Culture, Cities and Planning (2003)

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Note from the Editors:

The tenth anniversary issue of Critical Planning grapples with the interrelationships among culture, cities and planning. The axiom that cities shape people, and vice-versa, requires that in attempting to implement urban change, the planning profession consider not only people but also their cultural institutions and values. Furthermore, a new urban emphasis on culture as commodity has altered the planner’s role as well. Each of the articles, interviews and reviews published in this edition addresses some aspect of this territory, ranging in location, time period and particular focus.

We begin with an interview of Sharon Zukin by Carl Grodach. Zukin explains the multiple meanings of culture in her work. She observes an increasing commodification of culture as an economic tool used by city officials and developers. Zukin also expands on the process of urban gentrification in different cultures and cities, pointing out important differences between New York, Paris and Tokyo.

In her history of Los Angeles’s Filipino enclaves, or “P-towns,” Michelle deGuzman Magalong finds that their occupants were forced to relocate en masse every couple of decades in the twentieth century. A combination of structural racism, shifting development policies and land markets, and the determination of Filipinos to survive and adapt brought about the re-creation of a new Filipino community in whatever urban spaces were available.

In another article on Los Angeles, Todd Gish complicates the history of boosterism with his study of the All-Year-Club of Southern California. Arguing against a stereotype still used by some authors, Gish finds that growth-minded elites were never a unified monolith. Instead, Angeleno boosters managed to promote the region as a tourist paradise despite organizational squabbling and opposition.

Joseph Boski and Gerardo Gambirazzio interview urban designer and UCLA professor Richard Weinstein, who discusses the uses of culture in New York City planning. Weinstein describes the redevelopment of several key sites in Manhattan, including 42nd Street in the 1970s and the World Trade Center after September 11th, 2001, and how various meanings of “culture” apply to these projects.

Kin Wai Michael Siu uses the case of one market street in Hong Kong to examine the importance of local, everyday social and spatial patterns to successful redevelopment. Siu describes the relationships among the street’s uses and how they have been altered due to redevelopment there. He contends that standard practices of physical design should be augmented to include the facilitation of continued community practices and longstanding social networks.

Culture’s promotion as a tool of rescue, if not salvation, for depressed urban areas gets further treatment by the next author. David Vine’s study of the Fort Greene neighborhood in Brooklyn argues that such desirable outcomes are rare. Instead, Vine claims that the incorporation of cultural venues into redevelopment projects is more a tactic for boosting occupancy and overcoming opposition than it is based on a desire to enrich the lives of local residents.

The myth that the vast majority of homeless people are men has shaped much of the policy aimed at this problem, according to Deden Rukmana. His essay offers a gendered analysis of recent research into aspects of homelessness, including its suspected causes and the perceived needs of those afflicted. Rukmana argues that a more nuanced understanding of the experiences of women and men at risk can help policymakers attempting to address this social and economic challenge.

Finally, two book reviews close out this edition. Dan Chatman considers Global Culture, a collection of essays on the application of cultural policies in settings ranging from Singapore to New York. Geraldine Gardner reviews Sento at Sixth and Main, an anthology of case studies on attempts to preserve Japanese American cultural sites on the west coast.

We extend our thanks to the production staff, review board and outside reviewers who did much of the work that made this edition possible. Thanks also to our funders: the department of urban planning, the UCLA Graduate Students Association, the Ralph and Goldy Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, and finally the office of the Dean, who has provided us with funds to hire an office manager the past three years.

Todd Gish
Renia Ehrenfeucht
Dan Chatman