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Redevelopment Without the Ills
Nothing provides perspective like travel. China has some of the most dense cities in the world. Jim Chappell, former Executive Director of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research think tank, recently took a trip to China. He was envious of the free civic museums in each Chinese city, which explained and documented the planning and development history of the city. He was also reminded that urban renewal, now a phrase with a strong negative connotation—so much so that the repeal of California's redevelopment law was welcomed from many corners—had its origin in real urban problems. Yet urban renewal, and its heir, redevelopment, created its own problems. Writes Chappell:
A few days in Asia and a few hours in the Hong Kong Museum of History reminded me that the issues urban renewal was addressing were also very real in America, as they were in Hong Kong. The problems with urban renewal cannot be dismissed as simply “racism” on the part of the elites or arrogance on the part of planning professionals. The problems they were addressing, including disinvestment and capital flight from cities, were difficult and complex. We don’t live in fear of massive urban fires or pestilence. It probably is really not necessary to wear a mask. But in the process, we destroyed vibrant communities and created a legacy of sorrow and dysfunction that permeates neighborhoods of our cities.
For more of Chappell's thoughts on urban renewal here and in China, please see the source article.