By Andrea Broaddus
“Why do tents frighten our Chancellor and Mayor Bloomberg so much? Because when we occupy a space, we transform it. We render common what was private or only nominally public. And when we transform a space, we want to defend it. And when we link arms, we find each other. We are de-privatized. It’s at that point that we are no longer private persons. We are a People. And that’s what the Chancellor, and Bloomberg, and the Regents are afraid of. Because you can’t scare a People. Break through its chains and it becomes a massive crowd. Erase its tents and they pop back up. All these raids, these destructions of the People’s spaces, have made a fundamental mistake. You can’t turn a People back into private persons. They can beat us with batons, but they can’t beat us back into isolated individuals.” (UC Berkeley Professor Geoffrey O’Brien, at a demonstration in support of Occupy Cal on November 15, 2011)
Volume 25 of the Berkeley Planning Journal (BPJ) was created during a period of upheaval in the world generally, on our campus, and within the Journal itself. When the Editorial Board met in Fall 2011 to discuss ideas for Volume 25, we first decided to solicit papers in honor of our 25th edition for a section titled “BPJ@25.” Then, as we sat around the table that October, discussing ideas for our Call for Papers, we found it increasingly impossible to ignore the wail of sirens and choppy buzz of helicopters hovering over campus. The Occupy movement had coalesced from the headlines into a real occupation on the steps of Sproul Hall, not far from where we sat. Our colleagues began showing up in class with bruised ribs. We found ourselves transformed from witnesses into participants. Thus the urban uprisings of 2011 inspired the theme of our Call for Papers, “New Spaces of Insurgency.”
The public contestations of the Occupy movement affected us deeply at Berkeley, and illuminated interesting challenges for us as urban planners and scholars. Protests, helicopters, and riot police have been a fall tradition in recent years on the UC Berkeley campus, in response to annual fee increases that have tripled tuition for the University of California system over ten years. In the fall of 2011, students were protesting a proposed 150% increase, but the tuition protest found a new, wider resonance. The issues raised by students—resistance to privatization, to austerity, and to shifting the financial burden of public goods onto individuals—were echoed in national and global demonstrations sparked by the Great Recession. Student demonstrators adopted the tactics of the Occupy movement. An Occupy Cal encampment translated the tuition protests into a battle over the physical space of Sproul Plaza. Events culminated in a police raid on November 9, 2011, during which protesting students and professors were beaten and arrested.
After suffering a broken rib in the police raid, English professor Geoffrey O’Brien made a stirring speech that connected the Occupy movement to issues we work on as urban planners—public space, housing, economic equity, civic participation. He pointed out that public and private space are not merely technicalities of ownership. Any space may be transformed into a “People” space by virtue of how people come together and share experiences within it; it is the people, not the space itself, which make a public space. It is also no coincidence that structures used as dwelling spaces—tents—became the symbol of urban franchisement following the collapse of the housing market. Planning professionals have the power to create, manage, and influence the spaces—physical, social, and institutional—that support civic participation and protect the marginalized.
The BPJ is a forum in which urban planning scholars can exchange ideas on how to best use these planning powers. In her opening editorial for the first issue of the BPJ, Hilda Blanco discussed the guiding principles upon which the Journal was founded. She described “the Berkeley Idea” as a characteristic quality of scholarship at UC Berkeley—research oriented toward social theory, drawing upon broad intellectual traditions, and with a social conscience. The Berkeley Idea permeates the culture of our campus, and BPJ article selections consistently reflect it. Berkeley planning scholars have never turned our backs on the social upheavals of our time.
Changes at the Berkeley Planning Journal
The oldest peer-reviewed student journal in the field of urban planning, the BPJ has both flourished and struggled over the years. Some editions list dozens of involved students, and some credit just a handful. To employ a truly Californian metaphor, the Journal is like a grape vine that gets pruned down to its roots, only to revive and produce fruit again. It keeps renewing itself with fresh cohorts of visionary students willing to take up our mission “to offer readers a collection of innovative and research-oriented articles written by emerging scholars.” We have helped scores of doctoral and Masters students publish their thesis work. Since 2007, we have offered the Kaye Bock Student Paper Award.
Although it has always been an independent, student-run institution, the BPJ’s greatest resource over the years has been the DCRP faculty. They have supported, mentored, and even rescued editorial boards from the brink. BPJ’s most dedicated faculty advisor, Michael Teitz, helped found the Journal and then advised the student editors on 13 editions. After a lapsed year in 2003 when no BPJ edition was produced, faculty advisor Karen Chapple appealed to former editors to encourage would-be editorial board members, emphasizing that Journal time was time well spent. She found that many former editors had gone on to become faculty. At least 36 former BPJ editorial board members currently serve as full-time faculty, three of them right here at DCRP—Karen Chapple, Ananya Roy, and Elizabeth Macdonald.
In his essay for this volume, Michael Teitz points out that student journals have two great advantages: flexibility about what they choose to publish, and the ability to be innovative in format. The BPJ has embodied these advantages using a variety of techniques. Some editions have experimented with different formats or themes to raise emerging issues in planning, such interviews, photo essays, and “current debates” sections featuring multiple points of view. One issue, “Las Californias,” reflected its theme by publishing half the articles in Spanish. Our latest innovation in format is to become on open access, online-only publication. We now publish via e-Scholarship, an open access portal hosted by the University of California. Open access publishing offers several qualitative advantages over printed text; for instance, the Journal’s visibility for open search engines like Google Scholar has dramatically increased article views and downloads. We also have upgraded our DCRP-hosted website to allow us to publish high-resolution photo and video content. All BPJ content may be downloaded for free, but those who wish to purchase a hard-bound edition may order one through a print-on-demand service.
In Hilda Blanco’s comments during a special event for the BPJ’s 25th anniversary hosted by the College of Environmental Design this spring, she reminded us that the purpose of the Journal is to be “a vehicle to build community.” Similarly, Michael Teitz has long advised us to “embrace the challenge of practice” by remaining engaged with practitioners. Thus with Volume 25 we have launched a practitioner-oriented blog. It is named after a section first introduced in Volume 4 by editors Stephen Tyler and Susan Handy, “The Urban Fringe.” Our vision for the Urban Fringe blog is to serve the Masters students in our department. Today we see a proliferation of online content and blogs, with the implication that quality of writing is all the more important. Writing clearly, quickly, and thoughtfully are critical skills for scholars and practitioners. Urban Fringe submissions will be solicited from studio projects, client reports, and internship projects, allowing for exchange between students and the wider community.
And so, with no further ado, I am delighted to introduce the articles and essays the editorial board selected for this celebratory 25th edition of the Berkeley Planning Journal.
In honor of the BPJ’s 25th edition, the “BPJ@25” section is composed of reflective essays—looking both backwards, over the Journal’s history since its founding in 1984, and forward, to its future, as Volume 25 marks a turning point for the Journal in both our content and mode of publishing. A thoughtful essay from Michael Teitz reflects upon the BPJ’s main justification for existence: as a means for students to cultivate not only writing and editing skills, but to develop a voice and participate in the intellectual challenge of defining and shaping the field of planning. In this spirit, we solicited reflections from former BPJ editors on how the Journal impacted their careers. Hilda Blanco’s essay revisits the “Berkeley Idea” and its continuing relevance. A collection of five commentaries edited by Jake Wegmann illustrate the amusing highs and harrowing lows of the BPJ editorial experience.
The BPJ@25 section concludes with an exciting and forward-looking essay by the person who did the heavy lifting for our online transition, Master’s student Ruth Miller. Her essay documenting our process connects the BPJ’s transition to an online-only publication to a larger movement toward open access publishing in academia.
New Spaces of Insurgency
The papers we selected for this theme reflect a privilege of the editorial job: the ability to provide a platform for those voices that may not otherwise be heard, and to make visible emerging issues and places which are under-published in traditional academia. We selected papers on unusual topics, and that reported on lesser known areas of the world.
Several papers discuss the challenges of urbanization, asking, are there lessons to be learned from the developing world? These papers offer insights from the front lines of globalization; they illuminate the aspirations and challenges faced by people struggling to attain the level of participation, comfort, and rights routinely enjoyed by residents of the “first world.” Nigerian researcher Nkeiru Hope Ezeadichie documents the importance of home-based enterprises in her country, and challenges planners to include this form of economic development in strategic and land use planning. Housing “micro-brigades” in Cuba, as documented by German researcher Benedikt Brester, offer a unique participatory local initiative for self-help housing production. DCRP alumnus Gregory Delaune offers his experiences working with communities on Easter Island as both a cautionary tale of ecological collapse, and a hopeful one of the internet as a tool for empowering indigenous communities.
Other papers propose alternative uses of urban space and models of urban civic participation. New York researcher Russell Weaver proposes a neighborhood-based political redistricting process driven by planners, rather than politicians. Authors Kerry Rohrmeier and Francine Melia delve into the modern utopia, Black Rock City, an auto-constructed ephemeral city that exists for just two weeks as the site of the annual Burning Man festival in Nevada. DCRP student Alexandra Harker examines cemeteries as an urban land use, proposing the use of forest-like memorial preserves as a strategy for urban land conservation. Another DCRP student, Ethan Lavine, looks at the reclamation of urban parking spots for green “parklets,” and questions the motivations behind their development.
Urban Insurgency: The Occupy Movement
This section focusing on the Occupy movement opens with an interview with Franco “Bifo” Berardi, an Italian Marxist theorist, who muses on the reactivation of the social body and suggests that the Occupy movement has allowed a new generation to discover collective power, autonomous communities, and the pleasure of being together. Next, Michael Glassman reports from Ohio on Occupy Youngstown as an autonomous project community which he describes as being made possible by the “noosphere” of human thought, where the internet serves as a platform allowing the rapid flow and exchange of ideas, information, and images. An essay by Judy Lubin is a grounded documentation and analysis of the Occupy movement arguing that the resistance tactics of seizing public spaces and using social media are here to stay in urban social movements. The final piece in this section is a photo essay from DCRP student Jacob Bintliff that documents Occupy Cal and College of Urban Design student participation. He worked with editorial board member Matt Wade to comment on the re-awakening of class consciousness and the lexicon of communicative tools used by Occupy to redefine notions of public and of space.
Finally, to conclude these introductory comments, I must acknowledge with heartfelt gratitude the talented and dedicated editorial board that brought Volume 25 to life. It was a team effort where every single member made a meaningful contribution. We were widely supported by the DCRP student community and recent graduates, who reviewed papers. We found staunch support from our faculty advisor Michael Dear, whose coaching inspired us, and whose guidance kept us on track. We are especially grateful to DCRP chair Paul Waddell and the Dean of the College of Environmental Design, Jennifer Wolch, whose financial support made our transition to an online open access publication possible. Volume 25 represents the fruition of our collective vision and efforts.
Andrea Broaddus is a third-year PhD student at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, currently serving as the Journal‘s Editor in Chief.