Urban Politics and Land Use Policy

COURSE CONTENTThe course views cities and urban regions as political constructs. Its purposes are to help you think strategically about major urban problems and controversies, and particularly those that involve shaping the physical character of urban places. The substantive content of this course includes an overview of U.S. urban governance and politics, followed by an examination of the ways in which political activities-such as planning, regulation, and public investment-contribute to shaping the urban built environment. Topics of special concern in the overview portion of the course include: the fragmentation of public authority in metropolitan areas; the forces accentuating central city-suburban disparities; the intensification of local competition for private investment; the simultaneous intensification of anti-development sentiment in many jurisdictions; business-government and federal-state-local relations; and conflict over proposals for governmental reform, particularly at the metropolitan scale. Policy topics of special concern will include the role of government planning and zoning in shaping urban areas (including their patterns of segregation and inequality); urban renewal and its follow-on programs (up through subsidized convention centers and sports arenas in recent years); the politics of public infrastructure (particularly highway and mass transit) investment; efforts to reconcile the aims of economic development and environmental preservation; and contemporary efforts both to manage growth and constrain urban sprawl. FORMAT The course is taught in a discussion format. The readings are a mix of case studies and analytic materials. While there are no course prerequisites and no prior knowledge of these topics is required, students are encouraged to draw on their first-hand knowledge of politics and planning in locales where they have lived and/or worked. REQUIREMENTS You are expected to complete the assigned readings before the class and to participate actively in the class discussions. (Study group participation is highly recommended but not required.) There will be four writing assignments during the semester-one short piece and three longer essays. In these assignments you are required to analyze some assigned course readings-in advance of the class in which they are scheduled for discussion. The assignments are due on a staggered schedule, and you will have a choice of which deadline to select. (You are also required to post summaries of your essays on the course\’s intranet site and all students are expected to read these summaries before class.) The course will also have an optional oral final exam, which can be taken before or after the holiday break. REQUIRED READINGS The assignments are a mix of xeroxed materials, articles posted on the course web site, and selections from three paperback books that you are encouraged to purchase. The xeroxed materials will be available from the Kennedy School Case Distribution Office. The books, available at the COOP, are: Alan Altshuler and David Luberoff, Mega-Projects: The Changing Politics of Urban Public Investment (Brookings Institution Press), Bernard Frieden and Lynne Sagalyn, Downtown, Inc.: How America Rebuilds Cities (MIT Press), and John Logan and Harvey Molotch, Urban Fortunes: The Political Economy of Place (University of California Press).