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The battle over the commons in port cities

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The zone of intersection between land and sea within an urban context has long been viewed as a special type of urban commons. The well-researched port-city interface, however, tells a rather tragic story about the use and management of this valuable resource. This study asks how four major regulatory-institutional issues in the interface – land ownership, activities allowed in port area, planning autonomy, and public access – affect the ability of ports and cities to preserve elements of “commons” in urban coasts? Furthermore, it assesses if and how Elinor Ostrom’s principles for overcoming commons-related tensions, could contribute to the management of port-city conflicts over land-uses in the Mediterranean urban coastline and the various questions that may derive from such an application. For these purposes the study combines a comprehensive literature review with the analysis of planning regulation and in-depth, semi-structured interviews of key-stakeholders in seven port cities across three Mediterranean countries. The common experience in these different cases suggests that through a strategy involving scaling-down spatial decisions or governance, and built-in mechanisms for spatial cooperation, ports and the cities that host them can find a new joint path, which will strengthen local synergies and the quality of urban, public space.
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Keywords: Urban coast; cross-national analysis; planning regulation; port-city interface; the commons

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: The Center for Urban and Regional Studies, Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel

Publication date: August 9, 2019

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