1999 CPEO Brownfields List Archive

From: trevor burrowes <trevoroc@pacbell.net>
Date: Thu, 3 Jun 1999 13:53:36 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-brownfields
Subject: Re: "The Economic Benefits of Open Space"
TommeY@aol.com wrote:

> ..........I guess I am just wondering what value (or difference) exists in
> making these type of generalized analyses, in terms of how they affect the
> work of brownfields redevelopment.  The options seem to me rather limited

> Unfortunatly for those of "lower socio-economic classes" who don't
> own property in the redevelopment area the options seem to be:
>         -- to live in a community which is of lower value as a residential
> area because it is contaminated; or
>         -- to live in a community which is of lower value as a residential
> area for other reasons.

But how about the aspect of ignoring or not valuing the assets (especially 
those of open space) which exist in areas where low-income people are 
among the property owners? I'm sure the case of East Palo Alto is not 
unique. Very, very actractive and fertile land in poor areas is not protected 
by local zoning, which plays into the scenario of keeping land values 
relatively low for outside land speculators to buy. Such speculators will 
invariably aim to get the maximum returns from this land for *building* 
rather than for open space. While the developers reap short term profits, 
the long term economic assets of the open space are lost to the low-income 

> However, I don't think this is a problem of brownfields programs (or other
> redevelopment) themselves, but a part of the greater set of problems relating
> to the distribution of wealth in the country.  Hardly anything we can change
> by adjusting our thinking on brownfields.

I have to question this. Brownfields is currently organized around "spot" 
development, which ignores the broader planning context (or absence 
thereof). Brownfields is also geared to a *reactive* approach, i.e., cleaning 
up contaminated places, with little balance in favor of also maximizing 
*assets*. It seems to me an issue of vision, involving making doable 
changes in the brownfields formula, to rectify this.
>         For me, the question is what alternatives exist?  I can't picture a
> generally accepted legal solution to the brownfields problem that will not
> result in provision of some benefits to the owners. 

I wish these benefits were more systematically distributed, so as to 
encourage property retention and enhancement of low-income property 
owners adjacent to the core brownfields redevelopment. This would also 
begin to address the thorny issue of gentrification-through-brownfields, 
which is the subject of another discussion thread.

Trevor Burrowes

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