Can Sustainability in Philadelphia Be Equitable? The Evolution of the Sustainability Planning Agenda

Authors: Christina Rosan*, Individual Member
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Urban Geography
Keywords: sustainability, equity
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 3:55 PM / 5:35 PM
Room: Washington 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


While planners often focus on place-making, the urban sustainability approaches that cities are adopting are increasingly viewed as contributing to larger, and troubling gentrification dynamics, often termed “green gentrification” (Anguelovski, 2016). Using a series of mini-cases of conflicts around urban sustainability planning in Philadelphia over the past decade, this paper highlights how the conversation about urban sustainability and the associated policies has evolved in the city. By examining the concept of urban sustainability and policies to promote it (for example, investment in public transit, smart growth, transit oriented development, increasing density, bike lanes, energy efficiency, climate resiliency, and urban greening), the paper argues that using place-based strategies to make cities more sustainable are not leading to “just sustainabilities” (Agyeman, 2017). What is missing in Philadelphia are policy tools and planning techniques that promote urban sustainability planning and simultaneously respect the very real concerns from low-income and communities of color that they are, what Melissa Checker describes as, being “wiped out by the ‘green wave’ ”(Checker, 2011).

Agyeman, J. (2017). Just Sustainabilities: Re-imagining E/quality, Living Within Limits. University of Washington.

Anguelovski, I. (2016). From toxic sites to parks as (green) LULUs? New challenges of inequity, privilege, gentrification, and exclusion for urban environmental justice. Journal of Planning Literature, 31(1), 23-36.

Checker, M. (2011). Wiped out by the “greenwave”: Environmental gentrification and the paradoxical politics of urban sustainability. City & Society, 23(2), 210-229.

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