PANORAMA Leveragi ng wi t h Le s s
P A N O R A M A
Spring 2013 Journal of the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of Pennsylvania
Adapting to the Effects of Rising Sea Levels on the Atlantic Coast
Sarah Ri ch a r d s
Reclaiming the Streets: The Evolution of Pedestrian Malls in the United States
Emily H o s ek
Public Realm Studio: Washington DC
Khayelitsha: A Story of Neighborhood Change
Preserving Philadelphia’s Affordable Rental Housing Stock: Strategies for Addressing the Expiration of Affordability Requirements
E i le e n D iv r i n g i
Mandatory Energy Retrofits: A Case for New York City’s Private Building Owners
D an i e lle B o r d e n Boomtime in Bangalore: In Pursuit of Tech Dominance, Growing Social Divisions Are More Than Digital
Ju e ll St ewa r t
Letter from the Editors Author’s Bio Image Credits
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Cy n thia M . Do r ta Q u iñ o n es
The Alleyway Transformation: Secondary Service Street to Urban Public Space
T-SPLOST and Atlanta: A Defeated Attempt at Self-Reliance
Rethinking Transit Projects in High-income Neighborhoods
A Federal “To-Do” List for 21st Century Urban Communities
B ryan B ar n ett-Wo o ds
R achel A l an d
Simo n M o s bah
R ich Freeh
A Note from the Editors “Leveraging with Less” expresses the demands and possibilities to consider when planning for the future of cities. It remains unclear how long this age of sequestration and belt-tightening will last. In a period of constrained resources, both fiscal and environmental, cities need to think strategically about how to afford the best quality of life to residents in the most efficient and equitable way possible. And many of these new strategies require new funding streams, beyond the federal purse. In this year’s Panorama our authors aim to discover how planning interventions can work within the existing conditions—or upend them—to find the best possible outcome for our cities. Perhaps this time of less can be seen as an opportunity—an opportunity to think more carefully about our usage of natural resources and an opportunity to consider where our priorities lie. This may mean promoting a policy measure to encourage more efficient energy standards in buildings, determining how best to invest
in climate change resilience, rethinking and reimagining urban spaces by activating a forgotten alleyway or turning a downtown street into a walkable retail destination, or restructuring policy measures to allow for decisions to be made on a more contextspecific local level. We will leave it to you, the reader, to sort through the perspectives on the realities of planning for our era contained in this year’s edition and decide for yourself where your own values lie. We, the staff of Panorama, are very proud of the work included in these pages. We congratulate our writers as well as the educators at this school for stimulating the dialogue on the role of planning today that has led to the diversity of viewpoints included in this journal. Please, read on. Let the viewpoints here spark further dialogue on the best way we as planners can adapt to shifts in the natural and political environments with an innovative and reengineered approach.
Cynthia M. Dorta
Editor (MCP ‘13)
Design Editor (MCP ‘13)
Associate Editor (MCP ‘14)
Associate Editor (MCP ‘14)
Associate Design Editor (MCP ‘14)
Authors Rachel Aland (MCP ‘13) is a secondyear Master of City Planning candidate concentrating in Sustainable Transportation and Infrastructure. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies from Brown University. Rachel is originally from Birmingham, Alabama and would really like to see the South figure out its transportation problems. She might even move back to the South someday to help make it happen. Roll Tide.
Bryan Barnett-Woods (MCP ‘13) is a second year master’s candidate in the City and Regional Planning department at the University of Pennsylvania with a concentration in Sustainable Transportation and Infrastructure Planning. Prior to studying at the University of Pennsylvania, Bryan served as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines for two years where he worked with schools and community groups.
Eileen Divringi (MCP ‘12) is a first-year City Planning student concentrating in Community and Economic Development. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Environmental Science from the University of Michigan. Though originally from the Pacific Northwest, Eileen has become quite taken with Midwestern cities and plans to go back in that direction after graduate school.
Danielle Borden (MCP ‘13) is a second-year Master of City Planning candidate concentrating in PublicPrivate Development. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies from UC Berkeley. Danielle is originally from San Francisco but kind of likes it on the East Coast and hopes to work in real estate development in New York City
Cynthia M. Dorta-Quiñones (MCP ‘13) is a second-year Master of City and Regional Planning candidate, concentrating in Urban Design. She has previously worked as an architect and urban designer in Boston, MA. She strongly advocates for the collaboration of the various design disciplines and planning as the link necessary to construct better social and economic urban environments. Emily Hosek (MCP ‘14) is a first-year Master of City Planning candidate, concentrating in Urban Design. Her interests include environmental design, international planning, and wandering cities.
Sarah Richards (MCP ‘13) is a secondyear master’s candidate in the City and Regional Planning program with a concentration in Land Use and Environmental Planning. She has fallen deeply in love with Philadelphia and, despite the fact that the city often does not return her affections, would love to work full-time in the city and spend all of her disposable income at Reading Terminal Market.
after graduation. Rich Freeh (MCP ‘13) is concentrating in transportation policy, funding and project delivery, sustainable and equitable urban development, and haiku. He lives in Kingsessing with two cats and several bookshelves of midcentury American fiction.
Simon Mosbah (MCP ‘12) is a firstyear Ph.D. Student in City Planning focusing on Transportation. He holds an MBA from ESSEC Business School and is a graduate from the Ecole Normale Superieure (both in Paris). Prior to starting his Ph.D. at Penn, he worked in the business world for a few years, including as a consultant for the French National Railways. He loves tackling public transportation challenges in the U.S. Juell Stewart (MCP ‘13) is an urban researcher and social activist from Chicago. She is interested in the economic systems that drive city development, and how to use collective power to challenge structural disparities.
Adapting to the Effects of Rising Sea Levels on the Atlantic Coast by Sarah Richards
In late October 2012, Hurricane Sandy battered the Atlantic coast, generating a 14-foot storm surge that flooded portions of New York City. The catastrophic event accelerated the conversation surrounding sea level rise and its connection to climate change. While New York City bore the brunt of the storm, many of the country’s most populous cities up and down the eastern seaboard are at risk from encroaching water. Author Sarah Richards notes that, up until this point, much of the work surrounding coastal management has been either reactive or lost in communication between different levels of government. A renewed federal investment in infrastructure, coupled with targeted policy updates, will better prepare these important metropolitan regions for the future.
Introduction The long-term consequences of climate change are far-reaching and difficult to predict. One of the major impacts of global warming that has serious implications for its effect on human development is sea level rise. As the atmosphere continues to warm, trapped water that has been frozen for centuries in glaciers and under permafrost will be released into the seas, causing them to rise to unprecedented levels. The effects of this event can be worsened by the changes in ocean currents, land movements,
ocean salinity, and ocean temperature that accompany global warming (Gade and Sallenger 2012). The East and West Coasts of the United States have some of the most heavily populated cities and metro areas in the county. Developing ways to adapt to and mitigate the effects of sea level rise is, and will continue to be, a major environmental planning challenge for coastal cities in the coming decades. Through a comprehensive approach that includes cooperation and collaboration on the municipal, state, and local levels, “hard,” “soft,” and “green” infrastructure where appropriate, and changes to the codes and standards that govern the built environment, these cities can meet many of the challenges posed by rising seas.
Understanding Sea Level Rise The earth’s current warming trend began over 100 years ago, in the 1880s (Parker 1992). Scientists, aware that a slow, incremental warming process is part of a natural cycle of global temperature change over time, were not alarmed by what was originally a very gradual increase in temperature. However, in the 1960s, the
rate of global warming began to increase, and by the late 1970s, many scientists became concerned (“Global Warming” 2007). The earth has been warming at a rate of about 0.2°C per decade for the past 30 years, a rapid rate compared with previous years. Most scientists and climatologists now agree that this rapid rate of warming is the result of human activity. By burning large quantities of fossil fuels to power buildings, automobiles, and industry over the past century, massive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions have been released into the air, trapping heat and causing the earth’s warming process to speed up exponentially. Scientists and other researchers have warned that if the earth warms another two or three degrees Celsius, the impacts of those additional degrees could have serious and widespread consequences for the earth’s natural systems, potentially causing mass extinction of some species and several meters of sea level rise (Gutro 2006). The last time the earth was that temperature was “in the middle Pliocene, about three million years ago, when sea level was estimated to have been about 25
This diagram illustrates the “albedo effect,” where darker surfaces previously covered with reflective ice absorb more heat, thus increasing the rate of ice melt on an exponential basis.
Sandy’s effects on New York City’s East Village demonstrate the need for better infrastructure and adaptive policies to protect heavily populated regions from the impacts of future sea level rise. meters (80 feet) higher than today” (Gutro 2006). This kind of sea-level rise could have catastrophic effects on coastlines across the globe, making entire coastal regions that are currently home to millions of people virtually uninhabitable (Nicholls et al 2011). Another serious concern about rising temperatures and glacial ice melt is that shrinking ice caps and melting permafrost can actually speed up the rate of climate change. Because ice is reflective, the more total surface area of ice, the more heat from the sun’s rays is reflected back and out of the atmosphere. The phenomenon of global warming occurs when heat from the sun is trapped in the earth’s atmosphere. Greenhouse gases trap and hold that heat, causing the overall temperature of the earth to rise. As the ice sheets melt, there is less reflective surface, and more heat stays in the earth’s atmosphere rather than reflecting back out. This cycle, called the
“albedo effect,” causes the earth to warm at an increasingly rapid rate, which then increases sea level rise (Flowers 2012). Although sea level rise is increasingly becoming a concern for coastal cities all over the globe, sea level has actually increased more along the Atlantic Coast than the international average, and at a higher rate—up to four times faster than the global rate of increase. Differences in salinity, currents, and temperatures all have an effect on the extent of sea level rise. In an article released by the U.S. Geological survey, Dr. Asbury Sallenger, a USGS oceanographer, states that “cities in the hotspot, like Norfolk, New York, and Boston already experience damaging floods during relatively low intensity storms.” He goes on to note the wider implications for these “hotspots,” “Ongoing accelerated sea level rise in the hotspot will make coastal cities and surrounding areas increasingly vulnerable to flooding by adding to the
height that storm surge and breaking waves reach on the coast” (Gade and Sallenger 2012). The USGS reported that sea level off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia, has risen a record-breaking 4.8 inches since 1990, a rapid rate of sea level rise that is cause for serious concern (Borenstein 2012). The increase in frequency and scale of impact of major weather events, such as Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, vividly demonstrate that climate change and rising seas are a serious threat to coastal regions. Although scientists disagree about whether storms like Hurricanes Sandy or Katrina are a direct result of climate change, they do agree that their devastating effects, particularly widespread and serious flooding, are exacerbated by sea level rise (Vergano 2012). Hurricane Sandy, then classified as a tropical cyclone, slammed directly into the heart of America’s densest region, the New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island metropolitan statistical
area, which has a weighted density of 31,251 people per square mile (Florida 2012). Logically, the denser the area, the more devastating the damage is to the built environment, and the higher the cost of rebuilding becomes. In order to provide maximum effectiveness, planning for protecting these coastal metropolitan areas from the effects of sea level rise should occur cooperatively and collaboratively on national, state, and local levels.
Federal Support and Funding Between 1998 and 2009, federal spending on addressing the causes of climate change amounted to about $99 billion. The Department of Energy (DOE) and NASA constitute the majority of the spending, while 12 other agencies contribute to a lesser degree (“Federal Climate Change Programs” 2010). However, because so many federal agencies, like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), play a role in addressing factors influenced by or related to climate change, like storm and flood damage and impacts on endangered species, it can be difficult to track how many federal dollars are spent each year on mitigating the impacts of climate change. In 2009, an Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force was created to address climate change from a federal level. The agencies playing an active role in this task force are the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and NOAA. It also includes representatives from 20 other federal agencies. In 2010, the task force began publishing a yearly progress report outlining policy goals and measuring progress. The EPA also publishes information about adapting to climate change on its website, with a special section for coastal areas (“Climate Change Impacts” 2012.) Because of the widespread, global nature of climate change, coordinating the federal response to meet the challenges
of mitigation and adaptation is essential for combating continued climate change and protecting the human and natural environment from the worst of its effects. As Tom Daniels and Katherine Daniels note, “State coastal protection plans and local land use ordinances need to be better coordinated with the federal programs” (Daniels and Daniels 2003). A report published by the United States Government Accountability Office, calls for better training across government agencies on the impacts of climate change, as well as clarification of the roles and responsibilities of each agency in climate change adaptation policy and practice (United States Government Accountability Office 2011). States and municipalities often cannot afford to foot the steep bill that comes with preparing coastal areas to deal with the effects of sea level rise. Major infrastructure projects are often necessary, and small city budgets are not enough to fund them. In an attempt to reduce the costs associated with reactive responses to natural disasters, the federal government has worked for some time to bolster the planning efforts of state and local governments. In 1997, FEMA launched Project Impact, which emphasizes cooperation at the local level between residents, businesses, and government to prepare for natural disasters (Daniels 2003). Further, the
Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 requires states and municipalities to draft hazard safety/mitigation plans in order to receive funds from FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (Daniels and Daniels 2003). FEMA also offers technical assistance with drafting these plans. However, as Raymond J. Burby notes, “In spite of a large national effort to reduce the toll from natural disasters…both catastrophic and chronic losses have been rising rather than falling relative to increases in population and gross national product” (Burby 1999). He cites unprecedented rates of development in coastal areas in recent years as one cause, but also blames the “failed policies of the federal government.” Burby participated in a three-year study of local government disaster response that concluded that federal policy thwarts efforts by local governments to “reduce losses from natural disasters through land use planning and management.” Federally subsidized flood insurance for people living in floodplains is one obvious example of federal policy encouraging development in areas at higher risk of damage from natural disasters. In order to benefit Atlantic coastal cities most effectively, the federal government will need to update its climate change and disaster preparedness policies, reduce the breadth of its oversight responsibilities, and more closely align its own efforts with those of local governments.
Salt marshes like this one in Tidewater,Virginia, can serve as a kind of “sponge” for floodwaters from storms.
Sea Level Rise Case Study: Norfolk, Virginia Norfolk, Virginia, one of the coastal cities identified as a sea level rise “hotspot,” has struggled to protect the city and its inhabitants from the recurrent flooding that is a consequence of rising sea levels. Norfolk’s efforts are complicated by the issue of land subsidence. The city’s sinking ground is not a result of climate change, but rather its unique geography—the city sits in a geologic impact crater. Formed in the ice age, this giant crater causes the land sitting on it to sink about seven inches per century, which exacerbates the impacts of sea level rise in the Tidewater region. Norfolk, like many other coastal cities, was built on filled-in marshland, which prior to development acted like a sponge when storms and tidal flooding occurred, soaking up much of the floodwater before it could reach dry land (Kaufman 2010). The waters of the surrounding Chesapeake Bay have risen in recent years, resulting in tidal surge of up to a foot above historically normal levels. The bay’s tributaries cut through many parts of the city, which has made Norfolk an attractive place to live because of its waterfront views. But it is, in fact, a major concern for officials and planners, as water in these tributaries rises along with ocean and bay waters. A Washington Post article from June 2012 chronicles the small city’s struggles to mitigate the impacts of rising seas, noting that the city’s $6 million earmarked annually for flood response may no longer be enough (Fears 2012). The city recently brought together a panel of experts, along with representatives from two major engineering firms, to address how it can handle the impacts of sea level rise in the coming years. One of those firms, a Dutch engineering group called Fugro, has recommended that the city put in tide gates, floodwalls, elevated roads, and more powerful water-pumping stations, at a cost of $300 million, a huge price tag to protect a city of only around 250,000 residents. However, Norfolk is also home to the world’s largest naval base, Naval Station Norfolk, which is not only the city’s biggest employer, but also performs functions that
8 PANORAMA 2013
are vital to homeland security on a daily basis (“Norfolk City Community Profile” 2013). The second firm, Timmons Group, also recommended updating the city’s 100-year-old storm drainage system, at a cost of close to $775 million, in addition to Fugro’s recommendation. For a small city with a total annual budget of just under $800 million, this sum is intimidating. It is therefore understandable why Norfolk and cities like it up and down the Atlantic Coast have turned to the federal government in hopes of receiving funding to mitigate the excessive costs of preparing for the effects of sea level rise, the worst of which, many scientists and climatologists say, is yet to come (Fears 2012).
Case Study: New York City The devastating toll of Hurricane Sandy on the New York and New Jersey coastlines has emphasized the need for immediate action to mitigate the effects of rising seas on the Atlantic Coast’s densely populated regions. In New York City, Sandy’s 14-foot storm surge flooded parts of Manhattan and caused power outages, mass transit shutdowns, and major property damage (Peltz and Hays 2012). Some estimates show that the normal (non-storm) water levels in New York Harbor are over a foot higher than they were 100 years ago (Vergano 2012). Subsidence is also an issue for New York, although for different reasons than in Norfolk—excessive drawing of groundwater resources has caused the land to settle into the spaces left behind by sinking aquifer levels. Experts have advocated for seawalls, in New York City and elsewhere, as a solution to rising seas. However, as Dan Vergano notes in his article on the lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy, “of the 25 mostdensely populated counties nationwide, 23 are coastal ones” (Vergano 2012). Putting walls around every city in the U.S. that is threatened by sea level rise would be hugely cost-prohibitive. New York City is exploring multiple options to protect itself from the effects of rising seas—they run the gamut from altering building codes to allow buildings to accommodate floodwater with minimal damage by putting essential
building services at higher levels, to putting in a barrier similar to the costly but effective Thames barrier in London. Experts have also pointed to the effectiveness of other, smaller barriers just off the coasts of Rhode Island and Connecticut as evidence that barriers work to keep storm surges from overwhelming heavily populated areas (Navarro 2012). Some proposals for New York City recommend as many as four different barriers, combined with a comprehensive approach of adding levees (like New Orleans), bulkheads and dikes, as well as “nourishing” beaches to withstand high levels of erosion (Roumeliotis 2012). Costs for this kind of comprehensive system are steep; estimates put the price tag in the range of $29 billion. Like Norfolk and other coastal cities threatened by rising seas, New York City is looking to the federal government for aid. However, many planners, engineers, and politicians are skeptical of making extensive investments in major hard infrastructure like barriers and sea walls, which are not only costly but also often only able to protect one section of coastline, sometimes at the expense of another section just on the other side of the barrier.
Addressing the Impacts of Sea Level Rise on the Federal Level Many scientists are concerned that the climate change that has already occurred in the past century as a result of human activities may be irreversible (Koebler 2012). Drastically reducing the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is the only way to combat continued climate change, and it must be implemented on a macro level. Increasing the availability of funding for infrastructure projects, both green and grey, will be a key component of preparing states and municipalities to address the impacts of sea level rise. A separate review process for proposals submitted by states and local governments for projects related to mitigating the effects of climate change and resulting natural disasters should be established. It is also essential that communication between all agencies addressing climate change be increased and
improved. Establishing a better framework for interagency communication about new research and preventative measures would help the government respond quickly and effectively to the threats of rising seas on vulnerable coastlines. Emphasis on funding for projects that are proactive rather than reactive would increase preparedness planning for damage and loss prevention and could save federal agencies billions of dollars over the long term.
Addressing the Impacts of Sea Level Rise at State and Local Levels With the proper funding, states and municipalities have multiple tools available to help mitigate the impacts of sea level rise and protect vulnerable coastal areas. Adjusting building codes to require new construction to accommodate storm surges with minimal damage is an important adaptation technique. Requiring essential equipment like boilers, water heaters, and generators to be located on higher-level floors is another way building codes can help minimize the impacts of flooding on the functionality and safety of a building. Ensuring that buildings and infrastructure that provide key services, like power plants and water treatment facilities, are protected from flood damage is also important to mitigating the negative impacts of storm surges. Revising building codes, however, will not help existing structures to weather flooding and storm surges—only new construction would be affected. It is difficult to retrofit existing buildings to increase their resistance to flood damage because changes more or less have to be structural in order to make a difference (Geller 2012). Green infrastructure is one of the most important and least costly ways that an area can protect itself against some of the worst impacts of flooding. Decreasing the amount of impervious surface in a city or region and adding rain gardens, swales, tree pits and even man-made wetlands can all have an impact on how much storm water is absorbed. When the early European-American colonists began filling in wetlands to allow for the development of cities like Norfolk, they unwittingly
Sea gates, like the Thames Barrier in London, are costly but may be worth the investment in order to protect cities like New York that are vulnerable to the effects of rising seas but have little room for alternative natural infrastructure. compromised the region’s best natural defense against flooding (City of Norfolk 2012). Creating berms and sand dunes and shoring up existing natural barriers are necessary steps for protecting coastal areas from flooding worsened by rising seas that can be done at relatively low cost. In places like New York City that are so highly developed that there is very little open space left, however, a green infrastructure approach may only have a marginal effect. Limiting or even banning development in floodplains and areas where rising seas are encroaching is another proactive planning approach that can ultimately preserve lives and prevent significant property damage. Taking those areas and returning them to marsh or restoring wetlands provides a “sponge” that can soak up and redistribute storm surge in a way that prevents flooding from doing major damage to human development. Daniels and Daniels note that “communities can adopt either a conservation zone or a coastal overlay zone to limit and appropriately site development in coastal areas” (Daniels and Daniels 2003). Again, however, dense northeastern
cities may not have enough undeveloped land available for this option to be viable. Engineering firms consulted by the state of New York have suggested strengthening the state’s barrier islands as another possible alternative. However, this alternative presents its own problems, as popular vacation spots on Long Island, like the Hamptons and Montauk, are still heavily developed. Smaller cities, like Norfolk, where the rate of development is fairly slow, may be able to implement greater restrictions on development. In areas where there is new development or reconstruction,“developments should be set back a safe distance from beaches to avoid storm surges and to protect from high winds” (Daniels and Daniels 2003). The devastating effects of inadequate setbacks were evident in the major destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy on homes and businesses set too close to the shoreline on Long Island. In order to protect development, “A key feature to include is a deep setback from beaches, dunes, and the mean high tide” (Daniels and Daniels 2003). Deep setbacks will greatly lessen the chance of serious flooding caused by a major
storm surge, like the 14-foot surge that slammed New York’s coast during Sandy. As Burby confirms, “Land use planning can be a powerful tool for reducing losses from natural disasters.” He goes on to say that, “By guiding urban expansion and redevelopment to locations that are free of hazards, planning programs eliminate the possibility of significant damage” (Burby 1999). Political and business leaders must be willing to commit to what may be major and expensive changes and projects in order to protect their communities from the effects of rising seas and natural disasters. In a dense coastal city like New York, major infrastructure investments, such as barriers, levees, and other major flood protection systems, may be one of only a few options that offer any kind of extensive protection from the effects of rising seas. Although New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has dismissed proposals for Thames Barrier-type projects before, he may not be so quick to do so now, particularly under pressure from concerned residents and business interests in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy (Nocera 2012). A strong barrier, combined with flood-resistant construction and planning practices, could make all the difference for the city the next time a storm of the caliber of Sandy blows through through, which many scientists believe is likely to occur in the not-toodistant future (Center for Climate and Energy Solutions 2013). Cities like Norfolk, on the other hand, are in the position to take a more comprehensive approach, although fairly major infrastructure investments may still be necessary, like upgrading the storm water management system and elevating structures key to city functioning, as recommended by the Fugro study. The Eastern Seaboard could greatly benefit from a cooperative organization like the California Coastal Commission (CCC). Although California has the unique position of being only one state and covering the majority of the Pacific Coastline in the U.S., a similar coalition would still be possible if East Coast states and the federal government were willing to work together to create a mega-regional coastal
commission that could guide planning and decision-making for protecting the coast from the effects of rising seas. The CCC requires every city and county in California’s coastal zone (73 localities in total) to draft a coastal program/plan that is reviewed and approved by the CCC. The CCC ensures not only that every locality on the coast has a plan, but also that the plans work together as part of an interconnected system of protection for California’s coastal cities. Daniels and Daniels note that “the CCC has raised the awareness of the coast as a critical environmental area,” which is a crucial lesson for threatened cities along the Eastern seaboard (Daniels and Daniels 2003).
Conclusion Rising seas are just one of the many side effects of a warming planet. However, they have the potential to wreak havoc and devastation on human development, as shown by Hurricane Sandy, which left millions without power and destroyed hundreds of homes and business along the Atlantic coastline. Planning to protect cities, towns, and communities from the effects of sea level rise is essential for the coming years and will demand cooperation on the local, state, and federal levels. It will also require a significant outlay of capital, which political leaders are often resistant to providing. However, capital investments in appropriate infrastructure are essential for preventing a recurrence (or worse) of the type of extensive damage that occurred along the Atlantic coast this past October. Integrating multiple approaches to adaptation such as strengthening natural barriers, increasing pervious surface through green infrastructure measures and wetlands restoration, and limiting or banning development in flood-prone areas will be important to ensure the highest possible level of protection from the devastating effects of flooding.
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U.S. Geological Survey. 2012. “Sea Level Rise Accelerating in U.S. Atlantic Coast.” June 24. http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article. asp?ID=3256&from=rss_home#.UKf1Ho7N7wx?. United States Environmental Protection Agency. 2013. “Climate Change Impacts and Adapting to Change.” Accessed February 28. http://www.epa.gov/ climatechange/impacts-adaptation/. United States Government Accountability Office. 2011. Climate Change Adaptation: Aligning Funding with Strategic Priorities. July 28. http://www.gao.gov/ assets/130/126793.pdf. Vergano, Dan. 2012. “Sandy Revives Debate Over Sea Level Rise.” USA Today, November 28. http://www. usatoday.com/story/tech/2012/11/27/sandy-sealevel-rise/1730405/. Vergano, Dan. 2012. “Sandy, Rising Seas Fuel Climate Concerns.” USA Today, November 5. http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/columnist/ vergano/2012/11/03/bloomberg-climate-sandysea/1677463/. Virginia Employment Commission. 2013. Norfolk City Community Profile. Accessed February 28. http://virginialmi.com/report_center/community_ profiles/5104000710.pdf.
Peltz, Jennifer and Tom Hays. 2012. “Hurricane Sandy: Storm surge floods NYC tunnels, cuts power to city.” The Christian Science Monitor, October 29. http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Latest-NewsWires/2012/1029/Hurricane-Sandy-Storm-surgefloods-NYC-tunnels-cuts-power-to-city-video/ (page)/1. Roumeliotis, Greg. 2012. “Flooded New York Plans to Tame the Sea, But Who Pays?” Reuters, November 3. http://www.reuters.com/ article/2012/11/03/us-storm-sandy-infrastructureidUSBRE8A203G20121103. The City of Norfolk. 2013. “About.” Accessed February 28. http://www.norfolk.gov/about/. The White House. 2013. “Climate Change Adaptation Task Force.” Accessed February 28. http://www. whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/initiatives/ adaptation.
Preserving Philadelphiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Affordable Rental Housing Stock: Strategies for Addressing the Expiration of Affordability Requirements by Eileen Divringi
The upcoming expiration of long-term, subsidized federal mortgages threatens the future supply of affordable housing in the country. In Philadelphia, where housing cost burdens outweigh the national average, the problem is particularly acute. As author Eileen Divringi suggests, given the city’s high construction costs and the significant level of competition for limited funding to finance new affordable residential development, the preservation of units facing expiration stands as the best opportunity for meeting the housing needs of Philadelphia’s low-income population. Having several strategies available that can be combined in unique ways given differing market contexts, she notes, will provide the city with greater flexibility in successfully retaining affordable units.
Introduction In Philadelphia, as in many large cities across the United States, a large share of the publicly supported affordable housing supply was created through subsidized mortgages from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. These mortgages became a fixture of federal housing policy in the mid-to-late 1960s. They often (though not always) went to private developers to incentivize the construction of multifamily rental housing. Depending on the funding source, the terms of these mortgages were 20-30 years, during which time the supported units must be kept affordable for their specified income bracket. Today, many publicly supported housing programs, including the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, continue this model of fixed-period affordability requirements. However, at the expiration of these mortgage terms, private owners have the option to opt out of renewing their contract and the associated affordability
requirements. This process is usually undertaken in anticipation of either selling the units as condominiums or converting them to market-rate rental. Both scenarios result in a loss of affordable units. Given that the federal funding commitments that enabled the initial development of these units have since been dramatically scaled back, there is little reason to believe that replacement of affordable units will keep pace with their expiration. This realization has led many municipalities–ranging from Seattle to New York City to Fairfax County, Virginia–to develop and implement specific strategies for preserving expiring rental units as part of their overall affordable housing plans. The need for comparable strategic planning efforts is at least as great, if not greater, in Philadelphia. Households that spend 30 percent or more of their income on rent are considered housing cost-burdened, with those spending more than 50 percent considered extremely burdened. Table 1 displays the relative proportion of residents in Philadelphia, New York, Washington D.C., and Chicago within these categories. More than half of Philadelphians are housing cost-burdened, with nearly onethird qualifying as extremely burdened. Among these peer cities, Philadelphia has the largest share of cost-burdened residents in both categories. Market-rate conversions or retirements of existing affordable units are likely to exacerbate this pattern. To assess the extent of the impact of affordable unit expiration over the next five years, the City of Philadelphia’s inventory of federally supported housing investments, including every for-profit and non-profit development
financed through the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, the Office of Housing and Community Development, and the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation, was reviewed. (There is expected to be little, if any, overlap between this inventory and that of the Philadelphia Housing Authority, which is subject to different contract requirements). Using a conservative estimate that assumes each subsidized mortgage had a term of 30 years, the affordability requirements of approximately 1,700 units of rental housing will expire in the next 5 years, including roughly 390 in the next two years. Taken together, these units represent approximately 11 percent of all affordable housing units in this portfolio and over $20 million of public investment. A range of strategies for preserving units with expiring affordability contracts have been developed and implemented in states, counties, and cities nationwide. Several potential preservation tools exist that should be incorporated into a flexible, context-specific strategy for preserving Philadelphia’s stock of affordable rental housing.
The Importance of Preservation Affordable rental units are a critical part of meeting the housing needs of lowincome families, seniors, and persons with disabilities. Additionally, in the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis, many low-income former homeowners have been pushed back into the rental market, often with damaged credit ratings that will take years to repair (Center for Housing Policy 2007). The persistent challenge of providing vital services to cities’ homeless residents
Table 1: Comparison of Housing Cost-burdened Populations by City Washington DC
New York City
% of Total
% of Total
% of Total
% of Total
Housing Cost Burdened
Extreme Housing Cost Burdened
Source: 2013 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates
the average per unit cost of the 45,000 units that were financed for preservation was $81,000, approximately half the cost of building new apartments (MacArthur Foundation 2007). Given that Philadelphia has some of the highest average construction costs in the country, preservation is likely to be among the most effective uses of scarce affordable housing resources (Gillen 2010). Furthermore, preservation benefits current affordable housing tenants by enabling greater residential stability, which in turn contributes to tenants’ ability to maintain employment, minimizes disruption to children’s education, and allows seniors and persons with disabilities to stay in their homes near their existing social support structures.
Preservation Tools & Strategies Multifamily affordable housing units also speaks to a need for greater access to affordable housing opportunities. However, in a time of increasing need for affordable units, the supply has been shrinking. A study by the National Alliance of HUD tenants estimates that up to 200,000 affordable units have already been lost nationwide through conversion to market-rate housing since 1996 (MacArthur Foundation 2007). Affordable housing units are most vulnerable in neighborhoods that experience renewed economic growth. Unfortunately, these are precisely the neighborhoods that offer affordable housing tenants the greatest opportunities for advancement. Their preservation represents the city’s best opportunity to foster mixedincome communities where the benefits of growth can be shared among all. Effectively responding to the threat of unit conversion or retirement requires an understanding of the market mechanisms that incentivize these actions. Though there are many reasons that individual landlords have chosen to opt-out of their affordability contracts, three are most commonly cited (Schwartz 2008). In real estate markets with rapidly appreciating property values, landlords stand to make significant profits by converting their units to market-rate
or selling them as condominiums. Many neighborhoods that had once received support for affordable housing as a means of combating disinvestment are becoming increasingly attractive markets for young professionals and property investors. By contrast, in exceptionally weak real estate markets, property owners may not be able to generate enough cash flow to cover their debt service and specific building management costs (i.e., addressing criminal behavior and community safety issues). Finally, many affordable housing units are in older buildings that would require substantial repair and capital improvements to be considered stable residences. If owners lack the cash flow to undertake these improvements, the properties will fall into disrepair. Each of these pressures can simultaneously act on different segments of a city’s affordable housing stock. An effective preservation strategy must include appropriate tools for addressing all three. Investments in preserving existing affordable units are among the most resource-efficient means of sustaining the affordable housing stock. When the MacArthur Foundation implemented its affordable housing preservation initiative, Windows of Opportunity, they found that
Four strategies for preserving affordable housing units have been successfully implemented in other municipalities. They are as follows: regulatory strategies, which slow or discourage the process of unit conversion; incentive-based strategies, which are intended to make affordable contract renewal a more financially attractive option; tenant-based strategies, which emphasize giving tenants the tools and information to act on potential conversions; and stewardship strategies, which aim to permanently preserve the public support that enabled the initial development of expiring affordable units. Many of these tools are most effective when combined with others.
Regulatory The regulatory strategies are designed to serve at least one of the following goals: provide the city with adequate time to respond to conversion threats, create priority mechanisms for purchases by public or mission-driven nonprofit entities, and minimize the financial gains of selling previously subsidized units. One common regulatory strategy is the “early warning” law, which requires owners of expiring units to give advanced notice to public agencies if they do not intend to renew their affordability contract. This strategy allows agencies, tenant organizations,
and nonprofit partners enough time to determine how to best respond to the threat of conversion (MacArthur Foundation 2007). In Chicago, owners of federally subsidized housing are required to notify the City at least 12 months in advance of the termination of affordability requirements and report any contingent sales agreements. This information is then posted publicly to the City’s website (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 2009). In addition to requiring advanced notice of potential conversions, a number of cities– Philadelphia included– require owners of subsidized units to offer public agencies the “right of first refusal” when they opt to sell their properties. Doing so ensures that agencies have the first opportunity to purchase priority properties that are at high risk for conversion. To enhance the impact of this policy tool, the right of first refusal can be extended to a list of qualified nonprofits and current tenants, thereby enabling additional opportunities for preserving unit affordability, potentially through permanent stewardship, as discussed later. Chicago, Washington D.C., New York, and other cities have already enacted some form of first refusal ordinances that extend the right to organizations beyond city agencies (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 2009). In some cases, owners may convert properties to owner-occupancy while they are still under their possession, then initiate the sale when they are no longer covered by the right of first refusal law. To avoid this outcome, it is important to include a preemptive option clause that triggers the potential for preemptive purchase whenever owners opt out of their affordability contracts (Grow 2002). Furthermore, some municipalities impose a waiting period of one to six months to allow each party enough time to put together an offer (Center for Housing Policy 2007). In volatile or transitional markets, this strategy may also have the effect of reducing the property’s attractiveness to investors interested in converting the units to market-rate. To counteract the loss of subsidy investment that occurs when affordable units expire, the City of Berkeley charges
owners a fee on condominium conversions of multifamily units. The fee can be reduced if owners agree to either limit their annual rent increases for existing tenants or keep a portion of their units affordable. Proceeds from the fee go to a housing trust fund to support affordable housing preservation and development (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 2009). Though mitigation fees can help reduce the financial incentive to convert affordable units to market-rate, they should not be considered primary preservation tools because they respond to, rather than prevent, conversions. In a similar vein as the mitigation fee, some states and cities have imposed requirements for owners to cover the moving costs of residents who are displaced by the process of conversion. Rhode Island and Maryland require coverage of all reasonable moving costs up to a limit, while San Francisco requires a flat $5,250 relocation fee per displaced household (Grow 2002). This strategy has the benefit of minimizing the financial burden of displacement for current residents, though it does not necessarily result in subsidy recapture. A combination of displacement and mitigation fees could achieve both purposes.
Incentive-Based Recognizing that preservation is both a necessary and efficient investment of public resources, a number of states, counties and cities have set aside specific funding sources to be used as incentives for preservation activities. Incentive-based strategies should respond to the specific financial pressures, such as growing housing markets and critical building improvements, that owners face when they consider opting out of affordability contracts. The City of Philadelphia already offers 10-year tax abatements for the rehabilitation of rental properties. These abatements have been utilized by owners of over 225 multifamily rental buildings, sparing them over $12 million in tax payments with no requirement of meeting public or community goals (Kromer and Tam 2005). The City should investigate offering extensions of the abatement period
as an incentive for owners to renew their affordability contracts. Alternatively, the city could make renewal of these contracts a precondition of abatement eligibility for owners of federally subsidized units. In areas where there is a substantial difference between the rental revenue of affordable and market-rate units (a high “rent gap”), larger financial incentives, such as reduced tax assessments and rental limit increases, will be needed to avert conversions. However, since this approach is likely to be a more resource-intensive preservation tool, eligible units should be carefully prioritized based on access to public transit, employment centers, and critical community services to maximize the benefit residents receive from public investment. Conversely, in economically distressed neighborhoods where affordable units may be part of older structures or built with low-quality materials, the cash flow that owners receive from rents may not be sufficient to finance much-needed capital improvements. As a result, many of these units are left to deteriorate, damaging the quality of life of both residents and the surrounding community. In these areas, low-interest loans and grants for building improvements can be offered as incentives for contract renewal. Priority should be given to “green” capital upgrades that reduce the building’s carbon footprint, lower long-term operations costs, and improve environmental health factors for residents (MacArthur Foundation 2007).
Tenant-Based Tenant organizing is a critical part of ensuring that current residents can be informed participants in the preservation process. Furthermore, they represent an important source of support for encouraging owners to participate in contract renegotiations. In recognition of this fact, the Department of Housing and Urban Development created the Outreach and Technical Assistance Grants (OTAG) and Intermediate Technical Assistance Grants (ITAG) programs to provide grants directly to tenant groups and legal aid organizations working with expiring affordable housing
contracts, though funding for both programs ceased in 2007 and 2002, respectively. The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency (now defunct after the state dissolved all redevelopment entities) offered Resident Capacity Grants for tenant organizing in expiring affordable housing. These grants enabled tenant organizations to participate directly in contract and preservation purchasing agreements, ensuring that the rights and needs of tenants were respected in the final outcome (Grow 2002). By providing similar support for tenant organizing, Philadelphia can ensure that preservation activities will become more feasible when current tenants strongly support that objective. Some cities and states require tenant impact statements that outline the full impact of unit conversions on current residents as part of an owner’s opt-out notice. Generally, these statements are required to be provided to both the supporting agency and residents themselves. The State of Minnesota, for instance, requires owners of federally subsidized units to provide such statements at least 12 months in advance of contract termination. These statements can serve as catalysts for tenant organizing (Grow 2002). Another tool for ensuring fair treatment of current residents, statutory leases require owners of converted properties to provide short-term leases (up to six months) to tenants of the previously affordable units at rent levels comparable to those under federal subsidy. Rhode Island, Maryland and Maine all employ some version of statutory leases in their contract expiration regulations. This action is intended to provide tenants with enough time to organize or pursue other housing options (Grow 2002). Furthermore, residents of structures that received project-based Section 8 subsidies are eligible for “enhanced” housing vouchers if their unit is converted to marketrate. The value of these vouchers is set to the reasonable market value of their units and owners are required to accept them under nearly all circumstances. In these situations, informed tenant organizing can help minimize the displacement caused by a market-rate conversion by providing
assistance to enhanced voucher applicants. For the numerous scattered-site rental units in the City’s inventory, transitioning affordable rental units into affordable homeownership opportunities may be a practical step. Shared-equity mortgages are a strategy for facilitating this transition in which a third party takes out a “silent” second mortgage to cover the gap between the standard mortgage for which the purchaser qualifies and the purchase price of a given home. No payments on the principal of this loan are required until the home is sold, and they are often interestfree. Furthermore, a portion of the return from the home’s appreciation goes to the originator of the shared-equity mortgage (Jacobus and Lubell 2007). In instances where affordable rental units are being sold or converted to condominiums, publicly provided shared-equity mortgages could be offered to current tenants if they meet the qualifications to obtain a private mortgage that covers some threshold percentage of the unit’s market value. While shared-equity mortgages do not provide a means of ensuring housing affordability beyond the initial borrower, they can be used as a means
of subsidy recapture for public agencies, who would share in the appreciation of the unit at the point of sale.
Stewardship Ultimately, the goal of preservation activities is to ensure that affordable housing will always be available to those who depend on it. The best way to do so is by removing properties from speculative ownership and placing them under the control of missiondriven housing organizations (Grow 2002). However, outright purchasing is likely to be among the more expensive preservation strategies, requiring targeted criteria for evaluating the appropriateness of public investment at any given site. While much of preservation purchasing focuses on transferring at-risk properties to non-profit housing organizations, tenant ownership is another stewardship strategy that fully empowers current residents in the maintenance and administration of their buildings. Shared-equity cooperatives exist in a middle area between conventional models of homeownership and rental tenancy. Their residents are owner-
Row housing with community gardens, North Central Philadelphia
occupants who enjoy many of the benefits of homeownership, including security from frivolous eviction and the ability to pass down their home through multiple generations. This ownership is expressed in the form of a real estate deed or possession of corporate shares that can be transferred from one individual to another, usually by sale. To preserve the public investment that enabled the unit’s initial affordability, the resale value of cooperative shares or units is restricted, often to their initial value plus a percentage of appreciation (Davis 2006). The monthly costs of living in a shared-equity cooperative are simply the resident’s share of outstanding debt service and property maintenance costs. For most residents, living in a shared-equity cooperative would be functionally similar to living in affordable rental housing. In the context of preservation, the conversion of multifamily buildings or multi-unit complexes to shared-equity cooperatives at the end of their affordability terms can be implemented as a strategy for permanently preserving unit affordability. Conversion generally occurs through the collective purchase of the property in question by its current residents. Depending on the local real estate market, financing this purchase will likely require some level of subsidy to keep payments at an affordable level for low-income residents. The effectiveness of this strategy is predicated on the ability to effectively organize, engage, and inform current residents of their potential options, and would therefore have to coincide with some of the tenant-based strategies outlined above. New York City and Washington D.C., the two cities with the most developed policy infrastructure for supporting cooperative conversions, both utilize a combination of tenant’s right of first refusal, statutory leases, and support for tenant organizing.
Recommendations Though neighborhood context will largely determine the appropriateness of most strategies, a number of the regulatory tools outlined above will be fundamental to a citywide preservation effort. These tools include implementing “early warning”
Affordable housing developments nearing the end of their affordability terms over housing market indicator. Darker areas indicate higher average home sale prices. notice requirements, extending the right of first refusal to non-profit housing agencies and tenant organizations, and requiring the distribution of tenant impact statements so that current residents receive adequate notice of their building’s status. Though mitigation and displacement fees are significant deterrents to market-rate conversions, retroactively applying them to existing structures may result in strong political opposition from property owners. Regardless, their application to future subsidized developments would provide a
valuable preservation incentive. Local housing market analyses should guide the use of preservation incentives and purchasing resources. As the graphic above demonstrates, a number of affordable housing developments with fewer than five years remaining in their terms are located in or immediately adjacent to strong real estate markets, and are therefore at high risk for conversion. In these areas, rent-gap-based incentives and extended tax abatements will be the most compelling negotiating tools with landlords. Furthermore, as it is
unlikely that every unit or structure in these areas will be preserved, ensuring that all eligible residents receive enhanced Section 8 vouchers will be critical for preventing displacement and potential homelessness. Conversely, there are also a number of multifamily structures in exceptionally weak housing markets. These units are the most likely to lack sufficient rental income to keep up with building management and maintenance needs. Capital improvement incentives, potentially paired with preservation purchasing or conversion to shared-equity cooperatives, will be effective strategies for maintaining affordable housing assets in areas where the need is arguably greatest. Since a large portion of the City’s scattered-site inventory is also in weak-market areas, engaging preservation purchasers may be the most effective way to preserve these units. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Mark-Up to Market program provides resources for financing the transfer of project-based Section 8 housing with below-market rates to mission-driven nonprofits. These non-profits are permitted to raise subsidized rents levels to finance building rehabilitation activities, thereby preserving units that may have otherwise been retired (Bodaken and Nedwick 2008). Affordable units on the peripheries of strong and transitional real estate markets present the strongest opportunities for leveraging stewardship strategies. A number of these areas may experience rapid property appreciation in the coming years as the impacts of gentrification spill over from neighboring communities. Facilitating conversion to shared-equity cooperatives, preservation purchasing, and even homeownership through shared-equity mortgages will be the most cost-effective ways to protect affordability investments and foster mixed-income communities (Bodaken and Nedwick 2008). Even if these markets ultimately do not experience rapid growth, creating permanent, wellmaintained affordable housing units can serve as an important buffer against neighborhood decline. Inevitably, financing preservation purchasing will require some degree of public support. New York City
leverages $8 million in public investment to generate a $200 million housing acquisition fund with support from private banks and foundations (MacArthur Foundation 2007). This fund enables preservation purchasers to quickly develop offers for expiring affordable properties. Currently, the Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund receives a large portion of its core funding through a $86-$102 fee on deed and mortgage recording, providing a base for leveraging tens of million in private funds each year. In FY 2011, the Fund targeted 45 units of existing affordable rental housing for preservation (Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund 2011). A much more aggressive approach will be needed to preserve a significant portion of the 1,686 units expected to expire in the next five years, even if some portion of these are already managed by mission-driven nonprofit organizations. A minimal increase of the recording fee, perhaps $10-$15, could provide a larger base for leveraging funds for preservation acquisitions without substantially affecting the feasibility of property transfers. Program-related investments from charitable foundations may provide another opportunity for financing affordable housing preservation. Program-related investments are low-cost loans and equity investments offered by private charitable foundations to support mission-related activities. The MacArthur Foundation has made over $150 million worth of program-related investments targeting the preservation of affordable rental housing. These investments support a range of preservation activities, from contributing to preservation purchase funds to financing deep energy efficiency retrofits that dramatically reduce building operation costs (MacArthur Foundation 2007). These investments have largely focused on the Foundation’s home city, Chicago, though they have expressed interest in supporting efforts in other cities that demonstrate a potential to influence public policy. Finally, some municipalities use their tax-exempt bonding authority to provide low-interest financing for preservation activities. The City of Portland, Oregon,
used facilities bonds to refinance one of the City’s major supportive housing providers when it was struggling to cover its debtservice on rental income alone. The City utilized a state program that streamlined the underwriting process to support loans for non-profit entities of up to $5 million (City of Seattle 2009). Similar processes could be used to finance preservation purchases of expiring units by stewardship owners. Furthermore, a number of states, including Michigan, New York, and Oregon, have set aside tax-exempt bond capacity for specific preservation activities, including incentivizing the extension of dwindling affordability periods (Center for Housing Policy 2007). Ultimately, there are no one-sizefits-all solutions to preserving affordable housing units. Factors such as market context, building condition, tenant interest and public resources will all play major roles in determining which strategies are appropriate for each unit. Therefore, it is important to maintain a range of preservation tools that can be applied in each context.
References Bodaken, Michael, and Todd Nedwick. “Saving America’s Affordable Rental Housing Stock:The Need and the Role of National Banks.” Community Developments. U.S. Department of the Treasury, Spring 2008. http://www.occ.gov/static/community-affairs/ community-developments-newsletter/spring08/ articles/landscape/cdn08spring03.htm (accessed February 28, 2013). Center for Housing Policy. 2013. “Preserve Rental Homes.” http://www.housingpolicy.org/toolbox/ strategy/policies/preservation.html?tierid=187 (accessed February 28, 2013). City of Seattle. “Housing Preservation Guide: A Guide to Preserving and Restructuring Affordable Housing.” http://www.seattle.gov/housing/management/docs/ preservation_guide.pdf (accessed February 28, 2013). Davis, John Emmeus. “Shared Equity Homeownership: The Changing Landscape of Resale-Restricted, OwnerOccupied Housing”. National Housing Institute. http://www.nhi.org/pdf/SharedEquityHome.pdf (accessed February 28, 2013). Gillen, Kevin C. “The Economics of Homebuilding
in Philadelphia”. Econsult Corporation, March 23. http://www.econsult.com/articles/032310_Presentation.pdf (accessed February 28, 2013). Grow, James. 2013. “Expiring Use Brief.” PolicyLink. http://www.policylink.org/site/c.lkIXLbMNJrE/ b.5136981/k.A41A/Expiring_Use.htm (accessed February 28, 2013). Jacobus, R., and J. Lubell. “Preservation of Affordable Homeownership: A Continuum of Strategies.” Center for Housing Policy, April. http://affordableownership.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/CHP2007-Preserving-Affordability.pdf (accessed February 28, 2013). Kromer, John, and Vicky Tam. “Philadelphia Residential Tax Abatements: Accomplishments & Impacts.” Fels Institue of Government, December 14, 2005. http:// www.fels.upenn.edu/news/new-report-urban-revitalization-2 (accessed February 28, 2013). MacArthur Foundation. “Brochure:Window of Opportunity: Preserving Affordable Rental Housing.” July 5, 2007. http://www.macfound.org/press/publications/brochure-window-of-opportunity-preservingaffordable-rental-housing/ (accessed February 28, 2013). Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund. “Expanding Housing Opportunities & Revitalizing Neighborhoods.” http:// www.phila.gov/ohcd/reports/HTF%20Report%20 2011%20for%20web.pdf (accessed February 28, 2013). Schwartz, Debra D. “Banking on Preservation: New Opportunities for Banks to Preserve and Improve the Existing Stock of Affordable Rental Homes.” Community Developments. U.S Department of the Treasury, Spring 2008. http://www.occ.gov/static/ community-affairs/community-developments-newsletter/spring08/articles/landscape/cdn08spring04. htm#preservationsidebar1 (accessed February 28, 2013). U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “Strategies to Preserve Affordable Rental Housing.” Breakthroughs, December 2009. http://www. huduser.org/portal/rbc/newsletter/vol8iss6_1.html (accessed February 28, 2013).
Mandatory Energy Retrofits: A Case for New York Cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Private Building Owners by Danielle Borden
20 PANORAMA 2013
New York City’s density and building height provides a scale of efficiency that few other cities can match, particularly when it comes to energy use. Yet, as the city strives for long-term sustainability, it will have to confront its largest and most untamed energy consumer: its privately owned building stock. The Greener, Greater Buildings Plan took an important first step in bringing city-owned buildings under new requirements for energy audits and retrocommissioning, but stops short of necessitating action from private building owners. Author Danielle Borden argues that, through a combination of policy revisions and new financial incentives, city government can successfully incorporate private buildings into the Plan, greatly improving its chances of meeting its ambitious environmental goals.
Introduction No other city in the United States is defined by its buildings quite like New York City. Skyscrapers are as common as streetlights, and whenever “density” is mentioned as a goal for a city, the thought of “Manhattanization” often follows, evoking images of an ever-taller skyline punctuated by bright lights that never seem to turn off. Indeed, New York City’s one million buildings are the biggest energy consumers across the five boroughs: 94 percent of electricity use in the city comes from buildings, which also contribute 75 percent of the city’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (PlaNYC 2011). In an era of increased awareness about climate change and the negative impacts of excessive energy consumption, city leaders have taken bold
steps to address New York City’s energy footprint by targeting its largest user. The release of the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan (GGBP) in 2009 was a major step in addressing the energy consumption of the city’s buildings, both publicly and privately owned. The plan introduced four key Local Laws (LLs) aimed at benchmarking, upgrading, auditing, and retro-commissioning New York City’s largest buildings. One law in particular, LL 87, deserves attention. LL 87 stipulates that every ten years, buildings that are required to annually benchmark their energy performance must also conduct an energy audit and a retro-commissioning, or “tuneup,” to improve energy efficiency. Cityowned buildings must implement energy retrofits identified in the audit, while privately owned buildings are exempt from this requirement. While the first required audits and retro-commissionings are still a few years away, New York City’s leaders should require private building owners to undertake the recommended capital improvements and retrofits identified in the audit in order to reduce unnecessary energy use, optimize building performance, and support New York City’s goal of significantly reducing its GHG emissions. In particular, LL 87 could be revised to make these improvements mandatory for private building owners through square footage thresholds, short investment payback periods, and public financial assistance.
PlaNYC & Landmark Environmental Legislation The suite of laws included in the GGBP is a direct result of PlaNYC, New York City’s most comprehensive sustainability plan to date, introduced in 2007. The most wellpublicized aspect of the plan is its goal of reducing citywide GHG emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. Targeting the largest emitter of GHG emissions – the city’s buildings – was a logical strategy and led to the creation of the GGBP. Recognizing that monitoring one million buildings is an ambitious task, GGBP focuses on the city’s largest properties (both private and cityowned) that are 50,000 gross square feet or larger in size, or on multiple buildings on a lot totaling over 100,000 square feet. These properties were targeted because together, they are responsible for 45 percent of the energy consumed in New York City, even when the transportation sector is taken into consideration (MOLTPS 2012). Privately and city-owned properties above this threshold are now required to annually benchmark their energy performance (LL 84), comply with the most current energy code for renovations and alterations (LL 85), conduct an energy audit and a retro-commissioning every ten years (LL 87), upgrade lighting in non-residential buildings to adhere to current New York City Energy Conservation Code standards, install electrical submeters for non-residential tenant space, and provide monthly energy statements (LL 88). Out of all the GGBP ordinances,
Source: Mayor’s Office; NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection; NYC Dept. of Sanitation; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
New York City’s buildings have a significant impact on the environment in terms of energy, water, and land.
LL 87 has the potential to make the biggest impact because the audits will identify capital improvements that can improve buildings’ energy efficiency. The audit investigates the base building systems, which are the subsystems of a building that use energy and impact energy consumption. Elements of the system include the building envelope, heating ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, conveying systems, hot water systems, and electrical and lighting systems. The audit must also identify capital improvements or measures that could reduce energy use, what those cost savings would be, how much it would cost to implement the improvements, and the simple payback period (number of years) for such improvements. LL 87 requires that a certified energy auditor perform the audit and the results of the audit are to be placed on file with the Department of Buildings in an energy efficiency report, which details the audit and retro-commissioning findings (LL 87 2009). Retro-commissioning is a systematic process that optimizes the energy efficiency of existing base building systems, in contrast to “commissioning” for new base building systems. The process highlights and rectifies problems in the systems by repairing defects, cleaning components, adjusting valves, sensors, or programmed settings, and changing operational and maintenance practices. In addition to identifying energy deficiencies, retro-
A retro-commissioning agent would spend time in a building’s operations room to examine key existing base building systems, such as the HVAC system depicted here. commissioning agents also tune up base building systems so they perform more efficiently. Similar to the audit process, retro-commissioning must be completed by an approved retro-commissioning agent before the energy efficiency report can be filed with the Department of Buildings (LL 87 2009). LL 87 does include significant exceptions to the auditing and retrocommissioning requirements. Currently, buildings that meet the following criteria are exempted from the requirements:
buildings with less than 50,000 gross square feet; one-, two-, and three-family homes; condos and co-ops with no more than three dwelling units; and buildings that have achieved EPA Energy Star ratings for two of the three years prior to an audit requirement or Existing Building Commissioning Investigation and Existing Building Commissioning Implantation points from LEED for Existing Buildings within four years prior to the upcoming audit requirement or within two years prior to filing the energy efficiency report
Table 1: Results of 2012 LL 84 Benchmarking Report
Total Square Feet Benchmarked
City Properties (s.f.) Benchmarked Private Properties (s.f.) Benchmarked
Source: 2013 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates Just under twenty percent of the total buildings included in the 2012 LL 84 Benchmarking Report were city-owned buildings.These buildings will be required to make the capital improvements identified in the building audit and retro-commissioning performed in accordance with LL 87. Privately-owned buildings must also undergo the audit and retro-commissioning but do not have to make the recommended capital improvements.
(LL 87 2009). The underlying goal of LL 87 is that the results of the audit and the retro-commissioning will lead to energy retrofits that address buildings’ energyefficiency shortcomings. These retrofits could include capital improvements such as the replacement of outdated systems or the introduction of stronger, more effective maintenance and oversight measures that closely monitor building performance. LL 87 mandates that within one year of submitting an energy efficiency report, city-owned buildings must complete reasonable capital improvements to the building’s base system, defined as those improvements identified in the audit that have a simple payback of seven years or less. Alternatively, city-owned buildings could implement a series of capital improvements whose reduction in energy consumption would match the energy reduction of capital improvements that have a payback of seven years or less (LL 87 2009). A GGBP advisory written by a New York City law firm, Goulston & Storrs, states that LL 87 originally required retrofits with a five-year payback at privately owned buildings, but the law as it exists today was amended to apply only to city-owned
buildings (Friedman and Rabinowitz 2009). While it is unclear why privately owned buildings were excluded from LL 87, private buildings represent 81 percent of the total building square footage included in the 2012 LL 84 Benchmarking Report (see Table 1). It will be difficult for New York City to achieve its GHG emissions reduction goal if only one-fifth of building owners are required to address the recommendations listed in the energy audit.
Building Commissioning Benefits The findings of a landmark study published in 2011 demonstrate that there is indeed a monetary benefit of retrocommissioning and that the cost of making buildings more energy efficient is not as prohibitive as might be imagined. Evan Mills and his colleagues at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory analyzed 643 non-residential buildings (both existing buildings and new construction) in the United States, comprising 99 million square feet in total. The analysis showed that the median normalized cost to retrocommission existing buildings is $0.30 per square foot (in 2009 dollars) and that for buildings that had energy-related
The Mills report found that improperly monitored HVAC ducts are one of the leading causes of energy efficiencies in commercial buildings. Common problems include HVAC systems left on when space is unoccupied, unbalanced airflow, and poorly maintained filters.
deficiencies, the correction of those deficiencies resulted in 16 percent median whole-building energy savings in existing buildings, with a retro-commissioning payback time of 1.1 years, not including retrofits and other capital expenditures (Mills 2011). Mills argues that retrocommissioning is critical because it addresses buildings’ “drift” from intended performance over time. To not engage in retro-commissioning is akin to kicking the can down the road, delaying these costs to the future (Mills 2011). The same argument can be made for making energy retrofits after retrocommissioning. Unadressed deficiencies could be future liabilities for building owners, who will be subject to higher operation and maintenance costs. Ignoring deferred maintenance and energy wastage is a detriment to the environment and could make it harder for New York City to achieve its GHG emissions reduction goals. Mills’ work revealed that the top five faults causing energy inefficiencies in commercial buildings include duct leakage, HVAC left on when space is unoccupied, lights left on when space is unoccupied, unbalanced airflow, and improper refrigerant charge (Mills 2011, 148). In many instances, these inefficiencies are relatively simple to address at a low cost. Recalibration and the adjustment and installation of sensors can correct these problems. But in other cases, the inefficiencies may result from broken or outdated equipment, which would need to be replaced. Mills’ work also reveals that the median investment to address deficiencies per existing building was $49,000 (Mills 2011). While this median cost may be prohibitive for some building owners, the results of the study sample reveal that investments lead to level or slightly increasing savings over time. This is likely a result of comprehensive commissioning efforts, which can include training and installation of permanent metering and feedback systems that “live on” after commissioning is conducted and can sustain the efficient operation of the building, leading to greater savings (Mills 2011). Comprehensively commissioned buildings reached nearly double the overall
median level of savings and five times the savings of less thorough projects. Based on these findings, Mills recommends that commissioning address the entire building, not just a single element in isolation, like HVAC. This is in line with LL 87, which requires that retro-commissioning address the entire base building system and its associated components.
Case study: Real Estate Investment Trusts Private building owners who have a large portfolio of buildings, such as real estate investment trusts (REITs), may have the economies of scale, financial capacity, and managerial expertise to implement and monitor these energyefficient improvements, with or without a government-issued mandate. Reductions in the energy consumption of large buildings under the ownership of a single entity could have significant positive impacts in reducing New York City’s overall energy footprint. SL Green Realty Corp. is a prominent REIT whose portfolio consists primarily of New York City-based properties. The company describes itself as “New York City’s largest office landlord.” As of September 2012, SL Green owned and operated 36 commercial office and retail buildings that, based on their size, would be subject to the GGBP mandates (all are larger than 50,000 gross square feet). Taken together, these 36 buildings contain 24.2 million gross square feet of space. The overall gross square footage of commercial buildings benchmarked under LL 84 was 340.7 million square feet. Put another way, SL Green’s properties are the equivalent of seven percent of all commercial buildings that were benchmarked (assuming that SL Green complied with LL84). Operating data from the company’s 2011 Annual Report reveals that total revenue in 2011 was $1.26 billion. Operating expenses (assumed to include capital reserves that would be allocated for capital improvements to the company’s buildings) for 2012 were approximately $283 million. Based on prior infrastructure improvement costs for an existing building, including provision of full building redundancy for
critical systems and operating capacities, capital reserves were assumed to comprise 10 percent of total operating expenses, or roughly $27.9 million. Is this enough to cover the estimated expense of retrocommissioning and energy retrofits across SL Green’s portfolio? To determine the expense, Mills’ estimate of $0.30 per square foot for commissioning was applied to SL Green’s total New York City building square footage (for buildings greater than 50,000 square feet). This calculation resulted in a cost of $7.2 million. Mills’ median cost of energyrelated investments for existing buildings ($49,000 per building) was then multiplied across SL Green’s 36 buildings, which resulted in a cost of $1.7 million. Taken together, the cost of retro-commissioning and implementation of retrofits would be $9 million across SL Green’s entire portfolio. This cost represents one-third of the estimated capital reserves for 2012. Since retro-commissioning and retrofits would only occur every ten years, these capital improvements should not be burdensome. As Mills’ research suggests, energy efficiency improvements are smart, long-term investments that can help to reduce operating costs for building owners. Not all potential retrofits would cost $49,000; some may be minor and less than the median cost, while others may be more expensive and higher than the median cost. These capital improvements can also reduce the tax basis when the building is sold. If retrofits are completed after the first audit and the building’s performance is closely monitored, it may not be necessary to implement another round of retrofits when the second audit and retro-commissioning occurs. Undertaking these retrofits would increase the efficiency of the buildings within SL Green’s portfolio. Likewise, potential new tenants may be drawn to buildings that are energy efficient and can lead to reduced individual utility costs. The results of the audit, retro-commissioning, and retrofits (if implemented) are documented in the energy efficiency report, which is held on file with the Department of Buildings. Should SL Green
decide to sell one of its buildings, potential buyers would be able to access the report to understand the property’s operating expenses and, absent a LEED certification and/or Energy Star rating, review the building’s energy performance to identify any major deficiencies, even if the energy costs are passed through to the tenant. Only a small fraction of SL Green’s New York City holdings are energy-certified (one LEED certified building and six Energy Star-rated buildings). SL Green’s holdings represent the equivalent of 7 percent of the commercial buildings included in the 2012 LL 84 benchmarking report, and if those buildings were all operating as efficiently as they could be, much progress could be made towards reducing the city’s overall GHG emissions. The results of the benchmarking report reveal that if all comparatively inefficient large buildings were brought to the median Energy Use Intensity (EUI) in their category (multifamily, office, industrial, etc.), then New York City could see a reduction in energy consumption in large buildings by 18 percent and reduction in GHG emissions by 20 percent (MOLTPS 2012, 5). The report also suggests that targeting the office sector makes the most sense because of the massive amount of energy used in a relatively small amount of buildings.
Revising LL 87 The city could revise LL 87 to make energy retrofits mandatory for buildings that are owned by the same entity and which, taken together, have gross square footage over one million square feet. Entities like SL Green that own and operate such significant holdings in New York City, one of the most expensive real estate markets in the country, likely have the economies of scale and capital to be able to implement decennial energy retrofits without a significant impact to their bottom line. The threshold would protect smaller building owners who do not have the same financial capacity as larger owners. Alternatively, the city could revise LL 87 to make energy retrofits mandatory if the buildings have a simple payback time of
While Manhattan’s skyline will always shine at night, New York City’s environmental laws should help it do so more efficiently. three years or less. The shorter time period suggests that the retrofits would not be significant, but would still see the building enjoying energy savings as a result of the investment. The audit would still identify suggested retrofits and their associated cost, savings, and payback time (as currently required in LL 87), but retrofits for private buildings with more than a three year payback would be optional. Finally, the city can encourage building owners to apply for programs that will help them pay for retrofits. Currently, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) offers up to $30,000 in pre-qualified electric incentives to entice applicants to purchase and install energy-efficient equipment for smaller energy and equipment replacement projects (NYSERDA 2012). The incentives are available for lighting, HVAC, interval meters, furnaces and boilers, and space and water heating equipment, among other equipment. NYSERDA also offers performance-based incentives to encourage building owners to implement energy efficiency projects that deliver verifiable annual energy savings (provided by an engineering analysis). The maximum incentive per facility for an electric efficiency project is $2,000,000 (NYSERDA 2012). To be eligible for both programs, the facility must pay into the Systems Benefits
Charge (SBC) as electric distribution customers through a list of select utility companies. Building owner involvement is key in addressing building energy efficiency. A NYSERDA report on retro-commissioning for peak electric demand reduction in New York City found that effective comprehensive retro-commissioning requires strong support from building owners and program administrators to maintain enhanced services that result from retro-commissioning and capital investments. This support includes engineering staff, training expertise, and innovative teaming strategies (Lenihan 2007). Both studies agree that a holistic approach to commissioning, in addition to capital improvements and skilled management oversight, result in long-term building performance improvement. The biggest barrier to private building owners’ acceptance of mandatory retrofits, however, is paying for improvements that seemingly only benefit the tenant. Leaders in New York City are aware of this concern and have addressed it by partnering with real estate industry leaders to produce the Energy Aligned Clause (EAC). The EAC can be inserted into a commercial lease and addresses the “split incentive” problem, which occurs when building owners foot the bill for energy retrofits to the base
building system and tenants realize the financial benefits of the retrofit through a reduction in their pro rata share of base building operating expenses (MOLTPS 2011). Inserting this clause relieves a building owner from assuming one hundred percent of the cost of implementing energy efficiency improvements. A New York City Mayor’s Office survey reveals that 60 percent of New York City commercial property owners said the split incentive was a barrier to implementing energy retrofits (MOLTPS 2011). The Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability (MOLTPS) organized a Working Group composed of major building owners, tenants, property managers, lawyers, and engineers to address the issue. After a series of meetings, the following solution was reached: The building owner’s cost recovery is based on a prediction of savings as determined by an energy specialist agreed upon by both parties, but the owner’s capital expense pass-through is limited to 80 percent of such predicted savings in any given year. This provides the tenant with a cushion to protect against underperformance; accordingly, the owner’s payback (recovery) period is extended by 25 percent. (MOLTPS 2011).
This clause can be inserted into a typical modified gross commercial lease and is already being implemented in the leases for buildings such as 7 World Trade Center and three new City leases for over 400,000 square feet in Brooklyn and Manhattan (MOLTPS 2011). The most important feature of the EAC is that no single party will disproportionally bear the cost of energy retrofits since building owners can recover their capital costs and tenants are protected from paying for retrofits that underperform. It remains to be seen how many commercial leases will include the EAC, but it is a step in the right direction for convincing building owners to make energy retrofits.
Mandatory Retrofits: Another Opportunity to Lead the Way In many ways, New York City has been a pioneer in energy efficiency from the start. The incredible density of the city in and of itself is energy efficient. People walk, ride bicycles, or take public transportation to where they need to be. Shared walls and floors in dense buildings lower heating costs. New York City residents consume only 5 kilowatt hours of electricity per person per day, compared to 38 kilowatt hours of electricity per person per day consumed by Houston residents. An urban lifestyle makes a difference, but New York City’s biggest sustainability challenge is its sheer number of buildings. The scope of the GGBP and its four regulatory pieces are intended to make sure change actually happens. By requiring building owners to report their energy consumption, owners must confront their buildings’ and tenants’ practices. Mandatory audits and retrocommissioning mean that owners must identify deficiencies, and in the case of cityowned buildings, rectify the problems. The importance of New York City’s building policies cannot be overstated in an age of increasing awareness about the negative effects of climate change, especially since city leaders can definitively point to buildings as significant GHG emitters. New York City’s policies are already influencing other cities to monitor the
energy consumption of their own building stock. Seattle, for instance, now requires annual energy consumption reports from owners of buildings larger than 10,000 square feet, which is approximately 9,000 buildings (Schendel 2011). This policy should help to reduce Seattle’s GHG emissions, 25 percent of which comes from its buildings. Similarly, the City of Austin’s Energy Conservation Audit and Disclosure (ECAD) requires commercial buildings above 10,000 square feet that receive electricity from Austin Energy to benchmark their energy use annually. No retrofitting is required, but Austin Energy provides rebates and special programs for commercial building owners to make energy-efficiency improvements (Austin Energy 2012). Buildings are responsible for 41 percent of total energy consumption in the U.S., so policies like those of New York City, Seattle, and Austin help to address this problem (U.S. Energy Information Administration 2012). New York City has aggressively addressed its largest energy consumer and GHG emitter not only by requiring large buildings to annually report their energy consumption, but also mandating periodic audits and retro-commissioning. It can do more. LL 87 must be revised to require private building owners to make the improvements and/or capital investments identified in the energy audit, either through square footage thresholds, shorter investment payback periods, or provision of financial assistance. Privately owned buildings compose 81 percent of the square footage covered in the latest benchmarking report, and that was with only 75 percent of large buildings participating in the effort (MOLTPS 2012, 6). Not adequately addressing the energy deficiencies in these buildings prevents New York City from reaching its goals outlined in PlaNYC.
The City of New York. “Local Laws of the City of New York: No. 87.” http://www.nyc.gov/html/gbee/ downloads/pdf/ll87of2009_audits_and_retro-commissioning.pdf (accessed February 28, 2013). Mills, Evan. “Building Commissioning: A Golden Opportunity for Reducing Energy Costs and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the United States.” Energy Efficiency 4 (2011): 145-73. Friedman, Max and David Rabinowitz. “New York City Adopts New Operational Mandates for Existing Buildings.” Goulston & Storrs Advisory, December 2009. http://www.goulstonstorrs.com/NewsEvents/ Advisories?find=31104 (accessed February 28, 2013). Lenihan, Kimberlie A. “Retro-Commissioning for Peak Electric Demand in New York City.” Paper presented at the National Conference on Building Commissioning, May 2-4, 2007. New York City Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability. PlaNYC: Overview of the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan. http://www.nyc.gov/html/ gbee/downloads/pdf/greener_greater_building_plan. pdf (accessed February 28, 2013). New York City Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability. New York City Local Law 84 Benchmarking Report. http://www.nyc.gov/html/ gbee/downloads/pdf/nyc_ll84_benchmarking_report_2012.pdf (accessed February 28, 2013). New York City Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability. PlaNYC: Detailed Summary of Local Law 87. http://www.nyc.gov/html/gbee/downloads/pdf/audits_and_rcx_summary_for_website.pdf (accessed February 28, 2013). New York City Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability. PlaNYC: Energy Aligned Clause Overview. http://www.nyc.gov/html/gbee/downloads/pdf/eac_overview.pdf (accessed February 28, 2013).
New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Existing Facilities Program. http://www. nyserda.ny.gov/Commercial-and-Industrial/CIPrograms/Existing-Facilities-Program/Pre-QualifiedIncentives.aspx (accessed February 28, 2013).
Austin Energy. “Energy Conservation Audit and Disclosure (ECAD) Ordinance for Owners of Commercial Buildings.” http://www.austinenergy.com/About%20 Us/Environmental%20Initiatives/ordinance/commercial.htm (accessed February 28, 2013).
Schendel, Stephanie. “Going green: New City Law Requires Buildings to Report Energy Use.” Investigate West, October 4, 2011. http://www.invw.org/ content/going-green-new-city-law-requires-buildingsto-report-energy-use (accessed February 28, 2013).
SL Green Realty Corp. Annual Report. http://investor. shareholder.com/slg/annuals.cfm (accessed February 28, 2013). SL Green Realty Corp. “Properties.” http://slgreen. com/properties/ (accessed February 28, 2013). SL Green Realty Corp. “About Us.” http://slgreen. com/about/ (accessed February 28, 2013). U.S. Energy Information Administration. “Frequently Asked Questions.” http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/ faq.cfm?id=86&t=1 (accessed February 28, 2013). Vornado Realty Trust. “New York.” http://www.vnony. com/ (accessed February 28, 2013).
Boomtime in Bangalore: In Pursuit of Tech Dominance, Growing Social Divisions Are More Than Digital by Juell Stewart
28 PANORAMA 2013
Bangalore, India has crafted a unique place for itself in the global economy. The rise to global prominence of the tech sector, backed by the efforts of public and private stakeholders, has brought along with it a growing local economy that does not receive the same attention. Author Juell Stewart outlines Bangalore’s trajectory of growth and warns against a future that continues to neglect citizens outside of the tech sector who still lack basic resources. Stewart concludes with suggestions for Bangalore to harness the power of a booming economy and lead India in distributing these benefits to those on the urban fringe to create a more resilient, and more equitable, city.
Growing Disparity in the Face of Emerging Prosperity When a city’s role in the global economy relies on its regional dominance in information technology, it is destined to realize social and political implications of the technological divide writ large. As income levels, land value, and population grow in Bangalore, so too does the chasm between the local economies—to which the majority of the city’s poor and middleclass are connected—and the corporate economies, which serve as the primary route of political connection for private sector elites (Solomon 2000). As the central administrative, technological, and political capital of the Indian state of Karnataka, Bangalore has undergone a number of historical economic transformations and industrial phases, from serving as a crossroads of international textile production in the early 19th century to emerging as India’s preeminent “technopole” today (Heitzman 2006). But while a fortunate few Bangaloreans have enjoyed prosperity as a result of the city’s rapid growth and economic development since the 1980s and 1990s, local government still faces challenges in keeping up with the demand of infrastructure and resource management to deliver basic services to a growing population that has been pushed to the social and spatial margins of the town thanks to rising land values and costs of living (Sudhira 2007). Bangalore emerged from small village beginnings in the 12th century to become the global technological juggernaut that it is today. Spatially, today the city is 10 times as
expansive as it was in 1949. The population has also grown steadily: there was a 38% increase between 1991 and 2001, followed by a 48% increase in population between 2001 and 2011 (Sudhira 2007). A number of economic, political, and social factors have converged to stimulate rapid growth in the region, and the city’s government is now finding that in order to keep up with the ever-increasing demands of being a globally competitive metropolis, it must be adept at catering to the needs of the international business community—a challenge that has both contributed to a thriving electronics sector and detracted from the availability of basic services for Bangaloreans. Arguably, the dichotomous economic and political structure that exists in Bangalore today can be traced back as early as the 1950s and 1960s, when India’s first postcolonial Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, began experimenting with planned development. During this time there was an explosion in jobs and housing, and a subsequent migration of hundreds of thousands of workers seeking employment in the expanding telephone and electronics manufacturing industry as well as opportunities in what was becoming the country’s scientific research hub. However, as people flocked to the city in pursuit of labor in the government-planned formal economy, the city’s population and land also expanded to accommodate a growing informal sector, unplanned and concentrated in neighborhood enclaves, rather than in the central city (Chakravartty 2008). As the Karnataka state government planned and facilitated the growth of the IT industry by building designated commercial zones in Bangalore’s central district, existing residents were pushed to the periphery where they developed informal settlements supported by informal economic activity (Solomon 2000). Thanks in part to the liberalization of the Indian economy in the early 1990s, and built on Bangalore’s reputation for highly skilled knowledge workers, the corporate city began to fully emerge, attracting an agglomeration of information technology companies and eventually leading to the city’s reputation as the “Silicon Valley of
Aerial view of Bangalore from the Public Utility Building on Mahatma Ghandi Road, one of the busiest commercial roads in the city. India.” Unfortunately, however, as private stakeholders have an increasing financial stake in guiding infrastructure investments and development through parastatal agencies, those on the periphery must continue to exist within a perverse system that prioritizes corporate development above providing basic resources like clean water and adequate sewage systems. Bangalore’s economic prosperity may be doing more harm to a large number of its inhabitants than good.
Bangalore’s Place in the Global Economy Bangalore’s IT-related growth was part of a concerted effort by Karnataka’s chief minister S.M. Krishna to echo Singapore’s prosperity and urban growth (Nair 2005). To achieve these goals, Krishna assembled the Bangalore Agenda Task Force (BATF) by government order in 1999 (Ghosh 2005). Comprised of private sector, government, and NGO leaders, the organization’s purpose was to oversee the development of Bangalore, with the ultimate vision of positioning the city to attract foreign investment to stimulate growth in the region (Nair 2005). What began as an agency to act as a conduit for fulfilling the state’s aspirations and economic goals
A sign at Bengaluru International Airport boasts the city’s ethos of using technological development to spur economic development. has become a parastatal organization that essentially works in tandem with local and state governments (Ghosh 2005). The BATF has been extremely successful in bringing Bangalore’s technology sector to the forefront in the past decade, as evidenced by the sector’s rapid growth and expanding influence in the city. However, the unintended consequence of the city’s elevated global prominence has been the emergence of a highly visible middle -class that not only detracts government attention and resources from the portion of the population that is truly disadvantaged, it has also created a political environment dominated by corporate and middle -class interests (Ghosh 2005). As a result of this government structure, public private partnership projects typically are given priority in infrastructure and urban growth investments, which has led to accelerated development of the sections of the city that are connected to business interests, but have left the slum areas in poor, and in many cases, deteriorating, condition. Because there is such a premium for land in the central city, poor and lowerclass residents have been forced out of the city and onto the urban fringe (Madon 1997). The agency charged with land use, regulation, and city planning, the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), has not been effective in responding to the demands of growth and land allocation. Because the BDA must generate a surplus
to pay for its organizational functions, the agency has the impetus to only develop income-generating projects. Infrastructure investments are now almost entirely tied to the private sector, which can fund and influence development through parastatal agencies designed to stimulate growth in the central city. As a result of this imbalanced funding schema, those on the periphery must struggle within a divided city, which doesn’t have the capacity or resources to keep up with a growing population. It is important to note that spatial divisions along class lines have long been a way of life in Bangalore. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the city began to enact zoning regulations and expansion policies that promoted a separation between residential and commercial uses (Nair 2005). These divisions were often made along caste lines, allocating more open space and larger lot sizes to highclass Brahmin communities in the “New City” and leaving the “Old City” to the working class, who began to experience the effects of class segregation as the city grew larger. By all accounts, the city has a past rooted in functioning as a divided city, with distinct transportation hubs, employment centers and central markets (Nair 2005). Though there was a brief period after India’s 1947 independence when city planners were concerned with the status of the factory worker, the city’s economic development has leapfrogged traditional smokestack production and has immediately been hurtled into 21st century means of production, which has rendered the proletariat class ultimately invisible and without much political and social capital (Nair 2005). Since the middle -class is expanding, and work in the IT sector is becoming a much more visible means by which to attain the idealized lifestyle, the new economy has created a culture of conspicuous consumption in the city, a value that has been manifested in the way that the city executes public space (Nair 2005). As the city maintains its globalized status and incomes continue to rise, street life has become less active; instead of the culture of commercial streets that once
existed, public outdoor markets have been supplanted by suburban shopping malls. The dominance of the automobile has made the city increasingly mobile, leading to settlements in “ring towns” in the city’s periphery. Beginning in the 1990s, population and economic booms led to the spatial expansion of the city. Commercial and industrial roadways led to urban sprawl, and today Bangalore boasts the highest ratio of motor vehicles in India: about 32 cars for every 100 persons (Lefevre 2009). Because of these conditions, city planning bodies have been burdened by the need to alleviate congestion for workers commuting from outlying areas, leading to a loss in green cover from removing trees to expand existing roads (Sudhira 2007). The city’s built area continues to increase, from 16% of the total land area in 2000 to 24% in 2007. Pollution from exhaust fumes combined with a decline in tree cover in urbanized areas has led to an exacerbated urban heat effect, which has affected the climate within city limits. Population growth has clearly had significant environmental repercussions. A number of organizations and agencies exist in Bangalore under the auspices of guiding development. The problem is that the role of government in these efforts is complicated, as many
Commuters at Kempegowda Bus Station, which connects 800,000 users per day to areas throughout Bangalore via Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation buses as well as other private transit companies.
parastatal organizations exist in different geographies throughout the city , and there is a lack of coordination among them (Sudhira 2007). The Greater Bangalore City Corporation is a formal administrative body in charge of representing the interests of constituents in the city limits and on the periphery. Officially, the BDA is in charge of planning the city, yet the State of Karnataka has assumed the responsibility of distributing energy, water, and public safety (Sudhira 2007). This lack of coordination and relative political impotence at the local level has led to a fragmented government structure without the proper resources and power to properly administer large-scale planning efforts throughout the city. The dream of turning Bangalore into the new Singapore and bringing along with it the benefits of a wealthier urban society has been partially realized in recent years. The city is now a vital piece of the global economy, and judging solely by economic metrics, the IT sector has brought an enormous amount of resources to Bangalore. The newly-industrializing city has been able to strategically take advantage of its placeless economy to stimulate growth relatively quickly. According to Manuel Castells’ dialectic, the process of deregulation in Bangalore opened the city’s economic borders, which attracted transnational companies because of the sheer size of the market and the labor force. Consequently, the city grew around the IT industry, making concessions to Western companies that had the capital to subsidize development in the region. Demand for knowledge sector employees has risen, and it has become increasingly technologically feasible to transport labor across geographic boundaries. Today, Bangalore makes up 30% of the IT workforce in India, and the income is greater than the average wages in India’s top metropolitan areas . (Sudhira 2007). Nair argues that as a consequence of globalization, cities in particular have become more important (rather than entire countries) because they are agile enough to act independently from a national context. This has certainly been the case in Bangalore, as it has been adept and intentional at carving out its own place in
Bangaloreans at a vibrant city market. the global market, creating technology and knowledge hubs and growing corollary service industries. As a result, the primary pull factors influencing migration to Bangalore are employment and education opportunities. Though there have been rapid gains in employment—some hightech companies in Bangalore grow by 50% each year—the other side of this growth is that the demand for employees in the knowledge sector is outpacing the supply and capacity for institutions in Bangalore to produce qualified workers, leading companies to recruit from outside of the city (Madon 1997).
Controlling Land and Managing Growth When Chief Minister Krishna set forth the agenda to turn Bangalore into the next Singapore, it triggered an era of government involvement with private industry. Through the Department of Electronics, the Ministry of Commerce, the National Informatics Center, and other government-supported agencies, the IT sector is well-equipped to have primary influence on urban development to serve their sector’s unique purposes (Madon 1997). These organizations, funded by the
government, help shape policy and guide strategy to support the city’s IT industry, fueling an information bias skewed towards the sector (Madon 1997). As a result of this symbiotic relationship, infrastructure investments and central city developments have tended to be in the favor of private interests, facilitated through partnerships with the Bangalore Agenda Task Force. There are a growing number of non-government organizations that act on behalf of Bangalore’s working class to challenge their relegation to the city’s periphery and government efforts to eliminate slums. The Bangalore Poverty Alleviation Programme (BUPP) and the Citizen’s Voluntary Initiative for the City (CIVIC) are both centered on securing land tenure rights for Bangalore’s slum-dwellers. They play an important role in gathering information about slum settlements to inform the civic planning process (Madon 1997). The Karnataka constitution gives the BDA the power to regulate land use for Bangalore and its immediate environs, while the Bangalore Metropolitan region Development Authority (BMRDA) handles land use for the outlying sections (Sudhira 2007). The BDA acquires the land, develops
IT Sector Organizations
Ministry of Commerce National Informatics Center
CITY OF BANGALORE
Bangalore Agenda Task Force
Greater Bangalore City Corporation
Land use, planning, Ring road construction
Service delivery: Solid waste, education, health, roads
Bangalore Metropolitan Region Development Authority
Bangalore Development Authority
Regional planning, development coordination
Bangalore Poverty Alleviation Program
Citizens Voluntary Initiative for the City
Department of Electronics
Land use, planning, Ring road construction (Subset of BMRDA jurisdiction)
Bangalore Stakeholders Diagram it, and then turns it over to the city corporation. Every 10 years, the BDA creates a Comprehensive Development Plan that sets guidelines for zoning and establishes restrictions for green areas. Yet another organization, the Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board, acquires agricultural land on the outskirts of town in order to develop for industrial use. Because there are so many organizations involved in land acquisition and development, the process is generally unruly and decentralized. Providing adequate services and infrastructures to keep up with the growth around the edges of the city remains a real challenge.
Coordinating Strategies for a Common Goal The primary goal of future growth in Bangalore should be containment. By restricting the boundaries of growth within the city limits and establishing a limit to spatial urban expansion, planners and regulators can work to create an environment more conducive to humanscale interaction, with decreasing emphasis on the needs of corporate actors. The principles of New Urbanism, Smart Growth, and Transit-Oriented Development have not yet fully been explored in urban India, but as a globalized city, one could argue that Bangalore has the responsibility to lead the way in inspiring a paradigm shift. Adopting these principles of urban design will also preserve agricultural land, holding on to a valuable alternative economic resource for
inhabitants on the city’s fringe. In order to make informed decisions about the future of the city, it will be important to generate accurate projections of future land area requirements both inside and outside of the city limits. Looking to the future, energy conservation will also be important to creating a more sustainable city. Luckily, Bangalore has the upper hand in attracting businesses, since they already have an agglomeration of tech employers in the city. It’s critical that the city act as soon as possible in using their leverage with regard to firm location to implement strict environmental regulations to preserve the already scarce amount of fuel available to the region. The city also has a number of natural resources and ecological features that are being diminished at an alarming rate (Sudhira 2005). Using amenities like the city’s extensive water tank system instead of destroying them with development will go a long way in conserving valuable resources and reducing the dependency on gas and crude oil. Along with putting restrictions on companies, emissions standards should be restricted in light of the sharp increases in motor vehicle use in the country and the city itself. Changes in urban design that orient the city toward walkable neighborhoods could also potentially affect the number of vehicle miles traveled in the city, reducing emissions and curbing road traffic fatalities. A comprehensive strategy to contend with the growing slum population must
be put into place. Though in the past, slum clearance has been part of an official policy, the government and parastatal actors must realize that as long as there is such robust population growth and radically stratified income distribution combined with rising land prices, slums will continue to rise on the fringes of the city. Affordable housing and materials should be a priority, perhaps even requiring companies that benefit from locating in Bangalore to contribute a percentage of their revenues toward a housing fund to offset the effects of urbanization. Working toward a coordinated system of service delivery and municipal governance will help the city become more nimble in its response to development. With so many fragmented agencies, it can be difficult to adequately deal with the issues that naturally arise as the city continues to grow. The many agencies and organizations in charge of administration in the city should consider restructuring and becoming more closely aligned for the sake of efficiency and eliminating redundancies. Even though the city-state relationship is prevalent in India, Bangalore is a unique place and should consider assuming control of the city’s utilities and public safety. A centralized, transparent government based in the city itself will increase accountability, which can change the culture of governance in the city over time. Bangalore is caught in a paradox.: As the city pursues growth to promote prosperity,
it also creates a system yields a vastly unequal distribution of these benefits. While there is no easy solution, policy tools exist to influence the way people access the city: equal spatial distribution for infrastructure investments, more government attention for programs oriented toward the middleclass and urban poor, and more emphasis on funding education are all small solutions that can attack the symptoms of the problem. Through a balance of these tools, Bangalore might see its economy grow without witnessing a similar rise in inequality.
References Benjamin, Solomon. “Governance, economic settings and poverty in Bangalore.” Environment and Urbanization (2000): 35-56. Chakravartty, Paula. “Labor In or As Civil Society? Workers and Subaltern Publics in India’s Information Society.” Chakravartty, Paula and Yuezhi Zhao. Global Communications: Toward a Transcultural Political Economy. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2008. 285-307. Ghosh, Asha. “Public-Private or a Private Public? Promised Partnership of the Bangalore Agenda Task Force.” Economic & Political Weekly 40.47 (2005): 4914-4922. Heitzman, James. “Garden City to Technopole.” Economic and Political Weekly 41.5 (2006): 403404. Lefevre, Benoit. “Long-term energy consumptions of urban transportation: A prospective simulation of “transport-land uses” policies in Bangalore.” Energy Policy (2009): 940-953. Madon, Shirin. “Information-Based Global Economy and Socioeconomic Development: The Case of Bangalore.” The Information Society: An International Journal 13.3 (1997): 227-244. Nair, Janaki. The Promise of the Metropolis: Bangalore’s Twentieth Century. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2005. Sudhira, H.S., T.V. Ramachandra and M.H. Bala Subrahmanya. “Bangalore.” Cities 24.5 (2007): 379390.
Reclaiming the Streets: The Evolution of Pedestrian Malls in the United States by Emily Hosek
In the United States, the pedestrian-only mall has been widely glamorized as an urban design and economic development cure-all. Yet, as the past half-century has shown, attempts to remove car traffic and convert streets into walkable retail destinations have frequently ended in failure. Largely lacking the density and scale that make Europe’s pedestrian-only streets so successful, the United States has had to take a step back and reexamine the circumstances under which cars should be removed from downtown corridors. The answer, notes author Emily Hosek, may lie in the revitalization of the city center as a dynamic residential location for both young adults and empty nesters who seek a certain cultural ambiance.
Introduction Famous urban theorists such as Jan Gehl and Jane Jacobs have long emphasized the importance of making communities pedestrian-friendly. Urban design models assert the need for walkable spaces to support a higher quality of life for city residents, calling for a return to the vibrant street culture that existed before the automobile. The heart of a city, they argue, can be found in the day-to-day interactions of its residents, the casual run-ins on street corners, or the impromptu stop at a café or bar after work to catch up with a few friends. It is clear that pedestrian activity is vital to the success of a city. As a result, these theories have emphasized the importance of prioritizing pedestrian activities in the design and planning of urban areas Since the 1960s, a prevalent solution has been to eliminate vehicular access on downtown commercial corridors in cities, creating pedestrian malls as a means of reordering the hierarchy of transportation, which traditionally prioritizes vehicular travel over pedestrian travel (Robertson 1998). However, in many instances, this approach has failed to revitalize activity in downtown business districts, causing many pedestrian-only malls to re-open to vehicular traffic and ushering in a period of relatively no conversion of downtown corridors. Recently, though, there has been a move to incrementally bring back some of these more ambitious pedestrianization measures into cities. In this new era, both the drivers of such movements and the
tactics used are notably different, marking a paradigm shift in the role and intent of the car-free zone and how it will affect the future of our cities. Strategic, incremental, small-scale and “do-it-yourself” approaches are being leveraged, often spearheaded by community members, in a fight to reclaim the streets for pedestrian activity. The goals are no longer purely economic; cities today are focusing on place-making, marketing their unique character and amenities to attract and retain a corps of new urban dwellers, both young and old. The earliest pedestrian-only mall conversions were a response to increasing competition from suburban shopping centers. They were created with “the single purpose of revitalizing downtown retail activity. The planning and design of the early malls was heavily influenced by the downtown business community, which was primarily concerned with increasing retail traffic, not improving the quality of life of downtown” (Robertson 1998). While the intention of these measures was to increase pedestrian activity as a means of economic development, in reality they often fell short of achieving this goal, occasionally creating the opposite effect of more desolate, dangerous places, void of retail life (Newcombe 2011). Nonetheless, in some instances these conversions proved to be very successful, spurring increased levels of pedestrian activity and enhancing accessibility to the unique amenities that cities provide.
A Brief History of Pedestrian Malls: Europe and the United States The first pedestrian-only malls were developed in Europe in the 1950s and early 1960s. As cars became increasingly more popular, causing congestion in downtown retail districts, many cities decided that the best way to remedy problems of limited pedestrian space on retail streets was to eliminate vehicles from their main commercial corridors. (“The Strøget Solution” 2008). In 1953, the first pedestrian-only shopping street in Europe was implemented at Lijnbaan in Rotterdam, Holland. The project revitalized the
A vibrant, pedestrian-filled Stroget boasts a wide variety of retail and entertainment options. downtown core, bringing new life and pedestrian activity to the city after bombing during World War II destroyed the existing shopping district. “When it opened, a whole city was reborn, a city whose centre had been a gaping void for eight years after the wartime bombing” (Provoost and Vanstiphout 2007). Lijnbaan provided a wide array of retail and entertainment options in an environment tailored to the pedestrian experience. The street received high praise from Lewis Mumford, who described it in detail: “The Lijnbaan, done in modest materials on a modest scale, meant to house a variety of smaller shops, restaurants, and cinemas, is exemplary in almost every way. The flowered plots and the benches, along with the glass-enclosed outdoor café, emphasize its recreational and social values; while the narrow walk makes shopping itself easy. Instead of hastening the flight from the city, the core of historic Rotterdam invites a return” (Mumford 1961). Lijnbaan worked for several reasons, the most important being that the mall filled a demand for retail development and pedestrian amenities that had not been fulfilled since the city’s bombing. Due to the success of Lijnbaan, many other European cities began eliminating vehicular access on commercial streets. Another famous example of an early pedestrian mall is Strøget, in Copenhagen,
University students provide a constant level of activity on State Street in Madison,Wisconsin. which is now the longest pedestrian mall in Europe, spanning almost two miles through the center of the city. When the idea to ban vehicular access on the street was first proposed, it was controversial as many thought it would be detrimental to business activity in the area. As a result, in 1962, the city decided to conduct a feasibility test by extending the annual holiday closure to car traffic. The experiment proved effective, increasing pedestrian activity by roughly 40 percent and attracting a large number of tourists, helping to improve both the city’s economic base and quality of life (“The Strøget Solution” 2008). One of the main factors that led to Strøget’s success was the existing high level of pedestrian activity on the street. Rather than trying to generate new foot traffic, the mall sought merely to better accommodate ongoing activity, creating a more pedestrian-friendly environment. Hoping to reap the same positive benefits that Europe’s pedestrian malls had brought to their urban centers, many downtown commercial corridors in the United States were designated as pedestrian-only in the second half of the 20th century. These American experiments, unlike Lijnbaan and Strøget, were met
with varying levels of success. The malls that did achieve their goals exhibited both unique existing site conditions, as well as the application of a more comprehensive approach to increasing pedestrian volume. State Street, located in Madison, Wisconsin, is a pedestrian-only mall (with limited vehicular access for delivery vehicles and buses) that spans from the edge of the University of WisconsinMadison campus to the State Capitol. With the help of these two anchors, State Street became pedestrian-only in 1974. It is now the main commercial corridor for both the City of Madison and the university campus, providing a constant level of interaction between students, residents, and tourists. The eight-block street includes a robust mix of retail, restaurants, bars, and cultural and entertainment venues such as the Orpheum Theater and Overture Center for the arts, as well as a large amount of residential development. State Street attracts many street performers and musicians, enhancing its status as a walkable destination (Olson 2012). State Street’s success can be attributed to its proximity to the University of Wisconsin, which already supports high levels of pedestrian activity, its mix of retail options, a significant residential
population, and its unique character driven by the student body. Another notable U.S. pedestrian mall is Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis, Minnesota, located in the heart of the city’s commercial district. In order to compete with an increasing number of suburban shopping malls, Nicollet Avenue was converted in 1968 into a pedestrian-only mall (which also allows public transit), in conjunction with the creation of a skyway system throughout the city that helped to increase connectivity between businesses, retail, and residences in inclement weather. The mall spans eight blocks and includes institutional anchors such as the Orchestra Hall, Hennepin County Library, and IDS Center. The mall has successfully induced a high level of pedestrian activity, creating a vibrant downtown business and commercial district. The mall’s success can be attributed to its inclusion as part of a broader, comprehensive approach that called for increasing downtown connectivity through a skyway system. Likewise, its close proximity to a variety of landmark buildings and regional destinations also helped to attract both residential development and tourist activity (“Assessment of Community” 1976). Although some U.S. cities were able to successfully achieve their objectives with pedestrian-only malls, there are numerous examples of cities that were unable to translate this strategy into increased economic development and vitality. In 1959, Kalamazoo, Michigan, became the first city in the United States to designate a major downtown street as pedestrian-only. It consisted of four blocks spanning the downtown core of the city. In the original plan, a ring road around the downtown district and peripheral parking were proposed, but never realized. The mall remained closed to vehicular traffic for several decades, over which time conditions slowly worsened, eliciting complaints about the corridor having too few stores and not enough nearby parking to make it accessible. Businesses suffered as a result, and in May 1997 a proposal to reopen two of the mall’s blocks to vehicular traffic was approved, prompting elated citizens to fight
over who would drive the first car down the re-opened street (Byrnes 2011). The Kalamazoo experiment failed for several reasons. The lack of a more comprehensive approach to stimulate pedestrian activity was a major factor. The initial closure to vehicular traffic was intended as a policy intervention and was implemented as a means of changing behavior, rather than better accommodating existing conditions; yet, with few institutions to anchor the mall and inadequate programming, Kalamazoo did not have enough attractions to induce real consumer behavior change. Limited accessibility spawning from the city’s failure to implement a ring road and provide peripheral parking contributed greatly to the mall’s decline. Sacramento, California’s K Street, located directly downtown, stands as another unsuccessful early pedestrian mall. In the early 1960s, five blocks of the street were closed to vehicular traffic, with aspirations of increasing economic activity. However, much like Kalamazoo, businesses on the mall suffered as a result of poor accessibility and not enough parking in the adjacent area. In 2011, cars were
brought back to K Street as part of a city initiative to “increase access and visibility to businesses, promote a safe environment, stimulate additional economic activity, and improve (traffic) circulation” (Corker 2011). According to Sacramento Councilman Steve Cohn, “Sacramento needs to be more pedestrian-friendly, [K Street] wasn’t working as a pedestrian-only street” (Corker 2011). In many cases, these pedestrian-only malls actually became more isolated, causing additional safety and security issues, quite the opposite effect of the original objective to increase vitality and pedestrian life in the area (Newcombe 2011). Steve Davies, senior vice president of the Project of Public Spaces, best summarizes the situation: When many cities installed [pedestrian malls] in the 1960s and 1970s, little thought was put into what would happen in the reclaimed space. Lacking a clear purpose, these malls were often devoid of public activity and became empty spaces, which, at their worst, were consumed by crime and loitering (Sullivan, et al. 2009).
Moving Forward: A Paradigm Shift According to Jan Gehl, “If you asked people 20 years ago why they were in the city, the majority would say they are there to shop. Today, they will say they are there for leisure, to find a nice urban environment and enjoy the diversity and culture that you can only find in a city. They will also shop on the side, but they want experiences and enjoyment rather than shopping for goods which they can get many places” (“The Strøget Solution” 2008). Cities are learning that their competitive advantage is not necessarily in their retail offerings, but rather in working towards promoting a higher quality of life, providing social and cultural amenities, and building on the energy and momentum of the dynamic created by bringing people together. Instead of creating pedestrian zones with the goal of competing with suburban shopping malls, cities are now working to attract residents, particularly the 20-something generation and empty-nesters, who are looking to locate closer to urban assets. Pedestrian zones are therefore often seen as a unique amenity and there has been renewed interest in the pedestrianization of downtowns following a period of relative inactivity by planners and city officials. The efforts of tactical urbanism, one of the top planning trends of 2012 according to Planetizen, are defined as “urban interventions of a sort – quick, often temporary, cheap projects that aim to make a small part of a city more lively or enjoyable” (Berg 2012). Tactical urbanism has helped to reshape the way that cities are implementing projects, including eliminating vehicular access from streets. New York and San Francisco have been at the forefront of this movement, but other cities across the United States are following suit. The focus has been placed on locating measures at strategic areas throughout cities, often under the guise of temporary pilot projects, frequently spearheaded by community members. These smaller, incremental steps have become popular particularly in light of the continued shrinking of municipal budgets.
Pedestrianization of K Street in Sacramento hurt business activity, leaving many storefronts vacant.
Parking lanes are replaced by a café terrace in San Francisco, one of numerous small-scale, community-driven interventions working to prioritize pedestrian activity.
Case Studies: A New Era for Pedestrianization New York City led the charge for this new approach to pedestrianization. Building on the momentum generated by the permanent closure of Broadway through Times Square and Herald Square in 2010, planning officials have begun placing plazas and seating areas in strategic locations throughout the city. These spaces have been created in excess roadway simply by painting or treating the asphalt, setting up protective barriers along the periphery, and installing moveable tables and chairs (San Francisco Pavement to Parks n.d.). Taking the lead from New York City, San Francisco has implemented a comprehensive “Pavement to Parks” program focused on citizen involvement and incremental pilot projects across the city. The projects make portions of the street more accessible to the public realm, providing amenities like seating, planting, bike parking, and art (San Francisco Pavement to Parks n.d.). The city’s first Pavement to Parks plaza, a 7,500-square-foot space in the Castro district, was designed to increase pedestrian use of the space, not necessarily pedestrian volume. According to Andres Power, a planner with the City Design Group, “the idea wasn’t to change behavior but to leverage existing behavior…
People who used to walk quickly through the space now stop and sit at the tables and chairs. There are people out there day and night” (Baker 2010). These new pedestrian interventions are working to make the city experience more enjoyable, encouraging people to take the time to stop and interact with their surrounding environment. These new initiatives are not exclusive to New York City and San Francisco; they are part of a broader national trend. Several cities across the U.S. have implemented a “Better Block” program, which stages a live demonstration of the immense potential that cities hold, most often spearheaded by community members. “The project acts as a living charrette so that communities can actively engage in the ‘complete streets’ buildout process and develop pop-up businesses to show the potential for revitalized economic activity in an area” (BetterBlock.org n.d.). These demonstrations usually include temporarily filling vacant buildings with retail, adding bicycle lanes, setting up markets, creating public art, or adding pedestrian amenities, and are most often led by volunteer community members (Berg 2012). The Better Blocks program has been implemented in cities such as Dallas, Memphis, and Philadelphia, momentarily demonstrating to both residents and policy
makers the vast potential that downtown corridors hold as vibrant, lively, pedestrianfriendly environments (Klayklo 2012). These temporary projects help build momentum and act as a driver for future investment. Pedestrian malls are not relics of the past. Cities are reframing what they hope to achieve with these pedestrianization initiatives, and this new approach is proving to be successful. The main goal is no longer economic development; cities are finding new ways to prioritize pedestrian activity as a means of capitalizing on culture, density, social interaction, and a sense of community, building off of the unique energy provided by downtown spaces. Not only are these small, strategic initiatives cost-effective ways to implement change, they are also proving to be successful at gradually increasing pedestrian activity (Klayklo 2012). This same energy cannot be captured within the doors of a car; it must be experienced from a more personal level, and these new initiatives provide a promising future for pedestrians who want to reclaim their place on the street.
References Bailey, Thomas, Jr. “Broad Avenue Transforms for Memphis Urban Experiment.” The Commercial Appeal: Memphis, Tennessee, November 2010. http://www. commercialappeal.com/news/2010/nov/20/theplace-to-be/ (accessed March 3, 2013). Baker, Linda. “Walking Wins Out.” American Planning Association, May/June 2010. http://sfpavementtoparks.sfplanning.org/images/Planning_May_ June_2010.pdf (March 15, 2013). Berg, Nate. “The Official Guide to Tactical Urbanism.” The Atlantic Cities, March 2012. http://www.theatlanticcities.com/neighborhoods/2012/03/guidetactical-urbanism/1387/ (March 15, 2013). Byrnes, Mark. 2011. “The Uncertain Legacy of America’s Pedestrian Malls.” The Atlantic Cities, April 4. http://www.theatlanticcities.com/neighborhoods/2012/05/uncertain-legacy-americas-pedestrian-malls/1929/ (March 15, 2013). Corker, Melissa. 2011. “No Longer a ‘Pedestrian Mall,’ K Street Prepares for Cars.” Sacramento Press, July 11. http://www.sacramentopress.com/headline/52940/ No_longer_a_pedestrian_mall_K_Street_prepares_
for_cars (March 15, 2013). Gehl, Jan. Life Between Buildings: Using Public Space. Translated by Jo Koch. New York:Van Nostrand Reinhold. 1987. Lydon, Mike. “Tactical Urbanism: A Look Back at 2012.” Planetizen, December 2012. http://www. planetizen.com/node/59977 (accessed March 15, 2013). Lydon, Mike. “Talking Tactical Urbanism.” The Architect’s Newspaper, June 2012. http://archpaper.com/ news/articles.asp?id=6120 (accessed March 15, 2013). Mumford, Lewis. The City in History: Its Origins, Its Transformations, and Its Prospects. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World. 1961. Newcombe, Tod. “The Trouble with Pedestrian Malls.” Governing, December 2011. http://www.governing. com/columns/urban-notebook/trouble-with-pedestrian-malls.html (accessed March 15, 2013).
http://www.canada.com/story.html?id=d47ee45e4f47-4b2b-b947-ab95578e2e8a (accessed March 15, 2013). Sullivan, Robert, Sam Stanley, Alexander Garvin, Steve Davies, and Randal O’Toole. “Pedestrian Malls: Back to the Future.” The New York Times, February 2009. http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes. com/2009/02/27/pedestrian-malls-back-to-thefuture/ (Accessed March 15, 2013). United States Congress. “Assessment of Community Planning for Mass Transit:Volume 7—Minneapolis-St. Paul Case Study.” Office of Technology Assessment, February 1976. http://www.interstatetraveler.us/Reference-Bibliography/Assessment%20for%20Mass%20 Transit%20Minneapolis-St%20Paul%201976.pdf (accessed March 15, 2013). Wolfe, Chuck. “Walkable Cities? So How Come Pedestrian Malls Usually Fail?” Crosscut, September 2009. http://crosscut.com/2009/09/24/crosscutblog/19106/Walkable-cities-So-how-come-pedestrian-malls-usual/ (accessed March 15, 2013).
Olson, Jeff.“State Street Pedestrian Mall.” PEDSAFE, Accessed December 2012. http://www.walkinginfo.org/ pedsafe/casestudy.cfm?CS_NUM=44 (accessed March 15, 2013). Parks, Kyle. “Road to Nowhere.” Sptimes, April 2000. http://www.sptimes.com/News/041900/Business/Road_to_nowhere.shtml (accessed March 15, 2013). “Pavement to Parks: San Francisco.” Pavement to Parks. 2013. http://sfpavementtoparks.sfplanning.org/ about.html#contact (Accessed February 20, 2013) Provoost, Michelle, and Wouter Vanstiphout. “Lijnbaan R.I.P.” ArchiNed, 2007. http://www.archined.nl/en/ forum/lijnbaan-rip (accessed January 18, 2013). Roberts, Jason, and Andrew Howard. “The Better Block.” The Better Block, 2013. http://betterblock.org/ (accessed February 25, 2013). Robertson, Kent A. “Pedestrian Malls.” Encyclopedia of Urban America:The Cities and Suburbs. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1998. “Stroget - The World’s Longest Pedestrian Street - Copenhagen - Copenhagen Visitors.” Copenhagen Portal, 2012. http://www.copenhagenet.dk/cph-map/ CPH-Pedestrian.asp (accessed December 12, 2012). “The Stroget Solution.”The Ottawa Citizen,March 2008.
URBAN DESIGN STUDIO Yao Lou Tie and Bond | Anacostia, Washington DC
Reknitting community through food access
environmental equity and river ecology
One city by transcending barriers Provide layered public space via sustainable green infrastructure
Encourage connectivity by introducing new forms of public transit
Whitehurst ReActivated | Georgetown, Washington DC Interactive Community Art
Promote local identity through interactive public art
40 PANORAMA 2013
The Public Realm: Washington DC
return the waterfront view to neighborhood
What is the potential for green What kind of urban space can help manifest and reinforce community identity? And how can public art contribute to celebrating a neighborhood’s bio-cultural imprint? These questions were answered through a study of potential sites in the context of each Ward and the District of Washington DC. The selected student projects presented here represent part of last fall’s Public Realm Studio. They aim to improve the District through the management and design of its urban space, by addressing water quality, air quality, energy conservation (by promoting active mobility) and bio-diversity, the affirmation of culture and community life as a way to establish place-specific ecologies, and the development and integration of place-specific meaning—and beauty—as a vital condition of urban life. Students were able to recognize the differences among the wards, but also the ways in which urban space can and does connect them.
infrastructure? View towards Anacostia Riverfront
LOCALISM COMMERCIAL STREET SECTION
week days (without traffic restriction)
weekend and holidays (with traffic restriction)
Proposed Site Plan | Wisconsin Ave. Station Green Infrastructure
Cross-section | Wisconsin Ave. Station
Whitehurst looking east towards Potomac River
Khayelitsha: A Story of Neighborhood Change by Cynthia M. Dorta-Qui単ones
Through major urban design and strategic community building interventions, the Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading program transformed the neighborhood of Harare within the township of Khayelitsha within the City of Cape Town, South Africa. Cynthia Dorta-Quiñones outlines how the management and programming of urban space by the numerous stakeholders led to the transformation of a neighborhood formed initially by force, through Apartheid. Positive outcomes, thanks to multi-disciplinary partnerships, include not only crime reduction, the introduction of services, and increased community engagement but also the establishment of place. The era of apartheid in South Africa not only prompted the physical segregation of individuals by race, but it also cut off black Africans and other minority groups from any opportunity for social or economic selfimprovement. Black Africans were displaced to satellite towns across the South African nation. These towns functioned strictly as residential districts and were often disconnected from the city by railroads, industrial sites, highways, and freeways (Lanegran 2000). The physical landscape in which residents were confined lent no particular sense of place. Living under these strained conditions confronted with a harsh natural environment and a lack of available public amenities, these communities suffered from serious social disinvestment, prompting a culture of crime and violence unequivocally driven by poverty. Within this setting, urban design coupled with active community engagement can be brought in as a tool to transform undignified territories into safe, sustainable, vibrant places to live. In Khayelitsha, a large satellite town built under the era of apartheid in Cape Town, South Africa, collaboration between a group of local architects, landscape architects, and urban designers, with resident participation, allowed for the successful rehabilitation of the social, cultural, and economic sphere of the township via the physical revitalization of the neighborhood’s public realm. The efforts ultimately added an enduring economic base and social vibrancy to this particular community. Khayelitsha was built in 1986 as a
way to concentrate and segregate the black African population from the “white only” designated areas of the central city. Racebased legislation, enforced by the thengoverning National Party, promoted the forceful eviction of black residents from the developed areas of the city in which they formerly resided. Newly created townships such as Khayelitsha developed as residential dormitory towns, towns that did not possess any economic base or industries to provide for local economic growth. Instead, residents were forced to commute great lengths—30 kilometers at the very least— to gain access to work opportunities either in Cape Town’s urban center or other, more prosperous parts of the region. To this day, the area remains largely disintegrated from the major economic opportunities the City of Cape Town offers. The township of Khayelitsha was initially planned to support a population of about 250,000 people. The township was set up with demarcated “site and service” plots, which provided basic services such as electricity, water, and sewage. With the end of apartheid in 1994, Khayelitsha continued to develop in formal growth patterns, with subsidized housing construction and rightful transfer of land ownership to existing residents (Bliss, et al 2011). The fall of apartheid introduced a massive rural-to-urban migration of black Africans who were previously restricted to settle within the rural confines of Cape Town (Lanegran 2000). These incoming groups sought settlement in older African communities near the city of Cape Town, fueling the congestion of such existing neighborhoods. In Khayelitsha, the pressure from the incoming population outnumbered the approach and process of formalization (Bliss, et al 2011). The growth put indisputable pressure on the provision of basic services and allowed new patterns of settlement to develop informally along the fringes. With fast, uncontrolled growth, Khayelitsha also began to experience an increase in social and economic problems. Criminal activity—particularly robbery, murder, rape, and house break-ins—became the norm. The inability for the township to support the surmounting population led to
overcrowding, inadequate service provision, and safety problems (Bliss, et al 2011). Even a decade after apartheid in 2005, Khayelitsha continued to experience an influx of migrants, with more than 2,000 new arrivals each month (Bliss, et al 2011). Soon, by 2010, population in Khayelitsha doubled; somewhere between 600,000 and 800,000 individuals resided in Khayelitsha (Bauer 2011). The township now has one of the highest population densities within all of South Africa. Even though new policies developed in response to the fall of apartheid in 1994, such as President Mandela’s Reconstruction and Development Programme, which provided the area with better infrastructural development as well as access to basic services in the growing informal areas, no focus was ever given to the development of Khayelitsha’s social, cultural, and economic realms. Along with rising criminal activity, Khayelitsha came to be characterized by excessive poverty and extremely high rates of unemployment, HIV, and domestic violence.
Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading By the early 2000s, a step towards change was on the horizon. The City of Cape Town entered into strategic partnerships with South Africa’s National Treasury, the Development Bank of Southern Africa, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), and the German Development Bank (KfW) to implement the Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU) program. After a feasibility study in 2002, VPUU launched in 2005 in Harare, one of Khayelitsha’s wards, in an attempt to increase the safety, security, and living conditions of the residents (Bliss, et al 2011). With this program, Harare’s socio-economic situation was to be improved through an area-based approach of “Safe Node Areas” in which “dark, neglected, and dangerous hotspots [were] filled with active life through crimesensitive design” (Bliss, et al 2011). Principal stakeholders involved the population of selected areas in Khayelitsha, local NGOs, and the Khayelitsha Development Forum
(a voluntary organization that voices the issues of stakeholders and residents of Khayelitsha), as well as various planning and design firms. The Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading program is unique in the sense that it distinctively integrated social and economic upgrading, not just the physical upgrade of Khayelitsha’s most deteriorated urban spaces (Graham, et. al 2011). As stated by its various leaders, the methodology behind VPUU went as follows: An integrated human settlement can be achieved through socioeconomic improvements together with institutional capacity building and access to cultural facilities. Violence levels can also be reduced in the target areas by providing victim support and implementing situation, social and institutional violence prevention measures. VPUU Programme Principles consist of trust, accountability, voluntarism, participatory approach, developmental approach, mutually beneficial partnerships and local ownership. (Graham, et. al 2011) The VPUU Program was modeled after the Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) strategies of the 1970s devised by Dr. C. Ray Jeffery which assumed that “the proper design and effective use of the built environment can lead to a reduction in the fear of crime and the incidence of crime, and to an improvement in the quality of life” (Crowe 2000). Interest in CPTED began as early as 1961 through the research presented in Jane Jacobs’ memorable book, Death and Life of Great American Cities. As Jacobs argued, public spaces need “eyes on the street” to discourage criminal activity. Safety could be achieved through strong pedestrian presence, a diversity of uses, and a clear demarcation of public and privately owned spaces. VPUU relied on CPTED’s key concept strategies of natural surveillance, natural access control, and territorial reinforcement, as well as modifications introduced by South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. These modifications
included strategies addressing the aesthetics, physical barriers, and maintenance of the interventions. In the end, VPUU’s version on the CPTED concept encouraged: (1) designing public spaces with clear lines of sight and good lighting to ensure maximum public visibility, (2) guarding a community’s sense of ownership over its environment in order to encourage its residents to become involved in reducing crime, (3) identifying well-defined and accessible routes to and through a public place to help develop a pedestrian’s understanding of the space and perception of safety, (4) achieving a positive image of a place by ensuring “human-scale” development through the use of materials, colors, landscaping and lightning to encourage the highest levels of public activity, (5) strengthening building facades and spaces to improve personal safety, and (6) managing and maintaining environments to encourage a sense of pride and ownership (City of Cape Town Bid Book 2011). The success of the VPUU program also relied on the fact that both its approach
and methodology were developed and implemented based on the specific needs of the area. Baseline surveys, crime mapping, and community participation ensured commitment to Khayelitsha’s particular needs. Through this methodology, VPUU focused on violence prevention on three specific levels: situational, social, and institutional crime prevention. These measures became the “pillar” structure from which VPUU would ensure the implementation of the CPTED principles and encourage community participation through interventions within the physical and spatial environment, as well as a more democratic institutional and political environment. These measures would, in the end, promote a healthful and prosperous development of the neighborhood, equally benefiting the built environment and the livelihood of its residents.
Improvements through Situational Crime Prevention As part of the situational crime prevention measure the VPUU program
VPUU’s three-pillar strategy
developed a set of principles, called Urban Design Principles on a Safe Node Area, which provided guidelines for adapting an area designated as a Safe Node Area (SNA) into a township setting (VPUU n.d.). Following the research and analysis gathered on the township, Urban Design Principles are then applied in a tailor-made manner to specific sites within the area. An Urban Design Concept would follow to ensure the integration of the SNAs into the urban context of the township (VPUU n.d.). After two years of baseline research, VPUU denoted four areas within Khayelitsha as SNAs. The township of Khayelitsha is divided into twelve wards, all which suffer similar social and economic inequalities. An SNA would typically encompass an area of about 50,000 to 80,000 residents. Harare, neighboring Kuyasa, Site C/TR section, and Site B wards were identified as SNAs as they proved to be some of the most populated and most dangerous areas in Khayelitsha. The ward of Harare has seen remarkable improvements in the physical environment, particularly through the revitalization of its public realm. One of the most significant aspects in the overall urban design strategy within Harare is the revitalization of the neighborhood’s pedestrian network which extends from the neighborhood’s railway station, Khayelitsha train station, out towards the informal settlements and through neighboring Kuyasa. These everyday paths were part of the area’s storm water overflow channels that ran through the settlements. They were undeveloped, garbage-strewn land, poorly lit and made up of uneven terrain—a territory prone for criminal activity (Praxis in Lansdcape Architecture 2012). Working together with community input, various architects, landscape architects, and urban designers sketched a master plan in which these everyday pedestrian paths would be formalized through the introduction of a comprehensive system of lighting, paving, landscaping, and a mix of land uses along the path. The paths then connect with various dedicated community centers along the way, which serve as active public zones.
Sports and recreational facilities at Harare Square These centers are demarcated by a series of structures, branded by VPUU as Active Boxes, designed architecturally as tall vertical elements so that they would be visibly distinct along the revitalized major pedestrian routes. These are occupied by a caretaker 24 hours a day in order to maintain constant surveillance around the area and provide refuge in the event of unsafe conditions (Krause n.d.). As established by the Urban Design Principles on a Safe Node Area, the Active Boxes should be located at regular intervals—usually 500 meters in Harare—at strategic points within each SNA. The principles also established that the structures should have similar design elements in order to give an identity and unifying characteristic to the SNA (Krause n.d.). The areas surrounding the Active Boxes support various forms of social and economic activity by providing ample space for public and private programs. Some areas are set up to encourage communityoriented workshops, meetings, or retailoriented activity. Site-specific interventions include the introduction of urban parks, transformation of schools into community learning and development centers, construction of sports and recreational sites, mixed-use facilities ranging from live-work units to multipurpose centers, safe pedestrianwalkways, and infill housing (VPUU n.d.).
At the very heart of Harare, Harare Square predominates as one of the most successful examples of the Active Boxes scheme. The square was redesigned as a series of terraces and playground spaces for children. It is infused with continuous activity by the integration of live-work units in the surrounding area and the presence of an Active Box building. The Active Box in this instance became a multi-purpose structure that provides space for a library, an Early Childhood Development Resource Center, an experimental learning facility for children, and a caretaker flat. Finally, just around the corner, a renovated structure— Masibambane Hall—houses Love Life Youth Center, a community space for residents, and space for local organizations and NGOs (City of Cape Town Bid Book 2011).
Improvements through Social Crime Prevention Residents of Harare have benefited from the VPUU program’s promotion of “a culture of lawfulness, respect, and tolerance,” (Graham, et. al 2011) linking social programs and other selfempowerment organizations to safer spaces created under the situational crime prevention interventions. The social crime prevention of VPUU’s “pillar” structure aims to empower vulnerable groups by enabling residents to assume responsibility for their environment, and offering ways for local
residents to make a contribution to the area (forging a more profound connection of an individual to his or her residential environment), ultimately enforcing a form of social control in the neighborhood’s high risk areas (Bauer 2011). In order to generate these relationships, programs such as Early Childhood Development, a Social Development Fund, gender-specific anti-violence programs, a Patrolling Project, legal aid, and schoolbased interventions were created to directly target the issues of crime and violence (Graham, et. al 2011). Several of these programs depend on volunteerism, aimed at improving the self-organization of the neighborhood to defend its own needs (Bauer 2010). Through these programs, residents have found empowerment and the tools and skills necessary to thrive socially and economically while keeping from becoming the victims or perpetrators of violence and crime (Graham, et. al 2011). One successful case study of community support and engagement is a women’s group formed out of a trauma-counseling workshop for victims of violence. After developing a strong bond within the workshop sessions, the group decided to heal their own personal and communitywide painful experiences though public art. VPUU linked the group of women with a well-known Cape Town artist, Lovell Friedman, who created decorative mosaic murals based on the women’s ideas. The
works of art were integrated as murals in sections of the Active Boxes, such as the library at Harare Square. This endeavor led the group of women to begin a successful business venture. They have been hired by a local company to decorate bus stops outside of Khayelitsha with their own design work (Bliss 2011).
Institutional Crime Prevention The institutional crime prevention component of VPUU supports an Operations and Management program as well as a Local Economic Development approach (Graham, et. al 2011). Residents of Harare are, again, the primary benefactors. Instead of passing the responsibility to the local municipality, the operations and maintenance of the newly renovated or erected facilities are handed off to a local community group. This strategy promotes the creation of basic and higherskilled labor services within the community. The Local Economic Development approach, as outlined in Cape Town’s bid application for the 2014 World Design Capital, aimed to build a shared vision between residents, reduce skill gaps, facilitate grass-roots and community involvement, improve access to opportunities, and mobilize partners for the positive outcome of the neighborhood as a whole (City of Cape Town Bid Book 2011).
Outcomes Although there is room for further monitoring of the improvements in
Active Box at Harare Square
Khayelitsha, residents of the Harare neighborhood have greatly benefited from the various tools and incentives provided by the VPUU Program. According to a report from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the murder rate in the area has declined by one-third since the start of the program, and by 2011 it was well below the national average (Bauer 2011). Alastair Graham, leader of VPUU, has expressed that crime rates have come down by approximately 40% since VPUU started introducing upgrades in the area. As far as neighborhood response, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) noted that the initiatives in Harare so far “have not aroused any ill-feeling among citizens from neighboring areas” and “pedestrians have [also] benefited from the improved security situation on their way to and from Harare station and they—and many other people— know that the previous situation in Harare was intolerable for the entire township” (Bliss 2011). Other stories, such as that of Mr. Mantyontyo, the caretaker of one of the Active Boxes at Harare Square, emphasize the rising sense of pride and ownership within the community given the tangible changes and the strong investment in the physical environment. As stated in a story reported to OECD, Mr. Mantyontyo reflects on his position as a caretaker: Of course, I open the buildings when the patrols are out in the evenings and when meetings take place. But we have also received training in conflict management. For example, if there are older boys hanging around the building or using the playground equipment in the Peace Park, I go over and talk to them. Or people from the neighborhood who have problems come in. Then I contact the people responsible. The VPUU program has had an extraordinaryly positive social and physical impact in the town of Khayelitsha. Through major urban design and strategic planning interventions, the general living and housing conditions of the neighborhood of Harare have been significantly improved and the neighborhood has seen an overall
decrease in violence. According to a report on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the program had the most impact in improving the general living and housing conditions of the residents, overcoming marginalization through measures of mutual self-help, as well as spurring the integration of civilians in the political decision-making process and their capacity to negotiate with representatives of the government (Bauer 2010). Furthermore, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has emphasized “that the positive outcomes of VPUU are due to the interaction between numerous committed stakeholders and an area-based approach, with a major emphasis on community participation, social development, and operation maintenance and management of spaces” (Bliss, et. al 2011). It is conceivable that without these strategic partnerships implementation would not have been as successful. Frank Bliss and Luise Zagst explain: [T]he important role played by numerous volunteers from the township itself must be underlined. Despite their own difficult financial circumstances, these volunteers are willing to sacrifice their time and energies in order to help improve the living conditions of Khayelitsha. Many of them were simply interested bystanders at the start, who then gradually began to make their voices heard at meetings and later participated in individual activities, before undergoing training in conflict management techniques and participating in other socially oriented activities, with some of them finally taking over core elements of the project—a fact which bears witness to the great appeal of this community project. (Bliss, et. al 2011)
Conclusion Before the VPUU program, there was already an overwhelming presence of nongovernmental organizations in Khayelitsha working towards improving the living conditions of the residents. With VPUU, the efforts of these NGOs contributed in unique ways to the continued growth
and development of the residents. Such organizations devoted their efforts to promoting and improving the skills of the residents through gender empowerment or training in practical skills. Perhaps the impact of such groups felt greater when coupled with VPUU’s focus on the revitalization of the community’s urban environment. Through this upgrade, residents became aware of tangible changes in their community, which in turn encouraged a sense of ownership and respect towards their immediate environment. Providing well-designed spaces for communal recreation, education, and connectivity reworked the fragmented nature of the community. Khayelitsha, just as many other towns in developing countries, grew out of a volatile government administration and contentious policies that hindered residents’ capacity for self-empowerment. The collaboration of government agencies, NGOs, architects, landscape architects, urban designers and planners, along with the financial aid of the City of Cape Town and the German Development Bank, were fundamental for the conceptualization and implementation of the program strategies. The ability for these groups to integrate Khayelitsha’s residents may have become the most successful aspect of the upgrading program. While the presence of various planning and design groups or financial support may not be as constant in other underprivileged areas across the globe, Khayelitsha offers an invaluable lesson in the importance of community participation when realizing public realm improvements in developing countries. Projects like these are proof that systematic collaboration of various design disciplines and planning policies can accomplish stronger outcomes in the physical, social, and economic ambitions of disenfranchised communities.
References “Crime and Poverty-Challenged Design.” Praxis in Landscape Architecture. January 24, 2012. Accessed Septermber 3, 2012 < http://praxislandarch. com/2012/01/24/crime-and-poverty-challengeddesign/>
“Rebuilding Communities.” In City of Cape Town World Design Capital 2014 Bid Book, edited by René Gilbert, Carola Koblitz, and Terri Carter. 2011. Accessed November 12, 2012. www.capetown.gov.za/ en/DesignCapital/Documents/BIDBOOK_CS_1_1_ CS_1_1.pdf Bauer, Bettina. “Violence Prevention Through Urban Upgrading, Experiences from Financial Cooperation” KfW Bankengruppe, Corporate Communication, 2010. www.kfw-entwicklungsbank. de/ebank/EN_Home/Sectors/Urban_development/ Engagement_of_KfW_Entwicklunsgbank/Violence_ Prevention.pdf Bliss, Frank. “Violence Prevention and Empowerment through Urban Upgrading in the Township of Khayelitsha, South Africa.” KfW Bankengruppe , 2011. < www.oecd.org/dac/ povertyreduction/48869536.pdf> Bliss, Frank and Zagst, Luise. “Violence Prevention and Empowerment through Urban Upgrading in the Township of Khayelitsha, South Africa.” Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2011. < www.kfw-entwicklungsbank.de/ebank/DE_Home/ Laender_und_Programme/Subsahara-Afrika/ Suedafrika/Story_Khayelitsha_KfW_2011-02-14. pdf> Crowe,Timothy. “Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.” Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2000. Green, Jared. April 16, 2012. “A New Town for Khayelitsha.”The Dirt, American Society of Landscape Architects. Accessed November 5, 2012. <http:// dirt.asla.org/2012/04/16/a-new-town-forkhayelitsha/> Lanegran, David. “The Post-Apartheid City and the Globalization of Eroding the Landscape of Apartheid,” Macalester International: Vol. 9, Article 20. 2000. Accessed February 20, 2013. < http:// digitalcommons.macalester.edu/macintl/vol9/ iss1/20/> Urbanized. Directed by Gary Hustwit. Swiss Dots, 2011. “Violence Prevention Through Urban Upgrade in Khayelitsha.” Accessed February 20, 2013. <http:// www.vpuu.org.za/>
The Alleyway Transformation: Secondary Service Street to Urban Public Space by Bryan Barnett-Woods
Urban communities have begun taking design techniques from the past to adapt for the future. The return of the alley as a pedestrian space brings an element of the city that has undergone many phases in its history. Presently, as Bryan Woods writes, the alley has been revived internationally and domestically as a human-scale respite from major streets.
Introduction Simply put, an alley is a narrow street designed for secondary access to and located behind or alongside a building. These narrow streets, however, have been viewed as both desirable and destructive elements in the urban environment, and it is their potential utility that influences opinion. Physically, alleyways make up a secondary support network of streets that connect a city’s primary road network. The use and importance of alleys has fluctuated as new periods of city planning have emerged into the forefront of urban design. The alleyway has transformed from pedestrian paths, to residential and commercial service areas, to areas enabling criminal behavior, and most recently to sought-after public spaces that facilitate social and commercial activity. Today, the alleyway can play a vital role in the revitalization of cities as a method to encourage infill and densification in spaceconstrained urban areas. This paper seeks to explore the various uses of alleyways in a historical context as well as distinguish the existing uses of alleyways in contemporary cities.
A History of Alleyways Initially, alleyways were the narrowest streets in the circulation hierarchy of many fortress-style towns. Plans for Monpazier, a medieval bastide that follows a strict grid pattern, used alleyways to separate the backsides of individual residential units. The alley also permitted additional building access, allowing for conversions into double houses (Unwin 1909). This feature of alleys allowed towns to increase population with the protective walls as well as increase density. The alleyway primarily served as a pedestrian transit corridor in medieval cities, both fortified and nonfortified. Today, European cities like Paris and Rothenberg still have vestiges of this pedestrian-focused pathway connecting rear apartments to the main roads. Many American urban areas incorporated alleyways into their early street plans. Cities such as Chicago and Philadelphia integrated alleys into standard grid patterns, while other urban areas like Boston’s North End, Old Detroit, and Portland utilized alleys in non-grid patterns. “American urban settlements feature alleys . . . within such a variety of platting geometries it seems clear that alleys were at one time assumed to be inarguably necessary infrastructure,” (Martin 2001). However, as American cities industrialized and densified in the early 20th century, the alleyway transformed as it assumed new roles other than pedestrian transportation.
Alleys in the Early 20th Century
An alleyway in Rothenberg, Germany
Property owners began recognizing the alley as an indispensable element of the street infrastructure and an additional service area. Charles Robinson noted in 1911 that the alley is “a convenient place for stables, boiler rooms, etc. [and] undoubtedly, a business district is much more efficient with alleys than without them” (Robinson 1911). Industrialization reinvented the alley as a dirty, but necessary, area for businesses. As the economy grew, business owners realized the need for an attractive storefront to attract more customers. Thus, it became imperative to separate the service activities– packing, dumping, and cleaning–from the
storefront. Robinson also extols buildings that have “doors that open on to alleys, [as] goods can be loaded and unloaded systematically without interruption by, or interruption to, the traffic of the street... Business lots which run through to alleys have a higher valuation than those which do not possess such facilities” (Robinson 1911). At this time, the alley had assumed the undesirable responsibilities of the public realm for the betterment of the main street as a public space. The alleyway of early twentieth century America was not uniformly considered an urban asset. Frank Lloyd Wright “decreed residential back-alleys to be wasteful, unsightly anachronisms” (Martin 2001). The criticisms of the alley at this time focused on the alley’s unsanitary conditions and segregated environment. Many alleys in residential neighborhoods were treated as “urban sinks” (Martin 2001) as adjacent homes dumped wastewater into the alley. The dirty water would drain into the center of the alley where it would remain as a sanitary risk. A 1911 Phipps Institute report on housing and social conditions in Philadelphia remarked that houses that face alleys “have no redeeming features” and the “wretched, unsanitary condition of yard drainage or cleanliness exists…in about one-fourth of the cases” (Dinwiddie 1911; The Survey 1915). The poor conditions that existed in the alleyway explained how houses that were accessible only by the alleyway had lower values and were primarily occupied by poor residents. The use of alleyways as pedestrian access paths to less affluent rear-side residences engendered the issue of social injustice. William Baldwin, a member of the President’s Homes Commission, which was tasked to identify standards of living in US homes, suggested in a 1908 sub-committee report that through “the conversion of these alleys into minor streets, permitting decent living and encouraging self-respect in those residing upon them, we could establish a healthy social circulation in the body politic” (Baldwin 1908). Although Baldwin suggested that alleys could contribute to social integration in cities, he also notes that, “it would even be worthwhile for the
whole city to bear the burden of purchasing these alley properties and changing these properties into interior parks” (Baldwin 1908), thereby removing the alleyway houses altogether. Additionally, mixing classes in such proximity created problems of appearance since the front and rear residences were distinguished not only by income, but also by culture and race (Martin 2001). This informally segregated society influenced the negative perception of many developers and planners towards alleyways. The criticism alleys took in residential districts eventually fueled their demise, even though they were generally lauded in commercial and industrial areas. Karl Lohmann reinforces this idea by acknowledging the controversy of alleys as a secondary access to property, “[I]t can be said that alleys are generally desirable in business districts but generally undesirable in residential areas” (Lohmann 1931). This recognition of utility in business areas and disutility in residential areas marked the end of the uniform block street alley configuration (Martin 2001) and initiated the removal of alleys from the urban landscape. By the 1920s, many architects and planners turned to the Garden City principles pioneered by Ebenezer Howard in an effort to alleviate the urban ills of the fast growing American cities, including the removal of alleyways or urban sinks from the city landscape. One of the most notable examples of this new style of planning was Radburn, New Jersey, designed by Henry Wright and Clarence Stein in 1928. Stein and Wright designed Radburn with a neighborhood unit organized around culde-sacs within superblocks. Organizing houses around cul-de-sacs rather than a traditional grid pattern effectively eliminated the alleyways. Although houses in Radburn had side or back entrances, these secondary access points opened directly to parkland or walking paths to parks. The front entrance was the primary access point for residential units; all services– deliveries, trash dumping/pick up, and others–took place through the front of the house. Although garden city principles
never completely took hold in American planning, many new developments of the time, such as Radburn, were influenced by garden city principles and designed without alleyways.
The Alley in the Mid 20th Century Development during the post-World War II planning era was increasingly auto-centric and less dense. Soon, the cul-de-sac assumed the primary position as “the ideal single family street,” further leading to the demise of the alley (Martin 2001). In this new neighborhood style, many of the uses the alley once had were no longer needed. Indeed, they were considered “unnecessary where there is an open development of attached and semi-detached houses” (Lohmann 1931). In 1938, the Federal Housing Authority guidelines described neighborhoods with alleys as rental neighborhoods, intimating that those who could buy a house would prefer to be in neighborhoods without alleyways. By the middle of the 20th century, more and more families started to move to new suburban neighborhoods without alleyways, including the famed Levittown, New York in 1947. Although the neighborhood boasted of many new amenities for residents, Levittown lacks an alley among its 17,447 residential plots (Martin 2001). Like Levittown, many post-war communities treated alleys as expendable, because alleys added to the
cost of construction and maintenance. Following the mid-twentieth century, the alley’s reputation continued to decline with a growing perception of crime. Alleys were considered by many to be “havens of antisocial and criminal behavior” (Hinshaw 2010). The image of the alley, useful or not, was overshadowed by the fear of crime that could occur, given “that offenders prefer those places with less observational control” (Marzbali 2011). In commercial districts, after businesses close, alleys lack “eyes on the street” (Jacobs 1961), referring to a continual presence of people that deters crime. Limited sight lines, low levels of light and diminished activity within the alley expose them to nefarious activities.
Resurgence of the Alley in the late 20th Century and Present Opinions about alleyways in residential areas did not change until the late twentieth century with the rise of the New Urbanism movement. New Urbanism, which supports the existence of alleys, is an urban design movement that advocates for walkable neighborhoods with diverse housing and transit options (Duany 2000). These walkable neighborhoods separate car and pedestrian travel and remove unsightly functions and services from view. This separation is used to create neighborhoods at a human scale instead one for automobiles, which creates a neighborhood plan reminiscent of typical neighborhoods
Levittown has over 17,000 homes, but zero alleyways
before World War II. Leading New Urbanist thinkers Andres Duany, Elizabeth PlaterZyberk and Jeff Speck (2000) extol the many values of residential alleyways: It’s where the messy stuff goes. From garage doors to trash containers, transformers, electrical meters, and telephone equipment, the alley takes them out of public view, something that is all the more necessary these days with the advent of recycling bins and cable TV boxes… alleys allow streets to be narrower and to be planted with trees… alleys are also appreciated by the fire chief, since they allow firefighters another path to the building… [and they] provide direct access to backyard granny flats, giving them an address independent of the main house. In addition to the rediscovered aesthetic and functional qualities that alleys can provide residential neighborhoods, alleys also can serve a social benefit. By connecting households back-to-back, an informal social environment is created for the residents of the block. Alleyways “have the ancillary function of providing an incidental social linkage at the block scale of the neighborhood” (Martin 2002). This back-alley provides an alternative and private social space compared to the more public front of the house. Moreover, the reduced traffic of the alleyway provides greater safety for children. Using the alleyway as a social space, instead of an access lane or service street, marks the latest transformation of the alleyway–this time into public space. Although there are numerous benefits to residential alleyways, the most popular type of residential development is the singlefamily house in a subdivided neighborhood without alleyways (Leinberger 2008). This could be the result of a variety of factors, including community and developer resistance to change and the desire to avoid new costs to retrofit neighborhoods with alleyways. Even though the success of the alleyway in the United States has been limited to business districts in a few cities, alleyways have assumed new roles of urban space internationally and influenced the development of surrounding neighborhoods.
International Alleys Manila, Philippines Metro Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, has 11.5 million residents in the metro area at a density of 46,860 people per square mile. Although initially planned by Daniel Burnham, the city has outgrown its initial plans and taken on a new identity. Even with its two types of rail transit, an extensive bus and jeepney service, and shared cab service, there is still substantial traffic congestion along main roads, which has provided a new opportunity for alleyways in the city. Alleyways no wider than thirteen feet have become the primary access roads for thousands of residences and businesses within the city. Carvajal Street is an alley located in the heart of Manila’s Chinatown district. Like countless other alleys, it dissects a city block and connects two main streets. The entrance to this alley is “lined with fruit vendors [and] covered with murals” (Kiang 2001). The alley is situated between several buildings ranging from three-story to ten-story buildings. Both sides of the street include a wide array of restaurants and specialty shops (Kiang 2001). Some of the shops and restaurants are set back a meter from the second story to provide shade. The close proximity of retail establishments provide “another layer of commercial activity that further adds to the visual complexity, enhances retail diversity and shopping interest” (Kiang 2001). In a sense, Carvajal Street can only be defined as an alley because of its narrow width and location amongst the buildings. This alleyway’s use has transformed into a pedestrian-oriented market street. The businesses located in the alley keep the area clean out of their own selfinterest. Because the narrow street restricts automobiles, it is a perfect pedestrian zone, separated from the congestion of the larger streets. Moreover, the canopies and parasols above vendors create an overhead plane that reinforces the human scale. The shops and restaurants are well lit and stay open late at night, creating a safe environment. There are many streets similar to Carvajal Street in Manila. Some, like Carvajal, are commercial-only streets while
some are mixed use, with commercial uses lining the alleyway and residential units located above the ground floor. In addition to making up a complex pedestrian network of streets, these alleyways have taken on new dimensions of urban space. In an inverse of traditional roles, the alleyway is taking on new functions as a public recreational area prioritizing activity at the pedestrian scale because main streets have become primarily used for automobile circulation. Melbourne, Australia Melbourne is the capital of the state of Victoria and is the second most populous city in Australia. In the 1990s and 2000s, Melbourne pursued a policy of prioritizing pedestrian public space to create livelier streets. Specifically, “the rejuvenation of [alleys] to form attractive and fully accessible routes through dense city blocks, enlarging the pedestrian network and offering better connections with the central city” (Gehl, 2004). These improved alleys offer pedestrians intimate experiences while connecting and strengthening the city’s formal street grid pattern. Melbourne’s increase in urban residents has provided the opportunity for many alleys to serve the “function of user-friendly and safe entries to many residences” (Gehl, 2004). Shops, street cafes with outdoor seating, and households line these laneways, similar to the market alleys in Manila. These areas provide a livelier use of space with their freedom from automobiles. The historic urban fabric only benefits from these pedestrian spaces. Gehl writes, “The laneways support sustainable inner city development by allowing retention of heritage streetscapes to coincide with increased residential density and a better use of space” (Gehl 2004). Mixed-use spaces create a wide variety of activity and keeps the area busy at all times of the day, leading to a safer city at night and on the weekends (Gehl 2004). Melbourne has been able to use alleys as a tool to encourage density and activity within the city. Although Melbourne and Manila are different socially, economically, and demographically, both have transformed
the use of their alleyways into soughtafter public spaces. These alleyways, once neglected, have taken on new functions to manage density and address safety, by increasing activity. Not all of the alleys in these two cities have been transformed though. In fact, many alleys in both cities are still used as service or secondary access roads. However, the alleyways that have been converted to public spaces are considered safe and desirable parts of their respective neighborhoods. The conversion of the alley into a vibrant public space is a reversal of previous roles. Whereas the alley was once used as an area to support active front streets, the alley is now a center of activity while the main streets are too congested with automobiles and their inherent noise and pollution to facilitate pedestrian scaled activity.
Alley Conversions in the United States Following Melbourne and Manila, Seattle, Washington has taken steps to convert several of the city’s alleys into public space. Post Alley, between Pike Place Market and Virginia Street in Seattle, is an example of a public space alley in the United States. Along the alley is “a plethora of vegetable stands, fishmongers, bakeries, coffee bars, French and Italian cafes, and Irish pub and diminutive specialty shops” (Hinshaw 2010). However, the alley acts more as an extension of the Pike Place market than as a separate urban space. This is evidenced by the rest of Post Alley that “has never fared as well, despite several attempts to enliven [those] blocks” (Hinshaw 2010). The differences of Post Alley at each of its ends illustrate the importance using a transformed alleyway as a transportation corridor as well as a public space. Nord Alley, located perpendicular to
Jackson Street and near Pioneer Square, is similar to the inactive end of Post Alley even though it has undergone a slow but steady rehabilitation process to create a more amenable space for pedestrians. The city of Seattle has taken the necessary first steps and removed dumpsters, took boards off windows, installed art exhibits, and set up furniture in the alley (Levitt 2009). Events are also held in the alley to promote reclaiming the alley as a public space. Despite these advances, Nord Alley is only active when events are held. It is not yet a public space that can be compared with the alleys of Melbourne or Manila, but the Nord Alley is a promising start.
Recommendations In order for alleyways to make the transition from neglected street to desirable public amenity, activity needs to be welcomed and encouraged within the space. First, the alley needs to be a convenient and safe place for walking, which requires a well-maintained corridor with adequate lighting. Then, the alleyway needs to be incorporated into an already existing pedestrian transportation network for the city. For instance, a city can use the alley as a short cut for pedestrian seeking a brief respite from automobiles. After the alleyway is regularly used as a pedestrian path, allow commercial and residential interests to develop and open the space to more activity. The development in the space can attract investment to create a positive cycle of growth that transforms a previously unused space into a dense, active urban area. Unfortunately, not alleyways can support such a conversion and will continue to be needed as service roads public and private services.
A Melbourne alleyway hosts pleasant outdoor cafés
Alleyways throughout history have served as pedestrian pathways in medieval towns, secondary access roads for residences and businesses, service streets for communities, and popular public spaces. They have certainly proved to be a necessary part of cities. Although alleys have had a turbulent, and at point negative, history this narrow street is on the rise
again to address contemporary urban problems. The alleyway is an existing part of the urban fabric that can take on a new form in order to improve urban landscapes by increasing activity and density. The alleyway is a design method to create pedestrian-scaled space that separates automobiles from the pedestrian realm. Currently, international and domestic communities are renewing this use of alleys by converting them into active public spaces with mixed uses. However, it is the responsibility of community members and planners to call for the proper reuse of these historically overlooked pieces in order to chart a new course for alleys in the future.
References Duany, Andres, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck. Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream. New York: North Point, 2000. Gehl, Jan. Places for People: Melbourne 2004. Melbourne: City of Melbourne, 2004. Print. Hinshaw, Mark. “How to Make Urban Alleys Work.” Crosscut.com. 17 Mar. 2010. Web. 15 Sept. 2011. Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Random House, 1961. Kiang, Heng C. “Learning from Carvajal, an Insignificant Alley.” Urban Design International 6 (2001): 191-200. Levitt, Julia. “Reclaiming Alleys in Pioneer Square.” Weblog post. World Changing Seattle, 23 Sept. 2009. Web. 15 Sept. 2011. Leinberger, Christopher B. The Option of Urbanism: Investing in a New American Dream. Washington, DC: Island, 2008. Lohmann, K.B. The Principles of City Planning. University of Michigan, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1931. 2006.
Post Alley in Seattle is a pedestrian street with plenty of shops and restaurants Marzbali, Massoomeh H. “A Review of the Effectiveness of Crime Prevention by Design, Approaches Toward Sustainable Development.” Journal of Sustainable Development 4.1 (2011): 160-74. Robinson, Charles M. The Width and Arrangement of Streets: A Study in Town Planning 1911. Cornell: Cornell University Library, 2009.
Martin, Michael D. “Replacing Alleys.” Landscape Journal 02nd ser. 21.1 (2002): 123-33.
Survey Associates, Charity Organization Society of the City of New York. The Survey. Vol. 34. Survey Associates, 1915. Print. The University of Virginia, 2009.
Martin, Michael D. “The Question of Alleys, Revisited.” Urban Design International 6 (2001): 76-92.
Unwin, Raymond. Town Planning in Practice: An Introduction to the Art of Designing Cities and Suburbs. London: Adelphia Terrace, 1909.
T-SPLOST and Atlanta: A Defeated Attempt at Self-Reliance
by Rachel Aland 54
With declining federal transportation funds, municipalities must find new ways to finance new construction and maintenance of road and transit infrastructure. As Rachel Aland details, Georgia attempted to create a local funding source for transportation projects through a sales tax increase. The measure ultimately failed due to failed messaging, and the failure reveals critical lessons for communities adapting to this period of fiscal constraint with a potentially unsupportive public. On July 31st, 2012, merely weeks after President Obama signed the newest incarnation of the federal transportation bill, the state of Georgia put its own transportation referendum to a public vote. Georgia’s vote stemmed from the uncertain future of federal transportation funding in times of economic constraint, uncertainty that the federal transportation bill Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) did not dispel. The state referendum asked voters in twelve regional districts to vote on a 1% sales tax to be collected over ten years for local transportation project funding. Nine of the regions voted down the transportation special-purpose local-option sales tax (T-SPLOST), and Georgia lost an opportunity to create its own resolution to the federal funding shortage. T-SPLOST unsuccessfully pursued to manage transportation infrastructure at a more local level. With infrastructure funding shifting from new construction to maintaining current, the role and capacity of the federal government as an overseer for the nation’s transportation investments has been drawn into question. Georgia’s experience with T-SPLOST guides this paper’s exploration on whether state-level management of transportation networks is local enough. The story of the referendum’s introduction in the state of Georgia offers lessons for other states and localities considering a new avenue for funding transportation maintenance. The state’s revelations about the urban-suburban divide threaten the feasibility of a regional policy change, and the campaign’s careless public messaging strategies yields insights into proper management of all transportationrelated legislation.
The Effects of Artificial Regionalism To address mounting concerns of growing infrastructure needs and shrinking federal funding streams, the Georgia legislature passed the Transportation Investment Act of 2010 to outline the initial steps for T-SPLOST. The first step was to create regional committees to define the project list for each of 12 special tax districts that would be funded by the tenyear tax revenue. Money raised in a specific region would be spent in that region. The boards of each region were comprised of two members from each county. Projects selected by this panel covered the voting area and drew from a master list of potential projects created by the Georgia Department of Transportation Director of Planning (GDOT 2010). The selected projects attracted speculation. Critics of the process’ results called upon the truism that “something for everyone isn’t always enough to please anyone” (Greenblatt 2012). Transit was given about half of the pie, 52 percent of total investment funds. Transit projects focused on a new corridor connecting two fast growing corridors and an extension of the Atlanta streetcar line. Road projects primarily targeted interchange improvements (Florio 2012). The final list called for 157 projects at a $6 billion price tag. The impetus behind the districts, as
explained by Jim Stokes, executive director of the local smart growth advocacy group, Livable Communities Coalition of Metro Atlanta, was the “creation of a ‘regional mind’ that recognizes traffic and transit don’t stop or start at one city or county line” (Sabulis 2012). But the state’s determination of these regions did not result in such a perspective. Surveys of residents in the 10 voting counties in the region that contained the city of Atlanta illustrated the varying degrees of interest in transit projects among respondents. Within the region but outside of Atlanta, the strong majority of survey responders were uninterested in the maintenance of existing transit (Atlanta Regional Roundtable 2012). The state’s arbitrary voting management structure, which gave equal weight via vote counts to each of the ten counties in the voting region without regard to population and project expenditures, failed in two dimensions: achieving proportional representation and identifying clear leadership in each region to guide the project list (GDOT 2010). The state’s decision to create artificial regions doomed Atlanta’s transit interests from the start. Within the region, disparate conditions and priorities reigned. The region’s portfolio of proposed projects valued at $7 billion, with $3 billion earmarked for transit improvements (Florio 2012). Almost half of the region’s raised funds would go to transit. The expense
Billboard urging Georgia drivers to pass the T-SPLOST Referendum
still received a sizeable share of transit improvements. The real divide was made clear in voting booths, when only three of the ten counties in the region voted to support the tax. In order for the city of Atlanta to raise enough funds to support its strained transportation network, it would need to siphon tax dollars from the counties in its voting district. Garnering support for a bill full of urban transit projects posed a challenge. A public messaging campaign was tasked with reaching out to the counties in the voting region to explain the beneficial impact of supporting Atlanta’s transportation system.
Untargeted Public Messaging Map depicting percentage of votes for the referendum show the level of support quickly declining outside of Atlanta. of transit, always hefty, was exacerbated by the unique policy restrictions imposed upon Atlanta by the state. It was left to autooriented, wealthy suburban counties in the ten-county region to determine by vote the future of Atlanta’s transportation network. Atlanta’s Metropolitan Area Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) is the only major transit system in the country to operate without state funding (Florio 2012). The lack of state funds is not oversight, but written into law—Georgia cannot devote any of its fuel tax to public transit. Even if it could, Georgia’s fuel tax remains among the lowest in the nation (Sampson 2011). Instead, the agency relies on fares and a preexisting $0.01 sales tax levied in the two counties that contain the city of Atlanta, Fulton and Dekalb. T-SPLOST would have increased that tax to $0.02. Though it does not contribute, the state stipulates MARTA must spend half of its sales tax revenues on capital projects (Dewan 2010). The removal of this “50/50 requirement,” a policy change that required no funding, was included in the city’s proposed projects. T-SPLOST continued the state’s bias against Atlanta with a project selection board with members selected by county instead of proportionally by population. Even with skewed representation, Atlanta
Unfortunately, the public messaging campaign failed to explain the negative impacts of not passing the bill on transportation infrastructure and commute times. Instead, political campaigns promoted the creation of more jobs through this pack of projects, which was another issue entirely. Proponents of the bill responsible for public outreach made two incorrect assumptions: voters could link transportation spending and Atlanta residents even sought job growth out of this transportation bill. Advocates should have known better. As regional committees compiled project lists between the passage of the Transportation Investment Act and the referendum, an online survey was available for residents in the Atlanta region. The most popular answer to “What is the most important reason for investing in transportation improvements?” was definitively “reduce congestion” followed by ”quality of life improvements, expand travel options, reduce travel time, and reduce dependency on foreign oil” (Atlanta Regional Roundtable 2012). Though it was offered as a multiple-choice option in the survey, creating economic opportunity did not crack the top-five results. Even so, proponents spoke frequently to this benefit in debates and in television advertisements. Jeff Dickerson, a consultant hired to promote the referendum, urged voters to “think regionally” and think about
the projections to create 7,120 new jobs annually through 2040 and the $35 billion in economic activity over three decades (Visser 2012). Improper ad placement added to the confusion. The pro-tax campaign consultants spent campaign money on television ads that reached up into the northern, rural sections of the state. As a result, confused voters outside the Atlanta voting region thought that their tax dollars would fund Atlanta projects (Jones 2012). Anti-tax proponents, however, understood how to speak to the Georgian public. Fayette County Commissioner Steve Brown pushed the right button with his statistic that found “the cost of all of the T-SPLOST transit projects combined” would be equivalent to spending “$90,000 to take a single vehicle off the road during the ampm commute” (Brown 2012). Of course this number does not account for many other benefits of a transportation project, but the figure alone was simple, and voters could draw clear conclusions. Pro-tax messaging could have been improved with a more visual demonstration of future scenarios with and without the tax, but instead, tax proponents focused on numbers attached to projected costs and projected revenues. Portraying the projects in a different light instead of focusing on economic growth could have been beneficial. Joshua Schank, president of the Eno Center for Transportation Research, suggested the inclusion of clear performance metrics that tied the proposals to congestion alleviation. Advocates missed an opportunity to indicate how the projects would improve traffic conditions and depict the possible and projected alternatives if improvements were not made. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed admitted, “We lost . . . the argument around whether our projects were transformational” (Holeywell 2012). When Chris Leinberger, a Brookings Institution senior fellow, debated Brown his response to Brown’s $90,000 per car statistic was to chide Atlanta for falling to 189th out of the world’s 200 largest urban areas in terms of economic development projects. Atlanta residents were still left to make the connection between
This Citizens for Progressive Transit graphic compares existing conditions against the proposed improvements to consider the impact of the T-SPLOST funds on the Atlanta’s rail network and ultimately urge voters to vote yes. transportation investment and economic growth themselves. Brown had a prepared response. He referenced the Atlanta Beltline project, the development plan for a transit line that circulates through downtown Atlanta on existing heritage tracks, to make the point “That has nothing to do with the traffic congestion we experience today. It’s a wonderful project but it should not be in the [referendum]” (Joyner 2012). In an editorial, Brown claimed that “traffic congestion relief had not been achieved relative to the scale of funding” and “the list reflected a purposeful agenda to fund modes of transportation least likely to provide congestion relief and more likely to promote high-density development in the
suburbs under the context of new urbanism principles” (Sabulis 2012). Advocates and counter-coalitions sprung up from unlikely sources. The business and civic groups who contributed $8 million to a pro-tax promotional campaign included corporate donors— Coke, Delta, Wells Fergo, and GE—who would benefit from decreased congestion in downtown Atlanta (Florio 2012). Organizations against the referendum came from a diverse range of organizations. The Sierra Club, the NAACP, and the Tea Party all had individual reasons for fighting the referendum. The Sierra Club criticized the $296 million extension to the Sugarloaf Parkway and felt that the percentage of
funds devoted to new road infrastructure and upgrades was too high (Sampson 2011). The NAACP opposed the omission of a MARTA rail extension into south Dekalb (Visser 2012). At one point, two groups who are often not pitted against one another – Citizens for Progressive Transit and the Sierra Club produced conflicting graphics. Citizens for Progressive Transit encouraged voters to approve T-SPLOST with a graphic that draws attention to the ratio of road to transit projects in the referendum. The Sierra Club developed its own graphic that focused solely on the hefty share of road-focused projects. This further demonstrated the detrimental effects of unclear messaging.
T-SPLOST Funding Breakdown by Project Type Transit Expansion & Planning
New Roadway Capacity
7% MARTA 3% Capital Enhancements
7% Roadway Maintenance & Operations
Local/Express 1% Other Bus Operations (Aviation, Bicycle, Pedestrian) Transit-Focused Funding
LARP-Allocated Local Project Funding Road-Focused Funding
This Sierra Club graphic delineates funding by transit versus road projects to persuade voters to vote no. Clear messaging could have changed the voting results for T-SPLOST in Atlanta. Campaigning on vague goals such as economic development, livability, and jobs fails to properly champion transportation projects. Even if these goals are the force behind the transportation decisions, planners and campaigners need to educate the public on the critical connections. One tactic to encourage public support, which Atlanta did not pursue, is to lock down federal support from the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) dollars before the proposed referendum is introduced. This support could demonstrate momentum and also ensure that the projects have passed federal scrutiny for worthiness. Denver and Los Angeles followed this approach by leveraging the funds they would raise with sales tax revenue with a low interest federal loan. Both Denver’s FasTracks and Los Angeles’ Measure R were passed with a federal TIFIA loan as part of the package. This federal support helped assure voters that their money was being maximized and spent effectively (Thomasson 2012). Without federal dollars locked up, or much in the way of cost-benefit analysis for the projects, the voters were not adequately convinced that their dollars would be spent wisely.
The Future of Atlanta The decision of Atlanta region voters in July cast doubt on the city’s future success. Moody’s Corporation declared the rejection of the sales tax cause for lowering the city’s credit rating and emphasized the need for “major upgrades to [the region’s] dated and limited transit system and congested roadways to maintain its longterm position as an influential economic center.” Moody’s statement also revealed another campaign flaw in that it lacked a contingency plan if voters rejected the tax (Thomasson 2012). A contingency plan could have served as vision for voters of what the region would look like without the tax. Bucky Johnson, the chair of the Atlanta Regional Commission, saw a silver lining nonetheless. He noted that the cooperation between city, state, and local government agencies and the participation of civic leaders, the business community, and universities bodes well for the region (Joyner 2012). With Georgia now ranked 49th state in per capita spending on transportation after the failure of T-SPLOST, the question of how to increase investment in the transportation network remains. The feasibility of increasing investment efficiently and politically seems low. A sales tax may not be the optimal solution since it is divorced from the usage of the transportation system. The two counties that share the city of Atlanta, Fulton and Dekalb, already pay a penny sales tax and are reluctant to pay more. For the city to continue to remain competitive, perhaps the state needs to consider raising the gas tax as a way to rely on automobile user fees for funding its road network Georgia’s attempt to gain a measure of self-sufficiency for its growing transportation infrastructure problem failed. The proposed change in transportation funding was felled by a gerrymandered regionalism, a misrepresentation of the public’s desires for the future of transportation in the region, and public messaging that assumed that the public could connect transportation and economic development. The modeling, planning, and outreach strategies
conducted for the Atlanta Region were ineffective. Instead of celebrating home rule and localism, the state crushed it by introducing a regional transit system by force. By over-clustering localities, projects, and policies, the state created its own Arrow’s paradox—if a voter liked transit, they had to vote for a bill that would lead to highway expansions; if a voter never left his car, this was a bill that would take his money to fund a transit system he never used. While the regional impact of Atlanta is growing in Georgia, the population of the counties in the metropolitan statistical area, a population that by definition is reliant upon the economy generated by the city at its core, does not feel responsible for improving that core’s transportation system. Promoting regionalism may seem an attractive way to raise funds—wealthy counties can contribute to the needy— but manufactured regions did not lead to altruistic inclinations. Though measures to raise transportation funding through sales tax increases have succeeded in Los Angeles and Denver, catchment areas were smaller, public transportation improvements were targeted for the majority of the funds, and citizens were willing to pay in. Perhaps successful self-reliance requires a proper definition of the self. For now, the way forward for Atlanta appears to be again guided by the state. Whether a transportation bill so broadly applied can achieve success, build a coalition and a coherent messaging strategy remains to be determined.
References Atlanta Regional Roundtable. “Online Survey Results.” April 6, 2012. <http://www. atlantaregionalroundtable.com/documents/online_ survey_results.pdf> http://www.ajc.com/news/ news/state-regional-govt-politics/voters-rejecttransportation-tax/nQXfq/ Brown, Steve. “Transportation tax foes’ numbercrunching flawed.” Politifact. July 12, 2012. <http:// www.politifact.com/georgia/statements/2012/ jul/24/steve-brown/Transportation-tax-foes-numbercrunching-flawed/>
Dewan, Shaila. “Transit Cuts are Protested in Atlanta.” New York Times. April 20, 2010. <http://www. nytimes.com/2010/04/21/us/21atlanta.html> Florio, Elizabeth “Transportation Referendum: Some basic questions answered.” Atlanta Magazine. April 13, 2012. <http://www.atlantamagazine.com/ fivepoints/blogentry.aspx?BlogEntryID=10370755> Georgia Department of Transportation. “Overview of Transportation Investment Act of 2010.” Board Meeting, May 19, 2010.
Thomasson, Scott. “Advice for Passing a Massive Infrastructure Referendum.” The Atlantic. August 14, 2012. <http://www.theatlanticcities.com/ commute/2012/08/advice-passing-massiveinfrastructure-referendum/2945/> Visser, Steve. “Cracks Grow in Dekalb’s Support for Transit Tax.” The Atlanta Journal Constitution. February 27, 2012. <http://www.ajc.com/news/ news/state-regional-govt-politics/cracks-grow-indekalbs-support-for-transit-tax/nQRdw/>
Greenblatt, Alan. “Transportation Plan? Atlanta Voters Say No Thanks.” Governing Magazine September, 2012. <http://www.governing.com/topics/transportationinfrastructure/gov-transit-plan-atlanta.html> Holeywell, Ryan. “What the Georgia Vote Means for Transportation.” Governing. August 1, 2012. <http:// www.governing.com/blogs/fedwatch/What-TheGeorgia-Vote-Means-for-the-Future-of-Transportation. html> Institute for Sustainable Communities. “FasTracks and Transit-Oriented Development: Integrating Land-Use and Transportation Planning to Transform a City.” 2010. <http://www.iscvt.org/resources/documents/ denver_fastracks.pdf> Jones, Walter C. “TSPLOST Vote Shows Georgia’s Great Divide.” The Augusta Chronicle. August 5, 2012. <http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/government/ elections/2012-08-05/analysis-tsplost-vote-showsgeorgias-great-divide> Joyner, Tammy. “Forum shows divisions over transportation tax.” The Atlanta Journal Constitution. July 13, 2012. <http://www.ajc.com/news/news/ state-regional-govt-politics/forum-shows-divisionsover-transportation-tax/nQXDc/> Sabulis, Tom. “T-SPLOST Pros and Cons.” The Atlanta Journal Constitution. July 17, 2012. <http://blogs. ajc.com/atlanta-forward/2012/07/17/t-splost-prosand-cons/> Sabulis, Tom. “T-SPLOST fail: Two Views.”Atlanta Forward. August 1, 2012. < http://blogs.ajc.com/ atlanta-forward/2012/08/01/t-splost-fail-twoviews/> Sampson, Rich. “Carpe Diem: Georgia Prepares to Seize Its Mobility Future.” Community Transportation. Pgs. 41-47, 2011.
Rethinking Transit Projects in High-Income Neighborhoods by Simon Mosbah
60 PANORAMA 2013
Transit usage has historically been used as a textbook example of an inferior good. Here, Simon Mosbah challenges this assumption and takes a deeper look into what it is that encourages, or discourages, high-income users of transit. The examination of the reaction of wealthy residents to two transit projects, one in New York City’s Upper East Side and one in Los Angeles’ Beverly Hills, provides context to a larger discussion on the inputs beyond income levels that determine transit usage. Distinct conclusions about the desirability of transit are useful knowledge to planners looking to ready themselves against the resistance largescale projects can have in wealthy neighborhoods. A better understanding of how to attract the wealthy to transit is useful when considering transit projects dedicated to serving places of high value. Two recent cases of apparent “Not In My Backyard” opposition, a pejorative labeling of people who oppose development (Devine-Wright 2009), have brought to the forefront the historically complicated relationship between the wealthy and public transportation: namely, the boring of a subway tunnel under Beverly Hills High School in Beverly Hills, California and the building of an additional subway entrance on 69th Street in New York’s Upper East Side. These two projects have generated significant opposition from the areas’ residents, opposition which has been abundantly covered in the media (Buckley 2012; Nagourney 2012; among many others.) They also provide an opportunity to revisit several theories that attempt to explain high-income Americans’ ridership and perceptions of public transit. Why does this matter for planners? Planners need to know the opposition they will face when starting a new project, notably to avoid legal battles. Furthermore, even if they do not plan for households belonging to the highest income percentile, they should not exclude income diversity from their general ridership objectives, even though the wealthy are less likely to ride transit. Finally, as Krizek and ElGeneidy (2007) note, “there remains little research uncovering characteristics of the non-transit using population,” of which high-income individuals constitute a sizable part. However, the non-transit using population represents by far the
most important potential market segment for transit companies, considering the low use of transit in most metropolitan areas in the U.S., 5% for work commutes in 2009 (McKenzie and Rapino 2011). In order to understand what can happen when places like Beverly Hills and the Upper East Side face transit projects, planners must learn what the perception of transit by wealthy Americans is, and especially whether this perception remains negative. For the purposes of this project, this paper shall define wealthy Americans as upper-middle class and upper-class people, corresponding roughly to the upper 20% income bracket and to over $100,000 in household income. Specifically, this paper will seek to understand whether this perception has remained the same over the last 30 years of transit revival. This project is nonetheless a challenge since relatively little research has been dedicated specifically to the relationship of the wealthy to public transit in recent decades, besides a book published in 1982 by Allen J. Whitt, Urban Elites and Mass Transportation, which focuses on BART. Due to the fact that Whitt is solely concerned with “politics and power in contemporary American society” (Whitt 1982), his work does not address many of the issues of interest specific to planners. In order to understand the behavior of wealthy Americans with regard to transit, this paper will have to rely on more generic analyses that do not specifically address the wealthy. The analyses used include microeconomic theory, and especially the concept of income elasticity as applied to transit, which is then defined as an “inferior good.” An inferior good is a good the demand of which decreases when income increases. Many economic handbooks even use transit as an exemplar of an inferior good. This theory may help to understand the underlying reasons for high-income neighborhoods’ opposition to public transit, since high-income Americans are choice users. “Choice users (also referred to as discretionary riders) have alternative modes to use to reach varied destinations, yet for certain purposes, […] prefer to use
transit” (Krizek and El-Geneidy 2007). This paper will consider four potential determinants of the choice of riding transit: class, metropolitan area, transit mode and destination (purpose of the trip). Finally, it will return to the concept of NIMBYism to assess how well this concept accounts for Beverly Hills’ and the Upper East Side’s reactions to public transit projects.
Context: Beverly Hills High School Tunnel and the 69th Street subway entrance Why choose these two cases? First, they share many similarities. Both neighborhoods are emblematic highincome neighborhoods, where public uproar and protests get significant media coverage. Second, the events happened very much at the same time, in 2011 and 2012. Third, they reflect, and even crystallize, longer conflict-plagued histories between these neighborhoods and transit projects: the long-time debates about the 2nd Avenue subway in New York (dating from the 1920s, and continuing almost every decade, see Anon. 1950; Kihss 1969; Kennedy 2000 among others) and the lasting opposition of Beverly Hills to any subway that would cross the neighborhood on the way to Santa Monica (Nagourney 2012). Beverly Hills Beverly Hills is known as one of the wealthiest communities within Los Angeles County (Nagourney 2012). After the dismantling of Los Angeles’ rail transit system in the 1940s-1950s, which has been abundantly studied (from Snell’s wellknown American Ground Transport: A Proposal for Restructuring the Automobile, Truck, Bus & Rail Industries to critical reviews such as Adler 1991), Los Angeles residents were in effect deprived of any form of rail-based transit, and bus networks remained the only form of transit available until the Blue Line opened in 1990, connecting Downtown Los Angeles and Long Beach (http://www.metro.net/news/ facts-glance/). The system did not reach the Western part of the city until the project of the Purple Line reaching the Pacific Ocean was approved (Nagourney 2012) after facing
A map of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system in the San Francisco metropolitan area. decade-long opposition from Beverly Hills and West Los Angeles communities against the arrival of “those people” from East and South Los Angeles in their neighborhoods (Berkowitz 2005). This resistance from the community, after being all but systematic, shifted to a specific point of contention, the boring of a tunnel under Beverly Hills High School. Then, the School Board as well as the municipality of Beverly Hills used a number of available strategies to try and stop the project from going forward, from suing Los Angeles County Metro Transportation Authority (Berkowitz 2005) to spreading propaganda videos online (Anon. 2012). Claiming that LACMTA
did not try to accommodate the need of rerouting the subway elsewhere for the safety of Beverly Hills High School students, the School Board of Beverly Hills decided unanimously to oppose the additional sales tax proposed by Los Angeles County to fund further expansion of the transit network on October 11, 2012. 69th Street subway entrance New York City’s Upper East Side has among the highest median incomes of New York City. Contrary to Los Angeles, New York City has always kept its rail transit network. Nevertheless, the neighborhood underwent significant demolition initiatives when the elevated subway lines
were torn down, leading to debates about building a 2nd Avenue subway line since the 1920s. The subway lines currently serving the Upper East Side and the 68th Street station are the 4, 5 and 6 lines, which have extensive service into the Bronx. Last year, construction at 68th Street station, which has very high ridership because it is the primary access to Hunter College, triggered the proposal by the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority to build additional access to the platform on 69th Street (Buckley 2012). ADA compliance-related construction work was going to block all existing exits, so it was necessary to build another access. Some neighbors, including some members of the local Community Board, Manhattan Community Board 8, have vehemently opposed the project on aesthetic grounds (because the street is such a pristine area of Manhattan) and on social grounds (because they fear the arrival of people of different social background and income) in the midst of their neighborhood (Buckley 2012; Kabak 2012). Some Upper East Side dwellers show a clear dislike for transit, “people to the west [of 68th Station] don’t take the subway. Not to be elitist, but they don’t” (Zimmer 2011). The current status of the project is unclear; a confidentiality agreement is in place within the MTA, some elected officials have voiced their concerns, and the neighborhood association has sought legal counsel. So are Upper East Side residents inherently different from the “New Yorkers [who] can only dream of having a subway train ferry them straight to their front door” (Buckley 2012)? At this stage, the question remains whether or not the opposition of some neighborhood residents is primarily linked to high-income Americans’ low transit use.
Transit ridership of high-income Americans Generic studies The overwhelming evidence provided by studies in the United States and elsewhere shows that the wealthy tend to ride transit less than other income groups.
Black bluntly summarizes the relationship between income and transit use, “transit use is inversely related to income” (1995). As Paulley et al. explain, the demand for transit is related to income and to car ownership, the latter factor being linked to the former. There is “a secondary and negative impact on the demand for public transport via car ownership” (Paulley et al. 2006). Interestingly, Black notices what seems to be an exception, “suburban railroad riders tend to have high incomes” (Black 1995). Howard Permut, current President of MTA Metro-North Railroad, in a presentation at the University of Pennsylvania on October 24th, 2012, confirmed the specificities of suburban train ridership in the New York City area, mentioning an advertisement campaign for a new development near a Metro-North station in New Rochelle as the “Upper Upper East Side”, celebrating the proximity of New Rochelle to Grand Central and clearly targeting high-income customers. Moreover, O’Sullivan (2009) reminds us that the larger the city, the higher the share of middle-class riders among transit riders as a whole (using figures from the American Public Transit Association 2005). This would suggest that high-income New Yorkers are much more likely to use public transit than high-income dwellers of, say, Louisville, Kentucky. Nevertheless, Los Angeles does not seem to follow this rule since it does not occupy the rank in transit use corresponding to the city’s size (McKenzie and Rapino 2011). This difference is partly due to the historic reasons examined above and partly due to the city’s urban form since the beginning of the 20th century (Foster 1975). In turn, Los Angeles’ dense sprawl urban form contributed to the abandonment of rail transit quicker and more thoroughly than in other cities. Taylor et al. confirm the importance of the differences between urban areas, “regional geography (specifically, areas of urbanization, population, population density, and regional location in the US) [and] metropolitan economy (specifically, personal/household income)” strongly
New York City, East 69th St.: a pristine block, typical of the Upper East Side’s architecture. influence public transport ridership (2009). (the metropolitan area they live in), and Income and place seem to play an important since suburban rail commuters seem to be role in determining transit use, which an wealthy, destination and mode. Generic analysis of census data for Beverly Hills and analyses are only somewhat indicative of the Upper East Side only confirm. Upper high-income Americans’ attitudes toward East Side residents use transit much more public transportation. than Beverly Hills residents, but in both cases the richer census tracts also have the Suburban train ridership: the BART case lower transit ridership rate according to the As mentioned above, few studies most recent American Community Survey specifically address high-income Americans’ five year estimates. Wealthy people seem attitudes toward transit, with regard to to follow the trend of their neighborhood ridership and planning, except for Whitt’s as well as trends specific to their level of sociological study (1982). Whitt focuses on income. However, there is no evidence the fact that upper-middle class white men of a clear income tipping-point, a level of are in charge of transportation planning, income—say, the 5 or 10% top-income whereas they are not its primary users. His bracket—above which transit ridership is take on BART is quite compelling, “Despite significantly lower. the avowals of BART officials that the Interestingly, most studies examined system would be of service to low-income income level as a factor without trying to people, BART does not go near the largest build market segments based on income black ghetto in San Francisco. On the other levels. Rather, studies have been focused hand, small, upper-middle class, suburban on “captive riders” including the young, communities such as Orinda and Lafayette the elderly, and low-income people (Krizek have BART stations” (Whitt 1982). The and El-Geneidy 2007). The only clear system had further extensions and served, conclusion is that the wealthy ride transit in its initial plan, the city of Richmond, less frequently than other income groups. where a “depressed local economy, urban The exact influence of place, destination, blight, and increased crime have suppressed and mode remain unclear due to a lack development” (Cervero and Landis 1997). of clear analysis of this group. Wealthy This choice seems to confirm some of the ridership levels seem to depend on place generic characteristics discussed above.
Some modern rail systems from the transit revival period of the 1960s, such as BART, serve upper-middle class communities because a certain level of demand exists, in contrast to Los Angeles where the subway was only deemed politically acceptable in low-income neighborhoods, at least initially (Berkowitz 2005). As Whitt puts it, “BART serves the needs of only a fraction of the urban population, primarily that affluent fraction of corporate executives, lawyers, and accountants who live in the suburbs and who work in the downtown San Francisco area. The system has been aptly called a ‘Cadillac Commuter’ system” (1982). Whitt’s observations seem to confirm generic analyses: wealthy people tend to ride commuter trains more frequently than other modes because they serve the suburbs where they overwhelmingly live and the downtown CBD where many high-level white-collar jobs are still concentrated, which was even more often the case in the 1970s and in the early 1980s when Whitt was writing his book. Though the interest high-income Americans show for rail might concern only suburban rail commutes and not subway commutes, as our two case studies demonstrate, the economic theory claiming that transit as a whole is an “inferior good” should be put into question.
Is Transit Still an “Inferior Good”? Traditional economic theory Numerous economic handbooks, including those focusing on urban and transportation economics, keep presenting the same rules about transit elasticity as in the 1970s. For instance, O’Sullivan mentions the same “rule of thumb” as many other authors, “a 10% increase in fares decreases ridership by about 3.3%, meaning that the price elasticity is -0.33” (2009). The same attitude can be found in handbooks about income elasticity, which is of greater interest here since it theoretically allows us to understand the nature of the demand for a good with regard to income. However, it is important to note that research on income elasticity is far less extensive than research on price
elasticity; a rather comprehensive urban transportation economics handbook such as Small’s (1992) does not even mention income elasticity, whereas the author dedicates a few pages to price elasticity. Baumol and Blinder define the income elasticity of demand as “the ratio of the percentage change in quantity demanded to the percentage change in income” (2003). Goods like transit for which this ratio is considered to be negative are qualified as “inferior goods.” Litman, in his review of economic studies examining elasticity issues, presents some European evidence confirming this theory, with only one geographic exception: “transit ridership declines with income (although not in Paris, where wealthy people are more likely to ride transit than in most other regions) and with higher fares, and increases with increased transit service kilometers” (2004). “Traditional” studies on transit income elasticity do not draw distinct conclusions about the various modes available by differentiating between the desirability of rail travel over bus. New perspectives: modal split A thesis by Asquith presents further U.S. evidence that traditional theory might not have remained true for rail transit, at least in some areas where investments have been significant since the 1970s (Asquith 2011). There might actually be a relatively strong mode split between rail and bus, both in the U.S. and in Europe, although transit as a whole might still be rightly considered as an inferior good. In monocentric rather than polycentric cities, where high-paying jobs tend to be located downtown, suburban commuters tend to lend high value to suburban rail travel, which shows in some cases positive income elasticity. Litman provides some additional evidence when he observes that “rail income elasticities are generally found to be positive, and as high as 2 in some cases” (2004). However, the conclusions of this report should be interpreted carefully. UK results are not necessarily applicable to the US, and income elasticity might still be much higher for suburban and longdistance rail than for urban rail. At any rate,
where rail travel is becoming a superior good, high-income individuals are more likely to use it. These findings may not be in contradiction with the lack of transit demand that Beverly Hills and the Upper East Side seem to show by opposing transit projects. The evidence is again pointing toward commuter rail being a superior good, whereas specific evidence about subway income elasticity remains largely elusive. Finally, the distinction between commuter rail and subway is somewhat difficult to make in Los Angeles – as it is in the BART case – but it is quite clear in Manhattan. This point comes back to Asquith’s monocentric versus polycentric discussion. In a city like New York, though not fully monocentric, downtown is a very identifiable center which has historically had both strong commuter rail networks serving suburban communities in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York State, and subway networks serving four of its five urban boroughs. In Los Angeles, the distinction between city and suburbs is much less clear. Downtown is still a very identifiable, dense place, but areas like Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, which will eventually be served by subways, have both urban and suburban characteristics which make them harder to distinguish from communities served by commuter rail such as those on the San Bernardino line. Additionally, the distance between Los Angeles subway stops is much longer than between New York City subway stops. Finally, Button makes an attempt at describing “the economic meaning of ‘tastes’” by explaining, “with more wealth and greater free time there is likely to be an enhanced desire to benefit from the greater freedom and flexibility offered by private transport” (1993). His statement is qualitative, not quantitative, and offers no exact method of determining the impact of factors such as income levels or the price of other transport services. Instead, he explains, “in practice [taste] seems to embrace all influences on demand.” According to Button, it is the taste of wealthier Americans that deters them from taking the subway.
A destination split? There seems to be a split by destination type in transit use by the wealthy even though this split seems to be place-specific and to a certain extent mode-specific. Could transit systems specifically dedicated to serving places of high value to the wealthy attract them? This hypothesis might be correct for CBDs, as seen above in the case of commuter rail, but hold only partly for airports, which provide a form of mobility desired by the wealthy (i.e. with a high income elasticity of demand, see Button 1993). In fact, airport-bound transit does not seem to translate into significant support or ridership by the wealthy per se. Leigh Fisher and Associates et al. suggest in the case of Zurich Airport that distinctions should be made between residents and non-residents on one hand, and between business travelers and non-business travelers on the other hand (2002). Business travelers, who are more likely than other groups to belong to the highest 20% income bracket, would use a high-end, efficient rail system, according to the authors, as the “relative time superiority of the train over the car increases, the rail mode share of the business traveler increases to that of the leisure traveler” and “rail becomes the superior good, the business travelers choose it, with little constraint by price” (Aguilera 2008). The authors think this phenomenon could be replicated in the U.S. since “although there are profound differences in the level of public transportation use between the United States and Europe, the tools of market research can be profitably used in both situations (Leigh Fisher Associates 2002). Managers from both continents can use these tools to improve their market strategies. Again, the economic evidence tends to point to the superiority of rail compared to other modes for the wealthy, with commuter rail being a superior good, whereas the evidence remains rather scarce for the subway mode.
NIMBYism in Beverly Hills and Upper East Side NIMBYism: a quick review So far, the evidence from both generic analyses and economic perspectives shows that the wealthy tend to use less transit, even if usage levels fluctuate over different forms of transit. However, these analyses do not account satisfactorily for the sequences of events in Beverly Hills and the Upper East Side. Numerous commentators have qualified the opponents in both neighborhoods as “NIMBYs” (Kabak 2012; Berkowitz 2005 among others). Therefore, it seems necessary to go back to the concept of NIMBYism in order to assess its explanatory value for wealthy neighborhoods’ reactions to subway projects. Devine-Wright reassesses the concept of NIMBYism, studying three different meanings that have been given to the concept: “label[ing] people who oppose
development,” “a spatial explanation for opposition, assuming the proximity between a person’s home and the site of a proposed development to be the most significant factor influencing response,” or “an explanation for opposition that is determined at the individual level by ignorance, irrationality and selfishness” (2009). As Devine-Wright explains, all of these meanings can be criticized and have little explanatory power for understanding what is really happening in neighborhoods opposing a project, since the “NIMBY concept unhelpfully muddles whether opposition should be conceived as a belief or attitude towards a development, a behavioural response taken by individuals, or the collective actions of organized groups” (2009). To get a better understanding of the Beverly Hills and Upper East Side cases, Devine-Wright also offers a much more
Los Angeles’ Metro 30/10 Initiative System Map.
helpful idea, a way to reconceive NIMBY responses as “place-protective actions, which are founded upon processes of place attachment and place identity” (2009). “Place attachment has been defined as both the process of attaching oneself to a place and a product of this process” whereas “place identity” refers to the ways in which physical and symbolic attributes of certain locations contribute to an individual’s sense of self or identity” (2009). The next sections detail how this definition of NIMBYism might be used to gain a more accurate perspective of the events unfolding in the Upper East Side and in Beverly Hills following the “disruption” caused by subway projects. Upper East Side NIMBYs: aesthetics and racism The concepts of “place attachment” and “place identity” are helpful to understand some reactions in the Upper East Side to the new subway entrance on 69th Street. Given that there is scarce economic or statistical evidence of a radical reluctance of highincome residents to ride the subway, despite some comments made by some residents quoted above (Zimmer 2011) the fears of aesthetical change to the place might be genuine. Devine-Wright explains that place carries a symbolic value that is important for identities. Hence, residents’ argument against the additional subway entrance because it would damage the “pristine quality of 69th Street” (Buckley 2012) might correspond to authentic feelings, despite the racial undertones against people who were feared to “hang out” noted by Kabak (2012) and the complaints linking transit, and especially transit stops, to increased crime (Litman 2012). In conclusion, it is difficult to disqualify all attitudes of opposition to the subway entrance as “NIMBYism” in the sense corresponding to “ignorance, irrationality and selfishness” mentioned by Devine-Wright, since “place disruption” might indeed occur on 69th Street. Taking seriously these concerns about aesthetical “place disruption, does not exclude the acknowledgement of racist or classist reactions, but these reactions do not
necessarily convey a dislike of the subway as a whole. Beverly Hills NIMBYs: against transit altogether Whereas fears of social difference and change seem to dominate in the Upper East Side, the response in Beverly Hills stems from significantly different sources. The campaign that opponents to the Beverly Hills High School tunnel started includes misleading information and propaganda, as the video mentioned above (Orange 2012) epitomizes. But in the case of Beverly Hills, one can hardly talk of a “place disruption” because of the pristine character of the built environment. The very nature of the project, along with the long opposition of the city to the subway, sheds a different light on the reactions of the neighborhood’s citizens. Beverly Hills has proportionately more low-income people than the Upper East Side, and as a whole is a much more diverse community than the homogenous census tracts around 69th Street subway entrance. Perhaps the deeper element of identity at stake could be the reliance on the automobile and to a certain extent Los Angeles’ car culture, not only the reluctance of the wealthiest to ride the subway. It is likely that part of the Beverly Hills community uses the tunnel as a pretext to challenge the whole subway project, as their opposition to the additional gas tax seems to indicate. Their NIMBYism could be a strategy to hamper the building of a subway, which as a whole would bring “place disruption” and challenge the specific identity of the community and the general culture of the metropolitan area.
Conclusion The comparison between reactions to transit projects in Beverly Hills and the Upper East Side is useful insofar as it allows us to gain a better understanding of wealthy Americans’ behavior toward transit, contrasting the importance of income on behavior with the significance of place. The evidence remains scarce in terms of modes and destinations beyond the specific case of commuter rail. Nevertheless, additional
research is needed in order to better understand the determinants of transit use by the wealthy. In the specific cases of the Upper East Side and Beverly Hills, it would be interesting to further Button’s research into the tastes of upper-middle and upper class residents to better understand the link between dislike of transit and opposition to transit projects shared by both areas. Specific income elasticity analysis that distinguishes between subway, light-rail, commuter train and buses, would also be helpful for planners. Another takeaway for planners is a reminder of the fact that a buy-in from wealthy communities could be very valuable in executing transportation projects. Berkowitz’s retelling of heavytransit revival’s troubled history in Los Angeles (2005) should serve as a reminder for planners to consider the social impact of transit projects on both ends of the spectrum, regardless of their own convictions, in order to “get the job done.” This warning is especially true for Los Angeles where wealthy communities stand in the way of critical links for the efficiency of the whole system. In an era of constrained resources, a transportation agency cannot give up on key links for project success in terms of service and ridership. More generally, there may be a need for some international comparisons to understand more precisely the placespecific dimension of transit attraction or repulsion. For instance, are trains generally better than buses at attracting the wealthy to transit? Does the economic evidence about a modal split hold true in other developed countries? Parisian buses, for instance, seem to attain a high level of performance in terms of income diversity. What remains to be determined is whether these differences come from system management, mode image, or local culture. If some countries or cities are better than others at attracting wealthy transit riders, fostering a diversity of ridership, what lessons can the United States learn? Perhaps direct lessons could be applied by the agencies organizing transit on the MPO level to the management of their systems.
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A Federal “To-Do” List for 21st Century Urban Communities
by Rich Freeh
The federal government has historically played a minor role in directly controlling planning at a local level, but federal policies carry immense implications on local education, the housing market, and other areas that planners must address. With an urban president now in his second term in office, this may be the most opportune time to pass supportive legislation for cities. In this essay, Rich Freeh proposes six federal policy recommendations that President Obama should consider that would support local planning efforts in a variety of ways. With the re-election of President Barack Obama in November 2012, many urbanists welcomed back to a chief executive who they feel is “one of them.” Obama, a former community organizer and long-time city resident, certainly has the resume of an advocate for the urban communities left behind by decades of American suburbanization. Yet the first term of the Obama Administration came and went without anything that could be considered a comprehensive plan for cities in the 21st century. Small-scale efforts such as the Partnership for Sustainable Communities (PSC) – an office jointly staffed by the Departments of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Environmental Protection – and the White House’s own Office of Urban Affairs attempted to break through the “silos” that have prevented a broad vision for the future of our cities taking hold. But, these progressive offices were often understaffed and divested of any real authority. Blame for inaction on urban issues during the Obama administrations’ first term can primarily be placed on the economic downturn. The prolonged recession and slow recovery hindered federal policy in all areas, resulting in limited funding and political capital. A Republican Congress, which represents a mainly suburban and rural constituency, took power after the 2010 midterm elections, leaving even fewer opportunities for the White House to drive urban policy. Thus, when considering opportunities for the next four years of urban policy, it should be from the framework of the Obama Administration as a renewed force on the
political scene. The president’s re-election may generate additional willingness among legislators to work with the administration over common causes. The following policy initiatives account for this political stalemate and could be accomplished without Congressional action. Changes to regulations currently undertaken by the executive branch – either through the White House itself or through a Cabinet-level department – could be done with limited political controversy, but may still have long-lasting impacts on America’s cities. These recommendations fall under six broad goals: education, housing and home ownership, health and safety, economic growth and opportunity, equitable land use and transportation, and environmental justice. While the recommendations are focused on federal policy, they also provide an opportunity for planners to re-evaluate their relationship with both federal and local policies during a period of shifting urban priorities and challenges.
1) Reorient educational policies around local schools, not states. While not explicitly targeting urban school systems, the Obama Administration’s “Race to the Top” program has been one of the most high-profile non-stimulus public policy initiatives of the past four years. The program incentivizes states to pursue systemic reform based primarily on improved data collection and assessment across school districts (White House 2012). While these assessments can be useful, they are often misleading and prone to misuse and falsification at the district level, as demonstrated by a 2009 report demonstrating erroneous test scores at dozens of Pennsylvania schools, including 22 in the Philadelphia School District (Philadelphia Public School Notebook 2011). More troubingly, such assessments can privilege wealthier, suburban schools with existing resources over resourcepoor urban facilities (Sadker and Zittleman 2012). Though education policy tops this list of recommendations, it is perhaps the most difficult challenge facing federal lawmakers
in the field of community and economic development. Teachers, administrators, and parents often disagree about the best path forward for our nation’s schools, particularly in disadvantaged communities. One promising opportunity is already underway with the expansion of the statewide Race to the Top program to the district level. Rather than imposing new standards across vastly different facilities, this new initiative will allow individual districts to compete for funding. In 2012, the program’s funding amounted to almost $400 million in revenue for 55 districts around the United States (US Department of Education 2012). By re-prioritizing individual classrooms, this funding has the chance to impact more students directly, allowing teachers to deploy strategies that work best for their class, rather than the median class type in their state. Moving forward, federal policy should continue this trend of decoupling funding from state-level standards that fail to take into account the vast inequities that occur in educational outcomes between suburban and urban school districts. The role of the Department of Education should remain prioritizing and promoting innovative classrooms and districts, even at the risk of alienating those committed to national “standards” that reflect an outdated, topdown approach to knowledge retention.
2) Realign housing incentives while providing relief for existing homeowners. Upon taking office, the foreclosure crisis constituted perhaps the greatest challenge for President Obama and his administration. Following years of systemic failure arising from subprime mortgage practices embraced by both lenders and borrowers, families faced rising housing costs and dwindling incomes during the Great Recession and accompanying housing bust. The federal response has been headlined by the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP), which provided a refinancing option for mortgages originated under public agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. While a boon to those who qualified,
through a reduction in the mortgage interest tax deduction. A recent Atlantic Cities article pegs the cost of the deduction at $35 billion annually (Badger and Mathis 2012). The authors recommend capping the deduction and using the recaptured revenue to fund low-income urban housing. While this would help move federal policy towards a balance that incentivizes both purchased and rental housing, channeling some of the revenue from a reduced deduction into an expanded HAMP program could support existing homeowners currently overpaying for homes purchased during the inflated housing market of the early 2000s.
3) Establish a federal “revolving fund” to provide flexibility to municipalities to avoid vital health and safety programs cuts. As much as any area in urban policy, In the wake of the Great Recession, cities around the United States are struggling to regain health and safety are have been largely their economic footing. ignored by federal administrators. The HARP has left out the significant majority (Goldstein and Hall 2008). assumption has been—not inaccurately— Instead, a program similar to that that the well-being of citizens is best of homeowners whose loans originated currently proposed by President Obama handled at the local level, and that through private lenders (Greene 2012). Moreover, these programs – dubbed “HAMP 3.0” – to allow federal policymakers have little role in overwhelmingly focus on existing homeowners who purchased homes ensuring their quality of life. While such homeowners, reinforcing the trend of through private lenders to refinance into a prioritization of “local knowledge” is homeownership-favoring policies that have a federal loan guarantor would seem good policy, there is a role for the White been a key part of America’s housing story to be sound policy. However, recent House and Congress to serve as a lender and for much of the past century. Surprisingly, it questions about the financial state of the emergency provider. was Republican presidential candidate Mitt Federal Housing Administration (FHA) The role of “emergency provider” has Romney who floated the idea of abolishing may limit the scope of such a program been driven home repeatedly in recent the mortgage interest tax deduction. Many pending additional Congressional funding years, as Federal Emergency Management critics of this deduction argue it incentivizes (Timiraos 2012). Agency (FEMA) has stepped in to provide buyers to purchase larger houses than they In the absence of Congressional action, relief for residents and businesses damaged might have otherwise considered—or, in the FHA could look to fund HAMP 3.0 fact, “tip” renters toward purchase in the % of Total Mortgage Interest Deduction Taken first place. Thanks to the regressive nature Source: Tax Policy Center 45 of the deduction, which taxpayers can take 40 for every house they own, 75% of value 35 derived from the deduction accrues to the 30 top 20 percent of American households (O’Brien 2012). 25 Many conservative critics would like 20 15 to see the existing federal loan guarantors, like Fannie Mae, dismantled, citing 10 them as a primary cause of the subprime 05 mortgage crisis. Yet as data has repeatedly 0 Bottom 56 57-80 81-94 95-98 Top 1 shown, publicly financed mortgages were Source:Tax Policy Center just a fraction of the total subprime loans The vast majority of value from the mortgage interest tax deduction is accruing to the top issued during the Bush-era housing boom 20% of U.S. households.
or destroyed by disasters such as Hurricane Sandy and the Joplin, Missouri tornado. While this role for the federal government is generally accepted, there has been limited discussion of the less visible damage done to communities by state and municipal budget cuts, which have reduced funding for essential services from police and firefighters to shelters for the homeless and mentally ill (Lubrano 2012). The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provided a onetime infusion of funding for communities struggling to balance their budgets, but there has yet to be systematic movement toward long-term federal support for financially struggling municipalities. Such a policy could prove to be unpopular in an environment already poisoned by “bailouts,” but it may do as much for the long-term health and safety of urban neighborhoods as any federal policy. And while the popular appeal of companysaving loans to the finance and automobile industries is limited, a “public bailout” of American towns and cities would immediately benefit most voters, mitigating potential unpopularity. One possible way to offer assistance to cities would be through a municipal “flex account,” structured like a revolving loan fund, to provide an emergency rainy day fund for communities in need. These funds could plug gaps in budgets that otherwise would be patched through cuts to public health and safety programs, utilizing the low-interest borrowing capacity of federal government to allow long-term repayments. Such a fund could also be recapitalized with additional revenue by an act of Congress during times of particular economic hardship without the risk of appearing to “bailout” any particular city. With such funding in place, cities would no longer be required to choose between essential services in periods of fiscal distress, avoiding the costly layoffs that paralyze municipal governments and harm the citizens they serve. With tax rates declining at the local level, a federally guaranteed municipal flex fund would provide opportunities for local planners and policymakers to enact long-term
Planners and policymakers at the municipal level must work—not compete—with their counterparts in the federal government. visions without fear of disruption during short-term economic downturns.
4) Extend and expand the New Markets Tax Credit for distressed communities, with particular focus on equitable economic development at the regional level.
Current discussion of economic growth at the federal level is overwhelmingly focused on job creation. Both the Obama Administration and U.S. Congress evaluate proposals based on short-term opportunities for economic stimulus or deficit reduction, often at the expense of a long-term strategy for growth.
One exception to this trend under the current administration has been a reconsideration of the role of the New Markets Tax Credit. This program has been expanded and clarified to encourage the provision of initial funding for startups and businesses in low-income neighborhoods (White House 2012). Such funding may help spark economic activity in distressed communities or provide essential resources in those areas where they’re lacking. In Philadelphia, this technique has been pioneered by The Reinvestment Fund, which uses New Market Tax Credits to provide gap financing for communityserving institutions like full-service supermarkets that might otherwise avoid riskier urban markets (The Reinvestment Fund 2013). In contrast to top-down federal or state investment, the NMTC program is an example of the support role the federal government can play in economic development. By privileging local knowledge in urban neighborhoods, the program avoids “picking winners” while still leveling the playing field between businesses in low-income communities and those elsewhere in the region. Moving forward, it is important to avoid communities within a single region competing for businesses and neighborhood-serving institutions through tax credit programs. Restructuring these credits for distribution at the regional level could allow metropolitan planning organizations to handle these funds and thereby reduce local competition for scarce federal dollars. As a result, more collaborative economic development could be pursued in coordination with comprehensive land use and transportation plans. Pursuing that coordination will require the buy-in not only of federal policymakers but planners at the local and regional level. Recognizing the value of federal tax incentives for communities will require movement beyond the traditional silos of economic development, transportation, and land use toward a comprehensive regional vision. Businesses poorly served by infrastructure are unlikely to succeed,
Increased emphasis on transportation at the regional level could be a catalyst for developing sustainable communities. or do so only by employing and serving those who are able to spend additional time or money accessing the establishment. Planners working to ensure an equitable and economically vibrant future for their regions will need to work together to develop long-term strategies for leveraging resources available at the federal level.
5) Promote sustainable land use and transportation investment through cooperation with local and regional planners. Rising fuel costs and renewed interest in city living among more affluent Americans illustrate the role that land use and transportation can play in promoting strong, stable communities. But with transportation costs rising both absolutely and as a percentage of total household budgets, and with the threat of gentrification pushing out more low-income Americans from urban cores, it is essential to provide meaningful reforms that offer alternatives to unsustainable auto-oriented patterns of development (Garofalo 2012). To its credit, the Obama administration has taken action to provide opportunities to improve land use and transportation outcomes via federal policy. One of the key transportation policies established under the American Recovery and Reinvestment
Act (ARRA) was the TIGER Grant program, which has awarded billions in discretionary revenue to transportation projects based not on pet legislative priorities but through a competitive process. The competition criteria prioritizes several factors including “livability and sustainability,” meaning those programs that focus on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, promoting infill development, and improving access for currently under-served communities (U.S. Department of Transportation 2013). Changes to federal transportation and land use policy have also come under the aegis of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. This department has established a grant program aimed at improving neighborhood walkability and residential quality of life (Partnership for Sustainable Communities 2013). While the grants undertaken under the TIGER and PSC programs are a meaningful step forward, they are also relatively undercapitalized. TIGER, in particular, was dependent on recovery and reinvestment act funding to provide grants, and Congressional action will be necessary to ensure that transportation funding continues to prioritize community goals over those of legislators. One way to accomplish this is to move some of the discretionary power
away from federal regulators and closer to those communities who know best where their infrastructure needs are greatest. The recently authorized MAP-21 surface transportation legislation offers one such way forward: an expansion of the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan program provides loan guarantees for cities or regions who agree to tax themselves to build necessary infrastructure, utilizing the borrowing power of Congress while leaving the federal budget untouched (U.S. Department of Transportation 2012). Critically, however, this program lacks the strong prioritization framework offered by the TIGER Grants under the ARRA. Recalibrating TIFIA and programs like it in future years to ensure communities focused on sustainable, neighborhooddriven transportation policies go to the front of the line for this funding is essential. A stipulation that financing be contingent on local or regional matching funds could help to focus investment on those projects where local and regional planners have developed a comprehensive vision for the
land use and transportation future of their communities.
6) Reimagine existing environmental regulations to allow communities to pursue innovative pollution mitigation strategies. Perhaps more so than for any of the other issues discussed in these recommendations, the environment has historically been the purview of the federal government. Since the passage of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts in the 1960s and 70s, national policy has dictated environmental outcomes at the regional and local level. The form this policy takes is generally “unfunded mandates.” States and municipalities are required to undertake mitigation and prevention actions to improve the quality of air and water, but aren’t provided with assistance to do so. Thus, while overall air quality in the United States has improved significantly in the past forty years, with total emissions falling over 50% from 1975 levels (Manzanian 2009),
those benefits are not equally distributed. A kind of environmental inequality exists between those communities that can afford clean air and water and those that cannot or will not. Failure to address air quality can result in municipalities facing further sanctions, as was the case for Metro Atlanta following their failure to follow Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality guidelines in the late 1990s (Southern Environmental Law Center 2013). While the EPA has increasingly offered grants focused on promoting “environmental justice” in the most distressed communities—now under the auspices of the aforementioned PSC coalition—there has been little movement toward amending these rules to promote cost effective environmental solutions. The future of environmental solutions at the community level may be tied to the recommendations for land use and transportation described above; as pollution resulting from automobile-oriented development is reduced, the cost required to mitigate that pollution will decline with it. Promoting sustainable development at the local level will be key to reducing cost burdens for community residents both directly (by improving infrastructure and transit options) and indirectly (by reducing out-of-pocket costs for pollution controls). But the federal government has a direct role to play in reducing environmental inequity, too. Requirements that Washington, D.C. install costly stormwater management infrastructure have led to increased water bills for some of the poorest neighborhoods in the U.S., despite evidence from Philadelphia and elsewhere that innovative “green infrastructure” can have similar environmental impacts at a significantly lower cost (Nadeau 2012). Relaxing some air and water regulations to allow cities and regions to explore innovative solutions to pollution mitigation could be a win-win for distressed communities and the environment, and would come at no cost to the federal government.
Relaxed stormwater regulations could allow cities to invest in green infrastructure—like this green roof—which can cost effectively reduce runoff into urban waterways.
Conclusion “No cost to the federal government” is a common theme throughout these recommendations. The priorities have been assembled with the implicit understanding that cities will continue to rank low on the priority list of even an ostensibly cityfriendly administration such as that of President Obama’s. In each of the six areas described above, positive change for cities and their residents has been imagined through changes in the regulatory structure or through revenue-neutral adjustments to existing policy. Taken together, these goals take the form of an action plan for federal policy over the next four years: • Reorient educational policies around schools, not states. • Realign housing incentives while providing relief for existing homeowners. • Establish a federal “revolving fund” to provide municipalities flexibility to avoid cuts to vital health and safety programs. • Extend and expand the New Market Tax Credit for distressed communities, with particular focus on equitable economic development at the regional level. • Promote sustainable land use and transportation investment through cooperation with local and regional planners. • Reimagine existing environmental regulations to allow communities to pursue innovative pollution mitigation strategies. These recommendations are more than just a “laundry list” of actions for the federal government to undertake; they represent a real shift in how the White House, Cabinetlevel agencies, and Congress prioritize urban issues in the United States. It is important to note that each of these priorities is based on an expectation of active participation in the planning and policy development process at the local and regional level. Communities cannot wait for the federal government to remake their cities; they must pursue that goal themselves. For city planners seeking to affect changes in those communities, it is
vital to be mindful both of existing federal policy and opportunities for advocating for reforms that may make the pursuit of sustainable, livable neighborhoods more affordable and more effective. The role of Washington will be one of support in the years ahead, and while it is important to advocate for changes to how that support is distributed, it is just as important—if not more so—to ensure a social infrastructure of an engaged and capable citizenry to act on that support to better our neighborhoods in the years to come. Planners, urban advocates, and private stakeholders will all be charged with taking advantage of those initiatives offered through the federal government to build strong, lasting cities for the 21st century.
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Rethinking Transit Projects in High-income Neighborhoods
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