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Below is the audio, video, and full transcript from a presentation on November 10, 2021, “The Green City and Social Injustice: Tales from North America and Europe” with Isabelle Anguelovski & James Connolly.
Urban greening interventions can create a new set of inequalities for socially vulnerable residents while also failing to eliminate other environmental risks and impacts.
In this presentation, Anguelovski and Connolly introduce their new book, “The Green City and Social Injustice,” which examines the recent urban environmental trajectory of twenty-one cities in Europe and North America over a 20 year period. Based on fieldwork in ten countries, and on analysis of core planning, policy, and activist documents and data, our analysis offers a critical view of the growing green planning orthodoxy in the Global North.
“The Green City and Social Injustice” comes out on November 30th and is currently available for pre-order here.
About the presenters
Isabelle is the director of BCNUEJ, an ICREA Research Professor, a Senior Researcher and Principal Investigator at ICTA and coordinator of the research group Healthy Cities and Environmental Justice at IMIM. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Studies from Science Po Lille and a Master’s in International Development at the Université de Paris 1 Sorbonne, pursued a Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management at Harvard University and obtained a PhD in Urban Studies and Planning from MIT before returning to Europe in 2011 with a Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowship.
James is co-director of BCNUEJ, a BCNUEJ Affiliated Researcher and Assistant Professor of Community and Regional Planning at the University of British Columbia. His research explores how urban planning and policy serve as an arena for resolving social-ecological conflicts in cities – a key dimension of making cities green and just. He believes that a key challenge faced by cities today is ensuring that the goals of social equity and ecological health are considered in tandem and not traded off against one another.
Listen to “The Green City and Social Injustice: Tales from North America and Europe“ on the Cities@Tufts Podcast (or on the app of your choice):
“The Green City and Social Injustice: Tales from North America and Europe” Transcript
Isabelle Anguelovski: [00:00:06] Green gentrification is also embedded in other dimensions of this relationship between urban ecology and gentrification, such as in cases of green climate gentrification, which we have also written about. And how is that manifested? It’s manifested in the fact that working class and racialized minorities are the groups more likely to experience residential and social displacement from both green climate infrastructure and its associated gentrification risks.
Tom Llewellyn: [00:00:35] Could Rio’s favelas offer a sustainable housing model for cities around the world? What are the impacts of over-policing Black mobility in the U.S.? Our $16 tacos leading to gentrification and the emotional, cultural, economic and physical displacement it produces? These are just a few of the questions we’ll be exploring on this season of Cities@Tufts Lectures, a weekly free event series and podcast where we explore the impact of urban planning on our communities and the opportunities to design for greater equity and justice.
[00:01:04] I’m your host, Tom Llewellyn. In addition to this audio, you can watch the video and read the full transcript of this lecture and discussion on sharable.net. And while you’re there, get caught up on all of our past lectures. And now here’s Professor Julian Agyeman, who will welcome you to the Cities@Tufts Fall colloquium and introduce today’s lecturer.
Julian Agyeman: [00:01:34] Hello and welcome to the cities at Tufts colloquium, along with our partners Sharable and the Kresge Foundation and more recently, the Barr Foundation. I’m Professor Julian Agyeman and together with our research assistants Perri Sheinbaum and Caitlin McLennan, 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. We’d like to acknowledge that Tufts University’s Medford campus is located on colonized Wampanoag and Massachusetts territory.
[00:02:09] Today, we are delighted to welcome Isabelle Anguelovski and James Connolly. Isabelle is the director of the BCNUEJ the Barcelona Laboratory for Urban Environmental Justice and Sustainability, Professor at ICREA, a Catalan Institute for Research and Advanced Studies, Principal Investigator at ICTA, the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, and coordinator of the Research Group on Healthy Cities and Environmental Justice at IMIM, the Medical Research Institute of the Hospital del Mar in Barcelona. Why so many acronyms and so many jobs, Isabelle? We’ll talk about that offline.
[00:02:53] James is co-director of BCNUEJ (Barcelona Lab for Urban Environmental Justice and Sustainability), and he’s a BCNUEJ Affiliated Researcher and Assistant Professor of Community and Regional Planning at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
[00:03:06] Isabelle and James’s talk today is, in fact, a book launch for their forthcoming book: The Green City and Social Injustice: Tales from North America and Europe, which is in my Routledge book series Equity, Justice and the Sustainable City. Isabelle, James, a Zoom-tastic welcome to the Cities@Tufts colloquium as usual microphones and video off and please send questions through the chat function. Isabelle, James.
Isabelle Anguelovski: [00:03:50] Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here. It’s always wonderful to come back to the Tufts and to the Boston community. So we wanted to take advantage of the talk today — and thank you, Julian, again, for your wonderful support and always very warm welcome through the years — to present a book which is basically a collective endeavor, a very large international endeavor where we together as a group of thirty five authors doing research in 21 cities, we’ve done research in more cities, but they are not included here. Actually, we’d like to present our work on the Green City and social injustice.
[00:04:32] We’ve conducted a total of 500 interviews for this book, and we have then divided up in a series of tales. The purpose of the book was to have a historic and a story-like narrative of our analysis and also to be able to present and hopefully share the book as a teaching tool as case studies that can be taught across undergraduate and graduate studies. And the book really for us reflects the broader research that we do at our lab.
[00:05:03] And so our lab, the BCNUEJ lab, was born just five years ago, almost exactly five years ago this fall, and we are a group of 20 researchers across the Social and Public Health Sciences. We bring together research, as in this book, on environmental and climate gentrification, alternative models for growth and degrowth, financialization and housing, as well as urban health. And we try to do that across a variety of settings, including in North America and Europe, which is the focus of this book.
[00:05:36] And so the broader question that drove us to write this book — to put this book together, were the two following ones: how can planning move away from urban greening being embedded in politics of unequal redevelopment, competitive urbanism and land speculation? And how can green cities be truly just an emancipatory for all, rather than being a driver of new social and racial injustices?
[00:06:03] If we think about the broader theoretic views that inform our work, there is first the one that has to do with the legacy of an equal access to green space in cities, which is coming together with the legacy of environmental racism and housing discrimination. And so we come at this book with the recognition that, historically speaking, cities in North America and Europe have a variety of neighborhoods that have suffered from this legacy. We see that in our case of Barcelona, for example, where places that might have had new parks like La Trinitat, those parks are surrounded by highway complexes and air pollution. This is also the case in a place like New Orleans, where historically actually the presence of green space was replaced by highway corridors crossing and tearing Black neighborhoods apart. It’s also coming up in other places that inform the book.
[00:07:05] So that’s the first, let’s say, legacy in environmental injustice we are working with. However, what we also recognize is that green planning is now at a green paradox moment, as James has written about also before the book, because of how environmental privilege and urban growth are co-dependent. And so in globalizing cities, in all the cities that we have in the book, we see this paradox being exercised in different ways. Which means that despite the needs that exist for urban greening and the multiple goal benefits that derive from urban greening, we see green infrastructure recreating green LULUs (locally unwanted land uses) in racially mixed and working class neighborhoods.
[00:07:48] And so this brings us to one of the core focuses of the book, and we are not the only ones writing on this, which is environmental gentrification, right? Which is this entire environmental planning agenda related to public green spaces that is combined with the displacement or exclusion of economically vulnerable population under these very strong environmental branding and ethics saying that green is good for everyone, as Hilary Angelo also writes about.
[00:08:18] And of course, green gentrification is also embedded in other dimensions of this relationship between urban ecology and gentrification, such as in cases of green climate gentrification, which we have also written about. And how is that manifested? It’s manifested in the fact that working class and racialized minorities are the groups more likely to experience residential and social displacement from both green climate infrastructure and its associated gentrification risks.
[00:08:47] And so in this context of green gentrification, what we also think that we push forward in the book is how urban greening is embedded into processes of green branding and urban growth. We have seen in previous research, which we are just very briefly bringing in the book, that high levels of urban green boosterism — meaning this deep green image, this green identity that many globalizing cities are articulating now or selling — all these levels of green boosterism are associated with high levels of unaffordability.
[00:09:21] As you can see here in the case of Vancouver, this is one of the most livable cities in the world, and what we also see is that it’s one of the most unaffordable cities in the world. And so in that sense, these boosterism, this green boosterism, is intertwined with urban revitalization that leads to less affordability, and at the same time elite access to urban greening.
[00:09:43] And then moving again one level deeper, one of the logics that we have been focusing on in the book — and in another article that my colleague Melissa Garcia Lamarca is focusing on in more specific ways — is the green-grabbing logic. And the green-grabbing logic is exercised by real estate developers, real estate agents around them, together with banks and investors to capitalize on greening and appropriate the value of greening. And at the same time, extract rent from greening, both from the land value increase that comes up with the greening purpose, at the same time, as with the consumer and investor demand that drives and is driven by greening. Under these forms of grabbing, we also have a discourse articulation and social grabbing as developers and real estate investors around them have an interest now to show how greening is also an aspiration for them and aspiration for their sector, and also articulate a discourse of social contribution. Even though the social contribution is only for a few.
[00:10:53] And then one of the other theoretical lenses that we try to push forward in the book is the racialization of greening. We have a series of neighborhoods that have a high number of racialized residents, immigrants from the Global South in both the US and Europe. And so what we see is that there is an increasing white supremacy in greening as green gentrification illustrates different forms of displacement — physical, financial and social-cultural. And so greening ends up being a practice, a social spatial practice, of white supremacy, which includes land grabbing, as I showed earlier in the previous slide, and also the exclusion and coercion of non-white practices in green space. And so a series of chapters that James will briefly talk about afterwards illustrate this dynamic. And that’s your turn, James.
James Connolly: [00:11:44] Thank you. I just wanted to say it’s a pleasure to be here with you all today to discuss this work a little bit. As Isabelle said, this book involves thirty five authors and twenty two different case studies in twenty two different cities across Europe and North America, meaning there’s a lot to organize. And I wanted to say a bit about how we organize it, but also make a note that all of these cases do always come back together around this nexus of urban greening and social justice. And that definitely unites the cases, and we worked hard to make sure that that thread works strongly throughout all of the cases. However, that manifests in different ways — that nexus manifests in different ways, in different cases. And so we organize these different ways into five parts within the book. Each of these parts speaks in different ways to the conceptual frame that Isabelle just described.
[00:12:34] So the first part of the book is a set of cases that might be very familiar to people who are thinking about green gentrification, and this part is called the social costs of glitzy green urbanism. The cities in this section include Milan, Valencia, Amsterdam and Bristol. And this is a section that speaks to what you might call the Highline effect of urban greening. They’re very sort of glitzy, high profile greening cases that bring that kind of cachet to cities and thus have social equity implications. So just to give you a sense of some of the types of greening that we’re looking at in these cases, you can see these big vertical walls, things of that nature, green ways, big, large implementations in cities.
[00:13:13] In the second section of the book, we are shifting a bit to cases that are looking less at the kind of glitzy aspect of greening and more at what we call the compounded risks and impacts of urban greening and post-industrial environments. So here it’s really more about as environments are shifting away from these kinds of heavy industry, post-industrial, into a post-industrial identity — what role does greening play in reorganizing risk within those cities? So the cities we look at in this section include Dallas, Glasgow, San Francisco, Seattle and Cleveland. And I’ll speak in a moment just a bit more about San Francisco to give you a better sense of particularly what kinds of arguments come out in this section. Just to give you a sense of the types of environments that we’re talking about in these cities, it’s former brown fields that have been transformed and then entered into the process of redevelopment in these cities.
[00:14:07] And the third section of the book — the third part of the book that speaks to another strand of ways that social justice forms a nexus with urban greening. We look at Washington, DC, Atlanta, Austin, Texas and Boston as one group, and we call this group of cities: cities that are recreating unjust racialized landscapes in the green city. So in these cities, particularly, the question of how racialized landscapes get reinterpreted through urban greening is really central, and that becomes the main thread that really comes to the surface in this section of the book. Perhaps in questions we can specifically talk about Washington, DC, Austin and Boston, which Isabelle and I have done particular research. So just to give you a sense of these types of environments, these are environments where formerly highly racialized neighborhoods have seen new greening interventions as a kind of spearhead into a gentrification process.
[00:15:05] In the fourth part of the book, we’re looking here at a group of cities that performs what we call a complex entanglement of greening and multiple other gentrification pressures. So these are cities where green gentrification is definitely present, but it’s a little bit more mixed up with other broader pressures for gentrification. So it’s a little bit less obviously linked and or hooked on to the greening piece. But the greening plays a part of the conversation and an important part, but it’s always mixed up with these other forces that are driving gentrification in the cities. And so we’re looking here at Dublin, Montreal, Philadelphia and Barcelona as examples of this. Barcelona, for example, has very strong tourism pressures and other things that are happening, that are really driving changes in the city. And this group of cities are really characterized by this fact.
[00:15:52] And then finally, in the fifth group of cities, these cities form what we call the fragile green justice victories and grey zones in the just green city. So we’re trying here to shift a bit toward what are some of the hopeful directions that we’re seeing in cities. What are some cities that are definitely speaking to the nexus of social justice and urban greening, but maybe speaking to it in a way that gives us a little bit of a sense of how some of the injustices can be addressed through greening.
[00:16:18] And so here we’re looking at Copenhagen, Nantes, Vienna and Portland. It’s important to say that these cities are not just about addressing injustices, but we can find cases and examples in these cities of that happening. So we have different kinds of greening initiatives happening in these cities, and they come at this question in different ways. But we thought it very important in this book to also address the fact that greening is not just about driving injustice, but there are ways of thinking about greening as a driver of social justice as well.
[00:16:44] So those are the five sections of the book, and what we wanted to do now is just give you a slight taste of what some of these chapters include in a bit more detail, but in a very brief way. So we’re not going to give the full case study just a bit of a sense of what two of these chapters include based upon work that Isabelle and I personally did for the book and then conclude the talk with how we wrap the book up and then open it up for questions from you all.
[00:17:11] So I’ll talk a bit about the San Francisco case that we present in the book, and then I’ll turn it over to Isabelle to talk a bit about Dublin. And if anyone wants to, in the discussion, raise other cities that we would like to discuss, we’d be happy to do so as well. So the title of the San Francisco chapter, it’s Chapter eight in the book and it’s from Section two. So section two talks about the ways that compounded risks are reorganized by new greening interventions in the city. And you’re looking at a particular neighborhood in San Francisco, which is the Bayview/Hunters Point neighborhood. And this is a neighborhood that probably makes the most sense for this section because it is formerly a very heavy industry area of San Francisco.
[00:17:51] We entitle this chapter: A community fights for its health while battling impending gentrification: Bayview/Hunters Point, San Francisco. So to give you a sense, Bayview Hunters point is this part of San Francisco that’s the closest to us in the picture right now. You can still see in this picture the Old Candlestick Park, and that’s a former baseball stadium which has been torn down in recent years. But that’s where Bayview Hunters Point is, it’s right out in that section of San Francisco. But it’s also where we have a former Navy shipyard, we have a lot of very, very heavy industries that have, since the Second World War, have been very active in this part of San Francisco. And it is an area that for decades has been what you might call a sort of classic environmental justice neighborhood within San Francisco.
[00:18:38] I use this particular picture, though, to show how close the very dense downtown area of San Francisco is to Bayview Hunters Point. And that’s a very important context here to keep in mind. Some of you may be aware there’s a recent, very good movie called The Last Black Man in San Francisco, and Bayview Hunters Point plays the backdrop for that movie. The neighborhood where the main characters grew up is Bayview Hunters Point. These are scenes from that movie, and you’re looking at Bayview Hunters Point behind you. You’re looking at some of the cleanup that’s happening.
[00:19:08] One very essential part of the context of Bayview Hunters point is that you’re seeing a picture here of the old navy shipyards to give you a sense of the kinds of things that happened here. Those things have since shut down and cleanup has been active for a couple of decades now. But also, you have the first new transit line built in the city in 50 years, coming to Bayview Hunters Point from the downtown area. It actually ends in this neighborhood, and you can see it’s the T line on the Third Street line. It’s a light rail line that makes its way along the eastern waterfront of San Francisco.
[00:19:41] And you’re looking at a map here, basically of the eastern waterfront of San Francisco, which — and the Third Street Line is shown on the map, as well as a number of other very, very large new greening interventions that are coming to Bayview Hunters Point. Essentially, a lot of these old industrial lands are being converted into new nature preserves and or parks, as well as along a greenway called the New Greenway along the waterfront. And essentially, the eastern waterfront starting at downtown is the current tidal wave of gentrification in the city of San Francisco. So it’s just making its way down from downtown through Mission Bay, through Dogpatch, toward Bayview Hunters Point. And so there’s a great deal of gentrification pressure being felt in the neighborhood, though it is very much in a pre-gentrification state right now.
[00:20:27] It’s also very important to mention here that Bayview Hunters Point is considered by most people to be the last neighborhood in San Francisco with a remaining historic concentration of Black population. There used to be Black neighborhoods throughout San Francisco, but recent decades of rapid gentrification and demographic change has radically altered that, and Bayview is one of the last areas where there is a concentrated Black population in the city.
[00:20:55] The key point for this case that I wanted to highlight is that basically what’s happening in Bayview Hunters Point is something that we’re seeing in a lot of cities, and it’s one of the key tensions between social justice and greening in cities reflected in this quote — and this is a quote from one of the longtime residents of Bayview Hunters Point, and it says, “Everyone is trying to stabilize housing. If you don’t have a place to stay, you don’t care that the sea level is going to rise. You don’t care that your air is bad, you don’t care about the quality of the environment. And this is from a resident who I’ve been fighting for environmental cleanup for decades. And she’s seeing that really, these immediate threats of housing and gentrification are displacing concern over that threat.
[00:21:36] So residents are forced to make this tradeoff. And just to leave this case, there’s a greening group that’s very active citywide. And essentially, as this quote says, they’ve had trouble implementing new green interventions in Bayview Hunters Point, particularly, because of residents’ resistance to new green measures, because basically they see it as linked to gentrification processes and have social justice concerns about it. So it’s this very fraught tension between gentrification and greening in these cleaned up neighborhoods, formerly industrial neighborhoods that are going through cleanup that Bayview Hunters Point really exposes as an issue. And with that, I’ll hand it off back to Isabelle to discuss one other case, and then we’ll close it out.
Isabelle Anguelovski: [00:22:18] Thank you, James. So we didn’t want to have a presentation that did not include any European cases. So I sadly put away my D.C. slides, which I care a lot about, to just include a few slides from Dublin. So Dublin belongs to Part four, which is about the complex entanglement of greening and multiple other gentrification pressures. In what we like a lot about Dublin and here, I want to acknowledge the work of my colleague, Panagiota Kotsila who I shared field work with, is that Dublin represents a case of both very difficult, little by little greening in a context of a fast-growing city that is embedded into tourism-driven but also student accommodation-driven gentrification. And that’s something quite unique that we are increasingly seeing now and why student accommodations are one of the new venues for capital accumulation in cities is something that I’d like to talk a little about in the latter part of Dublin.
[00:23:17] So, The Liberties is one neighborhood in the center of Dublin in a district called District Eight. It’s an industrial neighborhood, but not at all in the sense that Bayview Hunters Point is. It is a neighborhood that had a lot of small factories associated with Irish traditions and a lot of worker housing built around those factories. A lot of social housing, very poorly maintained, very poorly invested in over the years. And at the same time, the district in Ireland with the lowest proportion of greening in the neighborhood.
[00:23:56] And so what we see in Dublin is that The Liberties face two concurrent historic crises, how to green and how to improve housing, and nowadays, housing affordability for working class residents. To give you an idea of this deep social inequalities related to housing prices, in Dublin in 2018, just in a year in Dublin Eight in particular, home prices went up by seven percent, which I know in many U.S. cities do not mean as much as — seven percent might not seem as much as it is for us. But in the context of Dublin Eight, it was very substantial. And at the same time, it’s a city that has 30,000 units of vacant housing. So a really deep access to housing crisis at the same time as housing affordability.
[00:24:46] To try to address this lack of greening — and just to give you an idea, everything in Dublin Eight feels gray. The walls, the streets, the weather. So there is a very deep sensation of being in a box — and residents talk about it in terms of their mental health. Like, everything is gray, their future is gray, their streets are gray, and there is no hope.
[00:25:09] And so in 2015, the Dublin City Council released The Liberty’s Greening Strategy, which, for them, had social, economic and moral aim for substantially greater green investment. And it was meant to be a series of new parks, new gardens, new green streets as well, and new biking infrastructure. And the two main, let’s say, features that best illustrate the greening strategy is the park, which is Weaver Park. It’s a park that was built upon the mobilization of many families, many working class families in The Liberties. And it’s a really great center of recreation, rights of nature to nature and play for kids and really strong neighborhood cohesion.
[00:25:54] The other space that illustrates the greening strategy is Bridgefoot Street Park, which is still under construction — even though it’s been decided and budgeted for the last four years. And it is also meant to be a large-scale new amenity that will also represent The New Liberties. However, this greening process, as visible as it is and as emblematically focused as it is on a few spaces, has also, along it, pushed away and eradicated community gardens. And so what we really tried to show in this article is which types of greening are being favored and which ones are becoming illegitimate, if you will.
[00:26:38] One of the main issues that we also highlight in relationship to how the greening strategy is being deployed is that it is legitimizing and helping to market high end student housing. And when we talk about here is large real estate corporations like GSA, for example, which is a global student housing, luxury student housing group, which is building small units, luxury small units, of housing within large skyscrapers all over global cities, including Dublin, Copenhagen, London, Barcelona, Sydney etc. And so the greening strategy was really a way to legitimize how a neighborhood was changing and to legitimize this large scale investment.
[00:27:25] The problem with those accommodations is that not only are they not reserved for residents themselves who deeply need this type of housing, any type of housing for that matter, is that they are not easily convertible because they are benefitting from recent regulations that do not oblige developers to build with as much light, as many windows, as many balconies and as much space as other types of housing. And in that sense, they cannot be zoned as residential, and that’s particularly important. And at the same time, global investors know that those types of housing do not require to abide by inclusionary zoning laws. And so in that sense, they do not have to include any affordable housing features.
[00:28:08] What’s also particularly interesting in those massive developments that are also taking place all over The Liberties is that this type of student housing is the first entry gate to new transnational tech-led development in the neighborhood, which has been illustrated in other parts of Dublin along the waterfront. And so you have these kind of different waves of capital investment that rebrand a neighborhood that helped to revitalize it in the ways of capital investment, of course, but are excluding the original working class residents.
[00:28:41] So just to give you a quote from a public official fighting against those recent neighborhood changes, “The greening strategy was to make it look like this is a good area for you to invest in. Build new student accommodation here, because next door you’re going to get a park, you’re going to get a nice tourist trail. We’re going to clean up the mess, but nothing for the residents.”
[00:29:01] What we also see in Dublin and in The Liberties in particular, is how greening is becoming gated and how greening is becoming financialized and financed by those real estate developers who managed to create a legitimacy for that project by saying that there will include public space in them. It’s a little bit like Chapter 91, in Massachusetts for those of you who are familiar with it. So they financed greening, but then they privatized it and then they gate it, which is the case of that student accommodation that you see here, which did not use to have a gate. And there was a nice park inside that was meant to be open for the public and now it’s gated.
[00:29:39] So just to conclude on Dublin, and let’s say this dichotomous, green neighborhood that we see, is how can we reconcile both? And how can the Dublin City Council move towards a more affordable, inclusive greening that also does not pave the way for these massive large-scale redevelopments that not only doesn’t give housing to the residents that have been living in Dublin, but at the same time does not allow for a more inclusive public spaces to be present in the neighborhood?
[00:30:10] And that’s really, really difficult in the context in which Dublin is, which is that is does not have a very deep history of organizing in capacity, if you will, in or around housing issues. Because of the identity, because of the religious identity and organizing and political manifestations of the Dublin identity over time, social issues have really just been the victim of those types of identity politics, and that is something that came in a lot of our interviews. And it was really interesting because, unlike what you see in many of our American cities, you don’t have a housing movement. You don’t have a long legacy of community organizing in Dublin because everyone was organized around this political and religious identity for decades, which really did not give space to any other forms of organizing. And so how can we avoid the construction of these dichotomies greening neighborhoods when you also do not have this deep housing organizing capacity? And the floor is yours, James, again,
James Connolly: [00:31:12] Thank you, Isabelle. In the name of time, we’re just going to quickly give a sense of how we close the book and then we’ll open it up for questions. There’s a conclusion to the book called A New Tale for the Green City, and it’s very much pointing toward our intention to, in fact, encourage people to write this new tale for the Green City in terms of social justice nexus. And essentially, just to state that kind of key takeaway for us, it’s that unless greening is linked to a conscious push, a conscious effort to push toward green justice via what we call an anti-subordination, intersectional and relational mode of urban greening, unless that which is required happens, then you’re going to have these continued links between greening and social injustice, given the development context of cities today.
[00:31:57] And so we try to spell out what this conscious push toward green justice looks like in the conclusion. And we also offer, just to give you a notion of this, a whole chapter on what are some of the policy and planning pathways toward green justice just to give a very concrete set of steps that cities and people are interested in thinking about this can take in order to push toward equitable green development in cities. And we base these steps on what policy tools we see cities starting to experiment with and we see starting to emerge within the cities we’ve looked at.
[00:32:27] So there’s a book called Policy and Planning Tools for Urban Green Justice that you can download for free from the Barcelona Lab for Urban Environmental Justice website. And it lists all of these tools. But there’s also a chapter in this book that summarizes some of them. And I won’t go through this, but just to give you a sense, there are these kinds of ways that the tools are broken down and how we can mobilize them toward green justice.
[00:32:47] We think that some of these tools can help us move toward addressing some of the deep conceptual issues that Isabelle raised in the beginning of the talk, and that our cases helped to expose in a really concrete fashion. And then I just wanted to also mention quickly that we have a video called The Green Divide — a movie, actually, I should say, an online documentary called The Green Divide that uses the video format to dig into some of these same issues in some of the cities that we’ve also looked at. And with that, we would like to turn it over to questions. Thank you.
“The Green City and Social Injustice: Tales from North America and Europe” Discussion
Julian Agyeman: [00:33:19] Thank you, James. Thank you, Isabelle. Ok, wonderful presentation. My internet dropped for some reason, and so I’ve got the questions. Perri sent me them, but they do not have who asked the question. But I’m going to start: really interested in Bayview Hunters point. The community didn’t want greening, did they like, the people of Brooklyn articulate a kind of just green enough message?
James Connolly: [00:33:45] I wouldn’t say that I found much clear articulation of a just green enough sentiment. What I would say is I found a lot of frustration amongst people who have been pushing for greening for quite a long time in Bayview Hunters Point and essentially not getting it. It was falling on deaf ears in the city by their description. And then their perception is that it’s finally coming in a format that is very much formatted for large scale development to be enabled in their neighborhood. And that to them is extremely frustrating.
[00:34:16] So I would say that their response isn’t some sort of nuanced greening is going to work here because they basically say it’s all now — it’s done. It’s all now shifted toward this kind of greening as a mode of gentrifying the neighborhood. And the greening that I was talking about in the quote was particularly just street trees. It was just street trees in the neighborhood. So very small-scale greening initiatives. But there was very much high suspicion for those. That’s for good reasons because of the circumstance that’s been created in the neighborhood over several decades as a result of the kind of shifts that have happened in San Francisco.
Julian Agyeman: [00:34:49] Thanks, James. Question, and I can remember this is from Ben Davey, but this is the only one I can remember. Hi, Jim. Hi, Isabelle. I admire your effort, but I’m missing the overarching theory in a post-colonial, post-modern sense of greening and social justice. What’s your response to that?
Isabelle Anguelovski: [00:35:07] The postmodern way, I think that we haven’t deeply theorized it in the book. What we have much more given a lens to is to the racialized landscapes. And how can we address the deep legacy of both segregation, unequal access to green space, urban renewal and now greening? So this kind of waves of urban development that have created the racialized gentrifying landscape that we now see in green cities and where greening is basically not addressing those deeper issues.
[00:35:41] And so, for example, in the case of Washington DC, that I didn’t present today, the 11th Street Bridge Park Project aims in some ways at repairing the trauma of urban renewal, at tying together neighborhoods across the river that have different racial composition. It goes back to also giving land in some ways back to communities of color through this Community Land Trust. But it doesn’t, in some ways — and that’s why I think our theory comes in — it doesn’t have a deep decolonial and emancipatory lens because it is still embedded within the neoliberal practice of urban green financing, urban green growth in the city and the ways of investment that the bridge is paving and the types of interests that are now embedded in the project, Like tax-incremental financing zones, for example. Those really show you how greening — if it is executed to the large scale as it is now — it doesn’t deeply go back to questions of reparations in particular. And access both to nature and to land for all is not going to be able to move away from this racial capitalism that I think the case illustrates. So that’s maybe one answer.
James Connolly: [00:36:59] I just want to add a quick bookend to that, which is to say thank you for the question. I think it’s an important one for this topic. And something that I find to be very theoretically rich to think about in the context of this particular book is that there is a very strong link in most of our North American cases to — the green grabbing logic links up with this settler colonial view of the use of greening within cities. And comparing that settler colonial view within North America with the European context of urbanization is theoretically a rich area for exploration in the book, I think starts to surface some of that, but there’s a lot of questions I think one could ask about this issue.
Julian Agyeman: [00:37:39] Great. Thanks to you both. What recommendations would you make for a city that seeks to embark on a greening agenda without engendering green driven gentrification?
Isabelle Anguelovski: [00:37:49] I think that the tools that our colleagues in the final policy chapters present — like the 30 anti-gentrification and 20 inclusive greening tools, I think start giving you some answers about what is being done across the board. And one of our messages was that housing should precede — greening housing rights should be very deeply embedded into greening. Which, I guess, it’s not a surprise. But what we’re trying to say is that this is also not enough because of the social-cultural displacement that also exists with the way greening is taking place. So, if you don’t have this association of anti-displacement and inclusive greening and racialized priorities given to greening practices, then this green injustice cannot be achieved.
[00:38:37] I also think there is this deep recognition that not everyone is Vienna, for example. Not every city has this deep history of socialist planning, where housing rights and affordability remain at the center of city priorities across decades, decades and decades. Not every city is Nantes in France, which has inclusionary zoning at 56 percent. So imagine for every 100 units, you have 56 units that are protected for residents. So large scale redevelopment is not going to take over those rights. And that’s being implemented, that’s not being bought up by developers on the side afterwards. So that’s also this deep history that not every solution will work everywhere.
James Connolly: [00:39:18] And just to pick up on that, what the key point of the policy chapter is that each city has a kind of mix of tools and we try to lay out all the tools and say, OK, you have to find the right mix that works in your city. And just state another way, what cities can do here, if you let greening do what greening does in the current context of urban development, you’re probably going to end up with problems. And that’s why the push toward consciously shifting greening toward a different direction is, I think, the key takeaway here.
Julian Agyeman: [00:39:44] Thank you. With the exception of Cleveland, your case studies focus on large metropolitan areas. Have you seen the green gentrification phenomenon in mid-sized cities?
Isabelle Anguelovski: [00:39:55] I think we name the cities that we have focused on mid-sized cities to tell you the truth. So it’s mostly cities between five hundred thousand residents and a million and a half. So in some ways, those are mid-sized cities. We do not have the major metro areas like L.A., New York or Houston, for example, in the U.S. Whether that happens in small cities? Yes, certainly. So we see that in Europe as well in cities like Leipzig, for example, in Germany, which were never on the map of anyone even 15 years ago. And now you have this wave of greening that — and gentrification — that affects the city and then gentrification moves kind of through a region, right? So D.C. is being gentrified by Boston, which itself was maybe gentrified by New York. And so you have these flows of greening and gentrification that reproduce themselves and that, in a way, move the greening frontier forward.
James Connolly: [00:40:51] The book does include cities like Cleveland and Baltimore and Nantes and Bristol and these are not the largest metropolises they are. They’re much more identified as mid-sized cities, I would say.
Julian Agyeman: [00:41:00] Thanks. Very specific question here. Can you talk about what Portland, Oregon has done to reduce green gentrification?
Isabelle Anguelovski: [00:41:08] My colleague Margarita Triguero Mas I think, is in the audience, too. So Margarita, feel free to jump in — she led the fieldwork in Portland. The neighborhood that we studied in Portland was Cully. And what I think was very powerful in Cully was the ability to focus on green resilience planning in the context of climate impacts and do it via business models that really empowered some racialized communities — the Latinx community in particular — via co-ops and other minority-led businesses across, if you will, the whole vertically-integrated planning, design and execution of greening.
[00:41:48] And so in that sense, you create a whole movement of investment in greening from within. You also change the entire investment from towards, let’s say, from outside towards the inside practice, which is often the case in the communities that you see. And you have also strong political organizing around it and voice that is being raised along the way. Just to simplify and quickly summarize Portland.
[00:42:15] And Portland is also super interesting — sorry, I meant to say that — it’s not necessarily in the context of what we studied, but what we also found along the way, which is the right to return policy and right to return agenda. That does not yet affect Cully but it affects Albina, for example, where residents displaced by urban renewal are now able to claim the right to come back.
Julian Agyeman: [00:42:35] Great, thanks for that. We have a question from Joyce Klemperer in New York: I’m curious about the level of awareness and commitments of racial and economic justice in government agencies responsible for planning and overseeing development. She says, also wondering about the influence of the real estate development sector in general, because in New York, developers essentially own the city regardless of who’s in office.
James Connolly: [00:42:59] Those are, I think, astute observations. Yeah, I mean, I think maybe if you think about the first section of the book, the kind of glitzy green urbanism section of the book, that very much is about linking large-scale greening with increased development value, increased value of properties. That trend comes up in different ways throughout the book and different sections, but that’s especially this kind of high-profile section of urban greening and green gentrification is this link.
[00:43:24] We talked to public sector agency representatives in all of the cities we went to, and I would say there’s increasing awareness of the racialized impacts and the ways that cultural norms get reshuffled within the greening conversation, especially when development interests or financial impacts are considered. There’s increasing awareness, but I think a lot of — in our experience — a lot of public sector agency staff are still trying to get their head around what it means and what cities can actually do in this conversation, relative, when they’re speaking to developers about what to do here. I think that’s still very much an emerging conversation.
Julian Agyeman: [00:44:01] Great, thanks. All the examples you gave on the recreation of unjust racialized landscapes were American. Is this also a phenomenon seen in European cities like London and Paris?
Isabelle Anguelovski: [00:44:13] So we didn’t study London and Paris, but the answer is still yes from at least what other researchers have shown. What we can give you examples of are places like Amsterdam, where my colleague Carmen Pérez del Pulgar did some research in Amsterdam Noord, for example, and the park called Noordest Park, interestingly enough, is very much embedded into the post-industrial waterfront redevelopment of Amsterdam Noord.
[00:44:39] And what she found is that park is very little used by Muslim minorities who live in the vicinity of the park. It’s very much benefiting the leisure practices of long-term working class residents. But new residents are not only not feeling that the place isn’t for them, but more in general within the new neoliberal regime of governance, integration and development in the Netherlands, minorities really very much have the finger pointed at them if they are poor, if they are still not integrated within public space. And so you have now this sensation that Amsterdam is moving from being the just (and green) city that Susan Fainstein studied at length to being dismantled for what also our colleague Carmen calls the constant mobility. You have to be constantly mobile, economically mobile, socially mobile, you have to agree to change neighborhoods. And so these immigrants, who are not part of this practice that the government is promoting, then definitely do not have a space in the city and not in the green spaces that are being created, either.
Julian Agyeman: [00:45:50] Ok, has your research found examples of cities that have found that balance between greening and spatial justice?
James Connolly: [00:45:58] I’m curious to hear if Isabelle has a different take on this, but I would hesitate to say that there’s sort of like an ideal model out there right now — that there’s a city that has figured this out. For a good reason. It’s a complicated set of issues that’s not strictly just confined to the greening question. It has to do with very large dynamics in urban development.
[00:46:16] But I would say that a lot of cities are struggling to figure it out. A lot of cities are working on it from different sectors and from different angles. And the last section of cities, we definitely have cities that have projects going on that are designed to take this conscious green justice approach. And I would say that we do see that. And the cities in the last section of the book, for example, but there are others out there as well as these that have projects going on to try to build this, to try to make this happen. But, I don’t know, Isabelle, do you think there’s an ideal model out there?
Isabelle Anguelovski: [00:46:44] Well it’s a risky thought, right? Yeah, I mean, the cities like that always come back to our minds from an outcome standpoint, Vienna and Nantes, are the very interesting ones. And, actually, not is a gentrifying neighborhood. But it is still, because of these inclusionary zoning and these large-scale state-led redevelopment of industrial landscapes, able to maintain a wide income diversity in those green neighborhoods.
[00:47:09] And it’s also working towards equality and greening not only equity and greening. And so because of the parameter it chose is to have green space within 300 meters of every resident’s home, to be a city with 100 parks and gardens — like you have these really deep and transversal green and blue agenda that also allows you to have always access to a form of green space, which is super interesting. Vienna also has this legacy I was talking about earlier.
[00:47:37] A city that I think we all care very much about, which is ours, Barcelona, very much with the current municipality and the mayor of Ada Colau, has put greening of many, many different ways — because if you come to Barcelona, I know many people love it and it’s a great place for our landscapes and architecture, but it is not a green city. And so the city is just fighting to just tear up the concrete everywhere it can and bring it small scale green spaces and do it in working class neighborhoods in particular. Yes, that’s green gentrification, but the mission of it — to create the green and inclusive city — is very much at the center of Ada Colau’s agenda.
Julian Agyeman: [00:48:17] Ok, we’ve got so many questions and I’m not going to get through all of them, but I think this is a really excellent one. Do you think rehab programs to weatherize homes or lower energy costs in existing neighborhoods of color and or low income will drive gentrification?
Isabelle Anguelovski: [00:48:31] I mean, we haven’t studied that, but Stefan Bouzarovski’s work,a researcher in Manchester, in the UK, is about energy gentrification And so he shows that even those programs are linked to gentrification. There are a few articles out there on this. James, do you know of others?
James Connolly: [00:48:47] I would just say there is evidence of this out there, and it links to a kind of a bigger question that is about: does this extend beyond green spaces into sort of the wider notion of greening cities and these initiatives that do green cities? And one of the people in our labs in our lab, Galia Shokry, has worked a bit on this relative to green infrastructure related to water management. And there is evidence that it becomes linked up with larger cultural processes in the city, even if it’s a less tangible greening initiative like energy efficiency.
Julian Agyeman: [00:49:16] Okay, well, we are out of time. Fantastic work, Isabelle. I think the book is coming out November 30th. Is that right?
Isabelle Anguelovski: [00:49:24] I think so.
James Connolly: [00:49:25] Yeah, that’s right.
Julian Agyeman: [00:49:25] The thing about being a series editor is that I get a free copy. But you know what? I’m going to get one also for my department, UEP, because I just think this brings together so many of the issues we are passionate about in urban planning. Can we give an enormous thank you to James, to Isabelle, to the Barcelona Centre for Urban Environmental Justice? Go download their reports, the toolkits. They are a force to be reckoned with. And thanks for all the work that you do. Thank you very much. Next week, November 17, we have Kian Goh presenting her work on: Urban Resilience to Climate Justice. See you soon, people. Thank you.
Tom Llewellyn: [00:50:12] We hope you enjoyed this week’s lecture. Join us live for another event tomorrow or listen to the recording right here on the podcast next week. Cities@Tufts Lectures is produced by Tufts University and Sharable with support from the Kresge Foundation and the Barr Foundation. Lectures are moderated by Professor Julian Agyeman and organized in partnership with research assistants Perri Sheinbaum and Caitlin McLennan. “Light Without Dark” by Cultivate Beats is our theme song. Robert Raymond is our Audio Editor. Zanetta Jones manages communications and editorial, and the series is produced and hosted by me, Tom Llewellyn. Please hit subscribe, leave a rating or review wherever you get your podcasts and share it with others so this knowledge can reach people outside of our collective bubbles. That’s it for this week’s show. Here’s a final thought:
James Connolly: [00:50:59] Unless greening is linked to a conscious push, a conscious effort to push toward green justice via what we call an anti-subordination, intersectional and relational mode of urban greening. Unless that which is required happens, then you’re going to have these continued links between greening and social injustice, given the development context of cities today.