Spanning Policymaking Silos in Urban Development and Environmental Management: When Global Cities are Coastal Cities Too

24 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 28 Sep 2009

Date Written: 2009


An obvious but grossly understated realization of urban policymaking is that global cities are mostly found in the coastal zone. This is true worldwide but it is especially characteristic of American global cities, where virtually all are found in coastal areas. According to NOAA, 53 percent of the U.S. population lives in the coastal zone and 40 percent of the coastal population live in global cities. This reality poses an uncomfortable truth about a basic conflict between managing global city growth and the sustainability of coastal resources. The former is often seen as the ultimate achievement of a new political culture, while the latter refers to the most complex, delicate and interdependent sub-ecology on earth. As a result, American global cities exist today with a profound sense of discordant duality.

As global cities, they are known for their inspiring built environments where art meets function and for their centrality in the world economy. Most are distinguished as world gateways harboring major airports and load-center seaports. They also serve as command centers for managing world commerce, as the nexus of multi-cultural immersion, as world research crucibles, and as world stages for art and entertainment.

As coastal cities, they are associated with the beauty of a coastal habitat and their proximity and access to the open sea. The bays, wetlands and shorelines draw people to observe what happens when the sea meets the land. But a less conspicuous view is of the city overlaid on a coastal zone biologists see as a highly productive nursery of life for land and marine organisms but subject to intense and growing human population pressures.

Although much of the American population chooses to live in coastal regions because of their rich biodiversity, and in global cities because of the robust employment and lifestyle opportunities, the duality does not always mix well in producing sustainable outcomes. The paper develops the metrics for this duality and identifies two principal contributors to it: the concentration of foreign trade through global-city seaports and the accelerated activity levels and mobility needs of a global professional managerial class.

But the paper goes further by also focusing on the piecemeal public-policy process as the source of concern for sustainability, especially in managing transportation, economic development, migration, CO2 emissions, pollution and species extinction. Specifically, global-city outcomes have often appeared to be driven by a silo effect (the dysfunctional segregation of policy disciplines often caused by differences in ideology, scientific fragmentation, and professional misunderstanding that limit the ability of one discipline to sufficiently interact with another).

The significant management challenge, therefore, is about how the policy process might be amended and restructured in light of the duality. This paper addresses a need to manage the duality by producing new intergovernmental instruments for spanning the policy silos. It specifically proposes a multiple-perspectives approach involving interdisciplinary team policymaking and other supporting institutional arrangements.

Suggested Citation

Boschken, Herman L., Spanning Policymaking Silos in Urban Development and Environmental Management: When Global Cities are Coastal Cities Too (2009). APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN:

Herman L. Boschken (Contact Author)

San Jose State University ( email )

One Washington Square
San Jose, CA 95192-0070
United States

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