Global Urban Development Trends in Santo Domingo

Global Urban Development Trends in Santo Domingo
A simple overview after an essay by Eleonora Peruffo

Planning practices in developed and developing countries have been evolving and after the failure of many Master Plans in the 80s the planning methods have switched to Strategic Planning and Participatory Planning. These two options generally look forward to empowering local authorities and citizens in order to shape together the “city vision”. However, in developed and developing countries these plans don’t achieve the complete bulk of their objectives and some global trends have been studied.

In the “recently” split Santo Domingo these trends –stated by E. Peruffo– can be identified easily because of the unclearness of responsibilities, the cleverness of powerful privates and other reasons.

Market Oriented Development
It is often said by privates that planning is a constraint on economic/urban development and recent Listin Diario newspaper articles have confirmed this opinion by publishing their negative opinions on a project approval’s time by the authorities. Nevertheless the construction sector is one of the most important in Santo Domingo, and it’s a common practice by privates to fool authorities with fake plans and/or just begin the construction works before approval.

These two “common practices” produce an irregular urban sprawl that has been translating into gated communities and edge cities. Gated enclaves or isolated private development is a marketable device for real state but it produces the obvious and instantaneously the marginalization effect that should be avoided by governmental policies. Edge cities are exactly a result of this marginalization, where property rights and recognition don’t take place because of odd locations, the lack of an immediate market value, and the normal unstoppable colonization of land from a continuously growing society.

Regeneration and Renovation in Focus Areas
Municipalities in Latin America, Europe and Japan have tried to regenerate and renovate the historic cores, looking to revitalize them for tourism and other non business-oriented activities. Theoretically these regeneration activities should compact the city, deepen the “city vision” sense and improve the citizens’ perceptions and actions for it.

Municipalities in Santo Domingo have focused some budget in certain areas making an effort to improve areas, but the extent of such interventions are extremely small to produce a profound effect. However in the Distrito Nacional activities have addressed –in a capricious way– public playgrounds and parks, some cleaning of the historic core, and urban landscaping in focused areas.

In other SD municipalities the infrastructure issue is so big that the word regeneration is not used. The basic infrastructure provision is a must do and other eccentric budget allocation would be consider inappropriate. Anyhow parks and rain drainage works are still municipal ‘objectives’ because of their deceit implications.

Concepts in Transition
This particular trend is cited for post-socialist countries “where planning is still a fluctuating concept between a participatory method, a bottom-up approach and a bureaucratic technical deal reserved to professionals”.

Yet this transition concept is present in the Dominican Republic context where representative democracy is not a fulfilled notion, and where the governmental structure does not precisely include the citizens’ involvement. It is an obvious indicator the Political Empowerment index published in the ‘National Report for Human Development 2008’ by the PNUD. It clearly relates to two things: participatory institutional framework and citizens’ willingness to participate.

In any case, local and national institutions are slowly forced to switch their practices not only for accountability and performance improvement, but also for the compliance of international treaties in order to have access to further grants, project’s funding and support.

Urban population growth and urban land management are a challenge. When this challenge exceeds all planning capacity the result is a turmoil that translates into evictions, use of force –military or other armed forces.

This case is found in Africa and South East Asia, but we can also state that the Santo Domingo split produced a crisis and the newborn institutions struggle to deal with their responsibilities. Continuous urban sprawl will be the issue for the next –possibly two or three– decades; land management and service provision will be the challenges while integrating the participatory approach.

Final Remark
In any case, the perception for the great Santo Domingo is not crisis yet. It would be matter of some years to verify if expected changes are –or at least to be– accomplished, and the urban development scenario compacts itself in a cohesive set of institutions, policies and actions.

“Global Urban Planning Trends: An Overview”, thesis essay written by Eleonora Peruffo for the Master in “Pianificazione Urbana per Paesi in Via di Sviluppo”, at the IUAV University in Venice, 2004-2005.

Master in Urban Development and Reconstruction 07/08, IUAV Venice.


Entradas populares