Sociology 630: Urban Policy and Planning

Spring 2003. Wednesdays, 1:00-3:30.

115 Newcomb Hall

Professor: Kevin F. Gotham

Sociology: 220 Newcomb Hall

Phone: 862-3004

Office Hours: 2:30 - 5:00, Friday, all other times by appointment.

Course Description.

In this course, we will examine how urban planning efforts and government polices and programs have affected U.S. cities and metropolitan areas over the last hundred years or so. We will explore traditional, mainstream, and radical planning theories and policy critique. You will be introduced to how social science research methods play a critical role in identifying the causes and consequences of urban problems as well as evaluating urban policy. By learning to think sociologically, you will be able to criticize faulty explanations of urban and metropolitan problems and critically evaluate suggested planning and policy solutions. Some of the questions we will address are: What is the purpose of urban planning and policy? How do governmental programs and policy making affect cities and metropolitan areas? Who controls the formulation and implementation of urban planning and policy? What kinds of conflicts and struggles have historically affected public policy at the urban, regional, and national levels? How is urban policy and planning embedded within larger socioeconomic processes, power structures, and global forces? What is the relationship between theory, research, and planning/policy? Finally, we will discuss the merits of metropolitan planning and consider alternative forms of urban design and policy in an effort to understand why urban programs fail, what ideologies govern metropolitan growth and uneven development, and how we can improve metropolitan life.

Required Prerequisite: Nine credits of sociology or approval of instructor.

Recommended Prerequisites: Soc. 206 (Urban Sociology), Soc. 303 (Introduction to Research Design).

Required Reading:

Andranovich, Gregory D., and Gerry Riposa. 1993. Doing Urban Research. Volume 33 of Applied Social Research Methods Series. Sage Publications.

Dreier, Peter, John Mollenkopf, and Todd Swanstrom. 2001. Place Matters: Metropolitics for the Twenty-First Century. University of Kansas Press.

Gotham, Kevin Fox. 2002. Race, Real Estate, and Uneven Development: The Kansas City Experience. SUNY Press.

Hannigan, John. 1998. Fantasy City: Pleasure and Profit in the Postmodern Metropolis. New York: Routledge.

Fainstein, Susan, and Scott Campbell (editors). 2002. Readings in Urban Theory. Second Edition. Blackwell Publishers.

Orfield, Gary, and Susan E. Eaton (editors). 1996. Dismantling Desegregation: The Quiet Reversal of Brown v. Board of Education. New Press.

Sociology Writing Group. 1998. A Guide to Writing Sociology Papers. Saint Martins Press. Paperback.

Course Requirements

The course will follow a seminar format that combines lecture material and group discussion. As I see them, seminars are primarily for intense analysis and discussion. I see my role as coordinating and facilitating this process but I take as given the active and enthusiastic participation of all members of the group. It is essential that each student complete the readings before each class session and come prepared to discuss the material. All students are required to attend every class period unless they are ill or prevented from attending by exceptional circumstances. Preparedness, attendance and participation are expected and will have a bearing on final grades. Requirements for this course include an individual research project, an in-class presentation of the research project, a series of critical essays, and class attendance and participation.

1. Research Project (40 percent of final grade).

You will design and carry out a research project of your own choosing that has to do with the historical development of metropolitan New Orleans. Your research and data collection will be concerned principally with verifiable trace evidence found in local archives. You will be introduced to archival sources and learn first-hand how to work with rare books, documents, and other rare material. Learning archival strategies and techniques is a time consuming process that will take many hours of hard work. For those who are highly motivated and ambitious, archival work will be an enjoyable experience because you will discover new worlds, confront challenging puzzles, and experience new revelations.

The final research paper must be at least 20 pages excluding the cover page, references, and tables and figures. Papers are to be typed and double-spaced with one inch margins and page numbers in the top right hand corner. Address your final paper to an audience composed of people who know nothing of the material you read, the concepts you use, and the archival data you have collected. A 2-3 page, double-spaced proposal is due Wednesday, January 29. See chapter 1 (pp.1-25), "Getting Started," in Guide to Writing Sociology Papers for direction on how to write a proposal.

You may design and conceptualize the research project in one of four ways.

1. Policy-Centered Focus. Research the history of one major federal government program or policy and discuss its effects on New Orleans. General areas to look are anti-crime policy, housing policy, environmental policy, land-use regulation, transportation policy, urban redevelopment programs, tourism and place marketing, anti-poverty policy, education policy, energy policy, military and defense spending, health care, and so on. Some specific federal programs might include public housing, urban renewal, the home mortgage programs of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and Veterans Administration (VA), Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG), Urban Development Action Grants (UDAG), the interstate highway program, and so on. You must show that you are aware of New Orleans' demographic and population characteristics, economic base, infrastructure and government system, and social problems. You must identify the origins of the program, the motivation underlying its creation, changes in the implementation of the program over time. Most important, you must explain how the program has affected New Orleans over time. Discuss the current status of the program and its future prospects. Explain how cities and policy makers can benefit from your research.

2. Problem-Centered Focus. Trace the history of New Orleans' efforts to combat one major social problem in the city and metropolitan area. Your research should be problem-centered, identifying when New Orleans began attacking the problem, why it was identified as a problem, and how city leaders developed and implemented certain policies to remedy the problem. Some urban problems to focus on might include racial discrimination and residential segregation, jobs and immigration, crime control and drugs, poverty and homelessness, housing affordability, school segregation and financing, neighborhood revitalization and historic preservation, economic development and NIMBYs, disinvestment and redlining, and so on. You could study the links between urban problems in the following areas: urban design and planning, housing and real estate, transportation, urban politics, suburban sprawl and uneven development, etc. Discuss the obstacles New Orleans faces in addressing and remedying these problems. Explain how the city and policy makers could benefit from your research.

3. Neighborhood-Centered Focus. Examine the historical development of a New Orleans neighborhood from the end of the nineteenth century through the present. The City Planning Commission has designated 72 neighborhoods in New Orleans to understand and plan for the City. See me for a listing of these neighborhoods. You may not focus on the Audubon/University neighborhood (10A). The neighborhood you study will serve as a case study of the common social processes that are occurring in neighborhoods and cities around the United States. Through readings and archival data collection, you should identify changes in land-use patterns (e.g., industrial, commercial, and residential land-uses), ethnic/racial composition, median family income, quality of housing, and other demographic and economic trends you think are important for understanding the neighborhood. Identify and discuss the major problems, social conflicts, and global and national level processes affecting the neighborhood. Speculate on the future of the neighborhood in the context of major population, demographic, and economic trends affecting the city and metropolitan area. Explain how the neighborhood and city neighborhoods in general could benefit from your research.

4. Comparative Focus. Pick two cities and discuss the how they have changed over time. You can focus on New Orleans and one other city or two cities of your own choice. You are required to gather primary data in at least one archive in Louisiana. You are to assess the impact of at least two major government programs/policies on the history and development of the two cities over the last 50 years. You should focus broadly, examining the connectedness and interlocking nature of the policies and their affect on the cities. You should focus on the changing nature of land-use patterns, zoning ordinances, subdivision regulations, and Master Plans. Your research must be comparative and identify the similarities and differences between the cities. Comparative work means that you can show that you are aware of each city's demographic and population characteristics, economic base, infrastructure and government system, and social problems. Discuss the current status of the cities and their future prospects. Explain how cities and policy makers can benefit from your research.

Do not delay in your choice of topic and starting your research. Your primary task is to collect evidence and data for your research in one of the many formal archives in New Orleans and Louisiana. Archives are storehouses of rare, often unique materials that were created over time by individuals, organizations, and social movements. Such materials include letters, diaries, confidential memos, lecture notes, transcripts, rough drafts, unpublished manuscripts, and other personal and organizational records. The range of materials in archives is vast. Such materials are traces of human activities and they provide data useful for urban sociohistorical research.

In addition to archival data, other data collection for the research project must can be obtained from assigned course readings and the following library and documentary resources: scholarly journals, newspapers, magazines, congressional testimony, planning department documents, government reports and analyses, census bureau data, books, and other written documents. You should search for data at all available libraries, archives, internet web sites, and anywhere else you can find material. I recommend that you read Part One (pp. 1-62), chapter 7 (pp. 96-114), and Part Three (pp. 186-87) in A Guide to Writing Sociology Papers for directions on choosing a research topic, using library resources, locating references and material, organizing information, and writing the research paper. In addition to references in the required reading for the class, you should also explore articles in the following journals and annuals for your research project:

City and Community

Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research (available at:

Housing Policy Debate (available at:

Comparative Urban Research

International Journal of Urban and Regional Research

Journal of Urban Affairs

Journal of Urban Economics

Journal of Urban History

Regional Studies

Research in Urban Sociology (annual)

Research in Community Sociology (annual)

Research in Urban Policy (annual)

Sage Urban Studies Abstracts

Urban Affairs Annual Review

Urban Affairs Quarterly/Review

Urban Anthropology

Urban Land

Urban Life (Journal of Contemporary Ethnography)

Urban Review

Urban Studies

Urbanism Past and Present

In addition, sociology journals (e.g., American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, Social Forces, Social Problems, Sociological Quarterly, Sociological Perspectives, Sociological Spectrum, Sociological Focus, Sociological Forum, Annual Review of Sociology) frequently have important articles on urban issues. See pp. 63-72 in A Guide to Writing Sociology Papers for searching online information. In addition to references in the required reading for the class, you should also explore the Howard Tilton Library's vast resources for locating articles in sociology journals for your research project. Some of these library resources include, among others, JSTOR, Sociological Abstracts, Social Science Citation Index, and Webspirs.

You may not use interviews, surveys and questionnaires, focus groups, participant observation, or any other forms of original data collection that involve human subjects. You may cite and refer to other researchers' studies on human subjects (as secondary sources). You must use the guidelines in chapter 4 of A Guide to Writing Sociology Papers for acknowledging sources, and listing bibliographic references and citations. Be sure to make appropriate reference citations to other authors' work when quoting directly from them and when paraphrasing them, otherwise you run the risk of being charged with plagiarism.

All students are required to abide by the Tulane University Honor Code. This means that "the presence of a student's name on any work submitted in completion of an academic assignment is considered to be an assurance that the work and ideas are the result of the student's own intellectual effort, stated in her or his own words, and produced independently, unless clear and explicit acknowledgment of the sources for the work and ideas is included. This principle applies to papers, tests, homework assignments, artistic productions, laboratory reports, computer programs, and other assignments" (Tulane Undergraduate Catalog 1999-2001, p. 15).

Final research projects will be graded on a scale of A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D+, D, and D-. One letter grade will be deducted for each day the research project is late. I will not accept any faxed papers or emailed papers. You are required to hand in two copies of your research paper.

Sample Outline for Research Paper. Your final paper should be divided up into the following six sections:


Indicate clearly and briefly what the purpose of the research is. Briefly identify the major issues or problems the paper addresses and the major sources of data used in the paper. Very briefly and succinctly state the core findings of the paper and how the paper will be organized. Do not report on every little detail and finding; be short, clear, and to the point. This introduction section should be no more than three pages.

Literature Review

Briefly summarize the current sociological research on the urban policy or program you are studying. You should include other scholars' empirical findings, concepts, and theories that link your study with existing scholarly research on the same topic. Search for the current state of sociological research on your topic in the journals listed above.

Sociological Analysis

Provide a general overview of your theoretical argument and then discuss the major findings of your research and data collection. You should show how your findings support your theory and relate to findings of other researchers. Refer to scholarly journals for examples on how to write your findings and implications. This section can be sub-divided into separate units.


Discuss the implications of your research. How is your research and its findings relevant and important to urban sociology? You should offer suggestions for future research.


You must have at least 20 citations in your reference section. Cites from textbooks, encyclopedia, or other non-scholarly sources do not count. You may include only three internet sources.

Methodological Appendix

Provide a description of how the research was done. You should identify the types and sources of data collected. You should draw upon written histories, archives, census materials, newspaper files, planning department documents, and any other sources you can locate. You should include data in tables, graphs, and/or figures if you have large amounts of quantitative data. Put each table, graph, or figure on a separate page with a descriptive title over it. In the text of the research paper, refer to the table or figure by number and then explain it. Consult Doing Urban Research by Andranovich and Riposa and A Guide to Writing Sociology Papers by the Sociology Writing Group for assistance in writing a methodological appendix.

2. Oral Presentation of Research Project (20 percent of final grade).

All students are required to present their research during a scheduled class period. Those who do not present their research during class time will receive a failing letter grade (F) for the course. The length of the presentation should be no more than 15 minutes. Students should prepare and rehearse their presentation to do it smoothly and not exceed the time limit. Make your presentation using an outline or note cards; do not prewrite your whole presentation and then read it. The purpose of the oral presentation is to show that you understand key concepts, definitions, main findings, and can effectively communicate your research to a group of peers. Here are suggestions for oral presentation of the research paper:


(a) Indicate what your research topic is and why you chose it (why you felt it was interesting and important).

(b) State your main finding(s).


(a) Describe how you did your research (if you relied on books and library references, indicate the most useful ones; if you consulted planning documents and government reports, indicate which ones; etc.). Most important, identify which archives and archival holdings (primary materials) you accessed.

(b) If you had preconceived expectations, opinions, or hypotheses about what you would find out, state what they were.

(c) Describe special problems or difficulties that hindered or limited your research.


(a) Describe the most important thing(s) you found out or learned about your topic.

(b) Consider the use of charts, tables, illustrations, etc. to make your presentation findings more effective.


(a) In what ways were you surprised by your findings, or did they confirm what you expected?

(b) Make connections between your research findings and the concepts, theories, and findings we have discussed in class.

(c) Identify any unanswered questions from your research that could be researched in the future.

For an effective presentation, you should prepare a one-page handout to be distributed to the class the day before your presentation. It may contain an outline of your whole presentation or you can use it to communicate key concepts, findings, illustrations, and bibliographic references. Remember that you only have 15 minutes to present your work. Do not ramble; be as succinct as possible.

3. Critical Essays (30 percent of final grade).

Critical Essays are short papers (about 2-4 pages) that convey your thoughts about and reactions to a particular reading assignment. You are required to write eight critical essays on the assigned reading during the semester. Each critical essay must be posted to the class discussion board (listserv) at least 24 hours before class (1:30 on Tuesday). The name of the listserv is urbanpolicy-l. The critical essays will be graded on a scale of A, B, C, and D. One letter grade will be deducted for each day the essay is late. Each student should read each essay and come to class ready to discuss. Critical Essays should accomplish the following two goals:

1. Reflect your thoughtful engagement with and consideration of the reading assignment.

2. Include questions or issues that you would like to have the class discuss.

Here are questions to guide your thinking about the reading and completing the critical essays:

What are the central arguments in the reading?

What evidence does the author use to support the argument?

What other lines of reasoning or thinking occur to you as a result of reading this selection? What is it about the chapter that interests you?

What are the strengths and weaknesses of this book chapter? If you were studying this issue, what would you have done similarly or differently?

See pp. 73-77 in A Guide to Writing Sociology Papers for directions on writing a critical essay.

As you write your critical essay, you should select one or two concepts/issues/themes/problems/ questions to orient your essay. It is tempting to try to deal with all the points raised in the readings, but this will generally lead to a paper that sets too broad of an agenda. Remember this assignment calls for only 2-4 pages. The essay (not an outline) should reflect your thoughtful engagement with the issues you chose. It may take the form of an analysis of what is at stake in the debates or it may entail comments/critiques of specific arguments in the readings.

All participants in the course have a responsibility to do the readings for the week, to listen to what is being said by other participants (rather than being overly preoccupied with what you are going to say), and not to interrupt people in the middle of sentences. We hope to create a setting in which everyone feels comfortable talking, even if they do not have something "brilliant or profound" to say. Sometimes the most simple questions can lead to the most fruitful discussions.

4. Class Attendance and Participation (10 percent of final grade).

Ten percent of your grade will be based on my evaluation of your participation in class. Class participation includes sharing thoughts and ideas, observations, assessments, and questions during class time. Thoughtful participation means regularly attending class and being prepared to discuss the assigned subject matter. To encourage class participation and the sharing of ideas, you should identify one or two questions from the assigned readings that you would like to discuss in class. You should always ask yourself how the assigned reading for the day can help you with your own research project.

Course Grades:

Individual Research Project 40% of final grade.

Oral Presentation 20% of final grade.

Critical Essays 30% of final grade.

Class Attendance and Participation 10% of final grade.

I do not give extra credit, extra assignments, nor other opportunities for improving grades. Moreover, I do not negotiate about grades, except when you believe there is an explicit error in the grading procedures. No grades will be determined by a curve. Also, I do not like the informal and impersonal nature of email. You may not ask me questions about the course over email (or by phone). If you have questions, please make an appointment and come talk with me.


Week 1: Introduction: Policy, Planning, and Theories of Urban Development. January 8 (W).

Required Reading:

Recommended Reading:

Week 2: Contemporary and Historical Perspectives on Urban Policy and Planning.

January 15.

Required Reading: Scott Campbell and Susan Fainstein (eds.). Readings in Planning Theory.

Recommended Reading:

Week 3: Introduction to Urban Research.

January 22.

Required Reading:

Week 4-5: School Segregation and Desegregation. January 29 - February 5.

January 29.

Required Reading: Gary Orfield and Susan Eaton (eds.). Dismantling Desegregation: The Quiet Reversal of Brown v. Board of Education.

Recommended Reading: Chapter 1 (pp.1-25): "Getting Started," in Guide to Writing Sociology Papers for direction on how to write a proposal.

Research Proposals due.

February 5.

Required Reading: Gary Orfield and Susan Eaton (eds.). Dismantling Desegregation: The Quiet Reversal of Brown v. Board of Education.

Recommended Reading:

Video: Episode 4 ("The Bottom Line, 1980-present") from "School: History of Public Education in the United States (1 hour).

Critical Essay #1 due.

Week 6: Class, Race, and Urban Poverty.

February 12.

Required Reading: Susan Fainstein and Scott Campbell (eds.). Readings in Urban Theory.

Recommended Reading:

Critical Essay #2 due.

Week 7-8: Globalization, Deindustrializaton, and the Changing Urban and Metropolitan System.

February 19.

Required Reading: Susan Fainstein and Scott Campbell (eds.). Readings in Urban Theory.

Recommended Reading: Susan Fainstein and Scott Campbell (eds.). Readings in Urban Theory.

Critical Essay #3 due.

February 26.

Required Reading: Susan Fainstein and Scott Campbell (eds.). Readings in Urban Theory.

Scott Campbell and Susan Fainstein (eds.). Readings in Planning Theory.

Video: "Roger and Me" (90 minutes).

Critical Essay #4 due.


Week 9: Urban Redevelopment.

March 12.

Required Reading: Susan Fainstein and Scott Campbell (eds.). Readings in Urban Theory.

Recommended Reading: Scott Campbell and Susan Fainstein (eds.). Readings in Planning Theory.

Video: "Store Wars" (58 minutes).

Critical Essay #5 due.

Week 10: Urban and Metropolitan Tourism.

March 19.

Required Reading:

Recommended Reading:

Critical Essay #6 due.

Week 11-12. Metropolitan Areas in Retrospect and Prospect.

March 26.

Required Reading:

Recommended Reading:

Guest lecture and presentation by Prof. Nicholas Bloom.

Critical Essay #7 due.

April 2.

Required Reading:

Recommended Reading:

Critical Essay #8 due.

Week 13. Research Presentations. April 9.

Week 14. No class. April 16.

Week 15. Research Presentations. April 23.