Well, it’s done: that Sisyphean, seemingly endless task of writing a thesis has come to a final close. Never again will I look at a five page paper as being long—that’s basically just the introduction! Overall, my revisions from the official first were mercifully short, consisting of minor edits throughout and modest additions to/reorganizations of the bottom of the hourglass. Breaking apart the implications section into the Interpreting and Contesting subsections definitely helped organize my concluding thoughts and go into slightly more detail. In the first subsection, I focused on 1) how the transit premium can be interpreted differentially by class position and outlook, 2) how, because development is viewed as a goal of transit planning, planners are implicitly aligned in support of land value appreciation and gentrification, and 3) that the rhetoric of smart growth presents such growth as socially and environmentally beneficial. In the second subsection, I followed more of an open-ended extension of this discussion, noting how class conflict is hidden by neoliberalism and smart growth and musing on the scope and direction of smart growth gentrification. In the end, I only added about two pages to the implications section, though I painstakingly reordered (and then re-reordered) sentences and paragraphs. I’m still not perfectly happy with the Implications section; I feel it is a little staccato in its organization, with the breadth of concepts covered diminishing the flow from paragraph to paragraph.
I also tried to end on a somewhat less polemical tone than my original draft. After weeks of plowing through re-reading gentrification sources and crafting a cohesive, extended written argument, my views about planning’s role in gentrification had become rather deeply cynical—I began to channel far too much of Mike Davis (e.g. “The long-term vision is housing in livable, diverse, multi-modal neighborhoods as a social right; the present reality is amenity provision as a variously intentional and inadvertent strategy of urban renewal, raising land values, spatially isolating an underclass, and attracting the footloose capital and middle class for which the spectacles of gentrification are constructed” or “the basic patterns of globally-oriented neoliberal gentrification are replicated, naturalized, and suffused with salutatory greening language” or “Gentrification-displacement knows no final bounds; London, the city that inspired the term gentrification, now faces the displacement of the upper class from its toniest districts, local wealthy professionals outbid by a hypermobile global elite primarily using real estate as a store of value. While this fate hardly awaits all neighborhoods or all cities, it makes starkly apparent the inequitable ends to which unrestrained commodification of land can extend”).
Though I stand by these assessments as reflecting a truth about urban planning, and I’ve left these polemical sentences substantially unaltered in my final draft, I don’t think this is the full truth of what planning is or the progression of gentrification involves and have attempted to include some more nuance in the argument. Thus, I added in a bit more discussion of how dynamic contradictions play into the issue of gentrification: the extent to which gentrification has progressed has also created a noticeable political countermovement, a movement in which I see a degree of hope. I hint at the need for embracing clumsy solutions in response to transit-induced gentrification, noting that the solutions emerging will have their own problems (inclusionary zoning ties us even more strongly to private development as a social good, affordable housing subsidies are expensive), but it is through this experimentation with forms that the city can be regenerated. I also included a modest defense of urbanism, despite my persistent attacks on the ways in which transit-oriented development models materially sideline equity. It’s a delicate balance, to be sure, and one which probably muddles my argument slightly, but I felt the need to defend a vision that I do ultimately support, lest this work be simply taken up by the anti-city/anti-transit crowd as an example of the problems of governmental social engineering.