Levine: Make some noise for urban planning

Levine: Make some noise for urban planning

June 29th, 2018 by Deborah Levine in Opinion Columns
Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 5/2/17. Deborah Levine is a new contributor to the Sunday Business section column.

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga...

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

The education I received getting my master's urban planning degree in the 1990s had less to do with the classroom and more to do with developing the Windy City. That's the nickname given Chicago more than a century ago, not for its weather, but for its gusts of political hot air. The hot issue of my time was planning the city's high-rise developments and rapid growth into nearby neighborhoods. A major parcel of land under debate was home to inner city housing projects. The projects were built with the intent to alleviate poverty but had become African-American islands battered by desperation over the lack of good schools, public transportation, decent jobs and grocery stores.

Chicago's decision to remove the projects from prime urban real estate was repeated by many cities across the country. The residents were relocated to the suburbs, supposedly for their own good, with a promise of a quieter life and self-sufficient families. I drove by one of the new projects and saw that it was definitely quieter. The residents were hidden behind a line of trees in the middle of nowhere, invisible and eerily silent. Their fate was virtually forgotten as Chicago hooked up with developers who gentrified their former homes, raised rents through the roof and raked in a fortune.

The term "inner city" once referred to impoverished downtown enclaves usually of people of color. But cities are changing with middle class African-Americans moving into suburbs and gentrification bringing the wealthy downtown. Once again, we are seeing the transformation of metropolitan areas, prompting higher costs of housing and living. Atlanta is the Southern poster child for this booming growth and its challenges. Nashville worries about becoming the next Atlanta, according to The Wall Street Journal. Is Chattanooga next?

Should we ask if HUD's proposal of a 20 percent increase for low-income renters is in reality a path for developers? Some say it's a path to self-sufficiency, but we've heard "it's for your own good" before. Should we ask if there's a racial bias targeting African-American residents, especially when biases continue to shape the landscape on a personal level? Walking around a homogeneous Chicago neighborhood that was becoming diverse, I saw the owner of an old house put up a For Sale sign. When I asked why he was moving, he said, "African-Americans are taking over here. I'm moving somewhere quiet."

Racial issues are deeply embedded in our country's housing patterns, affecting education, health care, transportation and family life. Urban planners need to weave all of the above into the plans for large developments, but also for smaller ones. For example, there's a dilemma involving the Chattanooga Zoo expansion and the adjacent gym, a historic facility with many African-American patrons. There are attempts to relocate the gym, but if no site is found, it will cease to exist.

Situations like the gym are catalysts for civic activism, and while the African-American community is too often at risk, there's a growing understanding that we're in this together. Activists' voices are loud and noisy in expanding cities like Seattle, which is attempting to undo gentrification's displacement. Rather than have to undo, let's make sure that all parties are heard and developers collaborate, not dictate, for creative solutions. So listen up, Chattanooga!

Deborah Levine, an author and trainer/coach, is editor of the American Diversity Report. Contact her at deborah@diversityreport.com.

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Chattanooga Times Free Press Comments Policy

The Chattanooga Times Free Press web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Times Free Press web sites and any content on the Times Free Press web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Times Free Press, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Times Free Press websites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Chattanooga Times Free Press
400 East 11th Street
Chattanooga, TN 37403
Phone: 423-757-6315
Email: webeditor@timesfreepress.com


Loading...