Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

City & Regional Planning

First Advisor

Eugenie L. Birch


Although taxpayer dollars often subsidize economic development projects, they sometimes produce mixed results for existing neighbors. Since 2001, in select localities, civic organizations have assumed the role of negotiator on behalf of local constituencies, espousing the view that economic development efforts should significantly improve residentsâ?? lives. Various organizations are entering into community benefits agreements (CBAs) with developers and/or governmental bodies in order to meet community needs. In return, the groups agree to support the projectsâ?? requests for governmental approvals and/or subsidies. Yet CBAs continue to emerge in relatively few communities. More importantly, they have taken markedly different forms in different places.

This work compares major attempts by civic organizations to secure public benefits as part of real estate development project approval processes in California, New York, Wisconsin, and Florida. By comparing a range of CBAs, this study discerns which state- and local-level factors determine why and when CBAs emerge; which factors best account for the differences among the CBAs and benefits, if any, that result; what the impact of the phenomenon has been, and how it has shaped the field of urban political theory. The study finds: the CBA phenomenon reflect the interplay of a number of market, governmental, and civic factors involved in land-use planning and real estate development; local-level factors are more influential than state-level factors, although both are important; the factor that best accounts for differences among CBAs is the archetypal relationship between civic organizations (and not simply â??neighborsâ?? in general) and the officials in whose district the projects are to be sited, while differences in the resulting benefits best reflect local market conditions; CBA campaigns remain relatively niche but appear to be shaping broader municipal policy efforts; and the CBA phenomenon is consistent with previous findings in urban political theory, providing the parties involved with a vehicle for defusing land use-related conflicts and securing both project approvals and community benefits in the process.

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