Nouveau projet de recherche : Growing Governance: Comparing Participatory Policymaking and Planning for UA

20110921_0034Nathan McClintock (Portland State University) et Eric Duchemin (AU/LAB, ISE/UQAM) collaboreront dans le cadre d’une recherche soutenue par le Québec/United States University Grant Program.

Ce projet de recherche qui se déroulera à l’été 2015 est le fruit de la mise en oeuvre d’un partenariat entre les deux chercheurs. En plus de la recherche, les deux chercheurs mettront conjointement sur pied un cours de terrain et favoriseront des échanges entre les deux organisations.

Voici un résumé du projet de recherche:

Growing Governance: Comparing Participatory Policymaking and Planning for Urban Agriculture in Montréal, Québec and Portland, Oregon


Urban agriculture (UA) is growing rapidly in North America. Research has shown that urban agriculture can contribute a range of beneficial functions, such as improving nutritional and psychological health (Alaimo et al. 2008; Hu et al. 2011), building community (Baker 2005; Wakefield et al. 2007), providing environmental services, jobs, and food security, while reducing the “ecological footprint” of cities (van Veenhuizen 2006; Viljoen 2005). As these multi-functional benefits have become more clear, city planners, community organizations, and practitioners alike have increasingly emphasized UA’s role in food system localization. Municipal officials have also taken note of UA’s potential benefits to urban sustainability efforts (Raja, Born, and Russell 2008; Hodgson, Caton Campbell, and Bailkey 2011; Thibert 2012). As a result, UA has a taken a prominent place in the sustainability agendas of cities throughout the United States and Canada.

Montréal, Québec, and Portland, Oregon are both well known for their leadership in implementing urban sustainability initiatives, from light rail and bike lanes to green buildings, climate action plans, and Eco-Districts / Eco-Quartiers that empowering community members to engage in neighborhood level governance. Various forms of UA figure prominently in the cityscapes of the two cities, and recent policy and planning initiatives have been implemented to foster the expansion of UA. In 2011, both cities engaged the public in discussions on UA policy and planning. In Montréal, more than 29,000 signatures were collected under the droit d’initiative to request a consultation publique on UA, nearly twice the number required by the city. The public consultation in 2012 engaged more than 1,500 Montréalers, and resulted in the citywide assessment of the State of UA in Montréal, the incorporation of UA into the Plan du développement durable de la collectivité montréalaise in 2013, and a survey of the city’s residents to determine the scale and scope of UA. Similarly in Portland, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability launched an effort in January 2011 to update the Urban Food Zoning Code. Developed with input from a community advisory council and public comment periods, the draft was approved by City Council in June 2012. The new code allows, among other things, expanded opportunities for commercial and residential UA in the city.

Proposed Research

The PI and a team of 6 to 8 Urban Studes and Planning students from PSU will conduct a research project as part of a two-week field course to be held in Montréal during Summer 2015. The team will attempt to identify and differentiate the motivations and stakeholder relationships driving UA policymaking and planning efforts. Upon their return to the US, they will conduct a parallel study in Portland. Pending successful identification of additional funding, UQAM partners will join in this second stage of the project. These differing motivations will be considered in relation to each city’s specific history, geography, political economy, policy initiatives, and shifting forms of urban governance (notably the shift towards more collaborative planning processes during the past decade). The research will lead to the development of two case studies focusing on the participatory planning and policymaking processes related to UA in Montréal and Portland. The team will use the case studies address the following questions, among others:

  • How did processes of citizen participation shape UA policy in the two cities?
  • What were the key areas of contention in the process, were they overcome, and if so, how?
  • How have these UA policy and planning efforts been perceived by the public and to what extent have these policy changes impacted practice on the ground?

The team will develop formal hypotheses together as part of the course. The findings will not only elucidate—and differentiate—the key drivers of UA’s current popularity, but will also help planners and policymakers better tailor initiatives to meet the needs of individual UA practitioners and the communities in which they live.

Theoretical Framework

The proposed research project will engage with academic debates in geography, urban studies, and planning over how effective citizen participation takes place. Over the past several decades, urban planning processes have incorporated more opportunities for community engagement. Emerging in response to the failures of top-down approaches that defined the previous century of planning, “advocacy planning” and « equity planning » (Davidoff 1965; Krumholz 1982; Krumholz 1994) shifted emphasis to community needs. Central to these efforts was an emphasis on citizen participation (Arnstein 1969). Increasing the participation of diverse community stakeholders marked the so-called “communicative turn” in planning (Healey 1992), ultimately culminating in the dominant collaborative planning paradigm. Grounded in theories of deliberative democracy primarily elaborated by Habermas (1984), this approach places stakeholder participation and desire for consensus at the center of the planning process (Forester 1999; Innes and Booher 2010). Critical scholarship in planning theory, geography, and urban studies, however, raises concerns that the deliberative process (as idealized by Habermas) ultimately obscures power differentials both between planners and the public and between stakeholders themselves (Tewdwr-Jones and Allmendinger 1998; Huxley and Yiftachel 2000). Such arguments draw, in part, on political theory that argues that, rather than fostering democracy, such consensus-based processes have ushered in a “post-political” period in which dissent and contestation is stifled (Mouffe 2005; Swyngedouw 2009; Allmendinger and Haughton 2011; Davidson 2009), ultimately leading to the exclusion of the least-powerful stakeholders. Scholars point to multiple empirical cases that belie the Habermasian theory at the heart of collaborative planning (eg, Holden 2011; McGuirk 2001). These concerns are also echoed by critical food scholars and other scholars of “just sustainability”, who argue that the path to equitable and sustainable cities will necessarily be marked by struggles to define who wins and who loses (Agyeman 2013; Lubitow and Miller 2013; Alkon and Agyeman 2011; Gunder 2006). As such, UA initiatives may or may not lead to socially just or sustainable outcomes (McClintock 2013).


The proposed research project will engage with these theoretical debates through in-depth, field-based research culminating in theoretically engaged case studies. In addition to visiting Montréal’s diverse UA sites and projects, the team will also meet with a variety of stakeholders, and conduct formal interviews with 10 to 15 key stakeholders. Proposed interviewees will include representatives of the Groupe du Travail en Agriculture Urbaine (GTAU) central to the public consultation, several non-profit organizations such as Santropol Roulant, Action Communiterre, and Alternatives, as well as representatives from several municipal and regional entities, including: the Ville de Montréal’s Direction de l’urbanisme et du développement économique, Division du développement durable, Direction de santé publique, Direction des grands parcs et du verdissement, Conférence regional des élus (CRE) de Montréal, and Conseil regional de l’environnement de Montréal. Upon the team’s return to Portland, they will duplicate the analysis, by interviewing key stakeholders involved in the city’s urban food zoning efforts. Interviews will be transcribed by a professional service. The team will then code the transcripts using Dedoose qualitative software. The team will draft manuscripts over the course of Fall 2015 and Winter 2016. PSU’s Human Subjects Research Review Committee has already approved the PI’s interview protocol (HSRRC Proposal #122367), which will be valid for the duration of the project.

In addition to interview data, the team will also use data previously collected by the PI. Over the course of the 2012/13 academic year, the PI and his graduate research assistant began reviewing the literature related to UA policy and practice in Montréal. This was complemented by two exploratory research trips by the PI to Montréal in 2012 and 2013. On both occasions, the PI met with stakeholders and visited various UA initiatives. In 2012, he presented at the UQAM-ISE’s regular colloquium series, and in 2013 was a featured keynote speaker at UQAM’s 5th Annual École d’été sur l’agriculture urbaine, along with other leaders in UA research and practice. The PI and his team also conducted an online survey of 32 UA organizations in Montréal in February 2013. Data collected by AU/Lab and by the Ville de Montréal in 2013 will complement the PSU team’s data.


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