50 km

SDRIF 2012-Paris. Environment


Drawing a greenbelt can be the starting point for many dissapointments: as most of the time we do not work on a “virgin” territory, the belt will almost never be closed, and its shape will be not that clear at first sight. In the SDRIF as often in other parts of the world, there is a Greenbelt project that works with reality; woods around Paris are integrated, as well as regional natural parks, and the debate could be in the conectivity among these spaces. The role of rivers as ecological connectors is also relevant and integrated (even when the Seine banks are sometimes stockage areas for construction materials, it is a truth that nature prevails somehow…). Overall, SDRIF tries to ensure these continuities, in which farmland is also relevant, as much for landscape as for ecologic continuity.

Those open spaces are also used to limit urban growth, and this, combined with the aim to improve the quota of green space per habitant in the denser areas (a complex operation, as sometimes it involves new buildings to ensure a balance between the cost of the new parks and the new revenue), can contribute to improve the quality of life. These spaces must also integrate as much as possible flood plains, a relevant issue in a metropolitan area with large rivers.

SDRIF 2012-Paris. Housing


The estimated need of housing units to adress future demand for main houses is 1,5 million units by 2030, an average 70.000 units per year, which result from:

  • 38.000 units per year to adress the needs resulting from demographic growth, taking into acount a growth at the same speed as the overall french population taking into acount ageing population, residential behaviour and migrations.
  • 12.000 units per year to avoid a deeper deficit than today. This would allow a reduction in the household size as in the rest of the country, making easier for people to change their homes according to their needs.
  • 17.000 units per year to compensate demolition and other lost units in the old buildings
  • 3.000 units to maintain a vacancy rate similar to the present one, alredy the lowest in 40 years.

Overall, this building effort will compensate a regular decline in the housing production since the begining of the 1990s. It should allow to develop the offer of housing for students, old people, handicapped people, young workers, people in social risk, and nomads. Social housing would be developped to adress the current deficit.

Most of this process will correspond to private developers, depending so on the social and economic situation, and especially the acces to credit by both developer and citizens, the real purchasing power of households and the evolution of real estate prices.

SDRIF 2012 Paris- Roissy

Roissy- Charles de Gaulle airport, north of central Paris, is one of the main economic assets of the metropolitan area, and it is one of the project territories of the SDRIF 2012. Well linked to the metropolitan core and northern areas, it is less well connected to the west and east. The regional scale challenges are to find a balance between economic and residential development, to tackle the differences between a powerful economic scene and the social weaknesses, and to avoid a capacity overflow in roads.

Accesibility will be improved by high speed trains for the long haul travel, and by improvements in regional trains to be reinforced by the automatic subway “Grand Paris Express”. The noise plan for the airport limits land use locations. Improvements in employment beyond logistics and associated activities are a major goal, looking for a more diverse and qualified activity system.

Maintaining the large open spaces continuities north of the airport, as well for farming as for woods and natural systems, is also a major goal, as there is already a fragmented space due to transportation elements and urban elements.

The proposals by areas are:

  • To the north and east of the airport there should be an increased density and a development of public services in existing fillages. Le Mesnil- Amelot will have a Grand Paris Express station making it the gate to the metropolitan network for northern Ile de France and Picardie, and this will allow for an urban extension of the village.
  • To the west and south of the airport there is already a good accesibility by public transport, that will be improved, and many large metropolitan public facilities as the Exhibitions Park of Villepinte and the Sausset Park. The trend to locate large public facilities will be fostered.
  • The area around Le Bourget will be hotspot to develop aerospace industries and high tech
  • The Gonesse Triangle will be a strategic element due to its location halfway between Paris and the airport, and its economic and social developement needs in Val de France. 300 hectares at most should be urbanised, provided that they get public transit, and they will be limited by a regional project to preserve 400 hectares of farm land north of the triangle to ensure they are not fragmented.

Biblio (12). Planning the Paris Region

The Paris region, or Île-de-France in French, is one of the areas in the world that can show a long regional planning tradition. This makes it a perfect example of the lights and shadows of the planning instruments, be it from a short term or a long term perspective.

In 1908 the French parliament receives a bill from André Siegfried, which was never enacted. In 1919 a competition is held to define the urban extension of Paris, but the results were never to be realized as they were closer to an architectural composition than to a real, viable urban planning proposal.

The Sarraut Act (15 march 1928), aimed at irregular subdivisions (largely a result of the refugee settlements around France in the first world war) is an approach to a metropolitan vision. On 24 march 1928 is created the Comité Supérieur pour l’Aménagement et Organisation de la Région de Paris (CSAORP), a study institute ; its role was to define an « exception regime » for a region « gangrened by the cancer of slums”, giving the responsibility to deliver a plan to urbanist Henry Prost and Raoul Dautry, the General Director of the Railways. After a study of the problem, Prost proposes to organize the territory with freeways and national roads, and proposes two zones. The first would integrate the areas that could be reached by train from Paris in less than half an hour, concentrating the most problematic slums and needing an urgent solution; the second zone, external to the first, would be subject to a ban for industrial settlement as to try to control the arrival of new population. The plan introduced a protected status for woodlands.

On 14 may 1932 the Law on the Organization of the Parisian Region is enacted, encompassing an area defined according to the half an hour proposal of Henri Prost. In 1934 the Prost Plan is technically finished, and it is enacted in 1939, so it is never really applied as the second world war begins. Even if the 1929 New York Regional Plan is often presented as the first modern regional plan, it is clear that it was a proposition from a private association without a legal status, while the 1939 Paris Plan was a legal document.

Plan Prost 1934

In 1960, Under President Charles de Gaulle, the Institut d’Aménagement et d’Urbanisme de la Région Parisienne (IAURP, in 2012 IAU) is created, under the direction of Paul Delouvrier. The Schema Directeur de la Region Parisienne is enacted in 1965 as the first truly operational plan, defining today’s structural features of the region as new towns, mobility systems and public facilities. In 1994 a revision of the plan is approved, with less innovation as much due to the maturity of the institute and the fact that some innovations were already under way, as to a less benign economic climate.

The 95-115 act, from 4 February 1995, gives to the Paris region the regional planning powers; it is no longer a state matter, but one closer to the citizens. The decision to revise the Schéma Directeur is taken by the Regional Council in 2004, and the works are parallel to innovations in the state policies regarding sustainable development and the 2010-597 act (3 June 2010), on the Grand Paris, an initiative of President Nicolas Sarkozy. The State Council decides that the revision approved by the Regional Council in 2008 must be subject to a new public participation procedure to take into account these questions (and some talk discretely on how inconvenient for the project was the fact that the regional and national governments are from opposed political parties…). So, in October 2012 a new document is presented taking all that into account.

SDRIF 2012. Spatial Regional Project

The October 2012 SDRIF tries to favor a social, economical and environmental transition for the region (based on the three parts of the sustainable development concept and with a climate change sensibility), and is articulated around the following ideas:

1- Improve the daily life of citizens

70.000 new housing units are to be built each year, and existing units are to be improved, as a way to tackle a housing crisis (some voices say that there is no real need for new dwellings, but a problem of mismatch between offer and demand). 28.000 new employments should be created each year, and mixed use should help there. Ensuring good access to public facilities, a better transportation system less dependent on automobile (with significant improvements on public transport between suburbs and more multimodal use of relevant roads) and improvements on urban spaces and natural surroundings are also proposed.

2- Consolidate the metropolitan dynamics

A more dynamic economy, the multiplying effects of an efficient transportation system and a sustainable management of natural areas are the proposals. Not much is said about the fragmented local administration scene, probably as a separate work is done on that.

Public transportation projects in SDRIF 2012

3- Identify strategic areas

14 project territories are identified, starting with Paris as the center of the metropolitan area.

On the whole, it is an interesting document, with many common points with the problems in many metropolitan areas around the world.

Paris (2)

View of Paris and the towers in La Defense from the terrasse in Saint Germain en Laye

The parisian geography is that of a plains region, marked by the Seine and Marne valleys and local heights that, without representing mountain ranges, are a good set of belvederes over the area.

Shaded digital terrain model in and around central Paris. Similar maps can be obtained at http://www.geoportail.f

Some reference points and a graphic scale to grasp the dimensions:

1-        Historical core around the islands of La Cité and Saint Louis

2-        Champs de Mars and Eiffel Tower

3-        Champs Elysees

4-        Montmartre

5-        Buttes Chaumont Park

6-        Versailles Gardens

7-        Saint Germain-en-Laye

8-        Paris- Charles de Gaulle Airport

9-        Paris- Orly Airport

10-     Disneyland Paris

Next post will show a personal vision on each of these spaces.

Metropolitan Paris governance

The Paris Metropole association has made public its green book on metropolitan governance on june the 20th.

The green book is conceived as tool for the debate on the metropolitan future. To those that observe the Parisian metropolis from the outside, it is also a terrific introduction to its complexity and to the more general issue of governance, which is pertinent in all urban areas.

The association covers an area with 194 municipalities, 44 intermunicipal associations and 8 departements. Its statutes define three goals: cooperation for metropolitan dimension projects, debate and proposals for financial and economic solidarity among municipalities, and governance evolution.

Three options are raised:

  • Unifying governance through an outright simplification of the administrative divisions
  • An evolution of the institutional system through agreements between stakeholders
  • A confederal model based on the existing municipalities

Link to download : http://www.parismetropole.fr/ressources/actualites/actualites-de-pm/article/paris-metropole-devoile-son-livre-vert-sur-la-gouvernance

Metropolitan governance

The Royal Spanish Language Academy’s Dictionary defines governance as “art or way of rule that has as goal the attainment of a durable economic, social and institutional development, promoting a healthy balance between the state, the civil society and the economic market.”

Large metropolitan areas are a specific governance study case. They are often spaces in which the presence of a large central city implies a first division among its citizens and those of the rest of the area. Besides, that central city often has a demographic and economic size clearly larger than that of any of the surrounding municipalities, a basis for inter administrative relations based on a very asymmetric power balance.

Paris is the most complex example in terms of governance. France keeps a fine-grained local administration, with more than 36.000 municipalities (Spain has less than 9.000, despite having about the same surface), grouped in 101 departements (Spain is divided in 50 provinces).
Région Ile de France encompasses the metropolitan area and rural areas. It has a regional planning document (SDRIF) and a common practice of intermunicipal agreements to develop large urban planning projects.
The 105 sq km of Paris constitute a single municipality divided in 20 arrondissements.
Parisians vote 163 Paris Councilors, who later designate the Paris Mayor; citizens also vote for arrondissement’s councilors, who designate the 20 Arrondissement’s Mayors. The central city administration has most of the powers, urban planning included, while the arrondissement’s administration has a more local power, in issues such as ward’s public facilities, and are consulted by the central administration in matters concerning their constituency. In all, Parisians vote 517 elected officials, counting both levels and the 21 Mayors.
Paris is small in surface, and the last time a neighboring municipality was annexed was in 1860. The dense urban area extends beyond its limits, to encompass, nearly all the three adjoining departments, that add up 4,3 million people (nearly twice the size of Paris itself). The four departments combined means slightly more than half the metropolitan population of 12,1 millions.
Each department is divided in municipalities. The 21 Paris Mayors are joined consequently by 123 additional mayors that enjoy the prerogatives of their job, with some limits derived from regional planning. Besides, each department has its own administration, with its own powers and budget.
The complexity of this system and the initiative of President Sarkozy to revitalize greater Paris (with the precedent of initiative Banlieues 89 during Miterrand’s presidency) are partly the cause for the creation of the Metropolitan Conference, a voluntary group of municipalities from the metropolitan area (Paris included). The Conference has as one of its middle term aims to lead to a governance reorganization that would keep the present territorial division, assumed as a guarantee of democratic decision making.

New York City is in the homonymous state, neighboring the New Jersey state. The current municipality (1.214 sq km) was created in 1898 by the union of Manhattan, the first dutch settlement, and four other cities; back then Brooklyn was already one of the most populous cities in the US. The five Boroughs keep a clear personality today; no more independent cities, they keep a county status, which implies separate courts of justice.
The fact that New York is part of a metropolitan area spanning three states, with different legal provisions regarding planning and a lack of federal laws on the subject, explains at least partially the lack of an enforceable Regional Plan. Nevertheless, New York was the subject of one of the first regional planning experiences in the world; the 1929 Plan, developed by a private association (RPA) and endorsed by the big economic agents after the great depression, laid out the main current transportation and public space elements. Ulterior revisions of the plan had a less powerful influence, but are still a valuable reference to understand the metropolitan area.
The Pot Authority of New York and New Jersey is the most relevant public body in metropolitan terms, as it manages public transit networks as well as harbor services on both sides of the state line.
New Yorkers elect a Mayor of New York, with global powers over the whole city. They also elect five Borough Presidents, who review all public and private land use projects and can recommend approval or rejection of those projects; they also appoint most members of the Community Boards (59 in the whole city), non remunerated citizens without administrative powers but able to convey petitions and requests. Elected officials also include the City Council’s 51 members (one for each council district), the City Comptroller, the Public Advocate and five District Attorneys (one for each Borough).

The city of Madrid has a much simpler governance system. The last annexation of a neighboring municipality was in 1960, creating a municipality larger than 600 sq km with half the metropolitan population.
The Madrid Autonomous Region includes the city and 178 additional municipalities. The functional metropolitan area doesn’t coincide with the region’s limit, extending to neighbouring regions; some areas in the Madrid Region are clearly rural. Metropolitan plans existed during the Franco era, but despite the attempts during the 1990s and the provisions in the Madrid Land Laws, there is no regional plan. There are no metropolitan governance organisms, but specific agreements on technical services exist. The Consorcio de Transportes de Madrid, integrating the public and private transit companies, is the most relevant element in metropolitan mobility.
Madrid citizens vote in a single municipality-wide constituency, with closed political parties lists, to choose 57 city councilors proportionally to the votes obtained by each party; councilors designate a Mayor (currently a woman). The day to day administration is assumed by a governing board of eight members appointed by the Mayor.
The municipality is divided in 21 districts. The Mayor designates a President Councilor for each district, with no obligation to take into account the electoral results in that district; the elections winner takes all the municipal power. On a daily basis, the role of the opposition councilors is limited to a government control function.


The Parisian system is subject to criticism for its extreme administrative complexity and how difficult it is to get a consensus on large scale operations; but it is also praised for the wide chances it gives to local opinions to be taken into account, although it doesn’t prevent situations as the 2005 riots.
New York’s system is conditioned by the problems to articulate solutions encompassing the whole tri-state area and the wide gap in living quality among different parts of the city; nevertheless It allows for an agile action.
The Madrid system is often criticized by its monolithic aspect and its lack of representation opportunities for small areas, lacking the checks and balances inherent to a more desegregate system; having a similar area, the four central departments of metropolitan Paris boast 144 mayors, as opposed to a single one in Madrid. Despite that, decision taking is often agile.