2022 | Sep
The Incomplete Reform: Regulating space in Metapolitefsi Athens 1978–1985
This paper looks into the attempts to regulate the urban space of Athens during the first years of Metapolitefsi (Regime change), focusing on the spatial policies between 1978–1985. The research explores the themes of policy and governance through a threefold prism: First, it studies the “structural context”, that is, the broader economic and social factors influencing the systems of governance. Second, the cultural context, that is, the “ethnic” particularities and institutional traditions that are included in, and shaped by, these systems of governance. Finally, it looks into the roles of political actors, political parties, local pressure groups and movements . In the analysis that follows, we suggest that the relationship and interplay between the three aforementioned sectors shape the entire administration context, and consequently the spatial policies, in Athens.
The questions raised are the following: Which were the factors that defined the “successes and failures” of spatial policy in Athens? How do they correlate with the broader governance system in the city? What role do the political actors play? And how do they affect urban policy?
The Junta Heritage and the Athens “Problem”
Athens will enter the 1970s carrying the heritage of a model of postwar urbanization, which will be expanded during the seven-year dictatorship. To all intents and purposes, the Junta will resume and bolster the same policy of growth and reinforcement of the construction industry (Πρεβελάκης, 2001; Παπαγιάννης, 2019; Οικονόμου, 2002; Φιλιππίδης, 1990) . In the early 1970s, the Attica basin is almost completely urbanized with particularly increased densities at the city center (Αβδελίδη, 2010). The swelling of central neighborhoods will gradually lead to saturation and environmental degradation. At the same time, private car use is generalized, creating intense traffic congestion problems and aggravating air pollution (Ρωμανός, 2004; Πρεβελάκης, 2001). Against this background, Athens starts to lose its appeal, and thus begins the first “exodus” to the city suburbs and the, until then, vacation areas. These trends will also be supported by the institutional frame during the Junta period. Due to the Emergency Law No. 395/68, indexes will increase by 30 per cent, which will provide the green light, as Giorgos Sarigiannis argues, for the urbanization of the suburbs and coastal areas of Attica, following pressures by contractors and landowners (Σαρηγιάννης, 2000) . With the restoration of democracy in 1974, the problems caused by the particular development model of Athens and other Greek cities had now become evident. Air pollution, traffic regulation and the issue of urban planning in general start to occupy a central place in the public debate (Πρεβελάκης, 1984) , while a series of natural disasters, such as the floods of 1977, will increase the political pressure to take measures . However, many had doubts at this period that New Democracy was prepared to shoulder the political cost of such initiatives (Παπαγιάννης, 2019.04.08; ΑΝΤΙ, 1980). Between 1978–1980, Kyprianos Biris is succeeded by Stefanos Manos as Undersecretary for Public Works. In the 1980s, under the PASOK administration, Antonis Tritsis served as Minister for Planning, Housing and the Environment.
The attempts at reform on a land policy level where made on these two, different from a point of national government, periods, these of Stefanos Manos and of Antonis Tritsis respectively, are equally important. A study of the reforms, as well as the reasons that led to their failure, will lead us to important conclusions as far as the system of governance is concerned, but also on how urban policies are shaped in Athens.
Photo 1: The cover of ANTI magazine, issue no. 156 (1980), with a special report on the “Athens Problem”
Attempts to regulate the space of Athens (1978-1980)
ΌIn January 1977, when Stefanos Manos took over as Undersecretary, the policies regarding the regulation of space in Athens were mostly shaped on a central level, via the Ministry of Public Works. This centralist system had also been institutionalized by the Constitution of 1974, in which the central government was ascribed responsibilities on issues of urban and spatial planning. The Ministry’s job, up until the first years after the regime change, remarks (2001:53), was “almost totally disassociated with practice”, which was regulated by the market forces as well as the current smaller or larger interests (Σαρηγιάννης, 2000; Φιλιππίδης, 1990; Βοϊβόνδα κ.α., 1977). As states Manos himself, the Undersecretary’s job was to “move roads” and modify the street plan (Μάνος 2018.03.10).
The policy he adopted, assisted by a group of new consultants who were back from working abroad, had strong elements of novelty and modernization : He completed the Regulatory Plan of Athens, which was pending since 1972. He included action plans aiming to upgrade sub-regions. And last, but certainly not least, he legislated a new land policy that would diminish speculation and would protect architectural heritage, while also dictating new terms on planning (Ρωμανός, 2004; Πρεβελάκης, 2001; 1984; Μάνος 2018.03.10).
The Regulatory Plan of Athens will be drawn up by the Ministry of Planning, Housing and the Environment in the period under study. The Framework Plan “Capital City 2000” was the draft guidelines in the context of the national planning policy, the main objective of which was the decongestion of Athens, and secondarily of Thessaloniki, as outlined by the National Council for Planning and the Environment in 1979 (Ρωμανός 2004). Apart from this key principle, the Plan “Capital City 2000” could not boast any particular originality, according to Prevelakis (2001). However, it did set certain important directions on issues of transport infrastructure such as the Metro, on new transport routes, and the Spata airport.
Map 1: The nine districts of the Plan “Capital 2000” where we can see the population density. The Regulatory Plan by Manos was based on the development of Athens along the lines of nine administrative/geographical units that would make up the integration centres for new activities and uses.
Source: Πρεβελάκης, 2001
The action plans for the upgrade of sub-regions consisted of interventions of urban regeneration that started being implemented at the time, such as the pedestrianization of certain streets. Amongst them we could single out the pedestrianization of Voukourestiou street, and notably the total regeneration of Plaka, a process that would be completed in 1986.
The most important initiatives on an urban policy level were taken in the sector of the spatial planning reform, which had a direct impact on Athens. Particularly, in 1979 a decision for the reduction of the plot ratio is implemented, in some cases up to 30 per cent (Μάνος 2018.03.10), while the obligation to create parking spaces in the basements of apartment buildings is introduced (Πρεβελάκης, 1984). However, the defining law of this period was Law 947/79 “on residential areas.” This law attempted to regulate one of the most severe problems of the Greek spatial planning system: The way in which residential areas were integrated to the city plan. Contrary to the past, when this process took place with a large amount of arbitrariness, and under the pressure of various interests, the law established an entirely different frame. According to the law, there had to be a concrete study to justify the expansion, while the infrastructure needs would be covered by the contributions in land and money of the owners themselves. The reactions against the law were immediate, by several networks of owners, constructors etc., and as a result, Stefanos Manos was forced to resign while the implementation of the law was frozen by the government and the new responsible Minister. The next PASOK administration began to develop a new Regulatory Plan.
Photo 2: The cover of Epikaira magazine, with a special report on the Street Plan of Stefanos Manos. The treatment of the, then young, politician as “juvenile”, and “aiming at people’s properties” is an example of oppositional speech regarding the proposed reforms.
Source: Πρεβελάκης, 2001
Urban policy during the first PASOK administration (1981-1985)
PASOK will come to power in October 1981, giving a boost to the democratic turning points that were already taking place and to the income support policy, relying on a “socialist” strategy and an alternative financial plan compared to New Democracy (Καζάκος, 2007; Close, 2006).
A main element of this strategy was the support of the periphery via policies of decentralization, and the decongestion of Athens (Souliotis 2013). This policy, that we already perceive as mainstream since the period of Manos, is associated with a “diffuse hostility towards Athens” (Πυργιώτης, 2019.07.24). This was a view shared by the near entirety of Greek planners at this period (Πρεβελάκης, 2001) and was particularly popular among the parties of the Left. Especially for the Left (PASOK and the two communist parties), the phenomenon of “urbanization” –the urban boosterism of Athens– had distinct associations with the control policies of the post-civil war state and the Right in Greece, as well as the shaping of particular financial interests around the real estate market(Σαρηγιάννης, 2000; Βαϊου και Χατζημιχάλης, 2012).
Hence, PASOK will adopt a series of policies and a series of guidelines aiming to combat the “unnatural inflation” of the capital city. This meant less infrastructure for the city, and the curbing of economic activity. So, the Law 2601/1984 will prohibit the positioning of industries within Attica (Coccossis et al., 2003). The new Regulatory Plan does not include large infrastructure such as the Spata airpost and the Metro (Hastaoglou et al. 1987; Souliotis et al., 2014). It generally follows a logic of containment of the city growth (Ρωμανός, 2004). These particular views were also the positions of Antonis Tritsis, planner, PASOK MP and important figure that defined the spatial policy-making during the first administration of Andreas Papandreou. The Tritsis period will be characterized by a generalization of reforms and an attempt at regulating the space of the whole territory. The greatest turning points of this period were the legislation of the new Residential Law 1337/1983, the Regulatory Plan of Athens 1515/85 and the establishment of ORSA, the Organisation of Planning and Environmental Protection of Athens.
Photo 3: Ministry booklet on the Regulatory Plan of 1983
Source: Papagiannis’s Office
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