The battle over the commons in port cities

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The zone of intersection between land and sea within an urban context has long been viewed as a special type of urban commons. The well-researched port-city interface, however, tells a rather tragic story about the use and management of this valuable resource. This study asks how four major regulatory-institutional issues in the interface–land ownership, activities allowed in port area, planning autonomy, and public access–affect the ability of ports and cities to preserve elements of “commons” in urban coasts? Furthermore, it assesses if and how Elinor Ostrom’s principles for overcoming commons-related tensions, could contribute to the management of port-city conflicts over land-uses in the Mediterranean urban coastline and the various questions that may derive from such an application. For these purposes the study combines a comprehensive literature review with the analysis of planning regulation and in-depth, semi-structured interviews of key-stakeholders in seven port cities across three Mediterranean countries. The common experience in these different cases suggests that through a strategy involving scaling-down spatial decisions or governance, and built-in mechanisms for spatial cooperation, ports and the cities that host them can find a new joint path, which will strengthen local synergies and the quality of urban, public space.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)918-937
Number of pages20
JournalUrban Geography
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Urban coast
  • cross-national analysis
  • planning regulation
  • port-city interface
  • the commons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Urban Studies


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