Can low-income neighborhoods share in the profits of a big development project by signing a private contract with the developer? Some urban planners say yes, but Nicholas Marantz, a UCI assistant professor of planning, policy & design, challenges that notion in a study of a project near L.A.’s Staples Center. Writing in the autumn issue of the Journal of the American Planning Association, he analyzed the community benefits agreement between the developer of Staples Center and a coalition of community groups. Under that CBA, the developer agreed to provide various benefits—from better jobs to affordable housing—to local low-income communities in exchange for their endorsement of the project, which in turn helped secure official approval. Marantz’s research suggests that the neighborhood groups and nonprofits that signed the CBA may have fared just as well without the agreement. For example, some of the promised benefits, such as living-wage jobs, were already required under city law.

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