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La Spezia, Italy

The city of La Spezia, population of 95,000, is located in the Liguria region of northern Italy, 50 miles southeast of Genoa. Like several other Italian cities, La Spezia uses a form of TDR as a way of equitably distributing development potential and thereby mitigating some of the land value inequities created by tradition zoning. As a second but important benefit, these programs allow governments to acquire land for public infrastructure at little or no cost (Micelli and Faggiani, 2001).

Like Casalecchio di Reno, Reggio Emilia, Piacenza, Turin, Parma, Cesena and Schio, La Spezia uses this form of TDR to implement planning goals for all areas of the city planned for change (Micelli and Faggioni, 2001).

As in many Italian cities, La Spezia applies a uniform level of development potential to all the land within a comparable classification of land designated for conversion. However, within each classification, the owners of land planned for public infrastructure (sending sites) cannot use that development potential on site but can sell it to the owners of land identified for private development (receiving sites). The owners of the receiving sites can build at or below the baseline density or can exceed baseline by acquiring TDRs from the owners of the sending sites. This approach is intended to equalize the monetary effects of zoning and maintain higher property value for the sending sites than would occur if the city gave little or no development potential to these sites and then acquired them through condemnation at a reduced price. After the sending site owners have sold their TDRs, they give the property to the jurisdiction or sell it to the jurisdiction at an agricultural land value, thus delivering the programs’ other major benefit of allowing the jurisdiction to cheaply acquire land for public facilities.

As with other Italian TDR programs, La Spezia first determined the appropriate number of land classifications to use. Some cities decide that all of their conversion land is essentially homogenous and they create just one large category. Other cities find the conversion land to be sufficiently different to warrant several classifications. The creation of these land classes requires what appears to be a balancing of economic, legal and other criteria that identify categories of land that ought to have comparable value based on concepts of fairness and perhaps common sense. La Spezia developed six classes: abandoned areas smaller than 2 hectares; abandoned areas larger than 2 hectares; urban areas, vacant areas, industrial areas with residential and retail uses and industrial areas (Micelli & Faggioni, 2001).

All land within each of La Spezia’s two classes has the following baseline development potential regardless of whether or not it is planned for public facilities and therefore a sending site.

  • Abandoned areas smaller than 2 hectares: 0.50 square meters of development per one square meter of land area
  • Abandoned areas larger than 2 hectares: 0.35 square meters of development per one square meter of land area
  • Urban areas: 0.25 square meters of development per one square meter of land area
  • Vacant areas: 0.15 square meters of development per one square meter of land area
  • Industrial areas with residential and retail uses: 0.20 square meters of development per one square meter of land area
  • Industrial areas: 0.30 square meters of development per one square meter of land area

La Spezia also uses design objectives to divide each class into geographic areas with as few property owners as possible. Transfers are limited to the sending and receiving site owners within these geographic areas. Although the transfers are private sector transactions, the city facilitates and provides information.

Micelli, E., and Faggiani, (2001) A. New Tools for Land Policy in Italy. Paper presented at the 8th European Real Estate Society Conference. Alicante 26-29 June 2001.