Sai Balakrishnan
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Urban Planning

Sai Balakrishnan is a Postdoctoral Research Scholar at the Center on Global Legal Transformation at the Columbia Law School. She holds a Masters in City Planning from MIT and a PhD in Urban Planning from Harvard. Sai’s research interests include property rights and land markets, urban informality, institutions for managing rapid urbanization, theories of justice, and planning histories and theories. Her doctoral dissertation derived from these interests and looked at the restructuring of land markets during India's contemporary agrarian to urban transition, the land conflicts precipitated by these changes and the institutional innovation of land cooperatives in the Pune region as a resolution to these conflicts. Sai has worked as an urban planner in India, the U.S and the U.A.E and as a consultant to the UN-HABITAT, Nairobi. Sai is also a Research Associate at the Land Governance Laboratory, a not-for-profit organization that studies and disseminates innovative land tools for more inclusive land resource allocation in rapidly urbanizing countries.

Semester Course
Spring 2014 URPL-GP.4606.001 Comparative Land Use Planning

Land has always been a contested resource. Public officials make value-based and political decisions on land allocation among different, often competing, uses. These decisions shape, and are shaped by, societal factors like who owns/occupies land, how they value it, what they do with it, and who benefits from it. Land-use planning, then, is fraught with trade-offs and conflicts. The past few decades have further complicated these already fraught processes with changes like accelerated urbanization in countries in the global south, complex global interdependencies leading to the creation of transnational real estate markets, and the growing strength of human rights movements that make previously standard land-use tools like eminent domain virtually unusable.

The first section of the course is an overview of the idea of property in land. It will interrogate the legal (property rights v. claims), organizational (forms of land ownership) and financial (private property and public interest) aspects of property relations in land. The second section is a comparative analysis of land-use planning. Here, we will compare how the legal doctrines in different countries construe the meaning of, and the justification for, the public regulation of land-use; the similarities and differences in the use of standard land-use planning tools like eminent domain and zoning across different country contexts; and the strength and limits of land-use planning in regulating conditions that are emerging as the dominant mode of urbanization in developing countries, such as informal housing and peri-urbanization.


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