Big Data, KDD and Citizen Participation to Ensure Coexistence between Economic Activity and Citizens Quality of Life
The regulation of economic activity is a question of the utmost relevance in urban planning as urbanism meant to support coexistence of citizens necessities while preserving the health of the commercial economic fabric. In this context, the model of diversity embodied by the city of Barcelona (the paradigm of other European cities where commercial and leisure activities play a fundamental role in constructing the social, civic and economic values) is under discussion.
In the central district of the city, the saturation of public access activities, food retailers and tourist services is affecting the habitability and the quality of life of the residents. The area has a dense and vulnerable population living within a fragile urban morphology. At the same time, it has a high rate of economic activities – specialising in leisure – that generates negative impacts on the life quality of residents such as noise, cleanliness, people in public space and increment of logistics.
A new way of making urban planning
The use of technology has radically transformed an existing type of master plan that responds to this scenario and regulates public establishments, food shops and tourist services in the central district of Barcelona. Fueled by massive information (open data and big data) and complemented with qualitative data arising from citizen participation, the project applies novel methodologies of spatial analysis based on machine learning and artificial intelligence to inform, simulate and draft a public policy that puts the focus on preserving liveability in cities.
As a result of a two-year process, the plan elaborates new regulatory proposals that, in addition to protecting the morphological characteristics plot by plot (single zone, road width, maximum/minimum surface, building vulnerability) and providing a dynamic vision of this urban fabric (variable radius, multiple impacts and division of activities according to time zone), highlights the integration of productive activity in the city and its coexistence with the habitability needs of citizens.
A participatory plan
With a strong collaborative perspective the plan has forged a large consensus thanks to a participatory process (local entities, retailers and neighbours worked together in workshops, public events, interviews with selected actors and online participation through the City Council digital democracy platform Decidim.barcelona) and the political implication of the City Council, that co-authored the plan.
From the citizens perspective, they were involved in a massive data collection process, empowering them to build data sovereignty structures and participate in decision-making at a local level. On the public bodies side, the project proposes a system both to inform and evaluate urban planning and policies at a European level -supplying a common ground of knowledge that can be exchanged and compared between cities.
An innovative tool with strong European values
The project emphasizes the role of urban planning as an instrument to put the city as a common good over the free market. It proposes an innovative contribution by means of a real case study to European urban planning discipline and public policies framework regarding the regulation of economic activity under the Services Directive. In a growing urban world, we must ensure that European cities are capable to ensure the right to the city, i.e, citizens rights to health, work, shelter and leisure but also that urban environments allow citizens to reach a full life in harmony with economic activity.
Promoted by: District of Ciutat Vella, Barcelona City Council
Primary authors: 300.000 Km/s
Legal and technical consultants: Graciela Chaia, Carlota Casanova, Daniel Lorenzo
Co-authors from Barcelona City Council: Gala Pin (city councillor); Jordi Rabassa, Santi Ibarra and Ferran Caymel (district councillors); Mònica Mateos (district manager); Josep Mª Coll, Marc Pinedo and Ana Olalla (business licenses department); Yolanda Hernández, Tristan LLusà and Francesc Palau (lawyers); Barcelona City Council Planning Department
Participatory process: Raons Públiques SCCL
Preliminary studies: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona Public Health Agency, TAE and 300.000 Km/s