Supporters Network for Community Development "Machizukuri"
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1) Cheer for Kobe-Style Machizukuri Organizations

Yuji Miyanishi, Kobe Regional Planning Institute



Notation of reference number
 Since more than ten months have passed since the earthquake occurred, and demolition and clearing of damaged buildings has been underway to a relative extent, peace is retuning to the damaged towns. Temporary shops and houses were established and construction of regular buildings is also starting in some areas. However, the conditions in damaged areas vary, and in some areas it is difficult to build even single-family houses. In many districts, the citizens, in order to improve these difficult conditions, have gotten together to form Machizukuri Organizations, with the purpose of going from reactivation to restoration. It is said that the number of organizations formed is over 75. I, a consultant who has been involved with machizukuri in many places, am not only overwhelmed by this number, but also can imagine that people who are in charge of the management of Machizukuri Organizations have worries. I want to write my view of the situation and the roles of Machizukuri Organizations based on my own experiences so far and also give a cheer for the organizations.

Motive to form Machizukuri Organization

 In Kobe City, machizukuri by citizens has a long history, and the "Kobe City Machizukuri Ordinance" was established to regulate it. This ordinance was defined as an ordinance for taking care of procedures of District Planning, approving Machizukuri Organizations, making Machizukuri proposals and taking care of their approvals by Machizukuri Organizations.
 "Shinsai Fukko Kinkyu Seibi Jorei" (Urgent Act for Restoration Ordinance), which was established on February 16th, designated severely damaged areas as "disaster restoration promotion districts". Kobe City designated 24 districts, totaling about 1200ha, where restoration projects are urgently and principally promoted, as "priority restoration districts" under this ordinance. These districts are the places where some organizations such as Machizukuri Organizations were already established before the earthquake and machizukuri activities have been held by citizens, and are also the places where Kobe City itself executes restoration projects. "Disaster restoration promotion districts" which were not designated as "priority restoration districts" are termed "White Zones". Also in these White Zones, the damage by the earthquake was severe and support for restoration from city government is a necessity.
 It is essential to reach an agreement about machizukuri among local residents in an organized way, to get support from the city government and to take care of problems of individuals. Kobe City has said clearly that it would add the area which was not designated as "priority restoration districts" to "priority restoration districts", if residents can reach agreement among themselves and can make proposals for machizukuri.
 Therefore, some organizations might have been established for the purpose of getting strong support from Kobe City, but I hope that they are organizations through which residents themselves can realize their common interests through the amity and good will which they naturally have.

Situation of organizations

 The Machizukuri Promotion Organization in Mano District, Nagata Ward was the first organization designated by the Kobe City Machizukuri Ordinance, and the residents have continued their activities for 15 years. Thinking about the experience of Mano Ward, the organization was able to earn some trust from the residents and a good reputation for it's accomplishments, but it was also forced into a difficult position as an intermediary between residents and the government. It is because although the promotion organization is approved as an organization by Kobe City, it has an unstable position where it can only ask cooperation of or pass requests to the government or residents.
 Organizations such as Machizukuri Organizations have only that power which volunteer groups have. Ordinary residents think that machizukuri organizations are just seized upon by the government and are under its influence, and consider them as weird organizations which place demands on residents under the shelter of the aim Machizukuri. Even if a mayor approves an organization, from residents' points of view it is only a volunteer group as long as it is unclear whether agreement can be democratically reached or not. For example it should be clear whether members of an organization have qualifications to be representatives or deputies of residents or whether an organization has a structure where residents' wills can be implemented. There is a long way to go for residents to establish their own independence and stand on their own feet.

Two-facedness of residents

 A member of an organization is just a resident and a representative of a residential association, like a town association. A member has no authority. The only thing a member has is volunteer spirit and strong attachment to his/her area. However, when a member tries to push ahead with Machizukuri, conflict can occur. People who confront a member are also residents. It may be our weak point that we are unable to cooperate with each other.
 Each nation is guaranteed to seek its private interest under a free market economy. Therefore, a resident has a good side of being a person who lives with amity and goodwill and also a negative side of self-interest in his/her private interests and rights. In a moneyed society, the good human relationships and standards and sense of behaviors which are most important to strengthen a stable community are distorted. Under this social trend, it is not prohibited that residents behave themselves and speak as owners of private property and bearers of legal rights so that they can maximize their own private interest. Members of an organization are compelled to have difficulties in organizing each resident's opinions.

Dealing with the government

 It is an optimistic illusion to think that once Machizukuri Organizations are established, Kobe City will cooperate with their districts and provide them much support. Kobe City is a gigantic municipality where over one million people live and which has a strong vertical structure and is not a quick-wheeling organization. As it has had a hard time even to deal with machizukuri organizations which were established before the earthquake, it doesn't have a structure which can handle so many newly established organizations. Furthermore, the worsened financial conditions after the earthquake are making Kobe City's future dark. The principle of Machizukuri which Kobe City proposes is that of sharing roles with organizations. Organizations should insist on the city government's participation. For example, one reason why the Building Standards Law has become a law with many loopholes is the loose attitude of administration, including that of the national government. Government participation is not only financial. It includes the execution of laws and systems fairly and rigidly, which provides support to the work of the organizations.
 It is a basic strategy of the administration that residents do what they can do steadily, understand their limits, ask help from administration about what they lack and ask their support. This is also a basic strategy in the Mano District.

Reaching an agreement under democratic procedures

 If in the interest of pedestrian safety it is proposed to make a street one-way, eliminating through-traffic, which is a nuisance in a district, opinions about this Machizukuri proposal may suddenly be split into pros and cons among residents. Organizations will be tested as to whether they have an ability to resolve differences of opinion among residents and to convince them to adjust themselves and organize their opinions. However, it is unacceptable if people expect that organizations have the authority to quash opposition or think that they can push forward opinions by manipulating relationships.
 I think that the only short cut for organizations will be to try to reach a gradual and democratic agreement which is obtained for objective acts by cultivating the trust of residents, boosting common feeling for the local common interest and making residents realize that in every case there are advantages and disadvantages.
 Although Kobe Machizukuri mainly by residents after the earthquake is difficult, it is also expected. It is because this is a kind of a major social experiment to know whether the Japanese people can build a town full of human touches in the 21st century, which is coming around the corner. Glory to the people who do Machizukuri!
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