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The community benefits movement as a response to urban neoliberalism

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Title:
The community benefits movement as a response to urban neoliberalism
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Leonard, Gena D
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English
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iv, 136 leaves : ; 28 cm

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Subjects / Keywords:
Community development, Urban -- United States ( lcsh )
Social justice -- United States ( lcsh )
Neoliberalism -- United States ( lcsh )
Community development, Urban ( fast )
Neoliberalism ( fast )
Social justice ( fast )
United States ( fast )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 131-136).
General Note:
Department of Political Science
Statement of Responsibility:
by Gena D. Leonard.

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|University of Colorado Denver
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|Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
657077533 ( OCLC )
ocn657077533
Classification:
LD1193.L64 2010m L46 ( lcc )

Full Text
THE COMMUNITY BENEFITS MOVEMENT AS A RESPONSE TO
URBAN NEOLIBERALISM
by
Gena D. Leonard
B.A., Ithaca College, 2005
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
M.A. in Political Science
May 2010


This thesis for the Master of Political Science
degree by
Gena D. Leonard
has been approved
by
Anthony R. Robinson
AW 27, 20IO
Date


Leonard, Gena D (M.A., Political Science, School of Liberal Arts and Sciences)
The Community Benefits Movement as a Response to Urban Neoliberalism
Thesis directed by Associate Professor Anthony R. Robinson
ABSTRACT
A recent trend in social justice movements around the nation has been advocating and
negotiating Community Benefits Agreements, or CBAs. The origin of the CBA can
be credited to California, in particular to developments in San Jose, Los Angeles, San
Francisco, and the Bay area. It was in these areas that community groups first came
together around the concept of embedding contracts for defined and measurable
community benefits into major urban development projects subsidized with public
dollars. Since the first CBA in California in 1998, these groundbreaking agreements
have come a long way. The movement has come as a response to the neoliberal
policies of the 1980s and has provided a new avenue that focuses on accountable
economic development, as opposed to a model where all growth is considered good
growth, as was acceptable during the urban neoliberal era beginning in the 1970s.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend
its publication.


TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER
I. INTRODUCTION............................................................1
Purpose of the Study..................................................3
Scope of the Study....................................................8
Methods..............................................................10
Outline..............................................................13
II. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE..............................................15
Urban Neoliberalism and Community Response: Exchange and Use Value...21
The Neoliberal Growth Model: An Urban History........................25
Challenging Neoliberalism: The Community Benefits Movement...........35
III. DISSECTING THE COMMUNITY BENEFITS MOVEMENT............................43
CBAs and the Labor Movement.........................................54
CBAs and the Regional Social Justice Movement.......................58
IV. BIRTH OF THE CBA: LABORATORY LOS ANGELES..............................62
CBA Roots in Denver, Colorado: Failed Neoliberalism.................72
A New Model.........................................................77
Cherokee-Gate CBA, Denver, CO.......................................84
V. CONCLUSIONS.........................................................104
EPILOGUE..............................................................109
APPENDIX..............................................................112
BIBLIOGRAPHY..........................................................131
iv


CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION
A recent trend in social justice movements around the nation has been
advocating and negotiating Community Benefits Agreements, or CBAs. The origin
of the CBA can be credited to California, in particular to developments in San Jose,
Los Angeles, San Francisco and the Bay area. It was in these areas that community
groups first came together around the concept of embedding contracts for defined and
measurable community benefits into major urban development projects subsidized
with public dollars. Since the first CBA in California in 1998, these groundbreaking
agreements have come a long way. The movement has come as a response to the
neoliberal policies of the 1980s and has provided a new avenue that focuses on
accountable economic development, as opposed to a model where all growth is
considered good growth.
The Staples center in Los Angeles, for example, was a complex CBA that
developed in 2001. With over $150 million in public subsidies, the community had a
lot at stake entering into this complex agreement. With the help of Figueroa Corridor
Coalition for Economic Justice (FCCEJ), the Staples agreement succeeded in
1


reaching numerous goals, including: first source hiring1 and living wage jobs,
developer funding for resident parking and a community park, as well as increased
affordable housing standards. The success is credited to over 30 community groups,
labor unions, and dedicated individuals who fought for the agreement (Gross, LeRoy,
and Janis-Aparicio, 2001, p. 14).
The Staples CB A has proved to be a constructive model for the CB A
movement nationwide, especially in the cooperation that was demonstrated between
the developer, the City of Los Angeles, and the numerous community groups. In
2004, another influential CBA that took inspiration from the Staples project was that
of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). This CBA differs slightly from that at
Staples because it includes environmental health aspects such as environmental
protection, funds for studying health impacts of nearby communities, and funds for
soundproofing schools and homes in the immediate area. It is clear that with each
CBA established, different needs are met. The specialization the CBA movement
demonstrates makes it an innovative response to the challenges facing cities today.
1 First source hiring refers to local hiring preference, including residents in the
redevelopment area, as well as those in apprenticeship training programs for low-
income residents.
2


Purpose of the Study
In Denver, the Community Benefits Agreement movement is in a nascent
stage; however, the city has seen how the dedicated work of non-profit organizations
and coalition building can ensure that social justice concerns accompany economic
development. In 2006, FRESC: Good Jobs, Strong Communities, along with other
community groups, achieved a significant CBA at the Gates Rubber Factory
redevelopment project in central Denver. The developer, Cherokee LLC, sought over
$125 million in public subsidies, which presented the surrounding communities with
an opportunity to put forth and implement one of Denvers first successful CBAs.
The innovative successes of that CBA movement established a new development
model in Denver, catapulted a leader of the local CBA movement into a City Council
seat, and even garnered some national attention. Making Connections, a national
initiative that seeks to improve the opportunities of children and families in at-risk
neighborhoods, published an account of that CBA {The Gates Cherokee
Redevelopment Project) in 2006, as part of their Diarist Project. The report, by Tory
Reed, frames the CBA process, its struggles, and successes, from coalition building to
negotiation. Susan Motika, the Site Coordinator for Making Connections stated, The
deal is significant for the high level of community engagement in a very complex
3


economic negotiation. We want to have a community role in helping shape and drive
policy in Denver. The Gates experience allowed that to happen (Reed, 2006, p. 5).
This thesis will examine CBAs as a response to recent national trends in urban
economic development. Urban planning, and the ideologies guiding planning and the
development of cities, have changed drastically in the last few decades. In urban
politics today, neoliberalism, which revolves around state support for unrestricted
corporatist growth agendas. Under neoliberalism, the market is seen as a solution to
all social problems, including economic development. As Leitner, Peck, and
Sheppard (2007) argue, The neoliberal city is conceptualized first as an
entrepreneurial city, directing all its energies to achieving economic success in
competition with other cities for investments... (p.4). The goals of the city, under
neoliberalism, are geared toward economic growth at all costs. Robyn Turner (2002)
states, Despite citizen participation and political rhetoric about public access, cities
make compromises. They are willing to give private control over formerly public
space in exchange for a productive economic return (p.533). With neoliberal
economic policies, cities cater to private investors in order to maximize economic
return. Neoliberal proponents Brenner and Theodore (2002) state, "open,
competitive, and unregulated markets, liberated from all forms of state interference,
represent the optimal mechanism for economic development" (p.2). This aspect of
4


neoliberalism caters to developers by giving the market unregulated power. The
research questions I will examine include who gains and who loses under neoliberal
economic policies. I will further examine the extent to which the Community
Benefits Movement has effectively addressed the problems and issues of those who
have historically suffered under these policies. In addition, I will show why the
movement has been successful in Denver and Los Angeles, as opposed to other major
U.S. cities.
The ways in which cities develop have huge effects on the inhabitants of the
area. For example, efforts to maximize the exchange value of urban land (by
driving up its property values and developing land and neighborhoods to the highest
and best use) has serious effects on the use value of the land for those who live in
the city (Logan and Molotch, 1897). For example, rapid new development by global
big box corporations can increase area property values (thus enhancing exchange
values), but can also drive down wages, just as new upscale housing developments
can increase rents and foster the gentrification displacement of low-income renters
(thus negatively impacting the use value of the city for some residents). Authors John
R. Logan and Harvey L. Molotch (1987), argue that this pursuit of exchange value
turns cities into growth machines, where economic growth becomes the most
important aspect of development (p. 13). Development in accordance with this
5


ideological framework fails to make downtown accessible for all citizens (Turner,
2002, p.533). When rents are raised due to gentrification of a once low-income area,
displacement is inevitable. Faced with such a challenge to the continued use value of
a city to many local communities and lower income residents, the CBA response has
recently emerged from communities affected by the development and redevelopment
process, who are seeking a say in the direction the development is taking. CBAs give
the community the chance to shape development in their favor, which is a particularly
important tool for communities to utilize in the face of neoliberalism.
The ideological claims of neoliberalism are that private development
decisions should rarely be constrained by public notions of the appropriate housing
mix, wage levels, or other community benefits (Brenner et al, 2002, p.357).
However, these ideological claims are open to contestation in cities where actually
existing neoliberalism involves heavy public subsidies for corporatist
redevelopment, thus opening up room for public involvement and oversight of
development priorities. Brenner (2002) argues that actually existing neoliberalism is
the embeddedness of neoliberal restructuring projects insofar as they have been
produced within national, regional, and local contexts defined by the legacies of
inherited institutional frameworks, policy regimes, regulatory practices, and political
struggles (Brenner et al, 2002, p.351). Since public finances are often used at
6


development sites, communities have the unique opportunity to influence growth to
their advantage. Some scholars call this a localized process of contesting global
neoliberalism, a process that can only be understood with ground level studies of
actually existing neoliberalism and how it is contested and altered by community-
specific studies of urban growth projects.
7


Scope of Study
Denver, Colorado offers a good opportunity to study such processes of
actually existing neoliberalism and community based contestation. In recent decades,
urban development in Denver has matched the model of a neo-liberal focus on
economic growth through entrepreneurship. Susan E. Clarke and Martin Saiz (2003),
theorize that local politics in Denver, through an entrepreneurial deliberate civic
investment strategy that transformed Denver from a waterhole to a world-class city
(p.168). Clarke and Saiz demonstrate how the citys planning initiatives for
redevelopment established an institutional infrastructure and financing model for
mega-projects which succeeded in mobilizing public support for the citys future
economic development model which included using huge public subsidies, alongside
private investment, for a variety of downtown trophy projects such as a new
convention center and bustling downtown outdoor retail mall (p.192).
Creating a utopia of free markets (which is actually supported by hefty
public subsidies) has become a goal not only in Denver, but also in numerous cities
around the globe, in order to attract investors and consumers to the area (Summer,
2006, p.l). However, this model has provoked community-based responses wherever
it has unfolded, including in Denver. In this thesis, I will research how recent urban
renewal policies, such as the rise of tax-expenditure strategies such as Tax Increment
8


Financing, have catalyzed CBAs as a local response to an increasingly privatized
urban renewal model. I will examine the rise of CBAs nationally, and the role labor
movements have played in shaping community coalitions and policy demands that are
entailed in these agreements. Lastly, I will look at urban trends regarding CBAs
throughout the country to see how Denver measures up. This thesis will ultimately
show how the actual practice of urban neoliberalism involves heavy state
involvement in subsidizing and directing local growth patterns. It is this involvement
of the public in supporting urban neoliberalism which opens up opportunities for
citizens to reshape urban neo-liberalism in ways to better serve the social needs of the
city, through tools like the growing community benefits movement.
9


Methods
In order to examine the Community Benefit Agreements movement as a
response to the neoliberal management of cities, I will look at national and local
urban redevelopment strategies. In addition, I will examine the rise of CBAs and the
role the labor movement has played in shaping CBAs through coalition building. My
primary research methods will be through participant observation interning with
FRESC: Good Jobs, Strong Communities, in Denver. FRESC has been at the
forefront of CBAs in metro Denver, including negotiating the groundbreaking
Cherokee-Gates community benefits agreement as well as currently negotiating with
Denver officials and developers regarding Denvers showcase Union Station
agreement. At FRESC I had the opportunity of reviewing national research on CBAs
(partly through access to the organizational archives of FRESC, a national leader in
the CBA movement), including studying where the movement has been and where it
is headed. I was also able to attend community development conferences where
topics ranged from general Urban Redevelopment to Transit Oriented Development.
In addition, I had complete access to their organizational databases, including files
and documents on the CBA process and negotiations that have taken place in the
Denver Metro area. To supplement this material, I conducted field interviews with
key players in the Denver community development process, including other local
10


researchers in the field, community organizers, and FRESC staff. This kind of unique
insider access to a local manifestation of the national community benefit movement
has supplemented my review of the journalistic and scholarly investigations of this
subject, and has allowed me to produce the first scholarly study of the Denver
community benefits movement.
Using a case study analysis, I was able to investigate the CBA efforts in both
Los Angeles and Denver using two specific projects, the Staples Center and
Cherokee-Gates respectively. I was able to identify both strengths and weaknesses in
each process and analyze both internal and external factors that contributed to the
success of the agreements. I choose the Staples Center agreement because this is the
first major agreement in the country, and because the provisions in the agreement
cover a range of topics. In addition, being the first major CBA, the project is well
documented. I choose the Cherokee-Gates agreement because of the vast amounts of
research archives that were available to me through FRESC. Also, since the project is
the first in Denver to contain a CBA, it was an obvious choice for analysis. Going to
school and living in Denver, also aided in my interest to study a local CBA. These
case studies provided the groundwork for analyzing the Community Benefits
Movement as an effective response to neoliberalism because they are two distinct
efforts, which interrupted and arguably changed economic development standards in
11


over 15 cities across the U.S (Lavine, 2008). The case study method of analysis
allowed me to understand the Staples Center agreement and the Cherokee-Gates
agreement as pieces of a larger Community Benefits Movement. The two projects
also represent unique cases where the relationship between the Labor Movement and
Community groups caused a response to local development efforts. I argue that the
Staples Center and Cherokee-Gates agreements happened in L.A. and Denver
because of the distinct link between labor and community groups in these cities.
Specifically, key individuals in each city were able to alter the traditional labor
agenda, through their roles in prominent labor organizations. The case study method
of these projects provides for an accurate portrayal of how the Community Benefit
Movement found its roots in uniting labor and community groups to effectively
respond to the urban economic policies of neoliberalism.
12


Outline
Part one of this thesis will define and explore the national Community
Benefits Agreement movement. I will use California as a model, because they were
the first state to use a CBA. The first section will include a discussion of the roots of
the CBA movement and the role of the American labor movement in shaping it. Part
two of the thesis, will address the question of why CBAs are helping to reshape
regional politics. I will examine the causes of the recent surge in agreements,
including the factors contributing to growing regional activism. Part three will look
at specific CBAs in the Denver Metro-area, including the Cherokee-Gates project, as
a case study of the developments outlined in section two. My fieldwork at FRESC
will aid in this section since the organization has played a huge role in negotiating the
CBA. CBAs have the ability to act as a main ingredient in community development,
and it is therefore crucial to examine the roots, process, and implementation of these
agreements in order for the development to succeed and reach its potential. In part
three, I will examine the CBA movement alongside the Labor Movement, and use the
regional Social Justice Movement as a framework in understanding the growth of
CBAs. In part four, I will show how failed neoliberalism in Denver, Colorado has
resulted in an alternative economic development model. I will use Denvers first
CBA, the Cherokee-Gates development, to show how this alternative model was
13


utilized. In conclusion, I will show how major strides are being taken to challenging
urban neoliberalism. Across the U.S. cities from Los Angeles to Denver are proving
that CBAs can serve as an alternative to neoliberal economic development.
14


CHAPTER II
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
A number of community activists, labor organizers, and scholars have
published work on Community Benefits (more specifically, the Community
Benefits Movement) as both a practice and a movement. This movement has come
as a response to the neoliberal management of cities across the globe since the
1980s. Doris Summer (2006), states, Neoliberal ideology theoretically aspires to
create a utopia of free markets liberated from all forms of state interference while
generating a fully commodified form of social life (p.l). Neoliberalism has been
used in cities globally to restructure and transform capitalism through structural
adjustment, privatization, and deregulation (Trashing the Neoliberal City, 2005).
Structural adjustment refers to the changing role that the government has played in
regulating the economy, a reconstituted role. Instead of focusing on social needs like
housing or welfare, city governments in the neoliberal era have focused on
subsidizing development and policing the poor. Brenner (2002) states,
15


Neoliberal doctrines were deployed to justify, among other projects, the deregulation of state control
over major industries, assaults on organized labor, the reduction of corporate taxes, the shrinking
and/or privatization of public services, the dismantling of welfare programs, the enhancement of
international capital mobility, the intensification of interlocality competition, and the criminalization of
the urban poor (p.350).
For example, in Denver the neoliberal policies practiced under city planner
Jennifer Moulton included a stark rise in the use of Tax Increment Financing,
providing public incentives for developers to build luxury projects with huge public
subsidies to cushion their own investment and potential losses. This is a prime
example of actually existing neoliberalism which Brenner and Theodore (2002)
discuss. The ideology of neoliberalism, versus the reality of its practice is two
distinct features. Brenner (2002) states On the one hand, while neoliberalism aspires
to create a utopia of free markets liberated from all forms of state interference, it has
in practice entailed a dramatic intensification of coercive, disciplinary forms of state
intervention in order to impose market rule upon all aspects of social life (p. 352).
Thus, at a local (urban) level, the practice of neoliberalism is quite different from the
global theory. In reality, neoliberalism is not letting the market run free and regulate
itself, but rather, interfering in the regulation, in order to control the competition and
public resources. Neoliberal proponents argue that their policies are necessary in
order to create economic development, that without these policies there would be a
major lack in investment and development. The rise of this phenomenon came as a
response to classical liberalism and Keynesian economic practices in the U.S. in the
16


1930s. The programs and policies in place under classical liberalism favored
community well-being over capital accumulation and wealth. This was demonstrated
with the New Deal and Public Works projects across the U.S. put in place by
President Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1933-1936 (Wikipedia, 2010). With the end of
World War II in 1945, and the influx of black and Latino workers to the city (brought
about due to the war), affluent city dwellers began to move to the suburbs (known as
white flight). This inevitably caused a decline in city investment, further producing
infrastructural decline and later, a major shift in city policies and priorities. Urban
neoliberalism thus staked its ground and found space to respond to urban decay
(Smith, 1999). At a time when cities across the U.S. were in clear need of economic
investment and infrastructural improvements, neoliberal policies appeared to be a
good response. The neoliberal urban policies, which sought to attract investment in
order to stimulate economic growth (and recovery), included privatization of once
public resources, the dismantling of welfare programs, and deregulation (Brenner,
2002).
Stephan Weiler (2000) argues that private investors can many times be
reluctant to invest in potentially feasible sites, which is why public support for
pioneers is needed. He states,
17


Limited information and capital constraints will tend to dissuade potential first-movers from
shouldering the risk-burdens of pioneering. Yet such pioneering efforts may nevertheless yield
considerable social returns through the spillover externalities that accrue to business followers. A clear
justification thus emerges for the public support of such ventures, given informational market failures
and external benefits to social welfare. The reality of the evolving US political economy will force
local officials to become more involved in such development issues (p. 177).
Weiler points out how the role of local officials is evolving into a much more
active role in urban development, as demonstrated by Jennifer Moultons subsidized-
growth planning theory in Denver. However, the actual effect on local markets and
politics, have been arguably detrimental to communities and citizen in the U.S. and
abroad. The dominating logic of ffee-market fundamentalism corrodes social
solidarity as it rejects social justice in favor of individual freedom to compete and
consume (Trashing the Neoliberal City, 2005, p.2). In Denver for example, there
has been a rise in low-wage work, increased homelessness, and a displacement of
locally owned businesses by large, global big-boxes, and these trends have only been
exacerbated by the kinds of upscale redevelopment projects that Denver planners
have officially subsidized (Robinson and Nevitt, 2005c, p.10 and George, 2004).
Although this neoliberal management style has led to declining social conditions,
displacement and gentrification, it has often gone unchallenged by the communities it
affects.
In recent years, however, resistance to the neo-liberal restructuring of
American cities has expanded (Leitner et al, 2007, p.4). As one example of this rising
18


resistance, advocates, scholars, and citizens have found a voice to respond to
neoliberal ideology with CBAs. Through outreach, organizing, and coalition
building, communities from Los Angeles to the Bronx have used CBAs to reclaim
their communities from free market ideologues. CBA practitioners believe the
theory that all development is good development is false. They argue that the
entrepreneurial cities that have been created through this growth machine ideology
have neglected communities and failed to take into account local interests. The
organization, Good Jobs First (2009) state:
Improving the quality of life in cities is often touted as one of the goals of economic development, but
development projects often produce few tangible benefits for local residents. Many cities have
embraced a development strategy that involves investing large public subsidies in big-ticket items such
as new stadiums, entertainment districts, and convention centers in downtown areas. While these
projects may increase entertainment and tourism spending in one part of town, the benefits don't
always reach out into neighborhoods. Such developments often create low-wage jobs while pushing up
housing prices, forcing long-time residents from the area (2009).
The State has failed to demand social benefits in redevelopment projects (such
as living wages or affordable housing) because of the overarching neoliberal ideology
that any business growth or capital investment is inherently good for the city, no
matter the wage or housing mix. Citing evidence that this neoliberal philosophy and
practice benefits mostly investors and an elite few, however, CBA proponents argue
that the current growth model has proved unacceptable for the rest of the population.
Robinson and Nevitt (2005) researched the costs and benefits of Tax
Increment Financing on the local Denver economy. Their studies found that the
19


quality of new jobs, i.e.; wages, benefits, etc, the kind of housing (mainly
affordability levels), and the effect of projects on nearby communities are not meeting
local needs (Robinson et al, 2005c, p.10). Robinson says, Our analysis indicates that
TLF-subsidized redevelopment is contributing to the expansion of low-wage/low-
benefit employment in Denver (Robinson et al, 2005c, p.12) Proponents argue
that CBAs as a response to neoliberal ideology have the potential to alleviate the
negative effects this ideology has caused. This overview has provided a birds eye
view of the broad sweep of scholarly theory and debate on this subjectthe
remainder of this thesis section will dive a bit closer to the ground to review the state
of the literature in more detail.
20


Urban Neoliberalism and Community Response: Exchange and Use Value
The Reshaping of cities in the U.S. since the 1980s has been geared toward
private interests and the idea that all growth is good growth. Harvey Molotch and
John Logan wrote the definitive scholarly study of this phenomenon Urban
Fortunes: The Political Economy of Place (1987). Molotch and Logan explore the
politics surrounding urban places and demonstrate how the most powerful urban
leaders tend only to see the exchange value of a place (i.e., the value a piece of real
estate can extract on the open market). This overwhelming focus on exchange value,
Molotch and Logan argue, is presented as good for the entire city, but in fact is often
not good for those who attach use value to a placethe day to day practical value a
piece of real estate provides for those who must live, recreate, and work in the area.
The effects of growth for the purpose of growth, for example, can include
displacement of lower-income residents (gentrification), which has been unevenly
distributed among lower class neighborhoods. Molotch and Logan (1987) state:
Neighborhoods whose obliteration would better serve growth goals are subject to the
strongest pressure; unless their residents are organizations or high enough in the
hierarchies of power to resist, neighborhoods are sacrificed to the growth goal
(P-14).
21


Many times the intentions and goals of investors are contradictory to the needs
and wants of many people in the community; it is at this crossroad where
communities need tools such as CBAs to benefit from exchange-value driven
economic development. Local communities are both the site of peoples life
gratifications and the only arena in which most citizens can take any meaningful
action (Molotch el al, 1987, p.15). This idea is central to the concept of the
Community Benefits Movement, which seeks to bring the voice of local people back
to where it belongs; the place they live.
What Molotch and Logan bring to the table in their innovative work on
urban redevelopment and the city as a growth machine relates directly to what
neighborhoods and communities are facing in the wake of urban neoliberalism being
the dominant ideology for the past thirty years. The authors argue that it is important
to take into account the intrinsic value of place as more than a space for consumption
and exchange; places are also valuable as spaces where people connect, relate, and
live their daily lives. When the city becomes a growth machine, with leaders
concerned predominantly with rising investment and property values, as it has under
neoliberalism, gentrification pressures and the desire to bring investment, affluent
people, and upscale jobs become the dominant goals of the city. From the perspective
of many people harmed by this model however (i.e., renters who lose low-income
housing, or service workers working jobs at low wages), all growth is not good
22


growth, and the Community Benefit Movement seeks to make sure that quality
economic development, more beneficial to a wider segment of society, occurs.
Though neoliberal ideology asserts that growth is a universal benefit for all,
Molotch and Logan explore the idea that local conflicts over growth are central to
the organization of cities.... (p. 13). Under neoliberalism, growth is advertised as
good because it has the ability to create wealth and employment through unregulated
free markets. However, many times, the business elites and outside investors reap the
benefits of urban growth, as much employment pays low wages and thousands of
lower income individuals find their communities of old gentrified. In other words,
having the ability to create wealth and employment and actually creating wealth and
employment for the people who live in the urban areas are two separate issues. This
is why a response to neoliberal redevelopment becomes essential to the health of
cities. It becomes vital for scholars, city planners, mayors, and citizens to begin to
think about how business growth and investment can be channeled in ways that are
more broadly beneficial to the local population. Neoliberalism, with its logic of
deregulation, reduced taxes (and business tax subsidies), and deference to large
business interests forced the state itself to retreat (at least as a countervailing power to
corporate/business interests), which created a void in urban politics nationwide. The
Community benefits movement has subsequently provided for a space for people to
organize over a common struggle to keep the best interests of their community in
23


their own hands, balancing the investors interest in capitalist exchange value with
many residents interest in democratic use-value.
24


The Neoliberal Growth Model: An Urban History
The neoliberal urban growth model emerged as a response to the multi-faceted
urban crises of the 1960s and 1970s. Facing a profound capital accumulation crisis as
business investors fled the high-tax and socially liberal cities, a racial and economic
crisis emerged as affluent whites fled the unruly and desegregating cities for the
suburbs. Neil Smith (1999) contends that a public order crisis arose as both violent
crime and low-level street unrest exploded. He states,
With the national economy already well into a restructuring that would be captured in the language of
"globalization" social and economic identities were giddily destabilized as local economies were
turned inside out. The end of the 1980s seemed to lead back to the 1970s when fiscal bankruptcy
inaugurated a major retrenchment and restructuring of city services while simultaneously
reestablishing the private economy. While hundreds of millions of dollars in tax abatement" geo-
bribes" flowed regularly to attract or keep mega corporations in the city, the official unemployment
rate soared to over 10 percent (p.99)
Cities were widely acknowledged as either dead or dying in those
decades. New ways to revitalize the urban core and attract people back to the city
came about after the white flight of the 1950s through 1970s. Ways to improve
the city, for example by bringing consumers and investors out of the suburbs and
back to the core of the city, became goals for politicians and city planners alike.
This process drastically changed the urban landscape around the country,
beginning in the 1980s. In neoliberal terms, good urban living became synonymous
25


with reversing the decay of the 1960s and 1970s, leveraging rising property values,
and supporting bustling consumption and public order through elite control of public
spaces. This means that city space became redesigned by city officials to reflect these
neoliberal goals. According to Fried Siegel (1992), The decline and partial
revitalization of the citys parks and other public places illustrates the intimate
connection between the problems of public space and the structure of government
(p.10). The problems of public space, to which Siegel is referring, involve the
struggle over who controls public space and how they use that control. The
increasing number of public/private partnerships in the management of city space
brings to light the changing role of local government. Siegel explores New York
Citys increase in private groups such as, Green Guerrillas, the Friends of Prospect
Park, and the Parks Council (Siegel, 1992, p.5). The revival of such groups
represents the citys own inability to maintain their public space. As such, these
groups have stepped up to fill the gap left by inadequate public funds and public
upkeep. Siegel states,
The Central Park Conservancy raised $64 million during the 1980s. Under the leadership of its
president, Elizabeth Barlow, who also served as the citys Central Park administrator, the Conservancy
was providing more than half of the parks operating funds and underwriting more than half of its work
force. The Conservancy became the model for groups established to support Prospect, Riverside,
Flushing Meadows-Corona, Van Cortlandt, and Pelham Bay parks (p.5)
26


As Siegel notes, the private Central Park Conservancy was providing more
than half of the funding for operation costs. As such, they have provided the park
with benefits, which the state was not able to afford. In this sense, the public/private
partnership has been a huge asset for the city of New York, and proved beneficial to
all that enjoy Central Park. However, many times when there is a public/private
partnership within a specific city area, such as in the case of Business Improvement
Districts (BIDs) the control over the use of the space can be blurred. For instance,
when a private corporation yields control of a BID, they are able to kick a homeless
person off of a bench in their district. Although this bench is a public bench, the BID
allows for the private sector to control its use.
As discussed by Doris Summer in The Neoliberalization of Urban Space
(2006), it has become important for cities to mobilize city space as an arena both for
market-oriented economic growth and elite consumption practices in order to keep
up with the global competition for investment (p.2). She further argues that, cities
without up-to-date downtowns including high-end business and financial districts
able to attract international investments are most likely to be off the map (Summer,
2006, p.2). Summers work demonstrates how cities have gone from being a place 2
2 Business Improvement District is defined a public-private partnership in which
businesses in a defined area pay an additional tax or fee in order to fund
improvements within the district's boundaries (Wikipedia, 2010)
27


where common people live and work, and where counter-cultural forces (low-income
racial enclaves, street artists, public drug users) once held sway to a place where
people are meant to consume, to earn money, to redevelop property, and to support
the culturally dominant neo-liberal development model.
In this transformation, as cities appeal to international investors and seek to
redevelop and transform their existing landscape, the interests of current residents
are commonly subjugated. As explored by Dennis Judd and Susan S. Fainstein in
The Tourist City" (1999), often times cities gear redevelopment strategies toward
attracting tourists, not toward improving the well-being and lives of the actual
residents. This reality can be seen in areas such as Times Square in New York City,
The Strip in Las Vegas, and The Commons in Boston. In all these areas, city
planners have sought to make the visitor feel at ease with familiar surroundings such
as chain restaurants and big name retail shops. According to Judd and Fainstein, the
creation of the tourist city came about in the early 1980s when the federal government
could no long subsidize city revenues after deindustrialization and
suburbanization. This caused troubling financial situations nation-wide (Judd and
Fainstein, 1999, p.4), and cities could not rely on their existing lower-income
residents to support a healthy local economy. Cities needed to come up with new
strategies to boost revenue through economic development, and to do this, they
needed to find original ways to attract outside consumers to their cities. Creating
28


tourist destinations proved to be a quick-fix answer, but also created global
competition among cities to attract visitors.
In the 1980s, cities began to compete with each other over global tourist
revenue in unprecedented fashion, and for global private investment. The effects this
had on local citizens and local culture has been negative in many ways. Scholar
Kevin Fox Gotham (2004) argues that globalized tourism is the replacement of real
authenticity in which local cultures and traditions become manufactured or simulated
for tourist consumption (p.311, as first argued by MacCannell, 1973). Robyn Turner
(2002), states, while the terms of public access to downtowns have changed, more
startling is that housing and neighborhoods are now being designed as a stimulus for
downtown commercial development rather than as functioning residential places
(Turner, 2002, p.536). This process could not be truer than in the case of tourist
cities. It is clear that the goals of individual cities have changed from a New
Deal/Keynesian social reproduction model of serving citizens by providing food,
shelter, and gathering space, to a supply-side neo-liberal model of serving the needs
of tourists with disposable incomes and investors with global horizons.
A good example of this process is In the Lower Downtown area of Denver,
commonly referred to as LoDo by locals. LoDo was once an area which provided
homes to very low-income individuals with a large amount of single-room occupancy
hotels and a variety of formal homeless shelters and informal homeless squats. This
29


fact may be unknown to the locals these days, however, since now LoDo is known for
its trendy party scene, sports stadium, retail shops, and its allure to the global
creative class of investors, tourists and professionals that Denver has sought to
attract. According to a local group called LoDo District, Anyone strolling the streets
of LoDo on a typical evening can vouch that the area is the social epicenter for the
20-something crowd (Hammack and Raarup, 2009, p.l). This is why the LoDo
District group created a new membership category, LoDo Young Professionals
(LoDo YPs). To truly capitalize on the redevelopment of LoDo, the group is
designed to give this new generation of residents their input and stake in the
neighborhood (Hammack et al, 2009, p. 1). LoDo District accomplishes much of the
valuable advocacy work we perform on behalf of the neighborhood via committees,
staffed by member volunteers, which are organized around issues on our work plan
(Hammack et al, 2009, p.2). Now, with the creation of LoDo YPs the creative class
that dominates the neighborhood has an organization to help make their vision of the
region a reality.
With the changing face of cities, also come changing needs of residents, many
of whom are newer and have higher incomes than the residents of old. Consequently,
many times cities struggle to determine whom exactly they are trying to please and in
what direction economic development should head: to attract tourists and new,
30


affluent residents, or to provide living-wage jobs for lower-income residents? Facing
this dilemma, the choice most often made by city officials should not be surprising in
this neoliberal era. According to Richard Florida (2002), city leaders today are
seeking to attract the creative class. In his article "The Rise of the Creative Class
(2002), Florida argues that the key to economic growth lies not just in the ability to
attract the creative class, but to translate that underlying advantage into creative
economic outcomes in the form of new ideas, new high-tech businesses and regional
growth (p.2). Florida defines the creative class as a fast growing, highly educated,
and well-paid segment of the workforce on whose efforts corporate profits and
economic growth increasingly depend (Florida, 2002, p.3). Florida puts into
perspective the notion that cities are competing with each other across the globe to
attract well-educated, very affluent people, in order to generate growth and stimulate
the local economy. Florida argues that cities can do certain things to attract the
creative class to their city, and by doing so can promote local economic
development. It is a reciprocal relationship; the city gains a class of citizens who in
turn bring creativity along with new organizational and cultural patterns (Florida,
2002, p.10). The key to attracting the creative class, according to Florida, relates
directly to the city offering world class cultural venues- art and theater districts,
space for outdoor activities- parks and biking lanes, a thriving music scene and
nightlife activities, and high population of 20-30 somethings, among other factors.
31


More or less, the city has to offer a trendy, hipster, atmosphere. The creative class
wants beat bookshops, wine and martini bars, live music, many gay people (a symbol
of the local cultures tolerance of the diversity the creatives love), and locally owned
and operated clothing boutiques. If a city can offer these amenities, they will attract a
large number of the creative class, which is accompanied by investment innovation
and growth in the labor market.
What Florida fails to address in his creative class scenario, a scenario that fits
perfectly within the neoliberal fetishizing of affluence, private consumption, and
individualistic competition for success (Peck, 2008), is the negative effects the
competition over the creative class creates between cities. Neoliberalism has created
a globalized scale of competition that forces cities to compete with each other for
foreign investment, and for rootless, affluent professionals (the creative class),
without which they struggle to survive. In addition, Florida does not address how
cities have used gentrification in order to create the thriving downtowns that attract
the creative class, and how these gentrification practices have resulted in massive
displacement for the many low-income residents who once resided in the urban core.
How can a city striving for diversity seek only to attract highly educated hipsters?
According to Jamie Peck (2007), the creative class which Florida speaks of
are nothing more than a new fad in an increasingly fashionable urban-renewal
32


script (Peck, 2007). In Banal Urbanism, Cities and the Creativity Fix (2007), Peck
argues that the creative class buzz is essentially the neoliberal management of cities
wrapped in a new package; a growth-first policy objective. He states,
The discourse and practices of creative-cities policymaking are barely disruptive of the prevailing
order of neoliberal urbanism, based inter alia on polarizing labor and housing markets, property-and
market-led development, retrenched public services and social programming, and accelerating intercity
competition for jobs, investment and assets. The creative cities thesis represents a soft policy fix for
this neoliberal urban conjuncture, making the case for modest and discretionary public spending on
creative assts while raising a favored bundle of middle-class lifestyles-based on self-indulgent forms of
overwork, expressive play, and conspicuous consumptionto the status of an urban-development
objective (p.2).
With the revitalization and gentrification of cities for the creative class, the people
who occupied the heart of the city often can no longer afford to stay there: the
desire to accommodate high-income populations are indications that cities feel
financial pressure to make downtown property produce revenues... (Turner, 2002,
p.536). Turner uses four case studies to demonstrate her claims in this regard:
Phoenix, San Diego, Orlando, and Jacksonville. She illustrates how downtown
development has been geared toward high-priced consumption and outside
investment and furthermore, shows how the modem tourism economy
privileges privatized interests over public needs. She cites Lehrer (1998) discussing
the implications of dominant political discourse saying, Public space is controlled
and regulated by the hegemonic forces. This leads to an exclusion of some people
33


[e.g., the homeless, who tourists hate] from public spaces, and usually also to their
marginalization within society (Turner, 2002, p.541). This is an important factor
when looking at the effects of urban development and redevelopment in U.S. cities
today. Turner focuses on how the neoliberal management of development has
undermined democratic participation in city planning, politics, and policy. Space in
urban areas is no longer designed for community needs, but rather for consumption
and economic profit. This reality is exactly what the Community Benefit Movement
seeks to amend.
34


Challenging Neo-Liberalism: The Community Benefits Movement
Turner seeks to answer the question of how development and access to
downtown can be changed to benefit all citizens, not just the ones with disposable
incomes. Her work is framed by her concern with the growing private control over
public space. She states, Public/private partnerships designed under the Urban
Development Action Grant code of the 1970s have given way to downtown
development districts and TIF districts where corporate developers use the public
revenue stream as a private lending source (Turner, 2002, p.535). Turners work is
of great consequence when analyzing urban development because she seeks to
understand the link between how city decisions are made, whom they are affecting,
and who is benefiting from the development processgenerally she argues that
private, elite interests drive the entire process, to the detriment of the broader public.
Community Benefit Agreements (CBAs) seek to amend this reality by
connecting city decision-making processes and local residents. CBAs have come
about as a response to the neoliberal management of cities, which has given priority
to foreign investments and private development. CB A proponents do not contend
that economic growth is detrimental for cities, rather they claim that regulated, high-
quality economic growth that provides local citizens with broader benefits such as
living-wage jobs, is the type of growth that cities should be striving. Because the
35


state has failed to demand social benefits for its residents, in the kinds of urban
growth leaders have supported in the recent past, community activists have stood up
to fill the void, through the CBA movement.
In Denver, Colorado, the CBA movement has taken off as a response to neo-
liberal city planners who dominated politics in the last two decades. Past Director of
Denver City Planning, Jennifer Moulton, published Ten Steps to a Living Downtown
in the midst of Denvers recent economic development boom (1999), which outlined
Denvers neoliberal ideology at the time, and explained how planners believed in
bringing affluent people back to the city, to make Denver more livable. Moulton
states:
To get the most from demographics and a strong economy, local public policy can exploit, concentrate
and guide economic and demographic trends that favor a move back into the city. Public policy cannot
by itself create demand for housing anywhere, especially downtown. However, in conjunction with
private business initiatives, local government can help accelerate potential into action by educating,
providing incentives and removing regulatory obstacles (p. 9).
What Moulton is referring to by private business initiatives and removing
regulatory obstacles is speeding up the development process and even delivering
hefty public subsidies to private investors. This can be seen in programs such as Tax
Increment Financing (TIF)3 and more generally, Moultons love for public-private
3 Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is a public financing tool, which can be used to aid
economic development projects by capturing the future property tax revenue of the
36


partnerships. Her ideal city is one that can attract foreign investment because this is
where economic growth will ultimately come from. In order to attract investment,
Moulton argues, a city must provide tax incentives such as TIF and other public
subsidies without demanding much in the way of high wages or affordable housing
from the subsidized developers. She states, A key characteristic of a healthy
downtown is the presence of a full range of housing opportunities for all people of all
incomes. Denver hopes to develop a creative tax and financing tool to mitigate this
problem, but public policy that attempts to regulate economic market forces does so
at its peril (Moulton, 1999, p. 20).
Unfortunately, Moulton, and city planners nationwide, have failed to see the
negative effects of this neoliberal style of management. In addition, they neglect to
answer the question of who exactly they are building this city for, and who is being
negatively impacted by displacement and redevelopment of the area. This point is
clearly illustrated in the redevelopment of the Lower Downtown (LoDo) district in
Denver. What was once an area of low-income housing and entry-level workers has
become an area of stratospheric wealth and elitism. Public housing in bordering
communities has been tom down, and replaced with high-income condominiums and
site and dedicated them as public subsidies for the developer who built up the site.
TIF has been used by cities across the nation for subsidizing urban renewal efforts.
37


lofts. Not only did this process displace low-income families, but it has also led to an
increase in homelessness. In addition to the costly housing that was built, a baseball
stadium, high-end restaurants, and retail shops now crowd the area. What was once a
place for blue-collar workers is no longer recognizable (Robinson, 2009).
Hermon George (2004) describes such developments as the deracialization
of Denver, from 1991-2003.4 George discusses how Mayor Wellington E. Webb, the
citys first black mayor, used deracialization strategies as an expression of
neoliberalism. He argues that the policies and practices of the Webb administration
failed to meet the needs of the citys majorityworking people, people of color and
women. He states A review of city-based employment, racial integration status of
public schools, and police accountability shows that deracialization has not benefited
local black neighborhoods.. .ironically, the strategy of deracialization will ultimately
hurt the city, as it has not responded effectively to the needs of neighborhoods
(George, 2004, p. 144). George furthermore argues that Webbs policies favor the
wealthy, which illustrates how the city of Denver has catered to the elite.
4 McCormick and Jones (1993) define deracialization as, "conducting a campaign in a
stylistic fashion that defuses the polarizing effects of race by avoiding explicit
reference to race-specific issues, while at the same time emphasizing those issues that
are perceived as racially transcendent, thus mobilizing a broad segment of the
electorate for purposes of capturing or maintaining public office" (Orey and Ricks,
2007. p.325).
38


The Community Benefit Movement has risen as a response to how cities
have been managed by neoliberal officials like Denvers Jennifer Moulton and Mayor
Webb. One of the common targets of CBA activists is the rarely questioned use of
Tax Increment Financing (TIF); CBA proponents argue that the true benefits that TIF
brings to the public are still a mystery. Robinson and Nevitt (2005), two researchers
connected to a Denver organization committed to CBAs known as FRESC, explored
the value of TIF subsidies in the Denver metro area. They sought to find out who
exactly benefits from this public/private partnership; locally owned business, private
investors, or national chains? Voicing the common CBA line, Robinson and Nevitt
argued that, TIF is a public investment in private projects. Like any investment, it is
meant to deliver a substantial increase in value to the investorin this case, the
public (Robinson et al, 2005c, p.2). What the authors seek to answer is the question
of whether the public is getting their moneys worth with various TIF projects in
Denver. Robinson and Nevitt conclude that TIF projects do not promote local
business and are heavily biased toward national chains (Robinson and Nevitt, 10).
This has negative affects on local communities because chain stores do not stimulate
the economy in the same way that locally owned businesses do; less money is re-
circulated. Though TIF projects prove mostly to benefit chain stores, the public is the
one footing the bill to increase profits for the private investors and franchise store
owners.
39


In other TIF studies, Nevitt and Robinson also demonstrate that affordable
housing is almost non-existent in TIF subsidized projects, that wages are lower than
average wages in the city and that jobs provide fewer benefits that the average Denver
job. The authors conclude that few benefits to the community exist in TIF projects as
they are commonly structured. The authors believe that Denver needs a proactive
policy of local business recruitment to TIF projects (Robinson et al, 2005b, p.23).
They also argue for affordable housing and living wage requirements on publicly
subsidized projects. Through such strategies, CBA proponents seek to alter the
framework through which business investors work. If it is mandatory that investors
recruit local business, for example, then money will be automatically re-circulated
into the local economy, thus benefiting local businesses and (arguably) residents.
Similarly, affordable housing and living wage guarantees will channel the benefits of
growth more broadly through the local community.
Pushing such a CBA agenda typically evokes strong resistance from
neoliberal city officials. Although urban planners like Denvers Moulton claim that
public housing units and low-income residents are important to the city of Denver, for
example, neo-liberal investment ideology always takes precedent as low-income
housing units are tom down with state subsidy to make room for luxury projects, as
seen in the redevelopment of Denvers LoDo and bordering low-income
40


neighborhoods. Moulton herself clearly states that low-income populations have to
be reduced in the city because, The presence of concentrated public housing (no
matter how small or great the number of residents) discourages private sector
investment, leaving the neighborhood dominated by the poorest segment of society -
socially stigmatized and economically segregated (Moulton, 2004, p.12).
In Moultons argument, the social rules and power relations in the city are
legible and they state that the interests of private investors (often translocal, foreign
investors, and always with global horizons) come first. In this way, neoliberal cities
advance an ideology that all growth is good growth. This is why cities such as
Denver favor urban renewal strategies that continuously grant public subsidies to
attract translocal investment in the area, without concern for the social benefits
connected to that growth. Nevitt and Robinsons TIF studies document that between
1992 and 2003, Denver TIF subsidies alone added up to over a half a billion dollars,
given to private developers, with the lions share of those subsides going to
translocal, often global, investors and corporations (Robinson, et al, 2005c, p.6).
With this kind of tremendous trans-local investment also come the creative class
elite who spend money to keep the city in business. This process, however, arguably
does not take the current communities that reside in the area into consideration.
41


In response to all this, Community Benefits Agreements represent a shift in
the way cities are being managed in recent years. Just as neoliberalism was a response
to the ascendant social and economic liberalism of the Keynesian era (a liberalism
that arguably became unsustainable amid the urban crises of the 1970s), so today does
the CBA movement represent a liberal response to the era of unrestricted, ascendant
capital that began in the 1980s (Leitner et al, 2009). CBAs have become a response
to the neo-liberal management of cities. They seek to bring the voice of the local
community back into the politics of the city by demanding social benefits in exchange
for public business subsidies. CBA proponents argue that no longer should
communities take a back seat while private investors, who have inadequate regard for
the well-being of the people and community in the area, run their cities.
42


CHAPTER III
DISSECTING THE COMMUNITY BENEFITS MOVEMENT
Although Community Benefit Agreements are in an infantile stage compared
to many social justice causes, there are nevertheless numerous articles and books
dissecting the agreements, striving to improve their impacts and offering advice to
future organizers. The literature suggests that there is an alternative to the neoliberal
management of cities, and that growth, properly managed, can benefit local
communities as well as investors and developers. Julian Gross, Greg LeRoy, and
Madelin Janis-Aparicio published Community Benefits Agreements: Making
Development Projects Accountable (2005) to spread California CBA success stories
across the nation and to help advocates and organizers understand the CBA process.
With this publication, the CBA procedure is laid out in its most basic form. From an
analysis of specific benefits sought by communities, to a description of the
implementation process, and a discussion of legal issues, this publication put the word
on the street about a new progressive process that has the potential to reshape urban
development.
According to Gross (2005), of California Partnership for Working Families,
CBAs are defined as a legally enforceable contract, signed by community groups
43


and by a developer, setting forth a range of community benefits that the developer
agrees to provide as part of a development project (Gross et al, 2005, p.9). The
community benefits usually include affordable housing requirements, a commitment
by the developer to living-wage jobs with preference given to locals, and health care
for workers, among other site-specific benefits. The main elements of most
community benefit agreements, as out lined by Gross et al, include:
a living wage requirement for workers employed in the development;
a first source hiring system, to target job opportunities in the development to
residents of low-income neighborhoods;
space for a neighborhood-serving child-care center;
construction of parks and recreational facilities;
community input in selection of tenants of the development;
construction of affordable housing (Gross, et al, 2005, p.10)
In addition, the developer benefits from such agreements by gaining the
support of the community and therefore advancing with plans in a timely fashion;
when needing approval from city officials for zoning changes, subsidy grants, etc.,
time is money. In other words, CBAs have the potential to benefit both community
forces and developers who can come together around a vision of a smooth and
44


efficient development process with a broader definition of desirable outcomes than in
most urban developments. Gross (2005) explains that,
A CBA is the result of a negotiation process between the developer and organized representatives of
affected communities, in which the developer agrees to shape the development in a certain way or to
provide specified community benefits. In exchange, the community group promises to support the
proposed project before government bodies that provide the necessary permits and subsidies. The
CBA is both a process to work towards these mutually beneficial objectives, and a mechanism to
enforce both sides promises (p.9).
It is important to note that a CBA is a legally enforceable contract that
communities, and more specifically community organizations, enter into with a
specific developer. However, within a specific agreement, pieces of the agreement
can simply be goals and not officially signed onto by the developer as legally
enforceable promises to the community. Whether these goals actually become
realized has a lot to do with whether the community coalition that emerged to win the
community benefits agreement stays organized to implement and enforce it. In this
way, CBAs rely on (and promote) long term grass-roots power-building in local
communities. Parks and Warren (2006), state, CBAs are most significantly political
outcomes that rely centrally on the organizing power of the community for their
emergence, implementation, and enforcement (p.21). The political aspect of the
Community Benefit agreement is significant to the extent that it has serious
implications on regional politics and participatory politics as a whole. Proponents
45


argue that the movement provides people with a sense of empowerment, which is
gained through organizing and coalition building.
However, this need for ongoing community vigilance in implementing and
enforcing the CBA suggests a significant challenge associated with organizing efforts
and implementation. Assistant Professor Laura Wolf-Power, who works in the
Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of Pennsylvania,
authored Community Benefits Agreements and Local Government: Four Instructive
Cases (2009), which documents the difficulties communities, have faced enforcing
their CBA victories. Her work documents four specific cities CBAs and looks at the
different ways in which they found success and ways in which they struggled. She
proves that there is no one correct way to go about organizing or implementing an
agreement. However, some strategies work better than others. She maintains that the
success of CBAs relies on three main ideas: the health of the real estate market, the
role of organized labor, and the level to which local government participates in
implementation.
For example, she explores the building of the new Yankee Stadium in the
Bronx, and discovers that implementation of a CBA on that project has been dubious.
She states While Yankees spokespeople say the organization has met hiring and
contracting targets.. .neither the franchise nor the program coordinator has been able
46


to verify this, and a compliance committee of community leaders called for in the
CBA has not met (Wolf-Power, 2009, p.20). The Yankee stadium CBA shows how
the implementation process can be a huge challenge for agreements. Wolf-Power
explores how conceptual confusion and political controversy surround the CBA
process and the how this has limited peoples understandings of the agreements. She
contends that the success of agreements has much to do with the willingness and
capacity of local government to support programs and policies that implement and
embody the commitments made by developers (Wolf-Power, 2009, p.3).
Wolf-Power argues that the implementation process in particular can be
taxing on planners, organizers and the public sector, but this should not deter support
for the agreements. In particular, she explores the importance of local government in
the planning and implementation process. This new focus on city leaders as a
countervailing power to the corporate/investor community is in response to the
entrepreneurial way cities have been managed in recent years gearing all development
efforts toward supporting and attracting foreign investment, with city planners and
residents always taking a back seat to investor interests.
Also advocating a new community empowerment role for local governments,
Manuel Pastor Jr., Chris Benner, and Martha Matsuoka (2009) also explore the
significant impacts that social movements like the CBA movement are having on
47


regional equity and urban America. Their work explores how the labor movement
has contributed and continues to contribute to reshaping metropolitan America in a
huge way through regional social justice movement like the CBA movement. They
use examples from numerous advocacy groups to argue that social regionalism is the
future of local politics. This is an important aspect of the Community Benefit
Movement as a response to global neoliberalism, because the Community Benefit
Movement is consciously dedicated to building regional coalitions to confront
political and business leaders with regional demands for a more equitable and
sustainable development agenda. The authors explore the power behind such regional
social justice groups, which can start with localized grassroots movements and, with
the help of deep coalition building, become regional movements for change.
They demonstrate how community organizations such as The Los Angeles
Alliance for a New Economy (LANNE is a founding organization for the national
CBA movement) worked with specific neighborhoods where redevelopment was
taking place. Through coalition building, including the significant role of organized
labor, they adopted a development standards approach, or accountable
development procedures that transformed into the nations very first Community
Benefits Agreement, which was legally attached to the development of the Staples
48


Center in Los Angeles.5 What began as minimum standards for a single-project, such
as providing low-income housing in a redevelopment area, turned into impressive
social justice criteria soon applied to other projects. This is an illustrative example of
CBAs responding to neo-liberal ideology with a claim that it is no longer acceptable
for redevelopment to occur without taking the needs and wants of the community into
consideration. Says Benner et al (2009), working with residents and community-
based organizations, LAANE [then] helped carry the CBA banner into other areas,
negotiating CBAs with living-wage jobs, local hiring, a neighborhood improvement
fund, a youth center for a project in the San Fernando Valley, and, later, a similar set
of provisions in exchange for a $35 million public subsidy for the Santa Barbara
Plaza retail and housing project in South L.A. (p.l 16).
The authors never lose sight of the significant role labor groups play in
CBAs and regional politics. This is an important aspect of the Community Benefit
Movement because it brings both social movement regionalism and the global labor
movement back onto the public agenda. The authors believe that the resulting social
regionalism alliance holds with it the potential to truly make change to improve the
quality of life for local citizens; the essence of the Community Benefit Movement.
Robert Fisher says, The challenge for the regional equity movement is to make
5 See appendix for copy of Staples Center Agreement
49


visible and tangible the link between regional processes and peoples material
aspirations and well-being (Benner et al, 2009, p. 171). Their analysis of the
crossroads between community mobilization, labor organizing and regional social
justice movements goes to the heart of the modem CBA movement. Similarly, Wolf-
Powers (2009) provides insight as to why CBAs are obtained in some cities and not
others. She states, It is clear that where a CBA coalition includes unions and
neighborhood groups, an internal tactical bargain, whether explicit or not, has been
struck, and the result is a new power bloc in local development politics (p. 24). This
new power bloc in local politics is explicitly demonstrated in both Los Angeles and
Denver, where labor and community groups united to form two of the first CBAs in
the nation. It can be argued that the success of agreements can be directly linked to
the role organized labor plays in a city, and furthermore the linking of labor and
community groups. In Los Angeles, the home to the first CBA, Amy Dean, played a
major role in expanding the role of organized labor to include issues that community
groups traditionally embraced. Dean was the leader of the AFL-CIO in Silicon
Valley from 1993-2003, and founded Working Partnerships USA and Building
Partnerships USA, 2 groups whose missions include bringing labor and community
together (Dean and Reynolds, 2009). Through her role as AFL-CIO leader, she was
able to transform the traditional role of labor to incorporate community-based issues,
thus linking the two groups on common issues; she played a huge role in the
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development of CBAs, along with ushering the labor movement into new ground.
Similar to Dean, Leslie Moody served as Denver Area Labor Federation (DALF)
president, beginning in 1997, where she later founded Front Range Economic
Strategy Center (FRESC). FRESC is responsible for leading the campaign to achieve
the first CBA in Denver, at the Cherokee-Gates site. It is no coincidence that the
presence of strong leadership roles within the labor movement has resulted in
significant CBAs in both Los Angeles and Denver. On the contrary, the solid
leadership provided by way of the labor movement is the reason why CBAs have
occurred in some cities and not others. Of the fourteen cities across the U.S., which
have obtained CBAs, nearly all have showed a strong organized labor presence
(Lavine, 2008). These cities include Los Angeles, San Francisco, Minneapolis,
Milwaukee, Denver, Philadelphia, Syracuse, and Atlanta among others.
In the same tradition, A New, New Deal (2009), by Amy B. Dean and David
B. Reynolds explores the strength of the American labor movement and, the
accomplishments the movement has achieved through regional activism. The authors
trace the movements momentum back to California in early 2000. They speak of the
importance of labor groups and other progressive groups being able to change face
with changing times and needs. This ability is significant because it shows that when
the dominant discourse surrounding global growth and politics changes, as in the
1980s post-Keynesian rise of neoliberal thinkingnew ideologies and a new
51


progressive response is needed. This response has been founded in many ways, but
particularly through the Community Benefit Movement.
Dean and Reynolds explore the struggles that the movement has faced,
alongside the changing goals and issues the movement has chosen to embrace. The
authors believe that regional power building by way of deep coalitions between labor
and community groups is really the only way to redefine the regional political
economy. Dean and Reynolds (2009), state:
This new context raises the possibility of enacting strong public standards for local development. The
standards might include, for example, living wage requirements for employers and affordable housing
for developerstwo measures that address the income and cost issues faced by both the union and the
coalition for the homeless. The two groups can now work together toward addressing their core
concerns in a new way connected to a long-term vision (p.88).
The relationship between community organizing and labor must not be
overlooked. For example, co-Author Reynolds has a long history in labor organizing,
working as a field organizer for Building Partnerships USA, as well as a Labor
Extension Coordinator. It is very likely that the Community Benefits agreements
would not be in existence today without the strides of the labor movement and the
important coalitions they build throughout communities, particularly since labor
unions are the major funders of local coalitions committed to enacting community
benefits agreements. Furthermore, the success of CBAs is due largely to the framing
and reframing of issues by the labor movement. The labor movement has made it
52


possible to link social benefits with redevelopment by providing a ground where the
community is able to engage in politics (and often, by serving as the main funding
support for local CBA coalitions). In important ways, the CBA movement reflects
growing connections between traditional labor organizing and regional social justice
movements, so the next section of this literature review will explore both of those
deeper roots of the CBA movement in more detail.
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CBAs and the Labor Movement
It is impossible to understand the rise of the CBA movement without
examining the help of the labor movement in the U.S. and particularly in California,
where the growth of the regional CBA movement first took hold. The bigger picture
surrounding CBAs is regional social justice activism, which is thought by many
scholars to be reshaping the labor movement and restructuring local politics. CBAs
are at the heart of this progressive movement that unites labor and community groups
on regional issues, as different communities nation-wide are increasingly utilizing
them.
Organized labor has been increasingly attracted to strategies such as social
justice regionalism (in general) and CBAs (in particular) due to the rise of low-wage
work as a product of regional development trends. Virginia Parks and Dorian Warren
state, Polarization within the labor market driven by the rise of low-wage work has
been a central feature of this new growth regime, attended by community-level
effects of gentrification, displacement, and increased poverty (Parks et al, 2006, p.3).
They further discuss how at-risk communities have challenged the neoliberal growth
approach to demand growth with equity through CBAs (Parks et al, 2006, p.2).
Historically, the labor movement has sought to even the playing field
primarily for low-wage workers. In From the Folks who brought you the Weekend
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(2001), Priscilla Murolo, and A.B. Chitty give a short history of the Labor Movement
in the U.S. They state that, wage workers across the board share some general
problems: poverty and insecurity despite long hours of labor, driving by bosses who
continually tried to get more for less, [and] inequality under political and legal
systems designed by and for the elite. In every sector of the work force, activists
addressed these issues through collective action, not only unionism but many other
projects too (Murolo and Chitty, 2001, p.61). The roots of the labor movement lie in
the quest for organizing workers who historically have been at a disadvantage for
various reasons, including immigration and education. It is not surprising, then, that
the labor movement has recently coalesced around other social justice movements
such as the Community Benefits campaign, since the CBA movement has focused on
improving conditions for the working class, among other goals like environmental
protection and sustainable development.
There are many aspects of the Community Benefit Movement that connects it
directly to labor, such as first-source local hiring goals, job training programs, and
livable wages. Although the scope of the CBA goes further, these aspects are
important features that the majority of agreements include. Furthermore, the coalition
building behind winning these agreements many times relies on organizing help and
55


significant funding from local unions and labor groups. For example, Parks et al,
(2006) state:
Because labor law disallows a CBA to address employment concerns of workers covered by a
collective bargaining agreement, unions participate in CBA coalitional organizing efforts for a number
of reasons unrelated to the direct benefit of their members. Though unions may participate out of self-
interest in order to pressure employers on contract issues, they often use their power to influence these
same employers to negotiate a CBA in order to win better working conditions for workers who are not
union members (p.23).
Labors role in the CBA movement shows how the scope of issues that the
Labor Movement supports now goes well beyond traditional labor issues to include
such things as funding for community parks and environmental protection. Both
Labor and the CBA movement, moreover, stress the importance of broader public
participation in decisions that affect people and communities directly..
For organized labor, much of the recent focus on coalition building through
the CBA movement has been a survival strategya way to link their traditional
concerns for livable working conditions to broader concerns for regional community
improvement, even as unionized workers continued to dwindle as a share of the
workforce. In early 1994, Amy Dean, co-author of A New New Deal, became
executive director to the South Bay Central Labor Council (SBCLC). This proved to
be a pivotal role for Dean and the SBCLC because it was the beginning of the labor
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movements role in regional politics, as a strategy to broaden its power and social
appeal. According to Brownstein et al, (2002):
Dean argued that for labor to advance in the new economy, it must address the unprecedented changes
in corporate structures and in market institutions that were taking place in the new information
economy. She also stressed that for labor to succeed in meeting its goals, other constituencies in the
Valley needed to find common ground with labors initiatives; thus labors core program had to
expand to include a broader notion of social equity and concern for the needs of all working families
(Benner et al, 2009, p.65).
In order for labor to be successful in the new progressive arena, as well as the
changing economic climate, it became necessary for them to adopt and embrace
issues outside of their tradition. This reality provided a gateway for people like Dean,
working in the labor field but also comfortable with broader social justice issues, to
advance additional issues of progressive groups, particularly those of working
families.
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CBAs and the Regional Social Justice Movement
Community benefit proponents argue that the success of their movement relies
on coalition building, primarily at a regional level. Benner, Pastor and Matsuoka
(2009), believe that regional power building provides power for communities that can
be translated into direct benefits from economic development strategies. The region
can be an appropriate scale for forging coalitions and building power, which can then
move policy as needed. From this perspective, the region is not jus the new economic
unit; it is a new political space (Benner, et al, 2009, p.13). This thought provides the
foundation of a new progressive movement, which includes the Community Benefit
campaign, and which is argued by Benner, Pastor, and Dean, to hold the power to
reframe economic development.
A key element of this new social justice regionalism is a renewed focus on
participatory engagement in traditionally private development projects. Murtaza H.
Baxamusa argues that the Community Benefits movement has the ability to serve as a
model in making participatory politics meaningful and development sustainable
(Baxamusa, 2008). Citing Portney (2003), Rappaport (1990), Benhabib (2002), and
Mizrahi and Rosenthal (1993), Baxamusa states, Community engagement that
results not just in input on physical planning but in social empowerment is critical to
serious planning for sustainable development. Since empowerment by definition
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addresses those demographics that have been disempowered by society.. .it is thus
inextricably linked to community organizing, which is facilitated by coalition
building among grassroots organizations (Baxamusa, 2008, p.261).
Coalition building is a key component uniting social justice regionalism and
participatory development politics. Amy B. Dean and David B. Reynolds (2009)
argue that regional activism through CBAs is a key tool to bring communities
together through deep coalition building. Through this coalition building and the
empowerment and organizing efforts put forth, space is made for accountable
economic development.
Many factors have contributed to the recent growth of regional activism and
surge in CBAs. As briefly discussed earlier, the changing face of the labor movement
has directly influenced, and in some cases given birth to CBAs. Regional
organizations whose mission is to strengthen communities through progressive action
have been formed directly from labor unions, such as FRESC: Good Jobs, Strong
Communities, in Denver, formed from Denver Area Labor Federation (DALF).
FRESCs mission is to ensure that Colorado jobs pay livable wages with family-
supporting benefits, and that families have access to affordable housing and a good
quality of life (FRESC, 2009). Their parent organization, The Partnership for
Working Families (a national group), seeks to gain power for working families by
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reshaping the economy and the urban landscape in general, not simply by winning
labor agreements at specific worksites (Partnership, 2010).
The factors that contributed to the rise in organizations such as the Partnership
and FRESC can be directly credited to a changing global economy, which has
resulted in deindustrialization and the rise of low-wage work. With these changes has
come a rise in income disparities and a working class baring the burden. The need for
regional power building, according to Benner, et al (2009) came from the challenges
and defeats faced by community groups and labor unions in the 1980s in facing these
new economic realities. It was these new challenges that demanded a coalitional
response from the progressive field.
Social movement regionalism, in short, is going beyond building coalitions to build movement
infrastructure capable of lasting over the long hail. At their best, coalitions build relationships and
power between unlikely allies, but they are generally short-term and episodic, revolving around
specific issues and tactical goals.. .but building regional equity as a transformative politics requires
paying attention to creating long-term alliances, institutions, and networks that are concerned with
cultivating cross-constituency relationships, creating strategic partnerships between different sectors of
a region...(p. 186).
As Benner and others speak of regional politics, they advocate that the
regional equity movement has three dimensions: the region as a course of social
problems, the region as an inclusive place for developing solutions, and the region as
a scale for building social power" (Benner et al, 2009, p.192). Identifying the
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problems of a community, then taking steps to look for the solutions regionally,
brings power into the equation that is not found when working locallyperhaps the
kind of power that can last over the long haul and leverage enduring changes to
dominant development models.
The above literature represents how the growing field of social benefits has
come about as a response to neoliberal ideology. The Community Benefits
Movement seeks to fill the void created by a local politics in which officials are
subservient to outside investor interest, and to bring social benefits to communities
engaged in redevelopment efforts. By bringing local voices and local leaders back
into the realm of city politics, CBAs work as a tool to revitalize communities with
social equity and create local benefits for local people. The Partnership for Working
Families (2010) says,
Quality economic development projects can transform local economies and create shared prosperity.
With a community benefits approach to growth, development can create good jobs, revitalize
underserved communities, increase tax revenues, and build on existing local assets (2010).
Economic growth does not have to harm local communities. Communities are
seeking strategies to steer development in ways that benefit them, and CBAs have
the power to do so.
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CHAPTER IV
BIRTH OF THE CBA: LABORATORY LOS ANGELES
CBA proponents have created a tool through which they can respond to the
city as a growth machine, with a participatory, regional voice. In recent years, cities
from Atlanta to Boston to Denver have utilized this tool by forming groups and
coalitions such as The Right to the City Alliance (New York) and FRESC (Denver),
which seeks to challenge neoliberal development processes by strengthening
communities (Benner et al, 2009, p.130). However, before all these groups existed,
across the United States, it all began with the constructing of the nations first CBA
agreement, in Los Angeles, California.
The Staples Center in Los Angles was the first major CBA negotiated and has
thus served as a model for subsequent CBAs in California, and later across the U.S.
Many reasons contributed to the reason why Los Angeles is the home to the first
CBA, but the fact that Los Angeles is one of Americas largest and most brutally
divided (by race and class) cities in America surely played a role. In fact, the Los
Angeles race riots of 1992 (and their consequences) are an illuminating example of
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how the city challenged the neoliberal economic policies of the era and helped change
the discourse surrounding economic development in Southern California.
In Los Angeles, the early 1990s were a tumultuous economic and political era.
The race riots that occurred in South Central L.A. in 1992 can be viewed as the
breaking point of neoliberal economic policies of the city. Circumstances such as the
rise of an increasingly impoverished working class and deindustrialization
(particularly extreme in central L.A.) are important factors when analyzing why Los
Angeles in particular was the site of the uprising, which was then followed by
powerful progressive movements, regional power building, and ultimately the
nations first CBA. In 2009, author Aashiq Thawerbhoy wrote an article entitled Los
Angeles to Caracas: Examining Neo-Liberal Policies leading to Rebellion, in which
he states, The economic disparities in Los Angeles had been growing at an
increasingly [more] rapid rate for almost two decades. The effects had become a
disproportionately heavy burden on poor Black and Latino communities. The
repercussions of the dismantling of the inner-city economy had led to higher
repression (Thawerbhoy, 2009, p.l). Thawerbhoy explores different variables that
led to the rioting in Los Angeles, and concludes that the neoliberal policies put in
place by the Reagan administration in the early 1980s ultimately created working-
class turmoil (Thawerbhoy, 2009).
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In addition scholar Mike Davis believes that federal disinvestment in cities
across the nation, but in particular in L.A. contributed to racial unrest and in the end
the riots in 1992. In his article Who Killed L.A. ? (1993), he argues how the race riots
can be viewed as a call for change by the Los Angeles underclass and working class,
and as a powerful catalyst for changing the economic development discourse in Los
Angeles. He believes that the neoliberal policies put forth by Reagan and Bush
resulted in anti-urban policy and spatial apartheid (Davis, 1993, p. 14). The
policies included that of typical neoliberalism; privatization, structural adjustment,
and deregulation, which created white flight and increasing tension between the city
and the suburbs. He says, in effect, these policies have also subsidized white flight
and metropolitan resegregation, ultimately resulting in the race riots (Davis, 1993,
P-15).
After the race riots, numerous progressive groups came together in the 1990s
to address Los Angeles economic crisis. This can be viewed as the emergence of a
regional equity movement, and the onset of the challenge to traditional elite driven
development models. This ultimately led to the winning of the nations first CBA in
Los Angeles. An important aspect of the regional equity movement included the
ultimate win for L.A. mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa. According to Benner et al, (2009)
Villaraigosa had proved himself to be an effective advocate for racial justice in his previous public
stances; he invested campaign time and resources to bring together African American and Latino
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constituencies; and he was seen as someone who understood the racial realities of the citys policies.
In short, Villaraigosa run for mayor embodied the tension of the regional equity movementthe need
to have credibility on issues of race while crafting a vision and policy package that can create broad
agreement and a sense of common destiny (p. 169).
Villaraigosa proved to be the candidate and mayor that L.A. desperately
needed to bridge the racial gap created by the neoliberal polices of the 70s and 80s.
Villaraigosas success in winning office was evidence of the growing strength of a
progressive alliance that has brought led L.A. to the forefront of a new economic
model. Perhaps the most powerful component of that regional progressive alliance is
the role of organized labor, which is actually growing stronger in the Los Angeles
area.
Labor connected with community groups through the L.A. CBA movement,
because of shared interests in each group. With the loss of jobs due to
deindustrialization and Reagans trickle down theory failing to economically
stabilize inner city L.A., it became clear that the working class was suffering the
most; losing industry meant losing jobs. In Los Angeles, as the working class
suffered declining prospects in the inner city, ethnic minorities, mainly black and
Latino communities, disproportionately felt the economic effects. It is no
coincidence that in the wake of a diminishing industrial sector, progressive groups
such as the Figueroa Corridor Coalition for Economic Justice (FCCEJ), LAANE, and
SAJE, stepped up to play a major role in organizing community groups in obtaining
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the Staples Center CBA.
The Staples Center CBA would not have been possible without three main
progressive groups in the Los Angeles area. The Los Angeles Alliance for a New
Economy (LAANE), the Strategic Alliance for a Just Economy (SAJE), and the
Figueroa Corridor Coalition for Economic Justice (FCCEJ) all played major roles in
the success of the first major CBA. It is important to note that FCCEJ was comprised
of many community affiliates, including faith-based groups, community grassroots
organizations, and economically disadvantaged members of the community.
The Los Angeles Arena Land Company was the developer in charge of
negotiating the Staples Center CBA. Major players included LANNE, the University
of Southern California, and the Figueroa Corridor Coalition for Economic Justice.
With over $70 million in public subsidies, the negotiations included a provision that
70% of new jobs would be unionized and/or pay a living wage (Benner et al, 2009).
He says,
Working with residents and community-based organizations, LAANE then helped carry the CBA
banner into other areas, negotiating community benefits agreements with living-wage jobs, local
hiring, a neighborhood improvement fund, a youth center for a project in the San Fernando Valley,
and, later a similar set of provisions in exchange for a $35 million public subsidy for the Santa Barbara
Plaza retain and housing project in South L.A. (p.l 16).
The message was out there that if you are going to do business with Los
Angles, you are going to be held accountable to increasingly powerful community
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groups. As demonstrated in L.A. the CBA banner carried over to other projects
that were not part of official agreements. Just as the Living Wage Ordinance
influenced accountable development standards, the CBA influenced neighborhood
improvement in general. It set forth a model not only for Los Angeles, but also for
cities such as New York, Denver, Milwaukee, and San Francisco. The success of
both the labor movement and community coalitions can be credited to refraining and
rerooting age-old issues (Benner et al, 2009). According to Benner (2009), in Los
Angeles, The rise of labors voice stemmed from several factors. One was the shift
to organize, rather than discount, immigrant workers. Another was the relative
vacuum left by a business class that found itself weakened by the departure of large
corporations and the growing role of small, and sometimes fragmented, business
(Benner et al, 2009, p.l 13).
It is important to also note the role of new immigrant groups in the growth of
progressive community power in Los Angeles. The formation of the Los Angeles
Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) birthed from an earlier organization named
Tourism Industry Development Corporation [TDIC] and was a direct product of the
Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN). CARECEN worked for refugee and
immigrant rights in the Los Angeles area, and ultimately paved a path for the
progressive agenda. According to Benner (2009), TDIC sought to make ties with
small businesses and ethnic neighborhoods that were often left off the tourist trail,
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and it hoped to capture a new spot in the debate by framing its efforts as an antidote
for the ailments of a struggling regional industry (p.l 14). In short, TDIC became the
research and policy organization unit of the CBA movement, helping to mobilize a
variety of campaigns in the low-wage immigrant-intensive industries surrounding Los
Angeles (Benner et al, 2009, p.l 14).
TDIC became LAANE in 1995 and succeeded in refraining their issues to
include more than just the tourist agenda. The Staples Center CBA became the major
focus of the group because of the low-wage work and low-income neighborhoods,
which surrounded the area. Research, organizing, and coalition building were major
features on the way to a final agreement. SAJE and the FCCJE put forth a new
development agenda by creating a participatory research process. This innovative
way to preceded development projects is a response to the way development has been
handled during the neoliberal era. The main goal of the process focused on
Engaging diverse people in a united front of action to accomplish a people-based
development agenda (Hass and Gibbons, 2002, p. 4).
This process is in opposition to global corporations developing sites with no
feedback or input from communities. Dean and Reynolds (2009) say, In general, the
ffee-market orientation dominant in growth coalitions presumes business as the lead
active agent, with public policy supporting business initiative. It defines unions and
community groups as special interests that need to be either accommodated or
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confined depending upon whether the outlook is more liberal or fundamentalist
(p.99). By changing the direction of development, beginning with participatory
research, the Staples Center CBA coalition changed the way development occurs and
put the voice of community groups into the decisions making process. A primary
step in participatory research included collecting best practice data from
surrounding communities in an effort to develop a sustainable development model.
Research included sending representatives to community job workshops, housing
committee and anti-displacement research, interviews with local officials, and
literature research.
Major provisions of the Staples Center CBA include on site affordable
housing, job readiness programs, improvement of parks and recreational areas, and
priority local hiring. According to Amy Lavine, staff attorney at the Government
Law Center at Albany Law School, specific provisions include the following
requirements:
$ 1,000,000 for the creation or improvement of parks and recreational facilities
$25,000 per year for a term of five years for the creation of a residential
parking permit program
an agreement to comply with the citys living wage ordinance and to make all
reasonable efforts to reach the goal of ensuring that 70% of the jobs created by
the project pay a living wage;
an agreement to give priority hiring to persons displaced by the project and to
low income individuals residing within three miles of the project
job training programs to be coordinated with community groups
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$100,000 in seed money for a first source (i.e. local) hiring program
a requirement that 20% of the residential units in the project be affordable
$650,000 in interest-free loans to non-profit housing developers for the
creation of additional affordable housing
an agreement to cooperate with the coalition to establish an advisory
committee to assist with the implementation and enforcement of the
agreement (Lavine, 2008).
According to Good Jobs First, The CBA negotiated around the expansion of the
Staples Center in Los Angeles in 2001 is widely viewed as the exemplary CBA
model (Good Jobs First, 2010). The agreement set forth a new economic model for
development that would carry over to cities across the nation. Benner et al (2009)
say, Aside from technical expertisesolid research, first-rate organizing, broad
coalition-buildingwe think that the LAANE approach combines two distinct
ideological strategies: reframing the rerooting (p. 117). The Staples Center represents
the first agreement where these factors combined and succeeded in reframing and
rerooting traditional social issues. With this success the social justice movement,
along with the newly formed CBA movement gained serious ground that changed the
way development occurs. CBA advocates argue that the lasting community
organizing benefits which agreements like the Staples CBA bring about just as
valuable as the agreement itself. Greg LeRoy (2005) states,
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FCCEJ organizers note that organizations that learned to work together through the Staples
negotiations have continued collaborating with regard to other projects. In this respect, success has
bred success; the coalition-building aspect of the CBA process has indeed led to lasting collaboration,
resulting in greater political effectiveness for participants (p. 35).
This idea relates to the notion of growing regional activism and regional
power building as sustainable tools for accountable development. The impact of the
California CBAs have gone beyond models for site-specific development plans, and
have morphed into models of sustainable power building that are capable of making
lasting change for communities (Dean et al, 2009). In this way, the Staples Center
agreement provided a positive model for other progressive groups to follow, offering
specific development standards for different groups to pursue, but also offering a
model for how to build and sustain long-term community organizing coalitions
uniting once diffuse community groups (including Labor itself) in a broad, regional
coalition for change.
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CBA Roots in Denver, Colorado: Failed Neoliberalism
Labor and community advocates, who meant to replicate the successes of the
Staples CBA in Los Angeles, self-consciously built the CBA movement in Denver,
Colorado. Moreover, just like Los Angeles, Denvers CBA movement was inspired
by the failures of neoliberal economic development priorities to improve conditions
for many Denver families. Denver has seen its share of neoliberal policies in recent
decades. With a history of catering to private investment, as practiced under city
planner Jenifer Moulton and pro-growth Mayors from Pena to Webb to Hickenlooper,
Denvers recent redevelopment strategies have struggled to meet the needs of city
residents, especially the working class. As city council member, C. Boigan stated
during an October 2003 Denver budget hearing, Without these [public] subsidies,
there is no business. We need to grow as rapidly as possible, for it is growth that
supports us all (Robinson, 2004, p. 246).
Denvers neoliberal practices have focused on leveraging maximum private
investment in luxury development projects, partnered with public subsidies. City
planners and officials alike believe that this partnership was the only way to achieve
development goals, and for Denver to compete in a global economic market. Under
Moulton, the city put forth strong efforts to attract foreign investment, and an affluent
population that could support the world-class dreams of Denvers leaders. But not
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all residents were on board with these world class dreams. During testimony before
the Denver City Council on the Comprehensive Plan of 2000, L. Irish, a local resident
stated, Theres a lot of talk about creating a better environment for Denvers
investors. How about creating a better environment for its investments: the workers,
the elderly, the disabled, and the children? (Robinson, 2004, p. 248).
One of Moultons main points and thus a main goal of the city was creating a
housing market that would attract the middle and upper classes back to the center of
the city. She states, Housing must be downtowns political and business priority,
and her agenda to develop a desirable housing market ultimately became the citys
main concern (Moulton, 1999, p.14). This was accomplished by crafting new
sweeteners for developers, including incentives such as Tax Increment Financing,
offering hundreds of millions in public subsidies to developers without any
expectation of guaranteed social benefits (such as affordable housing or living wage
jobs) in return.
However, recent reports show that Denvers effort to bring affluent people
back to the city by creating a rich urban landscape has been associated with negative
consequences for many residents. According to Robinson (2005):
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Troubling housing dynamics have been exacerbated by the massive investment of Denver urban
renewal dollars in high-end core-city projects. Denvers Downtown Agenda has succeeded in
revitalizing a once moribund downtown economy. But even while some subsidized projects have
included significant affordable housing components, an unfortunate overall consequence has been the
disappearance of low-income housing units in areas targeted for publicly financed or subsidized urban
renewal (p.5)
Similarly, like many cities across the United States, including Los Angeles,
Denver has seen a large increase in low-wage work. According to FRESC, nearly
40% of downtown employment is in the lowest paid sector of the economy, which
includes food service, retail, and janitorial jobs (FRESC, 2009). With this stark rise
in low-wage work comes a service-centered urban economy that fails to focus on the
needs of citizens, but rather caters to tourism, with a focus on the global economy
over the local. The affects this transformation has on local communities and the
working class in cities such as Denver has been disadvantageous to ethnic minorities
especially in low-income neighborhoods. FRESC notes, A growing housing
imbalance in Downtown Denver is contributing to Denvers housing affordability
crisis. Despite the proliferation of low-wage jobs in the area, the downtown private
housing market offers few units for these employees and their families (FRESC,
2009).
In Denver, it has become apparent that many of the people working in the core
of the city cannot afford to live there. This fact contributes to the reasons why the
neoliberal policies of the past two decades have harmed the working class residents of
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Denver. When the people working in the city are forced to commute to and from
work on a daily basis, the cost of transportation becomes a financial burden.
According to a 2009 report by Transportation for America, on average, working
families making between $20,000 and $50,000 spend close to 30 percent of their
household incomes on transportationmore than they spend on housing
(Transportation for America, 2009, p. 4). The neoliberal urban renewal policies
practiced in Denver since the early 80s have increased low-wage work, while
simultaneously pushing the workers out of the city to live.
Studies show that the privatization of urban redevelopment is polarizing the
working class and creating an urban economy fit only for those with disposable
incomes (Turner, 2002). George (2007) demonstrates how the neoliberal policies put
forth by the Webb administration since the early 90s have contributed to unequal
distribution of wealth. He says,
Webb inherited a city budget in 1991 from his predecessor that spent more on replacing seats in the
citys stadium than on housing and public improvements in one of the citys poorest neighborhoods
while allocating more than $100 million for downtown capital improvements and development.
During his three terms however, these priorities did not change substantively (p.152).
In the face of these realities, many community groups have united to seek a
new development model for the city of Denver. First coming together around the
common cause of shaping the redevelopment of the old Gates rubber factory (in
central Denver) in community sensitive directions, this group has advanced a model
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of development that addresses the needs of local communities through participation,
and a demand for accountability when using public subsidies. It is here where the
Los Angles Community Benefits model has come to Denver, and it is reshaping
Denver development politics.
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A New Model
Inspired by the success of the Staples Center CBA, a community benefits
movement known as the Campaign for Responsible Development came together in
Denver in 2003. Leading the Campaign for Responsible Development was
FRESC: Good Jobs Strong Communities, a local non-profit formerly known as the
Front Range Economic Strategy Center. FRESC believes that communities should
have a voice in government decisions that affect them both today and in the future.
They are a non-profit organization who advocate for community involvement in order
to create and keep jobs with livable wages, assure affordable housing, and work
toward sustainable economic development in the Denver Metro-area. Originally
formed with funding and staff support from the Area Labor Federation (DALF),
FRESC played a major role in Denvers first CBA and paved the way for responsible
development campaigns for other projects in the metro area. Leading the campaign
was FRESCs director, Chris Nevitt, who played numerous roles including coalition
organizer and policy analyst. Nevitt provided the coalition with strong guidance,
experience, and research skills from his labor background with DALF. This proved
to make the difference when bringing together numerous progressive groups to for the
CRD and ultimately negotiate with the developer and the city.
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As in Los Angeles, FRESC came together to challenge neo-liberal
development priorities, and a key step in winning that challenge was documenting the
reality of city involvement in subsidizing the low roade.g., funding low-wage,
poor benefit redevelopment projects without affordable housing. To document this
process, one of FRESCs early projects was documenting the extent of official city
involvement in subsidizing redevelopment projects in Denver. These studies of
Denver Tax Increment Financing, which came out as three separate TIF reports,
documented the major role Denver officials played in leveraging urban renewal
strategies throughout the city, and the costs that involvement had to Denver residents.
According to study authors Nevitt and Robinson (2005), TIF now costs Denver
taxpayers almost $30 million annually in foregone revenue (Robinson et al, 2005c,
p.6). In addition, they found that TIF subsidized projects are not creating quality jobs
that pay livable wages and provide benefits, nor housing that is affordable to accurate
AMI levels in need (Robinson et al, 2005c, p.10). Robinson et al (2005) say,
There is evidence that TIF-subsidized development is having a gentrification/displacement effect on
lower-income communities. Much of the goal of TIF subsidies is to improve the investment climate
and property values in blighted areas. The unfortunate consequence of success in this regard is to
reduce low-income housing stock, displace long-term residents, and transform traditional communities
of color with new, affluent, white residents (p. 10)
Progressive organizations such as FRESC are not against public subsidies of
development, but they believe that strategies like TIF can only be used to positively
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benefit Denver, if more accountability is required. As of now, TIF expenditures are
not accounted for in the city of Denvers budget, which makes it hard to hold city
officials accountable for delivering community benefits which commensurate with
tax dollars spent (Robinson et al, 2005b). As Robinson and Nevitt researched for the
accountability of TIF projects in Denver, they found an enormous lack in
transparency. They say, we generally found it impossible to determine even the
most basic and central calculation to any TIF dealthat is, the likely impact of
different levels of TIF subsidy on the private returns to the developers, and hence the
level of TIF necessary to secure the developers participation in the project
(Robinson et al, 2005b, p.15). Although the Colorado Open Records Act protects
citizens rights to obtain public records, when TIF documents were requested and
eventually acquired, almost all relevant financial data has been redacted (Robinson
et al, 2005c, p.15). Furthermore, even elected officials often cannot access actual
numbers to account for TIF expenditures, as these details are often obscured behind
the Denver Urban Renewal Authorities claim of semi-independence from city
officials.
The use of TEF subsidies, accompanied by the lack of accountability, provided
a space for community organizations to voice their concerns and strive to change the
traditional economic development discourse that centers around neoliberal policy
guidance. Community benefit supporters argue that it is within this space that there
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becomes room to change the discourse on the direction development is headed and to
demand accountability standards in the development process.
In Denver, the opportunity to use the research of studies like the TIF reports,
and to direct the energy of the newly found FRESC organizing, came about when the
city announced a major new development project: the half billion dollar
redevelopment of an old rubber factory (Gates), located in the midst of lower-income
communities in central Denver, and thus raising the usual concerns with
gentrification. The project was to be supported with more than a hundred million
dollars of public TIF dollars. When news of the Gates redevelopment broke, FRESC
began a Campaign for Responsible Development (CRD), which focused on benefits
and economic opportunities for local working families. According to Chris Nevitt
(2003), the first executive director of FRESC,
The goal of the CRD coalition is to ensure that the investment of tax-payer dollars in private projects -
such as that being requested by the Cherokee/Gates project deliver strong public returns to the
community. Specifically, the CRD coalition believes that projects receiving tax-payer subsidies should
make commitments to create quality jobs, build affordable housing, use Colorado construction
workers, and invest in the quality-of-life in surrounding neighborhoods (p.4).
When founded, the CRD adopted social justice goals going beyond a site-
specific CBA, such as supporting long-term plans to end homelessness in Denver by
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addressing affordable housing needs over time.6 Other broad goals of the CRD
included a city-wide support for affordable housing, quality living-wage jobs, and
sustainable construction principles. But it was the announcement of the Gates project
that gave the neophyte coalition an initial focus and guided all of its early energies.
Since the Cherokee-Gates project was using an estimated $85 million in
public subsidies, and at least $41 million in TDF, CRD members argued that there
should be an obligation for the private developer to deliver a wide range of
community benefits (such as living wage guarantees, environmental cleanup and
affordable housing). Building around these shared goals, The CRD helped organize
numerous community groups and organizations to form a broad coalition that backed
the goals of the campaign. These groups included well established Denver groups
like 9to5 (National Association of Working Women, Colorado), Colorado Peoples
Environmental and Economic Network, Denver Urban Ministries, Jobs with Justice,
6 According to FRESC, current affordable housing policies in Denver are missing the
target by focusing on income ranges that are simply too high. For example, the
current policy focuses on providing housing for incorrect Area Median Income (AMI)
levels, at 60-80%. This means that people who are earning approximately $38,000-
$51,000 could afford housing offered at this price (FRESC, 2009). FRESC research
indicates that in reality, Denver needs to direct its affordable housing policies at a
lower AMI level, 0-30% since this is where the most need lies. The most recent data
collected in 2007 indicates that the median wage in Denver was $17.35, but that over
365,000 workers are earning wages below the median, at approximately $13.00 per
hour (FRESC, 2009).
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Labors Community Agency, Rocky Mountain Progressive Network, Save our
Section 8, and numerous local labor unions to name a few. The number of groups
that came together to form the CRD and work toward achieving a CBA for the
Cherokee project numbered over fifty, demonstrating the broad and regional
commitment of the CRD.
When groups initially organized around the Gates project, it became apparent
that solidarity was a necessary component when negotiating with the city and the
developerCherokee. Because each group in the coalition brought to the table a
broad range of issues, a great deal of compromise and strategic partnerships became
necessary. For example, the issues which unions traditionally back and the issues
community groups back, often vary. It thus became important to get on the same
page before negotiating with the city and developer. According to Benner et al
(2009), Alliances between communities and labor throughout the United States have
generally been more the exception than the rulepartly because the separation
between residential space and work space contributes in turn to the lack of connection
between labor politics and community politics (Benner et al, 2009, p.181). As
famously documented by Ira Katznelsons 1982 book, City Trenches, the split
between labor and community groups can be profoundly disempowering to social
justice campaigns, but is no longer as vast as it once was. This is in part due to
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coalition building through social movement organizing and CBAs. It is through
coalition building that regional power succeeds by linking labor goals with
community goals and needs.
History has shown that labor and community groups can come together to
gain immediate results on specific campaign issues. However, with the CBA
movement, the relationship today has become deeper and longer lasting than typical
in recent decades as common short term goals have become shared long-term
aspirations. These long-term partnerships underlie social justice victories that go
beyond CBAs, demonstrating Benners notion that a broader social justice
regionalism is emerging through these movements. As first demonstrated in
California, for example, labor and community groups were successful in passing the
first CBA at the Staples Center. But it is vital that prior to CBA negotiations, Los
Angeles labor and community groups had already united through campaigns such as
the Living the Wage Ordinance, which was landmark legislation [that] covered not
only all city workers but also those employed by companies with city contracts or city
subsidies for their business (Benner et al, 2009, p.l 15). When news of the Staples
Center project came down the pike, therefore, labor and community groups were
already united around previous campaigns, and found it easier to gear up to form the
first CBA, with the Living Wage Ordinance already in full effect.
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Cherokee-Gates CBA, Denver, CO
As briefly mentioned above, the creation of Denvers Campaign for
Responsible Development, which boasts over fifty members including community
groups, labor organizations, faith-based groups, and environmental advocates, paved
the road in negotiations for the Gates project in Denver. Many community activists
and progressive organizations believe CBA success at the Gates project was a huge
step forward for low-income people in Metro Denver (Read, 2006).
There are many reasons why Denvers earliest CBA deserves accolades,
beginning with vast amounts of research and coalition building that preceded it, and
continuing with the long road of negotiations and discussions with the city and
developer. Linda Meric, a coalition member and President of Working Women, 9to5,
states, In a coalition, many of the players have some kind of relationship with
different people in different places in the city, and you can use those points of
connection to keep communication open (Read, 2006, p.24).
Connections with city council members also proved to be vital. Leslie
Moody, the former executive director of FRESC (and current director of the National
Partnership for Working Families), said Although the community benefits model
and our work at Gates are both focused on dialogue and achieving consensus, we do
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not come to the table with the same amount of power as developers and city officials
(Read, 2006, p.25). The power that a coalition has fails to compare to the power of
the city and for this reason, connections to those in power are extremely important
when pushing your agenda. However, coalition members are many times reminded
that city officials feel pressures from all sides and promised alliances are never set in
stone.
When the news of redevelopment at Gates hit the streets, a main issue was the
question of whether or not the site would receive public subsidies in the form of TIF.
When city council was scheduled to have a hearing on the issue, the CRD objected on
the grounds that Cherokee did not provide enough specific guarantees on the
projects benefits (Schmidt, 2003, p.l). This moment can be viewed as the
beginning of the CRD altering the economic model of development that had reigned
over Denver during the neoliberal era. In response to the CRD asking for more
information on public benefits if public subsidizes were granted, Stephen Moyski, the
then president of Cherokee Denver stated to the Denver Post, Historically, the
ability for projects to happen that might not have otherwise happened is benefit
enough (Schmidt, 2003, p.l). His statement is clearly a reflection of the neoliberal
way development had occurred in Denver (and elsewhere) for the past 20 years.
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According to Robin Kniech (Program Director and Staff Attorney at FRESC),
the city followed a weak market perspective, wherein they believed that if they
asked developers for anything, the developers would not develop at all, or find
another location where there are no strings attached (Kniech, Robin, personal
interview, March 25, 2010). Kniech believes that the Gates project succeeded in
interrupting the neoliberal, or weak-market perspective of economic development
by proving that development can and will occur with standards attached.
To counteract this weak market thinking, FRESC and the CRD utilized
research and best practice data from cities including L.A., San Jose, and Milwaukee
in order to show Denver city officials and staff that development with a community
benefits is possible. From the beginning, opposition was strong. In an interview with
the Denver Business Journal, in May 2003, Mayor John Hickenlooper stated:
These days, most projects that take TIF money are projects where the developers dont get rich, and
there are projects where, without that money, the project probably wouldnt happen. So to put more
burdens when there are already big burdens like prevailing wage guidelinesI dont know how much
they can do (2003, p.l).
With an administration that believed and promoted weak perspective economic
development, the CRD had to make a case for the community benefits model. The
administration was holding tight to development standards, which promoted all
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growth as good growth. They truly believed that the project in and of itself was the
benefit provided to the community. Changing the discourse came slowly and as
Kniech would say, it was much like chipping away at an iceberg (Kniech, Robin,
personal interview, March 25, 2010). When Denver city council approved Gates as
an urban renewal district, and thus eligible for TIF, the CRD opposed the decision
and rallied at the Denver City and County Building. Said Leslie Moody, president of
Denver Area Labor Federation (DALF), Were requesting that the city lead and look
at whose being left behind in Denver (Couch, 2003, p.2). In response, City
Councilman Ed Thomas said, Cleaning up the site is a major cost, but the list of
demands could cause the project to be financially impossible (Couch, 2003, p.2).
The public dialogue showed the development models in clear opposition.
There was an overwhelming fear that if community standards were attached to
development, then development would not occur, and no development means no
economic growth for the city. Through three issues briefs, however, the CRD showed
city council and Cherokee that development could happen, and furthermore could be
successful, with community benefit standards attached. The first issue brief was on
the prevailing wage. According to the Partnership for Working Families, a prevailing
wage,
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Ensures that public investment in development results in high-quality workmanship and contributes to
the economic well-being of the community by investing in its workforce. When requirements are in
place to ensure that publicly funded construction pays prevailing wage, then low-road contractors
cannot underbid their competitors by paying lower wages or failing to offer benefits (Partnership for
Working Families, 2009).
In Denver, the Prevailing Wage Committee set out to assure that a prevailing
wage is paid on all TIF projects, including Gates. According to the issue brief that
was presented to city council members in May 2005,
Prevailing wage is not the highest wage in the market, it is the most common wage found in the
private market. And wages only make up an estimated 20% of a typical construction contract (the
remainder is material and other soft costs like professional services). The only way Prevailing
Wages can be understood to add considerable additional expenses to the overall cost of a projects is if
a big was based on significantly sub-standard wages without health insurance. Union contractors
regularly report, and several major developers have recently confirmed, that total bids are typically
only 3-5% percentage points different between union contractors paying the Prevailing Wage and non-
union contractors, who do no, even though union contractors provide higher wages and dramatically
better benefits (Campaign for Responsible Development, 2006, p.3)
As CRD members organized community power and educated public officials,
the neoliberal ice began to thaw. In 2004 Mayor Hickenlooper was quoted as saying
that Denver gets more value through the Prevailing Wage by getting a higher
quality of work and that the overall benefits to the taxpayers in the community far
outweigh the costs (Campaign for Responsible Development, 2006, p.3). It became
clear that the administrations stance on community benefits was changing.
Hickenloopers statements in 2004 were very different from his 2003 remarks that
paying a prevailing wage on TIF projects was a big burden to the city. Although
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the city requires a living wage to be paid to those working on a direct service contract
for the city or county of Denver, it is not required on TIF projects, which is why this
change was crucial for Gates, and for future development projects. Citing evidence
on how other cities, such as Milwaukee attached prevailing wages to their Park East
development helped show city council and the Hickenlooper camp that it was
possible to connect development and community benefits at little or no cost to the
developer or taxpayers. (Kniech, Robin, Personal Interview, March 25,2010).
Like most cities, Denvers economy has see boom and bust cycles. According
to Kniech, an important step for the CRD was convincing the city that Denvers
economy was strong enough to impose development standards on new projects.
Building strong relationships with city staff and officials became a major component
in educating them on the needs of Denver citizens. Kniech says they used a system of
inoculation with council. For example, City council members constantly hear from
city staff and developer lobbyists that you cant build affordable housing on site at
Gates because it is just too costly. Thus, an inoculation strategy against this common
discourse, the CRD would present council with hard facts on how it actually is
possible, and this is how we can do it (Kniech, Robin, Personal Interview, March 25,
2010). It is here where the CRD could present their research and best practice
examples from other cities. They would hold informal meetings with city council
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members and present issue briefs, like the above-mentioned Prevailing Wage brief.
At the meetings, representatives from the organizations who made the CRD would
share information that pertained to the topic at hand. If the topic were Denvers need
for affordable rental units, for example, the community group Save Our Section 8
(SOS8) would be present to share their expertise and advice. These meetings became
an important tool in educating council members on community needs, and
demonstrating organized community power.
Chris Nevitt, head of the CRD (and the then-director of FRESC) states, At
some point in the game, we thought, we need to build relationships with city staff,
and we hadnt done that before. Wed relied on political power and the relationships
that we had with elected city council members, but not with staff. If we had to do it
again, wed do it sooner (Read, 2006, p.29). Relationship building within the
coalition, with city staff, and with elected city officials through informational
meetings, was a small piece of the process that played a major role in the way things
were handled and prioritized. Public education was another key tool. During the
Gates project, for example FRESC had the opportunity to teach city council members
about the significance and importance of apprenticeship programs. The need to
create job opportunities for local residents was a major issue. In a September 2006
issue brief, the CRD stated, Of the twenty-five statistical neighborhoods that fall
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within a three-mile radius of the project, ten had unemployment rates higher that the
city-wide rate in 2000. Many also suffer from disproportionate unemployment
among African-American and Latino residents (Campaign for Responsible
Development, 2006, p.4).
CRD proposed a solution to the growing need of job opportunities in these
lower income neighborhoods, and for minority groups, in apprenticeships programs.
Apprenticeship programs in construction provide the worker the opportunity to earn
while they learn the trade (FRESC, 2010). According to FRESC,
Registered programs use national curriculum that are designed and updated regularly. These
curriculums are intended to ensure that the individual receives a broad overview of all aspects of the
craft to ensure they are trained for a career in the industry and not just one skill or job. Classes are
taught by qualified journeyman with years of experience in the craft (FRESC, 2004).
Benefits of using a credited apprenticeship programs include, local hiring, less
on the job injuries and the opportunity for upward mobility in the job. This is an
example of how FRESC, with the support of the CRD, sought to create job
opportunity in conjunction with quality construction as a major component of the
Gates Community Benefits agreement.
In another issue brief presented to council members, the CRD presented the
case for Gates to provide a strong local hiring program as part of the CBA. A major
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feature that the CRD pointed out in the brief was to Identify upcoming jobs at the
project far in advance, so job training can be focused on preparing residents for
specific job opportunities, thus benefiting workers and businesses (Campaign For
Responsible Development, 2005b, p.5). Again, the CRD pointed out how community
benefits could be obtained at little or no cost to the developer or taxpayers. Although
the CRD was gaining ground with city council members, there was opposition from
the public, and at all levels, including the Office of Economic Development.
In a 2005 Denver Business Journal article entitled City Cautions Real Estate
Developers, the citys concerns over this range of demands were voiced. The director
of the Mayors Office of Economic Development, John Huggins said, Our general
approach to development is to understand as best we can the full range of project
costs and benefits a project brings. That can be long: taxes, jobs, design, cultural and
neighborhood amenities. You can imagine all kinds of things (Johansen, 2005, p.2).
In the same article, Huggins is quoted in a letter saying, As a matter of policy, the
City and the County of Denver does not support developers entering into separate
Community Benefits Agreements or similar contracts or agreements with
organization other than the City, including neighborhood groups or organizations
such as FRESC (Johansen, 2005, p.2).
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This publicized statement by Huggins, meant to deter the CRD from gaining
ground with Cherokee on a one-on-one basis, outraged members, as it was simply
untrue. According to Kniech, community groups in the Denver area have been
engaging with developers one-on-one for many years. In the past, issues were mostly
aesthetic, such as where to place flower beds or water fountains, but never on social
justice issues (Kniech, Robin, Personal Interview, March 25, 2010). When
community groups did begin to raise social justice issues, the city suddenly was
arguing that community groups should not be allowed to meet one-on-one with
developers.
However, this conflict simply proved the case of the CRD, that negotiations
with community groups and developers have in fact been taking place for decades. In
a letter to the editor of the Denver Business Journal, Huggins was forced to clarify
the Citys position with respect to the involvement of neighborhood groups in
reviewing development projects (Huggins, 2004, p.l). In clarifying, he states, The
City of Denver has always welcomed the active, informed participation of
neighborhood organizations in development review, and nothing in that policy has
changed (Huggins, 2004, p.l). In stark contrast, in 2006 Huggins was quoted as
saying By virtue of Blueprint Denver [the citys umbrella planning document,
created by more than 250 citizens] and by virtue of all the significant infrastructure
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investments that have been made over the last two decades, we are in the very
enviable position of being able to have development and not have to accept whatever
developers propose (Read, 2006, p. 7). It is clear that the stance of the city, and
more specifically the Mayors Office of Economic Development, was in transition,
with some indications that officials were substantially changing their views on how
development occurs. Research, media attention, informational meetings, and
organizing the CRD can be partially credited for changing the economic development
discourse. As Huggins said in 2006, upon the city accepting many of the CRD
demands for community benefits at the Gates project: We created a precedent that is
the right sort of outcome for similarly situated projects, of which there are likely to be
quite a few (Read, 2006, p.7).
The informational meetings that took place between the CRD and Cherokee
were vital because Cherokee held the power in making community benefits a reality.
Although relationship building and power within city council were major features in
obtaining an agreement, Kniech said that Cherokee was viewed as the CRDs
primary target, meaning, once financing was approved by council, Cherokee
ultimately held control over what benefits they were going to include (Kniech, Robin,
Personal Interview, March 25, 2010). It was crucial that city council be educated on
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the issues however, so they too could pressure Cherokee to include benefits. The
importance of the research to achieve these ends will be discussed below.
At the beginning of the Cherokee-Gates negotiations, the city of Denver was
experiencing vast changes in city politics, including a new mayor, new city council
representatives, and a new head of development at Cherokee. Because of these
reasons, it became vital that a strong coalition stay on track and keep focused on the
issues they were striving to accomplish. The relationships formed between coalition
members proved to essential. A major lesson learned after the CBA was finished, is
that it is imperative to brand the coalition from the beginning. Said Nevitt, Each
interest group in the coalition had its goals. Early on, we agreed that if we are going
to get anything, we all had to get something, and everyone had to support everyone
elses issues.. .in the end some people might have to understand that the average of
what everyone else got means they have to support the deal even though their
particular group didnt get enough (Read, 2006, p.30). The art of coalition building
to obtain a CBA relies on branding the coalition as ONE major force, fighting for one
major agreement. This was the structure of the Gates CBA and it proved beneficial
for the CRD and ultimately for the final CBA. This concept seeks to connect the
notion that these movements are part of a unified social justice regionalism agenda.
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The need for affordable housing in Denver became a major issue at the start of
the Gates project. For one, Denvers light-rail system was making major moves to
expand directly through the Gates project. As previously demonstrated, the cost of
transportation for low-income families becomes a burden when they are forced out of
the city center. With a development project like Gates, located in direct vicinity to a
transit line, the opportunity for a Transit Oriented Development (TOD), serving low-
income communities, arose.7
The perfect opportunity to push affordable housing and TOD arose in early
2003, when Hickenlooper was first elected to office, and announced his 10 year plan
to end homelessness. This plan gave FRESC and the coalition the perfect
opportunity to link the Gates development to the mayors campaign in 2005. Gates
provided the space to advocate for real affordable housing, targeted to people at 0-
30% of the Area Median Income.8 The CRD fight to accomplish these lofty goals
took advantage of the fact that 13% of the total budget for redevelopment, nearly
7 According to FRESC, Transit Oriented Development is defined as compact,
walkable, typically mixed-use development near a rail stop, bus station, or other
transit facility (FRESC, 2009).
8 AMI refers to the Area Median Income, which is a standard measure of household
income for a specific locale. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development sets these standards in order to qualify residents for housing assistance
programs.
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