Regulation of the Urban Commons in Naples

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By Daniela Patti:

"An experience stemming from a different background to the one of Bologna is the Regulation of the Commons in Naples. It was in this city that for the first time in 2011, the juridical definition of Commons was introduced in the City Council’s Statute, referring especially to the case of water, which had been object of the national Referendum that same year. The following years, the “Regulation for the Discipline of the Commons” and the “Principles for the government and management of the Commons” were established. According to these, “each citizens should concur to the natural and spiritual progress of the city”. The focus towards the urban commons was explicit in 2013, when the City Council adopted the Public Space Charter, elaborated by the Biennial of Public Space held that same year in Rome, which aims at the creation of concrete processes towards the promotion of the urban public spaces.

It is in 2014 that the current regulation deliberating on the urban commons in Naples was approved by the City Council. This regulation outlines the identification of the commons and the process of collective management for their civic use and collective benefit are outlined. This regulation has foreseen the recognition of ongoing civic initiatives pursuing projects in spaces identified as urban commons. This approach therefore attempts to foster a logic of self-governance and experimental management of public spaces, aiming at recognising these spaces as commons of collective interest and fruition. In 2016 seven locations in Naples were identified as commons because of the collective commitment of citizens in their regeneration after a long period of abandonment. Before such recognition these spaces were officially identified as illegal occupation of public properties, for which all people involved were subjected to legal persecution. The innovation of what is happening in Naples stands basically in the fact that the ancient tradition of the Usi Civici (Civic Uses) applied since medieval times to the forests for people to access and harvest wood or collect food, is now applied to urban spaces. This is the case of the Je So’ Pazzo initiative taking place in the old mental asylum in the city centre of Naples, where a group of inhabitants, many of whom youngsters, have taken over the space to provide a series of local services, such as music classes, sports facilities and many other community-run activities. Currently the agreement with the Municipalities implies that utility costs of the space are paid by the City Council but all activities related expenses are responsibility of the users. In terms of property rights, the space remains in public ownership and users are granted freely access as long as the activities remain of public interest and open to all citizens.

At first sight the Regulations of the Commons of Bologna and Turin and the one of Naples could appear to be rather similar, having been developed at the same with an overall same objectives, yet they greatly differ in terms of concepts of property and usage of the commons. Bologna and the blueprint in Turin, do not effectively intervene on the property model of the public estates, that remain an asset exclusively managed by the Authority, albeit in the public interest. Even in terms of what is the usage model of these properties, this remains unaltered as the Authority is ultimately responsible for the refurbishment of the estates or for the development of social and economic functions. For this reason, it can be said that the civic-public collaborations to be activated tend to take place in open public spaces with a low conflict threshold. Instead, Naples has attempted to pursue a different model of property and management of the commons. in fact, to be identified as a commons are the buildings themselves, based on a series of social and cultural elements, and not the communities operating in them, therefore avoiding conflicts in terms of public procurement in assigning tenants to a public property. The activities currently taking place within these identified Urban Commons are accepted by the Administration as long as they respect the Commons ethics and guarantee access to citizens." (