M.Sc Thesis

M.Sc StudentMatza Lihi
SubjectPlanning Culture in Israel in the Neoliberal Era: Urban
Industrial Area Regeneration as a Case Study
DepartmentDepartment of Architecture and Town Planning
Supervisor ASSOCIATE PROF. Efrat Eizenberg
Full Thesis text - in Hebrew Full thesis text - Hebrew Version


Under the global economic restructuring and neoliberalization of recent decades, the ability of cities to provide services for their residents became highly dependent on their capacity to generate income. Since urban land is perceived as one of the greatest assets of cities, the pursuit after income has become tightly connected to urban development practices and the associated planning culture. This change is evident in urban industrial area regeneration projects. In the last three decades, these projects are also prominent in the Israeli milieu. While in other parts of the world, the intensification of the phenomenon has led to an increasing academic interest, focusing on different aspects of both the regeneration process and its outcomes, in Israel, the academic discussion on this phenomenon is underdeveloped.

To address this gap, this research examines Israel’s planning culture in the neoliberal era as reflected in regeneration projects of urban industrial areas. For this purpose, the research focuses on four main goals: characterizing the planning visions for the renewed areas, examining the strategies and actions used to promote their regeneration, identifying the actors involved and the role they play in the process, and surfacing the main tensions and challenges characterizing it.

To do so, the research examines regeneration projects in three Israeli cities: Kiryat Bialik, Netanya and Bat Yam, using several qualitative methods: thematic-conceptual analysis of planning committees’ protocols and semi-structured interviews held with urban planners and policy leaders and quantitative and spatial analysis of relevant blueprints. Archival documents and newspaper articles were also collected to shed more light on the history of the case studies.

The findings indicate that the main planning vision intended for the renewed area is to serve as an economic growth engine for the whole city. To realize this vision, the local authority is dependent on the arrival of the private sector. Therefore, attracting private actors such as investors and high-profile companies has become a prominent consideration in the planning decisions and actions of the local authority to promote the regeneration project.

Although statutory planning is used to redefine the functional and spatial character of the industrial area and in this way to magnify its attractiveness, it is not considered a sufficient tool to realize the project or to maintain its success over time. Two characteristics are perceived as crucial to achieve the latter two goals: flexibility and fast response. This realization drives the local authority to take different actions in order to be as flexible and responsive as possible to private sector demands. These actions, the perceptions behind them, and the conflicts and tensions characterizing their use, raise crucial questions about the role and power of comprehensive planning in the current competitive era.

 Based on the assumptions, tools and tensions characterizing the regeneration project, the research discusses the ways in which the Israeli planning culture responds and adjusts itself to the growing dependency on the private sector. By doing so, the research contributes to better understanding the way neo-liberal ideas are penetrating the field of urban planning.