Institute of Geography and Sustainability of the University of Lausanne
Building an Equitable City An in itinere Analysis of the Urban Public Project Management of the Carré de Soie (Greater Lyon)
Inner-city neighborhoods, poor outskirts, and peri-urban spaces with no amenities usually suffer from social and environmental inequalities, such as poverty, unemployment, and exposure to noise and industrial hazards. The observed persistence of these inequalities over time points to an underlying trend – namely, that access to proper living conditions is fundamentally unequal, thus eliciting the question of how such inequali- ties are effected and how this trend can be reversed so as to build a more equitable city. Providing answers to such questions requires that the causal factors at play within the system of (re)production of urban inequalities be identified. Real estate markets, “micromotives and macrobehavior”, and public policies that bear on space are mostly involved. The latter are central in that they act on all the elements of the system. This thesis therefore focuses on the way public authorities shape the production of contemporary cities, by studying the public project ownership of major urban projects. The study of justice within the urban fabric also implies that the normative frames of reference of public action be questioned: what conception of justice should public action refer to? This thesis examines four perspec- tives (radical, substantialist, procedural, and integrative) each of which results in different principles of action. This theoretical part is concluded by a hybrid methodology that draws from sociology of organizations and public policy analysis and that suggests that the urban project may be understood as a play, whose outcome hinges on the actors’ acting. This methodology is applied to the empirical analysis of the public project ownership of an ongoing urban project in the Lyon first-ring suburbs: the Carré de Soie. Three main objectives are pursued: descriptive (reconstructing the scenario), analytical (assessing the nature of the play – fairy tale, tragedy or improvisation match), and prescriptive (drawing the moral of the story). The description of the public project ownership shows the successive deployment of four control strategies, whose implications on deadlines, project content (programs, morphologies), and public funding are significant. Building on the analysis, several recommendations can be made to allow the public sphere to control the process and ensure the urban project produces equity (most notably, anticipation and articulation of planning and real-estate strategy, as well as provision and maintenance of equipment and public spaces, funding of quality housing for a wide range of populations, etc.). More generally, a gap can be highlighted between those territories that are strategic to the development of the agglomeration and the limited resources of the munici- palities involved. This deficit calls for strengthening the investment abilities of the intermunicipal structure. By itself, the real-estate market logic brings about social polarization and urban inequalities. Building an equitable city requires a strong will on the part of public authorities, a will that must be reflected both in the stated ambition – setting priorities of urban development equitably – and in its implementation – managing urban public projects fairly.
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