Abstract

The article discusses the possibilities and limitations of implementing the projects aimed at improving the quality of urban environment and proposed by civil and expert groups in St. Petersburg. The authors analyze the processes of the social construction of external social and political conditions by group members, and consider the combinations of resources available to them. The empirical basis of the study consists of a series of semi-structured interviews (N = 14) with members of three associations in St. Petersburg involved in the creation and promotion of projects aimed at the transformation of urban public spaces. The authors conclude that in their efforts of projects implementation the groups face multiple constraints determined by the existing structure of political opportunities. These constraints include the following: insufficient number of lobbyists and other political allies; low awareness of group members about the programs of city budget planning; constant rotation of officials who make decisions concerning urban development; legislation barriers, bureaucratic obstacles; low interest of business community in the projects, and more.

However, there are also several conditions favorable for city projects realization, such as the personification of contacts with legislative and executive authorities, and the availability of professional and other group resources. In the context of these socio-political conditions, the groups can count on a rather poor repertoire of project implementation capacities. Among these are the delay of projects resulting from the time-consuming process of their integration in targeted programs and the city budget; partial implementation; project transformation; or splitting of a large project into parts.

Keywords: urban public spaces, quality of urban environment, civic groups, expert groups, urban social movements, political opportunity structure, resources