Shaping informality in the free market city : a comparative spatial analysis of street vending policies in Lima and Bogotá
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In addition to labor market factors, the informal economy in Latin America is explained as a product of a weak state capacity to enforce regulation and a networked and resourceful community that enables self-sustained economic activities. Theoretically,informal self-employment flourishes where these conditions prevail. However, as urban renewal advances and business chains expand thorough the city, street trade, one of the most typical informal occupations is persecuted more aggressively, questioning its legitimacy as a spatial practice and source of employment for the urban poor. This dissertation examines the changes in the conception of street trade as a subject of policy, by analyzing closely how current transformations in the urban structure, ideologies of urban development and planning have impacted in the way policy makers intervene in public space and have redefined practices of street trade. It compares the cities of Bogotá and Lima, contributing respectively, to the understanding of progressive and neoliberal styles of urban planning. Using a mixed methods research design, it articulates citywide trends with local conditions and individual experiences, following three stages of analysis: (1) A comparative policy analysis based on a descriptive analysis of its evolution across scales and a spatial analysis of the local variability of enforcement patterns, identifying not only vendors’ agglomeration factors but also where enforcement matches the expansion of large retailers; (2) a comparative analysis based on public officials interviews of current rationales behind placemaking strategies at the city and local level; and (3) a comparative analysis of street vendors spatial practices as well as economic and political choices given the different city policy frameworks and their exposure to distinctive enforcement patterns as identified in the spatial analysis. The findings of this study provide a baseline for further theorization of the role of spatial dimension as it relates to the informal sector. The systematic comprehension of the relationship between city regulation of space and its actual use aims to contribute to a more integrative approach to policy making seeking to ensure that regulation and commercial growth complement and do not burden opportunities for self-employment among the urban poor.