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Community Benefit Agreements: A Framework for Participatory Planning for Toronto's Future Development


Abstract and Figures

Community Benefit Agreements (CBAs) are a relatively new land-use planning tool and there has been little evidence of incidence or success in benefiting communities who are a part of these agreements. This Major Paper examines how governmental relations, public policy, and socioeconomic status play a role in creating inequities within communities. This essay investigates how community benefits agreements can be used as a tool to redistribute wealth and back into local economies.
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Community Benefit Agreements: A Framework for
Participatory Planning for Toronto’s Future Development
Anastasia Abrazhevich
Supervised by
Professor Sotomayor
A Major Paper submitted to the Faculty of
Environmental Studies in partial fulfillment of
the requirements for the degree of Masters in
Environmental Studies
York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
July 31, 2020
Community Benefit Agreements (CBAs) are a relatively new land-use planning tool and there
has been little evidence of incidence or success in benefiting communities who are a part of
these agreements. This Major Paper examines how governmental relations, public policy, and
socioeconomic status play a role in creating inequities within communities. This essay
investigates how community benefits agreements can be used as a tool to redistribute wealth
and back into local economies. Through case studies for the United States and Canada and
interviews with key informants, I examine the capacity of CBAs to engage local residents in
employment opportunities, to foster community and environmental improvements, and to
secure affordable housing through these legal agreements. The intent of this study is to assess
the impact and to evaluate CBAs to ensure best practices for future urban planning initiatives
and for promoting equitable development. As new policies emerge that accelerate
development, increase displacement, and prioritize land as a commodity, it is critical to look
for community solutions to ensure that marginalized communities’ voices are heard. My
intention for completing this research study is to engage in potential solutions to address the
gap that exists within Urban Planning surrounding the lack of community involvement in
large-scale development projects. Drawing from six case studies within North America, this
paper provides an overview on how to make CBAs feasible within Toronto. My findings
suggest that while CBAs can generate significant reinvestment for communities they are not
applicable for every new development, require well-defined targets, monitoring, and
evaluation by all stakeholders for effective implementation.
Keywords: Participatory planning, employment, affordable housing, community benefits,
social justice
When I began the Masters of Environmental Studies Planning (MES) program I sought to
better understand the processes of participatory planning within neighbourhoods. Throughout
my studies, I learned about land trusts, co-ops, community benefits, as well as active
community organizations that were advocates for equitable planning. In my trip to New York in
my Critical Urban Planning Workshop, 10 other graduate students and I had visited community
gardens, activist spaces, land trusts, and affordable and commodified housing developments.
Through this trip, I learned about community benefit agreements by visiting the Atlantic Yards/
Pacific Park redevelopment. Additionally, I became aware about the injustices that
marginalized residents faced during the redevelopment while watching the documentary “Battle
for Brooklyn.”
This led me to articulate ideas about how the planning process can be more equitable and
inclusive to residents. Furthermore, I became interested in learning about how community
wealth and power could be generated so that money from large development projects could be
invested within local economies for neighbourhood improvements. My supervisor suggested
community benefit agreements as a research topic for my major paper. Through conducting this
research study, I was able to gain a deeper theoretical understanding of my areas of
concentration of community development, gentrification, and participatory planning processes.
As a result, this major paper includes a critical assessment of community benefit agreements
from a multi-scalar approach and involves looking at six case studies across the USA and
I wish to acknowledge the support of my advisor Abidin Kusno and my supervisor Professor
Luisa Sotomayor. When I first started my journey in the graduate program, Professor Kusno
helped me identify my research interests in community development, participatory planning,
and affordable housing during the development of my plan of study. Professor Sotomayor
offered this research topic based on my interests in community development and has
provided consistent encouragement and support throughout the research process. I also wish
to acknowledge the support of my colleague Benjamin Bongolan, MES peers, friends, and
family for supporting me during the process and cheering me on along the way.
Abstract ................................................................................................................................................................ ii
Foreword. ............................................................................................................................................................. iii
Acknowledgments ................................................................................................................................................ iv
Chapter 1: Introduction ....................................................................................................................................... 1
Research Question .................................................................................................................................................. 2
Literature Review ................................................................................................................................................... 3
Methods .................................................................................................................................................................. 8
Chapter 2: The History of CBA Agreements in North America ....................................................................11
Definition of CBAs ...............................................................................................................................................11
The Origin of the CBA ......................................................................................................................................... 12
The Emergence of the CBA in the US context ..................................................................................................... 13
The Emergence of the CBA in the Canadian Context .......................................................................................... 14
Chapter 3: CBA Case Studies in America. ....................................................................................................... 18
Case Study #1: STAPLES CENTRE CBA (LA). ................................................................................................ 18
Case Study #2: Atlantic Yards CBA (NYC) ........................................................................................................ 24
Case Study #3 CBA Expansion of Columbia in West Harlem ............................................................................. 32
Concluding Remarks: Lessons Learned. .............................................................................................................. 40
Chapter 4: CBA Case Studies in Canada. ........................................................................................................ 42
Case Study #4: BC Olympic Village .................................................................................................................... 42
Case Study #5:Woodbine Casino ......................................................................................................................... 48
Case Study #6: Metrolinx CBA ............................................................................................................................ 54
Concluding Remarks: Lessons Learned. .............................................................................................................. 61
Chapter 5: Concluding Remarks: Lessons Learned ........................................................................................ 63
Interview Findings ............................................................................................................................................... 63
Thematic Analysis: The Emergence of Three Themes ......................................................................................... 64
CBAs as a tool for building community power and wealth. ................................................................................ 64
CBAs and their implications for local policy. ...................................................................................................... 68
CBAs and their implications for implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. ................................................... 73
Lessons Learned. ................................................................................................................................................... 75
CBA Implementation: Successes & Challenges ................................................................................................... 76
Community Assessment ....................................................................................................................................... 79
Policy Recommendations ..................................................................................................................................... 81
Chapter 6: Appendix .......................................................................................................................................... 90
Interview Questions .............................................................................................................................................. 90
Bibliography ......................................................................................................................................................... 91
Table of Figures
Figure 1 Smith’s two models for participatory planning. ..................................................................................... 7
Figure 2 Map of STAPLES centre ..................................................................................................................... 19
Figure 3. Rendering of Atlantic Yards Redevelopment ...................................................................................... 22
Figure 4. Map of West Harlem Expansion… ...................................................................................................... 33
Figure 5 Southeast False Creek Site Plan. ............................................................................................................ 43
Figure 6 Rexdale-Casino Woodbine Site Plan .................................................................................................... 48
Figure 7 Map of Eglinton LRT Stationsand Stops .............................................................................................. 54
Figure 8.Thematic Analysis: Emergence of 3 Themes ........................................................................................ 64
Figure 9: Comparison of the Development Process with/without a CBA ............................................................. 67
Figure 10: Arnstein’s Ladder of Citizen Participation ........................................................................................ 80
List of Tables
Table 1: Key actors in STAPLES Center Redevelopment ................................................................................. 18
Table 2 Project targets within STAPLES Center CBA ...................................................................................... 20
Table 3: Gross’s 4 Criteria Checklist ................................................................................................................. 22
Table 4: Key actors in Atlantic Yards Redevelopment ...................................................................................... 24
Table 5: Project Targets within AtlanticYards CBA .......................................................................................... 26
Table 6: Gross’s 4 Criteria ................................................................................................................................. 29
Table 7: Key actors in West Harlem Expansion ................................................................................................ 32
Table 8: Project Targets within West Harlem Expansion. .................................................................................. 34
Table 9: Gross’s 4 Criteria Checklist .................................................................................................................. 38
Table 10: Key actors in Vancouver Olympic Village Redevelopment .............................................................. 42
Table 11: Project Targets within VancouverVillage CBA ................................................................................. 44
Table 12: Gross’s 4 Criteria Checklist ............................................................................................................... 46
Table 13: Key actors in Rexdale-Casino Woodbine Redevelopment ................................................................ 48
Table 14: Project Targets within Rexdale-Casino Woodbine Redevelopment .................................................. 49
Table 15: Gross’s 4 Criteria Checklist ............................................................................................................... 52
Table 16: Project Targets within Rexdale-Casino Woodbine CBA ................................................................... 54
Table 17: Key actors in Metrolinx Eglinton Crosstown Redevelopment ........................................................... 55
Table 18: Gross’s 4 Criteria Checklist ............................................................................................................... 57
Table 19: Comparison of Section 37 and CBAs ................................................................................................ 72
Chapter 1: Introduction
My intention for completing this research study is to understand and evaluate principles of “good
planning,” and to better understand the decision-making powers within the planning process. Due
to community concerns over the impacts of mega-projects, community benefit agreements have
recently emerged as a tool to bring reinvestment back into the community and to allow for more
equitable planning processes (Gross et al., 2015). It is argued that community benefit agreements
are one of the most successful ways in which low-income communities can challenge growth
regimes in a neoliberal society (Saito, 2020, p. 147). What I aim to discover through this research
study includes investigating CBAs within the context of US & Canada and their implications for
urban land development. This research study adopts a multi-scalar approach. This paper serves as a
guidebook for understanding community power and to inspire neighbourhood outreach to address
local concerns and promote equitable planning processes. Drawing from six case studies from a
North American context, through a community development perspective, this paper assesses CBAs
as a tool to ensure accountability, equitable planning, and re-investment into the community.
Community Benefit Agreements ensure accountability within the development process by
mitigating negative impacts such as gentrification and displacement to bring positive outcomes to
affected communities. This study focuses on equitable planning. Community benefit agreements
are seen as part of a larger movement for securing social benefits for neighbourhoods. CBAs along
with CLTs, Co-ops, and Inclusionary Zoning are some of the tools in which investments from
large-scale infrastructure projects can be redistributed back into the community.
CBAs: Definition, Research Question, and Findings
Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs) are legal agreements that are negotiated between
community coalitions, developers, and/or public institutions (Gross et. al, 2008). Community
Benefit Agreements are incorporated within large-scale development projects that can be used
to achieve value-conscious growth (Cain, 2014, p. 934). CBAs are primarily used to promote
the common good and to support planning initiatives. The common good can be described as
economic (employment/financial), social (the hiring of certain groups), and/or environmental
{air quality/green space/conservation (Baxamusa, 2008, p. 263)}. Through a comparative
analysis of case studies within the USA and Canada, this research study aims to define how
community benefits differ based on context, and how these examples offer opportunities for
implementation within Toronto. My argument is that CBAs have the potential to influence and
create equitable planning practices and to foster community engagement. My research question
is therefore, “Through the analysis of case studies within US & Canada, how can
community benefit agreements contribute to the common good and promote equitable
planning practices? How do community benefit agreements differ in these contexts and
how do we define their successes, challenges, and limitations to offer opportunities for
implementation within Toronto?” My findings suggest that community benefit agreements
have the capacity to redistribute wealth into local economies and prevent socio-spatial
segregation. However, CBAs are not feasible for every new development and should be
prioritized in neighbourhoods that have significant community needs such as Toronto’s Priority
Neighbourhoods. Moreover, the success of a CBA is directly related to the effectiveness of
monitoring and enforcement mechanisms.
Hence, mechanisms such as an oversight committee, penalties for noncompliance, and active
enforcement by public officials should be included within all signed community benefit
Literature Review
Community Benefit Agreements (CBAs) are presented as “empowerment model that combines
substantive negotiation, coalition building, and grassroots organizing (Baxamusa, 2008, p. 261).”
Community benefits are related to community organizing efforts and are often facilitated by
coalition building among grassroots organizations (Mizrahi and Rosenthal, 1993). The
implications of community benefit agreements are that they give historically disadvantaged
individuals the opportunity to participate in the planning process (p.60). As a result, CBAs seek
to empower communities by challenging the traditional role that planners have played in the
development process and can be used to bring equitable outcomes from a development to a
community through engagement, negotiation, and reform-based solutions (Baxamusa, 2008).
This literature review suggests that through citizen empowerment, community benefit
agreements can drive social transformation (Maton, 2000). My results are supported by a
literature review of gentrification, community development, and participatory planning
Gentrification within Toronto
Hulchanski’s “Three Cities Within Toronto,” theory describes the socio-spatial segregation of
neighbourhoods and the rise of three distinct cities within Toronto from 1970-2005.
City #1 consists of predominantly high-income areas where incomes have risen relative to the
Toronto Census Metropolitan Area (CMA). City #2 consists of middle-income neighbourhoods
where neighbourhood incomes have remained close to the CMA average since 1970. Lastly, City
#3 consists of low-income areas where the income has fallen over the past few decades compared
to the CMA average and incomes have fallen significantly (p. 1). The relevance of this article to
CBAs is that this study addresses the socio-economic divide in Toronto’s neighbourhoods by
census tract and informs how the government can redistribute this wealth through the use of
community benefit agreements. The socio-spatial polarization described by Hulchanski is caused
by gentrification. This term is defined as the “transformation of areas with relatively high levels
of affordable housing into middle and high-income uses (Hackworth and Smith, 2002).” This
phenomenon in Toronto’s neighbourhoods and is actively raising land values and transforming
neighbourhoods. The article “The Changing State of Gentrification,” describes state-led
gentrification and revitalization as a method for generating revenues. Additionally, Thurber &
Christiano (2019) add that patterns of gentrification are not only income-based but have
implications for gender, age, and class. Lipsitz (2007) states that neighbourhoods of colour are
particularly vulnerable to gentrification through historic policies and practices that segregate,
contain or exploit and/or remove people of colour (p. 12). McLean, Rankin, and Kamaizaki
(2014) describe the long history of spatial inequalities as high- wage earners tended to live
downtown while low-wage under employed service workers lived in the inner suburbs (p. 1287).
The study was conducted in suburban Toronto’s Mount Dennis neighbourhood where active
revitalization was occurring through Metrolinx’s Eglinton Crosstown construction.
In this area, 55% of the population is foreign-born and has the lowest household incomes in
Toronto (p. 1287. This neighbourhood was designated as a priority neighbourhood due to its
low-income status, lack of services, and rising crime rate. Furthermore, it was identified that,
“often the most marginalized and racialized inhabitants of the city are the most vulnerable to
displacement in gentrification processes (p. 1289.” Hence, it is evident that there are structural
inequalities and racialization processes that systemically disadvantage low-income individuals
(p. 1296. Therefore, the visions of marginalized individuals must be included within the
planning process to ensure equity and transparency.
Community development and citizen empowerment
The planning process can be described as political and emphasizes the redistribution of power
(Douglas and Friedmann, 1998. Logan and Molotch (1987 describe the city operating as a
“growth machine,” where business interests particularly those in property investment,
development, and real- estate finance dominate and are one of the most entrenched powers in the
city. The theory assumes that a city’s growth is controlled by an elite group that has land-based
interests in the manipulation of land to increase property values and benefit from the proceeds of
urban growth. In particular, the use of “growth politics” and the rise of an “anti-growth
coalitions” often result in response to new developments (Logan and Molotch, 1987. Molotch
suggests that the rise of anti-growth movements within areas can influence improvement in state
politics (p. 328). Fung and Wright (2003) describe the phenomena of “countervailing power,” as
a variety of mechanisms that reduce or neutralize the power advantages of normally powerful
actors and decision-makers (p. 263).
Hence, community benefit agreements can be used to empower normally weak or disadvantaged
groups. The community benefits movement is most closely tied with Lefebvre’s theoretical
framework on the “right to the city,” and “autogestion.” Lefebvre’s vision for an equitable
planning process is described where “users manage urban spaces for themselves beyond the
control of the state and capitalism (p. 141).” Purcell argues that “the right to the city,” refers to
wider political movements and revolutionary change regarding re-imagining urban space. It is
asserted that the production of space is created based on the needs of property owners and through
capitalism, which regulates and commodifies urban space (p. 149). Furthermore, the idea of
“autogestion,” is discussed where decision- making is made by individuals within grassroots
communities rather than by state officials (p. 147). Through autogestion, community power
develops as individuals realize their power and become capable of managing personal affairs that
in turn require less institutional control. Hence, through meaningful engagement with residents,
social connections can be made and urban spaces can be redesigned. Through community benefit
agreements, residents can reclaim spaces in the city by negotiating use-values over exchange-
values and shaping the spaces that they inhabit alongside city officials and developers.
Participatory Planning and Governance
Community benefit agreements create new models for participation and empowerment within the
traditional planning process. Theorists emphasize the role of participatory processes in transforming
power relations. In order to make community participation more meaningful, the community should
participate and be part of the negotiation process within a new development (Baxamusa, 2008).
Smith’s Theoretical Basis for Participatory
Planning argues, “Participatory planning
increases the effectiveness and
adaptability of the planning process
through a “strengthening of the
definition and role of communities
within the urban system (p. 275).”
It is stated that citizen participation remains outside of the planning process and has not been
structured in a way to allow the positive inclusion of citizen inputs. As a result, two models for
planning has emerged-one of pure hierarchy and the other of a more inclusive reticular
structure (see Figure 1) that allows inputs from citizens in the planning and managing their
communities (p. 276). In terms of participatory governance, “deliberative democracy,”
describes that within the participatory planning process, there must be authentic deliberation
and interactive engagement by associated interest groups to reach a consensus (Fung and
Wright, 2001). Participatory collaboration is a form of governance that involves delegation of
power from higher to lower levels of governance and applies to a wide range of stakeholders
(p. 265). The benefits of participation and collaboration only result from processes that are
inclusive, fair, and free from domination. Asymmetric or unequal power relations exist within
these participatory planning regimes due to varying capabilities, the concentration of interests,
and/or differences in knowledge or experience. This asymmetry in power relations has the
potential to exclude others due to differences. As a result, fair and equitable collaboration can
be difficult to achieve. Hence, balancing community group and development interests can
assist in creating conditions for fair collaboration (p. 266). Planning as a practice does not
much regard for the outcomes of development such as gentrification and impacts on the local
community. Therefore, CBAs can restructure this process by including historically
disadvantaged groups into the narrative by providing social benefits. Social benefits such as
employment, affordable housing, environmental, and community improvements can balance
negative outcomes of a land development, and bring about investment and power back into
these communities (Gross et. al, 2008).
My research method involves examining current developments within North America and
assessing community benefit agreements (CBAs) by offering criticisms and making further
recommendations regarding these projects. This will be done through a literature review of
academic articles, news reports, and the examination of various legal documents. The legal
documents that are critical to securing community benefits include: development agreements
(DA), community benefit agreements (CBAs), and/or memorandums of understanding
(MOU). Through the investigation of these ongoing Community Benefit Agreement case
studies within the research paper, I will assess how CBAs integrate community concerns
within the development process. I will evaluate CBA’s opportunities and limitations for
providing: employment opportunities, community and environmental improvements, and
affordable housing.
In Chapters 3 and 4, I will assess the success and validity Community Benefit
Agreements. To analyze the data I will utilize four key criteria to evaluate the validity
of CBAs identified by scholar Gross (2008). This includes considering 1) if CBAs
involve a single development project, 2) if they are part of a legally-binding contract,
3) if they include a range of community interests, and 4) if they are the product of
substantial community involvement (pp. 39-40).
Within the introduction: Chapter 1, I will introduce my research questions and
methodology. In Chapter 2, I will outline the history of Community Benefit
Agreements in the US & Canada. In Chapter 3, I will use comparative analysis
through the case study approach to analyze the STAPLES CBA (LA), Atlantic Yards
CBA (NYC), and West Harlem Expansion CBA (NYC). In Chapter 4, I will analyze
the Olympic Village CBA (BC), the Rexdale-Casino Woodbine CBA (TO), and the
Metrolinx Eglinton Crosstown CBA (TO). Lastly, in Chapter 5, I present the results of
a total of 10 semi-structured telephone interviews with a variety of stakeholders
involved in the CBA process in Toronto. Participants included community organizers,
researchers, consultants, TCBN members, urban planners, legal assistants, and
academic scholars. My findings from the interviews will be incorporated within the
beginning of the section. In the final analysis of the case studies, I will evaluate,
analyze, and assess the lessons learned from undertaking this research study. This
includes: assessing CBAs effectiveness in implementation, as a mechanism of building
community power and wealth, and their implication for shaping future public policies.
Hence, the components that I will focus on within the analysis include: examining the
implementation of CBAs in different contexts within the USA and Canada,
community assessment of these policies on the ground level and to offer future
policy recommendations.
Chapter 2: The History of CBAs in North America
CBAs: Definitions and Typology
It has been stated that community benefit agreements are one of the most powerful tools that
community groups can leverage to shape development projects (Musil, 2012, p. 827). This can
be done through leveraging public subsidies, organizing the community through sustained
campaigns, and negotiating the community benefits of a proposed planning development
before final city approval and construction begins (Dowlin, 2019). Community Benefit
Agreements are tools for providing equity for community groups impacted by large-scale
development projects. The “benefits,” that a community can receive include: jobs, training,
community amenities, parkland, affordable housing, and public art (Gross, 2008). There are
three types of community benefit agreements: public, private, and hybrid (Graser, 2016, pp.
5). Private CBAs are contracts that are signed between a developer and a community group or
coalition. These tend to be created through community need or initiative. Public CBAs are
contracts signed between a government or government agency and a community group or
coalition. The government in this case, acts as the developer or builds the infrastructure.
Hybrid CBAs are multi- party agreements. The stakeholders include: a developer, government
agency, and usually one or more community groups that are parties to the agreement (Graser,
2016). Community Benefit Agreements have been used in mega-projects in the past, however
they also have the capacity to be used within smaller-scale projects. Citizen involvement and
decision- making in land use planning is controversial and debated. Community Benefit
Agreements have enhanced the role of citizen participation in economic development
decision-making through the involvement of organizations, labour unions, and CBA advocacy
groups (Salkin & Lavine, 2008). Within these legally binding contracts between developers
and CBA coalitions, CBAs establish a process for including community objectives as part of a
development (Larsen, 2009, p. 2).
Once the community benefits are negotiated, the developers apply monitoring, review, and
approval processes (Musil, 2012, p. 829). Although CBAs are outside of the traditional realm of
obtaining land development approvals from government bodies, this new process for land
development allows community groups to engage in negotiations with developers regarding
community amenities (Leroy & Purinton, 2005). In the following section, I will outline the
origins, history and development of community development agreements within the North-
American context.
The origins- IBAs (Impact and Benefit Agreements)
The origin of creating community benefit agreements originally began in indigenous
communities through the Northern Community Impact Benefit Agreement (NCIBA). This
agreement in exchange for indigenous land shows the colonialist practices of land developers
long before modern mega-projects emerged. These agreements were created to mitigate adverse
impacts of developments. Similar to CBAs, an IBA (Impact and Benefit Agreements) is a legally
binding agreement that is developed through a consultation and negotiation process with the
affected indigenous groups. These agreements outline any negative impacts that may result from
the exploitation of the resource (usually mining), mitigation efforts, and how the indigenous
community will benefit with respect to employment, economic development, or other aspects
(Gibson & O’Faircheallaigh, 2015). Furthermore, similar to CBAs, communities negotiate
directly with the developer in order to meet community needs and can decide whether the project
meets community needs and have the right to refuse negotiations if the needs are not met
(Gibson & O’Faircheallaigh, 2015, .p. 11).
Through an analysis of IBA case studies in Nunavut, a mandatory aspect of the Nunavut Land
Claims Agreement, it was found that the distribution of decision-making process were unequal
and interests of governmental, and regional actors were favored over local community,
environmental, and other non- governmental groups (Hitch, 2006). Hence, through this analysis
it can be understood that the relationships and decision- making powers that coexist in signing
legal agreements between the governmental actors and local community are inherently uneven
due to status, authority, and governance principles (Rogers & Murphy, 2015, p. 44). It is
evident that agreements for the provision of community benefits have been used as part of a
routine development process for decades through “the limited mitigation of development
impacts,” in renewable energy, mining industry, major industrial, retail, and residential
developments (Campbell et al., 2000). Only recently, has there been a shift of the provision of
“hard,” to “soft,” infrastructure services such as civic amenities, employment public art,
training, and open space within development projects as benefits allocated to the local
communities (Campbell et al., 2000, p. 766).
The Emergence of CBAs in the USA
The emergence of CBAs began due to changes in the political and urban development process
during the last five decades that can be attributed to promoting a capitalist growth machine
agenda to cut public spending costs and promote public-private partnerships. First, in 1970,
federal and state governments began creating new methods for non-governmental organizations
to become part of the development process (Altshuler & Luberoff, 2003, pp. 230-234). Under
these new policy changes, non- governmental organizations were able to file lawsuits against
impacts of public-private redevelopments that could potentially delay or stop the construction
of a development project (Marantz, 2015, p. 5). Next, in the late 1970s reductions in federal aid
and reduction in property taxes inspired cities to partake in deals with private developers
through the emergence of public-private partnerships through a Neoliberalist agenda (Sagalyn,
1990). Through these partnerships, planning obligations were “a vehicle through which
development- related infrastructure and service provision could be funded (Campbell et al.,
2000, p. 760.” Lastly, in the mid-1990s labour advocacy organizations criticized public-private
partnerships as a form of invisible public spending that was responsible for creating low-wage
jobs and limited economic mobility (Cummings, 2017, pp. 1944-1945. Due to these political
changes, there was a community benefits movement that began in the U.S.A as organizing
campaigns emerged to advocate for equity, and social justice (Gross et al., 2015. These
campaigns enabled public officials, labour representatives and community organizers to
collaborate and negotiate community concerns. As a result, CBA Agreements emerged in the
late 1990s and early 2000s in urban redevelopment projects within the USA (Wolf-Powers,
2010, p. 141. CBAs in the USA were in the form of public- private partnerships to achieve
equitable outcomes from local development projects (Wolf-Powers, 2010, p. 141. Local
governments supported this as part of a pro- growth agenda where cities and states were often
granted tax exemption and public subsidies for developers to allow cities to prosper (Galley,
2015. Currently, there are over 50 CBAs implemented within large-scale developments in the
United States (Salkin and Lavine, 2008. Within mass projects, there are mass opportunities to
secure benefits. Many of the negotiations involve provisions for living wages, first source
hiring programs, low-income housing, and minority hiring promises (Salkin, 2007. Based on
the observations made, the CBAs tend to cluster around cities where the most growth and
redevelopment were occurring including: South California, San Francisco Bay area, and
New York City (Wolf-Powers, 2010).
Contrary to popular belief, the first CBA that emerged in the USA was the Hollywood &
Highland Center CBA in 1998 advocated by the community group LA Alliance for New
Economy (LAANE). This private community benefit agreement involved construction of a
large retail and entertainment district at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and
Highland Avenue in Los Angeles California (Larsen, 2009, pp. 3-4). The $388 million dollar
project included the construction of the Kodak Theatre, a movie theatre, parking lots, hotels,
and 1.2 million square feet of retail (Salkin & Lavine, 2008, pp. 301). The project was
successful as 70% of the employees were local hires and half of the permanent positions
provided living wages (Grady & Leroy, 2006). Furthermore, this CBA inspired another CBA
by LANNE across the street at Hollywood and Vine for a mixed-use transit oriented
development in 2004 with a living wage, affordable housing, and job training opportunities
(Salkin & Lavine, 2008, pp. 301-302). However, the Hollywood and Highland CBA is
argued as not a fully-fledged CBA due to its incorporation into the overall development
agreement and its involvement of council members in the negotiation process (Salkin &
Lavine, 2008, pp. 301). For these reasons, it is often credited that the Staples Centre was the
first genuine CBA agreement. The STAPLES Centre CBA (2001) serves as a model for
future CBAs in many cities worldwide (Been, 2010, p. 3). This CBA is one of the most
comprehensive CBAs to date and includes reporting requirements, a monitoring committee,
and is legally binding, as it is enforceable by the city as well as community groups. This
CBA was negotiated during the construction of the Staples Centre, a sports arena built for
the Los Angeles Lakers (Salkin & Lavine, 2008, pp. 302- 303). This case study will be
explored further in the next chapter.
The Emergence of CBAs in the Canada
The first CBA developed in Canada was for redevelopment of Toronto’s Regent Park
Neighborhood. This revitalization project took place in one of Toronto’s oldest public
housing developments (Galley, 2015). There was significant criticism that arose from this
development to the extent residents were engaged in the discussions and negotiations
(Olatoye, Ong et al., 2019, p. 4). Moreover, critics suggest that the Vancouver Olympic
Village was the first CBA as it was one of the most successful CBAs in Canada (Atkinson
Foundation, 2016). This community benefit agreement was negotiated by three levels of
government and included provisions for job training, environmental and community
improvements and affordable housing. Furthermore, it is stated that this CBA may have
influenced the creation of the CBA policy that came afterwards (Olatoye, Ong et al., 2019,
p. 8). British Columbia became the first province to develop a CBA policy that guides all
social procurement, and infrastructure in the province in practice. The policy was enacted
in order to reduce poverty, as a quarter of Vancouver’s residents are in the low-income
measure, with the second highest income gap of any Canadian city (Olatoye, Ong et al.,
2019, p. 7). The purpose of the policy is to ensure that that development brings
improvement to people’s quality of life and redistribute wealth into the community through
local hiring and social procurement (City of Vancouver, 2017). The CBA policy was
introduced in 2018 for key public sector projects and focused on maximizing
apprenticeship opportunities for major projects, increasing membership in unions, creating
opportunities for employment and lastly, for skill development for indigenous people and
women (City of Vancouver, 2017).
Furthermore, in Toronto, the community benefits movement arose from the development
of the council approved Community Benefits Framework on June 11, 2019 that arose as
initiative from existing policy frameworks including the Social Procurement Policy and
the Poverty Reduction Strategy (City of Toronto, 2019a). Since then, communities and
organizations such as Parkdale People’s Economy, Toronto Community Housing, and
Metrolinx have created their own community benefit frameworks to govern and oversee
these processes. In 2013, the Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN) was created
as an third-party oversight committee directly involved the process of securing
community benefits within Toronto. Since then, this coalition has partnered with over 85
community and labour organizations, social enterprises, as well as anchor institutions and
government officials (TCBN, 2020). TCBN’s five commitments include securing: 1)
construction and trades jobs and opportunities, 2) professional administrative and
technical jobs, 3) local and diverse-owned businesses, 4) community oversight, and 5)
neighbourhood and environmental improvements within major development projects in
Toronto (Participant 3, Personal Communication, 04/24/20). Following this CBA,
subsequently other CBAs became developed in Toronto alongside TCBN including
Eglinton Light Rail Transit, and the Woodbine Casino. Further discussions on these case
studies will be explored in Chapter 4: CBA Case Studies in Canada.
Chapter 3: CBA Case Studies in USA
Through comparative analysis of the three USA case studies I will assess their successes
and challenges by evaluating their mandates for providing: 1) employment
opportunities, 2) community & environmental impacts, and 3) affordable housing within
each community benefit agreement. The three case studies that will be analyzed in this
chapter include: the Staples Center, Atlantic Yards, and the West Harlem Expansion
community benefit agreements. The following case studies will be examined through the
Growth Machine approach. This approach describes cities as growth machines with unified
and powerful growth coalitions that pursue a pro-growth agenda (Cain, 2014). In the
context of the US most of these developments were large- scale and required major public
subsidies from government entities.
Case study #1: STAPLES CENTER (LA)
Table 1: List of key actors in the STAPLES Centre Redevelopment
Community coalition negotiating
directly with the developer (a local
coalition of 29 community groups and
five labour unions)
Governmental agencies involved with the
Corporate Sponsors (hired for the broadcast
media centre).
The STAPLES centre was part of a larger growth machine
agenda to build the third-largest hotel and a Convention
Centre to put the city on a global scale (Vincent &
McGreevy, 2014). The Staples Centre is one of the largest
economic projects build in downtown Los Angeles
spanning a total of 27 acres (Saito & Truong, 2015). The
city of Los Angeles and the company’s goal was to attract
tourists through attractions such as shops, restaurants,
and an entertainment complex (Vincent & McGreevy,
2014). This development would enable a major
economic stimulus to the area. The project includes the
development of two major hotels, plazas for entertainment, retail and restaurants, a convention centre
expansion, 7,000-seat theatre, luxury condominiums, an office tower, housing, and a 45- storey sports
complex (Olatoye, Ong et al., 2019, p. 5). This project was supported through an estimated $150
million in public subsidies through the use of eminent domain (Gross, LeRoy, & Janis-Aparicio,
2005, p.113-114). This proposed development would take place among one of the poorest census
tracts in the city of Los Angeles (Marantz, 2015, p.8). This CBA involved a $4.2 billion LA Sports
and Entertainment District development that was negotiated directly with the Figueroa Corridor
Coalition for Economic Justice (FCCEJ), a local coalition of 29 community groups and five labour
unions (Gross, LeRoy, & Janis-Aparicio, 2005, p.115). The project was completed in 2010, and it
was thought to have “catalyzed a national movement (Saito & Truong, 2015).” As a result of this
project, several other CBAs were modeled after this agreement and increased awareness of the
benefits of CBAs through the creation of an equitable development policy (Olatoye, Ong et al., 2019,
p. 5).
The major players involved in this development included: Anschutz Entertainment Group
(AEG) as the developer, Figueroa Corridor Coalition for Economic Justice (FCCEJ) as the
representative coalitions involved in community benefits negotiations, City Council members
Alex Padilla and Bernard Parks that advocated for community involvement as the corporate
sponsors for the entertainment complex.
STAPLES CBA Project Targets
Table 2: Project targets within the STAPLES CBA. Key targets sorted by: 1)
employment opportunities, 2) community and environmental improvements, 3)
affordable housing.
1) Employment Opportunities
70% of the estimated 5,500
permanent jobs to pay a living
wage or higher.
A total of $100,000 in funding for a
local hiring and job training
program to those displaced, living
within a three miles radius of the
project, or living in low-income
areas across the city.
2) Community and Environmental
A commitment of more than $1
million for the improvement or
creation of parks within a mile radius
of the project through community
A residential parking program that is
to be financed by developers for five
years that will reserve street parking
for residents
3) Affordable Housing
The construction of between 100-
160 affordable housing units, part of
20% of the final project. The units
will be affordable to those earning
below 50%, 60% and 80% of the
area’s median income.
Developers will provide up to
$65,000 in interest-free loans for
non-profit housing developers in the
early phases of project development
within the area.
The CBA Process
On May 3, 2000 the owners of the STAPLES centre announced a plan to transform the property
into a master- planned community with retail, entertainment, hotel, office, and residential zones
(Newton, 2000). Shortly after the developer’s announcement, in 2001, a coalition was formed in
response to the community concerns regarding the Staples Center project (Saito & Truong, 2015).
The main concerns included increased noise, traffic congestion and loss of homes from the
development and an increase in poverty and unemployment in the already low-income community
(Olatoye, Ong et al., 2019). As a result, the Figuera Coalition was formed and included more than
30 community, environmental, labour, social-service, and faith-based groups (Saito & Truong,
2015). The residents who negotiated this CBA consisted of low-income minority populations and
immigrants, and through the negotiation process, the developer gained support from service unions
and community organizations (Olatoye, Ong et al., 2019, p. 6). The negotiated CBA included a
first source-hiring program, living wage requirements for 70% of project jobs, an inclusion of
affordable housing units, parks and recreation investments, and legal services for tenants
(Atkinson Foundation, 2016, pp. 3-4). Furthermore, coalition representatives were to meet with
prospective tenants, to produce annual reports to the city, and comply with the city’s living wage
law to ensure accountability and active monitoring of this CBA (Marantz, 2015, p. 11).
Gross’s Four Criteria Checklist
Table 3: The following checklist is used to evaluate the STAPLES Centre CBA.
It includes Gross’s four criteria which determine the validity of a community
benefit agreement
Criteria Y N
1) They involve a single development
2) They are a legally-binding contract
3) They address a range of community interests
4) They are a product of substantial community
CBA Evaluation: Successes, Challenges & Opportunities for Improvement
Based on Gross’s Four Criteria Checklist, this CBA meets the requirements for validity and
can be used as a blueprint for future similar projects. The Los Angeles Sports & Entertainment
District is a model for future CBA agreements because it is one of the first successful CBAs in
the USA and it clearly outlines the targets for hiring, goals for affordable housing, parks and
recreation facilities (Marantz, 2015, pp. 252). The Figueroa Coalition that was created and the
success of this project has inspired other significant CBAs and creation of legislation in Los
Angeles (Atkinson Foundation, 2016, p. 4). This private CBA is unique as the development
agreement takes community concerns into account and includes input made by community,
environmental and labour groups (Romney, 2001, para. 1). The STAPLES CBA was
enormously successful in negotiating and implementing community benefits.
The project successes included creating an in-depth examination and monitoring of the results
of the CBA’s provisions including affordable housing and local hiring (Saito & Truong, 2015,
p. 263). The main criticisms of the development are that the developer and politicians were
pursuing a pro-growth agenda by funding a sports center development through the use of
eminent domain. Through incorporating the CBA, the developer gained community support
leading to faster approvals of the project, removal of litigation costs, and project delays
(Olatoye, Ong et al., 2019). However, through strong advocacy and support for the
community, the CBA was able to appease both sides by bringing about benefits to residents
and profits to the developers (Saito & Troung, 2015). Parks and Warren (2009) describe that
communities within Los Angeles involved in this process were able to “leverage the
technocratic planning process to build political bargaining powers with developers and to
articulate demands for community benefits (p. 96).” The opportunities for improvement are
that some of the CBA requirements overlap with other contracts and may not be legally
enforceable, and the living wage reports should be made available to the public to ensure
accountability (Marantz, 2015, p. 3). However, this CBA demonstrates how community groups
can ensure that developers enforce obligations, and shows how community groups can use a
CBA to direct public funding to under-served neighbourhoods (Marantz, 2015).
Case Study #2 Atlantic Yards / Pacific Park
Table 4: List of key actors in the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Redevelopment
Key Actors
Forest City Ratner (now Greenland Holdings)
Empire State Development
Corporation MTA/Long Island Rail
The governmental organizations
supporting the project
Celebrities, Mayor Bloomberg
Public spokespeople and
Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn
(DDDB) Prospect Heights Action
Resistance groups
Brooklyn United for Innovative Local
Development (BUILD)
Association of Community Organization for
Reform Now (ACORN)
Brooklyn Oversight and Advisory
Committee (DBOAC)
Community Boards 2, 6, and 8
Supporting groups
History & Background
It can be argued that the Atlantic Yards
development was built using the
mandate of growth machine politics
through the strong support and
influence by the government, Empire
State Development Corporation,
politicians, and the MTA which
strongly supported the development despite opposition. In the New York Post (2013), it states
“Without government incentives, most of [Forest City Enterprises] development projects
would not be economically viable.” Some of the supporters of the CBA agreement included
Governor Pataki, House State Assembly speaker, Senate Majority leader Joseph Bruno, and
Mayor Bloomberg (Been 2010, p. 9). The community group resisting the development
Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) can be as an “anti-growth coalition,” in response
to the development. Atlantic Yards is a public- private partnership made between Forest City
Ratner (now Greenland Holdings) and the Empire State Development Corporation. A public-
private partnership is a partnership negotiated between a city representative and a developer.
These partnerships bypass the traditional planning land use procedure and do not involve
significant public participation (Musil, 2012, p. 841).
As this mega project spans 22-acres, Atlantic Yards is one of the largest redevelopment
projects in New York City’s history (Metrofocus, 2011). This five-billion dollar development
in Prospect Heights was proposed in 2003, but due to lawsuits and a recession, it was
postponed and re-approved in 2009. The Master Plan includes the Barclays arena, a hotel, 15
buildings with zoning for housing, retail, office space, and 8 acres of open space (Pacific Park
Brooklyn, 2020). There is a proposal for a total of 6,400 residential units to be built including
2,250 affordable housing units (City Limits, 2011). Within this development and community
benefit agreement there was a lot of controversies and strong opposition against
theagreement. Eight organizations signed the CBA but over 50 organizations representing
Brooklyn residents signed a petition against the project due to adverse community impacts
(Partnership for Working Families, 2016, p.11). The major players within this case study
included: the developer [Forest City Ratner which later became Greenland Holdings], the two
opposing groups [Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and Brooklyn United for
Innovative Local Development (BUILD), politicians and celebrities praising the development
[Mayor Bloomberg, Jay Z, etc.], and the Empire State Development and the Empire State
Development and MTA were the governmental agencies supporting the project.
Table 5: Project targets within the Atlantic Yards CBA. Key targets sorted by: 1)
employment opportunities, 2) community and environmental improvements, 3)
affordable housing.
1) Employment
10,000 permanent jobs
35% Minority and 10% women construction workers
Job training initiatives, referral and hiring (vague about
Create a “Youth Enterprise program,” where developing
retail space will be operated by students, an after school
program, and a program
to find job placements for “hard to employ youths.”
2) Community and
Developers to award 20% of the total construction
sum to qualified minority firms, and 10% to qualified
women owned firms.
Contribute to a community health centre, a senior citizens
centre, parks and open spaces, arena related programs.
Develop four schools (4) located in the surrounding
Six-acres of open space with walkways, plazas,
terraces open to the public without charge (still in
construction phase).
Within the arena:
-The developer designates particular seats for community
use with priority given to seniors and youth.
-The Arena will be available at a “reasonable rate,” for
community groups use at least 10 times a year.
-The meditation room will be available for community use.
Establish a foundation will “fund sports in disadvantaged
communities, support nonprofit organization, and special
initiatives to work with the prison population.”
Establish a committee on environmental assurance to
address short and long term environmental issues and
report periodically to Coalition on mitigation measures
(not necessary as it is covered by NY environmental
impact statement & review process)
Develop a “Good Neighbor Program,” providing
benefits forpublic housing residents by funding capital
improvements for recreation, libraries, and creating a
job readiness and referral centre.
The CBA requires the developer to fund the appointment
of an “independent compliance monitor,” to oversee the
implementation of the agreement and investigate any
complaints about its implementation (the independent
compliance monitor was never hired.)
3) Affordable
2,250 units of affordable housing (affordable
housing remains unfinished)
50% of the residential buildings built to low and
moderate-income families (however the funding was
not secured to support initiative).
The CBA Process
The land development process began on March 3, 2005, the City and Empire State Development
Corporation signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that gave the developer the power
to take the land (some parcels owned by residents) through eminent domain and to overrule the
existing Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (Been, 2010, p. 6). Eminent domain is the power
of the government to take away a person’s private property to be used for the public good as
long as there is just compensation (Walsh & McNamara, 2009). The development was justified
through the developer stating that the area was blighted and in need of urban renewal (Empire
State Development, pp. 4-5). This project was supported through strong political support
including a pro-growth agenda and the use of “growth politics,” through the use of eminent
domain. This allowed Forest City Ratner to seize properties from 130 homeowners and for the
53 remaining properties; they pressured the state to declare the private property as ‘blighted’,
and seized the property under eminent domain. In October 2006, the resistance group DDDB
filed lawsuits to challenge the state’s environmental impact findings of the ‘blighted’ properties
and to stop the use of eminent domain, unfortunately, they lost both cases (Metrofocus, 2011).
The main critiques were that many opponents view this project as a land grab where major
injustices faced by the community since this redevelopment involved using eminent domain.
Furthermore, the CBA was viewed as a method for silencing community advocates rather than
empowering them. In this redevelopment, there were community groups that emerged that had
not previously existed before (Beilinson, et al., 2011). Within the eight community groups
involved in negotiating the CBA some accusations had conflicts of interest or were being
handpicked by the developer (Salkin and Lavine, 2008, p. 310). This conflict of interest was
further exacerbated through one of the community groups reported to receiving $5 million from
the developer, and several chairpersons from local community boards playing an advisory role
in the negotiations (The Observer, 2005, para. 4). Within the CBA and development proposal
there were promises of many community benefits including 10,000 new jobs, 8-acres of open
space, and 2,250 units of affordable housing (Empire State Development, pp. 4-5). Through
further analysis, it was discovered that contrary to the proposal, most jobs were part-time,
offered to EB- 5 candidates rather than to local hires, and there were about 20-127 construction
workers onsite per day (Oder, 2016). Furthermore, open-space is limited and not open to the
public during the construction phase (Schwartz, 2019). In terms of the current affordable
housing built on-site it was market-level rent costs and did not fulfill the promise of 50% of
residential buildings being built for low-and moderate-income families due to a limited budget
(Oder, 2014). Lastly, the independent compliance monitor was never hired to oversee the
process (Oder, 2016).
Gross’s Four Criteria Checklist
Table 6: The following checklist is used to evaluate the Atlantic Yards
CBA. It includes Gross’s four criteria which determine the validity of a
community benefit agreement.
Criteria Y N
1) They involve a single development
2) They are a legally-binding contract
3) They address a range of community interests
4) They are a product of substantial community
CBA Evaluation: Successes, Challenges & Opportunities for Improvement
Based on Gross’s four criteria checklist, this is an ineffective CBA and requires an
opportunity for improvement. This evaluation is based on the CBA not representing all
community interests and involving substantial community involvement. In the negotiation
process, some community groups were welcome, while others such as Develop Don’t
Destroy Brooklyn, did not get their voices or interests heard during the implementation of
the CBA (Beilinson, et al., 2011). Furthermore, coalition building and inclusive
community engagement were absent in this process (Graser, 2016, p. 9) Therefore this
CBA failed since it lacked transparency. A transparent and inclusive community engagement
process is critical to the success of the CBA since it achieves credibility with the community
(Graser, 2016, p. 9). Hence, this CBA served to disempower rather than empower the
communities that were most impacted by the development (Partnership for Working Families,
2016, p.10). Although the eight community-based groups signed the CBA contract on June 27,
2005, with Mayor Bloomberg as the witness, the agreement was not legally binding since the
MOU had eliminated the legal role of the community board as well as the common uniform land
use review procedure, where the community board would hold a public hearing of the project
(Been, 2010, p. 7).
Atlantic Yards CBA Project Targets
Moreover, the limitations of the CBAs were that most of the benefits that were proposed
disappeared or were delayed to an unknown point (Rosenblum, 2013). Since there was no
“independent compliance monitor,” hired there was no support or mechanism to ensure that the
CBA fulfilled its promises and made the evaluation of the CBAs progress difficult and limited
access to information about the project's impact on the community (Partnership for Working
Families, 2016, p. 12). The opportunities for improvement are that Atlantic Yards CBA serves as
a model for the need for community-led planning initiatives in the planning process. Some
opportunities for improvement include ensuring effective community engagement through the
full project process. Furthermore, the project targets within the CBA is “aspirational, vaguely
described and are difficult to enforce (Partnership for Working Families, 2016, p.10).” Through
my investigation of this case study, there was a lot of information that was not disclosed to the
public during the development stages, and many community groups were not experienced to
negotiate the CBA.
This resulted in a lot of conflict and project delays. Therefore, developers should provide full
project details at each stage of the development to ensure transparency. Lastly, there needs to be
an enforcement mechanism hired to oversee the process and to ensure the project benefits are
fulfilled and reported back to the community (Graser, 2016).
Case Study #3 West Harlem Expansion NYC
Table 7: List of key actors in the West Harlem Expansion.
Key Actor
Columbia University
Empire State Development
Corporation New York City’s
Economic Development
Corporation (EDC)
The governmental organizations
supporting the project
West Harlem Local Development
Corporation (WHLDC)-(includes
9 elected officials, later 5
Public spokespeople and
supporters/stakeholders (including politicians)
John Bickerman (mediator of
WHLDC) Wachtel & Masyr LLP
(counsel to WHLDC)
Office of Corporation Counsel
(offered legal advice to elected
Professional attorney/mediator during CBA
Manhattan’s Community Board 9
Supporting group
Coalition to Preserve Community
(activists from a local group of
Manhattanville expansion critics)
Opposing group
History & Background
This development proposal was for
Columbia to expand its campus into West
Harlem. This 17-acre project included a
budget of $6.38 billion (Paul, 2010) and a
timeline of 20-years for 16-18 new
buildings with residential and commercial
uses (Messina, 2007, para. 2). This 6-
billion dollar project, like Atlantic Yards,
is seen as part of growth machine politics
as it was proposed to create 7,000 new
jobs and was the CBA was strongly advocated by politicians such as Mayor Bloomberg, city
council members, and state senate members (Salkin and Lavine, 2008, p. 314). This CBA has a
long history of being a controversial project for over 40 years, through significant community
opposition (Been, 2010, p. 14). As in the Atlantic Yards development, there was strong
opposition to the use of eminent domain for this redevelopment project by the community
(Messina, J., 2007, para. 6). Similar to Atlantic Yards, the findings of “blight,” where parts of
West Harlem were deemed “substantially unsafe, unsanitary, substandard and deteriorated,” was
used to justify the use of the eminent domain (Franzese, 2011, p. 1092). The development would
displace an estimated 400 people, 1600 jobs, and rezone 35 acres (Angotti, 2006, para. 2). In
both cases, the power of the government’s pro- growth policy the New York State Urban
Development Corporation Act (UDCA), justified taking of private property if the property is
determined to have “blight,” or used in a manner to classify it as a “civic project (McKinney,
2010).” The major players within this case study included Columbia University as the developer,
the governmental entities Empire State Development Corporation, West Harlem Local
Development Corporation (WHLDC), elected officials, professional attorneys, and Manhattan’s
Community Board 9 as the supporting group, and the Coalition to Preserve Community as the
opposing group.
West Harlem Expansion CBA Project Targets
Table 8: Project targets within the West Harlem Expansion CBA. Key targets sorted
by: 1) employment opportunities, 2) community and environmental improvements,
3) affordable housing.
1) Employment
7,000 jobs
The draft commits Columbia to pay a living wage to all
employees on the expanded campus
A mandate to hire local residents and give contracts to
minority and women-owned businesses as well as
fund summer internships for local children.
2) Community
Contribute an additional $11.5 million for local
parks and playgrounds, to use environmentally
friendly construction and design.
To fund a resource center for the community
Creation of a new public school
To create a community resource center to
givelocal residents information about the
construction plans
Fund an assessment of public transportation,
pedestrian and parking needs in the community.
Pay for an assessment of community health needs.
Develop and support a clinic that would provide legal
services and housing advocacy for the local community
(such as assisting local tenants in eviction
Undertake environmental improvements.
Provide a space for a daycare facility.
3) Affordable
A $24 million fund to build affordable housing
in the neighborhood and to provide funding and
services to those displaced by the development.
Pay for improvements to public housing in the
The CBA Process
The land development process officially began in December 2007, when a Memorandum of
Understanding (MOU), and rezoning approvals were signed between community groups
(Amzallag, 2013, para. 5). The main critiques of this development project by the opposing
group Coalition to Preserve Community was that it was an unsafe construction site, there were
potential health hazards through the construction of the level 3 biohazard laboratory in the
basement, the unjustified use of eminent domain to displace Harlem residents and businesses,
and the promised jobs and training opportunities that had not yet appeared within the
development (Stop Columbia, 2020). Another issue that arose was the lack of transparency
and community participation. In an interview podcast on PBS in 2007, Columbia University
president Bollinger stated that only 30% of the jobs would be filled by West Harlem residents
(Kinniburgh, 2013). In the original project plan in 2003, the university initially promised an
expansion would involve a collaborative partnership with the Harlem community (Paul,
2010). However, community participation in this regard was limited due to the major
stakeholders being the main decision- makers, and opposition and concerns from the
community were not considered. On March 22, 2012, members of the Coalition to Preserve
Community, St. Mary’s Congregations for Justice and Peace, Harlem community members
and students from Columbia University marched against Columbia’s expansion plans (Stop
Columbia, 2020). However, no efforts were made by Columbia for reconciliation and to
develop a partnership with the surrounding community consisting of low-income, people of
colour (Paul, 2010).
In an attempt to create a more equitable alternative to the development, the
community drafted a plan called the “197-a planning process.” This document sought
to address the project’s community concerns and achieve redevelopment without the
use of eminent domain and avoid displacement (Angotti, 2006). It was named after
the section of the City Charter (1989) that allows New York’s 59 community boards
to compose plans for adoption by the City Planning Commission and City Council
(Paul, 2010, p 2). Columbia University, however, refused to take this document into
account and continued with its original project plan. It can be argued that there was a
strong pro-growth agenda by government entities and Columbia University chairs that
advocated for the expansion plans as contributing to a “world-class research
university.” The city council acted in Columbia's favour when in December 2007, it
approved both CB9’s 197 plan and Columbia University’s rezoning. Through granting
this approval, it rendered the 197-a invalid through the interpretation of the plans as
policy guidelines rather than law precedents. The rezoning, on the other hand, was a
force of law (Paul, 2010). Again in December 2008, the Empire State Development
Corporation (ESDC), the state’s economic development body acted in Columbia’s
best interests when it approved the use of eminent domain although there was significant
opposition and lawsuits with property owners.
To conclude, through the pursuit of a pro-growth agenda and the characterization of the West
Harlem expansion as a growth machine, presents the unjust narrative of land dominance by
developers and governmental entities to justify displacement. Molotch (1976) explains that
often local universities advocate for growth to increase their local population to sustain its
expansion plans (p. 317). The university’s pro- growth agenda can be explained through the
Coalition to Preserve Community statement that “Columbia created an image of engagement
and their dialogue was not of substance. For years they worked behind the scenes to push their
agenda. They pressured business owners to sell and the city’s housing agency to get rid of
tenants (Angotti, 2006, para. 15).” The City Planning Commission told both parties to “enter
into a dialogue and make good faith efforts to achieve consensus (Angotti, 2006, para. 10.)”
As a result, the West Harlem CBA was signed in May 2009 and promised $150 million worth
of community benefits including $30 million for a university-run public school, $20 million
for in- kind services, and $24 million for an affordable housing fund, however an
undetermined sum of $76 million was set aside to be implemented for the next twelve years
(Williams and Rivera, 2007, para. 30). The funds were to be distributed over 16 years to
provide payment for a public housing area, a new public school, a resource centre for the
community, public transit, pedestrian and parking, a legal services clinic, and a housing
advocacy for the local community. (Been, 2010 p. 19). Furthermore, within the CBA there
was a commitment for a living wage to all employees on campus, to hire residents, minorities,
women-owned businesses, environmental improvements, and provide a space for a daycare
facility (West Harlem Community Benefits Agreement, 2009).
Gross’s Four Criteria Checklist
Table 9: The following checklist is used to evaluate the West Harlem
Expansion CBA. It includes Gross’s four criteria which determine the validity
of a community benefit agreement.
Criteria Y N
1) They involve a single development
2) They are a legally-binding contract
3) They address a range of community interests
4) They are a product of substantial community
CBA Evaluation: Successes, Challenges and Opportunities for
Based on Gross’s four criteria checklist this CBA requires opportunity for
improvement based on its merit as a non-legally binding contract, conflicts of interest,
and limited engagement with the community. In this case, this agreement was used as
a mechanism to prevent opposition by the community and a trade-off rather than
directly working with the community to create a plan that avoids displacement and
creates empowerment. This is due to the MOU being signed and not outlining specific
details of the agreement that the CBA is not legally binding (Salkin and Lavine, 2008,
p. 316). Furthermore, within this CBA development corporations and local
community leaders were created as a community negotiating body. However, local
elected representatives often had a conflict of interest and the process became
politicized (Been, 2010, p. 16). It was unclear which interests were being promoted.
Columbia’s rezoning plan was approved at the same time as the contradictory
rezoning proposal was made by the local community board (Sheikn, 2009, p. 232). The main
critiques were although City officials did not negotiate the CBA directly, they played a role in
the development process. The Mayor’s office elected Watchtel & Masyr LLP, a firm with
significant experience with CBAs as counsel to the WHLDC, as a professional mediator to
facilitate the CBA negotiations (New York City Bar, 2010, p. 22). Furthermore, the Office of
Office of Corporation Counsel offered legal advice to elected officials part of the WHLDC
(New York City Bar, 2010). Through this analysis, elected officials had an opportunity to
influence outcomes and promote pro-growth agendas through the CBA within the hiring of
legal attorneys in the negotiation process. The project successes to-date the CBA promises have
been upheld, however, through analyzing this project’s history, it can be stated that community
concerns of displacement had not been addressed. However, since the 16- year project
continues it is early to say if the obligations have been fulfilled (Fisher, Zients & Donnely,
2015). The opportunities for improvement are to ensure effective enforcement a mechanism for
monitoring, enforcement, and compliance is required to ensure the success of this CBA.
Concluding Remarks: Case Studies in the US
Through investigation of the U.S. case studies, the community advocated for benefits in
government- supported large-scale projects including sports stadiums, and university
expansions. Scholars state that urban development is critical for city growth and
economic prosperity, however, gentrification has led to inequitable outcomes for
racialized, low-income, and marginalized communities. For instance, in December 2011,
African American’s unemployment rates were twice that of their white American
counterparts (Severin, 215). The essay “The Changing State of Gentrification,”
examines a history of systemic gentrification within New York’s Neighbourhoods and
the findings were that the state (at the city and federal level) had direct involvement in
organizing and encouraging gentrification (Hackworth and Smith, p. 469.) This is
significant since most major infrastructure projects are state-led. In “The City as a
Growth Machine (1976),” Molotch describes the historical development of major
American cities as “an expression of the interests of land-based elites that profit from
the intensification of land (p. 309).” This regime continues today through the allocation
of public resources and local land-use agendas. (Molotch, 1976). Through analysis of
the New York city case studies, it is evident that the large-scale developments were
supported by government funding and policies. Through governmental support
including gaining zoning approvals, and through the use of“eminent domain,” this
allowed a process of creative destruction where lower- income minority populations
were displaced in the process. Community Benefit Agreements provide an opportunity
to minimize impacts of gentrification and to provide equitable outcomes to under-
served communities through community benefit agreements. Through investigation of
the U.S. case studies it can be stated that the U.S. model for securing CBAs is a
bottom-up approach. This approach is where a coalition is created to advocate
community benefits through community involvement. The grassroots organization puts
the pressure on decision-makers with them to secure an agreement that represents the
community’s interests (Atkinson Foundation, 2016, p. 4).
Chapter 4: CBA Case Studies in Canada
Through a comparative analysis of the three Canadian case studies, I will assess their
successes & challenges by evaluating the 1) employment opportunities, 2) community &
environmental impacts, and 3) affordable housing present for each community benefit
agreement. Lastly, I will provide critiques of their limitations and opportunities for
improvement. The three case studies that will be analyzed in this chapter include: the BC
Olympic Village, the Rexdale-Casino Woodbine, and the Eglinton Crosstown community
benefit agreements. These case studies will be examined through the Growth Machine
approach, which conceptualizes cities as growth machines with unified and powerful elites as
growth coalitions that pursue a pro-growth agenda (Cain, 2014).
Case Study #4: Vancouver’s Olympic Village
Table 10: List of key actors in Vancouver’s Olympic Village Redevelopment
Key Actors
Millennium Southeast
False Creek Properties
BOB (Building Inner City
Community coalition negotiating directly with the
developer (a local coalition of 29 community
groups and five labour unions)
City of Vancouver
Governmental agency involved with the project
Fox Entertainment Group
Corporate Sponsors (hired for the broadcast
media centre).
Vancouver Organizing
Committee Olympic
Supporting Group
Resistance Group
History & Background
As part of Molotch’s pro- growth agenda
the construction of sports arenas and
stadiums to host events are often
celebrated and advocated by
governmental officials and politicians
(Cain, 2014). In the Vancouver 2010
Winter Games, there were initiatives to
mitigate some of the adverse impacts
on local communities (Gold, 2017, p.
226). Before, the Olympic Games
occurred, there were plans to gain community group approval during the early stages of project
build-out. As a result, there was a series of urban renewal initiatives and the creation of the Inner
City Inclusivity Statement (ICICS) to protect the interests of affected low-income communities
(Vanwynsberghe, Surborg & Wyly, 2013). Furthermore, there was a proposal to develop an
Olympic Village on False Creek, and there was a CBA agreement signed to gain community
approval (Scherer, 2011). Within the project proposal, the Olympic Village was the first phase of
the Southeast False Creek Community Plan to be completed before the 2010 Olympic and
Paralympic Games (The City of Vancouver et al., 2010, p. 7). This included the construction of
14 residential buildings (out of 1,100 housing units, 250 would be affordable, and 110 would be
rental units), 70,000 square feet of retail space, a community centre, and several structures that
would house athletes and officials and be converted to permanent residential housing after the
games (City of Vancouver, 2012). Future phases of the project were said to include more than
5,000 residential units, a full-sized community centre, a non-motorized boating facility, 3-5 child
care centre and child care facilities, an elementary school, and 10 hectares of open space (City of
Vancouver, 2012, p. 2) The major players involved in this case study include Millennium as the
Developer, Building Inner City Businesses (BOB), as the representative of communities and
primary negotiator, the City of Vancouver as the main governmental agency representing the
project, the Olympic Resistance Network as the resistance group, and the Vancouver Organizing
Committee as the supporting group.
BC Olympic Village CBA Project Targets
Table 11: Project targets within the BC Olympic Village CBA. Key targets sorted
by: 1) employment opportunities, 2) community and environmental improvements,
3) affordable housing
1) Employment Opportunities
100 jobs for inner-city residents
(instead 120 residents employed)
$750,000 to support inner-city hiring
and procurement,
$15 million inner city
procurement (instead, $42 million
in goods and services procured).
10 construction training courses,
and 6 pre-employment training
courses delivered.
2) Community and
New inner-city business registry
with over 200 inner-city
construction businesses
3) Affordable Housing
252 units of affordable housing
(not part of CBA agreement, but
part of Development Agreement).
The CBA Process
An earlier process of securing agreements led the way for the social and economic benefits. This
included the Vancouver Agreement of 2000 (Peachey, 2009, p. 2). This initiative involved all
three levels of government to support sustainable social, economic, and community
development of the Vancouver inner-city, and inclusivity commitments to maximize
opportunities and mitigate impacts from the Games in the inner city in 2003
(Vancouver Agreement, 2010). However, critics state that this initiative's main goal was to
revitalize and develop Vancouver’s inner cities particularly the Downtown Eastside due to its
high rates of poverty, crime, and homelessness crisis (City of Vancouver, 2020). In 2003, the
Inner-City Inclusivity Commitments (ICI) framework was formed by three forms of government
to maximize and mitigate potential impacts from hosting the Olympic Winter Games within
inner- city neighborhoods (Vancouver 2010 Olympics, 2019). However, when the bid to host
the winter games were unsuccessful, the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) adopted
the ICI. Additionally, the BOB (Building Inner City Businesses) organization was formed in
2005 and acted as a primary negotiator within the Community Benefit Agreement that followed
(Graser, 2016, p. 15). In its role as a negotiator, it acted as the primary community
representative that acted on the feedback of community organizations and representatives. The
Olympic Resistance Network was the anti-growth coalition in this narrative that attempted to
disrupt the 2010 Winter Games Olympic torch run in an attempt to raise awareness of the
detrimental effects of the Olympic Games including homelessness, building on indigenous land,
and pursuit of capitalist agendas (Grainger, 2010). In 2007, a hybrid CBA was created for the
Vancouver Village.
This CBA was signed with the City of Vancouver, Millennium Properties, and the developer to
support job provision to local residents, business procurement strategies, and funding to support
community benefit initiatives (Graser, 2016, p. 5). The CBA included 100 jobs for inner city
residents, $750,000 to support inner-city hiring and procurement, and $15 million in inner-city
procurement as well as a new inner-city business registry (Peachey, 2009, pp. 3-4). The property
would house the athletes during the 2010 Winter Olympics and then be opened to residents after
the games were completed (Peachey, 2009).
Gross’s Four Criteria Checklist
Table 12: The following checklist is used to evaluate the Olympic Village
CBA. It includes Gross’s four criteria which determine the validity of a
community benefit agreement.
Criteria Y N
1) They involve a single development
2) They are a legally-binding contract
3) They address a range of community interests
4) They are a product of substantial community
CBA Evaluation: Successes, Challenges & Opportunities for Improvement
Based on meeting Gross’s four criteria and through further analysis this CBA the
Vancouver CBA is considered a success. Through analysis, it can be stated that the
project targets outlined in the CBA for the developer were concise and easy to follow. In
the end, the targets proposed surpassed the $15M procurement target. In total, $42
million was spent on providing goods, services, and equipment to inner- city businesses
(Peachey, 2009, p. 16). Additionally, 120 construction jobs were secured and jobs and
apprenticeship programs gave first preference to inner-city residents (Graser, 2016, p.
15). Other mechanisms were used successfully from the negotiation to the evaluation
stage, regular progress reports, income support for job trainees, and customized design
of employment programs to the targeted population (Graser, 2016, p. 15). The main
critiques that arose from this CBA include: job stability and job suitability. In terms of
job stability, construction jobs were often not short-term contracts based on specific
building sites. Therefore, there is a lack of long-term placements in this CBA. In terms
of job suitability, not all residents are suitable for the physical strength, endurance, and
overall health needed to support this project. For instance, construction jobs favour men
over women or youth, and are not for people with disabilities (Peachey, 2009, p. 14).
The opportunities for improvement are although a new neighbourhood was built within
the Olympic Village many of the services were not accounted for. For instance, after 10
years there is still no school in the neighbourhood that was promised before the 2010
Olympics (Agahi, 2020). Another issue was that the development of the Olympic
Village is criticized by going over budget (Peachey, 2009). The areas of improvement
include that the developer, governmental entities, and local politicians had a pro- growth
neo-liberal approach when designing the project plan and CBA agreement (Gold,
2017,p. 227). For future endeavors, the involved parties should consider social inclusion
within large- scale projects and promote the inclusion of community groups when
undertaking major decisions. Hence, more effective community engagement and
monitoring need to be taken ensure the community needs continue to be met within this
Case Study #5: Rexdale-Woodbine Casino CBA
Table 13: List of key actors in the Rexdale-Woodbine Casino Redevelopment
Key Actors
Great Canadian Gaming GTA LP
(includes a partnership with Great
Canadian Gaming, Brookfield Business
Partners and Clairvest Group)
One Toronto Gaming
Woodbine Casino operator
City of Toronto
OLG (Ontario Lottery and Gaming-
owned by the government of Ontario)
The main government agencies involved
in the project
Toronto Community Benefits Network
Primary negotiators and representatives
of the community in this development
Rexdale Rising
Rexdale’s Community Organizing for
Responsible Development (CORD)
Main community groups are responsible
for advocating and negotiating benefits.
The Rexdale-Woodbine Casino
expansion is a $1 billion project that
includes a casino, two hotels, several
restaurants, retail stores, a theatre, and
a training center on the existing
Woodbine Racetrack site in the
Rexdale neighbourhood in Toronto.
(Olatoye, Ong et al., 2019). The
Rexdale-Casino Woodbine
Community Benefits Agreement was
created through community
intervention and is the first CBA coordinated by the municipal government agency in Toronto. (City of
Toronto, 2020).
In the first two years of gaming 40% of total employees
will have full time employment. In the next two years,
50% of the total employees will have full-time
40% new hires through local or social hiring {Local
hiring indicates employment opportunities for people in
the Woodbine local area. Social hiring includes
employing people who self-identify with an equity
seeking group, or face barriers to employment (City of
Toronto, 2019a).}
1) Employment
Rexdale-Casino Woodbine CBA is an example of a public CBA that was signed by City of
Toronto and One Toronto Gaming (formerly OGGLP). One Toronto Gaming was formed as a
partnership between the developer Brookfield Business Partners and the Great Canadian Gaming.
TCBN is a community advocacy group that led a campaign to make the community’s expectations
known to City Council, One Toronto Gaming, and City of Toronto staff. Through the development
of project targets and effective community engagement with residents and stakeholders, it
influenced the creation of the City of Toronto Community Benefits Framework that was passed in
council in July 2019. The major players involved in this case study include: the developer: Great
Canadian Gaming, GTA the City of Toronto, Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG), One Toronto
Gaming, the Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN) and the involved community group
Rexdale Rising.
Rexdale-Woodbine Casino CBA Project Targets
Table 14: Project targets within the Rexdale-Woodbine Casino CBA. Key targets
sorted by: 1) employment opportunities, 2) community and environmental
improvements, 3) affordable housing
10% annual procurement through local or diverse suppliers
10% of construction hours through local or social hiring
A target to develop a 20-year Employment and Labour
Market Plan that includes career mentoring, recruitment
opportunities, scholarship opportunities, and job
opportunities for people with criminal records.
2) Community and
$5 million towards a child care centre.
1 community event per month in an entertainment
venue at little to no cost.
An international marketing plan and the creation
of responsible gambling measures.
3) Affordable
4) Monitoring
& Public
The monitoring of the CBA will be evaluated by:
-a) Community Steering Committee (organized by the City of
-b) Casino Woodbine Responsible Gambling Oversight
Committee (organized by OLG)
-c) Employment & Labour Market Advisory Working
Group (organized by One Toronto Gaming).
One Toronto Gaming to provide quarterly and annual
reports to the public on the CBA commitments.
There will be an annual city staff member to report to
City Council and produce additional staff reports (when
The CBA Process
The Rexdale-Casino Woodbine CBA came about when the government of Ontario was interested
in expanding the gaming types that take place at Casino Woodbine. When the proposal was
introduced it was known as “Woodbine Live,” and it was approved by the City of Toronto.
However, this development never occurred due to the developer backing out (Rexdale Rising,
2018). In August 2017, OLG started the procurement process to find a new developer to redevelop
the existing site. The Provincial government through OLG wanted to expand to table gaming. For
OLG to expand gaming, it needed approval from the City of Toronto. Furthermore, there was a
lack of consensus on what direction to proceed. Some members of city council wanted to expand
gaming, as it would bring more economic development opportunity and growth through new jobs,
hotels, and restaurants for Rexdale community. On the other hand, other council members were
opposed and stated that expanded casino would bring more crime, traffic, problem gambling, and
didn’t want to bring this to the Rexdale neighbourhood. The compromise was to create a
community benefit agreement to reserve jobs and community benefits for Rexdale (Participant 7,
Personal Communication, 05/08/20). A year later in 2018, the CBA was signed with the operator of
the Woodbine Racetrack: One Toronto Gaming and the City of Toronto after a decade of
mobilization by the community for the inclusion of local needs and benefits within development
projects (Nanji, 2019). The goal of the CBA was to mitigate the negative effects of the expanded
gaming development to gain opportunities to benefit the community and all equity-seeking groups
across Toronto (City of Toronto, 2019b). The Rexdale-Casino Woodbine CBA included specific
requirements that One Toronto Gaming to adhere to.
The targets include 40% new hires through local or social hiring, 10% annual procurement through
local or diverse suppliers, 10% of construction hours through local or social hiring, $5 million
towards a child care centre and annual monitoring One Toronto Gaming to provide quarterly and
annual reports to the public on CBA commitments (City of Toronto, 2019).
Gross’s Four Criteria Checklist
Table 15: The following checklist is used to evaluate the Rexdale Woodbine Casino
CBA. It includes Gross’s four criteria which determine the validity of a community
benefit agreement.
Criteria Y N
1) They involve a single development
2) They are a legally-binding contract
3) They address a range of community interests
4) They are a product of substantial community
CBA Evaluation: Successes, Challenges & Opportunities for Improvement
Based on meeting Gross’s four criteria and through further analysis this CBA the Rexdale-
Woodbine Casino is considered a success. Furthermore, this development does not displace any
residents as the development is built on the existing Woodbine Casino, and addresses long-term
community concerns through the incorporation of the legally binding CBA. Through this
agreement, there is evidence that there was significant community involvement. After the CBA
was signed, Rosemarie Powell, the Executive Director of TCBN exclaimed: “The Rexdale
community has a lot to be proud of this is a big step towards securing an agreement that can result in
good jobs for residents (TCBN, 2018).”
Through analysis, the targets are seen as clear and achievable and some targets have been
surpassed. To date, the CBA targets are on track, and a total of 1,150 new employees have
been hired. In total, 11% (134 individuals) were local while 72% (828 individuals) were social
hires (City of Toronto, 2019a). Of these hires, 60% (950 individuals) are employed full-
time. Ontario Gaming has contributed $5 million for the development of a childcare center to
benefit Casino Woodbine residents and employees. This is significant because Rexdale had one of
the lowest childcare rates (22%) across the city, and the development of a new childcare centre
was a major achievement for the community (Rexdale Rising, 2018). Furthermore, an oversight
committee was created which includes two community members, TCBN and United Way
representatives and the developer will meet every quarter to review outcomes and address
concerns (Participant 6, Personal Communication, 05/06/20). Lastly, the city will provide yearly
updates on the progress of the CBA, and the construction completion is expected to be in 2021
(City of Toronto, 2020).
Case Study #6: Metrolinx Eglinton Crosstown CBA
Table 16: List of key actors in the Metrolinx Eglinton Crosstown Redevelopment
Key Actor
Toronto and York Region
Labour Council
The public agency spearheading the project
Toronto Community Benefits
Third-Party Negotiator
City of Toronto
Little Jamaica & Golden Mile
(Toronto neighbourhoods affected by
LRT construction)
Resistance group
United Way Toronto
Supporting group
The Eglinton Crosstown LRT is
Metrolinx’s first CBA program and is
the largest transit history expansion in
the history of Toronto. In 2007, the
redevelopment expansion was
announced and it includes a 19-kilometer
light rail line that runs through a series of
high- priority neighbourhoods (Graser,
Figure 7: Map of Eglinton LRT Stations and Stops
Source: Metrolinx (2020). Stations and Stops [electronic]
Retrieved from:
2016, p. 15). The Crosstown is said to have up to 25 stations, 54 bus routes, three subway
1) Employment Opportunities
stations as well as various GO lines (Crosslinx, 2016). The CBA signed by TCBN and Metrolinx
commits to local hiring and social procurement within the construction of the new transit line and to
leverage the $5.3 billion infrastructure investment to create economic opportunities for residents from
historically disadvantaged groups (TCBN, 2017). The major players involved in this case study
include: Metrolinx as the developer, Toronto and York Region Labour Council, and City of Toronto
as the partner public agencies, the Toronto Community Networks (TCBN) as the hired third-party
negotiator, and Little Jamaica and the Golden Mile community as the opposing group, and the United
Way Toronto as the supporting group.
Metrolinx Eglinton Crosstown CBA Project Targets
Table 17: Project targets within the Metrolinx Eglinton Crosstown CBA. Key targets
sorted by: 1) employment opportunities, 2) community and environmental improvements,
3) affordable housing.
46,000 jobs (Total number of
jobs to be determined after
project completion)
100% of all new apprentices
working on the Crosstown LRT
project hired through existing
union-run, pre- apprenticeship
programs that support equity-
seeking and historically
disadvantaged groups (Later, the
target was signed on November 16,
2016, that the goal was workers
from historically disadvantaged
and equity-seeking groups would
perform 10% of all trade or craft
working hours on a trade-by- trade
basis (Metrolinx, 2016).
To support internationally trained
professional immigrants in securing
jobs in their field (no program was
initiated for immigrant employers
after the agreement was signed by
Metrolinx on April 23, 2014).
2) Community and
Environmental Improvements
3) Affordable Housing
The CBA Process
In 2003, a citywide coalition of grassroots community groups, social agencies and trade unions formed
the Toronto Community Benefits Network building on many of the efforts from a previous
neighborhood coalition known as the Mount Dennis Weston Network (Nugent, p. 93). The goal was to
create a CBA to equitably distribute jobs and economic benefits to the Crosstown LRT due to
Toronto’s deepening socio-spatial polarization (Hulchanski, 2010) and the fact that it would run
through nine of Toronto’s Priority Neighbourhoods containing low- income, racialized, and under
serviced inner suburbs (Rankin & McLean, 2015). In spring 2014, Metrolinx, TCBN, a coalition of 80
labour and community groups successfully negotiated the CBA for the construction of the
Eglinton Crosstown. (TCBN, 2018). The CBA framework was developed through input from
impacted communities along the Eglinton Crosstown LRT line (Dragicevic, and Ditta, 2016). The
Framework includes working toengage communities, recruit job seekers through apprenticeship
programs, and to communicate about the opportunities to communities affected (Nugent, 2017, p.
95). Later, these community benefit clauses were included in a formal agreement between Metrolinx,
Infrastructure Ontario, and Crosslinx. (Graser, 2016, p. 15). The Community Benefit Agreement
(CBA) outlines apprenticeship opportunities, opportunities for hiring skilled newcomers, and
neighborhood improvements. The achievements that were associated with the implementation of the
CBA include 10% of all trade or craft working hours are to be performed by historically
disadvantages residents, the hiring 50 newcomers, and the preservation of the Kodak building as a
historical site that will be incorporated into the design of Mount Dennis LRT station and made
available for community use (Olatoye, Ong et al., 2019, p. 12).
Gross’s Four Criteria Checklist
Table 18: The following checklist is used to evaluate the Eglinton
Crosstown CBA. It includes Gross’s four criteria which determine
the validity of a community benefit agreement.
Criteria Y N
1) They involve a single development
2) They are a legally-binding contract
3) They address a range of community
4) They are a product of substantial
community involvement
CBA Evaluation: Successes, Challenges & Opportunities for Improvement
Based on Gross’s four criteria checklist this is an ineffective CBA and requires an opportunity for
improvement. This evaluation is based on its merit as an infrastructure project (rather than a single
development), its status as a non-legally-binding contract, and its inability to address a range of
community interests (by having a narrow focus on only employment opportunities). Rather than a
formal agreement, Metrolinx instead committed to a “community benefits program,” that offered a
“range of employment, training, and apprenticeship opportunities for historically disadvantaged
communities and equity- seeking groups as well as encouraging the provision of goods from local
supplies and social enterprises (Metrolinx & Toronto Community Benefits Network, 2014).” The
success of this CBA is as a large infrastructure project, this agreement has the potential for creating
local job benefits as well as providing large financial returns for the community and local businesses
(Nickle, 2019). In terms of monitoring, the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities and the
United Way worked in partnership to identify the skills gaps in neighbourhoods along the Eglinton
Crosstown LRT to identify needs in future coordination, training, and employment requirements
(Metrolinx & Toronto Community Benefits Network, 2014). Metrolinx agreed to include the Toronto
Community Benefits Network in a working group that would facilitate the monitoring
and evaluation of the framework, and to perform outreach (Nugent, 2019, p. 80). Furthermore, this
CBA will serve as a test case for future major infrastructure projects (Metrolinx & Toronto
Community Benefits Network, 2014). Metrolinx's CBA was created from the Community Benefits
Agreement Model, and it is strongly supported in provincial policies such as Bill 6: Infrastructure for
Jobs and Prosperity Act.
In addition, there will be a $130 billion investment in new provincial infrastructure for the next 10
years that includes a framework for Community Benefit agreements when making decisions regarding
investments (Galley, 2015). The challenges of this CBA are that “historically disadvantaged
communities,”remains an undefined term and makes it easy to add additional worker groups that count
towards the 10% target (Nugent, 2007, p. 103). Furthermore, the target of 10% is much lower than the
original target proposed by TCBN, which was the hiring of 100% of historically disadvantaged and
equity-seeking groups including a well-versed definition of these groups in the original Network’s
CBA proposals (Metrolinx & Toronto Community Benefits Network, 2014). Within the CBA there
was a program allocated to support internationally trained immigrants in securing jobs in their field.
However, no program was initiated after Metrolinx signed the agreement. Moreover, there is limited
monitoring of the promises of apprenticeship opportunities as there is a promise of 46,000 jobs after
project completion but there is no information on the current number of jobs currently allocated to
local hires. The current criticisms of this project are that it was stated that Metrolinx expects the
Eglinton LRT to be completed by 2021, however, due to large project delays, that does not seem
applicable and the completion date is pushed back to 2022 (Gooch, 2020).
Additionally, the historic Little Jamaica community located on Eglinton West was heavily impacted by
the construction of the LRT through the closure of many businesses. It is estimated that due to
construction 40-45% of businesses have closed or relocated since construction started (McLean, 2019).
As a result, communities like Little Jamaica could be eradicated in the construction phase of this
development. Another community that was negatively impacted by the Eglinton Crosstown expansion
includes the Golden Mile Business complex of East Scarborough.
Similar to Little Jamaica, access to the local businesses is limited and many have had to cut down on
employees, and business is down 50% due to Eglinton LRT construction (CBC News, 2019). The
opportunities for improvement for the future are to develop a system to ensure CBA monitoring,
accountability, as well as a procedure for public reporting. Currently, there is no process in place for
collecting demographic data necessary to evaluate the community benefits program. Furthermore, the
scope of the project is too broad, as it does not involve a single development, and runs through many
neighbourhoods in Toronto. Hence it is a challenge to measure and evaluate the impact of the
employment benefits that have been allocated within each residential area.
Concluding Remarks: Canadian Case Studies
Through investigation of the Canadian case studies, the growth machine ideology was evident
through the partnerships made with city and provincial officials in the development of major
publicly funded infrastructure projects (i.e. transit projects, sports arenas, and casinos). Molotch
(1976) explains that local politics use national policies that create a regime that influences the
growth machine and creates priorities and new opportunities for urban civic life (p. 329). Through
this analysis, it can be indicated that it can be stated that the Canadian model for securing CBAs is a
hybrid of the bottom-up and top-down approach. In this case, municipal and provincial governments
are providing more policy leadership than within the US, and are working towards a system where
community benefits can be required by law as part of major government procurements (Atkinson
Foundation, 2016, p. 4). My findings suggest that this approach can bring significant benefits to the
community if priority is given by governments to advance these initiatives and is supported by all
three levels of government In particular; the federal government plans to invest $120 billion in
infrastructure developments, while the province will invest $137 billion (Atkinson Foundation,
2016). Within these large sums of money can be reinvested into the community through community
benefit clauses. Through government intervention, community visions can be realized.
Through Hulchanski’s analysis on “The Three Cities within Toronto (2010),” it is evident that socio-
spatial polarization based on gender, age, and class exists within major Canadian cities including
Toronto. The idea of the “right to the city,” was a slogan proposed by Lefebvre and has since been
adopted by social movements, and local authorities as a call to action to reclaim the city as detached
from the effects of gentrification and rise of socio-spatial inequality.
By reclaiming our urban spaces through community benefit agreements, residents can achieve
Lefebvre’s principle of the “right to the city.” This theory highlights the opposition that exists
between the use-value and the exchange- values within a city. The use-value refers to the communal
use of land, while the exchange-value emphasizes the privatization of land through the creation of
spaces that can be sold and bought and through the consumption of products (Lefebvre, 1996, p.
17). Lehrer and Wieditz add to this narrative in their publication “Condominium Development and
Gentrification.” It is stated that the emerging condo towers contribute to the growing spatial
segregation that exists in the city through gentrification (Lehrer, U., Wieditz, T., 2009, p. 141).
Campaigning for radical changes enhances community power and decision-making. This allows
communities to have the chance to transform and reshape their neighbourhoods based on their needs
rather than those of property owners (Purcell, 2013). Through citizen participation in planning and
decision-making processes, the principles incorporating participatory planning practices to build
equitable communities can be manifested. This includes an emphasis on resident involvement in
neighbourhood planning practices and contributing to improvements in community amenities and
environmental conditions.
Chapter 5: Interview Findings
Nine semi-structured interviews were conducted with a variety of stakeholders who have been
involved in the CBA negotiation process including community advocates, researchers,
governmental agencies, and third-party mediators in the Greater Toronto Area. Some research
participants had more knowledge and experience in negotiating CBA agreements than others.
Through this study, I attempt to connect and assess responses in regards to my research question
of “How can case studies on CBAs within the US & Canadian context serve as a model to
achieve equitable planning? How do community benefit agreements differ in these contexts and
how do we define their successes, challenges, and limitations to offer opportunities for
implementation within Toronto?” For my interview findings, I utilized the research method
“thematic analysis,” designed by Braun & Clarke (2006). In this section, I will provide an
overview of the research participant’s responses to my research questions and describe CBA’s
opportunities for implementation within Toronto. The three main themes that I discovered within
my research data include: CBAs as a tool for building community power and wealth, CBAs and
their implication for local policy, and CBAs and their implications for implementation,
monitoring, and evaluation.
Thematic Analysis
CBAs as a tool for building community power and wealth
My interview findings suggest that there was a consensus among all parties that community benefit
agreements could contribute to the creation of power and wealth. This could be done through the
promotion of increased community engagement, affordable housing, and equitable planning
processes. However, these responses offered mixed-review critiques of CBAs and their mechanisms
to ensure accountability. Participants described that community benefits were a method of building
1) CBAs as a tool for building community power and wealth
2) CBAs and their implications for local policy.
3) CBAs and their implications for implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
community power and that this could be done through the opportunity to get engaged and to extract
benefits from large infrastructure projects to collect funds to support their local economies (Participant 9,
Personal Communication, 06/16.20). A majority of the participants explained that CBAs could offset
many of negative impacts that can arise from a new development including gentrification, displacement,
and increased traffic. As well, CBAs create opportunities for historically disadvantaged communities to
make an impact in their communities such as jobs, training, and mentorship opportunities. Within the
interviews, it was stated that CBA’s had the potential to contribute to more equitable planning processes.
CBAs were described as “an incredible tool to demonstrate how communities can benefit from
investments in the community. Benefits are usually abstract, and it is difficult to see economic benefits
within development projects (Participant 1, Personal Communication, 04/09/20).” The impact that
community benefit agreements could add to creating an equitable planning process is through including
minority, marginalized, and racialized community members that have previously been left out of these
development processes. This can be done through engagement with low-income or unemployed
individuals through identifying the main issues, looking for potential solutions, and on- the-ground
implementation of these solutions (Participant 4, Personal Communication, 05/03/20). In response to
CBAs implications for effective community engagement, the respondents often stated that despite the
comprehensive system for community engagement within Planning, there was an argument that there
was often an over- representation by a certain demographic group namely, white middle-class
homeowners (Participant 8, Personal Communication, 05/08/20). Lastly, it was discussed that to create
greater inclusivity the current planning process should be oriented towards standards that promote
community health, and improve access to affordable housing and employment. Furthermore, some
recommendations for improvement in government policy is requiring developers to provide a progress
report that can be evaluated by the community on how they plan to provide benefits through outlining
specific targets, and metrics within new developments to ensure accountability (Participant 4, Personal
Communication, 05/30/20).
In response to CBAs capacity for creating community wealth “community benefits” were described
as a way of leveraging dollars already being spent, often on large infrastructure and development
projects, to maximize economic and social returns for local communities (Participant 5, Personal
Communication, 05/05/20). A distinction was made regarding creating community wealth as creating
community wealth is often an outcome from private- public partnerships on municipally owned land
(Participant 2, Personal Communication, 04/15/20). It was stated that land is the most valuable
commodity in Toronto. Particularly, keeping the money from land sales circulating in a local
economy was highlighted as essential as most profit goes overseas if there are foreign investors
(Participant 9, Personal Communication, 06/16/20). Moreover, it was explained, “CBAs absolutely
have the opportunity to create community wealth. I see community wealth as community
democratically owning or being able to exert agency over the tools and systems that generate,
sustain, and share prosperity locally and in an equitable way (Participant 8, Personal Communication,
05/08/20).” Lastly, it was described that community benefits are just one of the set of tools used to
create community wealth. Other tools include: land trusts, cooperatives, and anchor institutions
(Participant 9, Personal Communication, 06/16/20). In terms of CBA’s ability to contribute to
affordable housing, all participants agreed that CBAs had this capacity. Specifically, one interview
participant mentioned that Toronto Housing Secretariat must be included as a stakeholder to these
obligations as it manages the planning and implementation of Toronto’s affordable housing projects
(Participant 7, Personal Communication, 05/08/20). In regards, to how this would be achieved, some
pointed to other case studies, while others did not know how to apply this within Toronto. There was
no mention of combining land trusts, co-ops, or non-profit housing within CBA agreements.
However, it was mentioned that when building affordable housing units, developers expect a tradeoff
or to get something in return (i.e. density transfers, an expedited process, approvals, etc.). Hence, if
the requirement to build affordable housing is not legally binding, there is not much incentive by
developers to build it (Participant 10, 06/19/20).
Figure 9: A comparison of the development process with or without a CBA.
Source: Gross, J., Leroy, G, and Aparicio, M.J. (2005). Community Benefit Agreements. Making
Development Projects Accountable. Good Jobs First and the California Partnership for Working Families.
The critiques that were offered in terms of CBAs mechanisms to ensure accountability, was that there was a
clear distinction made between community benefit agreements (CBAs) and community benefits secured in
procurement. It was outlined that a majority of infrastructure projects in Toronto have involved community
benefits secured in procurement rather than community benefit agreements (Participant 5, Personal
Communication, 05/05/20). Furthermore, Community Benefits in Procurement can be defined as social
benefits (hospitals, employment, etc.) that are secured through bids for municipal or provincial infrastructure
projects. Community Benefit Agreements (CBAs) on the other hand are legal contracts that can be enforced,
requires community engagement, oversight, and monitoring by all involved stakeholders. Lastly, it was
explained that community benefit agreements do not have the power to ultimately restructure the planning
process, and only through legislation and effective enforcement would ensure developers are held
accountable to their commitments (Participant 7, Personal Communication, 05/08/20).
CBAs and their implications for local policy
Within my interview findings, it was suggested by the participants that Community Benefit Agreements
share similarities and are driven by other city policies and initiatives. The main implications that community
benefits have for future policy development is the community benefits framework aligned with government
objectives such as the City of Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy, and Social Procurement Strategy. In the
future, as new policies arise and the past method of obtaining community benefits through Section 37 will
get replaced by provincial legislation More Homes, More Choices Act. This creates the need to secure
additional benefits through direct negotiation with developers through other means including community
benefit agreements.
The significance of future policy development is that by making community benefit agreements legally
binding and applicable to major infrastructure projects within Toronto, this will allow for employment
equity, citizen participation, and possibly more affordable housing stock to be created as a result of these
agreements. Currently, the City of Toronto Social Development, Finance, and Administration Division is
the department responsible for leading the Community Benefits initiatives (Participant 2, Personal
Communication, 04/15/20). Following the adoption of the Rexdale-Woodbine Casino CBA two reports
were submitted to Toronto City Council. This includes the initial City of Toronto Community Benefits
Framework report and the supplementary report that included a discussion about measurable targets. The
City of Toronto Benefit Framework aligns with the Social Procurement program and the Poverty
Reduction Strategy (Participant 7, Personal Communication, 05/08/20).
It was described, “Within infrastructure projects, community benefits framework policy comes directly out
of the poverty reduction strategy. We (TCBN) attempted to determine ways we can alleviate poverty in the
city. CBAs can be used as a method to reduce poverty as inequality in the city is rising. The question we
attempted to discover was: how do we balance this level playing field to secure targets for hiring and
social infrastructure to help people thrive long-term (Participant 6, Personal Communication, 05/06/20)?”
Furthermore, it was stated that governments could play a leadership role through policy development for
the inclusion of community benefits in procurement strategies. This includes supporting developers that
offer additional benefits or add value to communities such as hiring at-risk youth, building community
centers, and other resources.
Many of the interview participants had experience in negotiating community benefits under Section 37.
However, CBAs are unrelated to Section 37 benefits and the type of community benefits leveraged in
these agreements are different. Within the interviews, it was mentioned that within the realm of current
planning tools such as the planning act, there is not enough authority to enforce community benefit
agreements (Participant 10, 06/19/20). However, due to its success, Section 37 can as a reference to
securing benefits within the community benefits in the context of Toronto. Section 37 benefits are as a
result of density bonusing and do not have a strong focus on inclusive economic development. The main
focus is on providing “hard” benefits that include durable built-form capital facilities such as child care
centre, parks or community centres. On the other hand, community benefit agreements are about
offsetting the negative impacts of development within local communities that are marginalized. The main
focus is providing “soft,” benefits that include jobs and business opportunities for targeted communities.
Hence, community benefit agreements attempt to fill a gap that section 37 did not prioritize which is
promoting equitable development within the planning process and including marginalized communities
through participatory planning practices.
In the future, Bill 108: More Homes, More Choices Act will be replacing Section 37 and may cause
negative outcomes for securing community benefits. As the municipality is the major decision-maker for
allocating Community Benefits (such as affordable housing, community centers, art, etc.) this may mean
that certain services get cut as the municipality tries to cut back or save money on certain expenses.
This can be detrimental for some lower-income individuals who rely on these programs. As the
flexibility for negotiating benefits decreases, community benefit organizers need to look for other tools
for enforcement such as Community Benefit Agreements. The main similarities that exist between
Section 37 and Community Benefit Agreements are that both reinforce the redistribution of value to
community. This is summarized in the statement “in order for market-value projects to be created in
the planning system there need to be benefits given back to the community (Participant 1, Personal
Communication, 04/09/20).”
Section 37 vs. Community Benefit Agreements
Table 19: Illustrates the similarities and differences that exist between Section 37 & CBAs.
Section 37
Focus on “hard” community
benefits (built form
Section 37 benefits are
enforced by city planning
officials and local councilors.
In Section 37 it is the
councilor is the primary
decision-maker (Hanff, 2016,
p. 38).
The main goal of the
developer in section 37
benefits is to achieve
in height a
nd density of
proposed development in
exchange for providing
A majority of section 37
secured benefits included art
and park space rather than
affordable housing
co mmunity centres (Lehrer
and Wieditz, 2009, 149).
Section 37 benefits are limited
in the sense they cannot
include non- capital benefits
such as
employment o r
procurement benefits (Hanff,
2016, p. 37).
The methods for allocating
benefits in section 37 involves
in-kind (developer builds
benefit for local community)
or cash-in- lieu (cash
contributions to
specific facilities.)
CBAs and Section 37
benefits often require
local government
support and involve
going through the
planning approvals
(zoning, etc.) to gain
approval for a proposed
development project.
Section 37 benefits
often involve similar
stakeholders as in the
CBA including: a
developer, city
councilor, planners and
The value/type benefits
that is secured on a
case- by- case basis
No set formula for
allocating benefits
Section 37 funds and
CBAs are often as a tool
to secure affordable
The mandate for
allocating CBAs and
Section 37 benefits is
similar where benefits
must “support growth
management, and other
community building
Section 37 and
CBAs try to
identify and
address community
Focus on "soft"
community benefits
(jobs and businesses
opportunities for
Community Benefit
Agreements are legal
agreements that are
overseen by lawyers
and developers.
In effective CBAs it
is often argued that
organizations have
more leverage in
Within CBAs the
goal is to gain the
support of a
community, move the
city approvals
fast alon
g, and to
improveme nts
(Galley, 2015).
The methods for
allocating benefits in
community benefit
agreements is
a signed legal
agreement by all
involved stakeholders.
CBA’s implications for implementation, monitoring, and evaluation.
The main challenges that exist for implementation include: that the CBA framework establishes a
broader idea; there are still contexts in which Community Benefits cannot be secured. A remaining
challenge is how to provide benefits from private developments, rather than from public city-owned
land. It is remains a challenge as it is unclear whether it is legal to enforce these agreements in this
context (Participant 2, 04/15/20). It was mentioned that the main method of large-scale infrastructure
procurement is through public-private partnerships (P3) made between governments and developers.
Through these partnerships community benefit agreements can reap the rewards of these transactions
(Participant 9, 06/16.20). Hence, changes in city policies and provincial legislation such as property
rights may be required to ensure the developer’s accountability to CBAs. To hold developers
accountable, there must be incentives created between the government and the developer to ensure
effective enforcement of community benefits. Furthermore, several of the participants stated that each
neighbourhood was different and that each context its own implications for effective implementation.
However, it was suggested that lower-income areas such as Toronto’s Priority Neighbourhoods would
greatly benefit from the incorporation of community benefit agreements within development projects, as
these are often the most underserviced areas within Toronto.
The main challenges for monitoring that were identified include: “it is often difficult to measure the
impact of less tangible benefits and establishing minimum requirements for enforcement.” For
example, if the City creates a policy for hiring (10% local hiring.) Then the question becomes “What
are the mechanisms to ensure this, what are the penalties, and how do you assess the benefits to
support the continued use of the agreement (Participant 2,04/15/20).” Furthermore, community benefit
agreements were often referred to as “just another type of legal agreement.” In this case, more research
is needed in this area to ensure that all parties involved in the agreement uphold these signed contracts.
It was suggested by many participants that a lawyer may need to present during the negotiations to
ensure the legality and enforceability of these contracts is maintained Moreover, it was discussed that
many communities may lack the resources or funding to seek legal advice and or/the willpower or
knowledge to negotiate with major corporations. Hence, a third-party expert may be needed to ensure
effective monitoring and to ensure that the contracts are legal and are maintained over time.
The main challenges for the evaluation of CBAs within the Toronto context include: a community can
only gain benefits and resources from a project if the CBA is enforceable over time. This includes a
description of how the contract will be enforced, creating penalties for non-compliance, and leveraged
mechanisms for enforcement to ensure that developers are held accountable. Moreover, many of the
interview respondents state that the Rexdale- Woodbine Casino was the first genuine example of a
CBA agreement in Toronto as it was legally-binding agreement signed by a local approval authority
(the City of Toronto). Furthermore, my interview findings suggest that more research is needed from
prior successful case studies outside of Toronto such as USA and UK, where CBAs have been
implemented successfully to be able to successfully evaluate the benefits allocated within these
However, each neighbourhood is different, and as a result, the methods of evaluating community
benefits can prove to be a challenge as each neighbourhood has different needs and visions. Hence it
was stated that to fully evaluate the success of a CBA, a neighborhood’s needs and wants from a
development must be assessed prior to the onset of the construction of a land development.
Lessons Learned
Through investigation of the case studies, it is clear that there are effective and ineffective CBAs and
their success is determined by the commitment of involved project stakeholders to enforce and monitor
the agreement. The lessons learned through the analysis of CBAs within the US & Canadian context, it
is clear that CBAs have often failed since they lacked transparency within the project implementation
stage. For instance, within the Atlantic Yards CBA there were promises for community benefits that
were originally proposed but then delayed to an unknown point or disappeared completely (Graser,
2016, p. 9). In terms of answering the research question “Through the analysis of case studies within
US & Canada, how can community benefit agreements contribute to the common good and
promote equitable planning practices? How do community benefit agreements differ in these
contexts and how do we define their successes, challenges, and limitations to offer opportunities
for implementation within Toronto?” posed at the beginning of the paper, the interview findings and
literature review provide a good overview of how community benefit can be leveraged for Toronto. For
effective implementation of a CBA, the offer needs to come directly from the developer and a third-
party plays a recognized role only once the developer makes a formal decision to make a deal
(Baxamusa, 2008, p. 268). My findings through conducting this research study include that CBAs
provide the opportunity to redistribute wealth back into local economies and prevent socio-spatial
segregation of residential neighbourhoods.
However, CBAs are not feasible for every new development and should be prioritized in
neighbourhoods that require reinvestment (i.e. Toronto’s Priority Neighbourhoods). Additionally,
within the CBA negotiations, a power imbalance exists between elected officials and the
community. Thus, an oversight committee and active enforcement are required within community
benefit clauses to secure benefits. Lastly, the success of a CBA often correlates directly with the
monitoring and enforcement mechanisms and specificity of the contract including specific
requirements, clear responsibilities, and setting realistic targets (Atkinson Foundation, 2016). For
CBAs to be implemented in Toronto there needs to be an examination of the current legislation from
all levels of government. Furthermore, the jurisdiction for the implementation of CBAs goes beyond
the scope of traditional planning tools and suggests examining social policies such as labour and
hiring targets. This involves examining existing municipal programs such as: the TO Core’s
Downtown Community Services and Facilities Strategy, TO Core’s Downtown Secondary Plan, and
Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy. Lastly, tools such as community impact statements can be used
to encourage enforceability or the compliance of developers for projects that cause significant
impacts to the neighbourhood.
CBA Implementation: Successes & Challenges
CBAs have both successes and challenges depending on the development project and there
is no one-size-fits-all model. However, in most cases, the benefits that arise from CBA agreements
outweigh the risks (Gross, LeRoy, and Aparicio, 2005 p. 25).
The successes of CBAs include: new alliances among community groups, early negotiations
between developers and the community avoiding conflict and delays in the approval process,
community concerns can be addressed “upfront,” CBAs ensure the developer’s promises are legally
enforceable, public accountability in monitoring a project’s outcome and information to show
successful delivery of promised benefits, and lastly, CBAs can play a key role in community
development initiatives and can direct spending to underserved neighbourhoods (Graser, 2016).
From this point of view, communities can use CBAs as a tool to challenge traditional powerful
growth regimes (Rogers & Murphy, 2015). However, their success depends on the strength of the
coalitions that advocate for benefits, the legality and clarity of the CBA conditions, and the
mechanisms that are used for monitoring and enforcement (Parks and Warren, 2009).
On the other hand, the challenges of CBAs include: inadequate organizing can result in poor
outcomes in the CBA negotiation process, developers may not be willing to provide additional
benefits, there can be significant legal expenses through hiring an attorney, community groups may
be reluctant to sign a legal agreement, and lastly, it can be difficult building and maintaining a
coalition with shared interests within a community (Gross, LeRoy, and Aparicio, 2005). Opponents
of community benefit agreements argue that these agreements support rather than challenging a
neoliberal agenda (Rogers & Murphy, 2015). The criticism is based on the view that local authorities
and developers receive more advantages from these agreements than the local community
particularly due to the uneven bargaining powers between developers and community members
(Campbell et al., 2000). In some cases, there have been CBAs where developers had used bribes to
silence opposition from communities and they were coerced to show support for projects they would
have been opposed to (Rogers & Murphy, 2015).
These challenges show that CBAs are difficult to negotiate due to lack of transparency in the
negotiation process, and due to local communities’ lack of skills, resources, or experience to
successfully negotiate benefits with project stakeholders (Been, 2010). Furthermore, this analysis
suggests that CBAs have been proven to be difficult to enforce and monitor in practice and often
inherently benefit developers and promote government interests rather than community well-being
(Been, 2010). This is described in Wolf Powers (2010) statement that “developers purchase public
support with benefits that are inadequate to compensate deserving parties, or that will not reach them
at all (p. 142).” The success of a CBA often depends on its level of engagement within a community.
Hence, it is crucial for parties that enter into this type of legal agreement to understand and integrate
this model in their consultation with community members. Within land development battles, a
coalition needs to have strong common values to sustain itself, and not to break down when action is
needed most (Lejano and Wessells, 2006). Currently, CBAs can be adopted within city- owned land,
but to convince developers to incorporate them within private developments remains a challenge due
to existing legislation such as property rights that do not permit these agreements. Hence, policy
changes would be required to allow for this initiative. However, CBAs can be used in the majority of
large-scale publicly funded developments. Since the City of Toronto has established CBA framework,
communities are better equipped to understand in which context CBAs can be applied, and incorporate
them into further projects. Additionally, groups experienced in negotiating community benefits such as
Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN), community liaisons, and community development
officers can greatly assist in holding developers accountable to their commitments. The Toronto
Community Benefits Network (TCBN) has already partnered in community benefit initiatives within
Toronto including: the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, Finch West LRT, WestPark Hospital, MacDonald
Block (Wellesley & College), and the Rexdale-Woodbine Casino (TCBN, 2019). In the next section,
community assessment of CBAs will be discussed.
Community Assessment
Community coalitions emerge as a way of balancing power and to rally against a common cause and
leverage a collective vision for progressive social change (Mizrahi and Rosenthal, 1993, p. 12). Hence,
community coalitions are more likely to be successful if the motivation for formation comes directly
from within the community (Wolff, 2001). The questions surrounding how CBAs must be regulated and
implemented is based on “community power.” Often community groups are seen to have “little broad-
based membership, are underfunded, and have little power except power derived from their militancy
and their ability to apply pressure through direct action (Shragge, 1997, pp. 188-189).” CBAs give
citizens a more meaningful role in the development process than through existing land use processes
and most require local government involvement and support (Musil, 2012, p. 843). The power of the
CBA coalitions often is derived from the political leverage that they acquire in the planning process.
The reason for this is that the development process is contingent on receiving project approvals or
zoning variances, and community actors can delay this process through protests (Parks & Warren, 2009,
pp. 97-98). In terms of the implications of CBAs as a mechanism of building community power and
wealth their results depend on the willpower of a community coalition. From this view, “a community’s
ability to achieve a strong CBA is directly related to how much power it organizes and the strength of
its coalition infrastructure (Partnership for Working Families, 2016, p. 6).” Hence, a transparent and
inclusive community engagement process is critical to the success of a CBA (Graser, 2016, p. 9).
In the article by Gross, LeRoy, and Aparicio (2005) it is stated: “community-based organizations
will quickly lose credibility if they negotiate an increase in a project’s community benefits and then
turn around and oppose the project (p. 26).” Therefore, the community group should not oppose or
protest the project if they have signed a legally binding agreement with the developer. Therefore,
community groups should be equipped to assess whether the benefits secured are a good tradeoff
and if all parties are willing to follow the commitments made within the CBA. Thus, community
enforcement is mandatory for effective monitoring to ensure that all parties are accountable to their
obligations within the agreement (Partnership for Working Families, 2016, p. 8). Moreover, by
hiring a third-party CBA national or regional organizer or negotiator mediator that has prior
experience in negotiating CBAs can produce favorable outcomes to achieving community
objectives (Musil, 2012, p.836).
Arnstein’s Ladder for
Citizen Participation is a planning
theory that assesses the contribution
of community members in the
planning process. In Arnstein’s
Ladder of Citizen Participation, there
are eight rungs that symbolize a
community’s level of participation in
planning processes (Figure 11).
Through investigation of the case studies in chapter 3 & 4, most successful CBAs reached the 4- 6
rung (Consultation, Placation, Partnership) of the ladder. The unsuccessful CBAs, on the other hand,
reached the 1-3 rung (Manipulation, Therapy, and Informing). However, in future projects, active
engagement through community benefit agreements can result in achieving a degree of citizen power
and control within the planning process.
Policy Recommendations
The following recommendations are made for developers, government officials, community
groups/residents, and third party mediators regarding community benefit agreements (CBAs).
For Developers
Within the process of securing community benefit agreements meaningful community
engagement should take place throughout the entire development process. This includes
ensuring that all community groups are represented before the project is approved.
The initiation of a CBA is political and depends entirely on the developer’s willingness
to enter into an agreement (Baxamusa, 2008, p. 268). As the developer is the main project stakeholder
within the land development process it is within their best interest to engage in meaningful
community engagement early in the development. This will ensurethat the voices of underrepresented
groups are heard and to avoid conflict between stakeholders or the broader community in the later
phases of the project development. There is criticism that some CBAs are negotiated from a limited
community perspective because only the views of the CBA coalition are represented rather than the
needs of the broader community (Musil, 2012, p. 839).
Therefore, significant effort needs to be made to accommodate marginalized and equity-seeking
groups in the community such as translation services. The goal for ensuring accountability within the
CBA process and to drive systematic change was “the notion in incremental and social-economic
benefits working with local communities before and during the build of infrastructure and
development projects becomes how you do business instead of an unusual thing (Participant 5,
Personal Communication, 05/05/20).” Hence, early engagement with the project stakeholders is
crucial to securing a CBA and constant community engagement and monitoring is critical to its
success. Through genuine community engagement at the start of infrastructure projects can achieve
equitable outcomes such as hiring, affordable housing, or environmental improvements. Through
ongoing communication between community groups and a developer for a period of years after the
development proposal, this ensures that the community can oversee the process and ensures
accountability (Gross, LeRoy & Aparicio, 2005, p. 15).
For Government Officials
1. To pass a federal by-law that makes legally binding Community Benefit
Agreements mandatory for all future large-scale infrastructure projects.
Fischer (2006) states that in order to empower communities, CBAs need to have higher political
support and a redistribution of power. By passing a federal by-law that makes legally binding
Community Benefit Agreements mandatory for all future large scale development projects this will
ensure equitable development. Through participation in community benefit agreements (CBAs) by all
parties within a development area, this holds the developers accountable to their promises. Therefore,
meaningful community engagement, participation, and governance are mandatory to ensure project
approval from governmental agencies. Particularly, making community benefits mandatory for all
infrastructure projects at a federal level would assist in driving other policy objectives at provincial,
and local levels (Participant 5, Personal Communication, 05/05/20). Furthermore, within the next ten
years, over $187 billion will be spent on creating infrastructure projects across Canada within the next
ten years (Snyder, 2020, para. 1). This gives rise to significant employment opportunities and
community development initiatives for historically marginalized areas. To ensure that these projects
are accountable for diverse communities consisting of indigenous and black peoples, women, veterans,
youth, newcomers, and other historically disadvantaged groups, it is necessary to make community
benefits a necessary part of all future infrastructure projects.
2. To merge community benefits within government existing policies
and legislation at all levels of government.
Merging community benefits agreements into legislation and policy documents is a method to ensure
that “benefits,” are fulfilled within development and infrastructure projects. It is necessary to combine
CBAs with other policy frameworks as larger institutions often require assistance in understanding their
roles and responsibilities within these agreements (Participant 3, Personal Communication, 04/24/20).
Furthermore, city and public officials as well as planners, can act as experts to educate the private and
public sectors about the feasibility and technical details of specific proposals (Baxamusa, 2008, p. 270).
As provincial and federal governments are in the midst of spending billions to create polices such as the
Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act that support public infrastructure and workforce opportunities
(Hanff, 2016, p. 58) taking steps to include community benefits should be at the forefront of these
initiatives. The interview participants mentioned that promoting Community Benefit Agreements
through all levels of government including municipal, provincial and federal levels is essential for their
implementation. Currently, there are many provincial policies such as Bill 108: More Homes, More
Choices Act that contradict existing many of the municipal initiatives such as Section 37, and does not
allow for the procurement of additional community benefits from development projects. By aligning
existing policies to support CBA implementation within all governmental jurisdictions can ensure that
community benefits can be fulfilled within development projects across Canada.
3. Develop a municipally mandated policy that requires the annual monitoring,
enforcement, and evaluation of CBAs within Toronto.
Gross, LeRoy & Aparicio (2005) state, “all CBAs should contain carefully-drafted provisions
describing how the commitments made by developers will be monitored and enforced (p.14).” This
includes clear roles, responsibilities, and time frames to be clearly outlined in the CBA agreement and
upheld. Creating a municipal-led policy ensures the accountability of developers to fulfill their promises
and create clear and realistic targets. This initiative needs to be municipally driven to be able to
understand the local stakeholder population. By an interview participant it was explained that within the
current planning process, there was a focus on “built form rather than social opportunities, and there
“needs to be a development of standards that speak to community health (Participant 3, Personal
Communication, 05/03/20).” To ensure effective implementation, within my interview findings it was
recommended that “local municipal governments undertake inclusive community engagement prior to a
bid, so procurement can be customized to engage and inform community groups along the way
(Participant 5, Personal Communication, 05/05/20).” Furthermore, for annual monitoring was stated
that there should be a requirement for progress reporting that allows for a request for feedback by
residents that are impacted by a development that can be evaluated by the community and outlines
specific targets and metrics (Participant 4, Personal Communication, 05/03/20). This can include
requiring construction and engineering firms to provide mandatory annual reporting of secured
community benefits and through the promotion of Community Employment Benefits (CEBs) which
promote increased employment opportunities for at least three different minority groups (Snyder, 2020).
In terms of enforcement, it was recommended that there be penalties for non-compliance and to create
mechanisms to ensure accountability (Participant 2, Personal Communication, 04/15/20). Lastly, in
terms of evaluation, a post-project evaluation by the community should also be taken into account in
For Community groups/residents
1. Within negotiations with developers, communities should advocate for benefits
that are measurable, clearly specified, and legally binding. This includes setting
realistic targets, allocating adequate resources, and assigning clear
responsibilities and commitments to all project stakeholders.
The emphasis on securing benefits is rooted in the “local community and has to come out of an
authentic negotiation process (Participant 5, Personal Communication, 05/05/20).” Gross et al. (2005)
recommend that substantial community outreach be required to understand a community’s needs and
collaboration with these groups to build a coalition is needed to secure benefits (p. 14). Furthermore,
CBA coalitions should assign a negotiating team or steering committee with members that have
relevant experience to negotiate with a developer (p. 26). Lastly, if a lawyer is present in the
negotiations, the CBA coalition should partake in negotiating directly with the lawyer (p. 23). The
main challenges of implementing CBAs include that is often difficult to calculate or measure the
amount private developers spend on the promised benefits. Furthermore, gathering this data is difficult
to determine the fees and costs that the developers spent on CBAs (Marantz, 2015, pp. 263- 264).
Therefore, creating benefits that are measurable and clearly specified is integral to this process.
2. Community organizations should connect with other coalitions nationally and internationally to
share resources and develop community benefit goals and initiatives. By sharing resources,
community organizations can mobilize to bring about community benefits and develop
frameworks for community-led planning initiatives.
Research initiatives can be pursued to develop models for reaching targets for affordability within
Toronto and beyond. Some reputable organizations within the USA that have experience in advancing
the use of CBAs include: the Partnership for Working Families, Good Jobs First, Centre on Policy
Initiatives, and the Anne E. Casey Foundation (Musil, 2012, p.836). By forming broad coalitions with
coordinated and specialized functions to maximize available resources and expand impact Through
involving a variety of stakeholders in the process such as philanthropic foundations, local government
agencies, consultants, developers, and more ideas can be shared about how to incorporate models for
community benefits implementation.
For Third-Party Mediators
1. Maintain a robust engagement process with residents that focuses on the
creation of a diversity of community benefits (i.e. affordable housing,
environmental mitigation, cultural contributions, etc.)
An independent agency can act as a third-party negotiator who has knowledge and experience in
securing CBAs and needs to be present within these negotiations. Third- Party Mediators such as TBCN
work as an independent agency to negotiate, implement and monitor CBAs by acting as a resource to
government agencies, community groups, and the private sector to effectively regulate community
benefit allocation (Graser, 2016, p. 27). Therefore, effective community engagement processes are
essential to maintain a good relationship with stakeholders and to ensure the allocation of benefits based
on the community’s input through weekly or bi-weekly meetings with community boards. Hence, in
Toronto, the Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN) should be present within all community
benefits negotiations to ensure accountability and to address any community concerns.
2. Create a workforce hub in Toronto for training and job searching processes
within CBA agreements providing employment benefits.
As most CBAs include workforce and employment opportunities, there should be a hub allocated in
Toronto for equity-seeking groups to get resources and access to professional opportunities. This
includes providing services such as translation services, social workers, and to include additional
resources for youth and women. Furthermore, through the creation of a “workforce hub,” community
organizations, and government agencies could identify and recruit employees from target communities
and areas through a one-stop-shop.
This includes creating a body of laborers that can come directly from the hub to minimize the costs and
delays associated with training people on a project-by-project basis (Hanff, 2016, p. 58). Lastly, by
creating a workforce hub would increase the number of projects that can utilize community benefit
agreements. The creation of a diverse workforce hub can therefore assist to fulfill the “community
benefits,” requirements of hiring minority groups within large-scale infrastructure projects (Graser, 2016,
supra note 70).
Chapter 6: Appendix
Interview Questions Set #1
Tell me about yourself.
What is your experience or personal knowledge of community benefit agreements?
Have you worked on a project that involves negotiating CBA agreements? If so which
In what ways do you believe CBA agreements have the capacity to give community
members a voice or bring positive changes to their communities?
What are the ways in which you believe CBAs could be restructured
to create more fair and equitable relations of power within the Planning process?
Do you believe that CBAs can create community wealth? If so, in what ways can it do
Do you know of any recent examples of CBA agreements? In what ways were these
projects successful?
Do you think CBAs can be used to create an effective model for providing affordable
housing? If so, in what ways can they be used to achieve this?
Do you think there is a gap in the current planning process surrounding community
engagement and effective participatory planning?How can CBAs be used as a tool to help
to engage communities?
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Participant 1: is a chief of staff for a local councillor in Toronto, has a background in housing policy,
and high- level understanding of CBAs .
Participant2: is a municipal policy planner that has experience working with governmental
planning policies and is aware of the rise of Community Benefit Agreements within Toronto.
Participant 3: is an urban planner that has prior experience working as a Project Coordination and
Management Coordinator at TCBN.
Participant 4: is a founder and principal urban planner at CP Planning.
Participant 5: is a consultant and researcher that provides policy advice and is a consultant
to governments, foundations, and private contractors on how to implement community
benefits within Canada.
Participant 6: has worked for the Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN) for three
years with residents facing displacement, community groups, municipal governments, and
local businesses in negotiating community benefit initiatives.
Participant 7: is a municipal policy professional that has three years of experience in
working with Community- Benefits related projects
Participant 8: is a municipal professional that has done research studies on how
CBAs could work at a government level at the City
Participant 9: is an executive director of the Atkinson Foundation in Toronto.
Participant 10: is a municipal policy planner at the City of Toronto.
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Full-text available
Mining has been a major economic activity in the Canadian Arctic for the last century. It has made a valuable contribution to the development of this fragile economy and to the living standards of its inhabitants. The benefits include jobs and income, tax revenues and the social programs they finance, foreign exchange earnings, frontier development, support for local infrastructure, and economic diversification into a broad range of activities beyond the life of the mine. These benefits emerge as the result of activities and influences of several actors that exercise differing degrees of power, whether coercive or exchange by nature. These benefits, however, do not come without costs, particularly to Northern peoples who have suffered historically from the inequitable distribution of resources benefits and inevitable, adverse socio-cultural and biophysical impacts of rapid resource development. Impact and Benefit Agreements (IBAs) are a mandatory aspect of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. Proponents wishing to develop natural resources on Inuit-owned land are required to negotiate and complete an IBA with the Regional Inuit Organization. These agreements have evolved from simple socio-economic contracts, to multiparty assemblages of agreements designed to promote sustainability beyond the operating life of the mine. A political ecology approach was taken. Using this approach, it was determined that the distribution of decision-making power appears to be unequal and largely confined to the Industrial and Regional Inuit Association actors. As a result, other affected interests were marginalized in the process including members of the local community, environmental and other non-governmental organizations, and federal, territorial and hamlet government actors. Nevertheless, the use of IBAs signal a recognition on the part of all stakeholders that historic mining practices are no longer acceptable and that it is now necessary to move towards a more equitable and sustainable approach to mineral development. In order to answer the question of an IBA’s usefulness as a tool of sustainability, a set of sustainable mining criteria was developed and used to assess whether, in fact, the agreement could be used to promote a more sustainable path to mining development in the North. After the application of the criteria to IBAs in general and to one case study in particular, which fell under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, it was discovered that the IBA instrument is limited in its utility – at least in terms of its current structure. However, in conjunction with other agreements and review processes, the IBAs utility as a tool of sustainability may be enhanced. By the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement’s very nature, decision-making ability on behalf of the community is restricted to the Kitikmeot Inuit Association that only represents the interests of beneficiaries of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement and the industrial proponent. Opportunities for broader community (non-beneficiaries) input appear limited, thus restricting the usefulness of IBAs as a tool of community sustainability, at least until this weakness is addressed. Moreover, on a broader level of analysis, it should also be noted that the IBAs still are designed to operate within the global, liberal, capitalist system which itself leads to power imbalances. Nevertheless, it should be noted that IBAs signal a recognition on the part of all stakeholders, that historic mining practices are no longer acceptable and that it is now necessary to move towards a more equitable and sustainable approach to mineral development.
Full-text available
Over the past few years, Toronto has experienced a massive reinvestment into the inner city, mostly in the form of high-rise condominium towers, which was followed by the largest population growth in over 30 years. The city that used to praise itself as multicultural, ethnically diverse and socially-mixed, has, as recent studies indicate, become spatially divided into three distinct cities: the constant city of the rich, the shrinking city of middle-income households, and the growing city of concentrated poverty. In this paper we suggest that the condominium towers are a new form of gentrification that contributes to the spatial trifurcation of the city. We call it the condofication of Toronto. We start with a discussion of some aspects on gentrification, followed by an analysis of policy documents and reports that have been guiding urban development in Toronto. We then take a look at the incoming condo-dwellers, before we conclude that the City needs to revisit its planning instruments in order to prevent further spatial segregation in Toronto.
Gentrification is changing the landscape of many American cities. As land values rise, people may lose their homes, neighbors, and sites of significance, along with their sense of place, community, and history. There is a critical need to build and preserve affordable housing, yet housing alone will not address the more than material losses. What role can the arts play in sustaining place attachments, restoring relationships, and building place knowledge in gentrifying neighborhoods? This paper explores this question through a systematic review of current research. We identify four prominent alternative interventions in gentrifying neighborhoods—creative placemaking, public pedagogy, community organizing, and public science—and explicate strengths and limitations of each approach. We find the strongest interventions bridge approaches—engaging artists as/and researchers, educators, and community leaders—and mobilize residents as participants in knowledge/cultural production. We note that initiatives that provide short-term benefit may simultaneously make the neighborhood more desirable—and thus more vulnerable to gentrification—in the longer-term. Finally, given the dearth of research in this area, we conclude with recommendations for future research that attends to issues of equity, process as well as outcome, and longitudinal effects of more than material interventions in gentrifying neighborhoods.
This paper tracks the transition of 'creative city' planning from the gentrified downtown to the disinvested inner-suburbs. It attends particularly to contradictory notions of community mobilized by proponents of inner-suburban revitalization and by residents and business owners who daily inhabit innersuburban commercial streets where cultural planning interventions are typically targeted. It further argues that those contradictory notions indicate immanent displacement pressure. The argument builds around data gleaned from an action research project in Toronto's Mount Dennis neighbourhood, a former manufacturing neighbourhood that is now home to a large number of precariously employed new immigrants. We contend that community engaged research not only allows for an analysis of the race and class dimensions of creative city planning, it consolidates marginalized perspectives and opens up alternative possibilities for planning and development. We also claim that the relational, exploratory and sometimes fraught process of sharing knowledge with community-based researchers enriches critical research on the exclusionary politics of redevelopment planning.
Problem, research strategy, and findings: Advocates of community benefits agreements (CBAs) between coalitions of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and real estate developers contend that CBAs promote public accountability and responsiveness to community concerns. This study assesses the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment District (LASED) CBA, which scholars and practitioners have described as a model for such agreements. I assess compliance with key provisions of the agreement related to jobs, affordable housing, and parks and recreational facilities. I also assess whether compliance with these provisions has yielded benefits beyond those required under existing laws and regulations. I find that the parties to the agreement have technically complied with many, although arguably not all, of its provisions. But some of the provisions in the CBA are not legally binding, other provisions overlap with requirements that the developer would have had to satisfy even without the CBA, and some reports required by the CBA are unavailable. As a result, outcomes such as living wage jobs and funding for affordable housing units are not clearly attributable to the CBA; other outcomes, such as targeted hiring, are unknown due to a lack of relevant information. Takeaway for practice: Although CBAs may not fulfill all the claims that advocates make on their behalf, they can play important roles in community development by directing public and private spending to underserved neighborhoods. But collecting and verifying the relevant data may be challenging, even if reporting requirements are clearly spelled out in the CBA. As the complexity of a CBA increases, so do the challenges of assessing outcomes and assigning responsibility for those outcomes.
The provision of physical and social infrastructure in the form of roads, green spaces and community facilities has traditionally been provided for by the state through the general taxation system. However, as the state has been transformed along more neoliberal lines, the private sector is increasingly relied upon to deliver public goods and services. Planning gain agreements have flourished within this context by offering another vehicle through which local facilities are privately funded. Whilst these agreements reflect the broader dynamics of neoliberalism, they are commonly viewed as a tool which can be employed to challenge these very dynamics by empowering local communities to secure more just planning outcomes. This paper counters such claims. Based on evidence gathered from 80 interviews with planners, councillors, developers and community groups in Ireland, the paper demonstrates how planning gain agreements have been strategically redeployed by the holders of political and economic power to serve their own ends. In seeking to understand why and how this has occurred, specific consideration is given to the changing power dynamics between the state and private capital under neoliberalism. The paper highlights how institutional arrangements have enabled developers to infiltrate the political sphere in more subtle and implicit ways than ever before. We conclude by arguing that planning gain must be understood as a mechanism which has been manipulated in ways which essentially work to preserve and enhance, rather than redresses, existing power imbalances in the planning system by facilitating large scale transfers of wealth upwards in society.
Scholars have extended, challenged, and molded growth machine theory to examine growth—in terms of population, basic industry, labor force participation, commerce, financial activity, and land development—in a variety of contexts. The theory's core, however, has remained the same: cities are conceptualized as growth machines, which consist of unified and powerful growth coalitions. These coalitions pursue a pro-growth agenda, seeking to enhance the exchange value of local land and property. They often face opposition from local residents, who are more oriented toward use values of land. Resident opposition, however, tends to be unsuccessful in the face of large-scale commercial development. Aware of this, communities across the country are pursuing new strategies to address development projects in their backyards. In particular, some have formed coalitions to negotiate for benefits from developers through legally binding community benefits agreements (CBAs). Drawing from a case study of Pittsburgh's first CBA, this article analyzes the implications of CBAs for pro-growth agendas. Pittsburgh's CBA surrounded the construction of a professional sports facility, a development project that presents an ideal example of growth processes in today's cities. Ultimately, CBAs can achieve “value-conscious” growth, but they do not fundamentally alter dominant standards of growth or growth machine processes.