Monday, April 20, 2020

Practical Uses for Narrative in the Land Use Process

I have just posted on SSRN a brief essay I recently wrote about narrative in the land use process.  The essay is available here.  The abstract is below:

The land use process is typically viewed as a fact-based determination of whether a project meets stated code requirements for issuance of a ministerial or discretionary permit. However, the issuance of discretionary permits, such as a conditional use permit, often turns on the narrative behind a project. Is the project providing much-needed density, or is it altering the unique character of a neighborhood? Are project opponents defenders of the city's character, or are they NIMBYs acting in discriminatory ways? Are developers heroes helping to resolve the affordability crisis, or rapacious capitalists without concern for the city's long-term vitality? While legal determinations of discretionary permits focus on fact-finding through the arbitrary and capricious and substantial evidence tests, sub-narratives embedded in those factual findings often are especially persuasive in decisionmaking. This article seeks to explore how all sides in land use battles can use methods of narrative otherwise used in storytelling arts, such as film and fiction writing, to better craft narrative in the land use process.

I am just beginning to explore the relationship between narrative and the land use process and would welcome folks' thoughts.  This essay was an initial foray into the subject that I intend to revisit in a longer article in the future.

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