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Thread: How to introduce public participation in the planning process of a totally new city

  1. #1
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    How to introduce public participation in the planning process of a totally new city

    It is more and more important to introduce public participate into city planning, especially when it aims to sustainable city. but when the city is built on saline land without original population at all, how and where can we recruit the public?

    i am talking about an eco-city they are building in China. it becomes a fever in this country to build eco-city, out of all kinds of reasons. although it might be only a concept, based on technologies and market. but maybe it is how it goes, it is just the initiate stage. and most of the eco-cities are built on empty land with very few population or no population at all. how to attract people to come becomes their biggest concern. what is your opinion?

    I have no city planning background at all, what I am studying is human ecology, so i focus on humans in cities, and so to speak social sustainability. what do you think about it?

    I will appreciate every comment from you.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian TerraSapient's avatar
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    Ni hao Shuyan.

    I have limited experience working on planning projects in China; however, I have done some planning work there including on "eco-city" development projects. From my perspective, there is realistically no public input in the planning process in China. Decisions are made by the government and implemented based on funding. If you are looking for ways to incorporate public input into the planning process, I would suggest soliciting comments from neighboring communities. Most of the project proposals I have seen are on undeveloped land and are typically quite large, the size of an entire European or US city. Despite this, they still typically propose tying into the infrastructure--such as rail, highways, or waterways--of neighboring communities. I would first look at how the proposed new development relies on or interacts with surrounding areas and then identify what population in those areas might be impacted and solicit input from those people.
    Occupy Your Brain!

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    你好!TerraSapient !

    you got the point! public participate is not easy to realize under this system, i just expect that it might be possible when public participate can be used for other purposes, like advertisment.

    and yes, most projects are built on large undeveloped land. the one i am studying now was supposed to offer residential places for an industrial area nearby. but because of the changed housing policy, they realize it impossible to depend on residential housing only, they are also trying to introduce tourism , education into the eco-city.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Ni hao!

    TerraSapient makes good points and I can't offer any more knowledge about planning in China. But I can tell you that here in the States, the first question a Planner asks when considering how to solicit public input is identifying all of the "stakeholders" on a particular project. This can be a long list and it may not be possible to engage with all of them (but is important to list them all, no matter how minor). Its important to recognize that some of the parties with vested interests (like the developers, corporations or the government) have MORE access to information and influence over the project than the average citizen and part of the planner's role is to ensure all parties have a say with the belief that ultimately, this will make a better project. I imagine in addition to the developer, businesses and government, you would have residents neighboring cities or towns (who will be impacted by any changes to this undeveloped area), potential workers at these industries (if you can't find actual workers who will work there, try to find some in neighboring areas who are in a similar situation), the range of residents that are likely to be living there (not just the workers, but other people like management, teachers, civil servants, etc.) and anyone else you can imagine -government workers, small business owners, manufacturers of the "eco" elements that may be incorporated into the development, etc.

    From that list, you can identify those parties that currently have the least knowledge about or access to information concerning the developing eco-city and engage them first. Then work your way up the list. The idea here is to get input from users of the city that normally don't have a say in how places are designed or function.

    I will say, though, that its helpful to be prepared for the public process being messy and inexact. People may be suspicious of your motives or reticent to participate. They may provide such a wide range of opinions that you cannot identify any trends or common ground. Some opinions or ideas may be unreasonable. Ultimately, you will have to struggle with identifying input that is productive and useful and be prepared that not all ideas will be implemented. It may also be important to identify culturally relevant ways of engaging communities. This can be very helpful in gaining trust and soliciting truly useful information. I don't know enough about Chinese society to suggest what that might be, but I have an example from my time in Uganda.

    I worked in Uganda for a year and a half working for a performing arts company that uses traditional dance, music and theater to engage communities in the public process. So, they go into a community, present a play on the topic that is being addressed (in these areas, it was loargely things like public health, housing, women's rights, etc.) and then engage the residents in writing their own play. The play was then presented to the community at large and used as an object of discussion concerning the topic.The reason is that the communities there are very hierarchical and if you just bring a bunch of people into a room and ask them to provide input or critiques, the older men end up dominating the conversation. Women will not counter the opinions of men in rural communities and the younger people will generally not contradict their elders. But in the performance context, it is acceptable to level criticism because it takes place in an indirect manner. For example, if the women in a village are wanting to do something different from what the men want, they might prepare and sing a song based on a traditional about a stubborn man who doesn't listen to others' advice and suffers as a result.

    So something to think about - are there ways traditionally that community members air grievances or discuss social issues collectively that you can tap into? I imagine many average citizens may be a little unsure about speaking out too loudly or getting too involved for fear of repercussions. Especially if their opinions contradict official plans.

    Good luck. I am fascinated by planning and development in China, so I hope you will share more of your insights with us!
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  5. #5
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    wahday! I am fascinated by your ideas!

    public input is still a new thing for China. so basically, it is still a WHAT and WHY project. as to HOW, we do not have much experience about it. in most situation, the government just put a notice on the wall, and take a picture as evidence of being open and democratic. it is partly because of the political system, and also, from my perspective of view, the rapid Chinese speed does not allow too much discussion. But I belive, with the development in China, the concept of efficiency will be completed, like quality will replace speed to be the biggest concern.

    and also, people are more daring to comment on governments now. especially when the projects concern their interests, they would be even more daring. the example in Uganda is very inspiring. i do not know whether the food culture ,and the drinking culture in China will make it possible.

  6. #6
    whilst i've also not worked on planning an eco city, the involvement i've had where we've tried to plan new towns, is that exisitng residents are the ones that are resistant. they then tend to lead the no campaign puttng thier own self interests first (not unexpectadly) but to the frustration of acheiving wider objectives of deliveirng new housing, employment opportunities and community infrastructure.

    i guess maybe in China the systems of opposing such large scale developments are not as established as in europe and the US or ever likely to be with the system of policital control in operation.

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    Hey fuzzyness666,

    The project I am studying now has no existing residents at all, which can be good because there will be no resistant in this sense. But there will be future residents, and we should concern their interests?

    I can understand the imperfection when residents always put their own self interests first, but not only the residents, aren't all the stakeholders doing the same? That is why we need the communication between different parts. As I know, there is some conflicts between governments and developers already, for example, to get some visible political achivements, some politician required the developer to finish building the projects of more than 700 apartments just in half year. They finally made it. but i guess it is not worse than a suicide. And the roofs were designed to be flat to better use solar power, but because someone did not like it, they had to change all the roofs into pitched after the roofs were finished already. You may get a lot of different perspectives in this case, but if there were sufficient communication between these two parts. maybe, it would be better.

    As in China, unfortunately, it is more difficult to introduce public participate into city planning process. on one hands, it is not efficient enough, as I know, there is a case in Sweden, the developers and governments have discussed for 3 years already, but the project has not started yet. and in this 3 years, many new lines of subway were in use already in beijing, so it is difficult adapt to the current chinese speed. on the other hand, the democracy systerm and open culture need more time to cultivate.

  8. #8
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    Heritage planning in China

    Shuyan - I have enjoyed reading about the new ecocity plans in China. We have been there eight times as planners, working with Wolong Panda Reserve in Sichuan, the Xilin Tiger Reserve in Hunchun City, and doing seminars and workshops in Hangzhou, Beijing and Chengdu. We did have conversations with stakeholders in doing an interpretive plan for Wolong, but admittedly the voices of the two ethnic communities of the valley were not present. We found the managers of Wolong Valley to be very open to integrating the rich cultural history with the natural history stories of the panda and desirous of finding ecotourism businesses compatible with all of the varied interests, recognizing that tourists both help and protect panda research at the same time. They donate money while seeking lodging and food that drive the conversion of more panda habitat into cabbage fields.

    As heritage interpretive planners, we look for the authentic cultural and natural history for guidance in planning, especially if there are no human populations in place. We still think it is undesirable in the U.S. to do Tuscan (Italian) villages in the middle of Colorado suburbs while ignoring the architectural and natural landscaping options of the immediate area. Using natural and cultural history themes will encourage the use of native stone, plants, foods and require less imported materials with the heavy carbon costs of transportation.

    We enjoy the people, culture, food and landscapes of China very much. Your speed of construction and change is a bit scary to watch, but our U.S. approach is often mired in old approaches that did not work well in the past and should not be used in the future, but we still do things the same old ways. Better technologies in human waste treatment is hard to introduce to health departments designed around older technologies, for instance.

    To me the very term ecocity being sold as a completely new city misses an important point. Ecology is about evolution where the changes are incremental toward a more well-adapted community. An ecocity that is all new should still learn from the past, culturally and ecologically and hopefully find the interests of the new stakeholders in how the community is shaped.

    It is a grand challenge. Best wishes with all of that.

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