Shareable is partnering with Tufts University on this special eight-session series hosted by professor Julian Agyeman (Co-chair of Shareable’s Board) and Cities@Tufts. Initially designed for Tufts students, faculty, and alumni, the colloquium has been opened up to the public with the support of Shareable and The Kresge Foundation. Register to participate in future Cities@Tufts events here.
Below is the transcript from the first session “From green privilege to green gentrification: Environmental Justice vs White Supremacy in the 21st century American and European city” with Isabelle Anguelovski. Learn more about her work at The Barcelona Lab for Urban Environmental Justice and Sustainability by visiting www.BCNUEJ.org.
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Julian Agyeman (00:06):
Welcome to Cities@Tufts for our first colloquium of 2021, along with our partners Shareable and the Kresge Foundation I’m Professor Julian Agyeman, and together with my research assistants, Meghan Tenhoff, and Perri Sheinbaum. We organize Cities@Tufts as a cross-disciplinary academic initiative, which recognizes Tufts University as a leader in urban studies, urban planning, and sustainability issues. Today, we are beyond delighted to welcome Isabelle Anguelovski to be our first colloquium speaker of 2021. She’s amongst many other things. I’m just going to highlight her sort of flagship achievement, which is to be the founder and director of the Barcelona Lab for Urban Environmental Justice and Sustainability. She has many other roles, and I’m sure she might speak about some of those.
Julian Agyeman (01:00):
Isabelle has links to the Boston area. She did her Ph.D. in Urban Studies and Planning at MIT before returning to Europe in 2011 with a Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowship. She’s a prolific author, and her current research is on four main areas, the politics of the green city as a growing global planning orthodoxy, the social and racial manifestations and impacts of green gentrification for historically marginalized residents, urban planning, and health and wellbeing with a focus on health equity and justice, and justice and inclusivity in climate adaptation planning, including distributional and procedural insecurities produced by adaptation plans, interventions, and land-use configurations and regulations. And her talk today is “From green privilege to green gentrification: environmental justice versus white supremacy in the 21st-century American city.” What could be more appetizing than that? Isabelle, a Zoomtastic welcome back to the Boston Metro area. Thank you.
From Green Privilege to Green Gentrification Lecture
Isabelle Anguelovski (02:10):
Thank you, Julian. It’s a pleasure to be back in Boston, even though I would love to be there in person. I miss it. It’s my second city. Hello to everyone and thank you for having me. Let me share my screen again. Does it work? Yes. All right. So today, I would like to present some research that we do at our lab, but at the same time, do it as a kind of collective endeavor, a collective presentation of what the research that we conduct is about. I will be covering some topics that I think are very familiar to the American audience in relationship to white supremacy and green privilege, but I will also be broadening, a bit, the discussion to the European context.
Isabelle Anguelovski (03:08):
Just to give you a little bit of background about who we are, like what is this lab that’s called Barcelona, but at the same time, it doesn’t really do research on Barcelona only. So we are a research collaborative made of some professors like me, but then also post-docs and doctoral students who work at the intersection of public health, urban planning, political economy, and urban development in general. And in addition to the traditional research output and research outlets that we used to share our research, we very much also try to use media and mapping as a way to represent the urban injustice struggles that we research. So, for example if you have a quick look at the website, just to advertise a few things that collectively we’ve accomplished, we have a series of 10 short videos about the drivers of urban injustice, what causes environmental injustice, what causes urban injustice, more generally speaking, and what types of manifestations can we based on European and North American cases.
Isabelle Anguelovski (04:21):
Then we also have the short documentary showcasing four different urban environmental justice struggles in Barcelona to green or not to green. If you also want to see how environmental injustices manifest in a very dense, supposedly very progressive American… supposedly very progressive European city like Barcelona. We also are doing some mapping work with community groups on the ground that fight for urban justice from a variety of perspectives, housing, sustainable mobility, food access, contamination, and more. And our idea here is to also integrate videos from those different groups, as well as their own platform of social media and media to share and collectively build these map of urban justice struggles. And then finally, a project that we have started before COVID and COVID just put a big break too is called the Green Divide, which is an interactive web documentary. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that type of platform, but it’s a documentary that’s not only linear, but it’s also broken down into different stories, different cities, and then it has some additional visual tools and documentations and again, maps and testimonies that you can scroll through on the internet.
Isabelle Anguelovski (05:46):
So currently, we’re going to launch it partially in the Nature of Cities Forum at the end of February based on the stories of Barcelona in Nantes, in France, but then we also add the other stories, the other videos that we are going to integrate from Boston, DC, Portland, Oregon, Montreal, and Dublin. All right. And then finally, we also have a blog if you want to have a look at it. It’s not about the work that I do in particular, it’s really a collective composition of write-ups from people at different stages of their career and bringing together the research of those in a variety of contexts, also beyond Europe and North America.
Isabelle Anguelovski (06:37):
So anyway, what am I talking about today? I’m going to develop the idea that underpins a lot of my research, which is the concept of ‘GreenLulus’, green locally and wanted land uses, which is a bit of a pun on the traditional concept of locally unwanted land use, Lulu, in the planning literature, which tends to refer to undesirable land uses, contaminated sites, factories, et cetera that are racially mixed in working-class neighborhoods have had to suffer for decades and at the same time against which they have organized. And here, I’m talking more about green infrastructure, parks, garden, greenways, climate-proofing infrastructure, the entire type of interventions or the series of interventions that green cities are putting in place to advance different environmental, social, and health goals.
Isabelle Anguelovski (07:32):
And the argument here is that the exclusion of the most socially and racially vulnerable residents, their livelihoods and practices from the green city planning call for new emancipatory greening practices. And I’ll detail them a little bit through the talk. So just to put some concepts on the table, what are we talking about here when we talk about green privilege, environmental, and climate gentrification. We’re talking about the fact that let’s say from a historical standpoint, the long legacy of segregation and redlining in the US has created neighborhoods with varying degrees of access to green space. So for instance, in LA, 56% of African-Americans and 50% of Latinos reside in communities that have less amount of park space per capita, compared to 27% of white residents, for example. And that has really deep ramifications from a health standpoint, knowing the contribution that green spaces have in lowering all-cause mortality, but at the same time specific types of health outcomes, like obesity, chronic stress, or other types of mental diseases.
Isabelle Anguelovski (08:50):
And so that’s kind of let’s say the static state of affairs if we think about the legacy again of urban planning and how it has constrained access or unequal access to environmental amenities. However, what we see, so is that the rhetoric and the planning of the green city has for the past 15 years or so as a growing global orthodoxy created new types of environmental privileges through different dynamics of displacement. So that’s an image of the city where I live, Barcelona, Passeig Sant Joan, which used to be a very, very densely traffic avenue and that was remodeled six years ago, six, seven years ago into a green corridor. And that was then projected visually and also in different discourses as a place that pedestrians have gained a pleasant space and the environment has gained a sustainable design.
Isabelle Anguelovski (09:45):
But at the same time, it’s been branded as the green street of Barcelona where a lot of speculative investment has taken place, and at the same time, where undesirable residents like Asian minorities in Barcelona, especially the Chinese community has been literally wiped out of the area, and the business community has been very much, undesirably labeled as part of a non desirable let’s say type of activity and community in the area. And so what is in the end, environmental gentrification? It’s basically this process that I just try to explain, which is the implementation of an environmental planning agenda that tends to be related to a variety of public green spaces that leads to the displacement of the most vulnerable population under a very noxious, if you will, environmental ethic that claims that green space is beneficial for everyone’s health for the economy and for the environment.
Isabelle Anguelovski (10:51):
But then if we zoom in on what exactly is environmental gentrification and how it manifests, what do we see and how do we measure it? And that’s a lot of, what, the research is that we’re doing at the lab, which is trying to understand the scope, the magnitude, and develop different methods to pinpoint environmental gentrification. And then when I talk about green gentrification, I’m talking more about the green infrastructure aspect of the environmental planning agenda. So the argument here, and they say the main finding if you want, which is not that difficult to grasp, but that revolutionary is that displacement and dispossession are financial, physical, and social cultural.
Isabelle Anguelovski (11:35):
And so how do we look at them on the ground? One of the first studies that we did four years ago was a study of 98 cities in Europe, Canada, and the US where we dissected thousands and thousands of policy documents, planning mechanisms, trajectories, branding tools of just a big variety of let’s say sources of data that helped for us to identify the green trajectories of those different cities, what are the different types of goals that cities had in mind, how present is greening in their branding, what type of interventions are present on the ground, et cetera, et cetera.
Isabelle Anguelovski (12:22):
And as part of his research, what we looked at from at, let’s say statistical standpoint, was the relationship between municipal green branding and social equity. So we ranked city through these documents, according to their levels, what we call green boosterism, that is how present it is greening identity in the image and in the documents that the city crafts, let’s say for its future. And then how is that related to its affordability? And what we found is a positive correlation between high levels of urban green boosterism, meaning at the same time, high intensity or rhetoric over a long period of time and high levels of unaffordability, even when controlling for population size and economic indicators.
Isabelle Anguelovski (13:09):
So in that sense, what we found is that green boosterism is very tightly intertwined with urban revitalization, with land value grabbing that leads to a less affordability, and at the same time, a very limited any access to the benefits of greening, as you can see here in Vancouver, one of the most expensive cities in our sample, and at the same time, a city that has regularly been ranked number one or two in livability and greening around the world. Another study that we did, it was my colleague James Colony who led it, was a city in New York city. I’m sorry, a study in New York city looking at the evolution of gentrification and greening from 1990 to 2014. And what he found was a significant positive correlation between the areas of New York within the neighborhoods of New York, that green, the most between 1990 and 2014, and those which gentrified the most.
Isabelle Anguelovski (14:14):
We then took the methodology a little bit deeper in the case of Barcelona where we then pinpointed specific green spaces that have been built since 1990 and then looked very specifically a different demographic indicators around those green spaces to see which ones changed in the direction of gentrification more than areas that were further away from those green spaces. And so we used different geographically-weighted regression techniques to identify the spaces that most contributed to gentrification. And interestingly, actually not everywhere in Barcelona have we observed green gentrification, but what we have seen is the areas where there is a greater amount of greenways, the ones that are closer to the waterfront and those that are in post industrial landscapes with a housing stock that is very valued by investors of those that have experienced gentrification the most. And we’ve also noticed a displacement between the southern area of the city that you see closer to the water towards the area in the north of the city where actually a higher concentration of minorities have come to live, especially Latin American immigrants and Pakistani residents.
Isabelle Anguelovski (15:33):
And those might have benefited, as you can see on the map, from some green spaces, but if you then zoom into the quality of those green spaces, they’re actually very close to highways and very contaminated areas. So again, greening for whom and what quality of greening for whom. We also do that study to Washington where we did, at the beginning, a very similar analysis. So again, looking at social demographic and real estate change in the vicinity of new parts built in DC since 1990. And there, what we found interestingly is that actually the types of green spaces that were most associated with green gentrification are community gardens. So a form of appropriation of landscapes and spaces that have contributed very much for the past 50, 60 years to the wellbeing of African-American residents in DC now being commodified and appropriated both by developers and by the residents who come to inhabit the luxury housing that exists around them.
Isabelle Anguelovski (16:41):
And then we also looked at the directionality of gentrification. So basically, we run different types of regression to see what seems to come first or what seems to be most powerful. Is it more than greening seems to explain gentrification or gentrification seems to explain greening better? And what we actually noticed is that gentrification is most accurately predictive of gentrification, not the other way around. So in that sense, what we see in DC and especially in the eastern part of the cities that gentrifiers come in and then push for greater greening and push also for improvement in the green space that surround them. So this capacity of advocating for their green privilege, if you will.
Isabelle Anguelovski (17:28):
And I was saying earlier, greening is also not only about physical displacement or financially-driven displacement, it’s also about the social cultural belonging that is or is not achieved in green spaces. And so we did a study in Barcelona a year and a half ago where looked at different green spaces that had been built in neighborhoods that have gentrified at different stages and let’s say where gentrification is more or less intense. And the question we asked was, how does a redesign of green space affect young families and children use of these spaces, and then how do gentrification processes interact with perceived wellbeing of young families and children in public spaces?
Isabelle Anguelovski (18:17):
And what we see here is that the stages of gentrification matters. So in that sense, spaces that have a greater amount of tourism, commercial, and residential gentrification are also those where also show that residents feel the least welcome, they feel very deep sense of loss of community, and they also feel that they cannot trust their neighbors because basically the space has been taken over and the residents are actually pushed away from their neighborhood. And so again, these use of spaces really matters for also understanding environmental gentrification.
Isabelle Anguelovski (19:16):
We also took that to the climate green infrastructure. So not only, let’s say, any type of greening where climate adaptation goals are in play. And so the theory that we’ve tried to develop here is the relationship between green resilient infrastructure and climate gentrification, where we observed that residents will be, over time, more exposed in terms of their home and their properties to climate risks, YouTube privately led green resilience projects. They’re also more social culturally excluded from the uses and benefits of green resilience, and then in the future, they will face different types of displacement because of real estate speculation and increased housing costs, but also the difficulty to adapt due to a loss of social networks. And so what is climate gentrification? What is green climate gentrification? It is a phenomenon by which working class and racialized minorities are among the social groups, most likely to experience residential and social displacement in the short and mid term from green climate infrastructure and its associated gentrification risks.
Isabelle Anguelovski (20:30):
Some of these work, we’ve taken it to Philadelphia, and that’s the work of my colleague Gallia Shokry and a few of us looking at green infrastructure planning in Philly against storm water issues. What has Gallia research shown? It has shown that the areas of the city, so the census tracks that you can see here, the polygons that have gentrified the most between 2000 and 2010, which are the darker color polygons or those that have subsequently received a greater percentage of acres of green resilience infrastructure from 2011 to 2016. What have we seen also from the point of view of population loss? That the areas of Philadelphia that have gained the greatest amount of green resilient infrastructure, which are those in blue have seen a greater influx of white residents, so that’s on the left side and the other one’s in green on the right side, but at the same time, the loss of African-American residents has been seen in areas that have the least benefited from green resilient infrastructure, which are the dark, the reds, and the dark red areas, and the same on the right map.
Isabelle Anguelovski (21:48):
You can see that the areas that have gained the most quantity of Hispanic populations are also those that have received very little green resident infrastructure. So again, a reconfiguration of landscapes of security and security in view of climate risks any impact because of the way in which climate adaptation planning is implemented and is not accompanied by other types of social and housing policies in particular. And then I just finished with the slide looking at our studies where actually the latest study that that Gallia has done is related to neighborhood vulnerability to climate gentrification. So thinking about the state of affairs in five years down the line and also five years down the line from the point of view of green planning, where is green infrastructure meant to be according to the plans of the city and how can we also estimate where gentrification would go?
Isabelle Anguelovski (22:46):
And so the study shows that recently-completed or planned green resilient infrastructure is and we be concentrated in areas that are the most sensitive tracks to gentrification, which are mostly wealthier areas and gentrified areas already in the center of the city and those that also benefit from a new tax incentives for development. I won’t expand because I know these are pretty complex studies, but all of this to say that where then the study of future vulnerability to gentrification, you can also incorporate the climate lens. So what are alternatives just try to propose ways in which we can move beyond those insecurities, inequalities displacement, and really reconfigure the way in which we think about equity in the city. So that’s also another part of the research that we do where we look at the policy and planning path of different cities and where we look at the ones that are the most progressive and where we find that the right path towards urban green justice seems to lie in finding the right mix of both anti-displacement and equitable green development policy. So a form of greening that is more inclusive, if you will.
Isabelle Anguelovski (24:04):
Next month, we are going to release this report. I’m just presenting it very briefly, which is about policy and planning tools for urban green justice, looking at 30 cities in North America and Europe and trying to understand the planning, conundrums that both contexts phase from both a long legacy of urban development and inequality, and then looking at the types of policy responses that are the most promising and that exists in each context. So if you look at, for instance, this anti-gentrification piece on the equation, we’ve looked at land use tools, developer requirements, housing focused, financial schemes aimed at homeowners, others aimed at ranchers, community-focused financial schemes, and then other types of anti-gentrification regulation and ordinances and we have 30 of them. And then we also have the other parts of the scheme, which are 20 improved type of a greening, meaning what can we do to really make greening more inclusive?
Isabelle Anguelovski (25:11):
Is it through having a minimum amount of green space in new developments, is it about building interim green spaces, is it about different types of administrative roles for green space management? So anyway, this is a big package that we have in our report and I just invite you to have a look at it. It will be on the website. One of the cities that we talk about a lot and that is really meaningful in understanding social equity and greening is North in France, which used to be an industrial city very much driven by the shipyard industry and that has, since the 1990s, both associated greening with a social trajectory of equity and housing rights. And so what has known done is to basically decide we are not going to build flagship projects, we are going to increase the amount of meaning everywhere in the city to make sure that all residents live within 300 meters of a green area.
Isabelle Anguelovski (26:10):
So in that sense, it took a very equality-focused perspective, rather than an equity driven approach, if you will, making sure then that you’re not going to create development pressures. It also was planning greening around eco districts, but not the types of funky eco districts that exist in Northern Europe, but really driven by affordable housing and where affordable housing was part the of the construction of these eco districts. And if you think about the difference, for instance, between the North American context, the US and inclusionary zoning regulations in North, for any new unit or for any new hundred units of housing, 56% of those have to be either public or affordable housing. So the majority of the housing built in redevelopment areas in North is out of the market, is the commodified, mostly. And that’s really powerful for guaranteeing housing rights.
Isabelle Anguelovski (27:17):
That’s a few images of North, so this whole area that you see in the middle, which is the eel de North has been completely transformed into a mixed use redevelopment with a lot of green space, very high quality green space plans and redesigned with the residents for multiple uses and also the connectivity through the city. So there are no pockets of segregation. There are no pockets in North of spatial discrimination because the mobility by tram and by bike, but also the pedestrian areas are all very easily to flow from one another and there are no difficult transitions, if you will, between landscapes. So North is very much about having what they call the green stars and the blue stars, which are these deep and long corridors in greenways that will easily connect and make residents go from one neighborhood to the other. And because gentrification is very much controlled because of the housing laws, then you also do not have areas that are being redeveloped that are going to be highly speculative.
Isabelle Anguelovski (28:23):
So some of the examples of the eco districts I was talking about, very much a mix of working class and middle class residents and attention to design as well. And yet, if we think about the context like the United States where the legacy of segregation and the legacy of an equal urban development really runs very deeply through many scars of the city, is that enough, is that type of model going to be guaranteeing the type of green just cities that we want. And so one of the last examples I wanted to explore here is the type of radical green alternatives that we seen some American cities like his proposals for them through anti subordination and a massive battery greening in the case of Washington DC.
Isabelle Anguelovski (29:18):
And some of the principles that I would like to articulate here in a way are related to reparative and preventive justice. I think there’s a lot of talk now in academia about the need for reparations, but also a need for prevention of harm. And so what I argue is that urban greening, to be just and to be radically just, should question experiences of domination, subordination, racial stratification and oppression and the institutions around them, articulate in belts, emancipatory spaces, and new geographical formations at the intersection of land resources and nature, and finally propose institutional arrangements, social cultural practices, and policies that are controlled by historically marginalized groups.
Isabelle Anguelovski (30:03):
So what does that look like in practice? In DC, we have a project that’s called 11th Street Bridge Park project, which is a $50 million project and it keeps raising every day, so I don’t know how much it is now, which place is equity as a form of intentional planning process, meaning that this bridge, where you can see in the top picture there is centered around equity. Equity is meant to breathe through the entire project. And the idea behind this bridge is to construct a green space that can connect the two sides of the Anacosta River, the East and the West, where the Western part of the city nowadays has the Navy yard, which is a very gentrified, very mixed use community, and they have the other side, which is East of the river, where Anacosta is located in a much more historically African-American settlement that is called by urban renewal and segregation. The project proposes new access to green spaces as well as a multi-stakeholder fundraising initiative to develop an equitable development plan.
Isabelle Anguelovski (31:21):
So the idea is that we are not going to reproduce in DC, what we have in the Chicago 606 or in the Atlanta BeltLine or in New York with the highline, we are going to make sure that people are not displaced by these new greening. And so the Community Land Trust is one tool, and then we have many other tools like a home buyers club or the use of the DOPA and TOPA laws in DC, which are laws that help residents gain access to affordable housing as homeowners. So we’re going to make sure that we have a plan in place for people to not be displaced and we’ll have that plan in place before the bridge is built because it’s not built yet.
Isabelle Anguelovski (32:04):
However, what I have found from some research that I’ve done there last year, that was one of the case studies as part of a broader 30 city study that we’ve done in the lab was actually that there are limits to intentionality or limits of intentionality and then finished redistribution, again, thinking about the legacy of urban renewal in the US. The CLT can not fully address the intergenerational interracial wealth gap. I love the model, but in a country where the wealth of white families is projected to be 87 times the wealth of African-American families over the next five years, a CLT, because of the ways in which residents do not control land, both land and their homes, cannot fully address that gap, and that’s what housing activists were against that project, actually very much critiquing on the ground.
Isabelle Anguelovski (32:57):
This is a project also that’s financed and advertised by global banks. It’s been also designed by OMA, which is international architecture firm based in New York. So it’s very much part of the green branding of the city, and it’s also part of the way in which greening can harness new sources of investment. Residents on the ground also say, that it activates the commodification of greenness and diversity. As you can see on the top picture, there are several restaurants already that are very much hip restaurants that try to attract clients based on the fact that the neighborhood is going to be green and at the same time, it’s going to be dynamic and it’s going to be displays that you can have fun, but fun also at the expenses of displacement.
Isabelle Anguelovski (33:47):
What we also have noticed is that there is already speculative redevelopment project happening in the vicinity of the bridge. There’s a TIF, tax incremental financing scheme right in Anacosta, and there is already a project like the reunion square project that is very, very much driven by market-priced housing and very little by affordability. So, in a way, what I’m claiming here is that this is a project that, even though it’s equity driven, it will facilitate a new displacement frontier as many local housing activists are saying. And as an alternative to this displacement, what are they articulating? They’re articulating a right to place and a right to return.
Isabelle Anguelovski (34:32):
So you have organizations like One DC that resists landlord and developer’s displacement tactics and convert tenant buildings into cooperative. So different housing model, but also a different workplace and work place development model. You can see on the top picture, the Black Workers and Wellness Center, that at the same time, articulate political power by discussing the intersection of place… sorry, by discussing the intersection of race and work, and at the same time, building new types of businesses that are led, owned, and advertised by the local residents. And finally, there’s also a lawsuit going on, which is articulated by Ari Theresa, who is trying to argue for the right to place and the right to return for African-Americans that have been displaced by the demolition of Barry farms, which was a public housing development built in Anacosta.
Isabelle Anguelovski (35:36):
What we also see is some residents articulating a different type of greening and a more reparative and abolishing is greening, where basically it’s not about only the fun, it’s about a form of storytelling that can be advocating and that can be relating histories of trauma, loss, and also invisible practice of planning and resistance by the historic African-American communities. It’s also about using networks of care to create community initiating projects and enterprising. And it’s also about the disciplining and de-commodifying landscapes. Because again, as I was saying earlier, the problem of the Community Land Trust is that it doesn’t, the way that it is financed, keeps white financial institutions at the center of capital accumulation.
Isabelle Anguelovski (36:30):
It’s also re-imagining the river differently, not like a place of green design projected by a New York based firm, but also a place that you can revive informal and hidden resident-driven practices like those that we see on the right, which is actually a picture from the Anacosta community museum showing the deep history and the deep connection that residents have had to the river, but that have been rendered impossible by decades of contamination, but also a sense of insecurity in green space that African-Americans have had to live through.
Isabelle Anguelovski (37:07):
So can this project be also an abolition or of carcerality, criminalization, and environmental racism, these intersection that David Palo claims in his last article. And what I argue is that the way in which the 11th St Green Project is currently projected is not doing that. It’s not going far enough towards radical green justice. So this is my last slide. Yes, urban greening and green spaces are vital to climate ecological and human health. I always feel I have to say that because people end up thinking that all we want are gray and contaminated neighborhoods, and that is not what I’m saying, so just to make it clear. However, achieving equity requires questioning the whiteness and exclusion embedded in the green city orthodoxy and how green planning remains decoupled from the colonial and emancipatory practices for racialized minority. Thank you.
From Green Privilege to Green Gentrification discussion
Julian Agyeman (38:12):
Well, Isabelle, thank you very much for a tour through the excellent work that you are doing, well, from Barcelona, but around the world. And thank you for the great work you’re doing. We have a huge number of questions I’m going to try and get through some of them. First, Lisa Simon asks you to tell us more about how community gardens are linked to social change.
Isabelle Anguelovski (38:45):
So social change. So social change, I guess in the slide, was a marker of gentrification. I’m not the first adult to say this. I think there’s a growing literature that shows how community gardens are now advertised and are used by developers, by designers of places that can be an asset for new residents to move in and a place that also the advertisers. You can be healthy in that community garden, you can get to meet your neighbor, you can grow X and Y. And so these are huge rhetoric that developers and planners are articulating for new residents that are seeking to move into a new neighborhood. So I think there’s a sense of value capture for those new residents when actually those gardens were historically built by as places of refuge and as places of also informality and security for racialized minorities, and we see them all over Boston.
Isabelle Anguelovski (39:49):
I think there’s this deep tension now is, am I building a new… If you are a minority, you are absolutely asking yourself, “Should I build a new green space or should I build a new community garden or we’d be gentrified?” And I remember one of my last interviews I did, when was that, two and a half years ago in Boston, in Dorchester, there was a resident who was displaced three times because he was saying that every time he was living next to a community garden, and then he saw a developer flipping a bunch of townhouses next to him and then those gardens being seen as now new places of recreation for the residents. And so he got displaced both social culturally and financially by the increasing cost of housing. And then he was then saying, “You know what, I’m just done working in community gardens and trying to build them because I know I’m just going to be displaced.” And his neighbors were actually begging him to not build new gardens.
Julian Agyeman (40:45):
Thanks for that. A quick clarification question from Jason Barry. The work of Kogan at all in DC found that gentrification was the predictor of greening, correct? Or was it the other way around?
Isabelle Anguelovski (40:59):
So it found a stronger relationship when, in the model, gentrification was an independent variable and greening was an outcome variable. So it was gentrification that was better predicting greening, if you will. Because we were able to test that relationship in ways we hadn’t done in Barcelona, and that was really interesting in that sense. It was gentrification comes first.
Julian Agyeman (41:20):
A question from Jordan J. Any examples you came across that have led to less or no green gentrification? How might green infrastructure planning and development improve? I think you’ve talked about that, but Jordan wants I think maybe a little more.
Isabelle Anguelovski (41:41):
I mean, some of the best models that we have in Europe or in Vienna, for instance, which is a city that has a very deep actually socialist, self socialist history, that started in the early 20th century was a very radical workers movement that was embraced by the municipality and where a lot of public housing was built, also co-op housing, and where also rent is very regulated. So you have this huge legacy of housing that really protects a city or protects residents from a city that is also very green. So I think that’s one of our best examples. You have good examples also in Northern Europe like Amsterdam and Copenhagen. Again, they don’t have the types of radical policies that Vienna has, but they have very good access and good access to decent quality public housing, and they also have a big co-op market. It’s all being commodified now, it’s all being part of the near liberal city, but let’s say it’s a long way from New York or even maybe Boston.
Julian Agyeman (42:47):
Yeah. And it’s worth saying that when the world livability tables come out, Vienna is always up there towards the top. So a socialist legacy maybe is compatible with some of the livability concepts that are measurables in these projects. Question from Lisa Simon, can you speak to the power or not of land trusts for housing?
Isabelle Anguelovski (43:15):
I mean, I think you have an excellent model in Boston with the Dudley Community Land Trust. And it’s really deep history of organizing beyond access to housing for quality green spaces. So I think that I’m not maybe given enough credit to the land trust, especially I think in places where you don’t have that type of very emblematic flagship greening as you have in DC. I think, for me, what’s very problematic in DC is that you have a project that is supposedly driven by the community, but actually it’s projected by a New York firm, financed by global companies, it’s advertised by the mayor. And at the same time you have the Community Land Trust which is trying to just palliate what might happen when residents are like, “Wait a minute, this is a project that’s going to cost 50, 60 million euros. There is a dollar, sorry, there’s a bridge already. Let’s just renovate. Let’s just restore the banks of the Anacosta River.
Isabelle Anguelovski (44:12):
Again, driven by this history that I was talking about, this deep history of place attachment at generative green uses by the residents, let’s dedicate all of these money to incubators for black-owned businesses do training. Why do we need 50 million bucks just to build a bridge?
Julian Agyeman (44:34):
Okay. Just for clarification, many of you are asking about references, citations. This presentation will be up on the Tufts website. It will be up. Shareable are going to do some work on the audio and we will fully reference the works that have been cited by all, by Isabelle and by our future presenters. Let’s see. Many, many, many more questions. Again, from Lisa Simon. This point about community gardens. I want to piggyback on this. Some of the research I’ve done, we’ve found the community gardens certainly in New York city and certainly in the Puerto Rican and Dominican gardens are more about a social space than a cultivation space. And for this reason, they are absolutely central to communities. To the extent that the research found that there are gardeners, there are friends of the garden, and then the majority of people are just friends of the space. Because when we talk about community gardens, I see people nodding and the urban agriculture types and they’re thinking about productivity. But has this come up much in your work, Isabelle, the absolute necessity of these spaces as safe or brave spaces for immigrants?
Isabelle Anguelovski (46:05):
Oh God, so, so much. I mean, that was one of the center topics of my dissertation when I looked at community garden, and it was not only what I looked at with my three cases from Boston, Habana, and Barcelona were so much about the spaces of refuge, the safe haven that you’re talking about, like the space that I can be with my networks, with kind of multi-generational support, this place also even of political power building that just putting so many more important social and political roles than maybe many cases, as you were saying, who put security.
Julian Agyeman (46:47):
Yeah, thank you. Neil Gorenflo, executive director of Shareable has asked the following question. What do you think of the recent moves by certain US cities and states to abolish single family residential zoning? Will it lead to equity gains and increased access to green space and other valued amenities?
Isabelle Anguelovski (47:05):
I think it’s interesting because I have found both arguments and that’s clearly one of our findings in the report that I was talking about that in cities like Dallas or Houston, historically black neighborhoods residents are asking for the preservation of single families because those are part of initial historic settlements 200 years ago of those black families. So in that sense, they are asking to preserve those single lots. And then you have other cities where, as you are saying, if I understood your question right, that is completely reversed, that people do not want to keep them to avoid the privilege that can be harnessed in one single lot. So I don’t know. I think I have seen both. I’m not an expert on this question, so don’t quote me, but…
Julian Agyeman (48:05):
Well, I’m going to take chair’s privilege and ask you a question, Isabelle. I mean, you did some great work in East Boston around the airport and around the gentrifying sort of East Boston neighborhood, traditionally Latin X. And my take on it was that you were finding that these new developments had built in adaptation features that could even worsen the potential flooding or other effects for the other neighborhood were all for those in the neighborhood around. I mean, this is green gentrification on steroids. It’s almost like building a castle around moat around it. So any more thoughts on that, Isabelle? What’s your latest thinking about this protective gentrification?
Isabelle Anguelovski (49:03):
I mean, I think revisiting some of the interviews with local planners from the planning agency, you could really see how somehow they just didn’t see it coming, or at least they claim they didn’t see it coming because in their views, that was land that they gave construction permits to in the mid or late 2000 during the economic crisis and then the single permitting process without just a landscape analysis or sea level rise risk analysis just completely omitted the fact that now you have these legos of high-end enclaves that are plastering the water from that are creating issues with landscaping, elevation, and then flooding that are not properly solve. And then the Boston planners saying, “Oops, we should never have done this type of single permitting, we should have done a much better site planning.” And so for me, it just baffled me that that wasn’t taken into consideration. So that was one part of it.
Isabelle Anguelovski (50:13):
And just another part of it is the interviews with developers that, in many ways, they believe, I mean, you could see some of them, not everyone is a bastard developer, and is just there to capture value. But many of them believe that the amenities that they built, the resilient shorelines and the park and the very nice landscaping around their buildings is a really nice open space for residents as part of the Massachusets chapter 91 open law. So they said, “We abided by the terms of the law, we built on up this. This is great it’s going to go to the resident.” But then there’s this sense of niceness that doesn’t realize that people did not necessarily feel connected to those spaces because they are surrounded by the super high-end restaurants and building. And so there’s this social displacement that’s very deep. And at the same time, that in the end, they are very exclusive green infrastructure. And so this privatization of urban greening is also a problem because rather than maybe doing these open space public community development that chapter 91 is meant to provide, I think it creates these very exclusive greening.
Julian Agyeman (51:33):
Yeah. Thank you. Georgia S. S, AKA local ecologist on Twitter, has asked you highlighted of the inequity of greening in the footprint of highways and other forms of pollution. Can you talk a little more about this?
Isabelle Anguelovski (51:50):
Yes. Not only for the case of Barcelona, but in places like Seattle, for instance, in South park or San Francisco’s, what is the name, I forgot about it. No, sorry. It’s laid here. Anyway, in several sites that have both received greening and overall restoration of the landscape, we also see a juxtaposition or let’s say overlapping risk was historic contamination that doesn’t get taken away. And so you have these multiple risks where you have maybe a bit of greening, but the rest of the landscape remains great, and so from a health standpoint, you’re still very much at risk. So we’re writing about this now, this kind of compounding and overlapping health risks, both from greening that might displace you, and you’re not using it, and at the same time, the legacy of environmental contamination that you still have. Actually, Boston is not very far away from that either. I was referring, sorry, to Hunter’s point in San Francisco. So Governors in New York, Hunter’s point, South park in Seattle or West Dallas, you have this deep, deep, deep compounded environmental risks that minorities have to live with.
Julian Agyeman (53:18):
Okay. Mimi Shiela is asking, I wonder how recent movements for commenting could help us imagine de-colonial and reparative forms of access to land, as well as social spaces, shared housing, libraries, tools, et cetera. What do you think of greening via commenting?
Isabelle Anguelovski (53:35):
The discussion that we had a bit earlier about community garden or informal spaces in actually very invisible spaces that residents of color have used or built a space for themselves in the past, like highway underpasses, or culs-de-sacs or areas that have historically been invisible to planners, but now they become part of the revitalization of a space. I think those are spaces where commenting has happened very, very much in the past and I think should be protected. I think it goes back to what we were saying earlier, the importance of social spaces and also alternative spaces for housing.
Isabelle Anguelovski (54:21):
I think that’s very much what the de-growth movement in Europe also calls for. What that doesn’t solve and what doesn’t solve in my mind and I don’t have a response to that is what I was saying earlier, as a statistic in five years, white families will own 87 times the wealth of black families. Commenting doesn’t solve that. So if you do not have access to assets for your family, for your community, you still cannot send your kid to college, or you cannot still buy a home for your family one or two generation down the lines. And that’s, for me, a deep concern, which is why even as a left-wing European, I cannot turn away fully from the market.
Julian Agyeman (55:07):
We just got a clarification point here from UEP alum, John Bolduc, who’s also a senior planner within City of Cambridge. There is a master plan for coastal resilience in East Boston that involves a barrier that protects areas in the interior of the neighborhood. I think the challenge is how to coordinate the individual developments and harness them. John, you’re on the call, any more on that? That’s intriguing. John Bolduc around?
John Bolduc (55:37):
Yup. Sorry, I was-
Julian Agyeman (55:39):
John Bolduc (55:40):
… unmuting. Yeah, Boston has a series of plans for coastal defenses that involve mostly sort of combining park and public amenities. But they serve as storm surge barriers. So East Boston was the first one that they did. I mean, I think some of the speaker’s points about the planners realizations are correct that they didn’t… it was hard to really think through all the complexity of how you manage all these individual developments and coordinate them with that plan and the complicated permitting processes that happen. But there is that plan there. So if it comes to fruition, then I think it has a benefit for the whole neighborhood, so it’s not just the matter of these individual developments having displacing flooding onto other properties that can’t protect themselves.
Isabelle Anguelovski (56:43):
My fear is that the pace of displacement is way faster than the pace of planning action. So now it’s great. My fear is like South Boston, it’s kind of too late, unless you really revert a lot of things that you’ve done.
John Bolduc (57:02):
Yeah, no, I can’t disagree with that. It’s a huge challenge.
Julian Agyeman (57:08):
Well, I’m afraid we’re out of time. There’s always more questions than we can get to. Isabelle, I remember you as a PhD student, now I see you as a brilliant researcher. Keep doing the great work you’re doing. Thank you for being our first person. Next week, we have Dr. Jayne Engle from the McConnell Foundation in Montreal who’s going to talk about sacred civics, what would it mean to build seven generation cities. I am so looking forward to that. Thanks, everybody, and hopefully see you next week.