City design help to include exclude people from the city

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To better understand how city design and planning help to include and exclude different groups of people from the city in both Los Angeles and London it is important to first consider what exclusion is. There are many types of exclusion but the ones I find most prominent to the title posed are: economic, social and geographical exclusion however it must be said at the outset that it is a difficult term to define as a whole.

Social exclusion may be defined as : ' A situation in which certain members of society are, or become, separated from much that comprises the normal 'round of living, and working within that society' (Philo, 2000).

Geographical exclusion is defined as: exclusion brought about by physical boundaries such as mountains, rivers, deserts etc as well as those created by geographers to define regions / areas.

Furthermore, it is important to consider not just exclusion but inclusion and how different groups are included into society and that although groups may be excluded it is either a) unpreventable or b) as a consequence of their own doing. Thus the knowledge of what the above terms mean becomes crucial to the essay title especially when in reference to the role that space plays in the process of inclusion and exclusion.

City Design and Planning

London does not conform to any particular classical model; its sheer complexity makes such a generalisation nigh on impossible. Over time the design of London has changed drastically. Ever since the great fire of London in 1666 much of the old design was recreated in a new city providing a more uniform and pedestrian friendly environment with wider streets, better hygiene and buildings now made of mortar instead of wood. The fire essentially levelled the slums and created a wave of redevelopment in the city excluding the homeless and the poor in many of the newly created wharfs and incorporating the middle and upper class.

'The first Rebuilding Act of 1667 laid down the types of housing that would be allowed as well as where they would be located:

Buildings of the first sort - cellar, two floors high with an attic on by-lanes were located on the smallest streets

Buildings of the second sort - one more storey than the first sort were located on larger streets

Buildings of the third sort - two more storeys than the first sort were to be located on main roads

Buildings of the fourth sort were essentially mansions with less limitation than the other three but still restricted to four storeys plus cellar and attic.'

(All Info about London - 2004)

This amounted to those who were less well-off being located in the first sort of buildings more so than other groups thus excluding them from the more affluent areas where three and four storey housing were located that had easy access via road and thus becoming socially excluded early on, far before the industrial revolution and the rise of semi-detached housing in the inner city.

If we look at residential areas within the city we have both private and public housing. The 'right to buy' legislation introduced by Margaret Thatcher under her reign as Prime Minister led to an increase in private home ownership as for the first time those who didn't own their homes were able to purchase them, it had great success and 'circa 55 per cent of properties were inhabited by owner-occupiers in 1979 and by comparison in 2003, this figure was 70 per cent.' Those who wanted to buy their house off the council received "a minimum discount of 32% and if they had lived there longer, received an even greater discount, up to 60% in some cases." (politics.co.uk - 2004)

This thus included more people into the UK housing market, increasing property values creating a positive wealth effect aided by the ability to draw down on a mortgage equity withdrawal. This was a positive step in governmental planning to help include more people into society, especially those with a marginal position. This step helped to reduce social exclusion and lead to waves of gentrification as occurred in Canary wharf. However, although for the most part this had a positive effect on both groups in society and the national economy there were those who did not benefit. Due to the increases in house prices, first time buyers became out-priced of the market and thus couldn't afford to own their own home. This created ghettos, segregating large groups in places like Hackney however now days Hackney has been redeveloped and Stratford is in the process of being transformed for the Olympics helping to integrate marginalised parties more into the community. The whole idea of staging the Olympics in east London was to encourage a wave of redevelopment and this is slowly happening.

One solution that arose to address social exclusion came in the form of additional council housing and the rise of housing associations providing accommodation for those who couldn't afford to get onto the property ladder namely the young such as the companies Anchor or Home Group. Although this has been the trend in recent years, we now see a trend of repossessions due to people defaulting on their mortgage as a consequence of the recession as can be seen below in figure 1.

Figure 1 showing the boroughs with the highest rates of claims leading to landlord repossession orders in Greater London. (http://www.londonspovertyprofile.org.uk/indicators/topics/debt/landlord-repossessions-by-borough)

http://www.londonspovertyprofile.org.uk/test/indicators/graphs/DEBTch3-3.gif

The recent drop in house prices has led to a negative wealth effect and furthermore an increase in the difficulty to obtain a loan/ mortgage from the banks especially for those on the periphery of society. Banks prefer to have safe investments and lending to those who already have substantial wealth is a safer bet. This is thus by definition a form of economic exclusion, not to mention the fact that 100% loan to value mortgages are no longer given but in almost all cases now less than 55% meaning lower income groups find it hard to gain independence from their family and have to stay at home due to finance being hard to come by.This thus means that if these groups still want to move out they are forced into marginal areas which have been poorly planned and thus less access to services meaning they are excluded geographically because they are not cited for gentrification / redevelopment in the same way as more accessible regions.

This means that groups that "are less economically productive are socially excluded and thus at best are afforded a marginal position in society" (Takahashi 1996 418). This means that because of their economic situation they are forthwith more inclined to be socially and geographically excluded from more affluent areas as they are deemed unwanted. "Spatial boundaries help to maintain social boundaries" (Sibley 1995 412). This could also be said vice versa, whereby those from more affluent backgrounds and neighbourhoods are excluded socially from the areas within which the other income groups/ ethnicities live. Entering these areas may, in a sense, make them feel excluded from this part of society such as in Hackney where since September 2009- September 2010, 2,250 crimes took place (Metropolitan Police 2009) which acts as a deterrent from the area.

City design and planning has in the past taken the approach that the richest who are able to afford the peak land values obtain them and due to the bid - rent theory those who are less well-off more typically have to settle with what is left which has for the most part in the UK been in the inner city areas or areas on the periphery of settlements. However these areas have experiences some levels of redevelopment and gentrification as occurred at the Isle of Dogs in London. The fact that they live in these areas helps to create a 'safe distance' from 'decent society'. This thus leads to "the conception that social exclusion is multidimensional" (Wacquant 1999) whereby those likely to be living in the worst housing, suffering of ill health etc are likely to be also excluded from the labour market and thus become stigmatized and stereotyped such as Hackney or Whitechapel. This is reflected in the services located there, Whitechapel has a large Bangladeshi and Pakistani population and its services illustrate this. The approach which had been taken in city design and planning combined with shifts in the British labour markets from primary to more tertiary sectors led to "the crisis of homelessness in the 1980s which is still continuing today brought about by the restructuring of the welfare system" (Wacquant 1999). 'This meant that by 1990 some 140,350 households were registered as 'homeless' by local authorities across England and Wales (Anderson et al, 1993 418).

"In Los Angeles the middle class demanded more spatial and social insulation from the brutalisation of its inner city neighbourhoods and the high contrast of social class and race. Taxes for green space were redirected to support redevelopment projects in industry this led to the creation of a new downtown Los Angeles as financial services located their offices into the cbd because of 2 billion dollars of tax subsidies. The planners had no forethought about the people's lives they were changing by introducing redevelopment agencies and creating new block-square complexes such as the Crocker centre." Davis, 1990) This would suggest that those on lower incomes were driven out due to escalating rent and housing prices caused by the mass development. The developers just built with little consideration for those the new developments might affect and cause to migrate away from these areas, shunned, grouped together in essentially ghetto communities excluding them because they are less economically and socially acceptable. "The city has been strategically planned and designed against the poor, to make them feel even more marginalised and out of place by the rise of piazzas, public art and exotic shrubbery, all funded by tax revenues. The fact that thousands of people living on the streets were on the edge of Bunker hill and the Civic centre meant that the local council introduced management measures as they tarnished the illusion of designer living in downtown L.A. City planning led to the homeless being essentially contained in Skid Row transforming the neighbourhood and excluding those who weren't able to escape such as the poor or the handicapped especially as there was little adequate housing. Crime levels were among the highest in the world meaning that a vicious cycle developed meaning that the police sought more and more to contain them and protect the more affluent citizens from the 'scum' of society. Deterrents have been set up by the council to exclude groups from even the periphery of Skid Row. For instance the bus benches for the Rapid Transit District have uncomfortable seats which makesleeping on them very difficult and to stop the homeless using open spaces such as Skid Row Park to sleep in, sprinklers were set up to prevent overnight camping. The incorporation of 'quasi-public restrooms' has denied unwanted groups the use of public restrooms, excluding them yet again from services yet again." (Davis, 1990)

In conclusion it must be said that although redevelopment and gentrification has occurred in order to include marginalised groups however these have tended to create other problems. There is no one size fits all policy to help include everyone; someone regardless of anything loses out. Governmental and local design and planning vary widely from country to country with some being completely ruthless and unsympathetic with those who are deemed less economically productive / are unemployed such as in Los Angeles as demonstrated in the article Fortress Los Angeles by Mike Davis. We must at all times bare in mind that social exclusion is brought about by a combination of social, economic and geographical barriers not simply one factor and that the marginalised groups themselves are subject to the fluctuations in the economy such as house prices, welfare and governmental policy.

Referencing

All Info About London - 2004 - Rebuilding After the Great Fire of London - http://london.allinfo-about.com/features/rebuilding.html Accessed 2nd November 2010

Anderson et al, 1993 cit exclusion, introducing human geographies may. J 418-421

Davis, 1990 Fortress Los Angeles: The militarization of urban space http://www.lcc.gatech.edu/~broglio/1101/davis.html

Metropolitan Police 2009 Results http://www.met.police.uk/crimefigures/boroughs/gd_month%20-%20mps.htm Accessed November 3rd 210

Philo, 2000 cit exclusion, introducing human geographies jon may 411-421

politics.co.uk - 2004 - http://www.politics.co.uk/briefings-guides/issue-briefs/housing-and-planning/right-to-buy-$366612.htm - Right to Buy - Accessed November 3rd 2010

Sibley 1995 cit exclusion, introducing human geographies second edition may. J 412-421

Takahashi 1996 cit exclusion, introducing human geographies second edition may. J 418-421

Wacquant 1999 cit exclusion, introducing human geographies second edition may. J 411-421

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