Valencia is suffering from a crisis without precedents, a combination ofthe excesses of the deregulation of the financial system, the flexibilizationof the Spanish urban legislation and the burst of the real-estate’s speculativebubble. It has been sustained by many authors (CITE AUTHORS) that in this casestudy, there is an overlaying of three crisis: the international, the Spanishand the Valencian, with different factors but cumulative.The Valencian Country is one of the autonomous communities that has sufferedand is suffering the most the consequences of the crisis, which can be explainednot only by the excessive investment and overestimation of big urbandevelopments, as well as in the construction and real estate sector, but alsoby the lack of proactive politics that led to a financial debt that sustainedthe politics of grandeur and GDP growth rate. · In terms of globalisation asopportunity and city branding, in 1982, the ‘new’ autonomous ComunitatValenciana wanted to transform its capital, Valencia, in terms of physicalstructure as well as their national and international image. Valencia was setto be an attractive leisure destination (LunaGarcía, 2003) with sport Mega-events and the City of Arts and Science,becoming synonyms with a ‘futuristic, global and modern city’. · The City of arts and Science was conceived from a political point ofview that perceived the city of Valencia as the capital to the new region ofComunitat Valenciana as well as a potentially strategic position within a newlyre-scaled Spain and Europe. The European administration was in favor ofsupporting a new growing center in the southern part of Europe, as Valencia issaid to occupy a strategic position in the economic macro-region oreuro-region: ‘The Mediterranean arc’, with important connections to Madrid tothe west and Barcelona to the north.
These planning efforts are driven by thewider ‘re-scaling’ or ‘re-territorialization’ of the European political economy(Prytherch, 2003). · Regarding the myth ofglobalization is good for everyone, this Mega-events infrastructure wasbuilt near the port, next to historical and working-class neighborhoods withclear industrial heritage, imposing a ‘pseudo-modernity consisting of lofts,boutiques and luxury discos’ (Del Romero Renau& Trudelle, 2011). · Valencia can be classified as a Mediterranean (sprawl like) city. The 20thand 21st century were accompanied by massive urbanization due toeconomic growth. Private foreign investment, the construction industry and thetourist industry fueled the economy, and economic growth and urban growthbecame synonyms for Valencia (García, 2010).This period of economic growth (1994-2007) led to privatedebt growth due to unnecessary infrastructure and projects (City of Arts andScience, Castellon Airport, Formula One street circuit). Thecity has been slowing down and trying to digest its growth.
In other regions of Spain, such as Madrid and the Basque Country, thecrisis has impacted in lower levels, as a more well-balanced growth model hasbeen implemented. On the contrary, on the Mediterranean coast, and specially inValencia, negative consequences of neoliberalism affected the city. As Harveystates in The Right of the city (2008); “the results of continued reinvestmentis the expansion of surplus production at a compound rate—hence the logisticcurves (…) attached to the history of capital accumulation, paralleled by thegrowth path of urbanization under capitalism”. In a similar way, urbanism inValencia was guided by neoliberalist schemes where the aim was to continue withthe reinvestment in the construction market, towards capital accumulation andGDP growth. The rampant development excessive investment in housing and in pharaonicarchitecture led to the overcapacity of the housing sector and the subsequent crashof the real-estate market that resulted in precarious levels of employment.
The abrupt burst of the real estatebubble, and subsequent crisis, left a considerable amount of Valencia’spopulation without work. In 2016, unemployment rates in the Valencian Communitywas 45,5%, reaching as high as 56,7 in 2014, in the populational group between15 and 24 years old, and 20,2% in people between 20 and 65 years old, incontrast with the EU’s average of 8,4% (Eurostat, 2017). Furthermore, unemploymenthas expanded to the most educated youth and, as stated by Gonzalo Romeu; “thedelay in entering the workforce risks scarring a generation of young people, andargues that those who can should move abroad if they need to”. As aconsequence, the number of educated youth in Valencia, one the most heavilyimpacted parts of Spain, have turned to seeking work abroad has increased sincethe 2008 financial downturn (Bygnes, 2015), as obtaining tertiary education failsto assure job opportunities. Regardless of the high unemployment rates, immigration was stillconstant after the years of the crisis.
Nevertheless, as of 2011, the amount offoreign arrivals in Valencia started to decrease considerably. Similar with theyouth flight to other regions of Spain and countries in Europe, immigrants havestarted to leave the city. The city has been slowing down and tryingto digest its growth.In terms of sustainable cities, this implies a better commitment of aimingtowards cities characterized by supporting the shift towards a low-carboneconomy, preserving and protecting the environment and promoting resourceefficiency as well as promoting the cultural and architectural heritage, andpromoting social inclusion, combating poverty and any discrimination.Transition to a new economic production model, as in a way out of acrisis territory holds a valuable position, as it is the origin of many agglomerationand network economies, as well as in microeconomic politics, regional and localgovernment are crucial.
Also, the inevitable shift from the construction industry to services ina more sustainable and beneficial way of approaching tourism, less stationaryand driven by megaevent and pharaonic architecture, and more respectful withthe environment. Nowadays the Polytechnic University ofValencia has become one of the most prestigious universities in Spain,according to its technology, investigation, several degrees offering a closerelation with some the most important universities in the world such asCambridge, Oxfordand Harvard. Most faculties and colleges are based in the city of Valencia. The government has been implementingintegration and coexistence policies for immigrants and has approved the”Valencian Programme for inclusion and social cohesion” for the 2017-2020period. Also, the Valencian Community will create a municipal network to hostrefugees, which showcases not only its politics of connectivity but solidarityin a relational/global sense of place. From a bottom-up approach, ValenciaCiutat Refugi is an NGO in the city of Valencia that started as a communityinitiative, led by civic actors and is now part of the Spanish Commission forRefugee Assistance (national scale). – La Nostra Ciutat, el teu refugi projectaims to support the integration, awareness and inclusion of refugees living inthe city.
It is a local response to the global situation of humanitarian crisisthat requires that cities, institutions and civil society work together towardsfacing this challenge. The city of Valencia is now embedded in a network ofcities of refuge all over Spain and Europe. This national network was proposedand started by the mayor of Barcelona and includes big and important citiessuch as Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, and Zaragoza, as well as smallmunicipalities with a total of 25 cities registered in the initiatives.
Also,the mayor of Barcelona and the registered cities, are urging European cities tojoin this network of solidarity, alongside cities like Paris in France, andLesbos in Greece. During thecrisis period, the Spanish economy was severely affected, and the ValencianCommunity (VC) suffered considerably. Consequently, the Valencian Community wasin need of an alternative way to support itself and is now working towardssustainable urban and rural tourism. Currently with a low weight but with agreat potential, it is set to promote the value of urban and rural environmentand to connect the important natural and cultural spaces in the city. Many efforts have been made by the Generalitat of Valencia to bring lifeto the city center -one of the biggest in Europe. Also, regarding the European cities as cities of publictransport, initiatives such as the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan whichincludes pedestrian and cycling friendly streets, and the improvement of publictransport are being implemented.
These projects are considered a holisticapproach to mobility and are part of the ‘Civitas Initiative’ for cleaner andbetter transport in cities, co-financed by the EU. Aclear example of a public policy in the city is Valencia’s Metropolitan GreenRing Cycling Road, one of the priority actions to be developed under theEuropean Regional Development Fund (ERDF) 2014-20 programme. The ERDF focusesin the reinforcement of economic and social cohesion within the regions of theEuropean Union.
This cohesion policies aim to promote more balanced andsustainable urban planning. Furthermore, the implementation of these greeninfrastructures generates new employment opportunities, which will help theeconomy of the VC. Thebiking circuit is being developed under the ERDF objective of “Preserving andprotecting the environment and promoting resource efficiency”.
Article 5(6)(d)of the ERDF Regulation quotes that “The ERDF shall support … protecting andrestoring biodiversity and soil and promoting ecosystem services, includingthrough Natura 2000, and green infrastructure”. Figure 1 provides evidence that the VC has alarge share of biogeographical sites in the network of nature protection areasin the territory of the European Union (Natura 2000); therefore, the projectalso involves the European Environment Agency and pictures green infrastructureas “key tools to build climate resilient cities, improve well-being, maintainurban biodiversity and reach social and educational objectives as well”. Thisthematic priority (TO6: Environment and resource efficiency) is assigned with10% of the ERDF for the VC and supports sustainable urban development.
Thisspecific project is organized by the Generalitat of the Valencian Communitywith a 34,8-million-euro budget and is partially (50%) financed by the EU. Theplanned bike paths will structure an axis between the city of Valencia and thesurrounding municipalities of the metropolitan region (see Figure 2 and Figure3), allowing longer distance trips. The objective is to boost tourism in asustainable way and connect with national parks, biogeographical sites andmunicipalities. Moreover, it is set to promote green and sustainable means oftransport while emphasizing the importance and encouraging the conservation andprotection of natural and cultural heritage. Furthermore,the Green Ring will connect with the EuroVelo 8, a cycling circuit to bedeveloped in the Mediterranean coast (see Figure 4). This bike route will bind regionsand member states (see Figure 5), and is organized by the European Cyclists’Federation and co-financed by the EU under the preparatory action “SustainableTourism”.
TheEuroVelo project is part of the ERDF MED (Mediterranean coast) programme, a cross-border,transnational and interregional co-operation within the EU. This territorialcooperation involves countries and regions such as Croatia, Cyprus, thesouthern region of France, Greece, North West Italy, Malta, Slovenia, andsouthern and eastern Spain, where the Valencian Community is located. Theprogramme includes low carbon strategies, as well as the promotion andprotection of natural and cultural resources in the Mediterranean. The mainobjective pursued is to increase sustainable means of transport by doubling theshare of urban plans involving low carbon transportation. The programme is setto promote sustainable tourism in MED coastal regions by 10% throughcooperation among nations through integrated planning.