Urban Design Essay

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BEYOND THE ENTREPRENEURIAL CITY:
MUNICIPAL CAPITALISM IN SAN DIEGO
TIM CHAPIN*
Florida State University, Tallahassee

ABSTRACT: Over the last several decades the public sector has become much more innovative and entrepreneurial when pursuing downtown redevelopment, embracing characteristics previously restricted to the private sector. This article investigates this approach by reviewing a major redevelopment project in San Diego. In the course of this project the public sector acted in ways that exemplify the entrepreneurial approach to downtown redevelopment. However, rather than simply taking on an entrepreneurial role, the city's efforts are better described by the term municipal capitalism. No longer content to simply stand by after providing some resources at the outset, the public sector is now the lead player throughout the entirety of the redevelopment process, an actor as focused upon the return on investment from the project as the private sector.
This article concludes with a discussion of the emerging role of the public sector as a capitalistic actor, and explores the consequences of this emergence.

I

t has been well documented that cities in America and Britain have responded to the continued flight of families and jobs to suburban areas and the concurrent physical deterioration of downtown areas with a bricks and mortar approach to revitalization that has centered on entertainment, tourism, culture, and the arts (Frieden & Sagalyn, 1989;
Robertson, 1995). These approaches to redevelopment have taken many diverse forms including Baltimore's entertainment-oriented waterfront (Levine, 1987), Indianapolis' sports-centered redevelopment (Bamberger & Parham, 1984; Rosentraub, Swindell,
Przybliski, & Mullins, 1994), and Louisville's use of the arts to further its urban development agenda (Whitt & Lammers, 1991). The promotion of urban lifestyles has emerged as a key ingredient to downtown redevelopment as well (Lang, Hughes, & Danielsen, 1997).
The public sector has become much more innovative and entrepreneurial when pursuing downtown redevelopment, embracing characteristics previously restricted to the private sector (Frieden & Sagalyn, 1989; Roberts & Schein, 1993). Harvey (1989) characterized this shift in the approach of urban governments towards development-oriented activities

*Direct correspondence to: Timothy Chapin, Assistant Professor, Department of Urban and Regional Planning,
Florida State University, 336 Bellamy Building, Tallahassee, FL 32306-2280. E-mail: tchapin@garnet.acns.fsu.edu
JOURNAL OF URBAN AFFAIRS, Volume 24, Number 5, pages 565±581.
Copyright # 2002 Urban Affairs Association
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.
ISSN: 0735-2166.

566 | JOURNAL OF URBAN URBAN AFFAIRS | Vol. 24/No. 5/2002

as a movement from managerialism to entrepreneurialism. Typifying this entrepreneurial approach, the public sector now regularly undertakes high-risk projects and utilizes innovative financing mechanisms such as speculative revenue bonds and tax increment financing. The public sector also routinely enters into public-private partnerships to complete revitalization projects and to achieve redevelopment objectives, further blurring the lines between public and private. The public sector has also generally organized its redevelopment agencies as quasi-governmental entities that often operate outside of the boundaries of typical government agencies.
This article investigates this entrepreneurial approach to downtown redevelopment by reviewing a major redevelopment project in San Diego. In some ways this is a very typical project as the city is the major financier for a new downtown baseball stadium, a familiar scenario in recent years. To further this project the city of San Diego acted in ways that exemplify the entrepreneurial approach to downtown redevelopment. The city utilized innovative financing tools and spearheaded a complex…