Urban

Understanding Urban Retail Vacancy

By Jein Park (Urban Institute) | In many cities across the United States, the retail sector has been in long decline and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated permanent store and mall closures, bankruptcies, and job losses. Although commercial corridors have been recovering at non-generalizable rates, the disruption to small business activity caused many more storefront vacancies than cities know what to do with. The issue of focus in our paper, storefront retail, is highly valuable as it contributes to the quality of street life, pedestrian-oriented urban design, and active frontage that promotes social exchange. Commercial corridors with high presence of retail vacancies often report declining quality of sidewalks, increase in crime, and a viscous cycle of economic disinvestment. In our UAR paper, we provide some insight about storefront vacancies in urban neighborhoods from the perspective of business organizations. We interviewed business organizational leaders about the causes, impact, and mitigation of retail vacancies and summarize our findings in our paper. Read More

October 27, 2021 // 0 Comments

Who Banishes? City Power and Anti-homeless Policy in San Francisco

By David J. Amaral (University of California, Santa Cruz) | Homelessness is a pressing concern facing cities throughout the United States but is especially pronounced in urban California. The state is home to roughly a quarter of all people experiencing homelessness in the country, more than two thirds of whom are unsheltered (about double the national rate). In his 2020 State of the State address, California Governor Gavin Newsom devoted the bulk of his attention to the issue of homelessness, claiming that “the California Dream is dimmed by the wrenching reality of families, children and seniors living unfed on a concrete bed.” This year, following the social and economic disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor’s 2021 budget dedicated $4.8 billion to addressing the state’s homeless crisis, representing a dramatic increase in homeless-related spending at the state level. Read More

October 19, 2021 // 0 Comments

Do Local Immigrant-Welcoming Efforts Increase Immigration? The Detroit Experience

By Xi Huang (University of Central Florida) | With decades of deindustrialization and the hard hit of the Great Recession, Detroit is characterized by urban blight, racial tension, residential segregation, and poverty. The region’s leaders have tried several countermeasures including economic diversification and “eds and meds” anchoring, and immigrant attraction appears to have become a sought-after strategy to address the region’s economic and demographic declines. This study examines whether this strategy has brought desirable outcomes, mainly focusing on the efforts led by Global Detroit that started in 2010. Using the synthetic control method that compares Detroit to a synthetical Detroit between 2011 and 2014, it finds that the immigrant-welcoming efforts have increased the immigrant share of the population in the Detroit region during the post-intervention period of 2011-2014. The share of high-skilled immigrants in the local population also increased during this time, albeit with weak statistical significance. Read More

October 15, 2021 // 0 Comments

Can We Bring Culture into the Large-Scale Study of Gentrification? Assessing the Possibilities Using Geodemographic Marketing Data

By Mahesh Somashekhar (University of Illinois at Chicago) | Many people think that gentrification leads to displacement, but academic research shows that is not always the case. Many impoverished households in gentrifying neighborhoods try and stay put because they hope to take advantage of the new amenities that gentrification brings, like new grocery stores or city parks. Even more, people in poverty move around a lot – due to eviction, unstable family arrangements, the struggle to find work – so it is hard to determine whether an impoverished person moving out of a gentrifying neighborhood is really moving due to displacement or for another reason. Read More

September 15, 2021 // 0 Comments

Place Attachment Fosters Collective Action in Rapidly Changing Urban Neighborhoods

By Andrew Foell (Washington University in St. Louis) and Kirk A. Foster(East Carolina University) | Urban “redevelopment” has been a buzzword for decades – from the post-war urban renewal programs that forced many low-income African Americans from their neighborhoods to modern gentrification fueled by a middle- and upper middle-class push to reduce commute times. Such redevelopment efforts, historically, have been done absent of the residents themselves who must live with the consequences. The result is often social and cultural displacement of longtime residents. Atlanta’s West End neighborhood is a good example, particularly because of its significant place in African American history and culture and recent target of economic investment. Increased development interests spurred by the Atlanta BeltLine, a roughly $5-billion-dollar green infrastructure initiative, has heightened neighborhood concerns over issues of gentrification, resident displacement, and equitable development. With potential to be a vehicle for positive community change, the BeltLine is also emblematic of a historic legacy of racialized neighborhood disinvestment and urban renewal. Read More

September 9, 2021 // 0 Comments

The Diverse Perspectives of Symbolic Displacement: Unpacking Gentrification in an Urban Chinatown

By Laureen D. Hom (California State Polytechnic University, Pomona) | Throughout my fieldwork in Los Angeles Chinatown, I was fortunate to meet many different stakeholders to try to understand how gentrification was impacting the neighborhood. As I visited different community organizations and attended public meetings, community leaders shared their different experiences being a part of Chinatown, which led to very diverse, and often conflicting, perspectives of gentrification. At one meeting held at the local elementary school, I was introduced to a city planner, and we casually talked about our observations about gentrification in Los Angeles. As we were ending our conversation, he briefly mentioned to me how they were not just looking at demographic shifts and property value changes, but were trying to “capture the sentiment” of communities. This fleeting comment stuck with me as I realized that he may have been doing that right now at this event as he briefly spoke with almost all the different community leaders. This resonated with me throughout my fieldwork as I learned more about the community – and continues as I visit Chinatown today. When I walk through the neighborhood, my understanding of an apartment complex, the public library, or shopping plaza has completely transformed from what I thought a few years ago. I associated it with certain people and their stories, that shaped my understanding and attachment to these places. Read More

August 23, 2021 // 1 Comment

Do Housing Programs Provide Stable Housing to Program Participants and Program Leavers?

By Seungbeom Kang (University of Florida) | For the last few decades, rent hikes and stagnated incomes in the United States have consistently fueled a nationwide force that makes it hard for low-income households to be stably housed. According to the recent report by Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, 10.9 million renters—or one in four—spent more than half their incomes on housing in 2018 and many low-income renters’ housing situations may be easily destabilized by minor financial shocks. Read More

August 3, 2021 // 0 Comments

Can States Promote Minority Representation? Assessing the Effects of the California Voting Rights Act

By Loren Collingwood (University of California, Riverside) and Sean Long (University of California, Riverside) | California passed its own version of the Voting Rights Act (CVRA) in 2001, aiming to diversify local elected offices. At the time, 449 of California’s 476 cities employed at-large districts to elect candidates to the city council. The CVRA compels at-large cities to transition their city council elections to a by-district basis if plaintiffs can demonstrate the presence of racially polarized voting (i.e., Latinos preferring one candidate, and Whites/Anglos another). Read More

July 22, 2021 // 0 Comments

Translating Descriptive Representation into Substantive Representation: The Role of Electoral Institutions in Urban School Districts in Texas

By Markie McBrayer (University of Idaho) | Wichita Falls Independent School District (WFISD)—a school district in North Texas—was recently under scrutiny for unequal distribution of bilingual funding among their schools. In their school district, campuses with greater numbers and proportions of bilingual students received less total bilingual funding from the district. For instance, Zundy Elementary in WFISD received $32,000 for their 140 qualifying bilingual students, while Southern Hills Elementary received $236,000 in bilingual funding for their 88 qualifying students, suggesting vast inequities in the school district. Deborah Palmer, a professor of education equity and cultural diversity at the University of Colorado in Boulder, stated that unequal distributions of bilingual resources, like those seen in WFISD, are “fairly drastic inequities” and should be considered “a serious issue.” Read More

July 13, 2021 // 0 Comments