What is an inclusive city?
1. For me, inclusive means two things: racial/ethnic and economic diversity.
Racial and ethnic diversity is an interesting characteristic. Actually, as DC's black population falls, the city becomes more diverse. But because a lot of people define "diverse" as black majority, there is a lot of unease about the changes. My joke about this is that DC is becoming a white chocolate city, instead of a dark chocolate city.
But it's very complicated.
Did you see the article in the Post about WMATA retired employees having annual meetings--in North Carolina! That's because former area residents have re-migrated back to the South.
But there are still many neighborhoods that are majority black or majority white. It is true that as white population increases in some Census tracts, income goes up, which increases economic diversity theoretically, but the real issue is high income neighborhoods versus low income neighborhoods and increasing the economic attainment of lower income households.
2. And you can get a lot more radical than "economic diversity," when defining inclusivity. For example, what about what David Harvey and others call "The Right to the City"?
The question of what kind of city we want cannot be divorced from that of what kind of social ties, relationship to nature, lifestyles, technologies and aesthetic values we desire. The right to the city is far more than the individual liberty to access urban resources: it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city. It is, moreover, a common rather than an individual right since this transformation inevitably depends upon the exercise of a collective power to reshape the processes of urbanization. The freedom to make and remake our cities and ourselves is, I want to argue, one of the most precious yet most neglected of our human rights.
Of course I knew the reference. I participated in the Comp. Plan process like a lot of other people. I have the document still, and I've read it.
Ironically, probably on this blog are some of the only easily accessible links to that paper and the Comprehensive Plan Vision Papers. DC's Office of Planning dropped these links a few years ago.
From the document:
Washington DC—our nation’s capital and home to almost 600,000 people—has reached a pivotal moment in its evolution as a city. A booming economy, a hot housing market, and improved government services are transforming the landscape before our very eyes. After more than two centuries of development, Washington is reaching the stature of other great world capitals—places like London, Paris, and Tokyo.
A closer look at our landscape, however, reveals a legacy we have yet to overcome. We remain a divided city. We are geographically divided by race, educational attainment, income, and employment. Physical barriers, such as rail lines and freeways, only compound our social and economic divides.
This document, A VISION FOR GROWING AN INCLUSIVE CITY, seeks to move our city beyond these divides. The Vision is intended to guide an update of our city’s Comprehensive Plan, the legally mandated document that regulates how and where we grow.
... Growing inclusively means that individuals and families are not confined to particular economic and geographic boundaries but are able to make important choices—choices about where they live, how and where they earn a living, how they get around the city, and where their children go to school. Growing inclusively also means that every resident can make these choices—regardless of whether they have lived here for generations or moved here last week, and regardless of their race, income, or age.
4. I don't understand how smart growth doesn't equal inclusivity, and specifically the changes in the Zoning Rewrite, at least some of them*, by enabling the city and neighborhoods to be more diverse in terms of building stock and use, makes the city and neighborhoods more resilient and enables them to become more diverse economically.
(* My concern about the rewrites is that they don't go far enough on many of the dimensions, plus the overarching framework is poorly developed.)
If the city is urban it has the resilience to be able to be inclusive, even in the face of a market economy that values DC property more highly than comparable properties in most of the other jurisdictions in the region.
- If you de-emphasize automobility and improve transit, you improve people's ability to get around;
- If you de-emphasize automobility and improve transit, you reduce the amount of income that people devote to transportation (even though WMATA charges a lot more for weekly and monthly passes than do systems such as in San Francisco and New York City);
- in fact, I have been significantly influenced by the original Transit City planning process in Toronto because its foundational principle is social and economic equity: "That no one should be disadvantaged by not owning a car";
- de-emphasizing automobility increases resident interaction at the block and neighborhood level (e.g., Appleyard, Living Streets);
- if you have a greater diversity of housing types, including ADUs, within neighborhoods, you have the means to increase economic and racial diversity at the block and neighborhood scale;
- if you promote sustainable transportation modes you increase people throughput, neighborhood vitality and quality of life;
- regions and cities with robust transit infrastructure have higher incomes than regions that don't (Newman and Kenworthy, "The 10 Myths of Automobile Dependence" )
Also see the articles "Stranded by Sprawl," "A Mobility Prophet," and "The Complex Story of Race and Upward Mobility" from the New York Times, about the Equality of Opportunity Project, for more discussion about the economic inequality that results from sprawl and decentralization within metropolitan areas.
So I don't see how either the zoning rewrite or smart growth more generally is anti-"inclusivity". The rewrite and smart growth as a paradigm supports, interprets, and reifies inclusivity.
5. I do see opposing the various provisions as being more focused on keeping things the way they are which are not economically diverse at all, especially in the face of a significantly changing position of the District and the city's housing market in the context of the metropolitan landscape and economy.
African-American population is dropping not just as a percentage but in real terms. Etc. This is partly a function of displacement, and also a function of a different kind of outmigration, such as back to the South as referenced above, but also to nearby Maryland.
At the same time, the city's economic inequality is increasing. The city's demographics see a decrease in lower income population. . But it's not because this population is doing better--"a rising tide lifts all boats"--it's because they are being displaced out of the city.
Even when the "Growing an inclusive city" campaign was developed, the "velocity" of change and in-migration was nothing like it is today. What is a more inclusive alternative to strengthening and enhancing urbanism?
6. How do we build an inclusive city for the 21st century in the market context in which we are now and likely to be for the foreseeable future?
In a market economy, in a strong market especially, to be low income is to be disadvantaged.
Increasing the focus on sustainable transportation, increasing the focus on the addition of multiunit housing, increasing the focus on legalizing accessory dwelling units, increasing the revenue generating capacity of the city, etc., allows us (if we have the will, which we do not, at least so far) to address poverty amelioration in systematic ways.
7. Note that while I write like a hardass I don't like being in this position, taking this position, having this interpretation. (cf. some of the lyrics in the song embedded below, which seem pretty apt)
Advocacy groups like Committee of 100 on the Federal City have been essential to maintaining quality of life in the city and stabilizing neighborhoods during the many decades when housing and other trends did not favor center cities, and Washington in particular.
But that was then. It's 2013 and we have to plan for today and for tomorrow.
But the point is to be self-critical and consider the full ramifications of our positions.