On March 28th, Penn IUR hosted a launch event for the most recent book in the Penn Press book series, City in the 21st Century series, Governing the Fragmented Metropolis: Planning for Regional Sustainability by Christina Rosan, Professor of Geography, Temple University. Penn IUR Affiliated PhD Student Theo Lim, Doctoral Candidate, City and Regional Planning, School of Design offered a brief introduction, highlighting Rosan’s varied work across the fields of urban agriculture, environmental justice, and green infrastructure research. Rosan’s then launched into a discussion of her research process and key findings, utilizing quotes from interviews and distilled summary bullets to engage the audience.
Initially began as a dissertation, Rosan explained how her interest in regional metropolitan forms of government and collaboration had transformed into a book. There are a growing number of challenges facing our nation’s metropolitan regions that cannot be solved at the local government level alone, she argued. Planners are increasingly convinced that some form of regionalism in the best way to plan for a sustainable future but they have debated the best approach.
Rosan, seeking to provide insight into what approach is the most impactful, studied 3 cities – Boston, Denver, and Portland – whose metropolitan-level planning organizations had varying degrees of authority. Boston’s Metro Area Planning Council (MAPC), she explained, is a purely capacity-building organization with no teeth to require implementation of any plans. Despite this, MAPC has had success strategically partnering with other entities who have authority or funding to provide to various planning projects.
Denver has the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG), which not only fills a capacity-building role but also serves as the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the area in charge of directing federal funding for transportation infrastructure projects. This role has allowed Denver to more successfully link regional land use plans with transportation plans to support denser development around transit hubs.
Rosan explained that Portland is a rare U.S. exception of a regional entity having legal authority in matters of planning. Portland’s METRO, she noted, has the power to ensure consistency between local and regional plans and limit development outside the city’s Urban Growth Boundary. While this authority provides METRO with a stick to enforce their regional plans, Rosan argues that METRO still needs to build moral authority, ensuring local entities see the regional entity as a beneficial force that helps communities reach their shared goals.
Rosan draws all three examples together in her argument for a more nuanced understanding of both metropolitan development and local land use planning. Authority shapes the nature and quality of participatory types of decisions, the ability to connect transportation and land use planning, and the willingness of local governments to adopt regional plans. In order to make regional planning efforts more successful across different structures, Rosan recommends connecting regional agencies to institutions with authority wherever possible, selling local governments on the benefits of thinking regionally, and encouraging states to play a large role in thinking about large-scale planning.
Governing the Fragmented Metropolis: Planning for Regional Sustainability is available for sale online here. The City in the 21st Century book series, explores the historical, regional, and political factors that have allowed some industrial cities to regain their footing in a changing economy. Previously published book in the series can be found online here.