Innovation through Institutional Design
Jaclyn Sachs | Master in Urban Planning
During the past several decades, Mexico City has been expanding in land area and population at the same time that it has been losing population in the central areas of the city. Paradoxically, within the Mexico City Metropolitan Area (MCMA), there are now more people living in the surrounding State of Mexico than there are within the Federal District – home to the oldest parts of the city, and with the services and infrastructure to support a residential population. A phenomenon sometimes called the “center-periphery” problem, this presents serious environmental, social, and fiscal challenges for the Federal District, and has contributed to physical and economic decline, as well as crime, in areas that have experienced population loss. This problem has been aided by: the lack of adequate land use planning regulations at the metropolitan and DF-levels; the development of new planning tools and institutions toward initiatives that have only exacerbated the problem; and bureaucratic constraints which have prevented municipal agencies and policymakers from being able to introduce more effective, innovative tools. One method of overcoming these constraints in recent years has been the establishment of new, independent, “decentralized” agencies of the mayor’s office, insulated from the politics of other agencies, and capable of introducing new metrics, methodologies, and financing schemes to promote new forms of planning practice. One such example of this to emerge in the past few years is the Autoridad del Espacio Público, or Public Space Authority, which, through particular institutional design strategies, has been successful at implementing a series of “public space rescue” projects combining both simple urban design interventions and public consultation. Unlike other recent planning practices, these strategies have enabled the AEP to more aggressively respond to the consequences of the “center-periphery” problem, through improving security and pedestrian accessibility, as well as encouraging economic development, in the “urban voids” that have been left behind in the past few decades of urban development.
Read more: Jaclyn, L.S. (2012). Innovation through Institutional Design: Mexico City’s Autoridad del Espacio Público. (Master’s thesis).