Parks and the Right To The City (RTC)

Authors: Robert Wayne Priebe*, University of Alberta
Topics: Planning Geography, Landscape, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: parks, urban planning, right to the city, private property
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 15
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The RTC speaks to how people and their conflicts form cities through differences and confrontation (Friendly 2013). Henri Lefebvre argued that the traditional city is the focus of social and political life, wealth, knowledge and arts, an œuvre in its own right, but its use-value is being overwhelmed by the exchange value resulting from the commodification of urban assets (Lefebvre 1996: 67, Kofman and Lebas 1996: 19). His right to the city encompasses the ideas that the city is public—a place of social interaction and exchange; being public it demands heterogeneity—as the city is a place where encounters
with difference thrive; difference creates struggle, as people compete over the shape of the city, terms
of access to the public realm, or the right to citizenship (Mitchell 2003).

Public parks represent a unique subset of lands contested in the City. Public parks lands are held in the land inventory of governments but are substantially funded, designed, constructed, programmed and maintained by civil society. This begs the question if normal conceptions of property ownership apply to parklands. Typically elected officials and administrators are tasked with managing the lands in trust for the community. However, in neoliberal policy environments, the exchange value of park lands are prioritized over use-value, and parks are being sold for private development. This presentation and paper looks at that tension and seeks to describe why parklands are a unique class of public lands viewed from the lens of the RTC.

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