Urban Politics, Planning, and Development

The course views cities and urban regions as political constructs. Its purpose is to help students think strategically about major urban problems and controversies, particularly those that involve shaping the physical character of urban places. Substantive content includes an overview of U.S. urban governance, policy, and politics and some international comparative material, including a section on Chinese cities. The course will examine the ways in which political activities-such as planning, regulation, and public investment contribute to shaping the urban built environment. Topics include: the fragmentation of public authority in metropolitan areas; the forces accentuating central city-suburban disparities; the intensification of local competition for private investment and anti-development sentiment in many jurisdictions; and business-government and intergovernmental relations. Policy issues 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 sprawl; urban renewal and its successor programs; the politics of public infrastructure; and housing policy. Emphasis will be on the relationship between planning and social justice. 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.