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Urban Planning Aid : Records, 1966-1982
Urban Planning Aid (UPA) began in 1966 when students and faculty of M.I.T. and Harvard organized to provide expertise needed to support protests by local residents against highway construction and housing problems. UPA incorporated in 1966 and gave as its stated goal to offer technical and informational assistance and promote transfer of skills to low income community and workplace groups in Eastern Massachusetts around issues of housing, industrial health and safety, media access, and backup research" (research on housing, prison reform, and urban renewal).
The staff grew from seven people in 1966 to twenty five in 1970, a level at which it remained until 1981. The administration of UPA grew more formal with time. By 1971 they were shifting from regional groups to issues groups, and the elected board of directors decided to hire an administrator to lead the changing organization. while the board and its president continued to function until 1982, the positions of director, co- director, and later that of administrator, were filled by a succession of nine people from 1971 until 1982.
At first UPA obtained some funding from private agencies, mostly the American Friends Service Committee and the Field Foundation. By 1969 they obtained federal funding through the "War on Poverty" program, the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO). Trying for other private funding, especially in 1970 and 1971 but with no success, UPA became dependent on OEO funding. (In 1974 the OEO changed its named to Community Services Administration, CSA.) Funding was often in doubt, and they were faced with three key funding crises. In 1973 OEO cut off funding but UPA convinced the agency in Washington to continue funding. In 1976 landlords and the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce convinced the GSA to again cut off funding. UPA, already defendant in a conspiracy case and in a case against landlords, obtained a hearing where GSA had to justify the aid cutoff. By 1977 GSA agreed to refund UPA but only after attaching many debilitating conditions. Funding was no longer annual,but monthly. Staff had to prepare detailed work reports, and other groups (CAPs) had to approve UPA programs. In 1981 the national GSA was defunded, and UPA affiliated with the College of Public and Community Service of the University of Massachusetts at Boston.
During the course of their operations, UPA helped groups in Cambridge and Boston delay construction of highways through neighborhoods. Demonstrations in Boston's South End in 1969 prevented evictions and demolition of housing. Community organizers were the most numerous of the staff members, and were supported by researchers and media personnel. Studies in the 1960s and handbooks produced in 1970s proved effective, especially in housing issues and in industrial safety. Tenants groups using the UPA publication "Tenants First" published in 1974, proved so effective that Cambridge landlords felt they had to fight in court and by lobbying, to have GSA defund UPA. The most powerful of these landlords had lost to UPA backed campaigns in 1971, 1972, and 1974. The resulting defunding, exhausting court battles, and the restrictions attached to refunding hindered UPA. In 1978 the "prison group" left in order to be able to do its own work. Research and organizing continued to help many local organizations in issues of housing, health and safety, and women 5 rights. UPA ceased operation in 1982.
Scope and Content
The records of Urban Planning Aid (UPA), 1966-1982, offer information on all phases of the work of the organization, its funding sources and battles, and on its administrative structure. Included are corporate documents, minutes of the board and committees, grant proposals, reports and accompanying papers, correspondence, legal papers, and publications.
The most complete series of records are the grant applications, administration and review forms from 1968 to 1981. The periods from 1968 to 1975 and 1978 to 1979 are represented in minutes and correspondence. Correspondence with Community Action Programs (CAPs) which were other groups funded by the Community Services Administration (GSA), is substantial. From 1979 to 1981 the GAPs had the power to approve UPA grant proposals, and in a time of diminishing funding, some harsh competition is revealed. Legal battles in 1975 to 1977 produced four boxes of material containing legal documents, correspondence, reports, studies, administrative notes, clippings, newsletters, requests for support, mailing lists, and support letters. Publications include studies in the late 1960s, and studies, leaflets and books from 1971 to 1979.