Urban Politics and Land-Use Policy

The course views cities and urban regions as political constructs. Its purpose is to help you think strategically about major urban problems and controversies, 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 covered 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 issues discussed will include the role of government planning and zoning in shaping urban areas (including their patterns of segregation and inequality related to class, race, and gender); urban renewal and its successor programs; the politics of public infrastructure (particularly highway and mass transit) investment; issues involved in reconciling the aims of economic development, equity, and environmental preservation; and contemporary efforts to develop inner-city communities, manage growth and constrain urban sprawl. 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.