Why, exactly, is Robert Moses urban planning’s fault and not public management’s fault?

I’ve been reading through the Paris Review’s Interview with Robert Caro, as you should, too. I am a great fan of Robert Caro, but I do have to admit I am confused as to why Robert Moses is conflated with urban planning (and everything that was/is wrong with it) when he was never trained as a planner.

In this interview, Caro rather gratuitously decides he knew better than his professors about where highways get built–it’s self-aggrandizing story, in some respects, and granted who was probably teaching at Harvard at the time, I’d like to point out that, once again, instead of studying with urban planners, he was probably studying with civil engineers who were showing mathematical arguments for where highways *should* go–not where they do go. But anyway, my question remains: Caro never, not once, as far as I can tell, took a degree in urban planning. His background is in political science, in which he obtained a PhD from Yale. So he studied political power and went out and got it, and not surprisingly, he figured out one of the easiest places to wield a great deal of individual influence is in local politics and in institutions with copious bureaucratic discretion.

If anything, he was a public management guy, not a planner.

But somehow, nonetheless, the things he did became a lesson to one and all about how urban planning shouldn’t be done. Ok, but he didn’t learn that stuff in planning school.

The whole narrative strikes me more as a lesson power and rationality: If something goes wrong, then the planners did it. If something goes right, the engineers/city managers/real estate developmers/economists/architects/community did it right, despite all them dadgum planners.

Well screw that. Robert Moses wasn’t ours and it’s time another intellectual tradition took responsibility for him.

Call for Abstracts: Planning Ethics

from Lisa Schweitzer, University of Southern California and Associate Editor, JAPA

I am working on a proposal for a JAPA special issue on Planning Ethics, and we are shooting for a publication date in 2016. The more interest I can demonstrate, the more likely it will be approved. We could use ACSP to develop and work on some of our papers this year. I am also going to send a call out to APA, as practitioners have developed interesting ethics cases just about every year.

If you have a manuscript on ethics you’d like to try to get into the special issue, would you mind emailing it to me and letting me know if you would like to be part of a panel at ACSP? I think we might be to put together a nice group of papers for the planning theory track.

Please email me your abstracts by March 2 (to lschweit@usc.edu) and let me know if you want to be included in a panel. Even if you don’t want to be on a panel, feel free to send an abstract to get it on my radar. If we get the go-ahead from JAPA, I’ll send out a formal call for abstracts later this year with a timeline for paper submission.

Practitioners, students, and new scholars are particularly welcome to submit.

Some example themes may help illustrate what I’m looking for. Potential manuscripts:

—Develop the models, frameworks, and theoretical perspectives under which professionals can assess ethical problems in planning,

—Evaluate emerging ethical trends and controversies in planning, such as ethical uses of media to market projects and ideas and becoming an ally to those fighting social exclusion;

—Identify the scope and power of professional roles within private, nonprofit, and public institutions;

—Track the interdependence between political, social, economic, and technological variables in planning ethics; and

—Analyze or reconsider a significant case that helps scholars and practitioners think differently about ethics in the profession.

50 books to add to Brent Toderian & Planetizen’s standard, white city-making books

The risk of critiquing book lists is that a) it’s easy to kvetch about others’ lists, and b) you risk insulting the many wonderful writers who do appear on the original list, including the person who took the time to put together the list in the first place. But at the risk of doing both a and b, I have to say I am disappointed in Brent Toderian’s list of 100 best books on city-making for Planetizen. We can go around and around about this: I guess it depends on what he means by city-making. And a lot depends on what a person reads. But if you are going to go around labeling something “the best”, you’d better be well-read, and this list just doesn’t strike me as being that broad or that open to different perspectives on cities. Then, in his addendum, he adds some fiction, including the rapey The Fountainhead, which he does include as a ‘negative’ example, I guess. But does that tiresome book really need more press? At least he included Calvino and China Meiville in the addenda. But this list and his addenda are standard white urbanist fare, with a lot of echoing of the same ideas from one white urbanist to another. It make me sad that our “best of” lists are still doing this. That said, Jan Gehl’s book is very fine, and you could spend a long time reading the wonderful books on this list.

And he does have some women on the list, but the ones chosen are not exactly writing from non-dominant perspectives, and there are some terrific books by Asian authors on the list, including work from my wonderful colleague, Tridib Banerjee. It’s not that I want to erase the people from the list. It’s that I really wish urban planners would read more widely and take seriously their job to understand and promote more than one perspective on cities, not just focussing on a perspective that simply creates an echo chamber of the wonderfulness of white urbanism and planning with its bike lanes and its downtown retail. The latter is like an endless diet of FoxNews or MSNBC.

You are not educated until you get off your butt and start learning to see the world from a perspective other than your own.

City-making is not the exclusive purview of planners or self-declared urbanists.

So here are some to add to the list, in no order because I’m bad at order. I don’t claim these are ‘the best’–just books I have read that reflect cities and how they are made, that were worth reading, and that represent an effort to read what people from different perspectives have to say:

1. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. Much of what you need to know about how ineffectual city government is in governing black neighborhoods appears here in the first few pages as Morrison riffs on “Not Doctor Street.”

2. There Goes the ‘Hood by Lance Freeman. Contemporary gentrification debates.

3. The Truly Disadvantaged by William Julius Wilson. This book should be required reading.

4. The First Suburban Chinatown by Timothy Fong

5. Homeless: Poverty and Place in Urban America by Ella Howard. The first book from a very promising scholar.

6. Off the Books by Sudhir Venkatesh I don’t like his other, much higher profile books as much: this one tells the stories about how people make a living despite city regulation.

7. Promises I Can Keep by Kathryn Edin. Read anything by Kathryn Edin. Just do it. This book focuses mostly on impoverished women in Philadelphia.

8. Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City by Antero Pietila There are some great books on Baltimore, but this one is a good recent one.

9. Gay New York by George Chauncey I wish I could assign this book more often; it’s long, and it’s not easy to chop up. But it is worth your time.

10. Barrio Urbanism by David R. Diaz I like David Diaz’s work a great deal anyway, but this is my favorite.

11. Hip Hop’s Li’l Sistas Speak by Bettina L. Love Young black women talking about the role of art and expression in their coming of age in Atlanta.

12. Hollow City: The Siege of San Francisco and the Crisis of American Urbanism by Rebecca Solnit

Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta

13. Jesuit Garden in Beijing and Early Modern Chinese Culture by Hui Zou So interesting.

14. Snow Drops by A.D. Miller A novel set in post-Socialist real estate in Moscow. Harrowing.

15. Kinesthetic City: Dance and Movement in Chinese Urban Spaces by SanSan Kwan

16. Harlem Nocturne by Farah Jasmine Griffin

17. Sento at Sixth and Main by Gail Dubrow and Donna Graves This book made me cry.

18. 18. The Hiawatha by David Treuer Urban Indians in Minneapolis. A haunting, haunting novel.

19. Cities of God and Nationalism: Rome, Mecca, and Jerusalem as Contested Sacred World Cities by Khaldoun Samman

20. Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora by Martin F. Manalansan IV

21. Tunnel People by Tuen Voeten

22. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, who did dystopian Los Angeles like nobody else.

23. Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, by Samuel Delany. Oh, and read some of his novels, too.

24. Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys by Victor M. Rios

25. Graceland by Chris Abani a wonderful novel about post-colonial Lagos

26. Under a Cruel Star: A Life in Prague 1941-1968 By Heda Kovaly

27. Factory Girls by Leslie Chang Follows the story of young women who move from village to metropolitan China.

28. Black, Brown, Yellow, & Left by Laura Pulido

29. Young and Defiant in Tehran by Shahram Khosravi (Author)

30. Tokyo 1955-1970: A New Avant-Garde by Doryun Chong, editor. (Yes, I’m including edited volumes)

31. Spectacular Wickedness: Sex, Race, and Memory in Storyville, New Orleans By Emily Landau

32. Daily Life in Victorian London (an anthology) London of Dickens and Sherlock Holmes was a terrible place if you weren’t rich.

33. The Messiah of Stockholm by Cynthia Ozick Good fiction, with a strong sense of place.

34 In The Land of Isreal by Amos Oz A wonderful book about people, politics, and territory.

35. Aztec of the City–these Comic books are cool, about an urban superhero in San Jose

36. Season of Migration to the North By Tayleb Salih a terrific novel about the influences of east and west and city and village in a globalizing context.

37. The Havanna Quartet by Leonardo Padura. A police procedural set in Havanna.

38. Smeltertown by Monica Perales–the story of the Mexican residents who live in El Paso’s company town.

39. The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn: Gentrification and the Search for Authenticity in Postwar New York by Suleiman Osman

40. Anything written by Walter Mosley . Anything.

41. L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food by Roy Choi

42. Paul R. Williams, Classic Hollywood Style by Karen Hudson

43. City of Oranges: An Intimate History of Arabs and Jews in Jaffa by Adam LeBor (wonderful prose style and an intimate look at individuals and the contestation over urban space.

44. All Souls: A Family Story from A Southie
by Michael Patrick MacDonald

45. Allah Made Us: Sexual Outlaws in an Islamic City by Rudolf Gaudio

46. Black Manhattan by James Weldon Johnson

47. The Rise of Abraham Cahan by Seth Lipsky If you have an interest in migrants and the global reach of NYC media, here you go.

48. Chavez Ravine: 1949 by Don Nomark

49. Urban Planning and the African American Community: In the Shadows edited by June Manning Thomas and Marsha Ritzdorf
Another terrific edited volume.

50. The North Will Rise Again: Manchester Music City 1976-1996 by John Robb

Planning Los Angeles Book, edited by David Sloane, now available

The annual conference of the American Planning Association is coming to Los Angeles, and in tandem, they have decided to do books on planning in the cities they are visiting. Planning Los Angeles is the first effort, and it’s quite nice. I’m impressed by a bunch of things, but one thing in particular: for a book that cost members $25, it has full color photos. The chapters came from writers around the region. I have a selection looking at the development of Measure R and what ballot box financing and politics means for transit.

Here is a nice interview with David Sloane via Planetizen, discussing the book.

APA has just put up a podcast here (also available through iTunes), along with a slideshow of some of the images.

The book is available right now, and it will be shipping through Amazon and other vendors later this month. It will also be on sale at the APA conference, April 13-17, and on display at the Organization of American Historians conference in Milwaukee, April 19-22. There will be an event at the Huntington Library in San Marino on April 28.

Here is a list of contributors–impressive!:

Elisa Barbour
Amanda Berman
Ken Bernstein, AICP
Vinayak Bharne
Marlon G. Boarnet
Janis Breidenbach
Margaret Crawford
Elizabeth Currid-Halkett
William Deverell
Meredith Drake Reitan
William Fulton, AICP
Lark Galloway-Gilliam
Sam Gennawey
Todd Gish
Gilda Haas
Greg Hise
Anna Jacobsen
Martin Krieger
Robert A. Leiter, FAICP
Travis Longcore
Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris
Doug McCulloh
Sarah Mawhorter
Vinit Mukhija
Juliet Musso
Dowell Myers
Aaron Paley
Simon Pastucha
Steven A. Preston, FAICP
Christian L. Redfearn
Lisa Schweitzer
Josh Sides
Kenneth C. Topping, FAICP
Joshua Wheeler
Andrew H. Whittemore
John Wilson
Jennifer Wolch
Goetz Wolff
David Yamamoto

PLANNINGLA finalfrontcover

Privatized Planners, Approvals, San Diego, and the Future of City Planning

Just yesterday, I believe, San Diego announced that it is, once again, merging/disbanding its planning department.

I doubt anybody will notice, except for the people to who change offices.

No, I am not saying planning is irrelevant. I’m saying that so many of the long-term planning functions of many cities are outsourced or handled by consultants, you might as well do that and have the contracts managed by contract managers.

That is, planning is probably changing, and more of the future jobs in the profession will go into the private and nonprofit sector, that’s all. Hardly a death–just a changeover. Whether for the better or worse is hard to tell at this point.

There is also a nice discussion in this piece about what the role of long-term planning should be versus the role of the day-to-day management functions of the city, such as development approvals and so on.

Planning Journals, Rankings, and Internationality

My former advisor, Randy Crane, opened up a can of worms when he sent out what he must have thought was an innocent note to the planning academics’ listserv on ideas for what we’d like to see happen with the Journal of the American Planning Association. It evolved from a request to be open to international scholarship into a nice long discussion of US hegemony in publishing and an old-school discussion on what constitutes rigor and what doesn’t. As usual, quite a bit of defensiveness and a lot of victimy language on both sides of the issue.

I responded this morning to the following effect:

What would a low publication count in JAPA for international scholars really mean?

It could mean A) US scholars are biased if we are getting submissions from scholars outside the US and turning them down disproportionately to domestic submissions (assuming that international scholars are sending their best stuff, which they may not be if they don’t think JAPA is an important outlet for them). The lower publication rate could also indicate that B) international scholars have their own supply of publication outlets that matter to them more than US outlets (At least four people, both international and domestic, have said as much in this discussion).

A is evidence of hegemony and bias and B is the opposite of hegemony and in that case, US scholar bias, however odious, would not have the power to constrain the publication trajectories of international scholars.

One question I had was whether JAPA was indeed publishing fewer papers by international authors than anybody else.

This information proved hard to find, but there is a metric out there on journals that contain international collaborations. Not the same thing, I admit, but it strikes me as a related, if admittedly imperfect, proxy for what we are discussing; whether US journals are insular, and JAPA in particular.

As usual, planners get lumped in with geography and development, so we get apples and oranges. You can also look at the urban studies journals separately. Undoubtedly there is a western bias to what journals are included here.

The international collaboration, percentages, since 2004 generally:

JAPA–has gone up since 2006: ranges from 6 percent to 21.6 percent
Canadian Journal of Urban Research ranges from 4 to 9 percent
Acta Journal Sinica (Chinese journal) ranges from 6 to 18 percent
Forum for Development Studies (Norway) ranges from 8 to 20 percent
Chinese Geographical Science ranges from 8 to 10 percent–higher in earlier years
Geografiska Annaler, Series B, ranges from 8 to 20 percent
Town Planning Review ranges from 20 to 40 percent; it also has gone up over time
Environment and Planning A runs from 10 to 20 percent
Geography Research Forum (Israel) 13 to 25 percent
Journal of the Indian Society of Remote Sensing (couldn’t find anything listed that directly related to planning) ranges from 3 to 8 percent

So JAPA runs with everybody else in terms of international collaborations: some of the German geography journals have lots of international collaborations. Town Planning Review, too.

Looking at different English-language journals (biased towards what I read):

American Economic Review (17 to 30 percent)
Econometrica ( 30 to 45 percent) UK journal
Science (pretty consistently 20 percent)
Epidemiology (25 to 37 percent)

A better indicator would be whether these collaborations include authors from places outside the traditional seats of academic power, but I don’t have that. Also keep in mind that single-authored papers are not counted here, so that single-authored manuscripts don’t get counted one way or another, no matter where from. I don’t know why Scopus is more interested in the collaboration issue than these others.

But in looking at the numbers (not just the ones I’ve listed here), in disciplines where there is an established hierarchy of journals (like economics), the percentages are far higher than in any of the geography and planning journals I can find.

What does that suggest to you? That US economists are less insular/biased than US planners? That because it’s a bigger field, it has more international collaborations published even though co-authoring is a arguably a bigger no-no in economics than it is planning?

Or have economists, by structuring the field around journal hierarchies more rigidly, created an environment where international scholars HAVE to send their stuff to particular journals (most of them US and UK journals) to be reviewed favorably at promotion time? If so, is this concentration in a few journals better for the global cross-pollination of ideas than a multiplicity of outlets, where JAPA matters a lot to Americans but other journals matter more to international scholars and not everybody is reading and writing for the same journals?

Or is it that if you want to get published in the most competitive economics journals, you need to have access to to new and different data sources made possible only through international collaborations?

Is increasing the percentage a sign of increased inclusion or a sign of increased control?

I can’t figure it out.