100 Resilient Cities Initiative In Atlanta

by Emma French And Supraja Sudharsan

Setting Atlanta’s Resiliency Agenda

Last week the City of Atlanta launched its 100 Resilient Cities program (100RC) with a day-long agenda-setting workshop — the first step of an engagement process to develop a robust resilience strategy for the City. Atlanta was selected to be part of the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100RC program in May 2016 along with thirty-six other cities from around the world, together forming the one-hundred-cities’ cohort of 100RC. The selected cities, which span 6 continents and over 50 countries, receive financing to hire a Chief Resilience Officer (CRO), as well as additional logistical and networking support.

Atlanta’s agenda-setting workshop, co-hosted by the Rockefeller Foundation, featured a forty-five minute presentation by 100RC President, Michael Berkowitz, a keynote address from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, and four facilitated small group activities designed to gauge the participants’ understanding of resiliency and perceptions about Atlanta’s biggest long-term stresses and acute shocks. In addition to these activities, participants were asked to take a pre- and post-workshop online survey on changes in attitude. Students, faculty, and staff from Georgia Tech, including several researchers from CUI, attended the workshop, as both attendees and table facilitators.

What Makes a City Resilient?

Resilience may be defined in several ways depending on the system being studied and the actors involved, including ecological, organizational, or supply-chain system resilience, or resilience of a particular community or individual. In general, resilience refers to adaptation and/or recovery following a disruption to normal operations of a system (Bhamra, Ran et al.). In a forthcoming book chapter, CUI Director Jennifer Clark draws connections between urban resilience and innovation. In it, she writes “resilience speaks to the viability of complex systems to withstand and adapt to change.” For a city that encompasses complex economic, environmental, and social systems, a change or disruption could be in the form of acute shocks, such as flash floods, massive infrastructure failures, heat waves, and blizzards, or from expressions of long-term stresses, such as chronic water shortages, poverty, inequality, pollution, and unemployment.

With more than 50% of the world’s population living in urban areas and climate change acting as a multiplier of many of the above-enumerated shocks and stresses, the role of city government and other stakeholders in weathering these changes and building systems that can withstand and overcome adverse impacts of urbanization and climate change, and the associated social and economic challenges becomes paramount. The IPCC estimates funding requirements for climate-related adaptation efforts in developing countries to be in the order of seventy to one hundred billion dollars a year by 2050 (albeit with low confidence). A UNEP report, however, estimates this gap to be higher by 4-5 times by 2050. Therefore, support from public, private, and non-governmental organizations is crucial for building local capacity for resilience. Several programs such as the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit, as well as transnational networks such as 100RC, ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, the United Nations Human Settlement Program, and others provide support in the form of financing, information-sharing, and networking opportunities for cities. However, depending on their definition of “resilience” and their inclusion or exclusion of adaptation-related issues, the nature and type of support varies among the above organizations.

100RC defines resilience as the ability of a city to maintain essential functions and to evolve and emerge stronger in the face of acute shocks and chronic stresses. A resilient city, according to the Rockefeller Foundation, is one that is reflective of past experiences, resourceful, exhibits inclusiveness in decision-making, integrates different systems and institutions, is robust, redundant to accommodate disruption to services, and flexible to changing circumstances. Utilizing a City Resilience Framework (CRF, developed by Arup and the Rockefeller Foundation, See Fig. 1 below), the CRO plans interventions to address identified shocks and stresses that span some or all of the dimensions of the CRF. In Medellin, Colombia, for instance, tramlines added to supplement its gondola-based transit system improves the city’s resilience indicators across all of the four dimensions by providing redundancy, contributing to reduction in homicide rates, reducing transit time ,and enhancing social inclusion and integrating regions along the path of transit.

Fig 1: City Resilience Framework.The four primary dimensions are represented in gray and the drivers of these dimensions represented in yellow. These dimensions (drivers) are Health & Wellbeing (Meets Basic Needs, Supports Livelihoods & Employment, Ensures Public Health Services) , Economy & Society (Fosters Economic Prosperity, Ensures Social Stability, Security & Justice, Promotes Cohesive & Engaged Communities), Infrastructure & Environment(Provides Reliable Communications & Mobility, Ensures Continuity of Critical Services, Provides & Enhances Natural & Manmade Assets), and Leadership & Strategy (Promotes Leadership & Effective Management, Empowers a Broad Range of Stakeholders, Fosters Long-term & Integrated Planning).

The workshop emphasized several steps as vital to the 100RC initiative. These include the tracking and measurement of metrics in the implementation of the resiliency framework, networking with other member cities from across the world, and learning from their experiences. The implementation of the initiative itself is tied around engaging diverse stakeholders from the city and bringing together different perspectives on what resilience means. Planning and implementation of resilience initiatives is heavily dependent upon the ability of the CRO to work across government silos, bring together diverse stakeholders, and create a concrete plan for increasing the City’s resiliency based on pragmatic, local understanding of prevalent shocks and stresses. In light of the importance of this stakeholder engagement process, it is therefore imperative to evaluate the process of the first agenda-setting workshop that was organized by the 100RC initiative for the City of Atlanta last week, and assess its strengths and weaknesses for consideration towards future stakeholder- engagement processes. This is carried out below.  

Building Resiliency Through Public Engagement

Public engagement and participation are necessary for building the institutional capacity of cities (Healy 1997). Atlanta’s workshop last week was the first step in engaging the public in the process of creating a resiliency plan for the City. Feedback from participants and facilitators will be used to prioritize what shocks and stressors the CRO focuses on. During one of the activities, participants worked together to place a number of shocks and stresses on a four part grid to indicate the frequency/likelihood on the horizontal access increasing to the right, and impact on the vertical access increasing upward (see below). At the end of the activity each table shared their top three stresses and shocks with the whole group. Poverty/inequality, lack of social cohesion, lack of affordable housing, and lack of transit options were identified as a top chronic stressors by almost every group, while flooding, extreme temperatures, and infrastructure failures dominated the top acute shock lists.

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For one of the activities, participants worked together to place a number of shocks and stresses on a four-part grid to indicate the frequency/likelihood and the severity of impact of each challenge.

In the next activity each participant was given 12 stickers, which they placed on the City Resilience Framework diagram (see Figure 1 above) without discussing their choices with others–green stickers next to things the city is doing well, yellow stickers for things the city could do better, and red stickers next to things the city urgently needs to improve. At the table featured below, the green stickers were concentrated around ‘Fosters Economic Prosperity’ and ‘Ensures Public Health Services.’ There was a mix a yellow and red stickers under ‘Meets Basic Needs,’ and red clumps next to ‘Transportation’ and ‘Empowers a Broad Range of Stakeholders.’

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Participants placed stickers onto the City Resilience diagram to indicate things the city is doing well, things it could do better, and things it urgently needs to improve. (Left to right: Timothy Block, Enterprise Community Partners; Reese McCranie, Director of Communications at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport; Marshall Shepherd, Director of UGA’s Program for Atmospheric Sciences; Emma Tinsley, Fellow at the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, Inc.; and Maria Azuri, Director of Programs of Immigrant Affairs, City of Atlanta).

Underscoring many of the discussions at the workshop was the recognition that the stresses and shocks facing Atlanta are subjective, varying significantly depending on where in the city you live or work, as well as the social and financial capital to which an individual or neighborhood has access. When planning the workshop, the City intentionally invited a mix of people from the private businesses, government offices, nonprofits, community organizations and academic institutions (see Fig. 2 below for the breakdown of registered guests by sector). Of the 160 people who were registered to attend, 44 were from government (28%), 42 from nonprofits (26%), 22 from academia (14%), 19 from business (12%), 16 were elected official (10%), 16 were community members (10%), and 1 person was from a faith-based organization (less than 1%). It should be noted that the authors do not know how many from each group actually attended.

Fig. 2: Breakdown of the participants who’d registered for the Atlanta Resilience Agenda-Setting Workshop.


During the last activity, participants identified stakeholders who were not in the room who they believe should be included in this planning process, such as students, members of the LGBTQ community, private sector representatives, and community members. One participant pointed out that the timing and location of the workshop (it was held at the Carter Center in Northeast Atlanta) may have prevented community members from attending if, for instance, they could not take work off on a Monday.

Global Knowledge Sharing and Local Empowerment

The 100RC initiative provides both opportunities and challenges for the City of Atlanta. Opportunities include the ability to allocate dedicated resources to identifying, tracking, and collaborating with diverse stakeholders to address the City’s vulnerability to shocks and stresses, and learning from, and sharing resources and knowledge with other cities around the world. The major challenges include enabling broad engagement in the political process by taking into account unequal access to resources, and empowering citizens to initiate collaborative problem-solving to address the issues they themselves have identified. Public participation is no longer just about hosting a public meeting to discuss already decided upon alternatives. It is about providing the public with data and resources to come up with their own solutions using their collective creativity and localized understanding of the problems.

In sum, each city has a very localized set of stresses and shocks, and the 100RC Network facilitates cities seeing how others are moving through this process of setting priorities. It enables the city to carve out a dedicated resource and hire a Chief Resilience Officer, and design and implement a resiliency plan. As it proceeds, there is a need to ensure that the subsequent data gathering, the indicators utilized for data gathering, and the resulting decision-making processes are representative and integrate the capacities and constraints of all relevant stakeholders in order to maximize the impact of planned interventions and to build inclusive and robust systems for a truly resilient Atlanta.  

Scaling The Smart City: Design, Deployment, and the MAPPD Project

By Jennifer Clark and Thomas Lodato

How do we build the Smart City?

This question is the central research focus of the MAPPD project (“mapped”), or the Multi-Array Phased Participatory Deployment. Both a practical and strategic endeavor, MAPPD is an ongoing research project and a city-university collaboration of the Georgia Institute of Technology and the City of Atlanta. Georgia Tech’s Center for Urban Innovation (CUI) and the Georgia Tech Research Institute are the university leads for the project with the support of the Georgia Tech’s Institute for People and Technology (IPaT) and the Public Design Workshop.  The City of Atlanta’s SMARTATL team has taken the implementation lead for the City.

The project focuses on understanding the various layers of enabling Atlanta’s Smart City design, from technology development to public policy and administrative practices to community and stakeholder engagement. Beyond charting and understanding how Smart City efforts progress, MAPPD is also an intervention itself, following and contributing to an extended case study of Smart City development.

Lessons from (and for) the Emerging Smart City Landscape

Globally, no shortage of projects and programs exist under the Smart City label, now numbering well into the hundreds. These efforts are geographically diverse, diverging “in some meaningful ways from the dominant imaginary that ‘smartness’ only resides in cities like New York and San Francisco.” As such, these efforts provide many lessons related to planning, development, and implementation that account for productive differences in the social, political, and cultural spheres where the efforts reside. From these projects, we have charted important trends and gaps that motivated the foundations of the MAPPD project. These foundations are:

  1. A phased technical deployment in order to increase opportunities for in-action learning, community engagement and responsiveness, and integration of ongoing technical improvements, while simultaneously reducing the implementation burden on participating organizations.
  2. A comprehensive administrative and technical strategy focused on interoperability that accounts for the necessary current and eventual need for systems to communicate in order to foster sustainable growth and resilient expansion over time.
  3. A fundamental commitment to engaging the community at large, and to integrating concerns originating in everything from planning to technical specifications in meaningful ways.
  4. A program that established policy around open data and open innovation in order to ensure both continued access and local and regional economic development.

Beyond these pillars, the goal of the MAPPD project is to document and analyze this approach to in order to develop a replicable programmatic approach to Smart Cities design and deployment.

Conceptual and Operational Foundations of MAPPD

In a comprehensive literature review of Smart City definitions, Albino, Berardi and Dangelico identify four shared themes that cut across definitions of a Smart City. The themes: 1) smart cities pair functional efficiency with “social and cultural development”; 2) smart cities foster new forms of economic development; 3) smart cities magnify human capital; and 4) smart cities are sustainable. As much as these authors identify a normative definition of a Smart City, they also illustrate the sprawling demands placed on Smart City projects and programs. Spanning domains from technical infrastructure to urban and regional economic development, projects often struggle to accommodate diverse agendas under a single umbrella. One strategy to attend to the vast interest in Smart Cities is to embark on projects that allow for progressive accumulation of technologies, engagements, and policies overtime rather than all at once.

An example of this approach is SmartSantander. The core feature of SmartSantander is the establishment of a city-wide testbed that allows multiple parties to develop applications, efforts, and projects within a single platform and program. The project began with a clear strategic framework that was accompanied by a technical architecture for development. In combination, the framework and architecture provide a platform for testing, validation, and prototyping. Notably, SmartSantander set out to include the community at large as well as firms, yet offered no formalized policies related to open data and innovation. Additionally, SmartSantander had no specific accommodations for how systems would interoperate, instead relying on developers to handle this on an ad-hoc basis.

As just one example, SmartSantander is illustrative of a pattern in Smart City projects. The pattern is to develop a Smart City on a project-by-project basis. In producing isolated projects, Smart City efforts passively argue that the city is a collection of discrete and distinct systems that assemble into a mega-system, leaving integration to happen in use or after-the-fact. In MAPPD, we are explicit about integration, and this begins by being intentional about how any individual project develops with what is a programmatic approach to Smart Cities design, development, and deployment.

The four key elements of MAPPD are:

1) Phased Deployment
north-ave-sensor-boxAn central technical component of MAPPD is the development of a sensor array called the Campus Array Node (CAN) system, an environmental and mobility-sensing platform under development across Georgia Tech. Rather than develop the system in full, release it, and integrate later, CAN has been released in phases to test early versions of the hardware, software, data infrastructure, and use and access policies. These early versions of CAN are more minimal systems, housing the most straight-forward sensors to mount and calibrate. Based on findings from the early deployments, subsequent modules will grow in complexity as well as technical sophistication. This increases opportunities for in-action learning, community engagement and responsiveness, and integration of ongoing technical improvements, while simultaneously reducing the implementation burden on participating organizations.

The initial MAPPD deployment targets the intersections along the North Avenue Smart Corridor. The first CAN node was installed in July 2016, and is being used to develop an application programming interface (API) to access the real-time data. The next four nodes are targeted for installation by the end of October 2016.

2) Open Data/Open Innovation
In MAPPD, we are explicit about policies and practices related to open data and open innovation. Georgia Tech’s Center for Urban Innovation (CUI) is currently engaged in analyzing best practices of open data and open innovation in order to inform local policy and practice in these areas. A clear benefit of Smart City design and planning is the ability to leverage the distributed capacity of citizens and organizations by building platforms that accommodate changing needs of urban residents now and in the future. To date, open data, open innovation, and community involvement have been desired outcomes of many projects, but are often integrated ad hoc or as afterthoughts. Building these areas into MAPPD ensure that the technical deployment is necessarily coupled with appropriate public policy.

In one notable example from 2012 in New Orleans, Code For America fellows created BlightStatus, an application that “makes it easy for anyone to look up any address in New Orleans and see a simple, clear history of the property, including reports of blight, inspections, hearings, and scheduled demolitions.” Given the continuing impact of Hurricane Katrina on the city, BlightStatus addressed a prominent concern of residents: the ongoing social, environmental, and economic impacts of blighted property on the recovery and growth of the city. By showing the current progress of a case, the application increased transparency and accountability by revealing the inner-workings of bureaucracy. BlightStatus’ development reveals the ways Smart Cities can be developed through partnerships that extend the traditional geographical polity of a city as well as illustrates the key role of nonprofits and private companies in shaping cities through investment, services, support, and software, a point made by CUI Director Jennifer Clark in her recent work. This point in particular is further supported by the evolution of BlightStatus beyond its original design. The project started as an application for code enforcement in New Orleans but was later spun out into more comprehensive software called CivicInsight, offering a framework to track municipal processes from building permits in Palo Alto to economic development activities in Dallas.

The evolution of BlightStatus/CivicInsight illustrate that Smart City projects are deeply connected to an extended “fast policy” network of practices characterized by the adoption of technologies, the standardization of administrative practices, and the sharing of central concerns. The trajectory of BlightStatus/CivicInsight highlights the need to ensure that data is made open and available (as New Orleans did) both in the present and long-term to support the functioning of iterative applications. Even more, the software’s development shows that the value of allowing firms to leverage open data beyond the immediate need of a city as it holds the potential benefits for other cities with similar (or similar enough) issues. As an exemplar, BlightStatus/CivicInsight provides an example the necessity of open data and open innovation.

3) Interoperability First
As noted above, Atlanta’s North Avenue corridor is a designated testbed for multiple IoT (Internet of Things) systems, according to SMARTATL’s strategic plan. One central research question is how might these systems work together rather than work in parallel? 

Consequently, MAPPD is structured around the principle of “interoperability first,” meaning that the project is structured to consider requirements beyond any individual hardware or software, project or testbed. MAPPD instead focuses on the integration of multiple heterogeneous systems. In so doing, MAPPD mitigates proprietary lock-in. Thus, interoperability is not just a technical term that refers to the ways systems communicate and coordinate within MAPPD. Instead, interoperability includes the ways many different types of systems work together to make the Smart City functions and creates opportunities for economic development.

4) Public & Participatory
MAPPD holds a deep commitment to making the city work for its residents. As a part of that commitment, a deployment approach has been designed to integrate community engagement workshops to refine hardware/software, align the deployment team with as many stakeholders as possible, and better understand the needs, concerns, hopes, goals, and ideas offered by the community.

The first workshop is planned for October 2016 and will gather the community and stakeholders around the second sensor node planned for concurrent deployment. The workshop will ask how smart cities sensors might be meaningful to the specific needs of the community through facilitated activities, all of which will be hosted at the Atlanta City Studio. Subsequent workshops are planned for the following months, and focus on the next phases of MAPPD. As a whole, the workshops provide a means to give voice to the community, identify shared needs, and find new avenues for what a Smart City could mean at the neighborhood-, community-, and city-scale.

Smart Cities Rely on Open Innovation

In a recent article in Nature, Martin Curley, the Chair of the European Union’s Open Innovation Strategy and Policy Group outlined twelve principles guiding “Open Innovation 2.0.” Curley’s concept goes beyond Chesbrough’s original definition of open innovation by pushing the boundaries of the underlying concept further from the discrete act of invention to dynamic and programmatic acts of innovation.

The expansion of “openness” as it relates to innovation to include community separate and apart from government parallels the patterns seen in “civic IoT” (internet of things) practice. Similar to the crowdsourcing and hack-a-thon processes mentioned above to understand public sector applications of new inventions, Open Innovation 2.0 looks to includes communities of users in the entire innovation process. In other words, communities are part of determining what is developed, not just whether to buy a product once it is commercialized.  

Recognizing that many organizations still pursue innovation through linear contracts and bilateral relationships, Curley argues for an ecosystem approach in “Open Innovation 2.0.” And here the language of innovation returns to the same framework on which much of the resilience discourse is based: a language that favors natural systems and adaption.  The proximity between the two concepts  — innovation and resilience — seems to shrink in an Open Innovation 2.0 model.

Purely technical solutions to urban challenges rarely measure up to the promises of their advocates. The diffusion of urban innovations — in policy and planning — requires adaption to local contexts and communities.  Each city has its own unique administrative and managerial quirks and its own embedded norms and values — its own peculiar way of “getting things done.” Truly Smart cities require diverse stakeholders within and across cities collaborating on innovative solutions to a wide array of interdisciplinary challenges. 

The starting point for that collaboration is increasingly seen as the creation of networks aimed at building dialogue, fostering relationships, and sharing knowledge about what works and equally what does not. The broader question is how cities as places and as institutions manage their own resilience in the face of a dynamic environment where the technical terrain is uncertain and the policy outcomes largely unknown. Perhaps conceptualizing both urban governance and regional economies as open innovation systems is a step toward both economic and institutional resilience.


Smart Cities Research Neighborhood At CUI

smart-city-iconThis week marked the official rollout of the Smart Cities research neighborhood here at the Center for Urban Innovation.

In addition to providing a more central home for a number of existing Smart City-related projects such as the Center’s partnership with the MetroLab Network, ongoing research on the rise of coworking and the makers movement, and exploration of evolving urban innovation networks, the research neighborhood’s opening brings with it three newly-announced projects.

These projects are MAPPD, Open Data & Open Innovation Policy, and Civic IoT.

MAPPD: Multi-Array Phased Participatory Deployment

north-ave-sensor-boxMAPPD is a technical and strategic Smart Cities project developing a repeatable approach to scaling up a Smart City sensor network. MAPPD is a city-university partnership between the Georgia Institute of Technology and the City of Atlanta, and a featured project of both the MetroLab Network and NIST’s Global City Teams Challenge. In addition to technical challenges, MAPPD focuses on three additional aspects of Smart City scale-up: (1) building partnerships, (2) fostering engagement, and (3) establishing open data and open innovation policy to allow for future technology-led economic development.

Watch this blog next week for an in-depth introduction to this important project.

Open Data & Open Innovation Policy
open-data-vennOpen Data and Open Innovation are two key concepts for the Smart City. To understand the ways these ideas are being executed, research is being conduct to collect, compare, and analyze Open Data and Open Innovation policies, practices, and protocols across the United States. This research focuses on producing an empirical typology of Open Data and Open Innovation to inform policy and governance related to the Smart City.

PARSE: Participatory Approaches to Researching Sensing Environments

iot-graphicThe Internet of Things (IoT) — the ubiquitous computing vision of connected and communicative computational objects — has largely been conceived of in relation to industry. As such, an underexplored domain that offers a unique set of challenges and opportunities is IoT for public life, or Civic IoT. This NSF-sponsored project aims to understand the design and use of IoT technologies for enabling, organizing, and monitoring collective action, particularly in the context of urban communities.

In addition to the new web presence of these exciting endeavors, the Smart Cities research neighborhood also features a growing list of participants in the various projects within the neighborhood. This improvement also coincides with the addition of selected categories on this very blog, including that of Smart Cities, permitting readers with a particular interest to read only the posts that most interest them. This new research neighborhood and the many changes that accompany it represent an important new chapter in the growth and evolution of the Center for Urban Innovation and its many policy, research, and partnership activities. Keep an eye on the website for even more developments in time, including a brand-new image gallery of recent CUI events, presentations, and more.

Smart Cities India: Regional Lessons for a Sustainable Future

By Todd M. Michney

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The idea that our future cities must leverage information technology to become “smart” is one that has captivated the globe in recent years.  Likely debuting at a 1990 conference on the emerging “technopolis” held in San Francisco, and subsequently appearing in the title of the published proceeding, the term “smart cities” now conjures visions of conjoined innovations in engineering, computing, and ecology to create more adaptive, sustainable, efficient, and vibrant urban environments offering solutions to humanity’s most pressing problems of inequality, overpopulation, pollution, and climate change.  Moving in this direction this past January, Atlanta joined Dallas and Chicago in partnering with AT&T to install sensors capable of monitoring traffic and air quality, as well as detecting power outages and even gunfire –- more data than city officials presently even know how to manage.

At the same time, a number of observers have expressed concerns about the larger implications of ‘smart city’ technology, and leveled sometimes trenchant critiques of the underlying motivations and implementation of such programs, particularly when applied to the developing world.  Adam Greenfield, in a 2013 essay entitled “Against the Smart City,” encapsulated some of the most widely circulated:  the smart city as a generic blueprint insensitive to local conditions; smart city technology as typically proprietary and therefore too inflexible; and the smart city as camouflage for hidden agendas that are often corporate- and profit-driven.  Bleaker assessments see in sensor technology the possibility of implementing “continuous geosurveillance” with the capacity to ultimately “destroy democracy.”  Taking a longer historical view of urban development but similarly critical of short-sighted smart technology rollouts, Anthony Townsend, in Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia (2014), nonetheless envisions an alternative:  a bottom-up, gradual, and more organic emergence of smart cities, cobbled together by increasingly connected and tech-savvy urban dwellers themselves.

With 2008 as the first year in which over half the world’s population lived in cities, and the global urban population predicted to nearly double to 5 billion by 2050 –- with much of the anticipated growth in Asia and Africa -– the current century has been dubbed the “Century of the City.”  At the same time, the smart city concept “translates” uneasily to the global South, considering how basic infrastructure systems (water, sewers, electricity) there have often struggled to keep up with the rapid pace of urbanization.  This makes all the more striking the announcement by India’s prime minister Narendra Modi, soon after his ascension to power in 2014, of a “Smart Cities Mission” (SCM) committing that country to build 100 such places by 2022 –- coincidentally the same year that India is predicted to surpass China as the most populous country in the world.


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Set up as a grant competition with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the first 20 cities to be awarded funding out of a planned 98 were announced by India’s Ministry of Urban Development in January 2016.  While it was never entirely clear how the new smart cities emphasis overlaps with existing urban initiatives already in place, what became most immediately obvious was that the government planned to fund only a small portion of the SCM’s cost -– some 20 percent of a total estimated at $150 billion.  Instead, private sector capital was expected to supply the remainder, with an eye on India’s potential for economic growth, for example as the world’s fastest growing smartphone market.  The opportunities associated with implementing hi-tech infrastructure on a mass scale soon attracted the interest of multinational corporations, as well as of governments including the United States, China, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, France, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates, to name a few.  However, despite Modi’s promises to cut the red tape associated with such projects, a number have failed to get off the ground, and one recent assessment has declared SCM to be struggling, with private investment so far having favored “profit-intensive sectors like digital infrastructure and real estate” over essential, basic services.  Moreover, allegations of corruption overshadow at least one project, and the opposition has accused Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party of using the SCM as a form of political patronage.  Even before the initial 20 smart cities were announced, three municipal corporations in Maharashtra, India’s second most populous state, refused to sign on, and last month a lawsuit was heard challenging the SCM’s constitutionality.


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A careful examination of SCM’s mission statement makes clear that the initiative represents neither a dramatic break from India’s previous urban development strategies, nor is it nearly as ambitious as the initial impression might suggest.  First of all, rather than building nearly 100 entirely new smart cities, these are defined in the guidelines as areas which can be as small as 50 acres, leading some critics to describe the program as applying not to cities, but rather to “certain designated areas within them.”  The various specified approaches -– retrofitting, redevelopment, and “greenfield” development –- are long-established models, the challenges and drawbacks of which are by now well understood.  Thus redevelopment risks population displacement when applied to dense, often improvised urban residential districts (“slums”), or in some instances the loss of publicly-accessible green space, as in the case of one smart city project slated to replace a beloved park that catalyzed protests.  

“Greenfield” development of the agricultural hinterlands at the metropolitan periphery similarly threatens displacement, while additionally raising the issue of fair compensation.  In fact, India’s flagship, pre-SCM smart city project initiated in 2010, Dholera, is currently facing resistance from local farmers, and last year rural opposition forced Modi’s administration to take off the table a controversial loosening of the country’s land acquisition law.  In the wake of evidence that, despite SCM’s stated concern with affordable housing, planners were not adequately considering the needs of poor residents, one critic has asked whether their “democratic right to the city itself” was being “diluted.”  Language discovered in a promotional brochure, suggesting an intentional exclusion of the poor from the smart city’s benefits, has borne out even harsher assessments of SCM, for example as an undemocratic attempt to “monetize the commons,” or as the institution of “social apartheid.”


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Regardless of the SCM initiative’s shortcomings, smart city technology is coming to India, with some indications of more hopeful developments that may help promote a more equitable and accessible future even for city-dwellers of lesser means.  To be sure, there are already-existing smart city prototypes being built as public-private partnerships outside the scope of SCM, such as Wave (Infratech) City outside of Delhi, Gujarat International Finance Tec-City, or Hyderabad’s HITEC City (see accompanying pictures).  There are also entire, privately-owned cities like Gurgaon and Lavasa, which are even more impervious to public oversight than the projects planned under SCM.  At the same time, however, ordinary Indians are integrating current technologies into their daily lives on the household level, and citizen-innovators are creating bottom-up smart technology along the lines envisioned by Townsend, for example, community-driven mobile apps addressing garbage pickup, bribery, and sexual harassment.  Some observers have even looked to India’s poorest, yet “inherently smart” urbanites for ideas about how to move beyond the limitations of our current sprawl- and automobile-centered urban models.  Mumbai’s Dharavi district, for example, has been profiled as an innovation-generating “smart slum,” with one recent proposal seeking to empower residents by instituting a Community Land Trust as an alternative to demolition.  Visionary civil engineer Himanshu Parikh also tapped community knowledge in designing water and sewer systems for Ahmedabad’s slums, which by utilizing the natural topography, cost a fraction of conventional infrastructure and are spinning off new quality-of-life improvements.

These initiatives hint at the promise of a more creative, civic-minded, and community-led smart city concept.  But to reach its full potential, according to one commentator, the smart city should be rethought as an “ecology of practices,” emerging from and building on “the creative potential of its diverse inhabitants” rather than relying on a one-size-fits-all model delivered in the form of top-down, profit-driven imperatives.  Instead of standing as a passive beneficiary, then, India may offer an example of how citizens could adapt a more distributive smart city model to suit their own local needs -– a lesson that our own regionally-diverse cities in the U.S. should heed as we embark on making our own cities “smarter” and more livable for all in the decades to come.

Signaling in Policy Documents: The Case of Georgia QAP Incentives for Mixed-Income Projects

by Chris Thayer

Affordable housing is well-known as a powerful factor in economic development within cities, both directly and through enticing corporations’ headquarters to take advantage of the concentrated pool of employee talent, undisbursed to the less-expensive suburbs. One of the major tools for the provision of this affordable and workforce housing is the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, as governed by each state’s Qualified Allocation Plan.

The Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP) is, necessarily, a policy document. Each state has its own version, in theory updated yearly, which covers the rules for the competitive allocation process for that state’s allowance of the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, currently the largest supply-side affordable housing subsidy in the nation at approximately $6 billion per year in foregone tax revenue. The Credit is allocated to states on a population-based formula, whereupon each state organizes its own competitive application process, granting the Credits largely in accordance with its own preferences, rather than any federal mandate. Those preferences are laid out in the QAP, and typically change at least slightly year-to-year. Georgia is noted for having one of the lengthier and more detailed QAPs nationwide and a history of vigorous competition for the subsidy, as about half of projects that apply will be funded – granted the right to claim a specific number of Tax Credits. These Credits are sold to investors (called syndicators) in exchange for part of the funds needed to construct the proposed housing development, which will contain an agreed-upon number of long-term affordable-rent units. As the QAP’s contents are largely directed by the states, this allows for illuminating differences in policy approaches and results.

The Mixed-Income Project QAP Incentive
29 augAs part of a larger process of quantitative QAP change analysis for Georgia’s QAP between 2000 and 2016, it was observed that the provisions for incentivizing Mixed-Income Projects fluctuated substantially over time. The incentive appears in the first QAP on record, for 2000, as a sub-category of a larger scoring section, Tenancy Characteristics. It remained there through 2005, until in 2006 it became its own independent scoring category, perhaps reflecting the increased attention it merited in the policy development team’s priorities. It remained as such until 2009, when it dropped out of the QAP entirely and did not reappear until this year, 2016, as a sub-category of Stable Communities.

Recession & Reconsideration
This abrupt change in direction was in large part intentional. In a recent interview, Director Laurel Hart of the Housing Finance & Development Division at DCA (the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, Georgia’s allocating agency for Low-Income Housing Tax Credits), described the agency’s response to the 2008 financial crisis.

“We really changed our entire model after the crash… It really was a whole change in philosophy. We went towards less lending, we used options to increase cash flow, we changed our HOME requirements… We became much more risk-averse around that time. [The driving question became], ‘how do we make these properties sustainable?’”

This change in direction has persisted to this day thanks to the insights granted by existing properties’ experiences during the crash, which included elevated vacancy rates (due to renters’ inability to pay), unpaid water bills, and sometimes even foreclosure. DCA found that in many cases, nominally mixed-income properties featured market-rate units serving the same population as the 60% AMI (Area Median Income) affordable units, but without any form of subsidy to ease those renters’ burden–not mixing income groups at all. Director Hart emphasized the importance of integrating “what’s standard and what’s common in the industry” with an intimate understanding of Georgia economics in order to craft incentives that would let truly beneficial project rise, and prevent inefficiencies such as those seen with these earlier versions of the income-diverse properties. She also discussed the rebirth of the incentive in the 2016 QAP and the importance of its place within Stable Communities-winning (generally wealthier and more racially diverse) areas only, preventing the issue of too-low market rate rents from making the Mixed-Income Project points be essentially in vain.

Effects of QAP Incentive on Unit Mix
The appearance and disappearance of this incentive offers a unique opportunity to examine the relative effects of point incentives for Mixed-Income Projects on actual observed unit mix, both for applied and awarded projects, and to draw some potential conclusions for QAP development in the future. For the 2000-2016 period covered by available QAPs, full data was available for 2003-2016, and partial data for 2002, though there was nothing for the years prior. This data range, while less than ideal, is still robust enough to allow for correlational observations to be made about the units and incentives present. Upon analysis, this data pool reveals that the incentive has a very weak, possibly non-existent, effect on the competitive process itself.


The above figures demonstrate that there is not a meaningful difference in percent of market rate units, number of market rate units where present, or total units between the pool of all applicants and the applicants selected for an award. This means that any effect the Mixed-Income point incentive could be having rests not in the competitive process – one project edging out another for a part of the limited funding – but rather in the signal it might send to developers. But does it send such a signal?

Signaling Developers
29 aug 4To answer that question, the research took a slightly broader view, looking at each project’s status as either Mixed- or Single-Income – essentially, a Yes/No question of the project’s structure. Comparing the projects’ status with the incentive over time, it becomes clear that there is a strong signaling effect in the presence, or absence, of some mixed-income provision, evidently independent of the actual point value of its percentage of all possible points. This relationship is shown in the chart, and further analysis reveals that during incentivized periods, the average percentage of Mixed-Income projects applying for funds was 62, while in non-incentivized periods it was only 35, with a similar gap for awarded projects, clearly demonstrating the strong signaling effect of the QAP point incentive.

This research does bear several caveats. There were no 2000 or 2001 datasets available, and 2002 contained only a yes/no indicator for Mixed Income. 2007’s data was heavily cleaned due to a reliability issue, and is still likely to be somewhat skewed. Finally, this only reflects the experience of one state. It’s possible that the trends observed were caused by outside forces, such as the 2008 Recession, and more research is needed to support, or disprove, these conclusions.

However, the correlation between trends observed appears to be strong enough to merit some initial recommendations for QAP development. First, given that the Mixed-Income points themselves appear to serve as a signal, rather than a competitive factor, it could be useful to reduce the point amount given to only one, rather than the two it currently features. The point is symbolic, and a reduction here would make other categories – ones in which points awarded drive the competitive decision – have more impact by virtue of a smaller total number of points available. On a related note, the second recommendation this research suggests is a closer look at the total available points. This total has shifted wildly over time with no immediately apparent effort at consistency, making the relative value of a given section’s points vary in difficult-to-detect ways even if the section hasn’t been intentionally changed. Careful attention to this total and strategic point allocations thereof can somewhat regulate the swift-changing nature of the QAP, simplifying future fine-tuning efforts by having a relatively consistent base year-over-year.

Looking Forward
Reflecting on the future of mixed-income housing as a priority for DCA, Director Hart observed that its greatest potential successes are in cities, especially Atlanta, where the can be a meaningful differential between assisted and market rents. She also indicated that the recent resurgence is in part due to industry changes from the recent Supreme Court decision on Fair Housing, and said “Our properties shouldn’t just be warehousing people of a certain income, a certain color, into a certain area… I think that the Mixed Income [section] is coming back in part with that idea of ‘how do we make sure we’re not segregating the poor, segregating the people by color, into certain areas.’” This insight points to the power of mixed-income properties to encourage positive social developments. Indeed, the introduction of Mixed-Income Project incentives to competitive application processes could form a significant portion of initial Assessments of Fair Housing (AFH) that participating jurisdictions are now required to submit to HUD. As a feature of the new HUD Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, jurisdictions must submit their AFH plans to HUD for review, but HUD has notoriously scanty requirements or even suggestions for such plans. Developing and implementing a Mixed-Income incentive effort could prove a fruitful strategy for otherwise unsure jurisdictions, not only easing their regulatory burden but also increasing the presence of Mixed-Income communities, strengthening the affordable housing environment and promoting greater inclusivity nationwide.

Immigration in Georgia: The GIRN And “Welcoming Cities” Forum

By Anna Joo Kim, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
School of City & Regional Planning
Georgia Institute of Technology

Atlanta envisions itself a new Global City (Sassen, 2000), with the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport—the world’s busiest—a hub of economic development, spurred by the addition of about 250,000 new immigrants from India, South Korea, Mexico, Ethiopia, and other countries between 2000 and 2010. Data from the 1990, 2000, and 2010 census surveys indicate that the metropolitan area has become more African American, more Latino/Hispanic, and more Asian each year. Population growth in Georgia over the last 30 years has been largely driven by minority groups settlement patterns; and we saw the addition of Georgia’s first ever “majority-minority” county, with Gwinnett County joining 78 other counties in the United States that reflect a nation-wide “racial shift” – expanding the impact of immigrant residential preferences beyond traditional gateway cities like New York, Boston, Chicago, or Los Angeles.

Distribution of Racial and Ethnic Groups in the Atlanta Metro Region. Source: ARC Snapshot of the Region (March 2013).

How do cities that have not been traditional immigrant destinations adjust and adapt to new immigrants, new cultures, and new languages? Welcoming America, a national initiative helping cities develop policies and programs for welcoming new immigrants to their new homes, explains how to “Build a Nation of Neighbors” by incorporating diverse peoples in a variety of ways. Welcoming America helps cities make the most of their diversity and create a sense of belonging.

“It’s about the seed and the soil. If you are a new person coming into a community, a lot of the attention has been paid on the newcomer, watering the seed, helping the newcomer adapt, but we should also pay attention to the soil. Our goal is to create a broader community that is fertile ground for the new person to be successful. So we help communities answer questions about improving the soil, making the community stronger. Fertile soil makes communities more successful for everyone – not just newcomers” –- Rachel Peric, Deputy Director, Welcoming America

Georgia is at a national nexus of new immigration (Hernandez-Leon & Zuniga, 2002), and Atlanta has emerged as one of the few cities in the South seeking to welcome immigrants and embrace this demographic change (Welcoming America Immigrant Integration Initiative, 2013).

“We are trying to build this movement in the South, and lead this movement in the South, and make it natural and “doable.” In 2014 Mayor Reed commissioned a group of stakeholders, a body of people of diverse backgrounds, diverse ethnicities – to answer the question: What would make Atlanta a more welcoming city: what can we do at a policy level, at the community level, on a social level, that would make Atlanta a more welcoming city for immigrants? — Maria Azuri, Director of Programs, Welcoming Atlanta and Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs

But where Georgia has added over 50,000 immigrants in recent years (2010-2014), the foreign-born population of the City of Atlanta itself increased only by about 1000 persons. The vast majority of immigrant groups (across origins: European, Latin American, Asian, and African) are immigrating directly to the suburbs and fringes (older, inner ring suburbs) of the Atlanta MSA, with greatest growth occurring in Gwinnett County, parts of North DeKalb County, and a rapidly growing immigrant concentration to Clayton County (particularly the Forrest Park area).

It is suburban places that experience the most immigrant-driven growth and population change (Brookings, 2014), and reflect the ongoing national preference for suburban areas in general. Singer’s work at the Brookings Institute (2015) has revealed the Atlanta MSA’s national relative classification as a “major-emerging” immigrant gateway. The fastest contemporary growth rates belong to the major-emerging gateways (Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Las Vegas, Orlando, and Phoenix); together they comprise 8 percent of the total foreign-born population in 2014. But Atlanta’s immigrant communities are still markedly more oriented to the urban/urbanizing metropolitan statistical area compared to state residents overall; where the Atlanta MSA composes about half of Georgia’s total population, more than 75% of the state’s total foreign born population are drawn to suburbs within the MSA (which housed 689,361 of the 909,002 foreign-born persons within Georgia in 2010).

With the context of recent, rapid, and diverse immigrant population growth in the Atlanta region, a group of researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia State University, and Kennesaw State University have launched a collaborative research network across the three universities. This group will study this new population and economic growth and the impact of immigration to Georgia and other emergent immigrant destinations. Dr. Cathy Yang Liu (Georgia State University) recently convened the first meeting of the three universities in the public forum “Welcoming Cities – A Dialogue Between Research & Policy” with presentations by partners Welcoming Atlanta (Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs) and Welcoming America. Topics at this event included the City of Norcross, Georgia’s recent efforts at immigrant inclusion, the recently-performedLatino Community Needs Assessment of Georgia, local-government-level initiatives and migration patterns, and the multiple scales encountered in the immigrant experience. For more on the scholarship presented at this event or the Georgia Immigration Research Network (GIRN)’s other recent activities, see http://urbaninnovation.gatech.edu/projects/immigrant-community-studio, or contact the author at anna.kim@gatech.edu.

The Predesigned Innovation District: Cornell Tech

By Sarah Carnes

In December 2010, then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg –- who framed his candidacy around innovation, introducing “bold new solutions to tough problems” –- announced the creation of Applied Sciences NYC, an unprecedented attempt “to capitalize on the considerable growth presently occurring within the science, technology, and research fields” through the development and expansion of applied sciences campuses around the city, namely to elevate New York’s attractiveness as an innovation hub in the knowledge economy.

The Cornell Tech Roosevelt Island Campus Project –- a partnership between Cornell University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology –- has emerged as one of the most promising products of the Applied Sciences NYC Initiative and very much so as a “hopeful pillar of Silicon Alley.” Architectural renderings and design principles are sure to excite those tracking the innovation district model as an approach to economic development. The campus master plan aligns with the innovation district platform, purposefully integrating characteristics overwhelmingly identified in the literature. The Cornell Tech Campus will inevitably advance the larger innovation ecosystem conversation, helping to answer whether innovation can in fact be designed. The campus also begs the question if urban campuses inherently exhibit innovation district tendencies.

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Cornell Tech Master Plan



Temporarily situated in the bustling Chelsea neighborhood, Cornell Tech’s permanent home –- a redefined urban campus that will be “intimately integrated – in both mission and design – with the city” –- will eventually occupy 12 city-owned acres on Roosevelt Island and boast an equally impressive two-million square fopt real-estate portfolio, a healthy amalgamation of academic, residential, commercial, and public spaces upon completion in 2043. The first phase, slated to open next year, will feature 2.5 acres of public plazas and greenways and 800,000 square feet of building space.

Cornell Tech embodies several innovation district characteristics and even appears to favor one of the innovation district typologies identified by Katz and Wagner: the re-imagined urban area model, which places innovation districts along historic waterfronts in evolving industrial or warehouse corridors. This typology typically encompasses a comprehensive re-development project, as is the case with Cornell Tech, which is replacing the Coler-Goldwater Specialty Hospital and Nursing Facility. The universities will also act as anchor institutions.

Government-Sponsored Innovation District

Moreover, the proactive measures taken by the City of New York have enabled the realization of the Cornell Tech Roosevelt Island Campus. The City awarded the Cornell/Technion consortium access to the city-owned property on Roosevelt Island as well as $100 million in city-backed capital to be used to develop the site. The public investment will spur the creation of new firms and thousands of new jobs in addition to billions of dollars in economic impact. The New York City Economic Development Corporation estimates the Cornell Tech campus will “double the number of graduate engineering faculty and students in the city, and increase the number of engineering Ph.D. students by 70%.

The City of New York and Cornell Tech leadership clearly recognize the importance of cross-sector relationships. Harvard Professor Michael Porter suggests that there is inherent overlap between the public and private sectors’ success and the need for both to support productivity. The lines of appropriate investment are blurred due to a linked wealth-creation system between these two sectors. Applied in the innovation district context, this supposed linked system manifests as the “Triple-Helix thesis,” which connects university, industry, and government partners.

Innovation District Characteristics

At this stage in the planning process, three buildings support Cornell Tech’s status as an innovation district. Including:

1. The Bridge at Cornell-Tech

Touted as the “first-ever building in New York City designed and built to leverage resources from a cutting-edge research university with those from industry,” The Bridge will bring together well-established firms with burgeoning startups. Intentional design principles encourage serendipitous collaboration and collisions, which are common themes observed in innovation districts; students will have the opportunity to engage with business leaders and faculty-researchers. The Bridge will also house a business incubator, which Katz and Wagner also identify as an important economic asset within the innovation district.

16 may 2.png
Artist’s rendering of the Bridge at Cornell-Tech

2. The Verizon Executive Ed Center

Similarly, the Ed Center “will provide another venue for synergy between the Cornell Tech academic community and industry.” The Ed Center will help facilitate purposeful networking opportunities across sectors.

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Artist’s rendering of the Verizon Executive Ed Center


3. The Bloomberg Center

Made possible through a $100 million endowment, The Bloomberg Center will primarily function as an interdisciplinary academic building but will also act “as a venue for chance collisions between academia and the world at large.

16 may 4
Artist’s rendering of the Bloomberg Center

The long-term success of Cornell Tech will similarly be determined by how the market responds, including additional third-places to create a more interactive environment to attract more visitors in the surrounding community.


Cornell Tech is positioned to function as a successful urban campus and an innovation district because of the purposeful strategies, from physical design to intended industry mix, that have been prescribed in its plans. Immediate innovation district competitiveness is questionable, however. Given the 2043 completion date, we must closely monitor cross-sector interaction and collaboration over the next couple of years. Cornell Tech leadership must then integrate new and reformed strategies to better perfect the innovation district model as conditions on the ground change. Although in its infancy, the forthcoming Cornell Tech will likely demonstrate that innovation districts can in fact be inorganically conceived.   


Ivan Allen Jr. and the Roots of Modern Atlanta

By Todd M. Michney

Ivan Allen mayoral office
Mayor Ivan Allen shortly after taking office in 1961. Image courtesy of the Ivan Allen Jr. Digital Collection, Georgia Institute of Technology

As mayor of Atlanta from 1962 to 1970, Ivan Allen Jr.’s legacy looms large.  Long before Allen, of course, local business and political leaders engaged in boosterism and pushed economic development, carefully managing the city’s image amid sometimes tense race relations.  From the choice of a phoenix and “Resurgens” (Latin for “Rising Again”) as the symbol and slogan of rebuilding in the immediate post-Civil War period; to eager promotion of the New South paradigm as a way toward racial “peace,” best symbolized by the 1895 Cotton States Exposition (with Booker T. Washington seeming to agree); to worries about negative publicity as a result of international reporting on the horrific 1906 race riot; to the launch of “Forward Atlanta,” a 1925 advertising campaign that persuaded numerous companies to establish their headquarters in the city, Atlanta has long been about self-promotion.  While certainly a political innovator, Allen’s basic approach was to continue along the path laid out by his predecessor William B. Hartsfield – which as explained by historian Kevin Kruse, was to enlist middle-class whites in a coalition with African Americans to support gradual civil rights reforms as evidence of progress, moderation, and modernity.  After all, it was Hartsfield who in 1958 had coined the phrase of Atlanta as a “City Too Busy to Hate” amid a climate of rising tension that culminated in the bombing of a Reform Jewish Temple that same year.

Ivan Allen 1963 cartoon
1963 editorial cartoon by Charles Bardowski showing Allen as a cautious architect of Atlanta’s rising civil rights edifice, with African Americans in a supportive but clearly subordinate role. Image courtesy of the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia

Ivan Allen, who passed in 2003, garnered much acclaim over the years for his comparative racial liberalism in an era fraught with growing controversies over the South’s and the country’s legacy of white supremacy and racial inequality.  Considering the intransigence of most white Southern politicians in the face of a growing civil rights movement, many of Allen’s actions were commendable.  Despite having previously voiced segregationist sentiments in a 1957 gubernatorial campaign, he actively courted African American support in 1961 to defeat the blatantly racist Lester Maddox, and carried through on his campaign promises to hire Atlanta’s first black firemen and desegregate the city’s parks and pools; strikingly, he ordered the removal of race-specific signage from city offices on his first day as mayor.  Allen sponsored meetings at City Hall with the Atlanta Summit Leadership Conference, a coalition of local civil rights groups, soon after its formation in 1963, and managed to organize an interracial celebratory banquet after native son Martin Luther King, Jr. won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, over the skepticism of many prominent whites.

Ivan Allen Summerhill 1966
Mayor Allen at the scene of rioting in Atlanta’s Summerhill neighborhood in September 1966, waiting his turn to address the crowd after student activist Joseph Means. Image courtesy of the Ivan Allen Jr. Digital Collection, Georgia Institute of Technology

But some black Atlantans were already impatient with the slow pace of change by the time that Allen took office.  African American students had launched a widespread sit-in movement to desegregate establishments serving the public in 1960; in fact, as a result of this activism, Allen as head of the Chamber of Commerce had negotiated an agreement to initiate the desegregation of downtown businesses in tandem with the city’s public schools.  In 1962, Allen accommodated the wishes of white residents in southwest Atlanta by building a barricade across Peyton Road, which they hoped would slow the pace of African American home purchases in the area; ordered removed by court order, he later regretted the resulting damage done to Atlanta’s reputation.  In 1963, at President John F. Kennedy’s urging, Allen became the only mayor of a major Southern city to testify in favor of a federal law guaranteeing equal access to public accommodations like restaurants and hotels –- although it should be recalled that he favored allowing individual municipalities to voluntarily desegregate, even while admitting that progress in Atlanta had been slow, and recognizing that local businesses would have little incentive to integrate without any legal requirement.

But it is perhaps Allen’s economic development priorities that had the greatest lasting impact, with the trajectory he charted stretching even into our present.  With his roots in the business community, Allen envisioned the transformation of Atlanta from a regional commercial hub to national and even international prominence.  Like Hartsfield before him, he utilized new federal programs like urban renewal to build highways and civic facilities intended to shore up downtown property values and boost tourism.  Projects like a new stadium that successfully attracted Atlanta’s first professional baseball team, along with a combined civic center and auditorium, represented the city’s new modern face; however, these projects specifically targeted for demolition older, higher-density neighborhoods that were disproportionately African American, thereby exacerbating a scarcity of affordable housing and an already tense racial climate.  In the summer of 1966, Mayor Allen had to personally plead for calm when rioting broke out in the Summerhill neighborhood, which was suffering on numerous counts in the wake of the new Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium’s construction.  Rather than admit the collateral effect of the city’s recent redevelopment projects, Allen blamed the disorder on the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) which was actively organizing residents in the area, although he subsequently shifted emphasis toward building public housing estates to rehouse residents displaced by urban renewal [1].

The economic development strategies set in motion under Ivan Allen’s administration were continued into the subsequent decades, notably in the building of the World Congress Center, Georgia Dome, and the numerous projects associated with the 1996 Olympic Games.  Despite heavy promotion by city officials and the local business leaders, all have provoked controversies due to their disastrous effects on nearby low-income, historically African American communities.  Concerns brewing around current projects include the new Falcons Stadium and whether livability can be restored in the neighborhoods just south of downtown following the Atlanta Braves’ upcoming decampment to Cobb County.  Even the BeltLine, a former railway corridor revamped as a bike- and pedestrian-friendly trail frequently promoted as a green fix to the city’s transportation woes, is widely expected to exacerbate Atlanta’s accelerating gentrification.

Historical interest in Allen is on the rise.  A documentary on Allen premiered in 2015, joining two other films in the works on his successors, notably Atlanta’s first African American mayor Maynard Jackson (who died within a week of Allen, coincidentally).  The Georgia Institute of Technology named its Ivan Allen Jr. College of Liberal Arts in his honor in 1990, as a way of appreciating his leadership and complex legacy during a turbulent era.  In 2013, the College debuted an Ivan Allen Jr. Digital Collection containing photographs, editorial cartoons, film clips, select memorabilia, and interviews collected by Professor Ronald Bayor with individuals who worked alongside Mayor Allen.  The Atlanta History Center (AHC) recently made available to researchers the records of Allen’s mayoral administration; Professor Bayor along with Visiting Assistant Professor Todd Michney, also in the School of History and Sociology, recently won grant funding through the Digital Integrative Liberal Arts Center (DILAC), established with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to collaborate with AHC in digitizing some of these records to make them more accessible.  It is our sincere hope that by revisiting the legacy of Ivan Allen Jr., that we may gain deeper insights into Atlanta’s recent past and in the process, empower more engaged civic participation on issues impacting the city’s most economically vulnerable residents.
[1] For an extended analysis, see Irene V. Holliman, “From Crackertown to Model City?  Urban Renewal and Community Building in Atlanta, 1963-1966,” Journal of Urban History 35, no. 3 (March 2009): 369-386.

Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning In Atlanta: The Legal Environment

By Chris Thayer

From Burke Law’s Public Law Update

In the increasingly complex legal environment featuring conflicts between state- and city-level policies — many of which are enacted specifically to circumvent the intended operation of one another — it is more important than ever to understand the circumstances in which any advocate of affordable housing interventions must operate. Affordable housing, also known as ‘workforce housing,’ is intended to cost no more than 30% of the net income of those making roughly 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI), and may be pursued through a number of policy mechanisms, each with their own legal implications. One of these approaches is mandatory inclusionary zoning.

Within the broad category of mandatory inclusionary zoning (IZ) approaches, there are three main types of instruments: unit set-asides, monetary-or-other compensation, and rent control. This post regards rent control as a mandatory inclusionary zoning policy instrument, although there is an ongoing debate on its inclusion in that category, most recently addressed in Palmer v City of Los Angeles in 2009, which held that mandatory inclusionary zoning was indeed a form of rent control. While rent control is often criticized as an affordable house method for its tendency to drive down housing quantity and quality over the long term, temporary rent control measures can be an extremely effective way to slightly cool the overheated markets of rapidly-gentrifying areas and give residents a chance to adjust while other affordable housing measures attempt to catch up. However, Georgia law OCGA § 44-7-19 makes rent control illegal statewide, making it ineligible for consideration in Atlanta.

There are three broad types of legal challenges to mainline mandatory inclusionary zoning measures: equal protection, due process, and takings. Of these, equal protection claims are the easiest to defeat. They assert that by forcing developers to undertake certain actions (paying money, building units, etc), they are not being treated equitably under the law. However, real estate developers are not a protected class, and therefore are subject to the highly deferential ‘reasonableness’ review, wherein courts accept that as long as the government’s need is reasonable, the unequal treatment is justified. Also relatively easy to refute are due process claims, which assert that a given law’s affordable housing requirements constitute unreasonable interference with a developer’s business activities. In the broadest sense, this argument was struck down by the original zoning case Euclid in 1926, wherein land-use regulation was decided to be an appropriate use of the police power. In the face of subsequent due process claims, cases such as 1988’s Pennell, in which “the United States Supreme Court held that protecting consumer welfare is a legitimate goal of price regulations, and that preventing unreasonable increases in housing prices is a legitimate governmental interest” have further supported the legitimacy of such regulations from a due process perspective. This is possible due to the deferential stance the courts take to legislatively-enacted requirements and the correspondingly low level of scrutiny employed, which accepts affordable housing as a public good the government is authorized to pursue. Indeed, it has been successfully argued that exclusionary zoning — zoning to discourage or prevent residence in an area by lower-income persons — is itself a violation of those citizens’ due process protections, as seen most famously in the Mt. Laurel cases.

By contrast, the most extensive — and contentious — strain of zoning challenges (and therefore inclusionary zoning challenges) is takings jurisprudence. Takings concerns are fundamentally different from those of due process or equal protection because they do not assert that the government has engaged in an inherently inappropriate action, but rather that it has failed to provide the Fifth-Amendment-mandated just compensation for an otherwise entirely legal action. For several decades, the test for takings claims in cases of government regulation of property was 1980’s Agins v. City of Tiburon “substantially advances” test — namely, that a regulation was not a taking if it substantially advances a legitimate government interest (similar to the two relatively-light standards used for equal-protection and due-process claims). This strain of thought was employed, or at least referenced, in a number of subsequent landmark takings cases — including Nollan (the “essential nexus” standard), Dolan ( “rough proportionality”), Penn Central (the “balancing” test), Lucas (the “total takings” test), and Loretto (the “permanent physical invasion” test) — to determine elements of a takings test in various circumstances. The “substantially advances” test was explicitly rejected for being suitable for due process concerns — not takings concerns — in 2005’s Lingle v Chevron, in which an entirely new schema is laid out. In it, the Court divides takings into per se takings (such as Lucas and Loretto), regulatory takings (handled using the Penn Central method), and the “special context” of land-use exactions (a condition placed on development to attempt to mitigate subsequent impacts of that development).

This final “special context” of exactions functionally covers all mandatory inclusionary zoning, thanks to the 2013 expansion of what constitutes an exaction by Koontz v. St. John’s River Water Management. Previously, exactions were either real property or the rights thereto (such as to refuse access), which mandatory set-asides — but not fees-in-lieu or other monetary mandatory inclusionary zoning methods — would fall under. The Koontz decision expanded the definition of exactions to include money as well as real property, and in doing so put fees-in-lieu, housing linkage fees, and similar mechanisms under sharply increased Constitutional scrutiny. The exact implications of the Koontz decision are still a matter of active debate — there are some readings that indicate it could be used to threaten the very legitimacy of property taxes — but it clearly raises the importance of administrative versus legislative takings.

This ambiguity — if legislative exactions (including mandatory IZ) are takings and are subject to the same strict scrutiny as administrative exactions are — is shaping up to be the next sea change in exactions law. At present, the matter is still under active consideration with the U.S. Supreme Court, most lately in the form of California Building Industry Association v. City of San Jose, which was rescheduled three times before finally receiving a denial of certiorari by Justice Thomas in late February 2016. In it, he expressed concern that “property owners and local governments are left uncertain about what legal standard governs legislative ordinances and whether cities can legislatively impose exactions that would not pass muster if done administratively.” There is a strong Constitutional argument that legislative exactions are inherently more defensible for being equally applied and put into place by the duly elected agents of the citizens’ collective will, in contrast to ‘ad-hoc’ administrative exactions which deserve greater scrutiny for their potential to single individual property owners out for abuse. This point was recently argued in San Remo Hotel v San Francisco, in which the Supreme Court of California asserted that any “city council that charged extortionate fees for all property development, unjustifiable by mitigation needs, would likely face widespread and well-financed opposition in the next election. Ad hoc individual monetary exactions deserve special judicial scrutiny mainly because, affecting fewer citizens and evading systematic assessment, they are more likely to escape such political controls.”

Currently, state-level case law is split. Until a Supreme Court decision is made, it seems that mandatory IZ policies, even if legislatively enacted, would not be practical to pursue in the Atlanta context. The San Jose case affirms for California that mandatory inclusionary zoning is a) not a taking, b) not rent control, and even adds that c) legislatively-enacted exactions are explicitly not subject to the Nollan/Dolan test. However, traditional mandatory zoning policies in Atlanta or Georgia will likely be challenged in the same way as the San Jose case, with a much less sympathetic State Supreme Court and a US Supreme Court that appears to be extremely open to a sufficiently ripe case on this issue. Even housing linkage fees, which have been both effective and politically palatable elsewhere, and which could potentially be supported as a legitimate use of the police power to offset the negative effects of development (discussed in Parking Assn. of Georgia v City of Atlanta), are likely to be successfully challenged as an illegal expression of impact fees. Given the presence of Georgia’s Development Impact Fees Act, which requires that all such fees be used for capital improvements to a specified range of public facilities and moreover must be used to maintain the current level of service, not increase it (OCGA. § 36-71), impact-fee mechanisms would likely be overturned as unconstitutional for attempting to improve on the current state of affordable housing provision, as both an unacceptable type of and level of service improvement. Furthermore, as Georgia’s State Constitution requires a “literal balancing test” for all land-use regulations to weigh the public benefit against private loss, any mandatory IZ effort would have to offer “substantial cost offsets” (making it functionally a voluntary ordinance) and would essentially rule out the possibility of mandatory set-asides. Therefore, given the current state of the law, it seems prudent to pursue other paths to affordability for Atlantans than any of these mandatory inclusionary zoning approaches.

Cities and Regions: Managing Growth and Change — Regional Studies Association North America Conference, Atlanta, USA


By Jennifer Clark


At Georgia Tech’s Center for Urban Innovation, we are thrilled to host the Regional Studies Association’s North American conference on June 15-17, 2016 on the theme Cities and Regions:  Managing Growth and Change.  The deadline for submitting abstracts to the conference is April 21, 2016. Click here to submit an abstract and register. Click here for additional information.

This conference is a great opportunity to bring together the international membership of the Regional Studies Association in the City of Atlanta at the Georgia Institute of Technology to discuss how, in the wake of the global financial crisis, cities all over the world are searching for new policies and practices capable of addressing major shifts in socio-economic relations at the urban and regional scale.  

Regional policies, particularly in the North American context, have responded to economic challenges by adopting new technologies and new institutional and organizational forms to manage growth and change at the city scale.  The result is a complex and uneven landscape of public and private actors delivering financial services, scaling-up supply chains, coordinating firm networks, diffusing process and material innovations, and organizing new forms of civic representation and participation.  

The inter-related processes of industrialization, urbanization, and regional and local development are complex.  These processes pose a major challenge for regional policy, firstly, for our conceptualizations of regional and urban development and, secondly, for specifying appropriate policy fixes to provide the conditions for sustainable, smart, and equitable economic growth.  

This conference provides a platform for researchers to address the effects of these policy, organizational, and institutional innovations and their impact on work, identity, governance, production networks, infrastructure investments, technology diffusion, and ultimately place. The conference will focus on the policy implications of emerging forms of governance and policy delivery relative to uneven development and inequality in a post-crisis era of ongoing market liberalization, financialization, and global competition.

The conference program highlights important leaders in the field of regional studies to discuss sustainability, equity, energy, innovation, manufacturing,







The 2016 RSA North America Conference, in the 51st Year of the Regional Studies Association, is an opportunity to discuss these issues, to chart future research imperatives, and to address concerns and challenges confronting policymakers and practitioners.  The conference organizers are keen to attract papers and sessions addressing a broad research and policy agenda, including contributions from disciplines that offer relevant insights associated with recasting our cities and regions. 

Conference Tracks and Themes:
A. Smart Cities, Smart Regions: connecting and connected regions, intersections of ICT and urban infrastructure, diffusion networks, partnership approaches, internet of things, financing city and regional development

B. Regional Innovation: Theory, Methods, Practice: urban and regional theories, methodology, value change (including big & open data), visualization, spatial economic analysis, metrics

C. Territory, Politics, Governance: metropolitan politics, institutions, regionalism, data-driven governance, policy evaluation, urban policy mobilities, intermediaries

D. Sustainable Cities and Regions: urban and regional sustainability at the city scale, risk, resilience, energy systems and sources, transportation networks

E. Emerging Community, Urban, and Regional Identities: culture, identity, citizenship, lived differences, racial and income inequalities, social capital, aging and succession planning, social entrepreneurship, open government, civic hacking

F. Labor Markets in Cities and Regions: geographies of jobs, changing skills and patterns of work, re-skilling regions and cities, local labor markets, immigration and skill, talent,  contract workers and precarious labor

G: Regional Economies: SMEs, Scale-Up, and the Future of Production Networks: smart specialization, evolutionary economic geography, competitiveness, reshoring and manufacturing, firm networks, sectoral policies and clusters, working regions, financialization and geographies of venture capital and private equity

Abstract Submission Guidance
The following guidelines set out the acceptable format for abstract submission. Please note that the abstract submission closing date — 21st April 2016.

Abstract guidelines:

Up to 400 words in length;
Text only; no diagrams, graphs, pictures, citations or maps
All contributing authors must be named, with their country and institution
Indicate which conference theme the paper is being submitted under