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2 Report 2 in the series Spatial Transformation through Transit‑Oriented Development in Johannesburg

The City as a Laboratory EXPERIMENTATION, OBSERVATION AND THEORISATION FROM URBAN LABS Dr Margot Rubin and Alexandra Appelbaum


The city as a laboratory

The city as a laboratory



Agence Française de Développement (AFD) City of Johannesburg (CoJ) South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning, University of the Witwatersrand (SA&CP, Wits)

Steering committee members

Alexandra Appelbaum (SA&CP) Camille Chastagnol (AFD) Arthur Germond (AFD) Prof. Philip Harrison (SA&CP) Prof. Paul Jenkins (Wits) Herman Pienaar (CoJ) Dr. Margot Rubin (SA&CP) Prof. Alison Todes (Wits) Martha Stein-Sochas (AFD) Liana Strydom (CoJ) Dylan Weakley (CoJ)


Prof. Philip Harrison, Dr. Margot Rubin and Alexandra Appelbaum

Project manager

Alexandra Appelbaum


Dr. Margot Rubin and Alexandra Appelbaum

Spatial Transformation through Transit‑Oriented Development: synthesis report

Dr. Margot Rubin and Alexandra Appelbaum

The City as a Laboratory: Experimentation, Observation and Theorisation from Urban Labs

Dr. Sylvia Croese

International case studies of Transit-Oriented Development-Corridor implementation

Dr. Kirsten Harrison

Transit Corridors and the Private Sector: Incentives, Regulations and the Property Market

Neil Klug

The more things change, the more they stay the same: a case study of Westbury, Coronationville and Slovo Park informal settlement

Dr. Tanya Zack

Platform to an Arrival City: Johannesburg’s Park Station and Surrounds

Alexandra Appelbaum

Contestation, Transformation and Competing Visions: a study of Orange Grove and Norwood

Lindsay Howe

Constancy and Change: Marlboro South as an interstice of marginalisation and development in the Gauteng City-Region

Prof. Umakrishnan Kollamparambil

Conditions of Life and Work along the Transit Corridors: quantitative analysis of four Johannesburg nodes

Research assistance

Emmanuel Ayifah Kwanda Lande Mamokete Matjomane Lucky Nkali Lyle Prim

Survey company

Outsourced Insight


Alexandra Appelbaum and Reitumetse Selepe


Mark Lewis, unless otherwise stated

Historical photographs

Museum Africa Collection

Copy editing

Kate Tissington and Alexandra Appelbaum

Design and layout

Louise Carmichael


The city as a laboratory

At the time that these reports were researched and written, the City of Johannesburg was using the term Corridors of Freedom to refer to the Louis Botha, Empire Perth and Turffontein Strategic Area Frameworks. Although the name is currently under review we have used the original terminology throughout the reports. All quantitative data referred to without an explicit reference is drawn from the survey conducted by Outsourced Insight as part of the Spatial Transformation through Transit-Oriented Development project. 1200 people (a mix of residents, business owners and users) were surveyed in the four case study areas of this report series. All mapped data was also drawn from this survey. © City of Johannesburg 2016 To access the original data please contact the South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning, University of the Witwatersrand.

Referencing the report: Rubin M and Appelbaum A (2016) The City as a Laboratory: Experimentation, Observation and Theorisation from Urban Labs. Report 2. Spatial Transformation through Transit-Oriented Development in Johannesburg Research Report Series. South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning. University of the Witwatersrand: Johannesburg.

The city as a laboratory


Executive summary The Spatial Transformation through Transit-Oriented Development in Johannesburg report series is the product of a project undertaken between the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), the City of Johannesburg (CoJ) and the NRF South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand. The project aimed to provide operational support to, and empirical evidence for, the City of Johannesburg’s Transit‑Oriented Development (TOD) programme – at the time known as the Corridors of Freedom (COF). It was a unique and important collaborative endeavour, in which the project proposal, research questions and final approach were co-produced by the three partners. The reports cover a range of topics, from an international comparison of TransitOriented Development Corridors, to an in-depth study of the regulatory, institutional and incentive environments in the COF, and the response from the private sector. It also included a survey of 1 200 residents, users and businesses and an indepth qualitative case study analysis of four nodes: Marlboro South; Park Station Precinct; Orange Grove and Norwood, and Westbury, Coronationville and Slovo Park. The case studies encompassed a wide range of the environments along Johannesburg’s corridors, including older suburbs, informal settlements, townships, public housing stock, industrial areas and transit nodes in the inner city. The team consisted of academics, officials, consultants and community members. Methodologically, all reports relied on academic and media sources, with the majority consisting of an integrated analysis of survey findings and key stakeholder interviews. The summary that follows looks at the key points from each report and offers a concise sense of the main findings.

Key findings: • The international experience supports the case for transit corridors, noting that they are useful and necessary planning instruments in urban regeneration – improving sustainability; increasing access for poorer communities, and improving rates bases in strategic areas. • Transit corridors have been associated with an improved municipal fiscus that is able to provide denser urban environments with consequently higher efficiencies in the urban form. • The current forms and institutional arrangements of TOD corridors in the CoJ demonstrate much promise and have some of the key features of successful corridors found elsewhere, i.e. a lead department with high levels of technical skill. • However, there is a need for greater coherence at both the planning and implementation level, and a need for more buy-in from all departments in the CoJ. • The CoJ has set an ambitious approach to the development of the Corridors – attempting to create a ‘guided’ enabling environment for the private sector that incentivises and attracts investment into these sites, whilst balancing the needs of the public good, and the larger developmental agenda.


The city as a laboratory

• There are some important locations that will potentially satisfy private sector interests of lowered risk and higher demand; these include affordable housing along Louis Botha Avenue and investment opportunities in the Knowledge Precinct. • The TOD programme has a long-time horizon. However, after just four years it has seen some successes, including the provision and use of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) by certain communities; significant public environment and infrastructure upgrades, and the construction of vital services, such as clinics in areas that were previously under-served. • In order for the impact of TOD – which extends beyond just the BRT – to be maximised, the City must foster a multi-modal transport system, including the BRT, Gautrain, commuter rail, and minibus taxis. • Across the Corridors it is clear that there is significant youthful energy directed towards micro-businesses, with many residents starting new enterprises. Louis Botha Avenue, Marlboro South and Park Station are already showing signs of being complex multi-use sites that attract people from all over South Africa and the continent. • The transit corridors already have an important economic function in that they are attractive sites due to their accessibility and the ability of residents to save on transport costs. However, demand is forcing up the price of commercial and residential property, making these areas inaccessible for poorer households.

Nodal findings: Each node faces a set of specific conditions that require particular engagements and services. • Westbury, as a site of older public housing stock, faces severe social pathologies, and very low rates of employment. Residents feel isolated and parochial – despite being quite close to the inner city in terms of physical distance – and there is a need to consider social infrastructure as a key future intervention. • Slovo Park as an informal settlement requires better services and housing but also greater participation and engagement with residents about their future. • Louis Botha Avenue (Orange Grove in particular) is mixed-use and mixed-income area and has important businesses varying in size. Here care needs to be taken to support the organic processes of informal and formal entrepreneurship and to avoid potential gentrification and displacement that could result from interventions. While the Paterson

Park housing project is a vital intervention, the governance dynamics in the area provide important lessons for the CoJ in its future interventions in middle-class areas. • Marlboro South is an area of enormous potential, but has high rates of poverty and very poor living conditions. It is very well located and has a number of businesses, at a variety of scales, which would like to remain. This area requires housing interventions, service upgrades and consideration of the urban environment, especially safety and security. • Park Station Precinct, as arguably the most important transit node in Johannesburg, suffers from a governance crisis and as a consequence has not been able to capitalise on its cosmopolitan and vibrant nature. There is a lack of support for the economic activities in the area; insufficient affordable accommodation; and the station requires better linkages into the fabric of the inner city.

Recommendations: • Currently, there is a ‘toolbox’ of incentives that is being developed to enhance partnerships with private sector developers, and there is evidence to suggest that this could be enhanced by considering questions of urban management; the release and development of state-owned land, and examining the development of demand – rather than supply-side investments. • Safety and security, questions of urban management, and employment were themes that consistently appeared across the corridors. The City needs to pay close attention to these concerns, as they are affecting all aspects of the Corridors, such as the quality of life for residents and the potential future investment from private developers. • Public participation protocols require rethinking and possibly reconfiguration. In their current formulation they are not sufficiently able to include the voices of some of the poorest and most marginalised. They are also incorrectly conceptualised as information-sharing sessions, rather than real engagement or consultation. • Furthermore, public participation needs to be seen as part of long term-relationships with communities and stakeholders that occur throughout the process rather than a once-off compliance-led activity.

• The current practice of having ‘point people’ – particularly within the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) – dedicated to specific nodes and corridors is excellent and should be continued. • All processes in the corridors must be supported by up-to-date websites that are current with ease of access to all relevant information. • The CoJ needs to promote and publicise its achievements, and let the general public and other departments know what it has accomplished. • Exceptional care needs to be taken to ensure that built environment interventions do not worsen conditions in vulnerable communities, highlighting the need for better empirical evidence and consultation before implementation. • Built environment interventions must be complemented with social development and engagement in order for the full potential of the transit corridors to be realised, in terms of addressing the social and economic aspects of marginalisation. • Overall, there is much to be learned from the first few years of the programme that can improve the CoJ’s TOD initiatives going forward: better engagement and participation; clearer plans; better marketing and overall communication within and outside the CoJ, and careful consideration of the limits of built environment interventions. In short, the research project revealed that transit corridors are an effective programmatic choice in restructuring the spatiality of the City of Johannesburg and dealing with some of the most intractable urban problems; there are a range of ways to improve Johannesburg’s TOD programme going forward. To realise the full value of the TOD vision, it is necessary for the CoJ to continue the programme with the vigour it has demonstrated thus far. The dedicated and skilled teams in the City have already been able to achieve some successes, and with the evidence base that this study now offers, interventions and plans can be more finely honed and refined to focus in on specific community needs, whilst addressing questions of a declining fiscus and the need to restructure and reinvigorate the City of Johannesburg. This project also included a series of urban labs – a number of engagements between City officials, academics, members of civil society and the private sector and other key stakeholders – on particular issues related to Johannesburg’s future. This report is also included in the series.

• Given the need for cross-sectoral and interdepartmental co-ordination, area-based management models could be highly effective in addressing these issues and should be considered as a way of addressing the host of differentiated needs across the transit corridors.

The city as a laboratory


Table of Contents 01 02



2.1 Project Conceptualisation 2.2 Contracting 2.3 Funding arrangement

03 03 03




3.1 Urban Lab 1: Mega Human Settlements in Gauteng 3.2 Urban Lab 2: Responding to large-scale private sector-led developments in Johannesburg 3.3 Urban Lab 3: The role of researchers in interfacing with the City of Johannesburg 3.4 Urban Lab 4: A comparison of spatial visions in the Spatial Development Frameworks (SDFs) of the City of Johannesburg and Gauteng Province 3.5 Urban Lab 5: Understanding the role of private developers in Johannesburg 3.6 Urban Lab 6: Preliminary findings of the Corridors of Freedom research project

06 09 12







04 05 06 07

13 16 18


Abbreviations and Acronyms


The city as a laboratory


Agence Française de Développement


Corridors of Freedom


City of Johannesburg


Johannesburg Development Agency


Palmer Development Group


South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning


Spatial Development Framework


Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act


Transit-Oriented Development


Trust for Urban Housing Finance


Urban Lab


University of the Witwatersrand

The city as a laboratory



INTRODUCTION Laboratories are sites of observation, experimentation and theorisation. However, for those involved in the study of cities, the controlled conditions offered by the closed environments of laboratories are impossible, and to some degree undesirable. Our laboratory is not a contained space of technology, measurements and chemicals, but the city itself – a myriad of complexity as everyday life unfolds. The city is our space to observe phenomena; understand spatial and social innovation; begin to theorise; and make broader transnational connections. It was with this in mind that the Agence Française de DÊveloppement or French Development Agency (AFD), South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning (SA&CP) at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and the City of Johannesburg (CoJ), conceptualised our programme of Urban Laboratories (UL), intended to complement the research series Spatial Transformation and TransitOriented Development (TOD) in Johannesburg. The Urban Labs served a twofold function: to engage in bringing together relevant information and data on specific phenomena currently occurring within the City of Johannesburg outside of the Corridors of Freedom TOD project; and to discuss and strategise these spatial issues in order to initiate or support innovative policy responses. Between March and November 2016, the ULs brought together practitioners, academics, officials, politicians and members of the private sector and civil society in six sessions in order to discuss issues of mutual concern. The intention was to provide a platform that would ensure open engagement between groups and individuals who would not otherwise have had the opportunity to debate and discuss issues of common interest. Interestingly, this also involved the facilitation of discussions between different spheres of government and departments within the state, as it did between members of different sectors. This report serves as a record of the processes that were followed in designing the labs; the key issues that were discussed during the course of the ULs; and the variety of successes and outcomes. It also offers some reflection on the value of such events and considers how they may be strengthened in future.


The city as a laboratory

The city as a laboratory



Background and origins of the urban labs 2.1 Project Conceptualisation Integral to the success of both the research project documented in this report series, and the ULs, was the process through which they were conceptualised. From the outset, the project was devised collaboratively between the three partners involved. The research-support programme was initiated when the AFD made a loan to the CoJ that included a grant component for strategic support to the City. As a part of this grant, the AFD approached SA&CP and the City’s Department of Development Planning – mainly the City Transformation and Spatial Planning unit – to discuss the possibility of research-support. Once the idea was agreed in principal, meetings were held with representatives from all three institutions to discuss how the support would play out. This was important in that, from the start, it allowed space for discussion and compromise; enabling a process that was mutually beneficial to all three parties. In arriving at the structure of the partnership with its two key elements – strategic research and the urban labs – SA&CP proposed ideas about the type of assistance they could provide to the CoJ. The City indicated that they had certain specific questions that they wanted answered through research, and a number of broader issues on which discussion was needed. The approach was coconceptualised by the three parties. The City proposed dedicated socio-economic research into areas where plans had been drawn up, and implementation was currently taking place. The areas chosen were all within the Corridors of Freedom but very different in character. The City required finegrained information on these areas that would be useful in engaging communities; implementing the plans; and ensuring context-sensitive approaches. The City also indicated that empirical research would be more useful than theoretical work. For SA&CP, the content was agreeable, in that it would allow the unit to meet one mandate of influencing urban policy, while at the same time creating useful empirical data on which to base later academic work. For the labs, the agreement was to keep the content open and flexible, with a central focus on Johannesburg and supporting the CoJ. This approach allowed for issues to be discussed as they arose and


The city as a laboratory

for issues raised in labs to influence subsequent meetings. For all of the labs, the content was discussed and agreed upon by the three collaborators, and attendees of the labs.

2.2 Contracting A vital step in establishing the project was the ability to set up a contracting arrangement that worked for AFD, CoJ and SA&CP. The contract was set up directly between the ‘client’ (CoJ) and the ‘service provider’ (SA&CP/Wits). This was important for accountability reasons, even though the City did not fund the project. The fact that Wits and the CoJ managed to sign a contract was, in itself, a milestone, as the University and the City have struggled to form contracts in the past, due to internal bureaucratic processes within each institution. A common issue for collaborations between research institutions and government is the intellectual property clause. The University requires access to intellectual property to meet its academic publication requirements. The City – which mostly enters into this type of agreement with consultants – usually wishes for the IP to belong to the City, as it is the product being paid for. Significantly, this partnership found an amenable intellectual property clause for all parties. The intellectual property is owned by the City of Johannesburg but SA&CP has full use rights over all material, which means that academic publishing using the research can take place. This agreement was vital, given the requirements of both the CoJ and the University, and enabled the project to go ahead.

2.3 Funding arrangement

the Corridors of Freedom project, including the Bus Rapid Transit infrastructure. Thus, both the funders of the project and the ‘client’ (CoJ) were invested in the research outcomes of the project. As a research unit specialising in policy and action‑based research, as well as being deeply committed to Johannesburg’s future, SA&CP welcomed the prospect of working on the Corridors of Freedom, enjoying the initiative’s commitment to spatial justice. Further, the funding enabled SA&CP to slightly expand its capacity and bring much-needed third stream income into the University of the Witwatersrand. Between the three parties there has been considerable transparency and accountability regarding funding and finances. The AFD funds are held in the National Treasury and released to SA&CP, as per the funding agreement, once the CoJ has agreed that deliverables have been met. This funding method has been particularly valuable for the CoJ as it avoids lengthy procurement processes and allows a useful research project that would not necessarily fit within their own plan- and policy-focused budget process. The funding model has benefited from a degree of flexibility allowing, for example, quarterly payment structures to be adjusted to mitigate cash flow shortages that arose due to slight changes in timelines. SA&CP was also able to lend the project money to assist with cash flow in the interim. Due to the sufficiency of the budget, and the flexibility of the partners, SA&CP also had the freedom to allocate funds within the project as new needs and ideas arose, such as photography and mapping. The willingness of all parties to be adaptable within the bounds of the allocated funds has been key in the success of the project. This flexibility translated into the project itself; particularly with the urban lab schedule and topics, which enabled a highly successful urban lab programme (see the next section). The terms of reference also allowed for adaptability, which enabled individual experts contracted to the project through SA&CP to mould their research into its best possible permutation. For the CoJ, flexibility was also enabled through the funding arrangement, which saw a less prescriptive clientservice provider relationship than the CoJ usually has to accommodate.

The project was funded by the AFD, who actively shaped the research in the conception phase. The AFD had granted the CoJ a significant capital loan to facilitate

The city as a laboratory



PROGRAMME OF WORK Each lab was attended by a core group of people to ensure continuity between the labs, and a range of topic-specific experts attended one or two labs. In total, over 110 people were engaged in the urban labs in some form. In the initial programme, it was anticipated that the urban labs would: Focus on broader issues of city growth and restructuring in Johannesburg. While the lab will define its agenda as it develops, it is envisaged that it will concurrently address the management of market-driven urban growth in the north of Johannesburg, and unlocking development potentials in the townships and informal areas of the city which are mainly, but not only, in the south.




23 February 2016

Mega Human Settlements


30 March 2016


27 May 2016


21 June 2016


26 July 2016

Understanding the role of private developers in Johannesburg


9 September 2016

Preliminary findings of the Corridors of Freedom research project

Responding to large-scale private sector-led developments in Johannesburg The role of researchers and academics in interfacing with the City of Johannesburg A comparison of spatial visions in the Spatial Development Frameworks (SDFs) of the City of Johannesburg and Gauteng Province.

3.1 Urban Lab 1: Mega Human Settlements in Gauteng Speakers: Prof. Martin Murray, Taubman College, University of Michigan Prof. Alison Todes, School of Architecture and Planning, University of the Witwatersrand Prof. Ivan Turok, Human Sciences Research Council Dylan Weakley, City Transformation and Spatial Planning, City of Johannesburg

Brief description: The session engaged with the proposed mega human settlements as a solution to housing in Gauteng. In 2014, the national Minister of Human Settlements, Lindiwe Sisulu, announced a change in policy and


The city as a laboratory

However built into the programme was the flexibility to respond to the needs of the CoJ and the ability to engage with debates and issues that could arise during the course of the year. Out of this flexible schedule, the following labs took place:

the move towards mega human projects, which were intended to be mixed-income, mixed-use settlements of more than 10Â 000 units, with employment and recreational facilities. The Gauteng provincial department of Human Settlements followed the national directive and launched their own mega human settlement plan in 2015. The proposed settlements were highly controversial and the Urban Lab offered the opportunity for the views and positions of a variety of stakeholders and experts to be heard and to air their concerns with the proposed new settlements. In addition, the session dealt with the development of the megaproject concept and the competing spatial visions for the region; as well as contextualising mega projects within a global perspective; and examining international lessons from satellite cities. The discussion also focused on the interface between housing and planning in the public sector and how it could be managed.

The city as a laboratory


Key points: The Gauteng Province, in keeping with national government objectives, proposed a set of mega projects across Gauteng in April 2015. The proposed projects were supposed to be large-scale human settlements of more than 15 000 units, and the original idea was to locate them outside of existing urban settlements; effectively creating a set of new towns. As part of the proposal, the Province identified a set of ‘nodes’ within the province, each of which was intended to host a set of mega projects situated in sub-nodes that would not only satisfy large housing demand but would also play a key economic role in promoting economic growth and development. There were many concerns raised about the original proposed mega projects model at the urban lab. However, there was also recognition that subsequent to the original Provincial proposals, the idea was moderated and it was conjoined with a set of existing housing projects and plans. This seemed to demonstrate a maturation of the proposal and an ability by the leadership to take on board the critiques that were offered from various sectors. However, despite these critiques and the de-emphasis of mega projects, this model is still firmly being pursued by national and provincial government. There are two main arguments for and against the mega human settlement proposal; both centre on how growth is accommodated in situations of medium to fast growth in cities in the global south. The debate turns on the question of whether cities should engage with growth through outwards expansion; or through upwards densification, intensification, compaction and the upgrading of what exists. Proponents of mega projects are generally supporters of the new city idea, positing that expansion enables cities to prepare better for the future growth and recognising that in Africa that a lot of the growth has been haphazard and disorderly. Often such expansion has also been highly informal, and has been damaging to social, as well as economic performance. Thus, supporters of mega cities argue that with new cities, local government can prepare from the start with a ‘clean slate’. The idea is that the state can earmark extensive green field land areas, where land is relatively cheap, and then undertake projects and plans on the undeveloped land that cannot be done within an existing built up area. Ideally, city government can establish a functional lay out; protect public spaces for roads and infrastructure; and have better infrastructure. In short, the system is planned more efficiently, to allow for better human settlements.


The city as a laboratory

In opposition to such thinking are those who support consolidation: where councils and cities intensify land use in core cities, inner cities, and along public transport routes. These approaches propose the infill of brownfield sites; upgrading and retrofitting informal settlements; increasing land use rights in centrally located areas to increase density (built by the private sector). Concentrated infrastructure investment and capacity upgrades in the existing built form should further incentivise development. In this model, the state limits and discourages development on greenfield sites on the outskirts of the city, using land use rights, urban development boundaries, and infrastructure (or the lack thereof) as tools. Furthermore, they support negotiating land re-adjustment and consolidation, and in order to do things more coherently, local governments engage in land swaps and expropriate land where necessary. From a governance perspective, new cities are – somewhat idealistically – seen as clearer, cleaner ways of ensuring urban development and in a sense skipping bureaucratic and dimensions of mismanagement and corruption that plague existing urban structures. However, if there is a choice to consolidate and densify, then there is the potential to make more efficient use of land through intensification; and to reinforce the social fabric in existing communities, rather than creating new communities from scratch. Perhaps most importantly, councils are forced to address the real problems – of separation and dysfunctional infrastructure – instead of bypassing them. In Gauteng, mega projects seem to offer a way of dealing with a host of social, economic and delivery issues facing the state, whilst also getting the private sector involved. However, it is contrary to a number of existing agendas: that of the National Treasury, which has been working very hard to get alignment between various departments to support densification and compaction; the SDFs of different municipalities within Gauteng, all of which have been pushing infill and compaction. There is also concern that the work done on in situ upgrading of informal settlements may well fall away in favour of this new agenda. Furthermore, the idea of mega human settlements for Gauteng is problematic, based on historical experiences of new satellite cities, which have frequently been unsuccessful projects. This view has been bolstered by experiences in the rest of Africa and in Asia where so called instant cities have further entrenched fragmentation and social inequality and many cases have also remained untenanted. There was a general sense that the proposed mega projects

The city as a laboratory


need to be closely questioned as the appropriate intervention for the province, and that the provincial government needs to engage more substantively with these issues before pursuing such an agenda. There was also a larger debate generated at this lab, which concerned the relationship between politicians and bureaucrats. Participants questioned the role of bureaucrats in considering a political agenda. There were three main lines of argument in this terrain: • Bureaucrats should carry out the wishes of elected representatives, as they are the ‘voice of the people’. Elected representatives also pose a potential threat to the careers of officials. • Senior bureaucrats have the responsibility to tell politicians when an idea is unreasonable and to fight for better and more considered technical options. They are also responsible for pointing out when there are inconsistencies in policy and when political wishes do not cohere with long-standing programmes; despite the cost that this may have for the careers or the personal lives of officials. • It is complex but possible to navigate a path that serves the political agenda, while remaining true to the technical vision. The mega human settlements proposals have thus raised contestations between competing urban visions; spheres of government; and have elicited questions around appropriate forms of official practice.

3.2 Urban Lab 2: Responding to large-scale private sector-led developments in Johannesburg Speakers: Dr Richard Ballard, Gauteng City-Region Observatory Prof. Philip Harrison, South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning, University of the Witwatersrand Liana Strydom and Dylan Weakley, City Transformation and Spatial Planning, City of Johannesburg Prof. Ivan Turok, Human Sciences Research Council

Brief description: The discussion centred on the existence and desirability of large-scale private developments in Johannesburg (mostly concentrated in the northern suburbs) and the CoJ’s historical and future responses to this phenomenon. The key point was how the CoJ


The city as a laboratory

can negotiate such developments to support to the strategic and spatial vision for Johannesburg. As such, the following issues were addressed: • The quality and detail of development frameworks; • The development approval process; • The nature of negotiation with developers; • The relationship between new private developments and city-region initiatives; • The conditions for development; • The density policies and links to public transport systems.

Key points: This lab tackled an issue at the heart of cities – the respective roles of local government and the private sector in shaping the future of the urban form. Lab participants reflected on the fact that in a market‑driven economy, much of the energy for change and development comes from the private sector. Thus, the discussion was not about disciplining capital, but rather constructing an understanding that private interests do not generally advance the public interest, and there is thus a need to mediate the pubic realm; influence outcomes; and to recognise that not all developments are necessarily positive in the long-term, if not adequately shaped in line with the public good. It is up to City and Province officials to provide coherence in the way the city/city-region looks and to combat some of the more fragmenting impulses that arise out of private sector developments, which are, by their very nature, inwardly focused. However, within the planned context, it must be kept in mind that private developers need to realise a profit. It is this dynamic that can set up an antagonistic relationship between planners and private developers. In attempting to shape private developments, the central issue is the instruments available to the public sector to maximise their leverage over the private sector. Key amongst them is the ability to approve or deny planning applications. However, this dichotomy of a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer is not simple, since both of those answers could bear significant costs. Thus, other instruments are vital in mediating the private sector, such as infrastructure provision and land taxes – which have yet to be used effectively – among others. There are also constraints on these instruments: the desire for growth and development in a period of slowing growth and potential recession; contradictory demands from different departments within the same institution; and a set of technical rights and opportunities that are already in place. Small

planning units with limited capacity also find it very difficult to engage and negotiate around every application and project. Furthermore, the politics and political entanglements with the private sector are often opaque, but have a direct bearing on developments and consequences for officials. Developers are able to push their agendas by garnering support from a variety of actors: through political connections; gaining public support and enthusiasm for projects that look like they may provide jobs, housing, new kinds of lifestyles; and bureaucratic backing by arguing that they will offer higher rates bases for cities or meet demands of the state. In addition, private developers are able to exert significant resources to navigate bureaucratic red tape and also strategically deploy expertise and technical argument. The private sector is highly heterogeneous and private developers represent a range of sizes and interests: from the large and politically connected, to smaller firms that are new entrants into the market. It must also be understood that cities like Johannesburg are a part of larger networks of capital and investment and that there are international interests that are investing locally as part of their global property portfolios. In these cases, they are looking for projects and investments, which can match international returns, and thus very localised decisions are based on international contexts and influences. The CoJ has recently improved in its negotiating skills with the private sector. However, there are a number of hindrances, including the lack of certain policies and organisational delays – such as with the inclusionary housing policy. There is also the concern as to what approach to take when developers do not honour the negotiated agreements and the City often has limited litigation options. The City of Johannesburg has identified several principles that they would like to ensure that the private sector follows. A central strategy is mandatory inclusionary housing in new developments in Johannesburg, which has been introduced into the City’s SDF. However, there is uncertainty around much of the detail, including what percentage of housing should be affordable in new developments; what is considered affordable housing; where it should be located; and if the City is even able to make such demands. The CoJ is currently drafting an inclusionary housing policy that will answer many of these questions. There is consensus that in cases where inclusionary housing is not plausible, then private developers should make some kind of contribution to the

The city as a laboratory


public good, be it through the donation of land or amenities. Further, there is a need to enforce an urban development boundary, but it is not immediately clear where that line is to be drawn. The topic on the relationship between private developers and the CoJ was so fruitful and important that it was taken up again, under a different guise, in the fifth urban lab.

3.3 Urban Lab 3: The role of researchers in interfacing with the City of Johannesburg Speakers: Yasmeen Dinath, Johannesburg Development Agency Nick Graham, Palmer Development Group Simon Mayson, Office of the City Manager, City of Johannesburg Prof. Rob Moore and Darlington Mushongera, Gauteng City-Region Observatory Dylan Weakley, City Transformation and Spatial Planning, City of Johannesburg

Brief description: This topic arose from the two previous urban labs, at which members of the City of Johannesburg aired their need for more research to be conducted in specific fields, or for a certain piece of research to be presented. At this event, SA&CP invited a variety of research institutions and requested that several City of Johannesburg departments present their core research needs. The hope was that this session would connect the CoJ with research that had been conducted; forge relationships; and provide a better understanding of the interface between academia and government.

Key points: There are clear intersections between the needs of the state and the capabilities and interests of the academy. However, when trying to bring these modes together a range of challenges arise. Many of these arise from the different – and sometimes competing – needs, motivations and drivers of each institution. The City often has to address urgent issues and immediate policy concerns, while academia tends to follow longer research timeframes. Academics have to consider their teaching and supervision loads, management tasks and the academic requirements for publishing, which do not fit neatly with the sorts of requests and demands of the City. The metrics by which academics are measured often do not relate well to City processes. For instance,


The city as a laboratory

academic journal publications are seldom read by politicians and bureaucrats. Furthermore, some of experiences of academia and the CoJ working together have not been without disagreements, and there are often moments when there are conflicts in rationality, and ideology. However, in working with each other, both institutions have had to battle internal critiques and critics, which serves as a reminder that neither the state nor the academy are homogenous institutions and that there are always differing opinions and viewpoints. Thus given the differing motivations, modalities of working and metrics of measuring success and achievement, as well as the very different cycles of working, it is challenging to find ways to work together. However, there are also numerous reasons to make these relationships work. The City receives rigorous research, improved legitimacy and intellectual input. Meanwhile, academics are more relevant in the process of policy development and bring much-needed thirdstream income into the university. A number of ways have been found for the City and academics to work together. Some of SA&CP’s favoured models include position papers offering specific insights and expertise; the urban labs; and providing operational support through research and data.1 As discussed at the lab, a set of requirements should be considered when looking at the applicability of academic research to the public sector: • Understanding of the institutional architecture and the institutional arrangements of the City; • Cognisance of the legal constraints and the legislative framework within which the City operates; • Awareness of the political environment in which state institutions operate. Research needs to be presented in a way that viable solutions can be posed, which can work with political leadership, and local ward base politics; • Transparency about the practicalities: clear timelines and pragmatic considerations. There were a number of areas of interest that were raised by the City as being useful for future research.The CoJ Department of Development Planning identified the following priority areas for future research: • Inclusionary housing; • Outsourcing participation for feedback and policy development; • The cost of infrastructure related to expansion versus densification;

One such model of research collaboration is outlined in Report 1 of the Spatial Transformation through Transit-Oriented Development in Johannesburg report series.


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• The economy and the location of jobs within the city; • Backyarding, compaction and off-grid power options. The Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) had a slightly different set of requirements: • Access to quantitative research for JDA officials; • Input and analysis on the nexus between economic discourse, economic data and urban planning; • Assistance in designing coproduction methodologies, especially within conflict‑ridden environments and situations of low levels of trust in authority; • Understanding how private sector investment is stimulated and knowing the opportunity costs for investing in specific areas; • Insight into how projects can be made catalytic, including getting financial lending institutions on board (especially in sites and locations that they have historically ruled out); • Knowledge of affordable accommodation provision in the inner city; • Conduction of community-based impact assessments to measure the impact of JDA developments; • Information on the different models for sustainable urban management; particularly moving beyond Community Improvement Districts. The CoJ Department of Housing had a specific inner city focus and was concerned with: • Understanding whether the programmes that they are proposing are in keeping with the needs of populations on a very local scale; • Assistance on the appropriate and viable emergency and temporary accommodation options, which would be in line with legal requirements; • Input on the most appropriate way to manage the existing inner city and public-owned stock. Aside from questions of content, there was also the issue of how research should be packaged and disseminated as to maximise the impact and reach the most appropriate and relevant decision-makers. As part of the Urban Lab, Palmer Development Group (PDG) presented their urban modelling work. The tools that they offer are useful, and they argue that


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the main intent of their models is to provide practical evidence to support the spatial decisions of the state. Despite significant constraints, the models try to quantify impact and provide quantitative data to back up spatial planning policies or decisions that are conceptually and theoretically sound.

3.4 Urban Lab 4: A comparison of spatial visions in the Spatial Development Frameworks (SDFs) of the City of Johannesburg and Gauteng Province Speakers: Josiah Lodi, Development Planning, Gauteng Provincial Government Lauren Royston, Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa Dr Margot Rubin, South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning, University of the Witwatersrand Prof. Alison Todes, School of Architecture and Planning, University of the Witwatersrand Dylan Weakley, City Transformation and Spatial Planning, City of Johannesburg

Brief description: The Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act (SPLUMA) requires all spheres of government to develop Spatial Development Frameworks. Gauteng Provincial Government and the CoJ have recently developed their own SDFs. This discussion examined both SDFs and noted the important similarities and discrepancies between the spatial visions of the City of Johannesburg and Gauteng Province. While the Johannesburg SDF was finalised at the time of the Lab, the Gauteng SDF was still open for comment and as such the idea was to utilise the UL as a site of engagement and input.

Key points: The ULs have consistently raised the question of divergent visions across the scales of government, occasional incoherence in governance in terms of spatial thinking and its ramifications for the future of the Gauteng City-Region. The ULs also recognised that the formal processes of producing SDFs are an opportunity to build more coherence into the vision, if adequate dialogue takes place. The UL thus created the opportunity to give input on the Gauteng SDF and bring together two key actors. A number of challenges were identified when

attempting to ensure coherence. Amongst these are the complexity of the governmental system and the timeframes in the preparation of spatial plans, which differs between Province and the City. The two SDFs have different motivations, drivers, focuses, and scales of authority, which influence what is included. Centrally, the CoJ SDF concerns the boundaries of Johannesburg, whereas the province’s SDF considers the entire province and beyond into the City-region. As a consequence, the Provincial SDF is a mediation around a set of contested interests: the different spheres of government; the various metros and districts; a variety of departmental concerns; and antagonism from a variety of civil society institutions and the private sector. In addition, the documents respond to very different political pressures from within and outside of the state; part of the final product responds to these competing, and different, pressures. In drawing up the SDFs, the province and the City also used slightly different scenarios of demographic and economic growth, which is important when considering questions of where and how much growth should be accommodated through housing and infrastructure.

In summary the issues presented in the CoJ’s SDF include: • Spatial inequalities and the job-housing mismatch; • Increasing pressure on the natural environment; • Urban sprawl and fragmentation; • Exclusion and disconnection; and • Inefficient residential densities and land use patterns (poor mixing). The Gauteng SDF, contained a number of spatial directives including to: • Improve mobility and rural access to urban areas and markets through public transport, inter alia; • Invest in public transport to improve access to social and economic opportunities; • Promote high density and mixed-use development around priority and public transport nodes and corridors; • Revitalise township economies through the development of economic hubs and mixed use development and by strengthening their link to the wider economy; • Create mixed use economic development in townships; • Focus on urban renewal, clustering,

• •

densification and infill development; Improve support for and renewal of secondary cities and smaller towns as focal areas in rural development; Integrate housing with public transport systems and economic and social infrastructure; Promote use of green energy, buildings and infrastructure; and Protect high-potential agricultural land by limiting development on this land.

A set of discontinuities were identified between the two SDFs, which included: • Differences in the way that terminology is used, such as ‘corridors’, ‘nodes’, ‘densification’ and ‘compaction’. The importance is more than just rhetorical, as it affects the manner in which space is understood. • The Gauteng SDF looks towards the creation of a polycentric city-region, while the CoJ looks towards the construction of a compact polycentric city. The important difference is a distinction between expansion to new nodes, as the province posits, as opposed to the densification and intensification of land use, which is what the City means by compact polycentricity. • In addition, some of the nodes and corridors that have been prioritised by the Province are not those prioritised by the City, and vice versa. These include the ‘Golden Triangle’ focus by Province towards the North East of the CoJ located within the triangle created by the N1/R21/R24. Meanwhile, the CoJ has chosen to focus its attention the along the M1/N1 corridor between Johannesburg and Pretoria • Unlike the CoJ SDF there was some uncertainty in the Gauteng SDF on the issue of informality, which is a significant presence in the settlement and economic landscape of Gauteng. • The CoJ has also chosen to focus on specific geographical areas such as the CoJ Inner City and the Corridors of Freedom. However, the provincial document does not make reference to these sites. Given the discrepancies that were discussed, the meeting concluded with an agreement that further negotiations would take place between the CoJ, the other metros and the Gauteng Planning Commission. This was to be an attempt to iron out contradictions and ensure greater coherence in the spatial vision for Gauteng and its metros.

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3.5 Urban Lab 5: Understanding the role of private developers in Johannesburg Speakers: Yasmeen Dinath, Johannesburg Development Agency Lusanda Netshitenzhe and Pressage Nyoni, Trust for Urban Housing Finance Solomon Ramalamula, Take Shape Properties Yondela Silimela, Department of Development Planning, City of Johannesburg Dylan Weakley, City Transformation and Spatial Planning, City of Johannesburg

Brief description: Urban Lab 5 formed part of a larger two-day workshop seeking to gain a better understanding of the nature of engagements between private developers and the City of Johannesburg. Using the City’s recently approved Spatial Development Framework as a basis for its spatial vision, the objective of this Urban Lab was to collect reactions from the development sector, as well as get a sense of any existent issues and responses. The lab consisted of a half-day programme in which participants were invited to use the following questions as prompts for discussion, although there was no expectation that they would respond to all of them: • What impact have government spatial plans and visions had on the work of developers? • What impact will the 2015/2016 Spatial Development Framework have on developers in Johannesburg? • How do developers and different spheres and sectors of government relate to one another? • What changes should be considered to the way in which urban development happens in South Africa?

Key points: From the outset, the interface between local government and the development industry was presented as a critical for the future of the CoJ. In addition to different departments in the CoJ, the Johannesburg Development Agency, as the implementing arm of the City, plays a crucial role due to its direct engagement with developers, and its goal of leveraging private investment off public capital. Furthermore, within the spaces and precincts


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in which it operates, the JDA works very closely with the property industry. The UL included presentations from both the City and the JDA. The City introduced its spatial vision, the SDF, which puts a strong focus on transforming Johannesburg, with the agenda of shaping the city into a “spatially just world class African city” – based on the principles of equity, justice, resilience, sustainability and urban efficiency for all. Key challenges materialise around addressing spatial inequalities, as well as the job-housing mismatch, in the current context of slow growth and persistently high levels of unemployment. The question unfolds around how to engage the private sector; bring them and their investment power on board; find the right balance between market-driven goals such as profitability and public sector ambitions of social transformation and development.

In light of increasing pressure on the natural environment, the predominance of urban sprawl and spatial fragmentation, it was argued that building new infrastructure on the periphery of Johannesburg would turn out to be more expensive (especially to maintain over time) than upgrading existing infrastructure to accommodate higher densities and activities. The predominant thinking is to densify in and around existing economic areas in the city, such as the Corridors of Freedom (COF); promote public transport; introduce economic activities into single use but fairly high density residential areas such as Soweto; unlock the mining belt; and draw attention to the Randburg/OR Tambo corridor. The main challenge is to transform a very inefficient current urban form – exemplified by prohibitive travel costs and significant travel time per capita, in addition to high energy and carbon consumption – to accommodate higher densities and promote compaction. The City seeks to entice property developers to invest along the COFs through specific rebates, with rates payments being restricted to 50% during the construction period and the first year of operation. The CoJ is adamant that it needs to establish and enforce guidelines for where, when and what type of development should happen, in order to avoid the market having free-reign over the urban form of Johannesburg. For the CoJ, the key issue is finding ways in which the regulatory environment can be changed to allow higher densities in certain areas without having re-zone, as well as matching a permissive regulatory environment with financial

The city as a laboratory


instruments that would allow end-users to access finance and to build adequate structures and get them approved. According to one City representative, this requires rethinking policy and regulatory interventions and financial access to end user finance, which might result in a greater supply of affordable rentals. For the metropolitan municipality, the inner city is seen as playing a major role within the urban economy – as Johannesburg’s African gateway, alongside Sandton’s role as a global gateway – with the potential of doubling the existing economy. The importance of cross border trade was stressed, as was the objective to develop industries alongside intensifying and expanding to the south and to the east. The Trust for Urban Housing Finance expressed a key interest in the inner city due to the high demand for affordable housing. For the City to drive the transformation agenda, it needs to actively hold and release well-located land at the right time to achieve the objective of social transformation. In this regard, it was seen to be important to differentiate between those developers who play the ‘land game’ – developers who chase equity to buy income-earning assets – and long-term investors who hold those assets. Furthermore, representatives from CoJ admitted that post-construction aftercare and urban management remained a challenge; notwithstanding attempts to put pressure on different departments and entities to set money aside to look after the built form. The City currently encounters the market in three main ways: • By investing in areas where developers have not yet seen an opportunity for development, and try to attract investment through a number of catalytic interventions; • In areas where there is already market interest; • Or in entering areas where the market is already leading. A major challenge for the City is the ability to shift market interest away from greenfield developments towards brownfield investments. This highlights the necessity of understanding the conditions that attract the market. Furthermore, it is crucial to get the market to respond in the ‘right way’, i.e. looking towards inclusionary principles, especially since


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the City is the custodian of the spatial vision and is responsible for social transformation. This appears to be difficult, as often the CoJ’s investment cycles do not coincide with those of the market. From a practical point of view, it was made clear both by CoJ representatives and developers that gaining and maintaining trust is crucial. It is impossible to build trust or sustain a relationship without being able to follow through on the promises offered. Both representatives from CoJ and academia mentioned the difficulties in getting access to private developers. There is a lack of conversation between developers and city officials. Apart from engaging more regularly, there is a need to assure the sustainability of these discussions and relationships. The conversation and engagement also needs to happen at the level of property owners and financiers. Within this segment of the discussion, it was mentioned that there is a risk of missing an array of players in the market and a range of decision makers if the focus is limited to the big companies. Many property developers, including many attending the urban lab, operate at a small-scale. The City needs to have a more holistic view of the development sector and can gain insight by looking further down the market in terms of the scale of the investors and the size of the portfolio. While there are strong platforms for dialogue between the City and residential property developers, there is a need to expand these dialogues towards manufacturing, industrial and commercial developers. Some representatives of the property industry raised the issue that densification in Johannesburg often occurs without consulting the City or the latter not being aware of it. Additionally, it was mentioned that the reason people are developing without plan approvals is because of serious delays in the approvals process. A number of developers highlighted the wish for more regulation in some areas and highlighted the lack of capacity for inspection. There was also confusion about the City’s approach to ‘hijacked’ buildings. Most of these buildings are in arrears and owe the City large amounts of money. One developer expressed a concern about the City insisting that a new investor (wanting to take over) still needs to settle the outstanding debt even if the amount exceeds the actual value of the building. More broadly, there seems to be a disjuncture between where the market is going (north) and where land is available, versus where the City wants development

to happen (the plan of consolidating around the core). Furthermore, it was highlighted as illogical that payments for bulk contributions in Sandton are the same as those in areas such as Cosmo City, which target different markets. Ultimately, the question is about understanding the drivers: does supply lead demand or does supply respond to demand?

3.6 Urban Lab 6: Preliminary findings of the Corridors of Freedom research project Speakers: Alexandra Appelbaum, South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning, University of the Witwatersrand Dr Sylvia Croese, African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town Dr Kirsten Harrison, Independent consultant Neil Klug, School of Architecture and Planning, University of the Witwatersrand Prof. Uma Kollamparambil, School of Economic & Business Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand Mark Lewis, Independent photographer Dr Margot Rubin, South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning, University of the Witwatersrand Dr Tanya Zack, Independent consultant

Brief description: This lab was slightly different from the previous ones. It involved a presentation and discussion of the preliminary findings of the research on the Corridors of Freedom that SA&CP has undertaken for the CoJ, with the support of the AFD.2 Researchers presented preliminary research findings, including the indicative results of a survey of four nodes along the ‘Corridors’, in-depth case studies, international best practice in TOD and a study of the regulatory environment and private developers. The lab allowed researchers to get input from city officials and debate some of the preliminary findings.

As has been mentioned, the Urban Labs were the second component of the partnership between the CoJ, AFD and SA&CP and were intended to examine conditions and challenges outside of the COFs. However, through the course of the research it became clear that the research would benefit from input and engagement from a wider group than the original steering committee. In particular, the research had not been completed and there was still sufficient time to pick up on any of the issues, gaps or concerns raised by the wider audience and include these missing pieces into the final reports. Thus the timing was opportune. The CoJ and the other partners also saw the potential of such an engagement to ensure buy-in and involvement by other departments in the City. It was thought that presenting the findings and taking the inputs into consideration would help to spread a sense of ‘ownership’ of the COFs and also ensure that the needs of the other departments in the City around the COFs could be met. Furthermore, presenting to a wider audience was intended to disseminate the findings and help publicise the work and its implications for the City and a variety of stakeholders concerned with the COFs. Using the UL for this purpose was extremely useful as it allowed the researchers to clarify a number of issues and concepts for the final report; to check that the research was on the right track and to compare knowledge and findings with sector experts. It also allowed the funders and the City to ensure that they were happy with the quality of the work and confirm how the final product should be shaped to meet their specific needs. Given the high utility of this lab, it is suggested that in future, when such projects are undertaken a number of workshops and labs are planned and carried out throughout the ‘life cycle’ of the projects.

Key points: The key points of the presentations will not be discussed here. The research presented will be contained in the Spatial Transformation through Transit-Oriented Development in Johannesburg report series. Rather this summary will focus on why the content of the study was presented at this UL and the benefits of such an undertaking.


 This is the research presented in the Spatial Transformation through Transit-Oriented Development in Johannesburg report series.

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CROSSCUTTING THEMES The above sections have highlighted areas of key discussion within each of the sessions but there were issues and themes that were raised consistently throughout the Urban Labs.These issues demonstrate important areas for future discussion: • Policy and planning alignment across the spheres and different departments of government. Why contradictions and contestation exist, what they are and how they can be combatted. • The need for spatial targeting and how to go about it, given the needs for alignment across scales of government and to collaborate with the private sector. • The political agenda that underlies the motivation and drive for specific spatial interventions and policies and its ability to potentially contradict or drive contested spatial visions. • How cities manage contrasting and contradictory needs and demands between different urban constituencies, such as balancing economic growth with the developmental and transformation needs of poor and marginalised populations. • Fiscal austerity and low growth in the country and within the metros opens a set of questions around public sector investment and private sector interest, as well as, how the needs of a growing population can be dealt with in these circumstances. • There are questions of scale that consistently need to be engaged with when thinking about any project or intervention. • Underlying much of the debate was the question of who is shaping and driving growth in the city. Is it the private sector, formal or informal, or the state? And how can these actors be brought together to find solutions that are mutually satisfactory? These crosscutting themes require further engagement as they signal important areas of pre-occupation or topics that have yet to be dealt with substantively. As such, they need to be considered when developing policy and implementation responses and can also form the basis of future research and consideration.


The city as a laboratory

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Benefits of the urban labs The benefits of the labs have been manifold for the individuals and organisations involved. It has been a highly successful programme in a multitude of ways and we would encourage the formulation of similar partenships and programmes in other settings. The impact on academics of the urban labs and research extends beyond publication potential. A number of academics were given access to the CoJ employees and were exposed to the working of the institution, which has provided invaluable insight into the challenges that officials face in their daily practice. In doing so, academics and researchers have a greater appreciation of the intricacies of daily practice, which has assisted in nuancing their own work, improving theorisation and ensuring that policy recommendations and critiques are more pragmatic, appropriate and responsive to the daily realities of the CoJ. The access facilitated by the ULs also extended to four students who were funded through the project, enriching their work and understanding, and thus producing students with better empirical skills and deeper engagement in the application of urban theory. As the project was done in collaboration with the City, it promoted openness by city officials that benefitted the process. The urban labs allowed for academics to network with CoJ and Gauteng Province officials, private developers, civil society members, prospective research funders and a range of other academics working across a variety of fields and institutions. Throughout the process, especially in the urban labs, a number of partnerships and relationships were started that are now being taken forward. To name just two: the first concerned thinking through partnerships on the urban economy, which has evolved into a full research proposal developed for future consideration by the existing and new partners. The second is around inclusionary housing. The City has arranged a number of meetings on this topic, and the SA&CP has contributed their knowledge and expertise to this question and is supporting the officials who have been tasked with developing this policy. The urban lab programme provided a neutral and constructive environment for engagement between the CoJ and other key stakeholders. The fact that it was ‘moderated’ by academia and included voices from civil


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society contributed to this environment. This was part of the initial motivation for the urban lab programme, but its importance cannot be overstated. In the sometimes contentious interaction between different spheres of government a constructive and ‘safe’ space was provided to reflect upon Johannesburg’s urban form and policies. Since the space was respectful of all voices and some anonymity and confidentiality was offered, it allowed for robust debate and rigorous engagement between the various participants. Such moments offer catharsis but also allow for honest communication that strengthens relationships and builds trust. The fourth UL looked at the relationship between the City of Johannesburg and Gauteng Province, the Spatial Development Frameworks and their overlaps and divergences. This lab had an immensely positive outcome in that it led to a series of meetings between the Planning departments of Johannesburg and Gauteng province, which had not been previously been planned or intended. The consequence was that the Gauteng SDF finalisation was delayed so that it could be revised. This led to a much closer alignment between the two SDFs, which in some cases changed the location of the province’s intended development and investment focus. In addition, the open and free manner of engagement that typified the Urban Labs was continued in the discussions between the City and the province and in the longer term, improved their working relationship and ensured more coherence between the respective plans. The urban lab considering the private sector fostered engagement between another important stakeholder – private developers – and the CoJ. This lab formed part of a broader conference as a collaboration between SA&CP and the Gauteng City Region Observatory. As a result, the CoJ benefited from a variety of international perspectives, as well as a direct engagement with property developers over the Spatial Development Framework. The urban lab programme has facilitated greater networks between academia and the CoJ, resulting in a working group of researchers contributing to City thinking around housing.

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GOING FORWARD The Urban Labs programme provided a great deal of insight and moments of real engagement. The labs also helped to identify areas the require future research: • The economic drivers of Johannesburg: the upstream and downstream value chains; their spatiality within the city, city-region and region. • The potential of the compact polycentric city to ensure social change by bringing jobs to people and people to jobs. • The need for action research to document pilot projects that may occur in Johannesburg’s TOD programme, such as inclusionary housing and the use of land value capture instruments. • Large scale modelling of different options for the future of the city. • Developing a workable and implementable inclusionary housing policy and instruments of land value capture. It was also clear that although the model of engagement worked well throughout the lab series, an argument could be made for some refinements when undertaking such activities in future: • The City or agency that requires assistance could develop a set of specific questions that the UL and its partners could attempt to respond to, rather than offering a broad discussion on a general topic. • Specific topics need to be chosen using a longer time frame so that where necessary adequate desktop and other research can be undertaken to ensure a more informed and substantive discussion. • One could think more carefully about how the Urban Labs can act as an intermediary space that is neutral but able to facilitate difficult conversations around contested topics. • There is a need to construct a repository of knowledge that acts as a reference from the common knowledge that gets generated from and for the ULs.


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CONCLUSION The ULs were a highly successful intervention and served their purpose as spaces of engagement and conversation.There is ample evidence that through such discussions new insights have been gained and a constructive but critical set of voices has been offered on a variety of topics. In material terms, plans and policies have been directly affected and greater spatial and policy alliance and coherence now exists. Furthermore, the ULs provided the space for important and topical conversations and ideas and viewpoints to be shared. That is not to say that the model cannot be reviewed and further refined; rather it is to argue that this series of urban labs serve as a useful beginning and a platform on which to build. Importantly, the impetus and energy of this initiative should not be lost. Going forward, the SA&CP will endeavour to ensure, where possible, that this model of engagement is continued, using all of the learning and experience that this year’s set of laboratories has offered.

The city as a laboratory


The City as a Laboratory: Experimentation, Observation and Theorisation from Urban Labs  

Part of the Spatial Transformation through Transit-Oriented Development in Johannesburg research series. Published by the South African Rese...