jamaica Reese-Julien is a Graphics Editor for Panorama and in her first-year of the dual degree Master of City and Regional Planning and Master of Architecture program, with a concentration in Community and Economic Development. She is interested in the intersection of public policy and the built environment. She walks very fast, occasionally weaves, and all of her diagrams are hot pink.








Shravanthi Kanekal & Yeana Kwagh



Allison Carr





Eugene Chong & Natasha Tabachnikoff

Kelly (Mengting) Yan



Allison Lau







Emily Jacobi



Robert I. Romo







Nour Jafar

Jackie Weidman



Patrick Connolly, Dian Yu, & Elaine Zhang

Adam Ghazzawi


Tobin Stuff







Tyler Bradford



Tiffany Hudson







Rohan Lewis

Luke Hassall

Allison Carr




Maddy Kornhauser

Shravanthi Kanekal




Cade Underwood









Gillian Tiley



Denocencia Wade

Joshua Reaves


Figure 1: The fishermen whose livelihoods depend on the wetlands are vulnerable as development of satellite towns and connecting roads encroach onto the wetlands.

THE KIDNEYS OF KOLKATA Case of the East Kolkata Wetlands By Shravanthi Kanekal & Yeana Kwagh


ocated in India’s northeastern state of West Bengal, Kolkata is the seventh most populous city in the country at 14.68 million people (2018).1 While recognized for being the cultural capital of India with grand colonial architecture, one Kolkata asset that is often overlooked by locals, yet gains international renown, is the East Kolkata Wetlands (EKW).

The East Kolkata Wetlands cover an area of 125 square kilometers and consist of salt marshes and salt meadows. The most unique feature of Kolkata’s wetlands is that they manage more than 80 percent of the metropolis’ sewage, support around 50,000 agro-workers, and supply about one-third of Kolkata’s fish yield every day.2 For decades, these wetlands have been flushing filth out of the city’s system, cleaning the air without most people realizing, and allowing a community to thrive along its banks. A system set up in the early 20th century while Kolkata was under the British empire was “rediscovered” in the 1980s when the functioning of the wetlands was documented for the first time. Some of the most critical needs of a city in a developing country are met by the EKW: food, sanitation, water, and livelihood.3 Today, the wetlands make up the largest sewage-fed aquaculture site in the world, and in 2002 gained the status of a Ramsar site – an official Wetland of International Importance – by the Geneva-based international Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.4 Despite local, state, national, and international recognition of the EKW being critical for

protection, these wetlands are still faced with concerns around illegal construction and loose regulations that perpetuate development encroachment. BRITISH COLONIALISM AND CHANNELS REDIRECTING WASTEWATER In the late 17th century, Kolkata was established as the head of the East India Company under British rule. Kolkata was thus recognized as an important city to be developed. During the initial British settlement, the area that is now known as the EKW was not recognized as hospitable space for development. Planning the drainage for the growing city proved to be quite challenging at this time. An initial plan to channel waste into the Hoogly River caused heavy pollution, and hence a new approach needed to be adopted. A committee appointed by the then governor general of India examined the existing problems and recommended a series of underground drainage channels to carry sewage and stormwater following the natural slope towards the southeast, into the salt lakes (now the EKW), and finally into the Bay of Bengal.5 This drainage project was completed in 1884 with the construction of canals, bridges, and sluices. With this, the low lying salt marshes of East Kolkata were altered in some parts to handle waste disposal and in other parts reclaimed to accommodate the growing city. Over time, the salt marshes gradually changed to nutrient rich ponds, stripped of salinity and ideal for the opportunity to rear freshwater fish and farm vegetables.

The Kidneys of Kolkata


Figure 2, 3: Fisheries thrive from the nutrient-rich wetlands and contribute to the Kolkata’s reputation for delectable fish cuisine.

SANITATION: WASTE MANAGEMENT Currently, Kolkata does not have a sewage treatment plant that serves the city and the EKW are a remarkable example of utilizing natural wetlands to treat wastewater. This is certainly not a new concept. Wetlands for wastewater treatment are constructed artificially in the U.S. in rural areas where central sewer systems are not accessible.6 The wetlands help Kolkata save a staggering Rs 4,680 million (approximately $65 million) a year in sewage treatment costs.7 About 1,000 million liters of wastewater get filtered through the wetlands each day, and discharge into the Bay of Bengal about three or four weeks later, managing more than 80 percent of the city’s sewage.8 An old treatment plant built by the British during colonial era in the EKW remains a historic monument. However, like many treatment plants in tropical areas such as Kolkata, these systems tend to struggle with managing bacteria, waste, and algae often resulting in failure—a problem the EKW actually thrive off of to feed the fish population and fertilize farms.9 FOOD AND LIVELIHOOD: FISHERIES AND FOOD PRODUCTION The EKW make up the largest wastewaterfed aquaculture system in the world with about 254 sewage-fed, shallow fishponds called ‘bheris.’ Wastewater flows into the ponds, stands in the sun, and is subjected to solar purification and natural oxidation, which allows bacteria, algae, and plankton to synergistically grow, producing fish feed.10 It was local fishermen from communities that had settled in



the area who tried and tested the water’s capabilities to discover how multi-functional the wetlands could be. Discovering that the nutrient-rich water could be a good source of food production, they were the ones who mastered this resource recovery activity that yields two to four times more fish than a normal pond. Fishermen and farmers have used homegrown knowledge for generations to ensure a sustained livelihood—this is where the wetland community has played an integral part in creating an amazing resource recovery system that has been so beneficial to the city. The wetlands produce approximately 18,000 tons of fish annually, and the wetland “garbage” farms provide 150 tons of vegetable produce daily, sold at local markets.11 Rice and fish are an integral part of the staple diet of this region. The costs saved in feeding fish and making paddy fields fertile to grow vegetables through organic waste makes Kolkata the cheapest and most affordable major city in India today.12 CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION: CARBON SINK AND FLOOD MITIGATION Globally, wetlands cover only two to six percent of Earth’s land surface, yet they contain significantly high amounts of the world’s carbon when compared to terrestrial soil reserves. One of the biggest sources of organic carbon in the EKW area is municipal sewage water after waste generated from the tannery industries.13 The natural soil and biota (plant and animal life) of Kolkata sequesters 60 percent of carbon from wastewater that otherwise would be released go into the atmosphere.14 This makes protection of wetlands an important part of climate mitigation.

Figure 4: Formal and informal settlements both reside on the banks of the EKW.

The imperative for climate action in Kolkata comes from the fact that it is a low-lying city with two major rivers and is surrounded by waterways. According to the World Bank, studies have forecasted 20 centimeters of sea level rise by 2050, making Kolkata the third most exposed city in the world to the risk of flooding.15 Wetlands are critical in mitigating flood risks; they serve as buffers between land and waterways in a way that stabilizes the shoreline, and act as a sponge that holds and slowly releases water which can substantially reduce the impacts of flooding. ENCROACHING LAND DEVELOPMENT It is evident the EKW have significant economic, ecological, and social value. However, EKW is at critical risk of development encroachment and a weak administration that lacks coordination, capacity, or political will to effectively protect the wetlands.16 Before the value of the EKW was fully understood, a suburban-styled satellite town, Salt Lake City, was constructed over about half of the original size of the wetlands in 1960s.17 In the 1980s, construction of the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass enhanced the connectivity of the city but made the wetland more attractive to real estate speculation. Despite the 1992 landmark court ruling that protected the EKW from the construction of a world trade center, a ruling widely considered the first major legal battle where the enviromentalists emerged victorious in India, the next four decades (1972-2011) saw about 38.6 square kilometers of wetlands developed.18 Kolkata is a large city that is running out of space to expand at

the northern and southern fringes of the metropolitan region, and the west is bounded by the Hoogly River. East into the EKW is the only direction in which to grow. Hundreds of buildings from luxury apartments to colleges to informal housing structures are going up on the wetlands that are supposedly protected from development by law. LOOSENING GOVERNMENT REGULATION While there are national, state, and local regulations to protect the East Kolkata Wetlands, the existing framework of protection lacks in effectiveness and is being further reduced. NATIONAL PROTECTION India’s Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules Act of 2017 amendment reduces the legal safeguard of wetlands throughout the country. The act only protects Ramsar wetlands or wetlands otherwise noted by the central or state government. Despite this, section 4(v) prohibits discharge of untreated waste and effluent from industries or human settlements into protected wetlands. If the EKW are no longer legally allowed to receive wastewater, the symbiotic relationships between the ecological performance of the wetlands with the cost-effective benefits to the city will be severely impacted. While in other cases prohibiting waste discharge may make sense, this will disrupt the multi-faceted functions that contribute to the EKW achieving Ramsar designation in the first place. Furthermore, while this ruling protects The Kidneys of Kolkata


26 Ramsar wetlands in India, several millions of wetlands and water bodies are no longer guaranteed protection.19 STATE LEVEL PROTECTION The effectiveness of state protection is questionable when considering the continued development encroaching over the wetlands. While the environment department vocalizes support to protect the wetlands, other departments still push for infrastructure projects to spur development. Most concerning of all was when Sovan Chatterjee, former state environment minister and mayor of the city (2010-2018), proposed a 6.5 kilometer flyover that would require 146 pillars constructed on the wetland.20 Chatterjee has since changed office, and the new environmental minister has declared wetland conservation the topmost priority, reporting that 12,500 hectares of wetlands have since been protected.21 The environmental department reportedly even formed 432 block management committees throughout the state to campaign for saving the wetlands, though the project is still in discussion. The conflicting nature of actions by state authorities is further exemplified in the operations of the East Kolkata Wetlands Management Authority (EKWMA) formed in 2006, which Chatterjee also headed. EAST KOLKATA WETLANDS MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY (EKWMA) The EKWMA is run by a 13-member body mandated by the East Kolkata Wetlands Conservation and Management Act (2006).22 Members consist of state government officials in addition to four experts on wetland ecology, hydrology, fisheries, and socioeconomics. While it is good to have a dedicated authority for conservation and management, EKWMA is slow to act and sometimes ineffective. For example, Ramsar designation for wetlands expects the governing bodies who manage the wetland to develop a wetland management plan within six months of designation.23 It took EKWMA 17 years to release an expression of interest (EoI) to develop an integrated management plan for East Kolkata Wetlands just this past October 2019. The proposed scope of work for this integrated management plan is not exactly promising either. In the EoI described, the state government of West Bengal is seeking to develop a management plan that lifts building and land conversion restrictions of the EKW and adopt four zones of varying development restrictions, three of which allow development. One such zone is called the “no importance to wetlands” zone.24 EKWMA is under the Department of Environment, and yet they are



proposing a management plan that reduces protection of the wetlands. PUBLIC PERCEPTION The loosening of regulation appears to be a response to reported backlash of West Bengal’s strict ban of any conversion of the EKW after the 1992 high court ruling. Restrictions imposed at the time were not considered realistic for the approximate 130,000 people (according to official survey in 2002) or 500,000 people (an estimate given by environmental activists) of original inhabitants on the wetlands.25 The state authorities sent out notices asking recipients to restore wetlands or be punished for making any renovations or repairs to their homes. However, the cost burden for restoration fell entirely on inhabitants to comply with requirements, because the state has no capacity on its own to restore land.26 Compliance to state standards therefore did not get completed in a timely fashion as mandated. LOCAL LEVEL PROTECTION Similarly, at the local level, the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) has been reportedly surveying neighborhoods to identify and regulate unapproved and illegal under-construction buildings near EKW.27 If property owners do not respond to notices, reportedly KMC has been demolishing buildings. This aggressive crackdown on the local level has resulted in the perception of almost militant implementation of wetland protection. In fact, protection of wetlands is usually portrayed in the media as elitist. Kolkata’s mayor declared that conservation of the wetlands “means little to the common man” while Chief Minister of State Mamata Banerjee has been intent on finding amnesty for 25,000 illegal buildings within the wetlands area.28 CONCLUSION The EKW manage waste effectively, fertilize cropland, feed the fishing industry, provide livelihoods to thousands, sequester large amounts of carbon, and act as a flood defense. The cascading impacts of wetland destruction will have monumental impacts on the social, environmental, economic livelihood that makes Kolkata a thriving, affordable city and will prove to be catastrophic if nothing is done to change how the EKW is managed and protected. While the political and economic promise of infrastructure and sprawling development may seem appealing to many with institutional power, to save the wetlands and the future of the city, local and state departments must coordinate efforts and work with local communities to ensure the longevity of the EKW.

Shravanthi Kanekal and Yeana Kwagh are second-year Master of City and Regional Planning students concentrating in land use environmental planning. Yeana has a certificate in urban resilience. With interests and experience ranging from flood adaptation, climate resilient water infrastructure planning and governance, stormwater policy and management, social justice concerns around water quality and access - she has established a bit of a reputation as the girl really into all things water. Shravanthi is passionate about all things sustainable. Her interests include resiliency planning, wetlands and stormwater infrastructure, collaborative civic engagement, and informality in all its forms.

WORKS AND IMAGES CITED 1 Gu, Danan. “Exposure and vulnerability to natural disasters for world’s cities.” United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, December 2019. 2 Ghosh, Sahana. “East Kolkata Wetlands Lock down over 60 Percent Carbon from Sewage: Study.” Mongabay, April 6, 2018. https://india.mongabay. com/2018/04/east-kolkata-wetlands-lock-down-over-60-percent-carbon-fromsewage-study/. 3 Carlisle, Stephanie. “Productive Filtration: Living System Infrastructure in Calcutta.” Scenario Journal, August 20, 2017. productive-filtration/. 4 Barkham, Patrick. “The Miracle of Kolkata’s Wetlands – and One Man’s Struggle to Save Them.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, March 9, 2016. 5 Ghosh, Dhrubajyoti, and Susmita Sen. “Ecological History of Calcutta’s Wetland Conversion.” Environmental Conservation 14, no. 3, 1987. 6 Daniels, Tom. “The Environmental Planning Handbook for Sustainable Communities and Regions.” 2nd Edition. Taylor and Francis: Routledge, 2017. 7 Realtors, NK. “Kolkata Wetlands Must Be Saved without Compromising on Development.” nkrealtorsblog, March 31, 2019. save-kolkata-wetlands-without-compromising-development/ 8 Ghosh, Sahana. “East Kolkata Wetlands Lock down over 60 Percent Carbon from Sewage: Study.” Mongabay, April 6, 2018. https://india.mongabay. com/2018/04/east-kolkata-wetlands-lock-down-over-60-percent-carbon-fromsewage-study/ . 9 Barkham, Patrick. “The Miracle of Kolkata’s Wetlands – and One Man’s Struggle to Save Them.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, March 9, 2016. 10 Ghosh, Sahana. “East Kolkata Wetlands Lock down over 60 Percent Carbon from Sewage: Study.” Mongabay, April 6, 2018. https://india.mongabay. com/2018/04/east-kolkata-wetlands-lock-down-over-60-percent-carbon-fromsewage-study/. 11 Ibid. 12 Barkham, Patrick. “The Miracle of Kolkata’s Wetlands – and One Man’s Struggle to Save Them.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, March 9, 2016. 13 Ghosh, Sahana. “East Kolkata Wetlands Lock down over 60 Percent Carbon from Sewage: Study.” Mongabay, April 6, 2018. https://india.mongabay. com/2018/04/east-kolkata-wetlands-lock-down-over-60-percent-carbon-fromsewage-study/. 14 Ibid. 15 Ellis, Peter D.; Roberts, Mark. ”Leveraging urbanization in South Asia : managing spatial transformation for prosperity and livability.” South Asia development matters. Washington, D.C. World Bank Group, 2015. http://documents. 16 Bhattacharya, Snigdhendu. “West Bengal May Lift Building Limits in Fragile

Wetlands.” Hindustan Times, 13 Dec 2017. 17 Barkham, Patrick. “The Miracle of Kolkata’s Wetlands – and One Man’s Struggle to Save Them.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, March 9, 2016. 18 Ghosh, Sahana. “East Kolkata Wetlands Lock down over 60 Percent Carbon from Sewage: Study.” Mongabay, April 6, 2018. https://india.mongabay. com/2018/04/east-kolkata-wetlands-lock-down-over-60-percent-carbon-fromsewage-study/ 19 Ibid. 20 Subrata, Chattoraj. “Flyover Plan Violates Wetland Rules: PIL: Kolkata News - Times of India.” The Times of India, September 10, 2017. https://timesofindia. 21 Press Trust of India. “Saving Wetlands Topmost Priority of Govt: Environment Minister.” Business Standard. Business-Standard, February 13, 2019. https:// 22 East Kolkata Wetlands Management Authority (EKWMA): The East Kolkata Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Act, 23 Barkham, Patrick. “The Miracle of Kolkata’s Wetlands – and One Man’s Struggle to Save Them.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, March 9, 2016. 24 East Kolkata Wetlands Management Authority (EKWMA): The East Kolkata Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Act, 25 Bhattacharya, Snigdhendu. “West Bengal May Lift Building Limits in Fragile Wetlands.” Hindustan Times, 13 Dec 2017. 26 Barkham, Patrick. “The Miracle of Kolkata’s Wetlands – and One Man’s Struggle to Save Them.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, March 9, 2016. 27 Roy, Subhajoy. “CMC Razes Illegal Building.” Telegraph India. Telegraph India, July 28, 2018. 28 Barkham, Patrick. “The Miracle of Kolkata’s Wetlands – and One Man’s Struggle to Save Them.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, March 9, 2016. Figure 1: Dhruba Das Gupta Figure 2: Ibid Figure 3: Ibid Figure 4: Yeana Kwagh

The Kidneys of Kolkata


Figure 1: The physical footprint of cloud computing is visible in the servers and cables that store and process data. These facilities have large spatial and carbon footprints.

DATA FOOTPRINT The Environmental Impact of Digital Services and the Internet By Allison Carr


he climate impacts of selective industries have increasingly been singled out in recent years. While the airline industry has been criticized for its two percent contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions,1 these emissions are roughly the same as another class of user: internet service providers. The digital services sector has largely escaped public scrutiny of its energy consumption; however, everything from Google searches to Netflix video streams must be routed through facilities with groups of networked computer servers. As digital service providers have grown, hosting these “data centers” has become increasingly more attractive for municipalities. In Loudoun County, Virginia, the economy has been built around storing, processing, and distributing large quantities of data. Although this has proven to be a successful method for increasing municipal revenue, the environmental impacts should not be discounted. In addition to consuming signification amounts of non-renewable energy, data centers are industrial developments that require large amounts of land and infrastructure and generate pollution throughout their lifecycle. At present, many organizations and activists have called for more transparent practices and more stringent renewable energy commitments from the private companies that operate data centers, but there are also options for governments to require sustainable practices from these companies as well. While the Internet is often viewed as an immaterial product without a footprint, this view fails to capture

the truth about the way that digital consumerism impacts the environment and the ways in which that footprint is growing. QUANTIFYING THE DIGITAL FOOTPRINT Data centers currently use less than half a percent of global electricity generated, but by 2030, they could consume as much as eight percent of the world’s electricity.2 In the past decade, corporations like Facebook, Google, Apple, and at least 20 other digital service providers have made commitments that aim to minimize their environmental footprint by using 100 percent renewable energy.3 However, while these commitments have become common among the major players in the digital services industry, there are several limitations as to how far they can bring the digital services industry to its goal of eliminating carbon emissions. To begin, some of the renewable energy commitments that companies have made are based on purchasing renewable energy certificates (RECs).4 These certificates allow a company to claim that the energy they use is renewable when in fact the energy they purchase from the utility company is generated using natural gas, coal, or another nonrenewable fuel. Although these agreements can help a business achieve “carbon neutral” status, fossil fuels can still be burned to directly supply the energy for a particular data center.

Data footprint


Figure 2: A vineyard in western Loudoun County still retains the rural character the county was known for prior to suburbanization.

The track record for meeting renewable energy commitments is also disappointing. Although Google and Amazon both have made pledges to power their data centers with 100 percent renewable energy, only 12 percent of Amazon’s Loudoun County data centers and four percent of Google’s are powered by renewables.5 Not only do companies in the U.S. not live up to their sustainability commitments, but the digital services sector outside of the country receives even less oversight, relies more on fossil fuels, and is growing rapidly. The footprint of data centers and the digital services sector extends beyond energy consumption. So far, most of the metrics proposed for measuring the environmental impact of data centers focus on achieving energy efficiency and renewable energy targets.6 Although these measures are important, there are many other environmental impacts associated with the life cycle of a data center that should be considered. Noise pollution, light pollution, and the waste and transportation emissions associated with construction and operations are seldom included.7 Industrial-sized data centers are also housed in large complexes, many of which are developed on exurban greenfield sites where land is cheapest.8



While the digital services sector has avoided a full-cost accounting of its environmental impact, such an assessment will become increasingly important to communities that are considering data centers as a source for economic development. Loudoun County, Virginia, is an informative case because the county has more 17 million square feet of data center facilities planned, completed, or under construction.9 DATA CENTER ALLEY The rapid development of digital services infrastructure is clearly visible across the state of Virginia, but Loudoun County has incentivized and facilitated more data center projects than any other municipality in the U.S. with its proximity to Washington, D.C., and its considerable amount of open space. An estimated 70 percent of daily global internet traffic passes through its data centers and 30 percent of the world’s data center buildings are located within the county.10 According to the county's general plan, “for every dollar in services Loudoun County provides for data centers, it receives back more than $9.50 in tax revenue.”11 At the same time, changes in data center technology have increased electrical demand from an estimated 100 watts to 300 watts per square foot.12

Figure 3: A data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa, is one of many that has been built in the state. The abundance of cheap, easily developable farmland makes the state an attractive destination for this type of development.

For Loudoun County, most of the energy generated to meet the demand of “Data Center Alley” is supplied by Dominion Energy. At present, Dominion Energy’s generation portfolio is driven by fossil fuels; their portfolio consists of three percent nuclear, and 33 percent natural gas, 26 percent coal, and only four percent renewable energy sources.13 These data center developments have also converted a significant amount of rural land to industrial uses. Without proper planning, the resulting development patterns damage water quality and create habitat fragmentation. Local communities also frequently oppose the loss of the county’s rural character.14 Loudoun County recently approved a new general plan that designates areas where data center development would be most desirable, but the plan does not promote renewable energy and energyefficient practices for its data center complexes Without Loudoun County taking the lead to ensure that data center development is more sustainable, other local governments may be misled to believe that data centers are a municipal investment that comes without costs.

OPTIONS FOR GOVERNMENT AND INDIVIDUALS For local governments that have welcomed or considered welcoming data center development, there are several steps that can be taken to ensure more sustainable practices: • Assess how such developments can be controlled by the local zoning ordinance and comprehensive planning rather than special exceptions or zoning variances. • Write Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards specifically for data centers to ensure more energy efficient practices. • Pressure utility companies to shift towards more sustainable sources by updating renewable energy portfolio standards. • Beyond the local level, both governmental and non-governmental efforts should be made to ensure that the environmental impact of digital services is properly quantified. • The federal government should regulate digital services, requiring best practices from the

Data footprint


private companies that own and operate these complexes. • As a large consumer of data center related energy, the federal government should seek to do business with sustainability-minded providers. • Public awareness of the internet’s environmental footprint should be prioritized. Nearly everyone knows how to use Google Maps or stream a movie on Netflix, but the environmental impact of these activities remains ambiguous. CONCLUSION Overall, the impact of digital services is still underrecognized in efforts to mitigate climate change and environmental damage. The goal of reaching net zero carbon emissions has become more urgent as the predictions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change look increasingly dire. In the case of Loudoun County, Virginia, lackluster commitments to renewable energy at the local, state, and federal levels have resulted in a data center economy that relies heavily on fossil fuels and impacts communities far from where the complexes are located. At the same time, while energy usage is a leading concern associated with digital services, it is not the only environmental impact associated with these complexes. In Loudoun County, rural land has been converted to industrial uses at a higher rate due to the proliferation of data center complexes within the County’s borders. In order to avoid the negative environmental impacts associated with data centers, municipalities must take a more proactive planning approach. Comprehensive planning and zoning can ensure that data centers are sited in appropriate areas, and stricter building codes can address concerns about energy efficiency. At the state and federal levels, renewable energy requirements for utilities can ensure that there is renewable energy available for fueling these developments. The fight for more renewable energy also needs to be addressed at the international level, because much of the growth in digital services will occur in the least developed countries that have a greater reliance on fossil fuels. Building a more sustainable internet must be a pillar of climate change mitigation, because the solutions are clear, but the will to make changes has only been superficial thus far. In sum, communities and individuals should take full stock of the environmental impact of digital services and the internet if they are serious about sustainability.



Allison Carr is a second-year Master of City and Regional Planning student concentrating in Land Use and Environmental Planning. She received a B.A. in Geography from George Washington University in 2016 and has since focused her efforts on learning about the unexpected ways that we impact the environment. Allison's hobbies include hiking and taking the train a lot.

WORKS & IMAGES CITED 1 Fred Pearce, “Energy Hogs: Can World’s Huge Data Centers Be Made More Efficient?,” Yale Environment 360, April 3, 2018, 2 Nicola Jones, “How to Stop Data Centers from Gobbling up the World’s Electricity,” Nature, September 13, 2018, https://www. 3 Gary Cook, “Clicking Clean: Who Is Winning the Race to Build a Green Internet” (Washington, DC: Greenpeace, 2017), http://www. 4 Fred Pearce, “Energy Hogs: Can World’s Huge Data Centers Be Made More Efficient?” 5 Naomi Xu Elegant, “The Internet Cloud Has a Dirty Secret,” Fortune, September 18, 2019, internet-cloud-server-data-center-energy-consumption-renewable-coal/. 6 Amip Shah et al., “Evaluating Life-Cycle Environmental Impact of Data Centers,” Journal of Electronic Packaging 133 (September 2011). 7 Amip Shah et al. 8 Alex Rough, “Data Center Alley and Sustainable Computing,” Loudoun Times-Mirror, September 17, 2019, https://www.loudoun- 9 “Loudoun 2040 General Plan” (Loudon Country Board of Supervisors, June 20, 2019), 10 Gary Cook, “Clicking Clean: Who Is Winning the Race to Build a Green Internet.” 11 “Loudoun 2040 General Plan.” 12 “Loudoun 2040 General Plan.” 13 Gary Cook, “Clicking Clean: Who Is Winning the Race to Build a Green Internet.” 14 Renss Greene, “Farmland to Data Centers Switch Worries Neighbors,” Loudoun Now, February 21, 2019, https://loudounnow. com/2019/02/21/farmland-to-data-centers-switch-worries-neighbors/. Figure 1: Photo by Eric Purcell. Flickr. September 2015. Figure 2: Photo by Steve Loya. Flickr. May 2008. Figure 3: Photo by Chad Davis. Flickr. February 2017.

Data footprint


Figure 1: Located on the east coast of China, Shanghai has a rich history and since 2000 has become the financial center of the country, led by the Lujiazui Central Business District area. Attracting both residents and investment capital, the housing market in Shanghai is one of the most heated in the country.

EXAMINING POLICY INTERVENTION IN SHANGHAI’S HOUSING MARKET A Spatial-Temporal Approach Using Residential Property Transactions By Mengting (Kelly) Yan


hina’s housing market emerged in the 1980s after the Cultural Revolution. In the years since, the development of the property market has experienced ups and downs. In 2003, the real estate industry was identified as the pillar industry of China. During the financial crisis in 2008, the Chinese government put forward a series of liberal housing policies, including tax cuts and low mortgage interest rates, in order to stimulate the economy. These policies were later criticized for leading to skyrocketing housing prices, especially in large cities like Shanghai. As a result, beginning in early 2010, the Chinese government started its almost four-year-long restrictive period on the housing market. Restrictions on the number of houses one could buy, less favorable mortgage conditions, tax increases, and higher down payment requirements were used to curb increasing housing prices. The impact of policy interventions on the Shanghai housing market are greatly influenced by geography, housing prices, and time lags in policy efficacy. BACKGROUND AND METHODOLOGY

Previous studies have no agreement on the efficacy of these policies. Huang et al.,1 Zhou,2 Wu and Li,3 and Deng et al.4 have all found restriction policies to be effective in reducing price increases and transactions, whereas Zhou5 did not find such effects in the housing market in Shanghai. While Tsai6 argues in favor of monetary control from the People’s Bank of China, Deng et al. doubt the effectiveness of the role

of the Bank. Time lag – the time it takes for the policy effects to occur – is oftentimes overlooked as well. With individual transaction data, the efficacy and time lags of four policies within the timeframe were tested, focusing on spatial patterns of housing transactions, geographical variations of policy efficacy, and efficacy and time lags of policy interventions citywide. The “downtown area” refers to the set of districts located in central Shanghai City, while all other districts mentioned are considered as the peripheral areas within Shanghai City. The downtown area has a longer history of overall development with a mature and robust housing market, while all the peripheral districts have only experienced substantive growth the past decade and still have large potentials in the housing market. The data was collected from Netease7 and include 151,479 daily transactions from 1,787 neighborhoods in Shanghai City from January 2014 to September 2018. Georeferenced in ArcGIS, transactions were interpolated using kernel density to show geographical variance. A search radius of ten kilometers was chosen to best present the result. Polynomial trend lines were calculated to measure time lags. SPATIAL PATTERNS OF POLICY INTERVENTION EFFECTS The spatial analysis results show the geographical variations of policy interventions and the effects manifested by housing transaction frequency.



Policy name




Content Minimum down payment rate for the first residential housing should be 30%.

930 New Policy

The lower limit for interest rate should be 70% of the benchmark loan interest rate. 9/29/14


Neutral For those who already have one housing, but undertake loans to purchase residential housing again, the new one shall be treated as the first housing and thus the above mortgage rule shall apply. For those who already have one housing with loans uncleared, minimum down payment rate for the second housing is lowered (from 60%) to 40%.

330 New Policy




For those who already have one housing with loans cleared, minimum down payment rate for the second housing is lowered (from 60%) to 30% if they choose to use HPF. For those who sell their residential housing that have been purchased for more than or equal to 2 years (lowered from 5 years), sales tax is exempted.

Transfer Management of Land for Business Purposes




No residential housing on land for commercial and business purposes.



Several cities


Some banks raised benchmark interest rate for loans by 10%.

Figure 2: From 2014 to 2017, the Chinese federal government enacted housing policies with impacts that varied depending on the neighborhood and its average housing stock value.

District plans complemented the policy interventions at the national and municipal level as well. In 2014, the compact area of Jiading District, Baoshan District, and the downtown area saw most transactions (Figure 3). This pattern is consistent with the local planning and development policies at each district. While located at the peripheral area of the city, Jiading District has been developing at a relatively rapid rate in recent years. The 12th Fiveyear Plan (2011-2015) of Jiading District8 identified the culture industry as the regional pillar industry and put forward plans accordingly, one of which is the district’s automobile culture. The transaction concentration area in Jiading District overlaps with the area designated for automobile development of the Shanghai Audi International Circuit and the F1 races hosted there. Similarly, the transaction concentration areas in Baoshan District echo those identified as business and commercial centers at both the district and municipal levels in the 12th Five-Year Plan.9 It was because of the focus on developing certain areas of Baoshan District that infrastructure and facilities were built accordingly, which in turn attracted people to reside in the neighborhoods.



In 2015, housing transactions increased greatly after the national neutral policy in September 2014 and loosening policy in March 2015. As a result, the concentration area of transactions in 2015 expanded. Notably, more transactions were made in Qingpu District and Fengxian District, while the overall distribution of housing transaction did not change greatly. In other words, the neutral and loosening policies did not have much impact on the area with low transaction frequency. This is interpreted as the geographical variations of the two policies. Neutral and loosening policies were more impactful in downtown areas and peripheral areas with comprehensive development planning. That is, neutral and loosening policies incentivized housing purchase in areas with already developed neighborhoods, facilities, and infrastructure. Housing transaction frequency decreased in 2016, which continued in 2017 with the two restriction policies implemented—one in April and the other in August. The adjacent areas of Songjiang and Qingpu Districts were the only ones to remain a transaction frequency of 15 to 30 transactions/km2, followed by the downtown area and Jiading District as identified

Figure 3: This set of interpolation maps shows how concentration areas of housing transaction have changed/remained from 2014 to 2017. The last map includes the subway lines, around which housing transactions are focused.

before. This reveals that under the impact of restriction policies, downtown and peripheral areas with comprehensive and focused district plans were less likely to be affected as shown in housing transaction frequency and more likely to remain robust. However, peripheral areas at the middle stage of development – not too crowded to deter future development or too underpopulated to have good infrastructure – showed even more robust performance than the downtown area. Throughout the years, Songjiang District, Jiading District, and the downtown area maintained the highest transaction frequency. Songjiang District

and Jiading District, though located in the peripheral areas of the city, owe their robust performance in the housing market to the local development plans. The results showed that under the impact of neutral and loosening policies, the downtown area and peripheral areas with comprehensive and focused development plans had more potentials in the housing market. The effects of neutral and loosening policies were more likely to endure in those areas. Similar observations were made for the restriction policies. The downtown area and peripheral areas with comprehensive and focused development plans were less likely to be affected (as shown in housing transaction frequency) and more likely to remain robust. However, peripheral



areas at the middle stage of development – with not too few population and good infrastructure to grow, but not too crowded to deter future development – showed even more robust performance than downtown area under the impact of restriction policies. With a relatively short history of development, there are still potentials in the development of housing market. As further spatial analysis showed, the two concentration areas in the Songjiang and Jiading Districts throughout the years overlapped with the two subway lines that extended to the area. The downtown area, with the all-time highest transaction frequency, overlapped with the subway line networks as well. Such an accessibility advantage, along with the fact that downtown area has the longest history of development and thus has more housing to provide, explain the robust housing market in downtown area. A regression analysis of individual transactions on neighborhood characteristics generated similar results. Significance of accessibility, including location, number of subway lines, and number of bus lines was again observed. The closer the neighborhood is from the inner circle, the more subway lines there are in the two kilometer radius, and the more bus lines nearby, the higher the neighborhood price level. In other words, accessibility factors are critical for both transaction frequency and average sale price.

• high cost (greater than or equal to 80,000 RMB/m2). The hypothesis is that different price levels and neighborhood types divided by price would react differently to the same policies. The first group had the most transactions: 85,004 out of 151,479. Indeed, the lower price would appeal to more consumers. However, if considering the type of consumers who would purchase their houses priced at below 30,000 RMB/m2 on average, they tend to be those who are financially less well-off and consider this house to be a necessity of their lives. While the group represents the lowest price level of this study, 95 percent of the data points are above 10,000 RMB/m2, while 50 percent are above 20,000 RMB/ m2. This shows that the housing price level in Shanghai was still high. For a typical family of three members, a house of 60 to 100 square meters would be a common need, costing 600,000 RMB to 2,000,000 RMB—a difficult amount to afford without years of family savings and a mortgage. Moreover, the average sale price in this group had been steadily increasing since early 2014, which sped up approximately eight months after the introduction of the loosening policy. This increase did not stop until three months after both tightening policies were implemented. Nevertheless, the average sale price did not decrease significantly, instead largely maintaining previous level.

“The downtown area and peripheral areas with comprehensive and focused development plans were less likely to be affected and more likely to remain robust. However, peripheral areas at the middle stage of development ... showed even more robust performance than downtown area under the impact of restriction policies.” TIME LAG OF POLICY INTERVENTION In addition to the spatial variation of policy effects identified previously, temporal variation is another primary research gap in the context of Shanghai housing market. It is important to evaluate the same policies through a different lens citywide by studying the time lag. Time lags in policy intervention were manifested by average sale price change over time. The results revealed that time lags existed but varied by different price groups: • low cost (less than or equal to 30,000 RMB/m2), • medium cost (greater than 30,000 RMB/m2 but less than 80,000 RMB/m2), and



The middle group comprises about one third of all transactions, with 58,781 data points – approximately 87 percent are below 60,000 RMB/ m2. For this group, there is a very different trend of price change over time as compared to the first group. The loosening policy only had a minor impact on the steadily increasing average sale price. Moreover, such increase stopped about eight months after the loosening policy—approximately one year before the first tightening policy. Compared to the first group, the price change took place at roughly the same time but in the opposite direction. The price decrease came to an end shortly after both restriction policies were introduced—it started increasing again and reached the same level as the start of 2014. The effect of

Figure 4: Housing demand in urban China has rapidly increased in recent years, due in part to federal housing policies.

tightening policies in this group took place before the official implementation of the policies. Based on the observations from the first and second groups, it is clear that buyers in the second group pay the most attention to policies and are the most sensitive to policies. They tend to own one property and want to purchase another or switch to a new one. Therefore, they tend to have more options than buyers in the first group in terms of where and when to purchase housing. They also tend to be the most cautious buyers, highly concerned about potential benefits and losses. This should explain the decrease of average sale price starting from almost one year before the first tightening policy was introduced, considering that news about policy changes usually leak and spread among the community, real estate agents, and potential home buyers before the official announcement. The third group, representing the luxury housing market, had only 7,694 transactions. This observation is consistent with the hypothesis that luxurious housing is still a niche market. Observations are more spread out compared with the previous two groups. Approximately 60 percent fall in the range of 80,000 to 100,000 RMB/m2, while 95 percent are below

140,000 RMB/m2. Even the luxury housing market has a price ceiling. However, this market does not seem to react too much to the policies. To measure the time lag of the policies, the polynomial trend lines were calculated for all three subgroups. For the first group, results showed that the policies had little impact. Average sale price had been increasing since June 2014, even before the first neutral policy was introduced. Such growth sped up slightly after the first neutral policy and more after the loosening policy. Even the restriction policies did not stop the growth. In fact, the slope was the highest between the two restriction policies. This could result from the inertia of the loosening policy. However, the fact that after both restriction policies, the growth barely decreased much should show the little reaction the less than 30,000 RMB/m2 market had to the policies. In other words, consumers in this group had more inelastic demand and were hardly affected by loosening or tightening policies. The second group showed different results and was more strongly affected by the policies. The first three-quarters of 2014 saw rapid price growth, which started to slow down after the introduction of the neutral policy. The average sale price peaked one SHANGHAI HOUSING MARKET


month after the loosening policy before it started to decrease. Such decrease is an interesting observation as it happened shortly after the loosening policy was introduced at a rather fast speed (with a slope of -4.956). The loosening policy had little impact on the market, however, the common practice of news spreading in the community and cautious homebuyers could partially explain the early move in the market. Trend analysis from this research has shown that indeed this group reacts to such restriction policies up to two years in advance of implementation. With similar logic, the growth in 2014 might be partially explained by homebuyers foreseeing a loosening policy

tightening policies had a one half to four months’ time lag and affected the price strongly with a rather high slope. In summary, the same policies had different impacts on the three price groups. While the low-priced group did not react strongly to the tightening policies with continuously increasing prices and the high-priced group showed changes that matched the intentions of the policies, the medium-priced group generated the most interesting results. Perhaps buyers in the medium-priced group are very cautious and pay close attention to policies, because they either want to make

“[Neutral and loosening] policies were more likely to incentivize housing purchases in areas with already developed neighborhoods, facilities, and infrastructure...peripheral areas at the middle stage of development demonstrated even more robust performance that the downtown area under the impact of restriction policies.� to be implemented, especially when policies had been tightening from early 2010 to 2013. The final price growth in early 2015 also carried the growth inertia from the previous three quarters. Then average sale price decreased for another five months after the first tightening policy, one and a half months after both tightening policies, before it started to increase again. Until September 20, 2017, average sale price had been decreasing for almost two years and five months. For the next year, price growth increased rapidly. Perhaps news had already started to spread among the homebuyers and agents about the upcoming loosening policies in the future, a potential area for future analysis. The third group reacted to the policies as intended by policymakers. Unlike the second group, the third group saw a rapid decline in the first three quarters of 2014. The introduction of the neutral policy seemed to slow down the decline, which did not stop until one month after the loosening policy was introduced. This is likely to be the tightening policy inertia from previous months or even years. Here, the loosening policy exerted its impact with a one-month time lag. As the price continued to grow one month after the loosening policy was introduced, it peaked roughly four months after the first tightening policy, 15 days after both tightening policies. However, the price level did not go back as high as it was in the beginning of 2014. The



an investment for capital returns. Such a distinction separates them both from the buyers in the high-priced group who plan to exchange current housing with a new one and from buyers in the low-priced group who exhibit inelastic demand. CONCLUSION Policy interventions were effective in Shanghai from 2014 to 2018. In general, the loosening policy led to both higher average sale prices and volumes, while the tightening policies curbed both to some extent. Such policies should remain an important tool for the government to regulate the housing market. However, geographical variations existed in the efficacy. The effects of neutral and loosening policies manifested by the increases of housing transaction frequency were more likely to endure in the downtown area, as well as peripheral areas with comprehensive and focused development plans, as the latter had more potential in the housing market. The policies were more likely to incentivize housing purchases in areas with already developed neighborhoods, facilities, and infrastructure. Similarly, restriction policies were less likely to affect those areas as shown in housing transaction frequency and the housing market was more likely to remain robust. Among those areas,

Polynomial trendlines for average sale price change. Data points are labeled by (time, price). k stands for slope. ( : trend change points)

Figure 5: The three trendlines of average sale price overtime show how different markets reacted to the same set of policies differently. Changes of trends are marked and reflected by the changes of trendline slopes.



Figure 5: Stark differences in housing in Nan Shi, Shanghai.

peripheral areas at the middle stage of development demonstrated even more robust performance than the downtown area under the impact of restriction policies, leading to the conclusion that there are still potentials in the development of housing market.

with increases in both housing transaction frequency and average sale price. Accessibility is crucial not only to the buyers’ decision making, but also for policymakers when they develop housing, land use, and transportation policies.

Time lags in the policy interventions were also observed, which varied among housing price groups. Low-priced housing did not react strongly to policy interventions due to inelastic demand. Average sale price continued to grow even with the tightening policies. It is argued that such growth was driven by inelastic demand in this group, which accounted for over half of all transactions of this study. Mediumpriced housing saw a swift reaction to policies. Such a reaction did not last long before the next policy came into place. Buyers in this group reacted one and a half to two years before one policy was officially announced, whose effect lasted only one to one month and a half. As cautious buyers, they kept a close eye on policy changes and were somehow aware enough of future changes to take action ahead of time. For highpriced neighborhoods, buyers reacted to policies with one half to four months’ time lag after implementation.

The important question to ask for policymakers then, is what types of neighborhoods they want to affect. For the first group, where demand remains largely inelastic, the goal might be how to provide more affordable housing, when it is necessary for those people to purchase housing. If it is the working to middle-class buyers, then it requires them to take measures ahead of time and somehow spread the news, ideally one and a half to two years before officially announcing the policy. This is an extremely difficult task, given the volatility in the housing market. In this case, the policymakers might want to come up with other measures to regulate the housing market. If it is the luxury housing market that the policymakers are targeting, current policy has proven to be effective. Careful consideration of the varying policy reactions of distinct market segments will allow policymakers to deliver more targeted and sustained impacts to the Shanghai housing market.

For all neighborhoods, accessibility factors remained significant. They were highly correlated



Mengting (Kelly) Yan is a first-year Master of City and Regional Planning student. Before she joined Penn, she graduated from New York University Shanghai with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Science, with honors. Her work and research focus on housing policy and real estate development. Her piece studying housing price and policy in Shanghai has been accepted to the 50th Urban Affairs Association conference, and will be presented in April 2020 in Washington, D.C.

WORKS & IMAGES CITED 1 Huang, Zhong-hua, Ci-fang Wu, and Xue-jun Du. 2008. Analyzing Housing Price Volatility in Shanghai. ICMSE.2008.4669131. 2 Zhou, Zhengyi. 2016. Overreaction to Policy Changes in the Housing Market: Evidence from Shanghai. Vol. 58. https://doi. org/10.1016/j.regsciurbeco.2016.02.004. 3 Wu, Yi, and Yunong Li. 2018. “Impact of Government Intervention in the Housing Market: Evidence from the Housing Purchase Restriction Policy in China.” Applied Economics 50 (6): 691–705. 4 Deng, Yongheng, Eric Girardin, and Roselyne Joyeux. 2018. “Fundamentals and the Volatility of Real Estate Prices in China: A Sequential Modelling Strategy.” China Economic Review 48 (April): 205–22. 5 Zhou, Zhengyi. 2018. “Housing Market Sentiment and Intervention Effectiveness: Evidence from China.” Emerging Markets Review

35 (June): 91–110. 6 Tsai, I-Chun. 2017. “The Housing Market and Excess Monetary Liquidity in China.” Empirical Economics 53 (2): 599–615. https:// 7 todayflat/desc/ALL/1.html 8 “Jiading qu ‘shi’er wu’ shi qi wen hua fa zhan gui hua.” People’s Government of Jiading District, Shanghai. May 20, 2011. http:// 9 “Baoshan qu guo min jing ji he she hui fa zhan di shi’er ge wu nian gui hua gang yao.” Shanghai Baoshan. January 14, 2011. http:// fzgh_zhgh_m/2011-08-19/Detail_272751.htm. Figure 3: Michiel Hulshof via Creative Commons on Flickr Figure 5: bricoleurbanism via Creative Commons on Flickr



Node | Taipei, Taiwan. Double Exposure shot on 35mm film using Nikon F3.


by Allison Lau


Figure 1: In researching models to replicate in United States public housing policy and design, Catherine Bauer drew inspiration from Vienna’s Karl Marx Hof for its interior courtyards, childcare resources tied to communal play spaces, and mid-rise housing units.

DESIGNING NEIGHBORHOODS, DEFINING PUBLICS Women in Planning & Public Housing By Emily Jacobi


he City of St. Louis, Missouri, began demolition on the Pruitt Igoe Towers in 1972—just 20 years after their construction. Blaming deficient design, rather than blaming insufficient investment in both the community of residents and the construction and maintenance of the towers, city officials and planners made the high modernist approach a scapegoat for the project’s failures.1 For much of planning history, urban design and physical planning were positioned by professionals as primary methods to project order and “elite desire”2 over the public and in doing so, regulated communal behavior as a means to improve physical building conditions. By contrast, progressive reformers used urban design and architecture as a tool to expand the administration of public services to marginalized communities. In particular, the role of women cannot be overlooked. Within the chaos of industrialized cities – overcrowded spaces teeming with the “undesirable” working poor, women, immigrants, and racial minorities – several women throughout history found that design promised a means to achieve social sanitation and to model visions of worthy public behavior. EARLY INFLUENCE ON NEIGHBORHOOD PLANNING

From the 18th to 20th centuries in the U.S., women were influential in advancing public housing as a form of neighborhood planning. As public housing emerged, women’s groups and activists were central to linking the functions of urban design and architecture with social work and service. Women also helped

advance the framework of lack of housing and poor environmental conditions as structural consequences of racial exclusion, rather than problems caused by unsavory behaviors of individuals. These women tied the improvement of private living conditions to the experiences and quality of overall neighborhood life, helping to link the pursuits of urban planning and housing. Through the development of public housing, women activists retooled neighborhood planning as a testing ground to push designs that imagined larger economic redistribution as well as structural change. The terrain of struggle between the design and distribution of social services was nothing new, dating back even to the original thirteen colonies. In Elite Designs and Popular Uprisings, historian Emily Clark argues that colonial authorities sought physical planning and architecture to control and suppress the behavior of a growingly diverse population. Ursuline nuns in New Orleans provided housing and social support to the city’s poor, working “licentiousness women,”3 offering a public show of behavioral redemption to the population colonial authorities sought to regulate. Due to this early form of social work, Clark argues that colonial authorities decided against the building of a women’s prison wing in the mid-1700s.4 In Clark’s example, social services intended to alleviate structural inequalities subverted the grand-scale surveillance plans of colonial authorities. Through the history of planning in the U.S., the relationship between design and social



Figure 2: The Chicago Jane Addams Hull-House merged urban cooperative living with social support for working women. It was eventually expanded upon into a neighborhood network of attached community spaces.

services fused and combined population regulation and social uplift.5 Many Progressive Era women involved in housing advocacy functioned as grassroots urban designers. In the 19th century, the question of how to house the poor within problematic industrial urban conditions further revealed the tension between design, behavioral control, and the remediation of structural inequality at the neighborhood scale. In his book From the Puritans to the Projects, Lawrence Vale argues, “as urban design, as social policy, and as economics, public housing injected public authority into domestic realms still regarded as resolutely private territory.”6 Historically, women have played an instrumental role in using the design of public housing to suture together new models for neighborhood organization, socioeconomic concerns, and the private conditions of marginalized groups to participate in the public sphere. Approaching public housing as multi-faceted neighborhood planning reflected concerns over the manifestation of structural inequalities in the built environment. WOMEN’S ROLE IN SETTLEMENT HOUSES In 19th century North American cities, settlement houses often developed as their own microneighborhoods. The designs facilitated alternative economic support structures for working women in



large cities, challenging ideals relegating women to the domestic sphere. Settlement houses were largely run by women’s voluntary associations, which spread widely across the U.S. at a time when many cities were experiencing sanitary struggles. This solidified the socio-political movement of municipal housekeeping, where women’s roles were expanded outside of just the home to the upkeep of settlement houses. Many women involved in settlement houses proscribed to the Social Gospel and the Labor Movement, attributing conditions of poverty to structural conditions rather than unworthy behavior or degenerate ideas of racism.7 In the Grand Domestic Revolution: A History of Feminist Designs for American Homes, Neighborhoods and Cities, Dolores Hayden illustrates how designs of settlement houses like the Jane Chicago Addams Hull-House featured public kitchens, daycares, outdoor public gardens, and other shared common spaces. These multi-block neighborhood units combined communal living with economic opportunity for working-class women by turning traditionally private-living space into semipublic communities.8 Inside, women could receive job training in home economics in communal kitchens, while childcare was provided across the commons. In designing living spaces around shared public corridors, settlement houses were both redesigns of neighborhoods as well as distribution sites of social services.

Figure 3: The Pruitt Igoe Towers erected in St. Louis in 1959 were demolished over the course of the 1980s.

The form of settlement houses facilitated the blending of the public and private spheres. Historian Daphne Spain writes of the Chicago Hull House: “These were spaces that simultaneously met women’s goals as well as those of the city.”9 Due to the targeting of these homes for communities of working women across race and class, Spain asserts that, “women’s voluntary associations created actual spaces in which problems associated with race relations, immigration, and women’s status were worked out.”10 These settlement houses can be viewed as early cases of public housing, arranging community life to a city grid recognizing value of a neighborhood as a unit. RACE AND WOMEN IN HOUSING While uplift movements were largely the domains of white middle-class women, Andrea Roberts’ emphasizes the role Black women played in the history of women’s improvements societies and neighborhood planning in the 19th century. During the Progressive Era, the Farmer’s Improvement Society (FIS) and Women’s Barnyard Auxiliary (WBA) fostered communities amongst rural Black sharecroppers nationwide, linking collectivist ideas of wealth-building to both housing and neighborhood development.11 In The Farmer’s Improvement Society and the Women’s Barnyard Auxiliary of Texas: African Community Building in the Progressive Era, Andrea Roberts analyzed the tenets of the FIS and WBA as filling in the gaps of the white, middle-class

Progressive Era uplift. By linking generational wealth building to neighborhood networks of Black farmers, both organizations set up an institutional framework that tied economic development and the good housing to civic involvement and the distribution of social work and financial planning services.12 Roberts writes, “The FIS platform, rooted in economic self-sufficiency, was a radical call to resist the system and claim a second emancipation.”13 This claim can be understood as an example of non-traditional planning improving the built environment, linking activity in the public sphere (work and economy) and the private sphere (family, home, and thrift). With 1.2 million members nationwide, the scale of both organizations reflected a mass mobilization that tied community development to secure, affordable, and sustainable housing. As public housing debates took shape in the 1920s to meet the conditions of the Great Depression, activists like Edith Elmer Wood advocated design visions that bridged 19th century social gospel theory to 20th century urban crises. Wood, an early advocate for “slum clearance,” was one of the first early progressive reformers to envision bulldozing as an opportunity to improve housing stock by rebuilding neighborhoods. Her articulation of clearance as rebuilding contrasted with existing views of clearance as population cleansing or social sanitation movements like City Beautiful.14 For Wood, doing away with dilapidation



meant reconstructing housing that could better serve communities by providing healthier living conditions. Clearance was simply the first step to building a superior housing stock. Wood based her argument on the importance of housing conditions, her former advocacy of “light, air, and outdoor space,” and family size (rather than income-based home size allotments) in New York City.15 For Wood, clearance could provide the necessary rebuilding of poor-quality housing to bring Ebenezer Howard’s vision of the picturesque enclave back into the city neighborhoods as a “curative” attempt to define good housing conditions as a public utility.16 Mayors and planners contorted Wood’s policies under urban renewal.17 Two subsequent housing acts bastardized the vision Wood had of urban rehabilitation, beginning with investment in the private living conditions of working families. The direct consequences of this argument were later codified through urban renewal. The culture of clearance in that era reworked cities to serve white suburban populations at the expense of the largely Black and working-class immigrant communities. WOMEN’S IMPACT ON 20 TH CENTURY PUBLIC HOUSING Wood’s contemporary and colleague, Catherine Bauer, also influenced the development of neighborhood planning design and the U.S. public housing program. Bauer’s fight to promote mass public housing policy in the U.S. also reflected the political futility of advocating for a housing program within the planning elite. Bauer wrote her career affirming Modern Housing in 1934 as an argument for implementing European-style mass public housing designs and policies. She attempted to sell Modern Housing as a policy while the United States was entrenched in a Cold War-era culture war, defining American patriotism around ideals of private property, consumerism, and the isolated nuclear family, manifested spatially as the suburb and the single tract house.18 As Lawrence Vale illustrates, Bauer’s vision pressed into and against a prescient cultural imagination linking collective living to communism, a counter design logic to the emerging fantasy of the sitcom suburb.19 Bauer’s progressive design visions included the “two-story row unit topped by a one-story flat with a garden in the rear, designed in modernist superblock formation.”20 Bauer further envisioned construction “for use rather than profit” and built within “comprehensively planned neighborhoods.”21 As historian Gail Radford illustrates, the progressiveness of Bauer’s vision is reflected in the combination of



the design, the scale of implementation, and the notfor-profit financing techniques.22 Due to entrenched segregation, racism, and affective fears of the spread of communism, Vale argues that the right to safe housing gained only partial political traction.23 The public prominence and struggles of figures like Bauer and Wood to win a vision for public housing as a right for urban dwellers was simultaneously established and undermined in political discourse. By the time the core housing acts of the 20th century allocated funding for housing construction, developers and planning elites had molded the language of housing reform design into the language of deficiency to justify clearance of blighted neighborhoods. Under urban renewal, some new housing was built; however, displacement via demolition became the legacy. In defining neighborhoods through their ability to capture light, provide clean air, and use streets efficiently, planners borrowed reformist language while also alienating it from the needs of the specific publics that settlement houses Wood and Bauer aimed to target. This led to the implementation of clearance to improve city neighborhoods, without the political momentum to sustain investment in rebuilding housing for the working poor en masse. Despite the proven need for public housing and the influence of women like Bauer, progressives in the Housing Authority faced political difficulty arguing for mass public housing for the poor as the United States entered the post-war era. Joe Heathcott writes, “[w]hile the Housing Act of 1949 set a six-year timetable for the construction of units, fewer than half of the 135,000 allotted were ever funded.”24 He writes further “after the Housing Act of 1954 shifted emphasis to urban renewal, public home construction dropped to 24,000 units per year by 1964.”25 Meanwhile, “growth coalitions”26 of planning elites aimed to re-attract white suburbanites back to downtowns.27 Housing Authority projects in the 1940s and 1950s required a diagnosis of blight to receive funds and often focused on quantity of units rather than quality of new units proposed. Cost cuts also eliminated community spaces, adequate room size, and outdoor amenities—features that were advocated by activists of earlier decades. As public housing was implemented as a mass program, it was increasingly stripped of services that linked physical structures to neighborhood services and support. Further disinvestment during the 1970s and 1980s left towers and projects to continually fall into disrepair.28 While the United States Housing Authority demolished towers and rebuilt neighborhoods, they were often left isolated and underserviced. If these housing policies had involved more ideas from women like Bauer and Wood, it is possible that the outcomes could have been different.

Emily Jacobi is a first-year Master of City and Regional Planning in the Community and Economic Development concentration. She received a Bachelors of Arts in Media Studies and History from McGill University in Montreal, and developed an interest in community planning and design processes while living in Chicago. She is passionate about planning as a tool of harm reduction, and the roles placemaking, storytelling, and art can play in urban planning and design.

CONCLUSION In the U.S., 19th century public housing developed as a form of neighborhood planning and community development. Public housing was intended to alleviate the physical conditions of the chaotic mix of diverse people in dense industrialized cities through physical planning, urban design, and architecture. Moving into the 20th century era of urban renewal, public housing developed as containment, removal, and a tool of racial segregation. Today, public housing is marred by myths of architectural design failure and collective memories of demolition.

Throughout this history, the role women held in pushing against these ideas and using housing as a site of neighborhood reform and renewal is greatly overlooked. Women’s involvement in public housing advocacy invites a more complicated reading into the relationship between urban planning and public assistance. If new housing stock is to be built to redefine the health of neighborhoods through federal policy, the question of whom this policy is for – and whose voices we listen to – must remain central for planners, architects, and urban designers.

WORKS & IMAGES CITED 1 Katherine Bristol, The Pruitt Igoe Myth, 165 2 Emily Clark Elite Designs and Popular Uprisings: Building and Rebuilding New Orleans, 3 3 Ibid 8 4 Ibid 14 5 Ibid 19 6 Vale, Lawrence, From the Puritans to the Projects, 5 7 Domenic Vitiello, Lecture 9/4 8 Hayden (insert) 9 Daphne Spain, “Preface” and “Voluntary Vernacular,” in How Women Saved the City, 3 10 Ibid 4 11 Andrea Roberts, “The Farmers’ Improvement Society and the Women’s Barnyard Auxiliary of Texas: African American Community Building in the Progressive Era 218 12 Roberts, 219 13 Ibid, 220 14 Edith Elmer Wood, A Century of the Housing Problem, 143 15 Wood 143 16 Ibid, 142 17 Isenberg 191 18 Vale, 239

19 Ibid, 239 20 Gail Radford, “Catherine Bauer and the Plan for ‘Modern Housing, 71 21 Radford 72 22 Ibid, 73 23 Vale, 242 24 Joseph Heathcott, The Strange Career of Public Housing, 367 25 Heathcott 368 26 Peter Hall, “The City of Monuments,” in Cities of Tomorrow: An Intellectual History of Urban Planning and Design in the Twentieth Century , 105 27 Alison Isenberg, “The Hollow Prize,” in Downtown America: A History of the Place and the People Who Made It Isenberg describes mantras of urban renewal as a frame for political consensus building. Page 170-171. Alison Isenberg discuss Growth Coalitions as a broad planning elite of state and city level actors with political influence. This included real estate developers, city council people, and planning departments. 28 Vale, 390 Figure 1: Bwag from Wikimedia Commons. March 1968. Figure 2: Irving Kane from Wikimedia Commons. 1905. Figure 3: USGS from Wikimedia Commons. March 1968.



Figure 1: Schuylkill Yards is a multi-billion-dollar Innovation District investment

THE CONTINUED STORY OF UNIVERSITY EXPANSION AND NEGLECT Philadelphia’s University City Innovation District By Adam Ghazzawi


niversity City has wrestled with its identity for more than 100 years, struggling to balance the needs of both existing residents and distinguished research and educational institutions. Academic and government officials alike continue to face backlash from the 1960s and 1970s expansion of the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) campus and its redevelopment practices that resulted in the displacement of thousands of African American residents.1 Today, Penn and Drexel University have begun efforts to further transform University City into an innovation district, or and area that promotes entrepreneurship and business growth through specified development strategies. The Brookings Institution, a major research contributor on innovation districts, characterizes these areas as beacons in the fight for social equality.2 Despite such claims, Brookings, alongside Drexel, Penn, and a swath of corporate entities, published Connect to Compete in 2017, the plan for the University City innovation district. The plan fails to grapple with the area’s contentious redevelopment history and issues of equity, affordability, and the role of existing communities in the planning process. The progress for University City’s innovation district threatens to further concentrate poverty and displace communities of color in favor of economic development and university expansion. The innovation district plan fails to address neighborhood affordability with measurable strategies, provoking concerns over the region’s

economic disparity and the exacerbation of racial tensions. Connect to Compete falls short of substantively outlining tactics to maintain housing and cost of living affordability in the area. Despite Drexel President John Fry’s insistence that the multibillion-dollar project will benefit thousands of lowincome families without disrupting the fabric of their neighborhoods, the existing action plan fails to showcase that commitment. Penn lecturer and researcher Ken Steif has previously conducted research on predicting gentrification and argued that land values in surrounding University City neighborhoods like Mantua are going to skyrocket as a result of the innovation district, and will have negative effects on the level of affordability.3 Steif’s analysis contradicts Fry’s statement and the plan itself, a cause for concern given that neighboring areas have high rates of lowwage Black and Hispanic workers and poverty rates well above the city average.4 Without concrete plans of action and a set of success metrics for accountability, the existing plan and initial progress on the University City innovation district threaten to displace existing communities of color in favor of expanded institutional footprints and large real estate development. Drexel has largely replicated Penn’s strategies for campus expansion, which has the potential to carelessly lead to similar outcomes of displacement in a predominantly low-income, African American neighborhood. In the 1960s, Penn began offering home-buying incentive programs for faculty while UNIVERISTY CITY INNOVATION DISTRICT


simultaneously building an elite K-8 public school in the West Philadelphia neighborhood.5 Over time, this contributed greatly to the doubling of home prices, severe loss of affordable housing, and displacement of African American residents living in West Philadelphia.6 The area became increasingly lucrative because of Penn’s investment tactics, leaving behind those who could no longer afford to live in their homes. Drexel’s Home Purchase Assistance Program and investment in a new public school,7 replicates this model as the university is a primary stakeholder and investor in the innovation district being constructed along Market Street between 30th and 42nd streets. As the innovation district expands and solidifies its presence in University City without measures for existing residents to maintain and build equity in their homes, surrounding neighborhoods like West Powelton and Mantua will face a similar reality to West Philadelphia in terms of unaffordability. Drexel’s commitment to its faculty and staff and investment in public education as part of the innovation district is not in itself the problem. Rather, the university and other plan stakeholders have set up limited and inadequate safeguards to equitably accomplish such efforts, raising concerns over whether the beneficiaries of the innovation district will be current residents or a wealthier replacement. With construction well underway on a series of innovation district projects, the area’s progress to secure affordable housing funding inadequately meets the needs of an already financially-strained constituency. Brandywine Realty Trust, the primary developer of Schuylkill Yards (a multi-billion-dollar initiative which acts as the gateway to the University City innovation district), committed $3.1 million to affordable housing in the Powelton and Mantua neighborhoods.8 While greater than any commitment made during the expansion of Penn’s campus in the 1970s, this dollar amount is but a fraction of what is required to address an already depleted affordable housing stock in West Philadelphia. University City lost close to 900 affordable housing units between 2000 and 2014, the largest of any neighborhood in Philadelphia.9 The latest investment in University City’s affordable housing stock by the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), a public-private entity, required a $150 million bond issue to finance the purchase and renovation of existing affordable housing.10 While not all housing investments require this level of funding, this project does indicate the sheer amount of capital required to maintain affordable housing in University City. The onus of sustaining an adequate level of low-cost housing in an innovation district is not solely



placed on the private developer, but does require acknowledgment and action from all stakeholders involved in the plan’s development. To be beacons in the fight for social equality, as Brookings argues, innovation district plans must outline specified metrics to ensure long-term inclusivity and affordability. Alongside concerns over Drexel’s efforts to invest in faculty home-buying programs and public education is the lack of adequate investment in technical training and skills development for existing residents. While the innovation district plan lists anchor-based skill-building as a primary recommendation in redevelopment, the anchor institutions and plan stakeholders have yet to expand existing workforce training programs. The West Philadelphia Skills Initiative (WPSI), established in 2012 as part of the area’s claim to equitable revitalization, provides services and programming to unemployed residents in order to upskill and employ them in local businesses.11 Providing skills training to current residents is critical to improving employment opportunities in an innovation district founded largely on the advancement of biotech and academic research. Despite the program’s successes in job placement and contributing to wage increases, WPSI only meets five percent of its demand in West Philadelphia.12 The scale at which the group currently operates is not able to keep up with the rate of change occurring in the innovation district, and therefore does not have the capacity to serve all residents of this increasingly expensive landscape. Innovation district plan leaders including Drexel, Penn, and a variety of Philadelphia-based corporate entities must further invest in organizations like WPSI to improve workforce training for existing residents. WPSI should be used as a model for success, not as a crutch to claim that the district has been and is prepared to effectively upskill residents. While notions of equity and inclusion should not be exclusive to the innovation district redevelopment model, these geographic areas are often branded as alternative revitalization efforts combating traditional norms of urban redevelopment. From WPSI’s initial workforce training outcomes and Drexel President John Fry’s commitment to development without displacement, equity and affordability are rightly discussed as cornerstones of new development. Unfortunately for the University City innovation district, currently available plans and initial actions taken by stakeholders are eerie reminders of 1960s urban renewal practices in West Philadelphia and the displacement of thousands of low-income African American residents that followed.

Adam Ghazzawi is a first-year Master of City ad Regional Planning student specializing in Smart Cities. Adam’s passionate about leveraging data and technology to ensure cities are equitable, better connected, and responsive to a changing climate. He plans to continue to hone his technical skills as a graduate student and integrate them into his career to drive effective policymaking.

Blanket political statements and overly broad discussions of equity do nothing but further foment mistrust amongst an already skeptical constituency facing high poverty rates and a diminished affordable housing stock. Innovation districts have a profound opportunity and obligation to leverage their status as creative problem-solving hubs and engage with

local communities in the development process. A more concrete action plan for University City requires discussion on participatory policymaking, success metrics, and affordable housing. These are ideas that promote inclusivity and have the potential to balance private development with the rich cultural history of the neighborhoods in and adjacent to University City.

WORKS & IMAGES CITED 1 “Collateral Damage in Unit 3.” West Philadelphia Collaborative History, 2 Katz, Bruce, and Julie Wagner. “The Rise of Innovation Districts: A New Geography of Innovation in America.” Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings, May 2014. 3 Saksa, Jim. “As Drexel Transforms University City, Communities Nearby Prepare for Gentrification.” WHYY, WHYY, 13 July 2018, university-city-communities-nearby-prepare-for-gentrification/. 4 Connect to Compete: How the University City-Center City Innovation District Can Help Philadelphia Excel Globally and Serve Locally . The Brookings Institution, May 2017. 5 “Penn Offers Cash Incentive to Increase Home Ownership in University City.” Penn Today, 30 Mar. 1998, news/penn-offers-cash-incentive-increase-home-ownership-university-city. 6 Melamed, Samantha. “The Penn Alexander Effect: Is There Any Room Left for Low-Income Residents in University City?” Https://, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 1 Nov. 2018, 7 “Home Purchase Assistance Program.” Drexel University Human Resources,

8 Romero, Melissa. “Schuylkill Yards Developer Commits $5M to West Philly Neighborhood Initiative.” Curbed Philly, Curbed Philly, 27 June 2017, schuylkill-yards-affordable-housing-neighborhood-development. 9 Misra, Tanvi. “Philadelphia Is Losing Affordable Housing at an Alarming Rate.” CityLab, 21 Dec. 2016, equity/2016/12/as-it-gentrifies-philadelphia-is-shedding-affordable-housing/511223/. 10 Brown, Rachel. Philadelphia Fed Research Measures Impact of Gentrification on Low-Cost Housing Stock. Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, 19 Dec. 2016, newsroom/press-releases/2016/121916. 11 “About WPSI.” University City District, https://www.universitycity. org/wpsi. 12 Saksa, Jim. “Brookings Report Calls for More Local Investment to Unleash ‘Innovation District’ Potential.” WHYY, WHYY, 22 May 2017, Figure 1: Image by chrisinphilly5448. Fickr. September, 2007.



Figure 1: Oslo has an integrated public transport system, consisting of trains, light rail, trams, buses, and ferries to move people around the city with ease.

A CAR-FREE OSLO A Look at One European City’s Efforts to Ban Cars in Its City Center By Jackie Weidman


n 2015, Oslo made a bold statement: it would be the first European city to enforce a comprehensive and permanent ban on cars in its city center. Following Oslo’s proposal, Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, York, and other European cities have announced similar plans to effectively ban cars from their downtowns. Calls to reduce carbon emissions and traffic congestion amid the growing climate crisis have sparked a debate over the concept of large-scale pedestrianization of urban centers. Can cities that have been designed almost entirely around the private automobile pivot to pedestrianization and public transportation? THE MAKING OF A CAR-FREE CITY

The concept of the “car-free city” became popularized in the 1990s. In 1992, the European Commission started a “club” of car-free cities, attracting about 100 city members with the understanding that regional and national issues should be addressed to support cities’ local transportation policies.1 The first theoretical car-free city design was proposed in 1996 by J.H. Crawford, who explained that “car-free cities probably must become the norm by the end of the 21st century due to environmental constraints.”2 Crawford initially designed a hypothetical city of one million people, and further refined this idea, publishing Car Free Cities in 2000.3 Reducing motorized traffic in cities is often linked to efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve public health.4 Limiting the number of vehicles in an area has both direct and indirect health

benefits. Cities with car-free days experience up to a 40 percent reduction in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels, which research has shown reduces premature mortality. Frederick Rudolph, who studies mobility and international cooperation at the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment, and Energy, believes that “banning vehicles is a fast and cheap option” for cities to reduce emissions, and that even though that strategy alone will not “cut internal combustion traffic to zero... each car or vehicle being reduced is a benefit.” Reducing space requirements for automobiles provides an opportunity to increase green space in cities, leading to healthier lifestyles with higher levels of activity and mobility. Freed up public space can also provide an opportunity for greater social connection within neighborhoods.5 Cities can reduce traffic through many different strategies, and combine several to maximize overall impact. These include “push” incentives like parking management, congestion pricing, and speed reductions, and “pull” incentives like priority bus lanes, increasing bicycle infrastructure, and pedestrianfocused urban design.6 Car-free transportation policies primarily draw upon push incentives but are often paired with pull incentives to ensure that there are accessible alternatives to driving in car-free zones. To increase chances of successful implementation, car-free strategies need two core components. First, public transit must exist as a highquality, reliable alternative transportation option. Second, policies must not undermine themselves by A car-free oslo


Map Key Pedestrian street Square Park Market street - wide pavements with generous space for walking and activities Multipurpose street - streets will have flexibility beyond bike lanes and one-way access for cars Public transportation street Parking garage/other services Zones requiring special consideration

Figure 2: Area zoning plans are an important tool for increased city life in the center of Oslo for many decades to come. This map is from the proposal sent for final political approval on December 17, 2018.

having too many exemptions. Exemptions are usually granted to residents within the zone, delivery vehicles, and existing private parking spot holders (who are typically employees who work within the zone).7 Harmut and Pharoah examined over 40 cities with car-free policies and found that all of them increased public transit through more frequent services and connections, some provided park-and-ride options, and many reduced fares or provided free-of-charge services.8 They also found that most cities utilized ring roads or other infrastructure that create “natural” boundaries for car-free areas.



Car-free policies are generally supported by residents who don’t own cars. Objections tend to come from car-owning residents, workers who commute by car, and retail operators who worry that prohibiting access will negatively affect sales. In practice, residents of the car-free zone are usually exempt, as are delivery vans and police and emergency vehicles. Retail operators’ concerns are often misguided; evidence has shown that greater retail growth is tied to cities with decreased vehicle usage and increased pedestrian activity. In some cases, pedestrian improvements have led to so much retail growth that property values and rents have climbed enough to displace local stores

Figure 3: Removing parking spaces opens up space for piloting new outdoor furnitures, establishing better connections for pedestrians and cyclists, and using art to make urban spaces attractive.

with chain stores. This scenario creates a very different challenge for retailers in car-free zones.9 Other concerns about car-free initiatives are related to equity and impact. Policymakers worry that eliminating cars can make it more difficult for some people to access places. There is also a concern that traffic will simply be redistributed elsewhere, and thus overall vehicle usage will remain the same. Lastly, there are concerns about feasibility. These policies often require long-term political commitment from local leaders who are often only in office for two to four years at a time. They also require ongoing public support to maintain political will and pressure.10 A SHIFTING POLITICAL LANDSCAPE In 2015, a wave of progressive, left-leaning politicians won control of both Oslo’s mayor’s office and City Council, which had been run by the Conservative Party for over a decade. The new local government regime, led by the Green Party, ran on a campaign of imposing a series of climate mitigation measures to make Oslo greener.11 Lan Marie Nguyen Berg of the Green Party not only successfully ran on a platform to close downtown Oslo to private cars by 2020, but also became the Minister of the Transportation and Environment Committee.12

Immediately following the 2015 election, collaboration began between the Oslo’s Labour, Green, and Socialist parties. Negotiations resulted in the Platform for City Government Cooperation between the three majority parties.13 Many of the proposed policy initiatives in the platform were to be implemented by 2020 before the next election. This would protect measures against a potential political swing back to a more conservative city government. The platform strongly emphasized climate policy and significantly accelerated Oslo’s decarbonization timeline, calling for a 50 percent reduction in emissions by 2020 and a 100 percent reduction by 2030. A key component of Oslo’s climate policy included explicit measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, which is responsible for 60 percent of emissions. Along with climate concerns, population and economic growth were causing increased traffic congestion around the region. Despite consistent toll rate increases on the ring road leading to Oslo, congestion continued to grow, especially during peak commuting hours.14 The “safe, clean air” section of the platform outlined a commitment to decrease carbon emissions from the transportation sector through a variety of measures, including building a new inner-city A car-free oslo


metro line, heavily investing in public transportation, prioritizing public transportation and non-motorized projects over motorways, expanding the bicycle network, creating a tram line around Ring Road 2, increasing density around transportation hubs, and “prioritizing city life, pedestrians, cyclist, and public transit users before private cars.”15 A PHASED APPROACH Oslo created the Car-Free Livability Programme, a four-year plan to drastically phase down car usage in the city center. The city center is a 1.9 square kilometer area with 1,000 residents and over 100,000 people coming in every day for work and tourism,16 characterized by narrow, cobblestone streets lined with shops and restaurants. It is home to the “Kvadaturn,” Oslo’s historic district, where some of city’s oldest buildings are located, as well as many art galleries and museums. Oslo’s fashion district and shopping centers are also located in the city center, as well as many popular music clubs and the city’s largest concert venue.17 Oslo’s Car-Free Livability Programme focused on three primary strategies to increase active city life: (1) emphasize and activate hidden urban spaces, (2) increase interaction and synergy effects between destination points, and (3) improve connections to and from the city center. The program utilized area zoning plans to help shape the city center and facilitate the development space that was reallocated from private car usage. Each area’s zoning plans had to be approved by city council through individual resolutions. The plan divided Oslo’s city center in 13 distinct areas that have their own identity and culture. Each area was mapped and analyzed, with specific strategies and initiatives to increase city life. The three primary areas that Oslo focused on are: • Pipervika XL: Surrounding city hall, this area has historically had significant pedestrian activity. Space was activated within the context of its relationship to the city’s main attractions. • Cultural District: The Myntgata commercial and residential district is undergoing significant development and is a priority district for increased nightlife. • The Recreation Trail: This corridor connects several fast-growing residential neighborhoods. Oslo took a phased approach that included three key elements: strictly banning cars from a handful of streets, installing pedestrian plazas and other design interventions that deprioritized automobiles, and removing hundreds of parking spaces over time.



Between 2016 and 2019, nearly all on-street center city street parking (over 700 spaces) was eliminated. Car traffic restrictions were introduced gradually to ensure a smooth transition that allowed for adjustments when necessary. As restrictions were put into place, street space was reallocated for active transportation and recreational purposes. Bike lanes, planters, benches, and other design elements were installed to encourage street life and recreation. LEARNING FROM OSLO Prior to implementing the car-free plan, Oslo already had the lowest car ownership rate in Norway, with 425 private cars per 1,000 inhabitants, compared to the country average of 491.18 Like many major European cities, Oslo has a robust public transportation system with frequent and reliable service. The system includes a metro, tramway, and commuter rail that connects the suburbs to central Oslo. Running on a platform to significantly reduce traffic congestion and improve quality of life within the city center, Oslo’s city leaders have gained the political support necessary to move swiftly and adopt a four-year action plan. Cities around the world are tackling the increasingly complicated issues of decreasing traffic congestion and reducing carbon emissions. While London has focused on charging vehicles through congestion pricing and an ultra-low emissions zone around the city center, other cities have implemented design-management strategies that prioritize active transportation, like Barcelona’s superblocks. Recently, the mayor of Paris announced that the city would be removing over 70 percent of all on-street parking by the end of this year. Decreasing automobile usage is a difficult and complex problem, no matter the city. It requires a combination of supply- and demand-side policies that influence individual behaviors. And most importantly, it requires political will and a compelling vision for a vibrant city with fewer cars. “Our main objective is to give the streets back to people,’’ according to Hanna Marcussen, Oslo’s Vice Mayor for urban development. “It is about how we want to use our streets and what the streets should be for. For us, the street should be where you meet people, eat at outdoor restaurants, where kids play, and where art is exhibited… I hope that other cities will be inspired by us to create their own car-free city center.”19

Jackie Weidman is a second-year Master of City and Regional Planning student with a concentration in Sustainable Transportation and Infrastructure Planning. Prior to planning school, Jackie founded a non-profit leadership organization built around advancing innovative clean energy solutions across the country. She also spent several years working on clean energy project finance and climate policy initiatives. After graduating in May, Jackie plans to stay in Philadelphia, working on transportation policy and safe street design that puts people first.

WORKS & IMAGES CITED 1 Bliss, Laura. “The War on Cars, Norwegian Edition.” May 3, 2018. CityLab. Available via 2 Ibid. 3 Crawford, J.H. “Car free Cities and Car free design.” Accessed 4/27/2019. Available via 4 Khreis, Haneen & Nieuwenjuijsen, Mark. Car free cities: Pathway to healthy urban living. 5 Ibid. 6 Hartmut, Topp & Pharoah, Tim. Car-free city centres. Transportation (1986-1998); Aug 1994; 21, 3; ABI/INFORM Global Transportation (1986-1998); Aug 1994; 21, 3; ABI/INFORM Global pg. 231 7 Ibid. 8 Hartmut, Topp & Pharoah, Tim. Car-free city centres. 9 Hartmut, Topp & Pharoah, Tim. Car-free city centres. 10 Khreis, Haneen & Nieuwenjuijsen, Mark. Car free cities: Pathway to healthy urban living. 11 Berglund, Nina. “Car owners feel ‘bullied’ in Oslo.” February 15, 2016. News in English. Available via https://www.newsinenglish. no/2016/02/15/car-owners-feel-bullied-in-oslo/ 12 Peters, Adele. “What happened when Oslo decided to make its downtown basically car free?” January 1, 2019. Fast Company. Available via 13 Oslo Kommune. Platform for City Government cooperation

between the Labour Party, the Green Party and the Socialist Left Party in Oslo 2015-2019. September 2015. Available via politics-and-administration/politics/city-government 14 Aesness, Marie Aerestrup. The Impact of Transforming a Road Financing Toll Scheme to a Congestion Charging Scheme – The Case of Oslo. 2014. Elsevier: Transportation Research Procedia. 15 Oslo Kommune. Platform for City Government cooperation between the Labour Party, the Green Party and the Socialist Left Party in Oslo 2015-2019. 16 Oslo Kommune. The Car-free Livability Programme. Available via 17 Visit Oslo: “City Centre” Accessed 5/1/2019. Available via city-centre/ 18 Statistics Norway. This is Norway 2015: What the figures say. July 2015. Available via 19 Williams, Len. “What happens when a city bans cars from its streets?” October 16, 2019. BBC. Available via com/future/article/20191011-what-happens-when-a-city-bans-carfrom-its-streets Figure 1: Photo by Johan Sebastian Welhaven. WikiCommons. Figure 2: Car-free Livability Programme. 2018. Figure 3: Photo by LBLP Architectes. WikiCommons. 2019.

A car-free oslo


SEIZING THE OPPORTUNITY A Vision for Central Business District Tolling in New York City Instructors: Marilyn Taylor Robert Yaro Students: Junya Chen Jane Christen Luke Hassall Zizhao He Ian Hester Jeong Hoon Kim Geyang Li Jill Schoenfeld Jackie Weidman Ruoli Yang Jia Yuan Zehua Zhang

Enabling Goals via Recommendations OUTSIDE

Raise money

Reclaim space for people

Meet climate change targets Ensure sustainable funding


Enhance mobility & access

1 | Ensure sufficient capacity to capture mode shift 2 | Consider opportunities to better route trips through and around the zone and better manage access points 3 | Manage parking effectively


Reduce congestion






4 | Increase transit and bike share 5 | Optimize curb use 6 | Provide visible beneďŹ ts in the public realm 7 | Transportation policy is climate policy

8 | Long-term funding structure 9 | Move towards a dynamic pricing solution Public Engagement








Street space can be reallocated to accomplish different goals. Clockwise from top left: a car-oriented street, creating a bike lane from a parking lane, chicanes that slow traffic to create a shared street, a car-free street, the application of loading zones to minimize conflict between modes and uses, and creating a busway with bike lanes that prioritizes transit and bikes over cars.


eizing the Opportunity was convened to advise the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and NYC Department of Transportation on the design and implementation of a new tolling program. The studio focused on strategies to ensure that the Central Business District Tolling Program (CBD Tolling) achieves its primary goal of revenue generation, as well as ways to pursue complementary benefits for the city and the broader metropolitan region. Congestion has increased tremendously in recent years with an 80 percent increase in for-hire vehicle trips from 2013 - 2017 and the explosion of e-commerce, with more than 1.5 million packages delivered daily in 2019. Congestion is threatening economic activity with slower traffic, more crashes, and increased vehicle emissions. The studio team traveled to London for a weeklong charrette with congestion experts including representatives from London’s congestion charging program. The lessons learned were applied to New York’s unique context. One of the most important considerations for CBD Tolling is the reallocation of street space that will be available with reduced congestion. Near-term recommendations call for the City and MTA to control this space through several initiatives: increase transit and bike share to provide transportation options and encourage commuters to switch from driving, manage curb use by encouraging alternative delivery windows

and implementing fees for next-day deliveries, and extend the public realm to showcase visible program benefits by leveraging newly available space to create neighborhood amenities and iconic locales. Congestion is also impacted by mobility demands outside the CBD. It is crucial that transit be capable of responding to ridership increases to support potential shifts by commuters who currently drive. For those living just outside the CBD, parking demand will likely change dramatically due to the impact of CBD Tolling on driving behavior. The success of CBD Tolling will hinge on engagement efforts across diverse channels and media to secure public understanding and acceptance, and a post-implementation engagement strategy including reporting and transparent evaluation metrics. The program must be able to evolve into a broader, more regional road pricing and emissions reduction program. An ultra-low emissions zone (ULEZ) should be established to reduce emissions. A sustainable funding model is also needed, with delivery fees, parking permits, dynamic road pricing, and a ULEZ. The CBD Tolling Program can increase equity by providing greater transit access, new public spaces, and other benefits. The New York region faces complex challenges that cannot be solved by congestion pricing alone, but CBD tolling represents an important opportunity to move toward more sustainable transportation choices. Seizing the opportunity


MANAGING IMPENDING CHANGE Redefining Touristification in Machuchal



managing impending change

Instructor: Ariel Vazquez Students: Amie Patel Yibing “Grace” Zheng Kangjie “Zé” Liu Zixuan “Z square” Zhou Liuqing “Astrid” Yang Matt Magargee Nana “Cindy” Zhu Zixuan “Kate” Xu Jason Schunkewitz Yuqi “Yuki” Song Xiaoxiao Chen

Proposed adaptive redevelopment of a site with vacant buildings and a existing parking lot.


anaging Impending Change focused on the sub-barrio Machuchal, located in the center of San Juan, Puerto Rico’s densest neighborhood, Santurce. The goal was to create strategies for Machuchal and its residents to overcome the impending change brought on by touristification. Touristification is a phenomenon that takes place when development pressures and other impacts of tourism cause an area to change dramatically. With housing, services, amenities, and the appearance of a touristifying area, the needs and well-being of local residents are often neglected. Studio participants examined implementation strategies in five categories: • Public Realm: Circulation patterns are improved through wayfinding and street upgrades, which would also adds more trees to create a welcoming environment.

A rendering of a proposed community garden on an existing vacant lot.

• Economic Development: Leveraging the power of a business association - and eventually creating a business improvement district - Calle Loíza businesses will be strengthened and united. • The Gateway: The Gateway will be a pleasant and accessible arrival point to Machuchal, welcoming residents and visitors with wayfinding signage and complete streets to nearby amenities and destinations. All of these strategies will help Machuchal redefine tourism as an opportunity by 2040. Machuchal will be an affordable, pleasant place to live as well as a destination that attracts locals and visitors. Machuchal will have a more attractive public realm, new business opportunities, revitalized vacant infrastructure, and access to a diverse and cohesive commercial corridor.

• Co-Op Ownership: Creating a cooperative that would run collectively-owned Airbnbs in the neighborhood helps residents benefit from the growing tourism sector, while also tackling vacancy issues. • Adaptive Reuse: A vacant industrial building in the south and an old market in the center are reactivated and revitalized as neighborhood assets. MANAGING IMPENDING CHANGE


Figure 1: A new multi-family building under construction in downtown Oakland, California. State legislators have attempted to reduce the barriers to denser housing production, especially for buildings with income-restricted units.

CALIFORNIA’S LEGAL TOOLKIT Correcting Exclusionary Zoning & Anti-Development Municipalities By Natasha Tabachnikoff


he state of California has a housing supply shortfall measuring in at a unit deficit of about 3.5 million units, according to a 2016 analysis.1 This deficit has a catastrophic impact on housing affordability, community cohesion, and quality of life for families. By the U.S. Census’s Supplemental Poverty Rate, one in five Californians lived in poverty in 2017 2 compared to the state’s official poverty rate of about 13 percent.3 California’s 20 percent supplemental poverty rate is the highest of all the states in the U.S., making clear the scale of the affordability crisis. To alleviate these high housing costs and supply constraints, progressive members of the California state political apparatus, including Governor Gavin Newson, want to take back some local control over housing production through state-level regulations. Their means to do so are state regulations that empower the State, as well as nonprofits and prospective developers, to hold cities accountable. One city provides illustrative examples of these legal avenues: Huntington Beach has been sued three time, respectively by the State, a nonprofit, and a prospective developer. CALIFORNIA’S HOUSING CRISIS AND HINDRANCES TO SUPPLY There are two interrelated but distinct constraints to new housing production that California laws seek to address: restrictive zoning and arbitrary or burdensome municipal approvals. Though a clearly related phenomenon with similar exclusionary

impacts, the policy tactics California is taking to counteract them are different, so they are worth exploring separately. It is well-established that strict land use regulations allow the wealthy to self-segregate, leading to exclusive enclaves and thus, segregation by income and often race. Over the past century, modern planning has perpetuated itself on the proliferation of so called “Euclidean zoning,” a land use planning technique that separates land uses with an economic rationale. Euclidean zoning was popularized after the Supreme Court outlawed racial zoning in 1917 in the Buchanan v. Warley ruling. Though this was an economically-exclusionary technique, the “open racial intent” is clear in writings of the time, the racially segregated outcomes, and the new enthusiasm towards economic zoning after racial zoning was outlawed. “Such economic zoning was rare in the United States before World War I, but the Buchanan decision provoked urgent interest in zoning as a way to circumvent the ruling.”4 As American suburbs grew, smaller municipalities cast racial exclusion as economic protection, limiting modest home construction to create socially and racially homogeneous enclaves.5 The impacts of exclusionary zoning persist today. A review of the existing literature showed that higher regulation corresponds to less housing supply and higher cost burdens.6 Exclusionary density zoning has also been associated with racial segregation. In Massachusetts, increasing the allowable density by ten units per acre was associated with a 3.8 percent California’s Legal Toolkit


Figure 2: Areas of Huntington Beach, California, near the coastline are relatively high-density. Changes to a specific corridor plan, however, downzoned those areas and opened the city up to legal challenges.

increase in the Black population share and a five percent increase in the Hispanic share. Areas zoned for multi-family dwelling construction saw an even more dramatic increase.7 Since these inequities fall along spatial lines, proposals to upend exclusionary zoning can be seen as a potential corrective. The second exclusionary contributing factor is the power of local control, which often goes hand in hand with strict land use regulations and high development costs, for which California is known. In their study on the impact of land use regulations on income segregation, Michael C. Lens and Paavo Monkkonen found that income segregation was higher in jurisdictions where the municipality was more involved or had more power in the approvals process, or where there were more opportunities for stakeholders to pressure the municipality to curb residential growth.8 Furthermore, the higher the number of approvals required—by various boards and commissions—the higher the income segregation.9 Income segregation has detrimental impacts on equity “result[ing] in the hoarding of resources, amenities, and disproportionate political power.”10 Lawmakers interested in improving economic and racial integration and social mobility have a clear



interest in reducing exclusionary land use regulation. Promisingly, more state-level involvement in planning was associated with less income segregation, showing that state intervention is a potential curb to exclusionary practices on the local level.11 Public policy makers also have a plethora of other reasons to correct low housing supply in areas where people want to live: densification is key to California, a state with a strong car culture, meeting its climate goals.12 There are also strong economic development arguments for correcting the spatial mismatch between homes and jobs that impact workforce attraction and widening of the tax base; if drastic enough, a housing deficit can restrict the economic output of a region.13 LEGAL TOOLKIT FOR CALIFORNIA AND NONPROFITS Legal tools to correct restrictive land use mostly empower the State to compel jurisdictions to accommodate more growth. The first are housing elements, which California has long required cities and counties to produce and update every five to eight years.14 The elements must show that there is available developable land in a community, with loose enough density restrictions, for private developers to meet housing demand at various price points.15

Figure 3: A subdivision in Southern California shows large single-family homes. Large lot minimums can be exclusionary, and state legislators are working to reduce the barriers to create more inclusive communities.

Housing elements are an important way to express local preference, plan housing accordance with other community priorities, and address sub-regional demand issues,16 making them a tool for bottom-up accommodation of wider housing needs.

median household income that is 7.6 percent higher than Orange County overall.21 Moreover, Huntington Beach is about 63 percent non-Hispanic White, while Orange County is only 41 percent non-Hispanic White.22

Closely related to municipalities’ housing elements is a program called a Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA), produced by California’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) with unit production goals at different price points.17 RHNAs determine the needed units throughout a region,18 and those municipalities then show how they can accommodate that growth in their subsequent housing elements.19 In extreme cases, HCD may sue municipalities whose housing elements or other planning documents do not accommodate their allocated growth.20

Huntington Beach either has been or is currently involved in three different housing lawsuits as a defendant. Two of these lawsuits hinge on a change to an area plan that invalidated the 2013 approval of Huntington Beach’s housing element.23 That housing element relied almost entirely on higher-density zoning along two specific corridors in the city to accommodate its allocated low-income housing.24 However, in 2015, Huntington Beach City Council adopted amendments to update their Beach and Edinger Corridors Specific Plan,25 effectively downzoning a large portion of those two major corridors. Instead of the required 410 lowincome units, the new Beach and Edinger Plan limited the potential for affordable housing units to 28 units.26 HCD notified Huntington Beach that they had voided their previous Housing Element certification.27

One such extreme case is Huntington Beach, a municipality on the coast south of Los Angeles that is the subject of many housing-related lawsuits. Far from the stylized image of a rich, exclusionary Southern California community, Huntington Beach is relatively large, with a population around 200,000, and has mixed-use and denser development along its busier corridors. Nevertheless, Huntington Beach has a

At this point, with an invalid housing element and unaccommodated RHNA allocation, Huntington Beach was vulnerable to lawsuits. The first came from a nonprofit called The Kennedy Commission. An initial California’s Legal Toolkit


favorable ruling for The Kennedy Commission was overturned in the California Court of Appeals.28 The lawyers for Huntington Beach raised that, because Huntington Beach is in a special legal category as a charter city, it is not beholden to state law saying that its planning documents be consistent.29 This is clearly an odd and legalistic demise for Kennedy, and the concept of charter cities will be discussed in full towards the end of this essay. While Kennedy was in litigation, Huntington Beach’s planning staff drafted, with HCD’s help, an amendment to the city’s Housing Element to bring it into compliance.30 However, in a surprise to state officials, the City Council of Huntington Beach rejected the amendment.31 In the intervening years, HCD issued two notices of noncompliance to Huntington Beach32 in January 2019, HCD sued the city. At the time, Governor Newsom framed the lawsuit as making an example out of Huntington Beach for other noncompliant cities: “Many cities are taking herculean efforts to meet this crisis head on But some cities are refusing to do their part to address this crisis and willfully stand in violation of California law,” adding, “those cities will be held to account.”33 It seems that the City Council has heeded Newsom’s words because, although first trying to get the case dismissed, they have recently approved planning document amendments to bring their housing element back into compliance,34 avoiding a final ruling in the case. LEGAL TOOLS FOR DEVELOPERS As described above, the legal frameworks by which the State can compel jurisdictions to accommodate more housing are predicated on the activity of developers, but there are also legal avenues for developers to push back on burdensome local control. The key state-level legislation enabling developers to push forward their projects is the Housing Accountability Act (HAA), also known as the “Anti-NIMBY Act,” which was initially passed in 1982; clearly, housing supply and local obstruction were already statewide issues nearly four decades ago. With additional allowances for projects with affordable housing, this act allowed developers to sue for speedy approval of by-right residential and mixed-use construction that “complies with applicable, objective general plan, zoning, and subdivision standards and criteria, including design review standards.”35 The only exception is if the development project “would have a specific, adverse impact upon the public health or safety.”36 The intended effect of this act is to deter cities from arbitrarily refusing development, or doing so to appease anti-development constituents.



HAA was strengthened and updated in 2017 as part of a comprehensive housing legislation package. The law changes the burden of proof for two development issues at stake in developer and municipality disputes. First, the amendments clarified that compliance with the objective standards should be assessed based on what a reasonable person would consider to be compliance.37 This directive is a paradigm shift, because it effectively reverses the deference typically shown to local governments in zoning matters.38 Similarly, the amendments raised the burden of proof on localities to show the adverse impact of rejected housing development from the substantial evidence standard, now dictating that the municipality use the preponderance of evidence standard.39 Further changes increased the availability of attorney’s fees to the plaintiff housing organizations and imposed a fine on municipalities if they do not comply with court orders.40 The court can also order the locality to approve the project if the court finds that the city was acting in bad faith.41 Thus, the 2017 amendments substantially strengthened the HAA to better respond to the scale of statewide housing affordability and supply concerns. Similar in some ways to HAA, State Bill 35 (SB35) also provides a path towards streamlining approvals for individual development projects. The bill, passed in the same legislative package, allows developers to apply to streamline the approvals process for qualifying residential development projects in communities not meeting their RHNA production requirements. Like HAA, projects must conform to the municipality’s objective standards such as zoning. The law is geared towards infill and affordable development and qualifying depends on which affordability benchmarks are unfulfilled.42 Twenty-eight projects throughout the state have been expedited since the bill was enacted on January 1st, 2018, with 6,000 housing units either approved or in a faster pipeline than they would have been without SB35.43 The majority of the units expedited through the law are for low-income renters, seniors, or people living with disabilities.44 SB35 has clearly had a powerful impact in only a few years. The third lawsuit against Huntington Beach is based on HAA. In October 2019, the California Association of Realtors sued the City on behalf of a proposed residential housing development containing some affordable units.45 The project was developed with Huntington Beach planning staff in consultation and could be built by-right but was rejected by the Planning Commission.46 The lawsuit alleges that the public safety objections raised by Huntington Beach— potentially unsafe vehicular ingress and egress to the site—did not meet the preponderance of the evidence

Figure 4: A mix of housing typologies make up a medium-density neighborhood in south San Francisco. State legislators have attempted to reduce the barriers to denser housing production, especially of buildings with income-restricted units.

standard.47 Ultimately, it will be up to a judge to decide if the concerns raised are specific and dangerous enough to justify the rejection. However, there is a legal threat which has stymied many State efforts to spur housing production: California’s charter city law, the basic mechanism for ensuring localities have home rule over municipal issues.

affairs,” which were the subject of an expansion of charter city rights in 1914: “the municipality governed thereunder may make and enforce all laws and regulations in respect to municipal affairs.”51 Municipal affairs is a vague and shifting designation, but land use and zoning are seemingly clear municipal concerns.


Several housing cases have already been turned down because of the rights of charter cities. As discussed above, Kennedy lost their RHNA because Huntington Beach is a charter city. The City of San Mateo was recently sued under HAA, and a trial court ruled that the RHNA Act does not apply to charter cities, saying “San Mateo is a charter city whose charter fully incorporates the home rule doctrine and that approval of the instant residential housing project is an appropriate exercise of municipal affairs.”52 Neither of these cases was taken up by the Supreme Court of California, so these rulings do not set precedent for other cases although the opinions seem like absolute impediments to any state law nudging localities towards development. However, there is a narrowly defined legal framework for state preemption of municipal home rule, which might be promising for housing advocates.

There are 121 charter cities in California—all the state’s major cities, and many minor ones.48 These cities have greater police powers than non-charter cities in the state. This stems from a 1896 update to the California Constitution that gives equal weight to municipal and state law: “The provisions of a [city] charter are the law of the State and have the force and effect of legislative enactments.”49 Traditionally, courts have interpreted this line to mean that local laws cannot be preempted by state laws. Again, this attitude is imbued with the ideal of deference to local lawmakers that the RHNA process has, in fits and starts, attempted to reverse.50 That constitutional update also introduced the concept of “municipal

California’s Legal Toolkit


In the courts’ attempts to define “municipal affairs,” they have contrasted it with “statewide concerns,” and delineated narrow circumstances where state law can preempt municipal home rule. One seminal ruling, California Federal Savings and Loan Association v. City of Los Angeles, set forth a four-part test. The first step is determining if a conflict between state law and city charter exists.53 Then, the court must determine if the issue at conflict affects a municipal affair of the charter city. Third, the court has to assess the issue at hand and decide if it is of statewide concern.54 The court explicitly refuses to define either statewide concern or municipal affairs, calling them “ultimate legal conclusions rather than factual descriptions,” and saying “[t]heir inherent ambiguity masks the difficult but inescapable duty of the Court to ‘allocate the governmental powers under consideration.’”55 Finally, the state law must be narrowly tailored to address the statewide concern at hand. The court concluded: “In the event of a true conflict between a state statute reasonably tailored to the resolution of a subject of statewide concern and a charter city [law], the latter ceases to be a ‘municipal affair’ to the extent of the conflict and must yield.”56 With a crack in the power of charter cities, the next question for housing advocates is if the inherent dynamism of the idea of statewide concern can be molded to include housing supply. The California legislation has done a good job articulating how the state’s housing deficit operates across regions, and impacts many other state legislative concerns, saying “[t]he consequences of failing to effectively and aggressively confront this crisis are hurting millions of Californians, robbing future generations of the chance to call California home, stifling economic opportunities for workers and businesses, worsening poverty and homelessness, and undermining the state’s environmental and climate objectives.”57 Thus far, issues such as traffic and school regulation and taxation have been seen by courts as legitimate statewide concerns, and as such state law can override municipal law. If articulated well, housing legislation should be able to be seen with the same weight. The question then is if these recent statewide housing laws are enforced in a narrow enough manner to justify preempting local control over municipal affairs.



CONCLUSION Although courts have rejected both RHNA- and HAA-based lawsuits, it seems that RHNA cases could have a stronger path forward. Lawsuits from individual developers based on HAA will always attempt to litigate a statewide concern of housing affordability and supply via individual projects. In contrast, RHNA lawsuits are based on a push and pull between the state and the locality that preserves local control. Put another way, a statewide housing accountability procedure is a more compelling candidate for the label of statewide concern than an individual development project. If individual projects must be litigated and are eligible, a lawsuit based on SB35 could be more fruitful than one based on HAA, simply because SB35 is already tied to the RHNA program. There are serious constitutional challenges to overriding local control and anti-development attitudes on the community level. However, the RHNA process and administrative role of HCD are promising because they show a coordinated, narrowly tailored, and pressing state effort to address an issue that is inarguably of statewide concern. Addressing a housing deficit of this scale calls for multi-faceted and dynamic strategies. Legal scholars have already pointed out that the RHNA process can, and probably should, evolve to be more aggressive.58 One such suggested strategy would be deeming housing elements of jurisdictions with low production noncompliant if they include discretionary review for multifamily projects.59 The State and HCD should continue to pursue aggressive, objectively-measured strategies to tip jurisdictions towards housing production. Environmentalism, the state’s sustainable growth, and equity all require housing choice and supply. The State has a clear interest in all those needs and is also the only body able to reverse long-standing exclusionary tactics and create growing, inclusive communities in California.

Natasha Tabachnikoff is a second-year Master of City and Regional Planning candidate focused on housing and community development. Natasha has worked in design communications and, most recently, at public agencies in Philadelphia. She is most interested in policy solutions to improve housing quality and security for low-income families. As a California transplant to the East Coast, Natasha is also passionate about efforts to correct the Golden State’s housing affordability crisis.

WORKS & IMAGES CITED 1 Jonathan Woetzel et al., “A Tool Kit to Close California’s Housing Gap: 3.5 Million Homes by 2025” (McKinsey & Company, October 2016), 3, https://www. 2 The Supplemental Poverty Rate, which accounts for real costs minus public assistance, is a widely used metric to measure the costs of living versus real income. 3 Liana Fox, “The Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2017” (United States Census Bureau, September 2018), 26. 4 Rothstein, 48. 5 Freund, 45. 6 Vicki Been, Ingrid Gould Ellen, and Katherine O’Regan, “Supply Skepticism: Housing Supply and Affordability,” Housing Policy Debate 29, no. 1 (January 2, 2019): 27,; Michael C. Lens and Paavo Monkkonen, “Do Strict Land Use Regulations Make Metropolitan Areas More Segregated by Income?,” Journal of the American Planning Association. American Planning Association 82, no. 1 (2016): 8, /01944363.2015.1111163. 7 Matthew Resseger, “The Impact of Land Use Regulation on Racial Segregation: Evidence from Massachusetts Zoning Borders” (Harvard University, November 26, 2013), 4.November 26, 2013 8 Lens and Monkkonen, “Do Strict Land Use Regulations Make Metropolitan Areas More Segregated by Income?,” 8 9 Lens and Monkkonen, 9. 10 Lens and Monkkonen, 2. 11 Lens and Monkkonen, 8. 12 California Government Code, § 65584 (a)(3). 13 Gov. Code, § 65589.5 (a)(2)(A). 14 Gov. Code, § 65588 (e)(3). 15 Gov. Code, § 65583.2 (a); 65580 (f). 16 Gov. Code, § 65580 (e). 17 Gov. Code, § 65584 (a)(1); “HCD Regional Housing Needs Allocation and Housing Elements,” California Department of Housing and Community Development, accessed December 7, 2019, 18 Gov. Code, § 65584 (b). 19 Gov. Code, § 65583, 65583.2. 20 Gov. Code, § 65585 (i)(1)(A). 21 United States Census Bureau, “American Community Survey, 5-Year Estimates.,” 2017. 22 United States Census Bureau. 23 Petition for Writ of Mandate and Complaint for Declaratory Relief, California Department of Housing and Community Development v. City of Huntington Beach, City Council of Huntington Beach; and Does 1-50 (Superior Court of the State of California January 25, 2019). 24 California HCD v. City of Huntington Beach, et al. at 6. 25 California HCD v. City of Huntington Beach, et al. at 6. 26 The Kennedy Commission, William Adams and Jason Puloe v. City of Huntington Beach and the City Council of Huntington Beach, No. E065358 (Court of Appeal of the State of California October 31, 2017). 27 California HCD v. City of Huntington Beach, et al. at 6. 28 The Kennedy Commission, William Adams and Jason Puloe v. City of Huntington Beach and the City Council of Huntington Beach at 11. 29 The Kennedy Commission, William Adams and Jason Puloe v. City of Huntington Beach and the City Council of Huntington Beach at 22. 30 California HCD v. City of Huntington Beach, et al. at 8. 31 California HCD v. City of Huntington Beach, et al. at 8. 32 California HCD v. City of Huntington Beach, et al. at 8. 33 Alexei Koseff, “California Could Lose Housing Leverage over Cities under

Court Ruling,”, December 4, 2019, https://www.sfchronicle. com/politics/article/California-could-lose-housing-leverage-over-14878853.php. 34 Julia Sclafani, “H.B. Approves Amendments to Housing Plan, Setting Itself up for State Compliance and Homelessness Funding,” Los Angeles Times, February 6, 2020, Daily Pilot edition, story/2020-02-05/h-b-approves-amendments-to-housing-element-setting-itself-up-for-state-compliance-and-homelessness-funding. 35 Gov. Code, § 65589.5 (j)(1). 36 Gov. Code, § 65589.5 (j)(1)(A). 37 Gov. Code, § 65589.5 (f)(4). 38 Christopher S. Elmerdorf et al., “Making It Work: Legal Foundations for Administrative Reform of California’s Housing Framework” (University of California, Davis California Environmental Law & Policy Center, December 2019). 39 Gov. Code, § 65589.5 (j)(1). 40 Gov. Code, § 65589.5 (k)(2). 41 Gov. Code, § 65589.5 (k)(1)(A). 42 Gov. Code, § 65913.4 (a)(4)(B)(i)-(ii). 43 Marisa Kendall, “Is California’s Most Controversial New Housing Production Law Working?,” Mercury News, November 24, 2019. 44 Kendall. 45 Verified Petition for Writ of Mandate, Californians for Homeownership, Inc., a California nonprofit public benefit corporation v. City of Huntington Beach (Superior Court of the State of California October 28, 2019). 46 Californians for Homeownership v. City of Huntington Beach at 8–9. 47 Californians for Homeownership v. City of Huntington Beach at 14. 48 A jurisdiction in California may become a charter city by creating a charter which is ratified by a majority vote of the city’s voters (Gov. Code, § 34457, 34462). 49 California Constitution, art. XI, § 3(a). 50 Elmerdorf et al., “Making It Work,” 2. 51 California Constitution, art. XI, § 5(a). 52 San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation, California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund, Victoria Fierce and John Moon v. City of San Mateo and City of San Mateo Planning Commission (Superior Court of the State of California in and for the County of San Mateo October 24, 2019). 53 California Federal Savings and Loan Association v. City of Los Angeles, No. C579296 (Superior Court of Los Angeles County 1991). 54 California Fed. Savings & Loan Assn. v. City of Los Angeles. 55 California Fed. Savings & Loan Assn. v. City of Los Angeles. 56 California Fed. Savings & Loan Assn. v. City of Los Angeles. 57 Gov. Code, § 65589.5 (a)(2)(A). 58 Elmerdorf et al., “Making It Work.” 59 Elmerdorf et al., 5. Figure 1: Letterman, Doug. Flickr. Figure 2: Jepsen, Chris. Flickr. Figure 3: Turner, Jeff. Flickr. Figure 4: Butterfield, Stewart. Flickr.

California’s Legal Toolkit




alifornia is facing catastrophic fires almost every year. Six of the top ten most destructive fires in California’s history took place in 2017 and 2018.1 Some of this is due to climate change and increased extreme weather, and the delayed impact of poor fire management also exacerbates the destructiveness of wildfires. The State of California has already started to take a progressive and proactive planning approach to this crisis. After the deadly Camp Fire, which took 86 lives, Governor Gavin Newsom directed CalFire to prioritize prevention measures in areas where vulnerable populations reside, stating that “[c]ommunities with high preponderance of physical fire danger and high indicators of social vulnerability deserve the State’s highest attention.”2 In response, CalFire and other agencies are already exploring a wildfire prevention and mitigation approach that treats vulnerable communities with additional sensitivity and preventative measures. Specifically, CalFire created a plan for 35 projects in socially vulnerable communities,3 calculating vulnerability based on poverty levels and other features.4 While a good first step, the benefit to the public and to other agencies trying to leverage resources would be much greater if this information were more accessible. It is also important to note that CalFire’s risk prediction is derived from agentbased modeling of fire behavior based on known

environmental conditions, rather than the top-down statistical approach taken in this analysis. This intervention centers on an easily understandable risk matrix that would be used to inform prevention and mitigation. The matrix assigns both a fire risk and social vulnerability index that combine into “overall risk” scores. FIRE RISK SCORE This analysis uses a logistic regression to create a Fire Risk Score (the likelihood of a fire occurring in a given area), based on previous fires (2010 – 2018) and environmental characteristics. Although the fire perimeter data set goes back decades, only the past decade’s data was used to better reflect current fire trends. The regression includes environmental factors that create conditions that augment the likelihood of a fire occurring in a given area. These include ecological factors, such as vegetation cover, topography, and climate and weather patterns. Since fire is a spatially autocorrelated phenomenon, proximity of historical fires is also used as a predictor. In the final model, by far the strongest predictor of fire risk is a cell’s proximity to other fires that have occurred in the past. The spatial model also predicts fewer cells to be at high risk for fire overall, meaning organizations that use this model, like CalFire, could concentrate their efforts on a smaller extent of land.



Social Vulnerability

Fire Risk Low















FIRE PROBABILITIES After training the final model on the training set (50 percent of the full data), predictions are generated. While the distribution of predicted probabilities for those cells that did not experience a fire has a very heavy left-skew, the distribution for those that did experience a fire has a more normal distribution with a very large standard deviation. Based on the plot above, a threshold of 0.06 is set to generate a confusion matrix. On the test set, the model had a sensitivity (true positive rate) of about 88 percent and a specificity (true negative rate) of about 80 percent. This predictive tool can be used by many different agencies which likely have different costs associated with false positives and false negatives. Agencies may set a different threshold for the classification depending on their particular needs. SOCIAL VULNERABILITY INDEX Current demographic data was used to create a descriptive Social Vulnerability Index that categorizes factors influencing a household’s ability to respond to an emergency and evacuate, and also their resources to reestablish themselves if they were permanently displaced by a wildfire. All social vulnerability variables come from the 2017 American Communities Survey (ACS). For these variables, the analysis zones were categorized into one of three quantiles for each factor. Quantiles were then summed across all eight factors and grid cells were organized into three quantiles for the composite score. Those in the highest quantile were designated as having the highest social vulnerability, whereas those in the lowest quantile have the lowest risk. According to this metric, there is high social vulnerability in a large portion of the southeast of the state, as well as notable concentrations in the center and northwest.



Figure 1: A risk matrix can aid in decision making by weighting both the statistical risk of an outcome with a social vulnerability score that measures the potentially disruptive consequences for households with fewer resources.

THE USE CASE: RESILIENCY PRIORITY RATING Combining the above, a cross-agency risk matrix was created that could be used by CalFire and other state agencies that shows where social vulnerability would amplify the negative impacts of wildfires. The use case for the Resiliency Priority Rating is twofold, because fire prevention requires taking many different coordinated public sector approaches. The matrix could serve as a tool for CalFire to identify communities and prioritize prevention and mitigation measures. These measures could include a wide variety of efforts to remove fuel for wildfires, including clearing vegetation and dead trees to create fuel breaks and widening ingress and egress roads to aid in evacuation and emergency response. Further, a web map displaying the results would allow other agencies and the public to explore risk, resources, and prevention measures already taking place in their communities. Improving awareness and mitigating risk at different scales is crucial for reducing fire impacts on vulnerable households. Reorienting public services and infrastructure around fire risk in vulnerable communities is essential to mitigating risk. As CalFire writes in their literature, agencies cannot take only one method to fire prevention and hope to be successful.5 It is necessary to take an “all of the above” approach to reducing risks.

Natasha Tabachnikoff is a second-year Master of City and Regional Planning candidate focused on housing and community development. Natasha has worked in design communications consulting and, most recently, at public agencies in Philadelphia. She is most interested in policy solutions to improve housing quality and security for lowincome families. Eugene Chong is a second-year dual-degree student in the Master of City and Regional Planning and Master of Urban Spatial Analytics programs focused on transportation. Eugene has worked as a transportation planner for private consulting firms as well as public agencies. He is interested in the use of data and machine learning for designing, implementing, and evaluating transportation plans and policy.

Final Model − Distribution of predicted probabilities by observed outcome 50





Density of probabilities

0 50




Figure 2: In those areas where no fire occurred, our model predicted a low risk of wildfire, as shown by the heavy left skew for the distribution in red. For areas where fire did occur, our model predicted a larger range of wildfire risk.

Observed Outcome




0 0.0




Fire Risk

WORKS & IMAGES CITED 1 “Most Destructive California Wildfires in History,” ABC7 San Francisco, August 24, 2019, 2 Governor Gavin Newsom, “Executive Order N-05-19,” Executive Department, State of California. January 8, 2019.

4 “Community Wildfire Prevention & Mitigation Report: In Response to Executive Order N-05-19” (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, February 22, 2019). 5 “Community Wildfire Prevention & Mitigation Report,” pg. 3.

3 California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, CAL FIRE Priority Projects 2019 (ArcGIS), accessed February 23, 2020, html?webmap=1a26082039dd4711829c49809f7bb70a.



Casa Farnese Apartments | Philadelphia, PA


by Tobin Stuff

Ben Franklin Bridge from Race Street Pier | Philadelphia, PA

by Tobin Stuff


Figure 1: The Civic Design Review committee is comprised of mayoralappointed design and development professionals and also includes community members who are directly impacted by the project.

LEGALLY TASTEFUL Design Review & the Regulation of Aesthetics in the Public Realm By Robert I. Romo


esigning the public realm is not a truly democratic process. A small group of individuals make decisions on what happens to the built environment, and yet those with less power in the decision-making process are nonetheless affected by such decisions. Zoning and land use regulations and the democratic bodies that enact these regulations have played a crucial role in the U.S. in guiding the program type and use intensity of buildings in the built environment. However, apart from form-based code, which is usually limited in scope to urban districts and suburban development, considerations of the aesthetic value of a project in the built environment remain largely absent from current regulations.

Philadelphia does not have a form-based code, but instead uses a design review process to guide development. Projects deemed impactful on the quality of the public realm because of their size or residential density, are brought before a committee of experts to evaluate the project. The evaluation of whether the project aids or deteriorates the public realm is unfortunately flawed. The Civic Design Review (CDR) process lacks the statutory weight to compel developers to carry through with the recommendations of the committee. Other municipalities, like the City of Seattle, have implemented their own form of design review that Philadelphia might learn from. If CDR is the only voice for public input on the design of the public realm, the process must function as intended.

The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed that the broad police power granted to municipal authorities does include the ability to regulate design. In the landmark case, Berman v. Parker (1954), Justice William O. Douglas opined that the District of Columbia Redevelopment Authority’s use of eminent domain to clear areas designated by the Authority as slums for private redevelopment did not constitute an unfair taking under the Fifth Amendment. The Court sided with the Authority because “it is within the power of the legislature to determine that the community should be beautiful as well as healthy, spacious as well as clean, well-balanced as well as carefully patrolled.”1 Thus the “broad and inclusive” scope of public welfare must include aesthetic concerns.2

PHILADELPHIA’S CIVIC DESIGN REVIEW Civic Design Review is relatively new to Philadelphia. Adopted by the city legislature in the 2012 zoning code update, the review committee serves to ensure that large building projects happening in Philadelphia “benefit the people who will be living and working there, and those who live nearby.”3 Composed of community members and mayoralappointed design and development professionals, the committee operates in a completely advisory capacity. Development teams are “encouraged to accept the results of design review and incorporate them into the design,” but no enforcement mechanism exists to compel developers who otherwise do not wish to comply with the recommendations.4 Legally Tasteful


Figure 2: Instructive sketches help guide the urban form for the Seattle neighborhood of Wallingford by providing definition to the street corner.

Design review takes place when a project submitted to the Department of License and Inspections is flagged during a zoning or building permit application. A project gets flagged if it is over 100,000 square feet in new construction or if the project intends to build more than 100 dwelling units.5 The thresholds for the trigger are lowered to 50,000 square feet and 50 units if the project is within or adjacent to a specially designated district. Current Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC) staff are justifiably upset with the process. A recent draft report examined five years of development, and of the 40 projects that made it through CDR, only a third of the projects incorporated changes recommended by the committee.6 For anyone that imagines CDR as crucial check on the impulses of the development community on behalf of the community at large, this news should be alarming. LESSONS FROM SEATTLE Seattle takes a different approach to design review: more required meetings to attend, more



standards to adhere a design to, and more voices at the table. The process was also incorporated into the city code almost 20 years before Philadelphia. While the context of two cities – urban fabric, size, and density – cannot be ignored, there might be pieces that are applicable to Philadelphia. Whereas Philadelphia’s committee is responsible for projects that come before the whole city, Seattle has no single design review board. Instead, the review process is administered by eight separate bodies divided geographically, each composed of five seats appointed by the mayor and confirmed by city council. Two of the five seats are reserved for community group representatives or residents, and each geographic district can have supplemental design guidelines for neighborhoods. Seattle mandates that each neighborhood design review criteria fall within a set of design areas: context and site, public life, and design concept. Within these broad categories, guidance can be highly localized. For example, building setbacks in certain parcels can be mandated to preserve views of water, mountains, or the city skyline.7

Figure 3: Examples provided by the Office of Planning and Community Development help development teams design upper -level setbacks in the Wallingford neighborhood.

The threshold for review of a project is immensely lower in Seattle than it is in Philadelphia. Once a trigger has been activated, the development team for the project and an assigned land use planner discuss the project at the Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting. In this first public meeting before the committee, the development team is responsible for preparing massing studies and early visualizations of the project, with at least three options for review. If the committee determines that none of the options seem viable at this stage, or that public outreach for the project has not occurred, the project can go before EDG for a second time. This meeting is a chance for the committee to alert the development team of which guidelines the project should pay the closest attention to. Following EDG, the development team begins the process of securing a Master Use Permit (MUP), which incorporates feedback from the EDG. The project then goes to another public meeting, the Recommendation Review Committee (REC), to ensure all feedback has been incorporated. Seattle argues that addressing design changes early offsets the costs and difficulties associated with making changes later in the process.

Once the project makes it through design review, secures a MUP and building permits, and even if the project gets built, the process still is not over. “The land use planner will inspect constructed projects prior to occupancy to ensure compliance with design review approval.”8 Any and all additional administrative costs are paid for by the development team, an enforcement mechanism that does that does not exist in Philadelphia. INITIAL RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PHILADELPHIA One can begin to identify certain policy mechanics from Seattle that could be applied to Philadelphia for a more robust, fair, and worthwhile process. The first mechanism that Philadelphia’s CDR should consider is a neighborhood division of design review boards. A proposed alternative to Philadelphia’s singular CDR committee would be a CDR based on districts of the city. Would districts be drawn based on the city council seat? Or would districts be drawn based on recommendations from

Legally Tasteful


PCPC? How the districts would be defined and how many divisions there could be is up for debate. In conjunction with district-level divisions of design review responsibilities would come the responsibility of neighborhoods to develop their own design review standards. A development team proposing a project in rapidly developing urban Fishtown versus suburban Germantown might appreciate the clarity. If the purpose of design review is to signal the visual identity of a neighborhood to the public, it is better if that intent is expressed in a public document like a neighborhood design guideline. Philadelphia may also consider adopting a CDR-type process that happens even earlier in the development cycle like the EDG in Seattle. This process allows the public to voice support for a specific design option early in the process. It has the potential to guide development towards a form that is on record as being amenable to the design review committee. This move may save development teams in Philadelphia the trouble of having to make changes to a project after CDR for the follow up meeting. However, the process

requires one to deconstruct what the purpose of design review is. Is the intent to open the design process up for collaboration, to ensure bad actors cannot force through projects that harm the public realm, or to reinforce one dominant identity of the public realm? CONCLUSION CDR can become a process that produces a better public realm for Philadelphia. There is a public desire for the regulation of aesthetics in the built environment promoted through design review, because it signifies “values that stabilize cultural, group or individual identity.”9 Planning professionals agree that design review decisions should be legally binding.10 Berman v. Parker affirms that cities can legally regulate the aesthetics of the built environment. However, the experience of compulsory design recommendations in cities like Seattle show how this power cannot be granted without serious consideration of the development context of each city. If Philadelphia is going to make its CDR process more democratic, there is much to learn from Seattle.

“[A]part from form-based code, which is usually limited in scope to urban districts and suburban development, considerations of the aesthetic value of a project in the built environment remain largely absent from current regulations.” of early guidance only works if said guidance is clear and specific. Part of the benefit from Seattle’s Early Design Guidelines is the opportunity for the review committees to point to specific guidelines each project should be aware of. Without detailed guidelines, this cannot happen in Philadelphia. Philadelphia can also follow Seattle’s lead in lowering its threshold for triggering a design review process. With the current trigger mechanisms in place in Philadelphia, it is unlikely that sparsely populated areas of the city’s northeast would see many projects come before a design review. The public realm is not created by massive projects alone; the city is missing the opportunity to review and improve major components of the public realm. The final question for Philadelphia is whether to make design review recommendations legally binding and enforceable. While it is frustrating how little enforcement Philadelphia’s CDR has compared to Seattle, it is a more difficult proposition to adopt this policy position. To answer the question in Philadelphia



Design review cannot, however, become the extension of an authoritarian regime’s push for cultural supremacy over all forms of expression (e.g., proposed federal mandate for neoclassical style architecture). Design review also must accommodate innovation in the built environment and become self-critical of its mission. Using design review to make unpalatable development architecturally palatable does nothing to improve the public realm.11 To achieve balance requires “a greater acceptance of diversity in the built environment.”12 Working together in good faith and taking community voices into consideration is how the creation of the public realm becomes a democratic public process.

Robert I. Romo is in his final year of the dual Master of City and Regional Planning - Master of Architecture program. Robert is passionate about the intersection of architecture and urban politics, and the sometimes grotesque, sometimes beautiful, products that this intersection creates. When not in studio, he is busy photographing or sketching those grotesquely beautiful urban moments, reading science fiction, and fantasizing where and how to build future space elevators and space ports.

WORKS & IMAGES CITED 1 Berman v. Parker, 348 U.S. 26 (1954). 2 Berman v. Parker, 348 U.S. 26 (1954). 3 “2020 Civic Design Review Brochure,” City of Philadelphia (November 8, 2019), 4 Philadelphia Code. Title 14. Ch. 14-300. § 14-304. 5. d. 5 Philadelphia Code, Title 14. Ch. 14-300. § 14-304. 5. b. 6 Blumgart, Jake, “Developers flout city design board recommendations, study finds,” Plan Philly, February 21, 2019, https://whyy. org/articles/city-design-board-neighbors-decry-plan-for-callowhill-storage-facility/. 7 “Wallingford Neighborhood Design Guidelines,” City of Seattle Department of Planning and Development (2013), About/WallingfordDG2013.pdf 8 Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections, “TIP 238: Design Review: General Information, Application Instructions, and Submittal Requirements,” (April 8, 2019).

9 Costonis, John, “Law and Aesthetics: A Critique and a Reformulation of the Dilemmas,” Louisiana State University Law Center, 1982. 10 Bender R, Bressi T, “Design review: A review of processes, procedures, and potential,” Berkeley: Center for Environmental Design Research, University of California, (1989). 11 Lightner, Brenda, “Design Review: A Critical Evaluation,” CITIES: Special series on urban design, (1992). 12 Jones, Robert, “Design Communication and Aesthetic Control: Architects, Planners and Design Review,” Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, Vol. 18, No. 1 (Spring, 2001). Figure 1: Image by Toni Klemm. Wikimedia Commons. July 2019. Figure 2: Image courtesy of the City of Seattle. Figure 3: Image courtesy of the City of Seattle.

Legally Tasteful


Figure 1: Proposed Site Plan, Phase 3

REDESIGNING GRAYS FERRY AVENUE Honoring the Industrial Legacy of a Changing Neighborhood By Patrick Connolly, Dian Yu, & Elaine Zhang


he Fundamentals of Urban Design course proposed a redesign of a strip mall “superblock” between the Schuylkill River and Grays Ferry Avenue in the Grays Ferry neighborhood of Philadelphia. This neighborhood currently consists of warehouses, utilities, and former industrial sites alongside rowhomes typical of Philadelphia. More recent developments include the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia building northeast of the subject site and the ongoing Pennovation rehabilitation southwest of the site. Thus, residents of this decreasing industrial area face both economic constraints and increasing development pressure.

Figure 2: Neighborhood Organization

Figure 3: Rendering of Proposed Site

This design proposal has three main goals. The first is to honor the past industrial legacy of this area while remediating lingering negative environmental effects. The second is to create local jobs outside of Center City or West Philadelphia to stimulate the economic opportunities of the local community. The third goal is to consolidate development within the site to create large open spaces and establish access to the Schuylkill River that is otherwise not provided in this region. The history of the neighborhood was reviewed, surrounding land uses and transportation networks analyzed, and 2010 socioeconomic Census data summarized to identify site opportunities and constraints, and ultimately propose a phased redevelopment for the site. This design seeks to break up the “superblock” site by extending the existing street grid north across Grays Ferry Avenue onto the site. It strives to create links to the area’s industrial legacy and to the Schuylkill River waterfront. The proposed mixed-use



Figure 4: Regional Context of Site.

development features a commercial core of groundfloor retail with office space above, a community center with the relocated Grays Ferry Fresh Grocer and complimentary outdoor market, and several residential blocks abutting expansive open space overlooking the river. Trails connect the open spaces, and a pedestrian bridge over the operational CSX railroad tracks provides access to the planned extension of the Schuylkill River Trail southward. One of the most distinct spaces of this proposal is the Industrial Legacy Park featuring rehabilitated oil tanks as outdoor landmarks similar to Gas Works Park in Seattle. The topography of the proposed park not only provides exciting vantage points up and down the river, but also shields the proposed development from ongoing utility operations. Also abutting the park to the west is a “makerspace” in the historic portion of a current recycling center that will provide space for local start-ups.



Overall, this design includes approximately 275 residential units of various sizes both for rent and ownership, 460,000 square feet of office space, 46,000 square feet of community space, a 65,000 square foot grocery store, the 38,000 square foot “makerspace,” and structured parking. Based on assumptions, the design provides for at least 550 residents and 3,000 employees, many of which ideally live in the existing neighborhood to the south. The final design proposal seeks to honor the industrial past while creating an exciting future that integrates with and supports the Grays Ferry neighborhood.

Dian Yu, Patrick Connolly, & Yining (Elaine) Zhang are first-year Master of City and Regional Planning students concentrating in Urban Design. Before coming to Penn, Dian majored in Landscape Architecture at Zhejiang University in China. She continues to work with her passion for landscapes, deepening the knowledge of social equity and resilient urbanism. While at Penn, Pat is exploring the intersections of planning, urban design, and real estate development to understand how best to build convivial and resilient communities. As a big-city person, Elaine has lived and studied in multiple cities including Shanghai, Toronto, and London, which has made her more conscious of the different possibilities behind cities and their growth. She is interested in leveraging technology for place making while creating human-oriented, safe, and sustainable designs.

Figure 5: North-South Section

Figure 6: East-West Section



Figure 1: Al Sawaber Complex after abandonment

THE DEATH OF SOCIAL HOUSING The Case of Al-Sawaber By Nour Jafar


ostwar high-density housing is known as a modernist failure, as well as the end of the modern era. Architectural theorists rarely recognize the success of flourishing high-density housing in Europe. Instead they point back to its failures in St. Louis’ Pruitt-Igoe housing complex, or in Kuwait’s Al-Sawaber Complex. These projects proposed a more utopian lifestyle through architectural design, but lacked social, political, and economic factors that could have rendered them successful. These developments promised a neighborhood with stronger community relationships because of their designs, yet the deliverables bred the opposite environment: isolationist neighborhoods full of crime and urban decay. In The Destruction of Modernist Heritage: The Myth of Al-Sawaber, Asseel Al-Ragam analyzes the process which led to the introduction of social housing within Kuwait, including poor public planning by housing institutions, mirroring the issues of Pruitt-Igoe. With the beginning of oil production in the 1940s, Kuwait City saw a wave of modernization and mass urban redevelopment. In order to redevelop the city, the federal government cited eminent domain for plots within the city boundaries during the early stages of modernization, paying the residents above-market value for their plots. The redevelopment process displaced the vast majority of nationals living within the walls of the capital, driving the government to develop the Land Acquisition Policy in 1951.1 Kuwaiti males over the legal age of 18 were the only ones

eligible to apply for state subsidized housing and had only two options: a heavily subsidized parcel (750 – 1000 square meters) directly outside of the city with an interest free loan of US$230,400 from the government to construct a house or settle for a preconstructed detached house.2 In attempts to modernize the country’s living conditions, an unmaintainable standard of living was established through the introduction of a single prototype of housing to the public: the single plot detached house. With displacement and lottery-style assignment of housing, Kuwaitis began to see the detached home as the only suitable option for dwelling style, thus creating housing problems in the 1960s and ultimately a housing crisis by the 1970s.3 According to Al-Ragam, “Kuwaitis, over the years, grew a sense of entitlement and citizen dependence on the state grew exponentially.”4 This single method of housing introduced to the public set an impossible standard: welfare housing, whether single plot or ready-built house, was now seen as a right rather than a privilege, undermining the subsequent introduction of new typologies. With the housing crisis in the 1970s characterized by a larger demand in single detached homes than the supply could offer, the government decided to introduce a new prototype of housing to Kuwaiti society: high-density housing complexes. The new typology received backlash from the population as they did not see it to be suitable as a standard of living, and THE DEATH OF SOCIAL HOUSING


subsequently the National Housing Authority (NHA) did not bother to experiment with the idea in the earlier stages of development. Following the backlash and rejection of high-density housing, there was a proposal by Saba Shiber, a prominent city planner and architect at the Kuwait Municipality, to introduce row houses within the satellite town of Magwa as a new housing typology that would ease the housing crisis. However, this proposal was rejected by NHA because of a fear of backlash from the public. This prompted Shiber to appeal to the federal government, pushing for more housing typologies to be studied and implemented. Shiber’s professional status led the government to take his appeal into consideration and began to develop a new high-density housing typology: Al-Sawaber.5 Like Pruitt-Igoe, Al-Sawaber Complex was built into a recently rezoned Kuwait City, reintroducing a residential zone adjacent to the financial district. The NHA was convinced that Al-Sawaber would be influential as a new housing typology within the country as they targeted educated middle class families to live within the heart of the city, closer to their jobs. Arthur Erickson, an architect known for his modernist works, was commissioned to design the first social housing complex in Kuwait, creating 900 apartment units.6 His design created a sectional A shape providing natural ventilation and adequate shading from harsh desert sun. These hospitable public plazas were framed between each of the proposed 33 buildings.7 The seven-story complex itself not only consisted of apartments, but was also designed as a mixeduse prototype including shops, cafes, markets, play areas, and schools ranging from kindergarten to high school. The design focused on connectivity between each building through floating multi-level plazas, gardens, and elevated pathways. It would have acted as precedent for more high-density housing within the capital, had it succeeded as a prototype. However, similarly to Pruitt-Igoe, Al-Sawaber came with shortcomings that eventually lead to its deterioration. From the beginning, the design and implementation of the project were not aligned—of the 900 apartments proposed, only 524 were built, not reaching its required optimal density. The contracting company omitted most of the design features created by Erickson during the construction process by shrinking each building footprint and standardizing apartment styles, which both limited the number of apartments and spoiled the careful staggering of the buildings that would have created microclimates for public spaces in the extreme summer heat. The plazas in between the buildings became extremely exposed to the sun with little to no shade and lacked green landscaping. There was an old cemetery between the



proposed buildings that would have been a community garden for the residents, yet became an unchanged hard edge to the neighborhood. Sites surrounding the cemetery that were proposed as buildings were instead implemented as surface parking. The aerial circulation that was supposed to connect the buildings to create elevated pathways were not properly completed, reducing connectivity between the neighborhoods. The communal facilities were physically built but never operated, forcing residents to go beyond their neighborhood for necessities.8 Beyond the construction shortcomings, AlSawaber’s main issue was the lack of maintenance that caused structural decay and ultimately led to its demolition, echoing Pruitt-Igoe’s fate. The complex did not have a homeowner’s society and maintenance was the responsibility of the NHA, further enforcing the entitlement of citizens to be constantly gifted welfare benefits by the government. Running in parallel to Pruitt-Igoe, the complex suffered similar maintenance issues, leading to its deterioration. However, in the case of Pruitt-Igoe, the St. Louis Housing Authority had insufficient funds to maintain the complex, and the residents could not afford to pay for maintenance as they were already rent burdened. Al-Sawaber faced the opposite issue: the homeowners refused to pay for maintenance, claiming it was the responsibility of the NHA to do so as it was their project. In return, the NHA did the bare minimum to maintain the complex. By 2001, the Ministry of Finance discontinued the annual maintenance budget of US$240,000.9 The discontinuation forced the NHA to urge residents to form a homeowner’s association to take care of the maintenance, yet residents would still not cooperate. With no choice, the NHA kept maintaining the complex until the Audit Bureau, a government agency in charge of monitoring and issuing budgets to federal projects, fined them for illegally continuing maintenance services in 2006.10 Besides the issue of maintenance, the lack of a homeowner’s association meant that there was nothing regulating the ownership of the apartments. This led to a larger problem that further deteriorated the complex: a demographic shift. After the Gulf War, many apartments were abandoned. Some apartments were purchased by private investors who leased them out to expatriates, who then subsequently sublet them to low-income migrant workers and undocumented expatriates. This constant subletting led to overcrowded living conditions, with single 200 sqaure meters apartments hosting up to 50 men. There were several cases of fire within the complex as a result of residents exceeding the maximum occupancy capacity within each apartment, as well as several acts

Nour Jafar is a first-year Master of City and Regional Planning candidate. After receiving her Bachelor of Architecture from Kuwait University in 2017, Nour has practiced as an architect in Chicago, as well as a jewelry designer in Kuwait. Her interests revolve around gentrification, architectural theory, human behavior, and racial and feminist planning.

of arson, forcing residents to leave their blocks and further increasing the public outcry for its demolition. Residents claimed the apartments were dangerously uninhabitable and demanded that the government find a solution. The Council of Ministers, in collaboration with the Municipal Council, commissioned an urban redevelopment study of the complex, citing eminent domain and demolition once again as a response to the issue of Al-Sawaber. In 2012, the federal government began the formal process of buying back the apartments from the current residents and stakeholders to prepare the site for demolition. The lack of success with Al-Sawaber prompted the NHA to focus again solely on single detached housing as a solution to the housing crisis within the country. Married couples, which must be headed by

a male in order to apply for housing, now face a wait time of 12 to 15 years before they enter the plot lottery system, and many are rent burdened as real estate in Kuwait is unaffordable .11 Al-Sawaber failed because of concerns similar to Pruitt-Igoe: poor urban planning, lack of maintenance, increasing physical deterioration, disinvestment both financially and socially that lead to an increase in crime, and ultimately, vacancies that contributed to calls for its demolition. The federal government should not rely on constantly demolishing what it deems failures for the sake of modernization of the country. Instead, the government’s lack of investment into its own projects has created a culture of demolition to anything deemed an eyesore, no matter its cultural, historical, or architectural significance.

WORKS & IMAGES CITED 1 Al-Ragam, Asseel. “The Destruction of Modernist Heritage: The Myth of AlSawaber.” Journal of Architectural Education 67, no. 2. March 2013, 244. https:// 2 Ibid, 245. 3 Ibid, 246. 4 Ibid. 5 Ibid. 6 Al-Ragam, 247.

7 Ibid. 8 Al-Ragam, 248. 9 Ibid., 249. 10 Ibid. 11 Average Households Monthly Expenditure on Goods and Services in KD Classified by Household Monthly Expenditure Groups. “Central Statistics Bureau.” Accessed February 24, 2020.



DESIGNING A GREEN NEW DEAL The Spatial Politics of Our Response to Climate Change


n February 7, 2019, Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey (MA-07) and New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) introduced a House Resolution detailing a sweeping plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030, and a goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. The 14-page non-binding resolution calls for a ten-year national mobilization plan to achieve the five overarching goals it sets forth: (1) to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as much as technologically feasible; (2) to guarantee universal access to clean air and water and healthy food; (3) to reduce the risks posed by climate impacts; (4) to ensure that any industry or infrastructure bill considered by Congress addresses climate change; and (5) to promote justice and equity, prioritizing what the document refers to as “frontline N vulnerable S T E T S Oand communities.”

• For over 100 years, Appalachia has been the battery of America. We imagine the future of Appalachia as a region that continues to be a stronghold of energy production, but one that is powered by the people through cooperative ownership of clean energy. • “America’s breadbasket” will become even more crucial for feeding a growing nation, acting as a catalyst for sustainable growing practices and for reviving the Midwest’s industrial legacy by boosting the production of new technologies that make decarbonization possible.



K Much like the original New Deal, the GND does BANdescribe a single piece or set of legislation. Rather, not it will be understood by most through the infrastructure, buildings, public works, and landscapes it inspires. We do not expect the approach to decarbonization, clean energy economic development, and climate justice to look the same in Charleston, West Virginia, as it might look in San Francisco, California.


Natural and economic systems do not stop at political boundaries and neither should plans for large-scale infrastructure. Regional planning creates an opportunity to build new political coalitions, from small towns to big cities. Three regions – the Midwest, Appalachia, and the Gulf Coast – are major contributors to carbon emissions through industry, agriculture, and transportation. These regions are also home to many frontline and vulnerable communities: people who have been excluded from the American dream, people who are impacted the most by climate change, and people currently dependent on fossil fuel-related industries. Success of a Green New Deal (GND) must prioritize these places.




• Ending the legacy of dispossession and extraction in the Delta builds upon the foundation of organizing and resistance in the South. The GND addresses these interlocking injustices across BANK WER three transects—offshore, coastal, and land. FLO

Instructor: Billy Flemming Collaborator: Richard Weller Students: Leila Bahrami Chelsea Beroza Allison Carr Yvette Chen Zachery Hammaker Sara Harmon Tiffany Hudson Katie Lample John Michael LaSalle Rob Levinthal Katie Pitstick Joshua Reaves Will Smith Jesse Weiss Rosa Zedek

Designing a green new deal




RE-IMAGINING NEWPORT HARBOR 2050 Gladys Carr Bolhouse Rd


A Strategic Implementation Plan




ewport, Rhode Island, is predominantly surrounded by water, and the city’s identity has been shaped by its connection to the sea. Serving as one of the major ports during the Colonial Era, famous for being a prosperous trading city, Newport later became a place for wealthy Southerners to enjoy cool summers by the sea. Furthermore, Newport has housed a major Navy port for the U.S. military, which is now slowly moving away from the area in order to consolidate to existing hubs in Virginia. Currently, the city attracts more than 3.5 million visitors each year to enjoy the cool sea breeze, Gilded Age mansions, fresh food, and music festivals. Historical buildings, a seaside setting, and notable cultural events contribute to Newport’s identity as a quintessential New England coastal city; however, the city’s current existence is threatened by sea level rise as well as the increased frequency and power of storm events. Exposure to sea level rise is greatest at Newport’s harbor due to its low-lying topography. Moreover, the harbor is one of the city’s main economic hubs, where tourists and residents spend most of their time. The plan aims to couple harbor enhancements with ways in which the area can embrace the rising seas— prompting Newport’s evolution into a resilient city that accommodates sea level rise. Newport already has the Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan that addresses large storm events, including storm surge. While storm surge has notable ramifications, this plan focuses on sea level rise- the projected high tides that will be



Goat Island

experienced twice a day, every day, are within the current storm surge envelopes. Re-imagining Newport Harbor 2050 is an incremental adaptation plan that presents sea level rise as an opportunity to address the primary existing issues in Newport Harbor, which will be exacerbated by two-, three-, and five-foot sea level rise to provide a path for Newport’s resiliency and stability. The plan explores four primary strategies. The first strategy includes several steps to provide a planned relocation for property owners whose homes are most vulnerable to sea level rise. The second strategy embraces sea level rise in innovative ways. It allows for potential economic and employment growth through welcoming water into the current economic hub with a floating district, shifting the tourism economy further inland, and developing a water-based economy along the harbor front. The third strategy proposes to transform the existing man-made waterfront into resilient, publicly accessible space. The fourth set of recommendations raises stakeholder awareness regarding the imminent threats of sea level rise.


Instructors: Jamie Granger Scott Page Students: Yannan Cai Shuchang Dong Matthew Fishman Andrea Gonzalez Yijia Liu Cheng Kai Shravanthi Kanekal Justin Ritchey Laure Wassen Yuchen Zhang

n Ave

gto Wellin

t ll S

Re-imagining newport harbor 2050

we re Fa

Ave America’s Cup


10ft 10ft

Spring St

Thames St

ft 10





10 ft

King Park



Figure 1: South tower of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA, emerging from fog at sunset, with the Presidio in the background.

THE RISING STAKES OF CLIMATE CHANGE How Cities Are Fighting to Protect Their Infrastructure By Tiffany Hudson


oastal cities are increasingly feeling the impacts of climate change. While lines in the sand are intended to shift, the coastline of California is changing at an unprecedented rate. In the last 100 years, the sea rose nine inches; however, in the next 100 years estimates are as high as 10 feet. Climate change conversations in California may currently center around droughts and wildfires, but as the coastline erodes, it will be impossible to ignore the large infrastructural investments that will be decimated by water. Highways, airports, sewer systems, and entire residential neighborhoods are currently being threatened, leaving many coastal cities to grapple with the question—who will foot the bill when it comes? Cities are looking more and more to oil and gas companies as the responsible party. In recent years, internal documents from ExxonMobil have brought national attention to the conduct of the fossil fuel industry—that scientists working for the oil company not only understood the science behind greenhouse gas emissions, but fairly accurately predicted the catastrophic consequences of a warming climate these emissions cause.1 Furthermore, executives refused to make changes to the business model, instead spending millions of dollars on misinformation campaigns against global warming. These misinformation campaigns have caused much confusion around the science of anthropogenic climate change. Both well-funded and wellorchestrated, they have confused decision-makers

for decades, protecting free-market conservative ideals by focusing on local weather instead of global trends.2 The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report is clear, though. There are significant impacts of 1.5 degree Celcius global warming above pre-industrial levels and human-induced warming had already reached one degree Celcius above pre-industrial levels by 2017. Temperatures are expected to continue to increase at 0.2 degree Celcius per decade, assuming business as usual.3 While the emphasis for climate scientists and activists has been on mitigation, cities must instead focus on adaptation if they want to survive. This has been the crux of recent litigation for California’s coastal cities already experiencing the negative externalities of climate change. Sea level rise will have unprecedented impacts with multi-billion dollar ramifications. As they plan for the future, cities must take into account the additional expenses of relocating residents, rebuilding infrastructure, and constructing sea level walls to prevent excessive flooding. As of late 2019, five cities and three counties have filed complaints with California Superior Court for damages related to sea level rise. Two of these cities involved in litigation are Oakland and San Francisco. BACKGROUND OF CLIMATE CHANGE LITIGATION In the first wave of climate change litigation, spanning from the mid-2000s to 2015, defendants successfully challenged the courts’ jurisdiction, The Rising Stakes of Climate Change


Figure 2: Construction on the Oakland Bay Brigde in Oakland, California.

invoking the standing and political question doctrines, which “stipulates that the jurisdiction of federal courts is limited to cases where: (1) the plaintiff has suffered an injury in fact; (2) that is fairly traceable to the defendant’s misconduct (causation); and (3) is capable of being redressed by the court.”4 All three of these conditions must be met, or else the plaintiff lacks standing before the court: “[p]rivate claims relating to climate change have stumbled over the political question doctrine, which stipulates that federal courts will not adjudicate certain controversies because their resolution is a matter for the political branches of government.”5 These two doctrines have posed a considerable challenge to plaintiffs in this first wave of bringing claims that allege harms related to climate change. Three cases have set important precedents for climate litigation: American Electric Power Company (AEP) v. Connecticut, Comer v. Murphy Oil USA, Inc., and Kivalina v. ExxonMobil. The first of these cases dealt with the issue of whether or not states, cities, and private parties have standing to seek caps on utilities for their alleged contribution to global climate change. The Supreme Court held, in an eight to zero decision, that the issue did not belong in the court system—that the ability to set emissions standards



belonged solely to the EPA under the Clean Air Act. These public nuisance claims, according to the court, were preempted by the fact that Congress had already enacted legislation on the matter.6 Unlike AEP’s focus on emission controls, Comer v. Murphy Oil USA, Inc. sought monetary damages. Homeowners in Mississippi sued 34 energy companies and utilities operating in the Gulf Coast for property damage sustained during Hurricane Katrina, claiming public and private nuisance, trespass, negligence, unjust enrichment, fraudulent misrepresentation, and civil conspiracy.7 While the plaintiffs’ pleadings relied heavily on IPCC-certified science, they struggled to draw a clear link of causation—from emissions releases, to increased concentrations in the atmosphere, to global warming, to the melting of glaciers and rising sea levels, which in turn increased the frequency and severity of hurricanes such as Katrina.8 While Comer ultimately failed, the Court of Appeal’s engagement with the question of climate change causation opened the door for future judicial recognition of a less stringent threshold.9 Similarly, in Kivalina v. ExxonMobil, the Inupiat Eskimo peoples of Kivalina, Alaska, sought damages for their displacement caused by melting Artic sea ice

Figure 3: Chevron oil tanker visits Pier 80 in San Francisco.

and coastal erosion. The courts ruled that a problem as abstract and difficult as this posed a non-justiciable political question.10 Proving the link between the actions of corporations and the harm caused by those actions has been an obstacle in private climate litigation. The causation challenge is further complicated by pinpointing the specific actors responsible for the injury. Continued developments in climate science and research are delivering new evidence that can strengthen assertions of a causal link between behavior and harm, which could clear a major hurdle on the path towards establishing standing.11 The combination of growth and consolidation of climate science released by the IPCC and better local-level data have made it easier to understand exactly where impacts of emissions are the strongest. Additionally, scientists are better able to quantify the proportional contribution of each emitter through developments in attribution science.12 Not only is the science getting better, but the science is being used more strategically by plaintiffs, with up-to-date sea level rise science being introduced in the legal proceedings. The focus of cases has

gone from meteorological change to sea level rise, which is much more reliably linked to a warming planet. Unlike Comer v. Murphy Oil, where causation was challenging to establish, these more specific arguments and more accurate cause-and-effect data are improving the likelihood of successful litigation for cities. More precise mapping and modeling may help to visualize climate change impacts. While cutting emissions is becoming increasingly more necessary as we get closer to the two-degree Celsius tipping point, this new wave of climate litigation by cities like San Francisco and Oakland is extremely careful to ensure the language of the claim specifically seeks not to regulate emissions. Rather, in more recent cases, cities are pursuing tort law (a civil wrong that causes a claimant to suffer loss or harm), with the goal of establishing a fund to cover the costs of current and future damages caused by sea level rise. Monetary damages are the only goal—not because decreasing emissions is not a necessary task; just that excluding it from the litigation is necessary to avoid the pitfalls of previous climate-related cases. This new strategy might make courts more open to the notion of individual corporate responsibility for climate harm, assuming causation can be proven.

The Rising Stakes of Climate Change


TAKING A PAGE FROM BIG TOBACCO While this strategy has not yet proven successful in regards to climate change, it is a page taken directly from Big Tobacco legislation. Tobacco victims drew clear links between behavior and harm. Claims focused not on regulating the industry, but rather the damage caused by this negligent marketing. In a manner analogous to the tobacco litigation of the 1990s, San Francisco and Oakland are now accusing oil companies of knowing that their emitting activities are causing catastrophic climate change. Regardless of the outcome of any individual case in 1990s tobacco litigation, the sheer volume of cases influenced sweeping legislative changes. Courts did not always hold companies liable, but new regulatory frameworks were established and several major corporations were mandated to set up compensation funds. The argument is that Big Oil, like the tobacco industry, has a legal responsibility to disclose the negative impacts of their products. “Oil and gas, like cigarettes, are products. The companies that sell them are liable for the damages they cause… They have misled the public about the product’s dangers.”13 Revelations in 2015 that ExxonMobil had long ago recognized that its fossil fuels posed a danger to the world has undergirded both the moral outrage and legal proof that are helping to drive this new wave of lawsuits. If many oil companies rebuilt their own infrastructures to be more resilient against sea level rise and storms – while at the same time arguing that the science of those things was too uncertain to do anything about – should they not also be responsible for funding the bolstering of city infrastructure?14 PEOPLE OF STATE OF CALIFORNIA V. BP The new strategy used in California v BP seems like it might be a winning one; though the current Oakland and San Francisco case has not been without significant hurdles. On September 19, 2017, the two cities filed separate lawsuits in California Superior Court against five oil and gas companies. The lawsuits made a public nuisance claim against BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell— the five leading producers of fossil fuels. “Defendants are substantial contributors to the public nuisance of global warming that is causing injury to the People and thus are jointly and severally liable,” the case claimed.15 Over the course of many years in operation, these five companies’ cumulative emissions have placed them at the top of the list of sources of global emissions. “[The City] must take abatement action now to protect public and private property from this looming threat by building sea walls and other sea



level rise adaptation infrastructure.”16 As learned from the failures of the first wave of climate litigation, the two cases are clear that “[t]he People do not seek to impose liability on Defendants for their direct emissions of greenhouse gases and do not seek to restrain Defendants from engaging in their business operations. This case,” it continues, “is fundamentally about shifting the costs of sea level rise harm—one of global warming’s gravest harms—back onto companies.”17 If these companies were to continue business as usual, the case argues, they would be helping to create a profound public nuisance. The two cases, now merged into People of State of California v. BP, makes an argument for the jurisdiction and venue—that the argument belongs at the statelevel because this is a public nuisance in the city of San Francisco and the city of Oakland and that the city attorneys have a “right and authority to seek abatement… on behalf of the People of the State of California.” In October of 2017, one month after the claim was filed, the five oil and gas companies successfully moved the cases to federal court.18 Even with better science and clearer causation, Judge William Alsup struggled to appropriately balance worldwide negatives against the worldwide positives of the fossil fuels. Alsup eventually granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the case, based on the argument that it is outside of the scope of the court’s jurisdiction. Ruling on a solution could interfere with a worldwide consensus for a global problem, he stated.19 As the case has moved through the court system, many amicus briefs have been filed—an attempt by non-litigants to advise the courts of relevant, additional information or arguments for groups with a strong interest in the subject matter. Organizations like the Center for Climate Integrity, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and International Municipal Lawyers Association have all shown support for the people of California. Along with climate researchers and lobbyists, ten states and the District of Columbia have all argued for this case to be heard at the state level.20 THE IMPORTANCE OF STATE VERSUS FEDERAL Cases in California are especially interesting at the state level because California has some of the strongest environmental regulations. The state has a long history of environmental policies and it has been on the forefront of preemptive legislative efforts. Early environmental policies were triggered by air

Figure 4: Supreme Court of California - California State Building, San Francisco, California.

pollution problems. However, California has earned a reputation as a green pioneer in recent years with initiatives on climate change. Case law suggests that lawmakers have seemingly decided that economic sacrifices made for the sake of meeting environmental goals are worth the future benefits and long-term sustainability.21 Not only are the environmental regulations strong, but the state nuisance law is strict. The legal definition of a public nuisance in California is anything that is “injurious to health, indecent, offensive to the senses or an obstruction to the free use of property; and interferes with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property by an entire community or neighborhood, or by any considerable number of persons.”22 Under California Penal Code 372 and 373a PC, it is a crime to maintain or commit a public nuisance. A product manufacturer may be held liable for assisting in the creation of a public nuisance under California law if the manufacturer promoted a harmful product with knowledge of the hazards involved, as established in County of Santa Clara v. Atlantic Richfield Co.23 A large impetus for San Francisco and Oakland to keep the case at the state level is the improved likelihood of this level of nuisance law.

Federal nuisance law operates quite differently though, making the case nearly impossible to win in a federal court. Federal nuisance law requires the public harm alleged against the defendants to be balanced against the positive effects of their behavior. In his ruling on the case, Federal Judge William Alsup bluntly stated, “[o]ur industrial revolution and the development of our modern world has literally been fueled by oil and coal. Without those fuels, virtually all of our monumental progress would have been impossible.” Under the circumstances, he continued, it’s impossible to say that “the sale of fossil fuels was unreasonable,” which is a necessary finding for a public nuisance.24 After the climate science tutorial, he concluded that the issue was not about the science behind the connection between emissions and sea level rise, but rather it was a legal issue. “There are sound reasons why the worldwide problem of global warming should be determined by our political branches, not by our judiciary,” Alsup wrote.25 COMPLICATIONS IN COURT While his decision seemed straightforward, Alsup’s ruling only further complicates matters in The Rising Stakes of Climate Change


California. In a similar case, San Francisco federal judge Vincent Chhabria ruled opposite of Aslup—that a public nuisance case against nearly 30 oil, gas, and coal companies belonged at the state level. Both cases remain unresolved and it might be some time before any conclusive decisions are made by the courts. At the crux of this confusion lies the question of who should decide how these issues are settled. According to Alsup, issues related to emissions cannot be piecemealed together, state by state. There should be a comprehensive approach to dealing with emissions and related ramifications of sea level rise—and this comprehensive solution should come from Congress, rather than the courts. He rationalized that “the courts are not the proper place to deal with such global issues.”26 Many warn of the dangers of a split decision between Judges Chhabria and Alsup in the continuation of climate litigation. These two federal judges are seated in the same district yet there is disagreement on the fundamental questions of jurisdiction and justiciability. How might federal judges in other districts, or other state-level judges approach similar questions of responsibility for monetary damages caused by sea level rise? What might happen if claims continue to be brought against companies and they are forced to defend themselves in hundreds of cases? WHO DECIDES: COURTS OR CONGRESS? There is a strong case to be made of why decisions like these belong not in the courtroom, but rather on the floor of Congress where comprehensive regulation laws can be designed and voted on. But can the legislative branch be entrusted with such a task in the current environment of extreme lobbying? Millionaires from the fossil fuel industry collectively invested more than $100 million into Republican contenders’ efforts in the 2016 presidential election.27 Nearly a third of all dollars from individuals donated to Republican hopefuls came from people who owe their fortunes to Big Oil—individuals who have the most at risk in the fight against climate change. How does this leverage change the country’s ability to properly regulate an industry that could ultimately cost billions in new infrastructure? And who foots the bill when it comes? CONCLUSION The costs of climate change will be unprecedented as sea levels continue to rise at exponentially higher rates. San Francisco estimates short-term upgrades to seawalls to cost upwards of $500 million, while more long-term upgrades to the seawall are estimated at



over $5 billion. Protecting the city’s combined sewer system and associated shoreline erosion are estimated at $350 million. This does not include the many other infrastructure investments and cost of displacement for large swaths of residential communities. In Oakland, protecting the airport is estimated at a price tag of $55 million.28 While there are a number of cases currently in litigation along with People of State of California v. BP, only a small fraction of coastal cities are in the legal fight. There are many other cities – and billions more in infrastructure – at risk. Highways, airports, sewer systems, and entire residential neighborhoods will continue to be threatened from sea level rise alone. Damages will further accumulate from other extremeweather events tied to climate change. While Mississippi homeowners failed in their attempt to collect damages caused by Hurricane Katrina because of a lack of clear causation, the climate science has improved to make a stronger case for sea level-focused cases like People of State of California v. BP. If cities are going to continue to fight against climate change, learning from the failures of the first wave of litigation is crucial. Cities must not be beholden to the overall goals of the fossil fuel industry. Limiting emissions is becoming increasingly imperative and more time-sensitive, but history has shown that wide arguments structured in this way will fail in the court system, with too many opportunities for defendants to find counter arguments. Cities must instead focus in on narrow arguments, taking a page from Big Tobacco litigation. The chances for success in focusing solely on the marketing of a harmful product and launching disinformation campaigns—at least in California state court—are much higher. And even if these cases fail, the increasing pressure of cities filing claims against Big Oil might eventually influence the type of legislation Judge Alsup hopes to see from another branch of government.

Tiffany Hudson is a Senior Copy Editor for Panorama and a second-year Master of City and Regional Planning student. With a background as both a category analyst and an artist, she loves using her creativity to connect the dots—taking a systems-based approach to problem solving. Her studio may be over, but she is still focused on making the Green New Deal a reality.

WORKS & IMAGES CITES 1 InsideClimate News. (2019). Fossil Fuels on Trial: Where the Major Climate Change Lawsuits Stand Today. 2 George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication (2019). America Misled: How the fossil fuel industry deliberately misled Americans about climate change. https://www. America_Misled.pdf 3 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2019). Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C. uploads/sites/2/2019/06/SR15_Full_Report_High_Res.pdf 4 Geetanjali Ganguly, Joana Setzer, Veerle Heyvaert (2018). If at First You Don’t Succeed: Suing Corporations for Climate Change. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, Volume 38, Issue 4. https://doi. org/10.1093/ojls/gqy029 5 If at First You Don’t Succeed. 6 American Electric Power Co., Inc., et al. v. Connecticut et al. 564 U.S. 410 7 Comer v. Murphy Oil USA, 585 F.3d 855, 879-80 8 Cato Institute (2019). Comer v. Murphy Oil USA. https://www. 9 Cato Institute (2019). 10 Kivalina v ExxonMobil 11 If at First You Don’t Succeed. 12 If at First You Don’t Succeed. 13 Wired (2018). Can a City Really Sue an Oil Company for Climate Change? 14 Los Angeles Times (2018). Column: A federal judge accepts climate change science, but throws out a lawsuit blaming oil companies. 15 People of State of California v. BP p.l.c. http://climatecasechart. com/case/people-state-california-v-bp-plc-oakland/?cn-reloaded=1 16 People of State of California v. BP

17 People of State of California v. BP p.l.c. 18 City of Oakland v. BP 19 Robin Kundis Craig (2018). California Climate Change Lawsuits: Can the Courts Help with Sea-Level Rise, and Who Knew What When? 20 City of Oakland v. BP 21 Schmidt C. W. (2007). Environment: California out in front. Environmental health perspectives, 115(3), A144–A147. doi:10.1289/ ehp.115-a144 22 California Penal Code 372 and 373a PC 23 County of Santa Clara v. Atlantic Richfield Co., 40 Cal. Rptr. 3d 313, 324- 25, 328 24 Column: A federal judge accepts climate change science 25 Column: A federal judge accepts climate change science 26 Michael Burger & Jessica Wentz (2018). Holding fossil fuel companies accountable for their contribution to climate change: Where does the law stand? Burger-Wentz-2018-11-Holding-fossil-fuel-companies-accountablefor-their-contribution-to-climate-change.pdf 27 The Guardian (2016). Oil and gas industry has pumped millions into Republican campaigns. us-news/2016/mar/03/oil-and-gas-industry-has-pumped-millionsinto-republican-campaigns 28 Yes Magazine (2018). Why Are More Cities Divesting From Big Oil? It’s Moral—and Practical planet/why-more-cities-are-divesting-from-big-oil-its-moral-andpractical-20180215 Figure 1: Golden Gate Bridge at Sunset via WikiCommons Figure 2: Bay Bridge, High Nelson via Creative Commons on Flickr Figure 3: Chevron, Dave R via Creative Commons on Flickr Figure 4: Supreme Court of California via WikiCommons

The Rising Stakes of Climate Change


Figure 1: Heavy rains and flood in the uplands turned a typically clear pond dark and muddy. High volume rainfall causes sediment to erode more quickly and allows less water to infiltrate into Oahu’s aquifers.

DIVERSIFYING WATER SUPPLY An Exploration of Potential Water System Solutions in Hawai’i’s Changing Climate By Allison Carr


onolulu often brings to mind world-class beaches, sunshine, and surfing, but the capital of Hawai’i is much more than that. Home to 350,000 people, Honolulu is an economic and cultural center in the maritime Pacific region. At present and into the future, the well-being of this vibrant city will depend on careful water resource management on the island of Oahu. Honolulu needs to diversify its water supply portfolio to supplement recharge that will be lost by climate change. Additionally, Honolulu will experience marine inundation and groundwater flooding as sea levels rise. Desalination, expanded water recycling, and rainwater harvesting are all potential options that the city could pursue to augment its water supply. Could brackish water pumping and flushing build resilience by addressing both the challenge of sea level rise and the risk of reduced water supply due to climate change and population growth? OAHU’S WATER SUPPLY RELIES ON A STABLE CLIMATE

The unique climate and geology on Oahu are determinants of supply-side water resource dynamics. Because of the rain shadow effect, the island’s uplands receive close to 280 inches of rain per year, while lowlands and coastal areas receive only 20 inches of rainfall.1 This precipitation will go back into the atmosphere via evapotranspiration, recharge groundwater aquifers by seeping through the soil, or become runoff that eventually reaches the ocean.

There are three types of aquifers storing groundwater on Oahu: (1) dike-confined water— groundwater constrained in higher elevation areas by prehistoric lava-formed rock structures; (2) fresh basal water—found below the middle elevations and in the island’s valley; and (3) brackish caprock water— found in the island’s coastal aquifers that occur at the saltwater-freshwater mixing zone. Because the caprock aquifers are brackish water, water extracted from these wells are used only for irrigation. The highest quality drinking water is found in the uplands, which requires an extensive pumping system to transfer water from source to the lowland coastal areas where most of Oahu’s population is located.2 Municipal water uses account for approximately 64 percent of water used on Oahu. The average per capita water use on the island is 157 gallons per day, and despite population growth, efficient appliances have played a large role in keeping overall water use stable.3 While water consumption on Oahu is well below the existing sustainable yield of its aquifers, there is concern about the lack of diversity in the portfolio of sources on the island. Every ounce of the island’s drinking water is extracted from groundwater aquifers; brackish water and recycled water only account for a small portion of the water used for industry and irrigation. Rising demand or instability in the water supply from the groundwater aquifers could have an adverse impact on Honolulu’s water supply.4

Diversifying water supply


Figure 2: Diamond Head State Monument is a popular attraction in Honolulu that sees as many as one million visitors each year. Tourism is a key sector of Honolulu’s economy that could be put at risk by flooding and rising sea levels.



Figure 3: The rain shadow effect influences the geographic distribution of rainfall on Oahu, but many indicators have shown that climate change will disrupt these patterns.

CLIMATE CHANGE THREATENS HONOLULU’S WATER SYSTEM Reduced rainfall and increasing sea level rise both have potential to negatively impact Oahu’s water system. Over the past 30 years, rainfall levels on Oahu have been in decline. This pattern is projected to continue as the global average temperature trends upward, resulting in aquifers recharging at a slower rate. Climate change models also predict that there will be a larger imbalance between wet and dry areas on the island, projecting that more rain in the mountains will arrive as drenching downpours. These larger downpours will cause more erosion, flash flooding, and keep water in the island’s streams from percolating through the soil into the aquifers. Water will rush towards the sea, further reducing the potential for rainfall to recharge aquifers.5 Sea level rise has at least two major effects on the island. First, marine inundation will flood shoreline areas and submerge some of the existing coastline, causing the water table in coastal areas

to rise. As the water table rises, it will cause flooding in coastal areas where the water table is shallow. According to Kolja Rotzoll and Charles Fletcher, this type of flooding will first occur during high tides that coincide with heavy rainfall, but over time the impact will become more frequent.6 “It is likely that future urban settings will be characterized by standing pools of brackish water, maximized at high tide. This may affect traffic, walkways, and any movement in urbanized coastal areas.”7 The brackish water that seeps into urban areas will also corrode infrastructure more quickly than freshwater would, resulting in higher maintenance costs and a system that is more vulnerable to disruption. BRACKISH WATER FLUSHING IS A VERSATILE SOLUTION TO FUTURE WATERSYSTEM CHALLENGES To deal with looming climate change threats, Honolulu needs a solution for its water system that can be adapted to changing conditions and consider risks that stem from both rainfall variation and sea level rise.

Diversifying water supply


Inspired by Hong Kong’s seawater flushing system and emerging studies of groundwater inundation, brackish water flushing is one such solution.8 Although Hong Kong is much larger than Honolulu in terms of both population and area, the two cities have similar threats and opportunities within their water systems. Hong Kong also deals with a limited water supply portfolio, and both cities have a supply of saltwater and brackish water at their disposal. Hong Kong has utilized its seawater resource by building a system that uses seawater for flushing toilets. Toilet flushing is one of the most taxing domestic water uses, so the city has been able to take a massive burden off of its potable water supply by introducing saltwater flushing for 85 percent of the city’s population.9 Saltwater flushing is an option for Honolulu, but it is unclear how a saltwater intake pipe would impact the island’s sensitive coastal waterways. The prospect of marine inundation would also complicate any proposal to build new coastal infrastructure. Fortunately, there is another nascent water supply that Honolulu can tap into: brackish water aquifers. Rotzoll and Fletcher believe that “groundwater withdraws could be used to mitigate the effect of a rising water table, even if it means pumping brackish water to avoid inundation.”10 Instead of simply pumping draining brackish water aquifers into the ocean, Honolulu could use its brackish water for flushing. This would significantly reduce reliance on freshwater aquifers. Additionally, using the brackish water will lower the water table, prevent groundwater flooding during high tides, and reduce localized coastal-plain flooding that is predicted to result from rising sea levels. It is also important to acknowledge that this system will not augment the potable water supply; it will only reduce stress on the demand side. If rainfall on Oahu was to catastrophically decline, Honolulu would need to seek other options for recharging aquifers.11 This solution will take the water that Honolulu does not want and turn it into water that the city needs. Investing in a purple-pipe brackish water flushing system will also create the opportunity to expand recycled water use if necessary. This solution also calls attention to groundwater inundation, which is one of the more poorly understood sea level rise risks that all coastal cities should be planning for as they think about climate change.12



HONOLULU IS NOT IN CRISIS MODE – YET At present, Honolulu has a good balance of aquifer recharge and consumer demand. However, the Board of Water Supply should still think about the future and the challenges that the island may face. It’s difficult to predict exactly how climate change is going to impact Oahu. As such, the Board of Water Supply should consider different impact scenarios and invest in solutions that can easily be adapted. Measures like desalination require a large upfront investment and would only address one of Honolulu’s water system issues. Brackish water flushing could address supply stress while mitigating the impact of groundwater inundation at the same time. Any water system solutions the city proposes should consider the interconnected nature of Oahu’s water.

Allison Carr is a second-year Master of City and Regional Planning student concentrating in Land Use and Environmental Planning. She received a B.A. in Geography from George Washington University in 2016 and has since focused her efforts on learning about the unexpected ways that we impact the environment. Allison’s hobbies include hiking and taking the train a lot.

WORKS & IMAGES CITED 1 “Rainfall Atlas of Hawai’i.” University of Hawai’i at Manoa. Accessed April 18, 2019. 2 “2016 Water Master Plan.” City and County of Honolulu, HI: Honolulu Board of Water Supply, October 2016. 3 Ibid 4 Hill, Kristina. “Maps of a Rising Water Table: The Hidden Component of Sea Level Rise.” presented at the Berkeley Distinguished Lectures in Data Science, University of California, Berkeley, December 4, 2018. events/maps-rising- water-table-hidden-component-sea-level-rise. 5 “Rainfall Atlas of Hawai’i.” 6 Rotzoll, Kolja, and Charles H. Fletcher. “Assessment of Groundwater Inundation as a Consequence of Sea-Level Rise.” Nature Climate Change 3, no. 5 (May 2013): 477–81. 7 Ibid. 8 “Seawater for Flushing.” Hong Kong Special Administrative Region: Water Supplies Department. Accessed May 8, 2019.

core-businesses/total- water-management-strategy/seawater-for-flushing/index. html. 9 Ibid. 10 Rotzoll and Fletcher. “Assessment of Groundwater Inundation as a Consequence of Sea-Level Rise.” Nature Climate Change 3, no. 5 (May 2013): 477–81. 11 Ibid. 12 Ibid. Figure 1:Photo by Peter Lee. Flickr. September 2019. Figure 2: Photo by Eric Tessner. Flickr. October 2017. Figure 3: Map made by Allison Carr. Data sourced from HawaiiStateGIS. 2019.

Diversifying water supply


Figure 1: Forced to carry the large bags of dry waste they collect, waste pickers tend to get harassed by authorities because they lack identification or any form of authorization for the kind of work they do.

MORE THAN JUST TRASH Finding Value in Bangalore's Informal Waste Sector By Shravanthi Kanekal


nce known as India’s “Garden City,” Bangalore made global headlines in 2012 for its improper waste management, leading some to tag it as the “Garbage City” because it was drowning in its own waste.1 Since then, the city has continued to struggle with not being able to handle the load of waste produced while employing a suitable system that integrates the existing informal waste collection sector. It is estimated that one percent of India’s population is employed in the informal waste management sector, mostly consisting of the urban poor.2 Studies show that the informal waste sector supports local governments in waste management while saving resources by making recycling more efficient.3

Bangalore is one the fastest growing cities in India, seeing a population rise from 8.5 million4 in 2011 to 11.4 million5 in 2018, largely due to the thriving technology sector drawing workers from across the country. The population growth has contributed to unrestricted new development, which has in turn led to the expansion of the city in all directions. Bangalore’s physical and economic growth bring many challenges including urban sprawl, flooding, and an exponential increase in the amount of waste generated by the city. The dark side of Bangalore’s growth has been its battle with ubiquitous garbage. From 2000 to 2015, the Central Pollution Board of India reported that the daily amount of garbage generated increased by an alarming 1,750 percent.6 Behind Delhi, Bangalore saw the highest increase in garbage generation among

other major cities in India, as it went from generating 200 tons per day in 2000 to 3,700 tons per day in 2015.7 More recent estimates are closer to 4,000 tons generated per day. Apart from population growth contributing to the increase in waste generated, there has been another important factor that has contributed to the city’s garbage woes: the closure of one of Bangalore’s biggest landfills at Mandur. Located on the outskirts of the city, it was forced to close due to protests from nearby villages. Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), a local authority that manages the city’s waste, employs a centralized waste disposal system. Unsegregated waste that is collected is transported to landfills. Approximately 30 percent of the city’s waste is collected by the BBMP; the remaining 70 percent is outsourced to contractors. In early 2013, Bangalore faced an unprecedented garbage crisis due to the dumping of mixed unsegregated waste on the streets, public protests, and the closure of some landfill sites because of noncompliance with the municipal solid waste (MSW) rules. In response, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India audited BBMP in mid-2013, finding that the administration had failed to use scientific methods of processing waste at landfills and did not comply with rules that prevented dumping of mixed waste in various locations. In India, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), which is overseen by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), sets waste management standards and more than just trash


Figure 2: Waste pickers are vulnerable as they have no job security and are routinely harassed by civic authorities.

monitors performance. However, the CPCB is oriented towards controlling environmental pollution and not waste management, making this a key institutional issue. In 2016, the national government issued new rules for solid waste management (SWM Rules 2016), removing the word “municipal,” thereby extending its jurisdiction to all settlements, not just urban areas. The new rules mandate waste segregation at the source, improve the collection and disposal of sanitary waste, institute collect-back schemes for companies that use non-biodegradable packaging material, create user fees for collection, promote composting, and encourage centralized treatments – such as waste to energy – rather than decentralized systems for waste management. Under the new rules, solid waste must be segregated at the source into three categories: biodegradables, dry waste (plastic, paper, metal, glass, wood), and domestic hazardous waste (discarded medicine, sanitary napkins, and diapers).8 Bangalore has not seen segregation at source on a large scale as yet, due to lack of widespread awareness among residents and businesses. In addition to the lack of segregation, garbage often mounts into massive piles along roads and in empty plots across the city. Critics argue that BBMP does not have the



capacity to handle the city’s waste itself or hire and manage outside contractors.9 In the place of a functioning municipal waste management system, an informal sector has developed, made up of over 30,000 informal waste pickers, who rummage through the city’s waste every day to salvage recyclable material from the unsegregated dumped garbage.10 Waste pickers – often women and children – usually rank lowest in the social stratum of informal urban occupations. Many are migrants, unskilled, illiterate, or part of the lowest caste hierarchy in India and are unable to find other employment opportunities.11 While the municipal waste collection system is supposed to collect the 4,000 tons of solid waste produced daily, it is estimated that informal workers collect up to 1,050 tons of recyclable material, more than a quarter of the city’s generated waste.12 India’s caste system plays a major role in the country’s waste management system.13 Handling waste has traditionally been bound to the lowest castes. This reinforces the low status and social stigma against those who are associated with the informal waste sector.14 One of the lowest ranked castes, Dalits, translating to “broken people,’’ have been

Figure 3: Many families suffer from intergenerational poverty because of lack of employment elsewhere.

historically discriminated against largely because of this work, making them highly vulnerable and affecting their upward mobility. In many instances, municipal governments have been slow in taking action towards improving the informal waste sector.15 This is one major factor that contributes to lack of integration of informal waste pickers into municipal waste management. This represents an opportunity for NGOs to mediate and organize informal waste workers and advocate on their behalf with municipal authorities. Waste pickers in Bangalore face a multitude of challenges on a daily basis. In many cases, there is little to no recognition of this workforce and the impact they have on the city and the environment.16 They face hazardous work conditions as they make their way through piles of garbage with no safety equipment, putting their health and safety at risk to earn their daily wage. They are extremely vulnerable as they have no job security and are routinely harassed by civic authorities because they lack identification or any form of work authorization. The issues of poor health, irregular work, poor income, and routine harassment are compounded by the waste picker’s position in the caste hierarchy. This puts them in an extremely vulnerable position, as many struggle to

find alternative work that may have higher wages and better conditions. As a result, many families of waste pickers experience intergenerational poverty.17 Despite the discrimination and harassment that waste pickers experience, their work is undeniably valuable to the city. They contribute to the city’s recycling efforts by collecting large bags of dry waste like paper and plastic that can be salvaged from garbage piles across the city and directly from households. Many also scavenge the city’s landfill to obtain recyclables. This waste is usually taken to scrap dealers, or “kabadiwalas,” many of whom operate on a small scale and buy waste from pickers. Other actors who play key roles in the informal waste economy are larger scrap dealers and those who recycle the collected material. These informal waste management services supplement the municipal waste services, filling the gap to provide much-needed recycling capacity.18 The new rules of 2016 and the Swachh Bharat Mission—a national campaign geared to improve the cleanliness of cities, towns, and rural areas—have recognized waste pickers as important stakeholders in a city’s waste management system. However, this has not resulted in significant changes to the lives of waste more than just trash


pickers in Bangalore. Authorities remain reluctant to tap into this existing workforce and most informal workers continue to work in the shadows. Bangalore could learn from Pune, a city of seven million people in western India, and its highly successful model of integration which leveraged the support of trade unions and worker cooperatives. The Pune Municipal Corporation, the local authority responsible for solid waste management in the city, has been known for its experimentation and innovation in to waste management.19 In 2008, it launched a pilot, in partnership with the Solid Waste Collection and Handling (SWaCH), a local workers cooperative, to deploy 1,500 informal workers to provide collection services for 125,000 households in select wards across the city.20 Under this program, the municipality does not pay workers directly; instead, users pay for the door-to-door collection. Waste pickers can supplement the collection income by selling scrap material to dealers. This model was steadily scaled up to cover almost the entire city and induced behavior changes to segregate waste at the source. Today, over 2,700 workers have been integrated into the formal system. Bangalore has attempted a similar approach, largely led by local NGOs. Hasirudala, which translates to “Green Force” is a membership-based organization that advocates on behalf of waste pickers and buyers. Hasirudala, along with other organizations, like the Alliance of Indian Wastepickers (AIW) has organized workers and pushed the city to integrate Bangalore’s waste pickers into the municipal waste management system. By 2012, their advocacy efforts had paid off. The BBMP agreed to register nearly to 5,000 waste pickers as municipal workers.21 By 2019, Hasirudala had helped 7,500 waste pickers obtain official photo identification cards, which allowed them to register with municipal authorities. This increased registration has not only improved the stability of income earned for the registered waste pickers and reduced their vulnerability but has also improved waste collection in many parts of the city. Even though Hasirudala has been successful in integrating many waste pickers in Bangalore, there are numerous challenges that remain. Bangalore must follow Pune’s lead by creating and operating more waste picker collectives and cooperatives to promote the integration of these workers into the city’s formal waste management system. 22



Successful integration of informal workers will require active participation from municipal authorities to tap into a resource of thousands of waste pickers. Their focus should be on formalizing this work, providing workers with social security such as health insurance, education, housing services. Furthermore, they should advocate for decentralization of the city’s waste management system to create more jobs and handle the city’s waste more efficiently and sustainably. Continuous efforts to spread awareness regarding waste nd at the source is essential for a well-managed waste collection system, which in turn can help prevent waste pickers from having to work in deplorable conditions, sorting through piles of disorganized garbage manually. The informal system has been in existence for a long time, and authorities need to acknowledge that formalizing their role in the system will improve waste management in Bangalore. Informal waste pickers contribute a great deal to the environmental health of cities since they are one of the main sources of waste segregation and recycling, which in turn gives cities the opportunities to recycle several thousands of tons of solid waste. They provide an invaluable resource recovery service to the city and deserve to be recognized for their work.

Shravanthi Kanekal is a second-year Master of City and Regional Planning student specializing in Land Use and Environmental Planning. Prior to studying at Penn, she worked as an architect in Mumbai and Bangalore. She hopes to leverage her experience as an architect and degree in city planning to help cities pursue environmentally-sustainable development and adapt to the effects of climate change. Shravanthi encourages you all to compost. She says it might just change your life.

WORKS & IMAGES CITED 1 Harris, Gardiner. “India’s Plague, Trash, Drowns Its Garden City During Strike.” The New York Times. The New York Times, October 26, 2012. 2 Gerdes, Peter and Gunsilius, Ellen. “The Waste Experts: Enabling Conditions for Informal Sector Integration in Solid Waste Management- Lessons learned from Brazil, Egypt and India.” Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH, March 2010. 3 Chaturvedi, Ashish; Vijayalakshmi, Koneru and Nijhawan, Saksham. “Scenarios of Waste and Resource Management: for Cities in India and Elsewhere”. Institute of Development Studies, UK. February 2015. handle/20.500.12413/5789/ER114_ScenariosofWasteandResourceManagementforCitiesinIndiaandElsewhere.pdf?sequence=1 4 “Census of India Website: Office of The Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India”. 2011. 5 “The World’s Cities in 2018—Data Booklet.” United Nations. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, 2018. the_worlds_cities_in_2018_data_booklet.pdf 6 Kumar, Chethan. “Bengaluru Chokes on Its Own Waste, Garbage Jumps 1,750% in 15 Years: Bengaluru News - Times of India.” The Times of India, November 12, 2017. https://timesofindia. 7 Ibid. 8 “Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016” Government of India, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, April, 2016. pdf/27c6b5e4-5265-4aee-bff6-451f28202cc8 9 Reporter, Staff. “Garbage Mountains on Bangalore Roads Set to Become Bigger.” The Hindu. The Hindu, June 24, 2016. https:// 10 Estimations by Hasirudala, a nonprofit organization in Bangalore. 11 “Improving Wastepickers’ Lives in Bengaluru - Hasirudala Innovations” Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WEIGO). WIEGO, October, 2016. https://www.wiego.

org/resources/improving-wastepickers-lives 12 Ibid. 13 Chandran, Pinky; Shekar, Nalini; Abubaker, Marwan and Yadav, Akshay. “Informal Waste Workers Contribution, Bangalore”. Hasirudala, August 2016. uploads/2016/08/1.-Full-Paper-Chandran-Informal-Waste-Workers-Contribution-in-Bangalore-1.pdf 14 Ibid. 15 Ibid. 16 Chengappa, Chaya. “Organizing Informal Waste Pickers. A Case Study of Bengaluru, India”. Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WEIGO), March 2013. https://www. 17 Ibid. 18 Chandran, Pinky; Shekar, Nalini; Abubaker, Marwan and Yadav, Akshay. “Informal Waste Workers Contribution, Bangalore”. Hasirudala, August 2016. uploads/2016/08/1.-Full-Paper-Chandran-Informal-Waste-Workers-Contribution-in-Bangalore-1.pdf 19 Gadgil, Ranjit and Menon, Sansriti. “Solid Waste Management in Pune: A Desired Future” Centre of Environment Education, September 2018. 20 SWaCH. 2019. “Solid Waste Collection and Handling”. https:// 21 Chengappa, Chaya. “Organizing Informal Waste Pickers. A Case Study of Bengaluru, India”. Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WEIGO), March 2013. https://www. 22 Ibid. Figure 1: Thippeswamy, Anup R. Photograph for Prajavani, Bangalore, 2017. Figure 2: H.G., Prashanth. Photograph for Prajavani, Bangalore, 2014. Figure 3: Ibid, 2017.

more than just trash


Figure 1: Planners will need to stand in solidarity with workers to bring about change.

THE WORK STARTS WITH US Planning for Organized Radical Change By Cade Underwood


here was a time when professional planners designed cities, orchestrated social policy, and wielded massive power in the U.S. While most planning students know the racist, classist legacy of these historic planners, they go into planning to wield the same power—this time for those who have been oppressed. Unfortunately, planners no longer have this power. Professional planners are currently in an acutely weak position to solve social problems. Planners’ tools are largely ineffective at dealing with structural problems: inequality, climate change, homelessness, and severe poverty. This results from a long history of systematic deregulation in the private market coupled with waning government funding for community development. Today, the real estate industry wields the greatest power over property, and the federal government is unwilling to meaningfully intervene. Moreover, the declining power of unions and other tertiary structures of power have left non-developers without bargaining power. As a result, professional planners do not, and will not, have the power to meaningfully address these structural problems alone. Planning schools continue to teach students that a new wave of “innovative” planners will make the difference. They will not— not alone, at least. There is no design panacea for inequality. There is no wonkish innovative tax solution for homelessness or poverty. The actual solutions to these problems are obvious: redistribute wealth, build permanently affordable public housing, enact

rent control standards, convert the mortgage interest deduction to a refundable credit, tax extreme wealth, among many others. It is equally obvious that the United States lacks the political will to enact these policy solutions. As planners, we have little power to bend political will, but we do have good intentions and valuable technical skills. Instead of continuing to serve real estate interests by leveraging public funding in the private market, we must act as a unified progressive force for equity and redistribution. Beyond that, we must figure out how to work as part of a larger collective action movement—because we sure as hell can’t do it alone. Plainly, trained city planners should actively plan organized radical change. We must start this process at our universities by demanding critical education and skills needed to organize and unionize our workplaces. After university, we must constantly confront our baseless assumptions, implement unionization, and organize larger movements of change. How can planners begin doing that within our professions? How can we connect with and strengthen larger collective movements? The U.S. economy, political system, criminal justice system, housing market, built environment, and natural environment work very poorly for most Americans. These systems actively oppress, commit violence, and limit opportunity for working people. Planning schools and planners are usually aware of THE WORK STARTS WITH US


these facts, but the solutions they teach and utilize are fraught with structural power imbalances. Our capitalist democracy, soaked in a history of intentional oppression, produces radically unequal outcomes based on class, race, gender, and sexuality. Therefore, planners should not treat everyone equally. Instead, planners must actively practice equity planning that prioritizes the needs of the most oppressed. For planning scholars Marisa Zapata and Lisa Bates, this means “a willingness to be an advocate, to develop

there are some small steps planners can take. First, planners should seek to implement inclusionary zoning in wealthy neighborhoods rather than poor, disinvested ones. Second, planners should advocate for aggressive rent control or rent stabilization efforts. Lastly, planners should promote efforts to decommodify land and housing—community land trusts being the most accessible example.3 This list is by no means exhaustive, but it provides paths for working planners to actively counterweight the real estate industry.

“[T]he white spatial imaginary idealizes ‘pure’ and homogeneous spaces, controlled environments, and predictable patterns of design and behavior. It seeks to hide social problems rather than solve them. The white spatial imaginary promotes the quest for individual escape rather than encouraging democratic deliberations about the social problems and contradictory social relations that affect us all.” relationships, and to learn about the topics that matter to communities of color.”1 However, planners must go further. We must also be aggressively redistributive and reparative in favor of oppressed communities. Planners must also directly contend with the “spatial imaginaries” of their work. Scholar George Lipsitz coined the seminal phrase “white spatial imaginary” to describe the ways in which white, imperial cultural values are imbedded into our society and built environment. He writes, “the white spatial imaginary idealizes ‘pure’ and homogeneous spaces, controlled environments, and predictable patterns of design and behavior. It seeks to hide social problems rather than solve them. The white spatial imaginary promotes the quest for individual escape rather than encouraging democratic deliberations about the social problems and contradictory social relations that affect us all.”2 The concept of a white spatial imaginary should also be applied to normative spatial imaginaries regarding class, gender, sexual orientation, and gender expression. Everything from public bathroom planning to suburban home design is a product of these spatial imaginaries. Therefore, planners must critically engage with class, race, gender, and sexuality theory like that of Dolores Hayden and Cathy Cohen in order to understand how we perpetuate them in our work. Only then can we actively dismantle these oppressive systems. Finally, planners must act as a counterweight to profit-driven real estate interests. In our current positions, we have little power to accomplish this, but



Despite these meaningful avenues, planners will ultimately have almost negligible power to make structural changes within the profession, and we will often risk our jobs by promoting radical change. To address these real challenges, planners must create or position ourselves within larger structures of organized power. Unionizing our workplaces is the first step, and the organizing that follows must seek to expand collective worker power on the side of labor. It is absolutely critical that planners organize so we can protect ourselves, learn from each other, and continue to create better theories of planning that will empower us to contribute to progressive change. While mainstream planning theory may posit well-intentioned planning principles, theory is almost entirely useless without the formation of organized systems of collective power that can fight for the goals of theory. Planners will not be able to create the systems alone, but they can be an important part of their creation and organization. Planning was once a powerful profession that almost unilaterally created and recreated space. Today we do not have that power. Considering the toxic legacy that planning has left, that is probably a good thing. However, if we wish to dismantle this legacy and meaningfully contribute to ending systems of oppression, we need a new strategy. We need to organize collectively within and outside our profession. We need to stand up for oppressed people and against profit. That work starts with us, now.

Cade Underwood is a dual degree student pursuing a Master of City and Regional Planning and a Juris Doctorate. If you like what he wrote and want to chat, you should take him out for a beer.

WORKS & IMAGES CITED 1 Marisa Zapata and Lisa Bates, Symposium: Equity Planning Revisited (Journal of Planning Education and Research, 2015), Page 247. 2 Charles Lipsitz, How Racism Takes Place (Temple University Press, 2011), Page 5. 3 Samuel Stein, Capital City: Gentrification and the Real Estate State (Verso, 2019), Chapter 5. Figure 1: Solidarity Mural - Terrence Faircloth.



Proposed mixed Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot community node in the Village of Pyla.

A section of a larger effort to reconnect the Old City through memory and a revitalized corridor.


orders are artificial constructs that enable groups to exert sovereignty over particular territories, providing a sense of cultural identity and stability, requiring states to comply with international accords and regulations. Additionally, power struggles, politics, religion, and identity are factors that play an important role in defining the interplay between nations and among regions within nations. Sometimes this interplay derives in seemingly endless conflicts as different groups compete over the same territories. In occasion, after periods of prolonged violence, the factions in conflict with the participation of the international community opt for establishing a territorial divide, fracturing the natural and constructed landscapes. Such artificial barriers or no-one’s land have been established in Berlin, Bosnia, Lebanon, India/Pakistan, the Koreas, and within Colombia, to name a few of these instances. Such is the case that has occurred on the island of Cyprus. The Buffer Zone has split the Mediterranean island of Cyprus in two for over 40 years. This currently uninhabited band is an area under the control of the United Nations, keeping apart the Greek Cypriots from the Turkish Cypriots, both groups with strong cultural identities, occupying a compact land with a rich ecology and history, presenting high standards of living and economic potential.



The Cyprus Studio: Landscapes of Reconciliation provided an interdisciplinary cohort of students, representing all five Weitzman School of Design departments the opportunity to work on complex territorial, urban, socio-economic, political, environmental, and cultural issues. The proposed projects all weaved interconnected natural, urban, and social systems across and through sections of the Buffer Zone to create new connections and paradigms for a future unified island. The studio delved into documenting conditions of the Buffer Zone, understanding theoretical frameworks for unification, and advancing planning and design proposals that addressed: • Environmental and habitat restoration, and enhancement


• Connectivity and mobility facilitating the flow of goods, people, and ideas • Enhanced and diversified economies that benefit all Cypriots • A culture of peace, collaboration, acceptance of identity, and cultural diversity This studio could not have been happened without the gracious support and assistance of faculty and students from the University of Cyprus and Girne American University.

The Cyprus Studio

Instructor: David Gouverneur Collaborator: Oscar Grauer Cypress Collaborators: Cynthia Anastasiou Socrates Stratis Anastasia Angelidou Melina Philippou Miriam Garcia Hossein Sadri Students: Mitchell Chisholm Sophia Clark Stephen Dillion William Herzog Ashna Jaiswal Anthony Jreije Nicole Leonard Julia Marchetti Emelyn Najera Cokie Nanka Francisco Ospina Camila Rivera Torres Yishan Shang Angelo Spagnolo Amanda Stevens Tobin Stuff Gustavo Vega Glenn Sonnie Wooden Jr. Farasha Zaman

Green armatures and new centralities were identified to protect newly- formed ecologies and manage urban growth.

Landscapes of Reconciliation


Landscapes of Reconciliation










Systems Planning & Placemaking in the Age of Extreme Weather






Instructor: Nando Micale Students: Emily Blanton Mary Eveleigh Claire Jaffe Joyce Liu Yeana Kwagh Natasha Tabachnikoff Denocencia Wade Ran Xin Yuyang Yin Yijing Zhang Holly Zhang Siyue Zhang



An extensive creek network threads its way into every neighborhood in Austin. These creeks can be a flood risk during heavy storms but can also be an important asset for a community. The inset maps show two areas where dangerous flood plains have been re-imagined as floodable parks that can manage water and serve as community gathering spaces.

Keep Austin Resilient

Planning Goals Placemaking & Placekeeping

Creating Wealth

Identifying community resources and assets, and enhancing through site activation, protection and preservation, as well as celebration and appreciation.

Wealth creation is multi-layered. Making physical and economic investments in a place, as well as enhancing intellectual capital, and promoting knowledge sharing.

Building Connectivity

Fostering Diversity

Connectivity has two major components: infrastructure, transit, and mobility, and social networks and interconnections among different groups of people.

Understanding the unique cultural assets, social needs, and housing preferences of individual groups. Encouraging inclusion as well as celebrating identity.


esidents of Austin, Texas, located in “flash flood alley,” are accustomed to dry landscapes and intermittent rising waters. Similar to other cities along inland waterways, Austin has long battled periodic inundation. However, the intensity and frequency of flooding events in Austin’s creeks are increasing as climate change impacts grow worse. Keep Austin Resilient sought to explore the watersheds and creeks in Austin as the backbone of the community and unearth how these natural features can be an asset instead of a liability, while tying and tie the Austin community and its future development together. Utilizing a systems planning approach, the studio investigated the interconnectedness of several Austin systems and discovered three cross-system pressures. Extreme weather: Water inundation and extreme heat and droughts in Austin are only predicted to get worse. This places stress on the city’s capacity and funding sources and exacerbates several of the other issues that Austin is dealing with.

roads have resulted in a significant east-west divide in the city. Decision-making at the city-scale has not been distributed equally across neighborhoods, creating inequities among populations. As population and job growth build wealth in certain areas, Austin needs to provide equitable benefits to all individuals. The studio created a set of city-wide policy proposals and neighborhood-level recommendations that take advantage of on Austin’s watersheds and creeks to address broader themes of resiliency, equity, and community. The two neighborhood areas selected, Williamson Creek and Tannehill Branch Creek, represent prototypes of transferable solutions that Austin can implement in other neighborhoods and areas around the city to address the pressures that the city is facing. Each neighborhood represents a unique combination of city-wide trends and neighborhoodspecific issues and the greatest opportunities for impact.

Rapid growth: A growing population places additional stress on key environmental resources, including a dwindling water supply and critical open space that can manage floodwaters and provide recreation opportunities. The pressures from population growth make it more critical than ever that Austin manages key resources and undeveloped land in a way that benefits all Austinites. East-west divide: Austin’s legacy of racial segregation and the development patterns of major Keep Austin Resilient


Figure 1: Social centers’ origins go back to the midseventies, a time when the extra-parliamentary left played an important part in Italian youth culture.

FRUITS OF CONQUEST Activist Design & Immigrant Politics in Italian Social Centers By Joshua Reaves


hough city planning has a focus on communities, the field tends to be more interested in broad concepts such as “walkability” and less concerned with organizing efforts and activism. While these varying viewpoints are frustrating, labor organizer Jane McAlevey argues that design and organizing are the same tools: “[b]oth are about imagining a better future.”1 Design work is so frequently private or government-client oriented, but there is a potential for more community work and collaboration within those dynamics. How can planners shift our focus to more communityled design? What does it mean for designers to also become organizers? DESIGN ACTIVISM Design activism is a burgeoning area of work for architects, planners, graphic designers, and others interested in the design field. This work is intended to bring the principles of design in alignment with community demands for justice. There is a marked history of marginalization in the field—in many cases, marginalized groups are designing the conditions of their own oppression. They are working to build their own futures, even as the forces of government and professional designers are often in opposition. An example of this is enslaved Wolofian farmers in Middleton Place, North Carolina. During the construction of a plantation, the fear of malaria kept white owners and their white workers away, leaving Wolof farmers to plan and construct much the rice cultivation areas in isolation.2 While the plantation

home itself was built in a European style, the design of the landscape was done almost entirely by slaves that Europeans stole from Senegal. These labor efforts have gone widely unrecognized, but the historic record shows the importance of Wolofian design of the sites of their enslavement.3 In the Good Design for a Bad World talk at a 2017 Dutch Design Week forum, architectural critic Rene Boer critiqued the history of design and professionals in the field, deeming many design-led responses to issues of oppression as “gimmicky.”4 Rather than resolving oppressive forces through new design, Boer argued for the removal of “the physical and nonphysical barriers that prevent refugees from travelling and integrating.”5 He challenged professionals instead to un-design any structures or systems that are actually making things worse for refugees. The built environment has a tremendous effect on those who live and work in those spaces—an effect that can be oppressive or liberating. Italy offers an example of the latter, highlighting how marginalized groups can fight for their rights, rather than reproduce exploitation. ITALY: A CASE STUDY Immigration has continued to grow in Italy consistently through the late 20th and 21st century. Today, there are over five million foreign nationals, comprising 8.2 percent of the country’s population.6 While this influx of immigration can be exciting for some, it produces anxiety for many. Recent political Fruits of conquest


Figure 2: The entrance to Genoa’s Zapata is covered in graffiti, street art, and event posters. Art found in these social centers is often grounded in the spirit of resistance and denouncement, embodying an urgent yearning for radical change.

successes of the populist far right and enduring Italian xenophobia point to general disillusion with immigration in the country.7 This disillusion has been sensationalized by the media and enforced by governmental policy. Recently, Italy’s former interior minister, Matteo Salvini, introduced one of the most restrictive immigration laws in the country’s history, vowing to deport 500,000 immigrants during his tenure. Salvini has recently been removed from office, and while he’s been replaced by a liberal immigration expert who wants progressive reform, Salvini’s political force is as potent as ever. ITALIAN SOCIAL CENTERS An important part of left-wing political network, self-managed social centers (centri sociali) play an important role in southern Italian protest culture. These social centers exist in many cities, often offering a variety of activities, determined by their local members’ affiliations. They tend to be squatted in by radical communists and anarchists, providing selforganized spaces for music, housing, protest activity, and other uses.8 Originally formed in the 1970s, these sites now have renewed struggles as immigrants move



through the country to find new homes.9 Social centers provide an opportunity for community organizing and community design, both which serve to imagine better futures. Forte Prenestino, a large social center in Rome, plays an important role in the local community: “It houses an exhibition gallery, practice rooms for bands, space for theatrical performances, a dark room, gymnasium, and cafe. Classes are held, there are regular film nights, courses on design and sculpture, and a documentation centre.”10 Outside of Rome, the Forte is known for a rap and reggae music label as well as Nessuna Dipendenza, journal documenting activities, political discussion, and debate.”11 Additionally, this center offers formal design courses. The unifying theme between these social centers is that they are horizontally designed—space is unprogrammed until the community that constitutes it decides what to do and where to do it. CAMPANIA, ITALY Another key case study in southern Italy is the region of Campania. Known mostly for its ancient ruins and dramatic coastline, the region has experienced a

Figure 3: Forte Prenestino is a large self-managed social center based in a squatted fort in Rome. Since its occupation in 1986, the center has been an important node of production of cultural and political events.

demographic shift due to immigration. Caserta, a city nested in the heart of Campania, has become home to many of the immigrants in the region because of its relative ease of living and prevalence of agricultural jobs.12 However, the demographic shift has sparked a lot of media coverage. Caserta has been a contested site for immigrants. High levels of immigration have led to dramatic battles between Nigerian-led gangs and the Italian mafia (Napolese Camorra).13 As immigrants face brutal exploitation from the Camorra and lack legal protections from the government, they have taken to their own to design protections for themselves. The Movement of Immigrants and Refugees in Caserta (MMRC), a coalition fighting for the rights of immigrants, is one such example of this process. MMRC has been entirely housed in Caserta’s ExCanapficio social center, a site that houses immigrants in Caserta and has the offices for the MMRC.14 It functions as a major social center for immigrants in the area. The space has been used to plan protests, hold concerts, and sell small immigrant handmade goods, all in one evening.15 Many immigrants echoed similar sentiments during interviews, explaining that

“the social center is like a family,” and it is one of the “few places where they’re going to listen to your problems.”16 Such events organized in Ex-Canapificio allow interactions between immigrants and locals rarely seen in other places of the Campanian Plain.17 These events flow together through the intentional planning and programming of space for immigrants— the critical foundation for activist design. Ex-Canipficio is also a space for collaborative art. Organizers at the social center have released various designs: protest material, signs, collaborative paintings of the social center, and even decorative totes displaying their logo can be seen across the center. Joyous concerts host immigrant musicians; the space itself has helped found a music group called “Kalifoo Grounds.” The group’s name is a reference to the exploitative work process by which African immigrants are selected for day labor.18 This collaborative creation is performed alongside activist work and legal assistance for immigrants—the artistic work supports activism, and activism supports art.19 Design has played a notable role in transforming the social center from an isolated building into a vibrant space for both activism and community Fruits of conquest


struggle. Community ownership of the space and the activities within connect to the message of the organization: a rallying call for immigrant and local collaboration. It reads: “Social justice is not a ‘miracle,’ but rather, the fruit of conquest.”20 The practice of organizing is equally the practice of designing; both are a creative process meant to build a better world. CONCLUSION These social centers provide a unique lens through which one can view interlocking struggles of community development and activism. It is often through the built environment that people respond to the world around them, and participating in the process of changing that environment fosters a sense of ownership and empowerment. Rather than continuing forces of marginalization, exploitation, and oppression, design activism and community-led design can open one’s eyes to new horizons of possibilities. Design can be a transformative tool to the lives of non-professional designers, allowing them to engage with new ideas, concepts, and ways of being in fresh and critical ways. This directly overlaps with the world of organizing—challenging those who are marginalized to think about how they can improve their own world and create new narratives. In the case of immigrants in Italy, community design and activism have developed cohesively in the Forte Prenestino and Caserta social centers, bringing communities closer together by creating a familial connection. Italian social centers are a true example of community-led design, providing a lesson for designers in how to help remove physical and non-physical barriers and un-design any structures or systems of oppression. Achieving a better world through design and organizing is not impossible, but rather a fruit of conquest.



Joshua Reaves is pursuing a Master’s in City and Regional Planning with a concentration in Community & Economic Development. He has an acute interest in community-led planning efforts. Besides design activism, Joshua likes piña coladas and getting caught in the rain.

WORKS & IMAGES CITED 1 Jane Mcalevey, personal communication, (2019) 2 Kofi Boone, “Black Landscapes Matter,” GroundUp Journal, (n.d.), retrieved from 3 Ibid. 4 Marcus Fairs, “Don’t Design Another Shelter,” Dezeen, (2017), retrieved from 5 Ibid. 6 Stastiche Demografiche, (2019), retrieved from http://demo.istat. it/str2014/index.html 7Alexander Stille, “How Mattero Salvini Pulled Italy to the Far Right,” The Guardian, (2019), retrieved from https://www. 8Gianni Piazza “Squatting Social Centres in a Sicilian City: Liberated Spaces and Urban Protest Actors,” GroundUp Journal, (2016), retrieved from anti.12286 9 Ibid. 10Martinh, “In The Shell of the Old,” Libcom, (2006), retrieved from 11Martinh, “In The Shell of the Old,” Libcom, (2006), retrieved from 12 Catarina Martins, “Italy’s migrants teach themselves to stand up for themselves,” The Christian Science Monitor, (2018), retrieved from 13 14Ibid. 15“CSA Ex Canapificio Caserta,”, (2019), retrieved from

ta-527886284018191/ 16 Interviews 17Romain Filhol, “Social Centers in Southern Italy: TheCaserta Ex-Canapificio BetweenIllegality, Migration, and Rurality,” Antipode, (2018), retrieved from epdf/10.1111/anti.12285 p 538 18 html 19 Ibid. 20 “Contro tutto questo noi diamo il nostro impegno sociale e volontario, nella convinzione che la giustizia sociale non è un regalo o un “miracolo”, ma l’oggetto di una conquista, il frutto della risposta di ciascuno alle ingiustizie che accadono sia dall’altra parte del mondo che sotto casa nostra.” Sito_CSA/Homepage.html Figure 1: Photo by SIG SG 510. Wikimedia Commons. April 2018. Figure 2: Photo by SIG SG 510. Wikimedia Commons. April 2018. Figure 3: Photo by Javier García Alfaro. Wikimedia Commons. June 2008.

Fruits of conquest


Figure 1: Information collected by community health workers is critical to health networks in the Global South, yet manual records are cumbersome to manage and leave huge amounts of data underutilized.

MACHINE LEARNING IN THE GLOBAL SOUTH A Proposal for Public Investment By Tyler Bradford


ecently, media reports about machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) have cultivated a depiction of these technologies as opaque panacea for a myriad of governance and planning problems. Though often conflated, the two technologies are distinct: AI represents more broadly the science of making machines intelligent, and ML describes the programmatic methods used to train computers to act without explicit direction.1 While these technologies’ applications have largely been focused in the developed world, there is an emerging body of work identifying promising applications for ML in the Global South, a deliberately ambiguous term2 used here generally to refer to low- and middle-income countries of interest to international development institutions. Two proposals for the Global South argue that official development assistance institutions, such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), must prioritize investments in ML technologies through the targeted collection of training data in order to accelerate progress towards the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A contextualizing examiniation of the SDGs, will be followed by an explanation of the two programs: first, optimizing agricultural pest and disease management through image labelling ML algorithms, and second, the digitization of medical records through natural language processing. Finally, it will include evaluation of the feasibility of specific USAID initiatives as potential partner implementers for the projects and provide motivating context to argue for their accelerated adoption.

CATALYZING PROGRESS ON THE SDGS WITH DATA In September 2015, the United Nations and its 192 member states adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, a set of ambitious development targets that address a range of issues including food security and global health. Given the ambition of the targets and the call to unify the world’s population under a common set of goals, it is perhaps not surprising that four years after their adoption, while some countries have posted promising progress toward 2030 targets, many countries’ progress has lagged or even reversed.3 Countries in the Global South have faced particularly difficult challenges to achieving the SDGs, and as of the 2019 SDG Progress Report, these countries have relatively low SDG index scores.4 Technology-enabled solutions have been promoted by influential multilateral institutors, such as the World Economic Forum, as desperatelyneeded catalysts for global progress on the SDGs.5 Despite an established and growing body of critical literature highlighting the risks of bias data in ML model development,6 ,7 there is a lagging conversation about the dearth of reliable training data from Global South contexts. Reports by state development institutions, such as USAID, have even highlighted the risks of underrepresentation in training data and have suggested addressing this gap by accounting for bias within ML models.8 Such solutions will not achieve optimal outcomes in the Global South, however, because model adjustments alone cannot MACHINE LEARNING IN THE GLOBAL SOUTH


Figure 2: The huge amount of hand-written medical records that comprise health systems in the Global South pose a challenge for stakeholders seeking to leverage health data.

account for biased training data. Effective and equitable applications of ML technologies to improve development outcomes in the Global South must include a focused investment plan for collecting local training data. The SDGs will serve as a framework for this proposal, as they are the internationally approved development standards. Although there is an abundance of promising ML applications in the Global South, the proposals here are aligned with the development framework that international governments have adopted in an effort to emphasize public sector investment. Moreover, the most effective applications of technology in governance are those that work within established planning frameworks—in the case of global development, the SDGs. The first focus area is agriculture, which aligns with the second SDG of zero hunger. Agriculture employs over half of the labor force in sub-Saharan Africa, a major region of the Global South.9 The second focus area is health, which aligns with the third SDG of good health and wellbeing. There is established precedent for publicly funded health data collection in the Global South—the Demographic Health Survey.



PROPOSAL 1: MACHINE LEARNING ALGORITHMS FOR PEST AND DISEASE CONTROL Pests and disease are substantial challenges for farmers around the world, with almost half of the crop yield from the Global South lost to pests every year.10 Despite well-established and effective technologies, adoption of pest and disease management techniques in the Global South has remained low.11 Simultaneously, the misuse and overuse of pesticides poses significant threats to the environment and the health of exposed populations, primarily subsistence farmers.12 As Global South populations continue to boom and continue to strain food access and environmental resources, increased precision in pest and disease management is critical to meeting the economic and food security needs of these populations in ways that respect the environment and health of populations proximate to agriculture production. The promise of ML for pest and disease management in the Global South lies in the power of ML algorithms to accurately identify crop issues across a variety of contexts. A German startup, PEAT, has proposed a solution to this challenge with a mobile

Figure 3: Countries in the Global South, such as Madagascar, currently lack investment in emerging machine learning technologies that can propel international development and planning through the 21st century.

application, Plantix,13 an ML-powered app that leverages image recognition technology to identify pests and plant diseases for farmers in the Global South. As of 2017, the app boasted 200,000 users in India, Brazil, and North Africa who use the service to process 5,000 images a day and identify 400 diseases or pests.14 While the company also offers a community forum that allows users to add to the knowledge base through crowdsourced diagnoses, a lack of dedicated training data collection poses a risk to the quality and scalability of this project. Leveraging the full potential of image recognition algorithms to empower farmers to manage their crops more effectively requires a concerted investment in documenting the wide variety of pests and diseases that plague the crops of the Global South. Programs that avoid this necessary investment will deliver partially relevant solutions with limited success by attempting to transfer the experience of other geographies’ agricultures to different environments. Collecting training data for crop pests and diseases across contexts would require recruiting and employing hundreds or thousands of local farmers with verified knowledge of the local agricultural system. Thus, the extensive documentation of their training data is not only a critical step towards creating scalable

technologies for improving agricultural output, but also has tremendous economic development potential. The implementation of such a program should leverage the existing priorities of official development institutions (ODA) and maximize resources allocated under ODA budgets. Partnering with an ODA organization ensures that project development will be aligned with existing ODA priorities, while pressuring ODA organizations, such as USAID, to expand existing approaches to ensure that representative and generalizable data are documented that enable the delivery of context-specific solutions. PROPOSAL 2: NATURAL LANGUAGE PROCESSING FOR THE DIGITIZATION OF MEDICAL RECORDS Within global health, adoption of electronic medical records (EMR) in the Global South is extremely low, depriving large populations of the vast benefits of EMR, including reduced medical errors, reduced medical costs, and more effective care coordination.15 Expensive proprietary services for EMR have posed significant barriers and prevented even the best functioning healthcare networks in the Global South from reaping EMR’s potential benefits.16 Furthermore, the lack of EMR in Global South contexts MACHINE LEARNING IN THE GLOBAL SOUTH


is a significant barrier to rigorous evaluation of medical programs, interventions, and their outcomes.17 Transitioning immense quantities of medical records and the valuable information they contain will require more than the current approach of piecemeal, donorfunded initiatives, instead necessitating substantive investment prioritization from ODA institutions. Such an investment paves the way for resilient health systems across the Global South, accelerating their ability to achieve the targets of SDG 3 of ensuring the health and well-being of people of all ages. Converting handwritten documents into usable medical information requires a two-part solution of applying image recognition software to documents scans and then processing the resulting text into interpretable information. There are substantial efforts ongoing to optimize handwriting image recognition technology,18 so instead this proposal will focus on natural language processing (NLP), an ML solution that analyzes text to draw usable insights as a method to address the interpretability of the processed text. The widespread adoption of EMR in the developed world and its significant associated cost savings for medical providers has incentivized significant market interest in the development of such technologies. For example, Amazon Comprehend Medical is an NLP service that processes medical text and extracts important information such as medical conditions, medication types and dosages, and affected anatomy.19 Such technologies, developed primarily in developed country settings, show extremely promising potential for applications in the Global South. However, the vast differences between the healthcare landscape in the developed world and the Global South raise significant concerns about the training data powering such technologies. For instance, global health experts have noted that the patient risk profile for type II diabetes in the Global South is notably different from a patient in Europe or the United States.20 For medical records processing technologies to be successfully deployed in the Global South, locally appropriate diagnostic information must be incorporated into these technologies to reflect the established medical best practices of the local context. Technological solutions that conflict with medical best practices by applying experiences and processes from different geographic and health contexts will only serve to undermine progress towards overarching health goals. Finding a partner initiative will be critical to this proposal, especially given the challenge of deploying process improvements for national healthcare systems. Fortunately, strong precedent exists for international



collaboration on health data collection in the Global South. Since 1984, USAID has led the Demographic Health Survey (DHS) to collect nationally representative health data on topics including: HIV/ AIDS, family planning, and malaria, among many others. Strategically aligning this proposal with existing work under the DHS and its associated survey initiatives could provide mutual benefits, leveraging the existing healthcare sector relationships of DHS programming, while using digitized medical records to help USAID achieve its stated DHS mission of “monitor[ing] trends across health program areas [to] set priorities for funding, interventions and policy changes.�21 Furthermore, by partnering with DHS, this proposal can prioritize developing the NLP technologies that align with DHS’s existing healthcare objectives and maximize impact for patient-focused healthcare development goals. CONCLUSION The achievement of near international unanimity on global development objectives through the SDGs is remarkable, yet progress towards the targets has been slow. At the same time, a burgeoning volume of use cases for ML technologies in the Global South settings has energized development officials, offering innovative ways to tackle large-scale systemic challenges. Two important areas of international development - agriculture and health - hold real promise for the deployment of ML technologies as substantive accelerants to respective SDGs. Yet truly successful ML technologies must be powered by context-specific training data in order to create generalizable tools and services for entire populations. Official development institutions such as USAID must take initiative to fund primary data collection in targeted contexts that will power ML technologies, otherwise the promise of ML for development will never be fully realized.

Tyler Bradford is a first-year student in the Master of City and Regional Planning program. Tyler is new to Philadelphia but loving every minute of getting to know the city. Prior to Penn, Tyler attended Dartmouth College, served in the Peace Corps in Madagascar, and worked for a bikeshare company in New York City. When he’s not planning, Tyler enjoys travel, urban parks, and trying out new recipes.

WORKS & IMAGES CITED 1 Bell, Lee. “Machine Learning versus AI: What’s the Difference?” WIRED. WIRED UK, December 1, 2016. 2 Schneider, Nina. “Between Promise and Skepticism: The Global South and Our Role as Engaged Intellectuals.” The Global South 11, no. 2 (2017): 18-38. https:// 3 United Nations. The Sustainable Development Goals Report, 2019. New York: United Nations, 2019. 4 Ibid. 5 Herweijer, Celine and Waughray, Dominic Kailash Nath. “How technology can fast-track the global goals.” World Economic Forum, September 24, 2019. 6 Broussard, Meredith. “Machine Learning: the DL on ML.” In Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2018. 7 Green, B. “The Just City: Machine Learning’s Social and Political Foundations.” In The Smart Enough City: Putting Technology in Its Place to Reclaim Our Urban Future. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2019. 8 Paul, Amy; Jolley, Craig; and Anthony, Aubra. Reflecting the Past, Shaping the Future: Making AI Work for International Development. Washington DC: USAID, 2019, 78. AI-ML-in-Development.pdf. 9 OECD/FAO. “Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa: Prospects and challenges for the next decade.” In OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2016-2025. OECD Publishing: Paris, 2016. 10 National Institute of Food and Agriculture. “Global scientists meet for integrated pest management idea sharing.” United States Department of Agriculture, April 14, 2015. 11 Parsa, Soroush et al. “Obstacles to integrated pest management adoption in developing countries.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. February 24, 2014. doi:10.1073/pnas.1312693111 12 Mahmoud, Barakat. “The Catastrophic Impacts of Pesticides in Developing

Countries.” In Food for Thought. Feed the Future: May 26, 2017. https://www. 13 Plantix. 14 Schiller, Ben. “Machine Learning Helps Small Farmers Identify Plant Pests And Diseases” Fast Company. September 21, 2017. https://www.fastcompany. com/40468146/machine-learning-helps-small-farmers-identify-plant-pestsand-diseases 15 Odekunle, F., Odekunle, R, and Shankar, S. “Why sub-Saharan Africa lags in electronic health record adoption and possible strategies to increase its adoption in this region.” In International Journal of Health Sciences. October, 2017. https:// 16 Syzdykova, A. et al. “Open-Source Electronic Health Record Systems for Low-Resource Settings: Systematic Review.” In JMIR Medical Informatics. November 13, 2017. 17 Kruse, C. “The use of Electronic Health Records to Support Population Health: A Systematic Review of the Literature” In Journal of Medical Systems. September 29, 2018. 18 Mor, S., et al. “Handwritten Text Recognition with Deep Learning and Android” In International Journal of Engineering and Advanced Technology. February, 2019. C11730283S19.pdf. 19 Simon, Julien. “Amazon Comprehend Medical – Natural Language Processing for Healthcare Customers.” Amazon Web Service Blog. November 27, 2018. “ 20 BBC Sounds. “Will AI Kill Development?” In The Documentary. April 6, 2019. 21 Demographic Health Survey. Figure 1: Tyler Bradford Figure 2: David Snider, USAID. Figure 3: Tyler Bradford



Commutes across Dom LuĂ­s I Bridge | Porto, Portugal


by Rohan Lewis


Figure 1: MARTA Tunnel under construction in Atlanta.

FUNDING PUBLIC TRANSIT EXPANSION Supplemental Local Sales Taxes: Evidence from Atlanta & Seattle By Luke Hassall


inancing major public transit projects has proven a persistent challenge for American cities and regions. Public transit projects are often large in scale, require significant capital expenditure, and have substantial operating and maintenance costs.1 Nevertheless, cities have continued to seek public transit expansion, driven by a desire for economic development, equity, and modal options. As traffic has overwhelmed many cities, some have also looked to transit as a solution to ever-escalating congestion.2 However, securing financing for transit remains precarious. While federal support has increased, it is well under the 90 percent contribution the federal government provided for highway construction in the mid-20th century. Driven in part by transit’s low national mode-share, generating political will for transit projects can be difficult – particularly in states with large rural populations.3 Poor joint development practices, low fares, and the ongoing heavy subsidization of highways in many regions are just a few additional challenges facing transit financing. Supplemental local sales taxes help to address these challenges as they are applied over a broad base and can generate substantial revenues even at a low rate.4 When approved by voters as a ballot initiative, they can help address transit’s political support problem. While it may be challenging to get the tax approved, if successful they have a tangible political legitimacy based on ballot success. They also primarily raise revenue from the area that the transit system will serve and benefit, limiting the scope for

rural politicians to object. Transportation financing theory holds that since the benefits to transportation investments are largely private, they should be paid for by those who benefit.5 However, the local sales tax does have several troubling features as a funding mechanism for transit. Much of it will be paid by those who will not ultimately ride transit. Further, while disconnecting transit funding from state governments may smooth political challenges, it does limit regional economic integration. Wachs sees the decline of direct user fees and the reduction in the role of state governments as the key challenges in contemporary transportation funding.6 Two major case examples of transit systems that were funded primarily through local sales taxes: Seattle’s Sound Transit and Atlanta’s MARTA. These cases were selected due to several key similarities and contrasts: • Age: These case studies focus on the creation and extension of modern public transportation systems, avoiding the complex legacy capital needs of older systems in the Northeast and Midwest. • Scale: Rather than focusing on individual corridors, these projects reject the contention that only incremental changes to the transportation system are possible, instead seeking to deliver transformational changes in large metropolitan areas.7 Funding Public Transit Expansion


Figure 2: MARTA College Park station.

• Region: Demographically, the post-war period has been marked in large part by the rapid growth of the South and the Pacific Coast. These cases present examples from each. • Technology: Each case primarily involves the utilization of a different underlying technology. MARTA, constructed starting in the 1970s, uses modern heavy rail. Sound Transit, constructed starting in the 1990s, uses light rail. • Ballot Approval Rules: There is significant variation between the cases in how ballot approval was structured, with important impacts on implementation and planning. • Outcomes: There is also significant variation in outcomes, with the different projects delivering varying levels of ridership and impacts on median travel behavior. CASE I: THE METROPOLITAN ATLANTA RAPID TRANSIT AUTHORITY (MARTA) NEW TRANSIT FOR THE NEW ATLANTA Starting in the 1960s, Atlanta sought to reinvent itself as a global city, with transit plans playing a major



part. Atlanta had long leveraged the southeast as its hinterland, but increasingly sought to be a major national and international city as well. During this period, Atlanta attracted Fortune 500 companies, built a large new convention center, and rebuilt its airport.8 A new rail transit system was envisaged as part of Atlanta’s reinvention. In 1965, the State of Georgia authorized the creation of MARTA, although it did not allocate funding for it.9 Attempts to build the system were complicated by the city’s troubled race relations. A 1968 funding ballot measure in Fulton and Dekalb counties10 failed in large part because Black residents resisted a plan that proposed disproportionate service to white areas.11 THE 1971 PLAN Local leaders launched a second ballot initiative in 1971. A new plan more equitably served Black neighborhoods, leveraged $800 million in federal funding, and expanded the planned coverage area to include Clayton and Gwinnett counties.12,13 The ballot initiative was conducted on a jurisdiction-byjurisdiction basis, with Fulton and Dekalb counties voting in favor. Clayton and Gwinnett counties voted against the measure and were removed from the plan.

Figure 3 : MARTA N3 station.

The initiative was primarily focused on building a heavy rail system, including major radial routes.14 The system would eventually reach 48 miles in length and include 38 stations.15 MARTA overwhelmingly relied on supplemental local sales taxes to fund its system. The tax rate, originally planned at 0.75 percent, was paired with federal funding and a 10 percent state contribution.16 Together this was considered enough to fund the planned system. However, the State soon announced it could not afford to meet its planned contributions but approved altering the ballot initiative to set a proposed tax rate of one percent . MORE MARTA AND ADDITIONAL COUNTIES The existing funding framework remained in place for four decades, then in 2014 Clayton County voted to reverse that decision. Seventy-four percent of the county’s residents voted to approve the sales tax.17 This provided the first opportunity for major expansion of MARTA’s system after the last heavy rail expansion in 2000.18 MARTA launched bus service in the county in 2015, and began studying the best way to introduce other transit modes. In 2018, a commuter rail line connecting Clayton County to MARTA’s existing heavy

rail system was announced with service expected to launch in 2027.19 A bus rapid transit (BRT) route through a portion of the county was also approved. Like the 1971 initiative, the expansion to Clayton County was funded by combining the supplemental sales tax with federal funding. The City of Atlanta also sought to expand transit within its own borders. In 2016, city residents voted to approve the More MARTA plan, including an additional 0.25 percent sales tax. The tax was expected to generate $2.7 billion in revenue over 40 years for major capital investments within the city. Although no additional heavy rail track was planned, additional stations would be added to the existing lines, as well as a new light rail system and BRT routes.20 A key component was expanding transit to the Beltline, a circumferential former freight rail line that provided the opportunity to connect key destinations not currently on MARTA’s system. However, the financing for the expansion was unclear since MARTA estimated that the sales tax would provide only a quarter of $11.5 billion needed to build all of the proposed projects.21 A third potential MARTA expansion failed in 2019, as Gwinnett County voted against approving the one percent sales tax and joining the system. In Funding Public Transit Expansion


a county with over 900,000 residents, just 92,000 participated in the vote, with 54 percent voting against MARTA expansion.22 The county had already signed a contract with MARTA, with the vote intended to serve as a confirmation of that decision. Following the electoral defeat, plans to expand heavy rail service to Gwinnett County were shelved. FINANCING VEHICLE CHALLENGES The structure of the local sales tax has produced several issues for MARTA. Particularly the sensitivity of sales taxes to the business cycle became a major concern in 2009, when in the midst of the Great Recession, MARTA faced substantial deficits on the back of lower than expected tax revenues.23 These difficulties forced MARTA to cut bus routes and reduce service on its rail lines.

alone.27 Additionally, with the service still not yet fully expanded within the region’s four core counties, let alone its more distant reaches, it seemed unlikely to be able to shift the auto-centric nature of Atlanta.28 CASE II: SOUND TRANSIT SEATTLE’S ROAD TO RAIL As the region experienced rapid growth in the post-war period, Seattle turned its attention towards making significant transit investments. King County, examined building a light rail system in the 1960s, with partial federal funding earmarked for the project. However, voters rejected ballot initiatives authorizing bond issuances for the project twice, in 1968 and 1970.29 The earmarked federal funds were ultimately reallocated to the development of Sound

“...[T]he sensitivity of sales taxes to the business cycle became a major concern in ‘09...MARTA faced substantial defects on the back of lower than expected tax revenues.”

MARTA has also faced financial difficulties related to its relationship with the State of Georgia. Under the original 1971 legislation, MARTA was required to split the proceeds of its sales tax revenue evenly between capital and operating expenses.24 After heavy rail construction ended at the turn of the century, MARTA’s statutory inability to shift money to its strapped operating budget became a challenge. MARTA secured a temporary modification from the state to shift its tax revenue spending ratio to 45 percent capital and 55 percent operating in 2002, but this lapsed in 2005. Finally, in 2015 the state legislature voted to abolish the required split and allow MARTA to determine its allocation of sales tax revenues. PROJECT OUTCOMES It was debatable to what degree MARTA had developed a successful transit system for the Atlanta region. MARTA had successfully built 48 miles of heavy rail over two counties, with an average weekday ridership of 215,600.25 The system exhibited strong intermodal connectivity with MARTA’s bus system, and provided access to major regional destinations such as the Atlanta Airport.26 It is now preparing to launch major expansions to Clayton County and throughout the City of Atlanta. However, the system had also seen decreasing ridership, falling by 2.6 percent in 2017



Transit. Interest in a light rail system continued, with the regional Puget Sound Council of Governments launching a study on the subject in 1981.30 SOUND MOVE In 1996, frustrated by mounting congestion and hoping to realize economic and environmental benefits, the region approved the Sound Move ballot measure. Sound Move identified a set of capitalintensive transit projects and authorized a package of financing mechanisms to fund them. There were three main components of the project: • Regional express bus service to complement existing county-level bus service.31 • A new commuter rail system32 , leveraging existing track, connecting Everett in the north, through Seattle, and south to Tacoma.33 • A light rail system34 in the core of the region, with 25 miles of tracks, overhead wires, and dedicated right of way, as well as 26 stations.35 The measure created a new entity, Sound Transit, to coordinate and operate transit within the region. It created a regional service area covering the most developed parts of King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties. The regional service area was divided into five sub-areas for financial and operational planning.

Figure 4: Seattle Link Light Rail.

Sound Move combined a variety of sources to fund its estimated $4 billion of projects. The four main components were a local sales tax of 0.4 percent, a vehicle registration tax, a bond issuance, and anticipated federal funding.36 Sound Move did not anticipate any state funding. The sales and vehicle registration taxes were expected to provide approximately half of the funding for the program, bonds funded a third, and federal funding the remainder. Although the entire coverage area was treated as a whole for passing the ballot initiative, the plan mandated each sub-area should receive benefits proportional to their local funding contribution.37 Finally, the local tax elements were designed to phase out once the capital investments had been completed. SOUND TRANSIT 2 In 2008, with rapid population growth continuing in the region and light rail about to open between downtown Seattle and Sea-Tac Airport, the region passed a new ballot initiative, Sound Transit 2. The vote followed the 2007 defeat of a different measure, which had combined transit improvements with a major highway building package.38 Although the package proposed increased service levels on the existing bus and commuter rail routes, the main focus

was on light rail. Sound Transit 2 proposed 36 miles of major expansions of the Link system to the north, south, and east, all of which were expected to be completed by 2023.39 This included complex and costly plans to expand Link across Lake Washington. The project was considered significantly more ambitious than Sound Move and had a significantly higher price tag -- $17.8 billion, two thirds of it for Link light rail.40 The funding mechanisms for Sound Transit 2 paralleled Sound Move’s. Indeed, Sound Transit 2 would benefit from some surplus revenues from the earlier measure and extending the time horizon of its taxes. Sound Transit 2 also aimed to issue another $6 billion in bonds, approximately one third of the total costs of the program.41 The largest funding element for the program was a further supplemental sales tax, of 0.5 percent, expected to raise $8 billion during its construction. SOUND TRANSIT 3 In 2016, Seattle’s transit plans were expanded a third time, with the approval of Sound Transit 3. The plan aimed to double the size of the Link system, adding another 62 miles and creating a comprehensive light rail network in the region.42 The program would Funding Public Transit Expansion


Figure 5: Seattle Sounder Commuter Train.

be implemented over a long timeframe, with new service launching regularly through 2041. In addition to expanded light rail, Sound Transit 3 also authorized higher service levels on the express bus routes, new and enhanced stations for the Sounder commuter rail, and new highway BRT corridors. Unsurprisingly, Sound Transit 3 came with a much larger price tag than its predecessors: $53.85 billion. Sound Transit 3 largely followed the same funding formula as its predecessors. The program would leverage extensions to the local sales and vehicle license taxes instituted in Sound Move and Sound Transit 2.43 New supplemental sales and vehicle license taxes would be added to the existing ones, with the sales tax rising another half percent.44 Together, these taxes were expected to raise $27.7 billion over the program period, or over half the financing necessary. Federal funding support and new bond issuances were expected to make up the bulk of the remaining funding. FINANCING VEHICLE CHALLENGES Although the diverse set of funding sources utilized for the project might have been expected to provide resiliency to transit financing, the system has endured several major financial difficulties.



Sensitivity to the business cycle was a substantial challenge for the sales tax revenue. The Great Recession had a major impact on Sound Transit’s finances particularly as Sound Transit 2’s financial planning had preceded the 2008 crash.45 This resulted in an expected $3.9 billion budget gap over a 15-year period, forcing Sound Transit to rescope some of its projects. The vehicle license taxes proved to be politically contentious and subject to threats of revision. Although they had been approved by ballot initiative, Washington state politicians had repeatedly suggested changes to the vehicle license tax system that would significantly impact Sound Transit. In 2019, Initiative 976 aimed to cap total vehicle license fees, a move that would reduce transit funding by as much as $7 billion if no alternative funding was made available.46 Finally, transit expansion in Seattle was impacted by the changing priorities of the federal government. All three ballot initiatives had assumed significant federal contributions to their projects. These assumptions proved relatively sound in the initial years of Sound Transit. However, following the 2016 election, changes in the federal government’s transportation priorities threatened transit projects.47

Figures 6, 7: Current MARTA map (left) and Sound Transit map (right)

PROJECT OUTCOMES The three ballot measures had largely created a successful public transit system, exhibiting strong levels of ridership. In 2017, the number of passenger trips by transit in the Seattle region reached 152 million, and Seattle was one of just four metropolitan areas to see growth in transit ridership that year.48 The performance of the Link system was particularly strong, especially once the expansion to the university district was opened.49 The system had also made significant steps towards transforming the transportation patterns of the Seattle region, particularly in the urban core. By 2017, transit riders made up 50 percent of all workers commuting into downtown Seattle and drivers of private vehicles had declined to just 25 percent,50 although performance in reaching non-downtown destinations was less impressive. COMPARISON AND DISCUSSION KEY DIFFERENCES The specifics of MARTA and Sound Transit’s geographic structures are a key difference between the systems. While both systems covered multiple counties, they treated those counties differently in their authorizing ballot measures. MARTA offered

each county the opportunity to individually opt-in based on their own voters. Sound Transit, however, treated the service and tax region as a whole and did not allow sub-areas to opt-out. As such, Sound Transit 3 was approved for the full area, even though Pierce County voters rejected the measure. This was further complicated by the fact that MARTA included whole counties, combining areas conducive to transit with those unlikely to benefit from it. By contrast, Sound Transit included only the core developed zones. MARTA has been regularly focused on securing those approvals to expand their system. Sound Transit, however, was established with full coverage of the core developed regions of the Seattle metropolitan area. Although each successive ballot initiative and plan laid out criteria for potentially annexations to the service area, this has not been a priority for Sound Transit. The underlying technology utilized in the two cases also differs. MARTA was established in the 1970s as one of the last heavy rail systems to be constructed in the United Stated, whereas Sound Transit operates primarily through the Link light rail system. The latter reflects both the rapidly escalating costs of heavy rail construction in North America, but also the desire for Funding Public Transit Expansion


increased flexibility in how the system was expanded, since the electrified third rail of heavy rail systems restrict where their right-of-way can be placed. The role of additional funding sources was a significant difference between the case studies. Sound Transit paired its supplementary local sales tax and federal grants with several additional key financing vehicles, particularly bond financing and a vehicle license tax. By contrast, local sales tax revenue and federal grants were the overwhelming sources of financing for MARTA. The impact of Sound Transit’s additional funding sources is unclear. They have reduced Sound Transit’s exposure to the business cycle, but also increased exposure to political interference. Finally, levels of success between the cases varies. By some metrics MARTA remains the higher performer, with its heavy rail system carrying 4,529 passengers per mile, compared to Link light rail’s 3,245.51 However the comparison is rendered difficult by the in-progress nature of Link’s current system. Further, Sound Transit has helped Seattle shift significant mode share from private vehicles to transit, particularly in the urban core. MARTA has not been as successful in challenging the auto-centric nature of the Atlanta region. Weekday transit trips in Seattle were 152 per 1,000 residents, compared to 27 in Atlanta.52 CONCLUSION Considering the experiences of Sound Transit and MARTA, several key design features can be identified to aid a successful transit capital program leveraging supplemental local sales taxes. Firstly, proposed systems should carefully design their service and tax districts to reflect the underlying social and economic geographies, rather than simply following county lines or other existing territorial divisions. They should also be careful to establish how revenues generated in one sub-area will benefit residents of that area, to ensure ongoing support for the project. Secondly, proposed systems should identify additional funding sources to pair with sales taxes to ameliorate the business cycle risk. These sources should be chosen based on being similarly noncontroversial to ensure they can be maintained. Thirdly, proposed systems should develop close and constructive relationships with their state governments. Ideally, this would involve securing significant state funding, which neither Sound



Transit or MARTA were successful at doing, but at the least would ensure state legislators will provide project facilitative legislation when necessary and not introduce proposals that threaten the project. Finally, proposed systems should not be assumed to be sufficient on their own to generate major transformations in regional transportation behavior. Local sales tax revenue can build tremendous quantities of transit infrastructure, but it cannot change land-use and development patterns or substantially alter the incentives of private car ownership. Regions hoping to deliver major changes in transportation behavior will have to integrate sales tax funded transit investment within a broader set of transportation policies.

Luke Hassall is a second-year Master of City and Regional Planning student, with a concentration in Sustainable Transportation and Infrastructure Planning. Having traded his upbringing in the autocentric South Pacific for a career in autocentric North America, he is focused on transit, pedestrian and bike planning, and utilizing infrastructure to improve economic and social outcomes.

WORKS & IMAGES CITED 1 Landis, Transportation Finance, 5 2 Ibid. 24 3 Ibid, 31 & 42 4 Wachs, Improving Efficiency and Equity in Transportation Finance, 7 5 Landis, Transportation Finance, 4 6 Wachs, Improving Efficiency and Equity in Transportation Finance, 6-8 7 Wachs, Improving Efficiency and Equity in Transportation Finance, 6-8 8 Spieler, Trains, Buses, People: An Opinionated Atlas of US Transit, 128 9 MARTA’s History and Vision 10The legal City of Atlanta stretches across portions of both counties. 11 Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) 12 MARTA’s History and Vision 13 Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) 14 Spieler, Trains, Buses, People: An Opinionated Atlas of US Transit, 128 15 Ibid, 130 16 The History of MARTA 17 Ibid 18 Spieler, Trains, Buses, People: An Opinionated Atlas of US Transit, 130 19 Wickert, MARTA approves plans for Clayton County commuter train 20 Spieler, Trains, Buses, People: An Opinionated Atlas of US Transit, 130 21 Estep, $2.7 billion plan for new Atlanta transportation projects OK’d by MARTA 22 Green, Gwinnett County rejects MARTA transit expansion. Here’s the early reaction 23 Hart, Recession prompts MARTA to spend on image 24 Fares, and other non-tax revenue were not subject to this requirement. 25 Spieler, Trains, Buses, People: An Opinionated Atlas of US Transit, 130 26 Mutzabaugh, The World’s busiest airport? Yep, it’s still Atlanta 27 Schmitt, Only a Few American Cities Are Growing Transit Ridership — Here’s What They’re Doing Right 28 Freemark, In Atlanta, Transit Service Lags Behind a Booming Population. 29 Voters reject rail transit plan and three other Forward Thrust bond proposals on May 19, 1970. 30 King Count: Milestones – The 1980s. 31 King Count: Milestones – The 1980s. 32 King Count: Milestones – The 1980s. 33 King Count: Milestones – The 1980s. 34 King Count: Milestones – The 1980s.

35 King Count: Milestones – The 1980s. 36 King Count: Milestones – The 1980s. 37 King Count: Milestones – The 1980s. 38 Garber, Huge roads-transit plan gets trounced 39 Sound Transit 2: A Mass Transit Guide, 5 40 Ibid, 31 41 Ibid, 30 42 King Count: Milestones – The 1980s. 43 King Count: Milestones – The 1980s. 44 King Count: Milestones – The 1980s. 45 King Count: Milestones – The 1980s. 46 Robertson, Car tab initiative would take a nearly $7 billion bite out of Sound Transit’s revenue 47 Robertson, ’Recession’ comes up in discussion over Sound Transit funding 48 Schmitt, Only a Few American Cities Are Growing Transit Ridership — Here’s What They’re Doing Right 49 Sound Transit Link light rail ridership up 6.9 percent in third quarter 50 Bliss, How Seattle is Winning the War on the Car Commute 51 Spieler, Trains, Buses, People: An Opinionated Atlas of US Transit, 128 & 136 52 Ibid, 128 & 136 Figure 1: Figure 2: Figure 3: Figure 4: ns14=1&ns100=1&ns106=1#%2Fmedia%2FFile%3ASounder_train_1509_approaching_Auburn.jpg Figure 5: Ibid. Figure 6: Figure 7:

Funding Public Transit Expansion


Figure 1: A 1960s rendering of the proposed Market East Shopping Center conveys a modern, suburban oasis in Center City, Philadelphia.

ON CLEARANCE How Philadelphia Courted Suburban Shoppers During Urban Renewal By Maddy Kornhauser


he hammer of demolition will be sure to swing with determination,” proclaims the narrator of The Dynamic American City as the film shows a wrecking ball repeatedly crashing into a building. “And our progress,” he continues, “is certain to be steady as we clear away the structures that block progress.”1 Sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, this 1956 film glorifies the process of demolishing large swaths of the city to rubble and rebuilding upon the ruins. Though the script and images of destruction seem heavy-handed to the contemporary viewer, the idea of demolition as progress was key to the postwar narrative of urban renewal in the 1950s and 1960s. While these projects were lauded as bold displays of American economic power, they were, in fact, imbued with anxiety. As white middle-class residents left cities for suburban developments, urban commerce suffered. To compete with new shopping malls outside of the city, planners attempted to mold the city into a harmonious counterpart of the suburb. Planning for the suburban shopper played out through planners’ preference for modern physical design and the sanitization of blighted areas. Both themes are evident in neighborhood plans prepared by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission in the 1960s. The emphasis on sleek, modern design that accommodates suburban shopping patterns is clear in planners’ vision for Center City.2 Across the river in West Philadelphia, planners focused on strategies to clean up the neighborhood and protect Center City from what they understood

to be encroaching poverty.3 While these reports study different areas within Philadelphia and promote distinct objectives for each neighborhood, the policies ultimately reinforce one another. Fundamentally, they expose how city planners bowed to suburban preferences, particularly with respect to commercial development, in an effort to attract white middle-class shoppers back into the urban core. HISTORICAL CONTEXT Partly due to federal investment in homeownership and a new national highway system, suburban development boomed after World War II.4 With the nation facing a serious housing shortage in the postwar years, private developers took advantage of the favorable political environment and constructed suburbs at a mass scale outside city limits. These developments, with their tidy Corbusian designs, were attractive options for white middle-class city dwellers who began to migrate out of urban centers. Developers constructed additional amenities to serve the new suburban residents. In particular, the regional shopping mall gained popularity and became a symbol of the suburban and consumer lifestyle. Stores within the city limits, on the other hand, faced the challenges of a declining customer base and competition from malls. In addition to this new class of retail, suburban communities’ deteriorating perceptions of the city also put a strain on urban commerce. Often influenced by racial tensions that were largely absent in white suburbia, middle-class residents continued to disinvest from urban downtowns. In response, cities sought ON CLEARANCE


Figure 2: Haddington Area Redevelopment Plan documented industrial activity adjacent to the blighted housing on the 5600 block of Race Street.

to reinvigorate Main Street as a pleasant and safe destination for suburbanites and used federal funds to clear surrounding areas viewed as cesspools of blight.5 THE CENTER CITY PLAN The Center City Plan covers a half square mile in Philadelphia’s municipal core. Though the physical area is small, the plan itself looks outward to the metropolitan region of four million people.6 The plan states its primary objectives as creating “an efficiently concentrated core,”7 developing a modern and regional transit system, constructing accessible parking facilities, separating pedestrians from car traffic, and beautification. With three of the five goals concerning transit, planners were clearly concerned with access to the city and facilitating convenient movement within the core. The plan also discusses specific projects including the Chestnut Street pedestrian walkway, the South Broad Street parking terminal, and the Market East shopping mall, which the plan dubs “the most significant of the major elements proposed for Center City.”8 To support this vision, the Center City Plan showcases a rich array of maps and artistic renderings. These graphics convey the planners’ aspirational vision for a bustling and dynamic commercial center fully integrated with regional transit access.



Further decoding the Center City Plan reveals the Planning Commission’s unstated objective of appealing to white middle-class female shoppers. Though there is no explicit mention of women in the report, small details reveal the importance of attracting “Mrs. Consumer”9 to the central business district. Beyond constructing “one of the nation’s great shopping centers,”10 the planners repeatedly emphasize the need for an agreeable built environment. The plan promotes the construction of underground concourses as “pleasant and cheerful”11 and Chestnut Street as a “gracious and comfortable pedestrian street.”12 This language directly references the ambience of the suburban mall.13 Planners also cater to suburban residents by focusing on regional transit. For downtown commerce to compete with the suburbs, planners viewed convenient transit options as a necessity. Therefore, the plan goes to great lengths to accommodate regional trains, buses, and cars. One of the plan’s boldest proposals was to add seventeen thousand parking spots in Center City through a complex network of underground garages.14 The commitment to such an expensive project highlights the city’s embrace of automotive infrastructure to make downtown comfortable for outside visitors.

Figure 3: Elegant drawings illustrate the transportation hub at Market East inviting white middle-class suburbanites to visit and shop in the city.

Another significant aspect of the plan is its erasure of women and Black residents from the document. Though the plan is designed with suburban housewives in mind, it conceals any evidence of catering to women. The discussion of the Market East shopping center is oddly placed at the very end of the report, even though it is touted as the main Center City attraction. Alison Isenberg explains, “Women are virtually absent from historical accounts of the downtown crisis and urban renewal. What makes this remarkable is that in the 1950s retail seemed to hold the key to revitalizing the central business district, and women were the lifeblood of retail.”15 The extensive use of graphics and drawings in the Center City Plan further reveals planners’ insistence on women’s role in shaping the city. Instead of admitting the housewife’s significance in writing, planners convey an idealized, feminine environment through modern architectural renderings and vague language. The plan is also strategically silent on race. By focusing on visitors from the greater metropolitan region and ignoring Black shoppers within city limits, the planners highlight whom the downtown is for. Additionally, the proposed expressways are placed in a ring around Center City to act as a physical barrier between the core’s retail opportunities and the peripheral areas of the city with poor and non-white residents. Here, the highway

serves a dual purpose of importing white suburban shoppers and protecting the core from the undesirable nearby residents. THE HADDINGTON REDEVELOPMENT AREA PLAN The Haddington Redevelopment Area Plan (the Haddington Plan) analyzes the residential Haddington neighborhood in West Philadelphia. The neighborhood covers approximately three-quarters of a square mile and was home to mostly Black residents in the 1960s.16 The Haddington Plan’s key objective is to eradicate blight—areas that city officials determine to be dilapidated and impoverished, threatening the city’s more prosperous areas. The plan also identifies other vague and unsavory conditions plaguing the neighborhood. For example, the plan notes that Haddington suffers from overcrowding, “defective” building arrangements, a lack of open space, and “economically or socially undesirable land uses.”17 The plan presents meticulous maps detailing a patchwork of naturally occurring, mixed-use development throughout the neighborhood. The plan also uses photographs to demonstrate the area’s dilapidated state and “showcase the disordered aspects of the neighborhood.”18 The images do not show any people, ON CLEARANCE


presenting instead an abandoned and neglected neighborhood and promoting the need for clearance.

“The worst areas of blight,” the plan explains, “have been caused by the intrusion of noncompatible industrial and commercial uses into residential neighborhoods.” The Haddington Plan specifically identifies mixeduse as a cause of the neighborhood’s poor state. “The worst areas of blight,” the plan explains, “have been caused by the intrusion of non-compatible industrial and commercial uses into residential neighborhoods.”19 The plan proposes removing all commercial and industrial outlets dispersed throughout residential areas and building a centralized shopping center (complete with off-street parking) to meet the area’s retail needs. Any other commercial outlets are relegated to the neighborhood’s fringes. The pressing need to organize the neighborhood into single-use districts that accommodate cars reveals how planners mimic suburban land use practices and impose a set of assumed preferences onto the community. The Haddington Plan also demonstrates a preoccupation with suburbia in subtler ways. Eradicating blight was an important aspect of making the city more palatable to the suburban shopper. Though Haddington was removed from Center City, there was a fear that “the encircling slums would overrun the central business district.”20 The plan states: “[Haddington] is threated by several concentrations of blight which have extended to adjacent residential blocks and may continue to spread if not checked.”21 According to planners, blight must be contained or else it would threaten the carefully curated environment of the central business district and negatively impact the downtown shopping potential. The report further describes its plan to eradicate blight through the clearance of 670 dwellings to make space for a shopping center. The document indifferently notes that “the Redevelopment Authority will assist in the relocation of any families displaced”22 without providing a detailed contingency plan. The plan also fails to address displaced businesses and shop owners being forced out from residential areas. While shop owners may not have been evicted from their homes, losing their business may have meant a loss of livelihood. Through these efforts to organize and



sanitize Haddington, city officials effectively promoted the erasure of a coherent community in the name of elevating Philadelphia’s central business district. There are clear differences between the two plans aspirations and strategies. The Center City Plan speaks to a regional vision, as opposed to the Haddington Plan, which is local in scope. While the Center City Plan features artful illustrations that attempt to invoke a feeling of progress and aspiration, the Haddington Plan lacks this style. In contrast, the Haddington Plan’s only visual aids besides maps are unflattering photographs meant to invoke a sense of urgent concern. Ultimately, these plans fundamentally reinforce each other in their goal of transforming Philadelphia into a compatible counterpart of the growing suburbs. The suburban preference is particularly evident in the plans’ treatment of commercial outlets. Each plan’s headline project is a mall, speaking to the suburban trend towards consolidating shopping into discrete areas and eliminating mixed-use practice. More importantly, both plans make substantial investments to lure suburban shoppers back into the urban commercial fold. The Center City Plan’s key objectives of developing regional transit and refreshing downtown Philadelphia with a modern, mall-like ambience reveal the goal of attracting suburban shoppers. The Haddington Plan’s effort to sanitize the neighborhood to eradicate blight also serve this goal, in keeping other disagreeable elements, such as poverty and non-white residents, far from the core shopping districts. Both proposals underscore that the city must cater to white suburbia at all costs. CONCLUSION The Dynamic American City’s narrator closes the film with a final word of optimism about urban renewal. “The city remains dynamic,” he declares. “Surely, if we can recapture the courage and forward-looking spirit of the discoverers and planners of America, building better cities will be assured.”23 Perhaps the most ironic aspect of urban renewal and its obsession with demolishing the obsolete to welcome the future is how it preserved oppressive cultural institutions. By forcing the city into the mainstream suburban schema, planners reinforced suburban values and maintained traditional gender roles and racial segregation. Both plans reveal the importance of upholding these institutions to city planners in the 1960s. Rather than stated explicitly, these plans often uphold such institutions through silence. Though the Philadelphia County Planning Commission branded urban renewal and demolition as progress, it was instead another iteration of institutionally sanctioned oppression.

Maddy Kornhauser is a first-year student in the Masters of City and Regional Planning program. After trying out a few career paths in New York City, she is excited to bring her multi-disciplinary background to planning with a focus on economic development. Besides thinking about old shopping malls, she enjoys hiking, crosswords, and pottery.

WORKS & IMAGES CITED 1 The Dynamic American City, produced by Frederick J. Baskaw. Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, 1956. 2 Philadelphia City Planning Commission, “Center City, Philadelphia: Major Elements of the Physical Development Plan for Center City.” Philadelphia, 1960. 3 Philadelphia City Planning Commission, “Haddington Redevelopment Area Plan.” Philadelphia, 1962. 4 Vitiello, Domenic. “Urban Renewal and Reconstruction.” Lecture at The University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, September 30, 2019. 5 Ibid. 6 “Center City”, 1. 7 Ibid., 2. 8 Ibid., 20. 9 Hayden, Delores. Building Suburbia: Green Fields and Urban Growth. New York: Pantheon Books, 2003, 151. 10 “Center City”, 20. 11 Ibid., 12. 12 Ibid., 16. 13 Isenberg, Alison. Downtown America: A History of the Place and the People Who Made It. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004, 177. 14 “Center City”, 10.

15 Isenberg, 173. 16 United States Decennial Census, 1960. 17 “Haddington Redevelopment Area Plan”, 2. 18 Ammon, Francesca R. “Picturing Preservation and Renewal: Photographs as Planning Knowledge in Society Hill, Philadelphia,” in Journal of Planning Education and Research. December 2018, 6. 19 “Haddington Redevelopment Area Plan”, 3. 20 Isenberg, 188. 21 “Haddington Redevelopment Area Plan”, 1. 22 Ibid., 23. 23 Baskaw, The Dynamic American City. Figure 1: Philadelphia City Planning Commission, “Center City, Philadelphia: Major Elements of the Physical Development Plan for Center City.” Philadelphia, 1960. Figure 2: Philadelphia City Planning Commission, “Haddington Redevelopment Area Plan.” Philadelphia, 1962. Figure 3: Philadelphia City Planning Commission, “Center City, Philadelphia: Major Elements of the Physical Development Plan for Center City.” Philadelphia, 1960.



Figure 1: New York City skyline from the J Train crossing the Manhattan Bridge.

AT HOME, IN BETWEEN Finding Belonging and Meaning in Liminal Spaces By Gillian Tiley


find myself feeling at home when I am in motion. The past six years have been characterized by constant transition—I have moved dwellings, cities, and sometimes even countries every six months or so, making it difficult to ground myself in any one place. This sort of transience takes a toll—how can one find community, meaning, or identity without some semblance of attachment to a place? Reflecting on the feelings of incompleteness–or perhaps, more drastically, loss–that I often experience, I began to think more critically not only on how we find belonging in our surroundings, but how to expand the idea of ‘place’ beyond just a determined geographic location. Here I discovered that the places where I felt most at home were not any of the various apartments, dormitories, or hotels in which I have lived, but instead the spaces in-between: subways, buses, and airports. Despite being designed for people to temporarily pass through, such places evoke feelings that amount to a conception of belonging. Even in times of deep unfamiliarity with my surroundings, I have found those ‘in-between’ spaces to be constant, welcoming, reassuring. Perhaps this is due to the similarities in design and atmosphere regardless of location, the sense of routine they instill, the satisfaction gained from knowing how to do something – anything – when you feel unaccustomed to the world around you, or the comfort found in being surrounded by individuals who, despite being strangers, are doing the exact same thing as you. These liminal spaces are designed to set you in motion, yet it is within them that I feel most grounded.

These spaces have been described by geographers as ‘non-places,’ characterized by their lack of collective meaning, memory, or identity. With this I firmly disagree. If we limit personal attachments and identification to the world of permanent materiality, then we are excluding the very real feelings of belonging to the momentary and ever-changing spaces that we encounter every day. Liminal spaces impact the thoughts, feelings, and communication methods of individuals and may very well change the trajectory of their day, visit, or life. These outcomes may be small, invisible to the outside world, and immeasurable in a traditional sense. However, this does not negate their impact at an individual level. Moreover, impact on the level of the individual should not always be thought of as trivial. I was riding the bus when I discovered my mother was having a baby; I finished my thesis on the commuter rail; I sobbed in the Atlanta airport the night before I moved to France. Such moments are among the most important in my life. All of them occurred in places that were unfamiliar, temporary, and in-between one concrete place and another. And yet, I associate these places with a sentiment of belonging. While this feeling may be connected to any of the factors I enumerated earlier, I believe it most likely attributed to the unnamed culture that each of these ‘non-places’ shares. When you step into an airport or onto a bus or a train, you are immediately flooded with this sensation of simultaneously feeling alone and surrounded. Everyone around you is there with a clear purpose and a journey that involves a beginning and an end, At Home, In Between


Esteban Chiner on Flickr Figure 2: Waiting time at the airport.

neither of which are where you are currently. And each of those people have their own attachments to places separate from here. Or perhaps, they feel the same as I do – placeless – and this in-between temporary space offers either a respite from or a reminder of that sentiment. Regardless of their background, intents, or attachments, everyone around you is sharing a communal experience. This shared routine leads to communication, however simple, with individuals that might not occur elsewhere: a small nod of the head, a slight smile, a quick exchange of words in line at security or the ticket machine, or perhaps a deep conversation with the person seated next to you that is sparked by a flight delay or turbulence. The very idea that these liminal spaces are shared by all instills a culture of comfort, familiarity, and connectivity, regardless of where such spaces are in the world. While this culture is often unnamed, it is deeply felt by all in some form or another. It is because of this often immeasurable, smallscale impact that geographers and planners must think deeply about the significance of so-called liminal spaces. Their design can fundamentally impact individuals’ attachments to and experiences



within them. A blinking light transforms the subway from a familiar end-of-my-day routine to an eerie, uncomfortable space. Inadequate airport seating disrupts the possibility of connecting with strangers. A lack of clarity to bus routes and scheduling can contribute to the anxiety of new residents in a city. We must not treat such spaces as simply in-between tangible, seemingly more important places. Instead, we ought to conceptualize them as they are experienced: critical sites of connectivity, both between individuals and places. They are spaces in which interactions occur, news is shared and digested, and days are begun. They are used by all, regardless of class, race, background, or geographic location. They provide anchor spaces to those who do not know what else to call home. They evoke feelings of communal loneliness, purpose, and routine. In order to maintain and facilitate such uses and experiences, we ought to prioritize such spaces as critical sites of belonging, rather than thinking of them primarily in terms of their liminality.

Gillian Tiley is a first-year Masters of City and Regional Planning student concentrating in community and economic development. Previously, she earned degrees in Geography and Political Science from the University of Vermont. She is passionate about the intersection of arts and culture, community development, and education. She believes art is a powerful force for bringing people together, fostering belonging and identity within a community, and altering how we feel, think, and understand our surroundings. With this in mind, Gillian hopes to combine her knowledge of art, mapping, and community development in future work in youth advocacy and education.

At Home, In Between



If Walls Could Talk by Denocencia Wade In 2013, the Philadelphia School District closed over 30 schools. As the school district was in severe debt, plagued by academic underperformance and compounding building facilities issues, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission would make a tough decision that would alter the city forever. Many of these schools were neighborhood schools and served as anchor institutions. Students, families, and school administration would be left uncertain as to what the future of public education in the city would look like moving forward. During the school closings, many photographers wanted to capture the actual closings and feelings that occurred during the process. The last documented days would be compiled into an archive: The Philadelphia School District School Closings Photo Collective website. Although The Collective captured the smiling faces of “the last” graduating classes, photos of interior hallways and classrooms, and families saying their goodbyes, buildings rich with history and secrets were left behind. Several years later, many of these buildings would remain abandoned and waitlisted on the “for sale” list. Curious to explore the several remaining buildings that have been allotted for public sale, I set about the city capturing the buildings as they stood several years later following the school closings. If Walls Could Talk is a piece on how photographs of building exteriors could speak just as loudly as those familial and interior pictures captured in the school closings collective. Schools, top to bottom: Germantown High School, 40 E High Street Communications Tech, 8110 Lyons Avenue Pepper Middle School, 2901 S 84th Street


University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design Department of City and Regional Planning 127 Meyerson Hall 210 South 34th Street Philadelphia PA 19104-6311

Non Profit Organization U.S. Postage PAID Permit No. 2563 Philadelphia, PA 19104-6311

Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.