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Urban land development : political process, and the local area: comparative study of Kitsilano and Grandview-Woodlands Jensen, Jens Christian

Abstract

The political context of citizen participation in North American governments since World War II has largely been one of failure of non-elites to influence governments at all levels to accommodate their values and interests. Among concepts of government designed to facilitate the political efficacy cf such groups is that of decentralization of some powers of municipal government to the "neighborhood" or local area level in large cities. Municipal decentralization theory rests on assumptions that common interests can be identified with a definable local area and that political processes at that level reflect local political values and interests. The general hypothesis was that political processes in local areas reflect the diversity of political values and interests of the local area population and thus have the potential to legitimize decision-making at that level. Review of literature on democratic theory led to a postulate that a political process which reflects a constituency's values and interests is pluralistic and is perceived to be legitimate by political actors. It was also postulated that lines of political cleavage in the urban land development control issue area, the issue area chosen for this research, would follow social class lines. Working hypotheses were constructed based on the above two postulates and a definition of "legitimacy" of government. The general hypothesis was sustained by a limited comparative study of local area political processes in the Kitsilano and Grandview-Woodlands local areas of Vancouver, by study of one politically salient site-specific land development control issue in each. A combination of decisional and reputational techniques was used to identify influential political actors at the local area level and to identify key events. A qualification was observed in political actors' perception of legitimacy of a hypothetical local area government with some powers in land development control: the electoral process was perceived by most tc be an inadequate instrument of citizen control of government at that level. It was concluded that further research was warranted in means of facilitating political integration at the local area level, as existing community councils did not perform that function in the issues studied.

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