Neighborhood Commons

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Charlotte Hess:

"Neighborhood commons incorporate both urban and rural commons where people living in close proximity come together to strengthen, manage, preserve, or protect a local resource. This sector is closely related to Cultural Commons.

The growing number of works on shared public space is bringing awareness to a goldmine of new commons issues.

Foster writes:

- only through a rethinking of the city commons can we begin to take social capital seriously in land use policy and law. Instead of conceptualizing the city as an aggregation of private property rights, we should instead seek to identify and protect common resources and interests in the city commons through limited access rights and collaborative governance strategies that preserve and draw upon existing social networks to manage common city resources. (S. Foster 2006: 526)

Low and Smith (2006) explore issues around the increasing enclosure of public space particularly in U.S. cities. Anand (2000) studies “commons” behavior with solid waste management in Madras, India. Clapp and Meyer (2000) analyze brownfields as urban commons. Nagle and Nagle (2007) write about “predatory planning” practices that are endangering the urban cultural commons in post-Katrina New Orleans.

Most of us are familiar with the battles between neighborhood groups and city governments over the rights to gardens grown on abandoned land. The gardens become a kind of community action commons when a government begins to sell them as private property—thus creating a new kind of enclosure movement (Rogers 1995; Assadourian 2003; Saldivar-Tanaka and Krasny 2004). Karl Linn was an especially effective voice in building community gardens and neighborhood commons (Linn 1999, 2007).

Housing arrangements can be good examples of types of commons. Yang (1995) and Hawkins, Percy, and Montreal (1997) have written about homeowners’ associations as commons; French and Hyatt (1997)—community associations; Choe (1993)— apartment buildings; I. Lee (1998)—residential communities; Kleit (2004)—public housing. A few have looked at playgrounds (Abu-Ghazzeh 1998; Delehanty 1992); sidewalk and street vending (Kettles 2004; Anjaria 2006); and local streets, parking, and public spaces (Epstein 2002; D. Cooper 2006). Brian Steed and Burney Fischer (2007) at Indiana University are the first to study street trees as commons.

A wide number of other subjects can fall under the heading “neighborhood commons.” The effect on homeless populations by certain types of urban enclosures of the commons have been examined by Headington (2003) and Mitchell and Staeheli 2006). Iliich (1983) has written on silence as a commons and Mace, Bell, and Loomis (1999) on the effects of noise on the commons.10 Local security issues have been written about as commons in Blackstone et al. (2007), Benson (1994), Wagenaar and Soeparman (2004), and Krebs, Sever, and Clear (1999). Jenny, Feuntes, and Mosler (2007) analyze the incentives for sharing and rule compliance in a Cuban urban commons." (

Source: Hess, Charlotte, Mapping the New Commons (July 1, 2008). [1]

More Information

  1. Some interesting websites relating to neighborhood commons are Resource Guide for the Commons. .
  2. Related areas to the neighborhood commons are: barn-raising, community organization, deliberative democracy, public sphere, self-governance, Social Capital, Urban Commons.
  3. Community Garden Commons