Local domains: Neighborhood planning and the interests of cities
Lever, David Gray
Doctor of Philosophy
Neighborhood planning involves American cities in a conflict of virtually irreconciable imperatives. Cities are both political bodies and corporate entities, of which land is the primary asset. By satisfying residents' demands for stability and protection, cities may inhibit the investment which supports their financial integrity. Since satisfaction of these dual imperatives requires the city to treat its land as both domicile and as commodity, the discipline of local land use planning is placed in an inherently ambiguous position. Neighborhood planning programs in thirty American central cities were examined. Four structrual features were held to influence program effectiveness: plan standing, the relation of the neighborhood plan to city-building instruments like zoning; group requirements, the formalization of community group powers and responsibilities; plan authorization, the level of authority granted an adopted neighborhood plan; and planning process, the formalization of planning procedures. An eight-part taxonomy was developed to describe the programs, and the eight program types were examined against prominent social and economic indicators and against state enabling legislation. While about half the sample cities tie their plans to city-building instruments, only a minority grant their plans the full force of law. Well-defined programs are related to growing city populations and moderately declining owner occupancy, however, cities with the most rapid population growth deny their plans the full force of law. Where states mandate that their cities have comprehensive plans and citizen participation procedures, cities often have well-defined neighborhood planning programs. The evidence suggests that as residents become increasingly demanding under the pressures of urban growth, well-defined neighborhood planning programs are granted as concessions by unwilling city governments, sometimes under compulsion from state legislation. Neighborhood groups and neighborhood plans invested with substantial weight in city-building decisions run counter to the financial interests of the city. This inherent antagonism, which is related to the historic dependency of the specialized residential neighborhood, can be resolved only by giving the central city neighborhood a productive function within the metropolitan ecology. This radical economic agenda points beyond current neighborhood planning methodology.
Political science; Public administration; Urban planning; Regional planning