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Municipal arrondissements of France

incl overseas regions


incl overseas departments

Arrondissements Cantons Intercommunality

Communauté urbaine
Communauté d'agglomération
Communauté de communes


Associated communes
Municipal arrondissements

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In France, a municipal arrondissement French: arrondissement municipal aʁɔ̃dismɑ̃ mynisipal is a subdivision of the commune, and is used in the country's three largest cities: Paris, Lyon and Marseille It functions as an even lower administrative division, with its own mayor Although usually referred to simply as "arrondissements", they should not be confused with departmental arrondissements, which are groupings of communes within one département


  • 1 General characteristics
  • 2 History
  • 3 Status
  • 4 See also
  • 5 Notes

General characteristicsedit

There are 45 municipal arrondissements in France: 20 in Paris see: Arrondissements of Paris, nine in Lyon see: Arrondissements of Lyon, and 16 in Marseille However, a law in 1987 assigned the 16 arrondissements of Marseille to eight secteurs "areas", two arrondissements per secteur Thus, in effect, Marseille can be more properly described as being divided into eight secteurs, the sixteen arrondissements having been made merely units of demarcation

  • The largest arrondissement is the ninth arrondissement of Marseille: 6321 km² 244 sq miles, or 15,620 acres, which is 26 percent of the size of the city of Marseille, and is 60 percent the size of the city of Paris including the Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes It contains the Luminy Park, which is a protected park, and the calanques of Marseille
  • The smallest arrondissement is the second arrondissement of Paris: 0992 km² 0383 sq miles, or 245 acres
  • The most populous arrondissement is the fifteenth arrondissement of Paris, with 225,362 inhabitants at the 1999 census If the 15th arrondissement of Paris were a commune, it would be the ninth most-populous commune of France, larger than the cities of Bordeaux, Lille, and Grenoble
  • The least populous arrondissement is the 16th arrondissement of Marseille, with only 16,574 inhabitants However, the 16th arrondissement is part of the eighth secteur of Marseille 87,714 inhabitants, and is not really administered by itself, as explained above Thus, the least populous arrondissement in France is the first arrondissement of Paris, with 16,888 inhabitants at the 1999 census
  • The arrondissement with the highest population density is the 11th arrondissement of Paris, with 40,672 residents per km² 105,339 per sq miles in 1999
  • The arrondissement with the lowest population density is the ninth arrondissement of Marseille, with 1,151 residents per km² 2,981 per sq miles in 1999
The twenty arrondissements of Paris

Municipal arrondissements have names only in Paris and are seldom used even there In Paris, residents are very familiar with the arrondissements and, when asked where they live, they will almost always answer with the number In Lyon, three arrondissements – Vieux Lyon fifth, la Croix Rousse fourth and Vaise ninth – are generally referred to by those names, and the others are referred to by number In Marseille, it is common for people to refer to the names of the neighborhoods, such as Ste Anne or Mazargues, but also to the number of the arrondissements

Municipal arrondissements are used in the five-digit postal codes of France The first two digits are the number of the département in which the address is located 75 for Paris; 69 for Rhône in which Lyon is located; 13 for Bouches-du-Rhône in which Marseille is located; the last three digits are the number of the arrondissement so the postal code of a person living in the 5th arrondissement of Paris is "75005 Paris", and for a person living in the 14th arrondissement of Marseille it will be "13014 Marseille" The only exception is the 16th arrondissement of Paris, which is divided between two postal codes because if its size: "75016 Paris", in the south of the arrondissement, and "75116 Paris", in the north of the arrondissement

The 16 arrondissements and the 8 secteurs of Marseille

The arrondissements of Paris form a clockwise spiral or snail pattern beginning from the first in the centre In Marseille, they form a meandering path from the first down through the southwest, to the southeast, northeast and finally to the northwest The arrondissements of Lyon do not form any discernible pattern at all, and only two pairs of arrondissements with a common border have consecutive numbers: the first and the second as well as the seventh and the eighth

Some other large cities of France are also divided between several postal codes, but the postal codes do not correspond to arrondissements


The twelve former arrondissements of Paris between 1795 and 1860

The first municipal arrondissements were created on 22 August 1795 when the city commune of Paris was split into twelve arrondissements At the time, the National Convention was wary of the municipalities in big cities because of their revolutionary moods Paris or because of their counter-revolutionary leanings Lyon and many other cities in the provinces, and so the Convention decided to split the large cities communes of France into smaller communes Paris, unlike the other large cities, was not split into smaller communes, but into arrondissements, a newly created category, and the central municipality was abolished

In 1805 Napoleon reunited all the large cities of France, but Paris was left divided Eventually, in 1834, the city commune of Paris was reunited, with a municipal council for the whole city, but without a mayor, the municipality being ruled by the préfet of the Seine département and by the préfet de police The twelve arrondissements were preserved, being needed for the local administration of people in such a large and populous city as Paris

On 31 December 1859, the central government enlarged the city of Paris, annexing the suburban communes surrounding Paris, and the arrondissements were reorganised due to the enlargement Twenty arrondissements with new boundaries were set up and they are still the arrondissements found today in Paris

The nine arrondissements of Lyon

In the case of Lyon, in 1852, after more than fifty years of hesitation, the central government finally allowed Lyon to annex its immediate suburbs, which had become extremely populous due to the Industrial Revolution The commune of Lyon annexed the communes of Croix-Rousse, La Guillotière, and Vaise Wary of the new size of the city and the power held by the municipality, the central government decided to divide Lyon into five arrondissements, and the office of mayor of Lyon was abolished The préfet of the Rhône département was left to rule the municipality

In 1881, the office of mayor of Lyon was re-established, and the commune of Lyon reverted to the standard status of French communes However, the arrondissements were maintained, still being needed in such a populous city New arrondissements were created in Lyon in 1867, 1912 and 1957 by splitting the third and seventh arrondissements In 1963, Lyon annexed the commune of Saint-Rambert-l'Île-Barbe, and in 1964, the ninth arrondissement of Lyon was created as a result of the annexation, thus reaching the final arrangement of nine arrondissements found in Lyon today

In 1977, the office of mayor of Paris was re-established after almost 183 years of abolition, but the arrondissements were left untouched

In 1981, the Socialists won the French general elections and in the following year, they passed several key laws redefining the powers of the régions, départements, and communes, with the clear objective of ushering in a less centralised France On 31 December 1982, the so-called "PLM Law fr" Loi PLM was passed, where PLM stands for Paris Lyon Marseille These three communes were given a special status, derogatory to the general status of communes, and were officially divided into municipal arrondissements Where arrondissements already existed, in Paris and Lyon, the law preserved the already existing boundaries In Marseille, where there were no arrondissements before 1982, sixteen arrondissements were set up

The municipal arrondissements were given an official status by the law, each with own their town hall mairie d'arrondissement and mayor maire d'arrondissement For the first time in history, arrondissement councils conseils d'arrondissement were created in the arrondissements, directly elected by the inhabitants of each The city halls mairies of Paris, Marseille and Lyon were preserved above the mairies d'arrondissement, with a central mayor maire for each city above the maires d'arrondissement

In these three cities, the arrondissements were made the administrative unit dealing directly with citizens For all necessary queries and official business for example, birth, marriage and death registrations and records, citizens go to their respective mairie d'arrondissement The city hall mairie centrale does not generally have direct contact with the citizens and is in charge of larger matters such as economic development or local taxation It was felt that the arrondissements should deal with the individual matters of citizens, the local arrondissement town halls being more accessible than the centralised city hall See "Rights and duties of the arrondissement council and mayor" below

The law was largely welcomed but some wondered why it was applied only to Paris, Lyon and Marseille These three cities are the largest in France with 2,125,246 inhabitants in Paris, 798,430 inhabitants in Marseille, and 466,000 inhabitants in Lyon and the law was meant to have the local administrations become more accessible and tied to their respective citizens However, many thought the law could have been applied to other populous cities, in particular to the fourth largest city of France, Toulouse 435,000 inhabitants, and the fifth largest city, Nice 342,738 inhabitants; both cities where the central city halls have to deal with a large number of citizens Nonetheless, to this day only Paris, Lyon and Marseille are divided into municipal arrondissements

In 1987, a new law assigned the sixteen arrondissements of Marseille to eight secteurs, two arrondissements per secteur, as explained above; and in Marseille there are now only eight mairies d'arrondissement, each one administering both arrondissements of each secteur


The PLM Law of 1982 governs the status of the municipal arrondissements

Unlike French communes, municipal arrondissements have no legal "personality" and so they are not considered legal entities, have no legal capacity and have no budget of their own

The three communes of Paris, Lyon, and Marseille are ruled by a municipal council and a mayor In Paris the municipal council is called Paris council conseil de Paris Each arrondissement or secteur in Marseille has an arrondissement council conseil d'arrondissement and an arrondissement mayor Two thirds of the councillors on the arrondissement council are elected inside the arrondissement; the remaining one third is made up of members of the municipal council elected at the commune level above the arrondissements The arrondissement mayor is elected by the arrondissement council and must be a member of the municipal council of the commune

The law of 27 February 2002 on local "proximity" democracy increased the powers of both the arrondissement councils and the arrondissement mayors

The council and the mayor of the arrondissement have these rights and duties:

  • The arrondissement council manages local community facilities child care centres and public nurseries, sport centres and stadiums, local parks etc but must obtain permission from the municipal council before building new facilities
  • The arrondissement council is asked for advice by the municipal council in any project whose completion takes place on the territory of the arrondissement In particular, the arrondissement council gives an opinion on matters regarding local non-profit associations and on modifications of local zoning Plan Local d'Urbanisme
  • Arrondissements have a say in social housing: half of the social housing dwellings council flats within the territory of the arrondissement are allocated by the arrondissement mayor; the other half is allocated by the mayor of the commune
  • The arrondissement mayor and his deputies are in charge of registering births, deaths and marriages in the arrondissement
  • The arrondissement council can submit written questions to the mayor of the commune on any matter regarding the arrondissement It can also ask the municipal council to debate over any matter regarding the arrondissement
  • The municipal council and the mayor of the commune can delegate certain powers to the arrondissement councils and mayors
  • The arrondissement council can create neighbourhood committees conseils de quartier with people in a given neighbourhood, who meet regularly and draft proposals about life in their neighbourhood

See alsoedit

  • Arrondissement
  • Arrondissements of France departmental arrondissements
  • Arrondissements of Paris
  • Arrondissements of Lyon
  • Arrondissements of Marseille


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