The Land Readjustment Project and the Congested Urban Residential District Improvement Project

The major measurement to reconstruct urban areas after the Great Hanshin Earthquake was the land readjustment projects (11 projects were carried out in the districts in Kobe city and seven in other areas). It is notable, however, that some congestion improvement projects were also carried out as part of urban planning to reconstruct some districts (in Takarazuka city, Itami city, Awaji, etc.).

The land readjustment reconstruction project was statutory. Decision was forcibly made without the residents' participation and conflicts between residents and administrative bodies were seen from the very beginning. In contrast, congestion improvement projects, as sober, inconspicuous and hardly known by media, produced sound and steady results in post-earthquake urban reconstruction and machizukuri -- community development.

There was another reason for residents to be against the land adjustment project on top of the above-mentioned conditions -- residents were forced to contribute some of their housing land without compensation (genpu), which was quite a burden for them. Consequently, people developed an allergy to urban planning projects saying neither wide roads nor parks were necessary. On the contrary, in the case of the congestion improvement project, which is a voluntary project proceeded with a guideline with no legal binding force, consensus of the residents is a prerequisite condition and lands necessary for widening roads are obtained by purchase. The two kinds of urban planning projects are poles apart from each other.

Also there is another difference concerning the creation of the space. A land readjustment project changes the space of the subjected district completely with the aim of constructing public facilities. Roads should have a width of six meters as a rule and usually planned to run vertically and horizontally aligned evenly. Almost all the housing lots are to be reallocated and realigned. As a result, a uniform space very often appears. The congestion improvement project, on the other hand, is to improve the local environment by widening some existing narrow streets. The change is partial and made in a limited area with variety and flexibility.

The author's laboratory conducted a research on congestion improvement projects carried out in four districts. According to the result, the percentage of housing lots which became adjacent to a road with a width of four meters or more (to meet the Building Code) after the end of the project was 88% to 56%, which, as a matter of course, should become 100% in the case of a land adjustment project. The project expenses per unit area were quite low -- about between one third and one fifth of a land readjustment project. Also, a questionnaire survey on the land owners and residents showed that 76% of them highly appreciated the project.

Urban Reconstruction Projects to be Reviewed

It has to be recognized that the paradigm should be converted from the traditional and development-oriented statutory urban planning to a more flexible one to allow more diversity in the improvement of the environment. While the former is forcible, large-scaled, vitally influential, time-consuming, and the resultant change is all-out, the latter requires the consensus of the residents, is small-scaled, less influential, can be carried out swiftly producing some partial change.

The earthquake revealed that the improvement of a number of congested urban residential districts in this country is a challenge to be solved. Various choices should be provided to tackle this big and difficult task. If a land readjustment project can be said to get a full mark, improvement projects with mark of 60-70 also should be taken into consideration as something feasible and practical for the improvement of the situation.

(ANDO Motoo)