Must see: Dr. Jovanna Rosen discussing her research on community development agreements

This is well worth your time. Dr. Rosen just completed her doctorate here at the Price School. Here’s the seminar:

And here’s an abstract:

Beginning in the early 2000s, community development agreements emerged as a land development innovation intended to foster equitable development and enhance community control. Under community development agreements, including community benefits agreements and project labor agreements with community workforce provisions, stakeholders leverage urban growth to promote community development and facilitate urban development. These agreements enter into a long history of land use exactions and bargaining for development, but introduce a new way of governing urban development, one that can either circumvent or supplement existing land use approval and policy formulation procedures, in favor of deliberation directly between stakeholders to create local benefits distribution policies through agreement.

However, early evidence indicates that many community development agreements are not producing all of their promised outcomes to community stakeholders, and little research has explored how implementation occurs. Existing theory on consensus building and deliberative governance overlooks implementation, but provides reason to believe that these agreements may systematically fail to deliver substantive change to marginalized groups, including community stakeholders, despite good faith deliberation and consensus. In this dissertation, I build four case studies to examine a) agreement, b) how, and the extent to which, community development agreements produce outcomes, and c) how stakeholder interests and incentives may shift during implementation and influence outcomes delivery.

I find that community stakeholders may have little direct control over outcomes delivery. They must rely on other stakeholders to realize their benefits. Community outcomes are among the last to materialize, after other stakeholders may have achieved their original goals and retain little incentive to produce community outcomes. In such cases, community stakeholders can use indirect tactics, including community monitoring and enforcement, to induce other stakeholders to produce community outcomes, but at a significant cost. This implies that community development agreements offer a fundamentally limited, though potentially net positive, strategy for generating lasting community change.

#ReadUrbanandPlanningWomen2014 entry #14: Deike Peters

Deike Peters is assistant professor of environmental planning and practice at Soka University of America. I first encountered Deike when she very kindly taught a planning studio for us at USC. She has an interest in land development around stations, and she has worked extensively trying to understand the land use conflicts at high speed rail station areas. She co-edited a special issue of Built Environment on the topic, Volume 38 from 2012, Number 2. (As an aside Built Environment is one of those journals that doesn’t get the attention it should.)

This is the paper I’m reading:

Peters, D., with Novy, J. (2012) “Train Station Area Development Mega-Projects in Europe – Towards a Typology” Built Environment, 38:1, 12-30

In this manuscript, Peters and Novy draw a distinction between transit-oriented development (TOD) and train-station area development (TSAD) as they look at the land development resulting from European high speed rail projects, where TSAD is looking to develop an area broader than a general TOD. They discuss the possibilities for TSAD as part of sustainable development, where redevelopment generates higher quality, and more, pedestrian possibilities surrounding the station following changeover in land uses away from industrial use. (This strikes me as interesting; plenty of high speed rail companies are also hauling freight as well as passengers, so at least some of the station areas have to be in warehousing and distribution use. There’s really no reason, other than scale perhaps, that these uses can’t be integrated with pedestrian and other uses, though.) Right along with the intention for sustainable development also come the same same growth machine aspects that development in cities always have, but with a 21st century, neoliberal twist. Peters and Novy place the redevelopment project in the ongoing history of urban place competition. They look at the European projects:

Combing through a list of over 500 rail station sites in 437 cities, the sheer number TSAD projects already built or currently underway proved impressive. We identified 136 projects with investments of €100 million or more, including fifty-two with total investments of €500 million or more. Projects proliferated in cities of varying sizes across a whole range of nations, including countries with comparatively less developed rail networks such as Portugal or Bulgaria. Our inventory recorded both the highest number and the largest investments in Germany and Great Britain.

So they comb through and find the biggest. It’s not clear from the article why they choose the biggest, but I think it’s because those larger projects best mirror their concept of TSAD rather than TOD. From these, they derive four general types of TSAD types: strategic megaprojects, station renaissance projects, transport projects, and urban development projects.

Strategic megaprojects are those that are “big” and “bold”, though, as the authors point out, not necessarily beautiful. These draw on supra-regional rationales (often using “Europe” in project name to signal the elevation of this place within the hierarchy of places) and they usually involve a lot of money, an ambitious plan for multiple transport and land uses, and entail complex, multi-government governance agreements.

Station renaissance projects are just what they sound like: the chance to get an upgrade on existing, historic buildings by putting new services and amenities inside, drawing on the grand style architecture to enhance place experience in commerce.

Transport projects, too, are just what they sound like. They are designed to made an intermodal hub where the transport functions go first and the place functions take on a lower priority.

Urban development projects are the opposite: the main point seems to be to get in and do something with the land and the buildings, and the transport functions are coincident, but less a priority. These strike me as the HSR version of TOD, conducted on a larger scale.

The remainder of the discussion takes on emerging issues, and of those, I think the most interesting is just how large the projects are becoming–Peters refers to “Gigaprojects” and to community opposition that has arisen, particularly to the idea of local area development serving supra-regional interests, and the changes that opposition has enacted on building practices and development ideas.

This is a very nice discussion of the unfolding development of Europe’s HSR development; go read!

Justin Hollander’s Sunburnt Cities

I am currently reading Justin Hollander’s Sunburnt Cities, available from Routledge. The central problem in the book concerns how you fold negative growth into the idea of sustainability–how you shrink. It’s a short volume, a little rushed due probably to our stupid tenure clock, but still a very nice contribution to the discussion about how cities should move forward given the foreclosure crisis and the fact that some of our boom time and Rustbelt neighborhoods are never coming back.

He suggests using land banks and offering tax-reverted properties to abutting property owners at a low cost. All of us who have had a bad neighbor have thought about it–being able to buy the house next to ours, and give that housing to student rentals or an older family member.

The other idea that I think is interesting concerns relaxing the zoning code once vacancies reach a tipping point, so that a broader range of market options becomes possible.


Federal buildings for transit access?

The US DOT at the beginning of July issued guidance for increasing the sustainability of Federal buildings:

Siting buildings in sustainable locations will help insure that workers and the visiting public have convenient, safe transportation options to reach federal facilities, which in turn will help to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that result from worker and visitor commuting and will better integrate the federal presence into the surrounding community. Additionally, this improved access will lower transportation costs for workers and visitors and can provide communities with employment centers that can help drive economic development

link: DOT Press release

I wonder about this. Most of these kinds of things are symbolic politics, I think, where a loud and active leader like Ray LaHood wants to send a strong message this isn’t your parents’ DOT. The principals:

• Promote efficient travel and ensure access to transit to reduce the need for employees and the public to drive to the facility. • Locate in existing central business districts and rural town centers. • Locate near or be accessible to affordable housing. • Ensure the ability to walk or bike to the facility. • Use existing buildings, infrastructure and other resources. • Foster the development of previously developed, abandoned or underused locations known as greyfields or brownfields. • Encourage adaptive reuse of historic buildings and districts. • Preserve the natural environment. • Achieve agency goals for reducing emissions as set out in their Sustainable Strategic Performance Plans. • Discuss location alternatives with local and regional planning officials and consider their recommendations.

link: DOT Press release

These are pretty general planner recommendations. However, am I the only one who thinks that the clusters of federal buildings in DC are almost like superblocks in their domination of the city core in some places?

The DuPont Circle neighborhood is a great exemplar I think of what compact development advocates are trying to get at. But when you go farther down towards the capitol and the White House…it’s not as nice an urban place as the smaller scale, mixed use districts farther up Connecticut Avenue.

Is there an economic turnaround in Africa?

Over at Becker-Posner, they are discussing the recent economic growth in sub-Saharan African nations, by no means uniformly felt, and what that may mean for the continent as a whole.

From Becker:

After many decades of hopelessness, there are finally grounds for believing that sub-Saharan Africa may be close to taking off toward sustained economic growth. Africa has rebounded from the worldwide recession faster than many other nations. The International Monetary Fund estimates that African GDP rose by 4.7 per cent in 2009, and the Fund forecasts that Africa’s growth will increase still further to almost 6 per cent in 2010. The rate of economic progress is not uniform in all the African economies, but these are impressive figures for a continent that has disappointed for so long.

link: Will Africa Finally Take Off? Becker – The Becker-Posner Blog

Yes, but when we are looking at comparatively small GDPs to begin with, the actual amount of new wealth gained is not large, nor does it necessarily benefit the most deeply impoverished Africans. You have to have faith in aggregate growth–the old rising tides lift all boats idea–to accept this is a prima facie good news for Africa

He’s got a better handle on what I would a better indicator of social progress: fertility:

But the typical African women still has 5 children over her lifetime; a number that far exceeds that in every other region of the world. Families with many children do not have the resources to invest much in the education, health, and other human capital of their children.

link: The Becker-Posner Blog

I think he’s wrong with the interpretation (just like I think Becker is in general wrong about family allocation decisions after a baseline point): families have more children when they are impoverished when they need the value-added of labor, and to have additional children hedging against the very real specter of early death and disability among children. Birth rates are also high when women have little economic opportunity outside of families, farms and villages. Nonetheless, birth rates in Africa are declining, and any decline is probably a good sign.

Posner, in his submission, notes:

A major factor in the region’s increased growth rate since the mid-nineties has been increased demand for commodities, such as oil and gold, which are major African exports, by China, India, and other rapidly developing countries; the increased demand has resulted in higher prices for these commodities. Many sub-Saharan African countries are net importers of commodities, and thus have been hurt by the higher prices.

link: Is Sub-Saharan Africa at a Turning Point? Posner – The Becker-Posner Blog

So while a large portion of the world economy folks are talking about culture industries and creative class people as drivers of economic growth, Africa’s growth appears to be driven by the same resource extraction industries that drew imperial interests a century and a half ago. The economic reliance on resource extraction, may not be good news for those left out of the elites who hold control over the extraction industries.

It’s hard for me to make any sense of the aggregate numbers. Regional economies are fairly different around Africa, so diagnosing at the continental scale is hard for me.

So what do you think? Quiet revolution?

Zheng, Kahn, and Liu on property values, pollution, and Chinese cities

UCLA economist Matt Kahn has the nice manuscript along with Siqi Zheng and Hongyu Liu in Regional Science and Urban Economics: Towards a System of Open Cities in China: Home Prices, FDI Flows and Air Quality in 35 Major Cities. They have a hedonic analysis that shows a nice negative correlation between home values and particulate matter and sulfur dioxide. These are city-level regessions, though, with a limited number of observations. Their take-away point however, stands, in that it seems that at least some Chinese cities are moving from manufacturing- to service-based employment, and that there is labor sorting. I tussle with their conclusion somewhat; merely shifting away from being manufacturing regions does not itself suggest sustainability–not if the manufacturing activity simply moves and dirties another region.