Healthy Cities, Healthy Bodies

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Numerous cities around the globe have adopted tactical urbanism interventions within their planning departments. Tactical urbanism is attractive due to its low-risk, short-term, and low-cost urban design interventions of a community’s built and natural environments. Planning departments are often the catalysts of tactical urbanism. For example, the City of Seattle has recently started a tactical urbanism program, with 24 projects completed or planned. As the movement gains momentum, the role of participatory planning is questioned: should city officials be solely responsible for urban design or should communities also have an active role? This paper explores the relationship between tactical urbanism and social capital from a health-oriented perspective and critically analyzes it as a contributor to urban hegemony. Tactical urbanism’s manipulation of a community’s microenvironment has physical, mental, and social health implications; social health will be the focus of this analysis as it is rooted in equity. Case studies from various cities are analyzed to identify effective methods in building social capital, while simultaneously having positive effects on the built environment. Literature is reviewed to criticize the current state of tactical urbanism to promote a more equitable, community-based approach through the “Right to the City” theory. While some cases of independent community-based tactical urbanism can improve community health and build social capital, its lack of consent from government officials can weaken community-government relationships by creating a sense of mistrust and perpetuate authoritative planning. Successful, equitable tactical urbanism is difficult, though the “Right to the City” can provide a framework for future equitable planning.