Creating this 5 page capstone ended up being a more involved process than anticipated. While the methods and results section was largely copied over from my final analysis post from the end of last semester, with minor revisions to reduce its length, the introduction/background required substantial tweaking to convey the essential details within the length requirements. My conceptual framework of gentrification has been informed by my reading of David Ley’s The New Middle Class and the Remaking of the Central City over the break. I found his critique of Smith’s rent gap hypothesis and proposed drivers of gentrification convincing.
Ley points out that, empirically, though cycles of capital disinvestment and reinvestment are an important aspect of gentrification, it is not most intensely disinvested areas which are gentrified first. Indeed, some of the most disinvested and core-adjacent neighborhoods remain substantially ungentrified, even in the most intensely gentrified cities (think the Tenderloin in San Francisco, the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver, the Lower East Side in New York up until the 2000s). Gentrification instead proceeded first in modestly devalorized areas adjacent to historically-elite districts, where developers perceived lower risks of investment, in more of a spillover model of revalorization. Ley also usefully situates gentrification within the frameworks of “post-modernism” and “post-Fordism,” highlighting the ways in which the cultural attitudes and economic structure of towards cities shifted around 1970. While these frameworks are only briefly referenced in my 5 page thesis, they will figure within the build-out of my thesis moving forward.
One of the main issues I’ve been tackling in terms of the structure of my thesis concerns the integration of my regression analysis of housing price effects and my qualitative analysis of the Orange Line planning process. After meeting with Liz, I decided to include most of this qualitative analysis with the background on the Orange Line. This qualitative analysis will eventually include a recounting of the station area planning process of the Orange Line (including an analysis of its reliance on the language of revitalization), as well as the rezoning and urban renewal policies enacted in its anticipation. Another issue I need to deal with is expounding on the relationship between property value increases and displacement. My tentative approach on this matter are to cite previous literature on the subject and the concern on the part of planners with this relationship, as shown in the 2035 Comprehensive Plan.
The 2035 Comp Plan itself is now figuring much more prominently in the implications section of my thesis, which was developed dramatically by writing this five page thesis. This week, I began to read through the text of Comp Plan, which I had previously only been using to gather information on the zoning changes associated with the Orange Line. I found a host of interesting language, which refocused my implications section into an analysis of the disconnect between the utopian goals of planning as creating triple-bottom line sustainability with transit-oriented growth and the limits of primarily relying on policies to enhance the private market. This bind, I argue, is at the heart of the dilemma of contemporary planning—a simultaneous desire to enhance equity with the creation of places and the reliance on private real estate as a vehicle to create those places.
For the first week in second semester of my thesis, I created a concept map of the actors and processes important to the creation and implications of the Orange MAX Line. I ended up departing fairly significantly from the process outlined by Canas et al. (2015), who describe concept mapping as large concepts linked in a coherent structure by simple prepositions. This is somewhat contrary to the Actor-Network Theory (ANT) diagrams called for by the ENVS guidelines, which link specific actors with specific prepositions. While concept mapping as envisioned by Canas et al. seems useful for schematically illustrating the broad arc of an argument and I will undoubtedly at least sketch out such a map to help with the big-picture organization of background ideas and theories, my familiarity with ANT made it a more attractive model for organization. The basic structure of my concept map consists of the actors and planning components engaged in the production of the light rail line itself (generally the left side), along with the effects of the line and planning as embodied in institutions and objects (generally the right side). Color coding enhances the immediate readability by visually grouping the types of actors mapped and allowing for a quick view of the overall network structure. To decide on the actors to include, I began with those essential to my broad-scale argument—the light rail line itself, the major governmental organizations involved in its creation, developers and transit-oriented development in general, and the housing market. I elaborated on the linkages surrounding the housing market to sketch out the nature of the causalities. Considering my focus on planning in this thesis, I also found it important to include the route and station area planning as separate nodes in the network, along with the EIS. I debated including the EIS, as my main argument concerning the EIS is how it both ignored how potential property appreciation could be detrimental to some and became the main focal point for the planning process.
To organize this network, I proceeded from the basic design of the two hemispheres of actors highlighted above—the direct transit planning and the associated land use planning and outcomes. I was inspired by the Canas article to add a level of hierarchy within the left hemisphere, while most of the rest of the map functions as a flowchart. The black lines illustrate formal governmental hierarchies that comprise background information on the structure of the planning process, blue lines highlight those processes which are important to the overall development of my argument and easily demonstrable, and orange lines represent the core, debatable assertions in my thesis. The central point of this concept map is the centrality of promoting transit-oriented development and its attendant land value creation, in terms of the priorities of the governmental actors shaping policy, station area planning itself, the success of the line, and housing market appreciation. It also illustrates some of the tension in equity planning, with transit access simultaneously enabling cheap mobility for lower-income residents and sparking some price appreciation. Community input is comparatively marginalized, consisting largely of minor input solicited by a sub-commission, after the major decisions had been made. Developers, by contrast, occupy a central role within a regime intended to encourage transit-oriented development, possessing both a substantial voice in the station area planning process and being the subject of planning.
Concept mapping was strikingly different from writing, as I was able to avoid entirely the issue of supporting arguments, placing short linking arrows as though they were facts. I had to ignore that inner voice shouting “but that’s not capturing any of the nuances!” as I created the concept map, plowing on through the generalities that college has made me recoil from. I think this exercise was most helpful in getting me to really focus on what the chain on arguments consists of. While creating the concept map, I found myself connecting each link to a specific source or set of arguments; laying them out as such helped show me which arguments are really debatable and which are only necessary to the extent that they set up components of the thesis. On one level, this map is incomplete, showing the decision to create light rail as emerging ex-nihilo, from the assessment of Metro and/or the desires of Trimet. Obviously this is not the case, ignoring both regional history around early failed attempts at making this Portland-Milwaukie light rail route as well as the broader ideological and material motivators for creating light rail (e.g. objection to sprawl; opposition to new highway construction at several scales; planning principles of growing compactly, including a desire from the City of Portland to capture more of the regional growth; an agency bias towards flashy light rail construction; real mobility needs; support for expansion of light rail as building the Portland brand). Including all of these factors and their interconnections, and then painstakingly organizing nodes and edges for clarity, went beyond the level of concept mapping I thought appropriate for a paper not focused on the history itself.