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Reviewed by:
  • Owning the Street: The Everyday Life of Property by Amelia Thorpe
  • Carlos J. L. Balsas (bio)
OWNING THE STREET: THE EVERYDAY LIFE OF PROPERTY Amelia Thorpe. Owning the Street: The Everyday Life of Property. MIT Press. 2020.

Owning the Street: The Everyday Life of Property shows how an exceptional event, PARK(ing) Day, implemented recurrently every year since 2005, has generated feelings of ownership and belonging in participants in three in-depth case studies (San Francisco, Montreal, and Sydney) analyzed by the author. The events have led to visible and semi-permanent alterations in some of these cities' streets, planning apparatus, and most important, the lives of those who have successfully conceived, implemented, and promoted their PARK(ing) Day experience.

The book, written by University of New South Wales legal studies scholar Amelia Thorpe, appeals to readers interested in debates on the legality of property, ownership, the right to the city, performance, and prefigurative practices in the context of an ecological event. Although PARK(ing) Day is central to the narrative, Owning the Street is well grounded in concepts, theories, and ideas of how those involved in the event think, act, and have been affected, not only by their participation in the event but also by their background, sense of belonging, personhood, and privilege.

"Streams of environmental justice" are applicable not only to waterways (Smardon, Moran, & Baptiste, 2018); roads and streets enable the movement of people and goods, especially when they are transported by vehicles. The literature on transportation planning has only somewhat recently considered the hierarchy of cars and the impact of parking in a city's public realm to the detriment of the needs of the most vulnerable street users, that is, pedestrians, bicyclists, mobility-impaired individuals, and those who are unable or prefer not to be dependent on motorized transportation for their mobility. Given PARK(ing) Day world reach, the author's analyses of the event as a vehicular idea—especially one that travels, takes multiple forms, and accomplishes gains for everyone where it materializes, even if for a short period of time—appear very opportune and rather timely.

It is known that good urbanism (Ellin, 2013) makes a difference in how individuals experience a city. Quite often, citizens question the functionality, conviviality, and livability outcomes of their cities, which for the most part have been shaped by generations of plans, norms, legal codes, and the expertise of those trained in city making, public administration, and public policy. The rather specialized knowledge needed to create order amid growing complexity and urban chaos is insufficient to deliver the public realm that many increasingly desire, one that is "open to anybody" and "offers something to everybody" (Garvin, 2016).

The disproportionate role and use of the automobile in cities has gobbled up an insurmountable [End Page 78] area that, in the opinion of many PARK(ing) Day participants, ought to be reclaimed for real human fruition and publicness (Lopes, Cruz, & Pinho, 2019). The author's extensive qualitative research conducted by visiting the three case study cities and interviewing many participants; canvassing online materials pertaining to the origin, development, and outcomes of PARK(ing) Day; along with the author's sensible assessment of the products of the event, make Owning the Street an excellent contribution to the literature on applied urban politics and everyday urbanism.

The annual basis of the event and its fleetingness, as if a rare oasis in the desert (Meunier, 2015), may be perceived by PARK(ing) Day nonadherents as unlikely to deliver a long-term future strategy for more humane public space in cities. However, the tangible and visible products derived from this event have ranged from changes to public space ordinances and new parklets to semi-permanent alterations to inner-city streets and vacant urban areas. The personal accomplishments of those directly involved with the event have led to a renewed sense of belonging and affirmation that has turned an "impossible dream" (Angotti, 2015) into reality, even if accomplished only incrementally over various years.

DIY and tactical urbanism interventions have grown in scope and scale all over the world. All in all, the new commons require continued "acts of renewal" and changing the nature...