The Legal Geographies of Informal Peripheral Urbanization

Authors: Maria Arquero De Alarcon*, University of Michigan, Ana Paula Pimentel Walker, University of Michigan
Topics: Urban Geography, Cartography, Environment
Keywords: Constitutional rights, informal settlements, city periphery
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Committee Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


What the spatial distribution of court cases mediating land-use conflicts between the constitutional rights to housing and a healthy environmental tell us about the city? How do distinct views of environmental protection and adequate housing provision manifest through the courts? This research project examines the São Paulo Superior Court’s database to identify legal actions that involved informal settlements and areas of environmental protection in the city of São Paulo between 2013 and 2016. We identified 36 court cases that left the districts through appeals and analyzed the common types of lawsuits, the environmental violations, the access to justice indicators, and the predominant legal parts. For this paper, we focus on the cartographic analysis of the spatial distribution of the 36 court cases and encountered that 25 are located in the periphery vis-à-vis 11 in centrally located areas. Peri-urban growth through the consolidation of informal housing in areas of environmental protection is one of the wicked problems of the Global South (Pimentel Walker and Arquero de Alarcón 2018; Refinetti Martins 20011; Torres 2007). By spatializing these court cases and analyzing them against surrounding urban development patterns as well as recent and existing zoning and land-use laws, we can better assess and discern the aspects of urban governance, which prevent conflict anticipation and resolution.

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