The invisibility of code enforcement in planning praxis: The case of informal housing in Southern California

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Pretty cool to be published old school style: in print!

Read the latest from me and Jake Wegmann on #InformalHousing in Los Angeles: “The Invisibility of Code Enforcement in Planning Praxis: The Case of Informal Housing in Southern California,” (2016) FOCUS Journal, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Dept of City & Regional Planning

Abstract: More and better engagement with working class neighborhoods and communities of color are urgent imperatives for the planning profession as the United States transitions to a “majority minority” population. Code enforcement personnel are already doing much of this work, normally in a much more collaborative and less heavy-handed manner than the name of their profession would suggest. However, at present the planning profession largely holds code enforcement at arms’ length. Using the example of the informal housing market in Southern California—managed on a daily basis by code enforcement officers, yet largely unaddressed by planners—we draw on survey and interview data and our own professional experiences to make four propositions about code enforcement work. These are that code enforcement work is unusually cumbersome; it is chronically understaffed; its personnel cope by working reactively rather than proactively; and the profession suffers low prestige as a result. We argue that ending the estrangement between code enforcement and planning would offer numerous benefits to the latter, including inculcating cultural competence in planners through “learning by doing” and working at street level, and injecting sorely needed “community data” into efforts to address vexing issues such as housing unaffordability.