#ReadUrbanAndPlanningWomen2014 #28 Diane Davis and Onesimo Flores

I do not believe I have ever had the pleasure of meeting Diane Davis, though I see from her cv that she is a fellow UCLA grad (from Sociology). I first encountered her work when I was surfing around online, and I found her very nice syllabus on Urban Governance.

Onesimo Flores is a lecturer at the GSD at Harvard, Diane Davis is the Charles Dyer Norton Professor of Regional Planning and Urbanism Department of Urban Planning and Design
Graduate School of Design Harvard University

I read:

Diane E. Davis, Onesimo Flores Dewey (2013), Chapter 12 How to Defeat an Urban Megaproject: Lessons from Mexico City’s Airport Controversy, in Gerardo del Cerro Santamaría (ed.) Urban Megaprojects: A Worldwide View (Research in Urban Sociology, Volume 13) Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.287 – 315.

This is a case study, obviously of Mexico City, and the unraveling of a major plan to redo the Mexico City airport. The case is interesting, simply because it rather defies the normal unfolding of urban mega-projects. President Fox himself canceled the project after a firestorm of controversy and strong divisions emerged in various elite and institutional coalitions. Nonetheless, the feds claimed that the reason they cancelled the project because the local residents did not want to be forced into selling their land for airport. One possible explanation is, simply, that the President Fox’s administration was exhibiting greater sensitivity to democratic than he did in many other contexts.

Still, there are some puzzles. Davis and Flores Dewey note that other political elites had strong objections, particularly to the site selected. Mexico City Mayor Manuel Lopez Obrador hoped to keep the existing airport up and going. Politicians in the neighboring states resented what they saw as federal favoritism towards Mexico City vis-a-vis growing demands in their regions,right along with optimistic technical reports that backed up the statement from the adjoining states’ leaders.

Elite opposition notwitstanding, it would be a mistake to underplay the potency of citizen opposition. Environmental justice arguments took hold as residents of and near the site objected to property takings and forced relocation as a human rights violations. Their cause found its way into the international press, as well. They organized a sizable march in Mexico City to protest that small amounts of compensation offered ($7.20 pesos per square meter) via courts. In addition, overlapping jurisdictions were controlled by different, and often sparring, political parties, and along with the citizen opposition, provided evidence that democratic political sources of diverse opinions had influence over the traditionally centralized federal authority.