Conceptualizing the Urban Commons: The Place of Business Improvement Districts in City Governance
municipal governance, business improvement district, urban commons, municipal law
Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) are self-taxed organizations that are comprised of businesses and property owners, are approved by city governments, and spend funds to improve profitability within certain neighbourhood boundaries. BID governance structures can also include neighbourhood residents and city councillors as voting or non-voting members. Numerous scholars have written about the role of BIDs in city governance, including the extent to which they improve or undermine inclusivity and accountability. This paper focuses on a related question that has not yet been deeply analysed in legal scholarship: can BIDs be considered a form of urban commons? The term ‘urban commons’ is contested, but generally refers to the application of the property law notion of the commons to the shared management of bounded city spaces. This paper extends from existing debates on the meaning of the “urban commons” and its application to BIDs. This paper uses BIDs in Toronto to introduce decision-making, representation, and accountability as elements of just urban governance can serve as the basis of an evaluation of the urban commons.
Alexandra Flynn, "Conceptualizing the Urban Commons: The Place of Business Improvement Districts in City Governance" (2018) [unpublished].