The Arsenal of Exclusion

Roman Mars:
This is 99% Invisible. I’m Roman Mars.

Sam Greenspan:
Here’s the Baltimore city-county line…

[Weapons in the “Arsenal of Exclusion.”]

[Alphabetical: Armrests on benches. Blood Relative Ordinance. Blockbusting. Bouncer. Cul-de-sac.]

Roman Mars:
I think cities are great. There’s movement and activity and diversity. But go to any city and it’s pretty clear a place can be diverse without really being integrated.

Daniel D’Oca:
Cities exist to bring people together, but cities can also keep people apart.

Roman Mars:
That’s Daniel D’Oca.

Daniel D’Oca:
My name is Daniel D’Oca and I am an urban planner. I have a company in New York called Interboro Partners.

Roman Mars:
Over the last few years, Daniel and his two colleagues at Interboro Partners-

Daniel D’Oca:
Interboro Partners is myself, Georgeen Theodore and Tobias Armborst…and the three of us have been working on this project for a number of years called the “Arsenal of Exclusion and Inclusion.”

Roman Mars:
This “arsenal” is a catalog of the stuff inside a city-

Daniel D’Oca:
What we call weapons.

[Concierge, Expulsive Zoning, Fire Hydrant, Food Truck Ordinance.]

Daniel D’Oca:
…that architects, planners, policymakers, developers, etcetera use to either bring people together or keep people apart, or open the city or close the city, or increase access to space or restrict people’s access to space—any number of ways to spin it.

[Historic Preservation, Homeowners Association.]

Daniel D’Oca:
Weapons ranging from “No Loitering” signs to big things like housing vouchers and exclusionary zoning and all that kind of stuff.

Roman Mars:
Today we’re only going to focus on the “Arsenal of Exclusion”—the weapons that keep people apart.

[Weapons in the “Arsenal of Exclusion.”]

Roman Mars:
In the city of Baltimore, a place Daniel D’Oca truly loves-

Daniel D’Oca:
I taught at the Maryland Institute College of Art for 6 years, so I have a strong connection with Baltimore. It’s still a city that I love and admire very much. It’s a wonderful place.

Roman Mars:
But it’s a city that has been honing its arsenal of exclusion for decades.

Daniel D’Oca:
Baltimore was once to the invisible wall building industry what Detroit was to the automotive industry—an innovative workshop where creative minds worked to think up, invent, test out, and ultimately export methods of exclusion.

Roman Mars:
Our producer and resident Baltimorean Sam Greenspan went to look at some of Charm City’s exclusive offerings.

Daniel D’Oca:
“So the best way to get there is…”

Sam Greenspan:
“Why don’t you say where we’re gonna go and what we’re doing and how we’re gonna get there.”

Sam Greenspan:
Dan D’Oca and I are driving north up Greenmount Avenue in East Baltimore.

Daniel D’Oca:
“I kind of think Greenmount north of 33rd, all the way up to Coldspring as a kind of museum of exclusion.”

Sam Greenspan:
So as you’re driving north on Greenmount Avenue, north of 33rd Street, it’s clear that Greenmount Avenue is a dividing line between rich and poor and black and white. But what’s not immediately obvious is why.

Daniel D’Oca:
“Just to give you a sense, as we drive north on Greenmount, to our right, on the east side, is Waverly.”

Sam Greenspan:
Waverly is lower-income, and around 80 percent African-American…

Daniel D’Oca:
“16% have a bachelor’s degree, median income is $40,000.”

Sam Greenspan:
And on the other side…

Daniel D’Oca:
“Then on the west side to our left is Oakenshawe and then Guilford, a little to the north of that-”

Sam Greenspan:
A really affluent area buffered by a middle-income area. Only about seven percent African-American.

Daniel D’Oca:
“75% have a bachelor’s degree and the median income is $75,000.”

Roman Mars:
In Daniel D’Oca’s view it’s not the wide Greenmount Avenue that keeps these neighborhoods apart.

Sam Greenspan:
It’s actually the small and subtle and invisible—yet totally intentional—things that keep these neighborhoods separate.

Daniel D’Oca:
“Demographically, the divide is very strict and severe. You can just see all these physical measures that are deployed to keep people from getting from one side to the other.”

Sam Greenspan:
Just crossing Greenmount on foot is annoying.

Daniel D’Oca:
“Two crosswalks in that 1.25-mile stretch.”

Sam Greenspan:
But what’s more interesting is when we talk about the grid.

[Grid.]

Sam Greenspan:
Greenmount is where the grid ends. The grid is there in Waverly, on the east side.

Daniel D’Oca:
“Notice that on the right there’s the grid, right. There’s 37th street, 38th street. We can make a right into Waverly no problem. But on our left there’s no grid. Right? It stops. You’ll notice we’re heading north now. If we try to make a left we’re gonna be confronted with dead-end streets, bollards.”

Sam Greenspan:
“What is a bollard?”

Daniel D’Oca:
“They’re like these security poles that you stick in the ground. Oh, here’s a wall, right?”

Sam Greenspan:
There’s this long row of middle-income houses on the west side of the street.

Daniel D’Oca:
“They’re kind of a buffer against the really wealthy Guilford stuff that’s just behind.”

Sam Greenspan:
Almost all of the roads dead end at the houses, and the few streets that do go through, are mostly one-way streets coming the opposite direction, out onto Greenmount.

Daniel D’Oca:
“There’s no way for us to get left into Oakenshawe or Guilford.”

Roman Mars:
There has to be some way to get into the neighborhood.

Sam Greenspan:
Well, there is, but on Guilford’s east side, you really have to go out of your way to find a street that will let you in.

Daniel D’Oca:
“So now we’re in Guilford, finally.”

Sam Greenspan:
And then once you’re inside, you notice two things: the houses are super nice, and the roads are super weird. The roads are windy, and they feel disproportionately small next to these houses’ giant lawns. And you need a permit to park here.

Daniel D’Oca:
“Another interesting one is residential parking permits.”

[Residential Parking Permit.]

Roman Mars:
In case you’re wondering, you don’t need a permit to park in the less affluent Waverly neighborhood, but back to Guilford.

Sam Greenspan:
The weirdest thing about these roads is that it’s hard to know what direction you’re going.

Daniel D’Oca:
“And could you tell if we’re east, north, west or south right now? It’s really hard to tell, right?”

Sam Greenspan:
“I would imagine we’re going south…”

Daniel D’Oca:
“We’re actually going east. So this is Greenmount Avenue.”

Sam Greenspan:
Since we’re outsiders and don’t know our way around Guilford, we were shunted out of the neighborhood on a one-way street, back onto Greenmount Ave.

Daniel D’Oca:
“So this is one of the one-way streets heading out of the neighborhood.”

Sam Greenspan:
“Oh my gosh. We really got out back to Greenmount and I thought we were going through it.”

Roman Mars:
These physical barriers in the arsenal of exclusion—grids and one-way streets—are not that big a deal, they’re not all that hard overcome, but their placement has meaning.

Daniel D’Oca:
“Does it really matter that you can’t make a left turn into Guilford? Would this be a more equitable city if we could make that left turn? Probably not, right? It’s more a symbolic thing, right? It’s this place where this demographic divide is just rendered very physically in space.”

Roman Mars:
But it is worth noting that other weapons in the arsenal of exclusion that once existed here in Guilford are now illegal. Like restrictive housing covenants.

Sam Greenspan:
Basically there were housing ordinances that said ‘Black people can’t live here.’

[Restrictive Housing Covenants.]

Roman Mars:
D’Oca says that this neighborhood actually pioneered the use of segregationist Covenants — housing deeds that restricted occupancy only to white people. This wasn’t illegal until 1968.

Sam Greenspan:
You can point at these gridless streets as being an emblem of the racial segregation that still exists in Baltimore.

Roman Mars:
With good cause. But it’s interesting to speculate what the neighborhood would be like if these exclusionary measures weren’t in place.

Sam Greenspan:
“Had this neighborhood been built on a grid, upper middle-class white people living here, they probably would have fled to the suburbs in the 70s, 80s, right? Given that there are rich white people still living here within the city limits paying city taxes, is it worse than just having all the rich white people living out in the county?”

Daniel D’Oca:
“Yeah, that’s a really good question. The trick is to try to have developed neighborhood change that’s not a zero-sum game where one party loses and another party gains.”

Roman Mars:
And that is Interboro Partners’ next project — creating development solutions that are not zero-sum games. But it all starts with labeling and categorizing the weapons in the “Arsenal of Exclusion” – and Inclusion – so we can figure out how to create cities that are more open to everybody.

Roman Mars:
Here’s a little endnote. Most of the weapons in the “Arsenal of Exclusion” create barriers that are hard to see because they are subtle and nondescript. Except when they’re not.

Sam Greenspan:
“Here’s the Baltimore city-county line.” (bangs on the fence)

Roman Mars:
Dan D’Oca took Sam to the former site of Hollander Ridge. It was a lower-income housing project built way out on the city-county line. It has since been torn down, but one artifact of the project remains.

Daniel D’Oca:
“The Rosedale community up there lobbied to build this 8-foot tall spiked wrought-iron fence around the perimeter of Hollander Ridge to separate it from their community, which then was a predominantly white suburban community. It’s like a gated community created from the outside, you know? It’s a really strange and unfortunate thing.”

Sam Greenspan:
“It’s funny, the spikes are actually pointing the other direction. So I guess you could go over but you couldn’t get back.”

Daniel D’Oca:
“Hahaha… right.”

Roman Mars:
99% Invisible was produced this week by Sam Greenspan and me, Roman Mars, with help from Scott Goldberg. We are a project of KALW 91.7, local public radio in San Francisco and the American Institute of Architects in San Francisco. 99% Invisible is distributed by PRX, the Public Radio Exchange – making public radio more public – at prx.org. Support for 99% Invisible is provided in part by Tiny Letter. Email for people with something to say. My boy, Carver, always has something to say. What do you have to say, Carver?

Carver Mars:
“Every year, the equator squirted out lava. Every year. Squirted out lava. But it’s not that close to us, so it doesn’t kill us, only the people who live really close to it. So tell the people who close to it, ‘Stay away. Get out of your houses!’ So they don’t get killed by the volcano.”

Roman Mars:
Now that’s a reason to send a newsletter. Maybe even a follow-up phone call. Tiny Letter, the simplest way to send an email newsletter. Tinyletter.com. You can find the show and “like” the show on Facebook. I tweet @romanmars. You can always catch up with us and look at more weapons in the “Arsenal of Exclusion” at 99percentinvisible.org.

Credits

Additional Voice Acting by Mae Mars

  1. Suspended Disbelief

    Really love this episode. Could also be hijacked by a new school of New-Left / Neo-Marxist, Environmental Criminology!

  2. Ryan B

    This is my life! I live in Waverly south of 33rd, and I work to the northwest at the edge of Govanstowne and Homeland. It’s less than a three mile commute, but the only unbroken path is Greenmount, which becomes York Rd. At that point It is a major north-south road, 5 lanes wide, and used by several bus routes, in short it is not bicycle friendly. I have been trying to map a route on the more bike friendly side streets, but due to the one-way streets, and broken grids mentioned, which actually exist on both sides north of where Greenmount becomes York, it has proven impossible. These barriers may seem invisible when you navigate this area in a car, but when you experience them as a pedestrian or cyclist they are immediately palpable. This of course is another weapon in this arsenal as the ability to own a car, much like the ability to live in Guilford as opposed to Waverly is more than anything determined by income.

  3. Chad O'Connor

    A fascinating concept, but I’d love to hear a follow-up to this episode discussing other city’s urban planning. For instance William Penn and Chief Surveyor Thomas Holme developed the Fairmount Park system and five main squares in Philadelphia that meant to overcome physical and cultural boundaries between the city’s residents. Does this actually function as they dreamed? Or are there still invisible walls present that some people use to promote a barrier between rich and poor?

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