Conceiving, producing and managing neighbourhoods: Comparing urban upgrading initiatives in Johannesburg
At present there are a great number of urban interventions taking place within the Gauteng City-Region, including transport and area-based upgrading projects (Corridors of Freedom/Transit Oriented Development), mega-human settlements, inner-city renewal schemes, and the establishment of City Improvement Districts (CIDs) in various locations. As they are envisioned, planned and implemented, all of these projects will make significant alterations to the urban fabric. It is therefore crucial that research engages with these processes and captures their dynamics, contradictions, contestations and outcomes.
This Occasional Paper contributes to this endeavour by examining how two very different area-based management and urban upgrading projects have been imagined and executed. The report comprises a case-study of the expanding Ekhaya precinct in Hillbrow, a densely populated, economically stressed inner-city neighbourhood, and the development of a precinct plan in Norwood, a middle-class suburb situated to the north of the inner-city. Ekhaya is a Residential City Improvement District (RCID) and was an intervention led primarily by private, commercial developers. The Grant Avenue Precinct Plan (GAPP), in contrast, was initiated by local government as part of broader efforts to manage change and facilitate residential intensification and improved inclusion in the suburb.
Comparing and contrasting approaches in two vastly different sub-local areas gives an opportunity to explore the varying actors; governance arrangements; urban upgrading ambitions and ideals; resources, practices, mechanisms and infrastructures; alliances and partnerships; and compromises and experiments that are assembled at the neighbourhood scale to bring urban upgrading interventions to fruition. The paper also draws particular attention to the fault lines, points of divergence, and conflicts in the two settings, and how these frequently hinder or frustrate efforts at urban improvement.
The Occasional Paper is divided into three main sections.
The first section, ‘Conceiving neighbourhoods’, outlines the visions and ideals that have shaped neighbourhood formation, planning processes and urban upgrading initiatives in the two case-study sites. It shows that Johannesburg’s vastly unequal landscape hinders the articulation of a single, unified vision for the city. Improvement in Hillbrow has entailed dealing with day-to-day deprivations, service delivery failings and deficits in basic urban management. The visions that informed urban regeneration in the Ekhaya RCID are therefore relatively mundane, but are capable of bringing about significant improvements to the area, as well as to the lives of its residents. In contrast, the visions behind the precinct strategy for Norwood were far more ambitious as they aimed at generating drastic change in the suburb’s built environment and social landscape. However, various socio-economic challenges – financial constraints, organised opposition from affluent residents and lack of support from the private sector – have rendered these broad ambitions unattainable.
The second section, ‘Producing neighbourhoods’, examines the various tactics, strategies, planning mechanisms and material objects that were used to bring visions to life and give form to the two neighbourhood improvement schemes. For example, it explores how different security infrastructures mobilised in the Ekhaya RCID have defined the neighbourhood and separated it from the general disorder and decay that characterise the wider Hillbrow area. While these infrastructures have had significant effects on the neighbourhood, and contributed to improved feelings of safety, they have also introduced inequality – as the area has come to enjoy improved levels of policing and safety, crime has been displaced to surrounding neighbourhoods yet to attract private investment. The section further shows that while physical infrastructure is important, it is not sufficient to generate neighbourhoods and associational life. Rather, the realisation of visions for improved forms of belonging and social cohesion rely on the creation of social networks, and opportunities for socialisation and shared recreation. Highlighting experiences of upgrading two parks, Ekhaya Park in Hillbrow and Norwood Park, this section emphasises the importance of public space, and the shared ideals and commitments to social inclusion that should inform planning processes and urban interventions at the local level. However, the section also documents the prejudices and exclusionary attitudes that frequently emerge during such processes.
The third section, ‘Managing neighbourhoods’, describes the institutional arrangements, day-to-day activities, forms of partnership and adaptive strategies being used to sustain urban interventions and regulate neighbourhoods. It investigates contrasting viewpoints and approaches to dealing with various urban challenges, particularly the role and place of informal activities in the two neighbourhoods. In Hillbrow, the official position is that informal trading is not permitted. However, in reality, actors with degrees of authority and power in the area have recognised the need to be tolerant towards people engaged in such practices, and frequently cooperate with some informal traders. The section therefore shows that urban governance requires the formation of arrangements and partnerships of convenience at the sub-local level, and that adaptive, flexible urban management practices are required, particularly in stressed neighbourhoods characterised by high levels of poverty. In contrast, although the official plans formulated for the GAPP stipulated that vulnerable groups such as homeless people, car guards and informal traders were to be protected, in reality, intolerant attitudes were evident and powerful residents and businesses used a variety of tactics to marginalise these groups and attempt to remove them from the area. The section therefore shows how everyday power and resource differentials can often supersede or subvert good intentions towards inclusivity – the realisation of visions for urban improvement unavoidably seems to generate new forms of exclusion that planners, officials and civil society need to be aware of.
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Linked to project(s):Conceiving, producing and managing a neighbourhood (2019)
Where do we draw the line? Graffiti in Maboneng, Johannesburg
Graffiti is a controversial subject and fraught with ambiguities and contradictions. However, the recent global success of artists such as Banksy, Melbourne’s booming graffiti tourism, and the rise of the ‘creative city’ discourse, have blurred the lines between what some regard as vandalism and some as public art. As such, graffiti has increasingly become part of mainstream culture and in some countries has been promoted as a contributor to the urban environment. Thus, as practices and perceptions of graffiti shift, so does our need to better understand the role of graffiti in our urban environments. Through a case study of the Maboneng precinct, this GCRO Occasional Paper investigates the contribution made by graffiti to tourism and public and private investment in the inner-city of Johannesburg.
The paper uses visual and spatial analyses of graffiti in Maboneng’s development. The research shows the extent to which the Maboneng precinct is branded through urban aesthetics, including graffiti, and demonstrates that graffiti contributes to placemaking by creating meaningful or identifiable spaces. The analysis reveals graffiti’s aesthetic value in the urban environment: it signifies the redevelopment of Maboneng, distinguishes the area at a local level from surrounding spaces, and also projects a global aesthetic. Using this case study of Maboneng we hope to show how graffiti is leveraged in nurturing urban development, creative economies and tourism in the inner-city.
The Occasional Paper is comprised of two parts. The first half of the paper aims to understand the role of graffiti in its urban context. A first section examines the history of graffiti, considering centuries-old traditions of markings on walls, the intersection of graffiti with the birth of hip hop culture and, in the South African context, the role of graffiti in anti-apartheid protest politics. A further section explores the spectrum of graffiti aesthetics, from text-based expressions to the murals of street art. A third section traces graffiti’s complicated relationship to the urban environment, with changing perceptions of graffiti: as vandalism, or a mode of urban dialogue, or a form of outdoor gallery. The sections in this first half of the paper explore the transitions graffiti has made over time and highlight the fluid nature of graffiti, both in space and in the way that it is conceived. They illustrate how graffiti, once perceived as synonymous with urban blight and decay, vandalism and crime, has over time gained a more legitimate social status, for example through commissioned murals or the work of famed international artists, in the process raising the question of who decides the aesthetic of the urban environment and who has a right to participate in the production of urban space.
In the second half of the paper, we focus on a case study of Maboneng, in the City of Johannesburg. Maboneng is an area of redevelopment in Johannesburg’s inner city, established in 2009. The neighbourhood has transformed through investment in the public environment and the upgrading of dozens of buildings with a focus on the creative economy. Graffiti and street art are prevalent in the area and have contributed to the branding of the area as a creative space. Through a photographic essay and mapping, we analyse the spatial and visual elements of graffiti in Maboneng, exploring its various contradictions, themes, surfaces, and the media used to create it. The detailed mapping examines different types of graffiti, and their locality, density, scale and visibility. The case study shows, in detail, the relationship between graffiti and the local urban environment, but also how graffiti relates to larger processes of urban and economic development in the city.
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Linked to project(s):Graffiti in the city
Quality of Life IV Survey (2015/16): City Benchmarking Report
South Africa’s post-apartheid government has been successful in raising the standard of living for millions of people. It has provided them with access to housing and basic services, improved health and education, and developed social services and urban amenities where none existed before. However, there remain many thorny development challenges that government is, at least at present, poorly equipped to address. Consequently, there remains deep dissatisfaction among many residents, which at various times and in certain contexts has led to widespread community protests.
This report stems from the premise that data, and analysis thereof, are critical for local and provincial governments in Gauteng to understand where progress has been made and where intervention is required.
The City Benchmarking Report presents some key findings from the Quality of Life IV (2015/16) survey at the municipal and provincial levels. The results provide insight into a range of objective indicators such as access to basic services, travel patterns, and economic activity, as well as respondents’ subjective opinions, perceptions and levels of satisfaction. This combination allows us to gain a multi-dimensional understanding of quality of life in the province as well as some of the drivers that improve or worsen it. While there are many aspects of quality of life measured by the survey, this report focuses on specific issues related to municipal service access, satisfaction with services received, satisfaction with the municipality providing those services, and the relationship between access, satisfaction and overall quality of life.
Although this report allows government, residents and stakeholders to compare municipalities with one another, its benchmarking analysis should not be read as a competitive scoring of cities, which in turn becomes a basis for municipalities to market themselves as having the ‘highest quality of life’, or to vie with one another over who has the best performance. Some municipalities do better on some variables, but worse on others. The point of this report is to help each municipality understand its own strengths and weaknesses in relation to others and to the broader Gauteng context.
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Linked to project(s):Quality of Life Survey IV (2015/16)
Motherhood in Johannesburg: Mapping the experiences and moral geographies of women and their children in the city
South African cities were designed and legislated to enforce spatial marginalisation of Africans, coloureds and Indians to peripheral urban settlements. The legacy of this intentionally constructed racially segregated space has been reinforced in the post-apartheid period by market forces around property prices, informal settlement of land, and the unintended consequences of state housing policy, amongst other factors. Patterns of race-based spatial marginalisation have also been overlaid by income and gender factors, creating hostile conditions for women, and poor women in particular.
Whilst there is a rich mine of literature on spatial exclusions due to race, very little study has focused on the gendered spatial experiences of women, and more particularly mothers, in South African cities. Mothers sustain a number of multifaceted roles through, and beyond, the care of and provision for their children. They engage in multiple spheres of work, home, education, community and politics. Straddling these various realms, mothers are increasingly active ‘users’ of a diversity of city spaces. In some cases, the daily routines of mothers are confined within a single neighbourhood, but most often mothers enact their many roles on a day-to-day basis in many different areas of the city. The nature of motherhood (as both a relationship of care and a role constructed in society) and highly unequal urban conditions often impose heavy burdens – financial, temporal and emotional.
However, the choices mothers make in the city by traversing diverse spaces in order to fulfil their multiple roles, and the responsibilities and costs this inflicts, is not well understood. This Occasional Paper speaks to this ‘gap’ by exploring the spatial dynamics of mothers in Johannesburg. It investigates how women who self-identify as mothers navigate their own and their families’ daily lives in the city in facing a variety of challenges and obstacles.
Methodologically the research involved studying the everyday practices and experiences of 25 mothers in the city, who agreed to in-depth interviews and mapping exercises. The participants were a diverse group in terms of geographic location, income, race, age, and family situation. The women narrated their daily lives and the routes they took through various places and spaces that made up their everyday experiences of the city. They discussed their decision-making around the choice of home, work, school, shopping and recreation and detailed the social and spatial dynamics of their support networks. Exploring these ‘moral geographies’ of motherhood provides valuable insights into a group of people who engage the city extensively in ways that are under-recognised. In turn, understanding the spatial negotiations that typify mothers’ lives exposes the depth of spatial inequality and poor urban management of our city-region in new ways.
This Occasional Paper is the result of a partnership between the South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning (SA&CP) and the GCRO, and specifically involved a collaboration between researchers Yasmeen Dinath, Margot Rubin and Alexandra Parker. The insights presented here reflect results from a first phase of research that will be deepened through a larger study in 2018.
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Linked to project(s):Mothers in the city
Competition or Co-operation? South African and Migrant Entrepreneurs in Johannesburg
International migrant business owners in South Africa’s informal sector are, and have been for many years, the target of xenophobic attacks. This has led to public debates about their role in the South African economy and competition with their South African counterparts, with allegations including that they force the closure of South African businesses, harbour ‘trade secrets’ that give them the edge, and dominate the sector. As a result, there have been calls to curtail the rights of international migrants, particularly asylum seekers and refugees, to run informal enterprises.
This report explores the experiences of 928 international and South African migrant entrepreneurs operating informal sector businesses in Johannesburg. It compares their experiences, challenging some commonly held opinions in the process. The report compares each group, what kind of businesses they operate, and where they do business. It investigates their motives for migrating, their employment and entrepreneurial experience prior to and after migration, as well as their motivations for setting up their businesses. It also examine how they set up their businesses, rates of business growth, contributions to local and household economies, and challenges faced, as well as various interactions between informal sector South African and international migrant entrepreneurs.
This report is one of three being produced as part of the Growing Informal Cities (GIC) project, a partnership between the Southern African Migration Programme (SAMP), the African Centre for Cities (ACC) at the University of Cape Town, the GCRO and Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo.
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