Urban management strategies deployed through a multiscalar approach differ with respect to the policies and legal instruments in effect, the stakeholders involved, the objectives and methodology used to implement these measures, and the dynamics between the different tiers of government. Some known truths and misconceptions listed here illustrate current issues and requirements that set the tone and define the nature of discourse in the realm of urban design, planning and management today.
1. Gentrification is a necessary evil.
The structure of global cities is rapidly transforming from manufacturing to service-based economies, based on financial, business and creative industries. Large scale urban migration is affecting the age, socio-economic status and cultural backgrounds of urban inhabitants. The resultant changes in the built environment, with rising property values, programmatic distributions, a restructuring of existing land use patterns and governance systems have caused a massive shift in established communities, residential and industrial spaces, posing a potential threat to historic environments.
Conversely, the process of urban change directly addresses issues of vacancy, misuse, neglected and derelict properties, brownfield sites and underused urban resources.
In the wake of globalization and renewed cultural, socio-economic and spatial trends, the focus on accommodating distinct categories of labour and work environments has led to significant morphological changes in the urban fabric. It is an era that is witnessing a gradual transformation in all spheres of life, at different paces, and the process of evolution, both sensitive and immediate, are necessary to urban locales suffering from stagnation.
2. All models of Urban management involve local or state governments in some capacity.
Models of urban governance where institutions assume the role of a public organization function independently, with other organizations and involving the state in a diminished role. The Managerial model of governance however, with managers and customers as cohorts, is deregulated, market conforming, purpose driven and not process oriented. It eliminates the role of the state, dissolving the public private distinctions, therefore directly influencing the outcome of urban governance strategies.
3. Urban management strategies are delivered through a hierarchical approach
The institutionalization of public and private partnerships is created through mutual interests between the State and Private enterprises placing both parties on a similar footing. Stakeholders can be categorized as regulators, producers and users, with governmental bodies, planning authorities and economic regulators serving as the primary stakeholders. The litmus scale of stakeholder partnerships in regard to the degree of involvement of city-state authorities and private enterprises is instrumental in determining the urban governance model that is implemented. The careful selection of these stakeholders, along with policy choices and decisive actions relating to their implementation, create a Political Choice. Political Choices have direct and indirect, short term and far reaching impacts on the design of the built environment.
4. Governance in design is formally delivered through conservative and restrictive regulatory measures.
An important branch of public policy is focused on the ‘tools of governance’. These tools aim to ensure the efficacy of governance strategies and offer alternative solutions for desired outcomes. In recent years, the tools of governance have evolved driven by liberal economic theories as a responsive measure to manage ineffective governance and rising costs.
Matthew Carmona distinguishes between the Formal and Informal categories of Design Governance. The formal nature of the governance of urban planning and urban design strategies are related to the State functions and well-defined regulatory responsibilities. The Informal counterpart is discretionary and optional. Both categories are further classified with respect to the degree of intervention inherent in each strategic measure.
Design guidance is the generic term used for the set of tools that determine the parameters of design directed at progressive development. It is the most flexible format that leaves room for interpretation and negotiations for private authorities. It excludes legally binding design requirements such as zoning laws and regulation, which bear an element of enforceability and control. The guidance of design is delivered through tools such as ‘Design Standards’, ‘Coding’, ‘Policy’ and ‘Frameworks’.
Incentives are more or less interventionalist than design guidance with respect to the role and influence of the state. Direct or more interventionalist approaches would typically include the state influencing outcome by applying non-refundable state treasure to private developments, through financial incentives and trade-offs which decrease risk of developers and increase the economic viability of developments.
Indirectly, the state incentivizes developments through rewards and recognition with enhanced development rights.
Control – discretionary vs fixed legal systems
Incentives, Control or the ‘disincentives to bad behaviour’ and Design Guidance collectively aim to ensure quality in design and economically viable developments through standards, policies and frameworks. Control processes include fixed legal frameworks exemplified by zoning systems in practice in America, Japan and Europe. In contrast, they are also discretionary with distinctions drawn between law and policy such as in British town and country planning.
The degree of intervention of design governance tools depend on the urban product and the process of urbanization. Urban processes may be direct or indirect, the former dealing directly with sites and projects where the impact is immediate. Indirect processes and discretionary systems are concerned with policies, and the realm of decision making and urban management bearing long term impacts such as planning, conservation, environment protection in the UK, while the fixed, legally binding regulations are enforced in the construction of buildings, roads and highways, with immediate impact. Carmona states that despite the general opinion that these regulatory measures may be restrictive and controlling, recent attempts at overlap and convergence between categories seek to increase flexibility in strategies in order to assist the process of design.
5. Conflict between actors and agents of urban governance is disruptive and unproductive.
The participation of state, non-governmental agencies, and private authorities requires co-operation between parties and entails negotiations and decision-making processes to function cohesively to ensure this balance, promoting efficacy in the design and production of urban entities. Due to the multidimensional and transient nature of these partnerships, conflict is an inherent aspect of design governance which critiques and puts necessary checks in place in order to maintain a democratic forum. In this regard, discordance between different tiers of government, public actors and private agents if channeled correctly, can be a valuable asset which increases productivity and the quality of the urban product and process.