To green, or not to green?: Assessing the negative outcomes of urban greening and the policies designed to avoid them

Authors: Rachel Will*, University of Georgia
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: Urban greening; ecological gentrification; political ecology
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Governor's Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Urban greening projects are often promoted for the numerous social and ecological benefits they provide, including improved public health, economic development, and habitat connectivity, among others. Despite these marketed benefits, research has demonstrated that the social benefits of urban greening do not accrue to all residents, and further, some produce only superficial ecological benefits. In response to these findings, some urban greening incorporate policies to mitigate anticipated negative outcomes. One such project is the Atlanta BeltLine, one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive urban greening projects. In order to mitigate the creation of social disamenities, such as ecological gentrification, the BeltLine is guided by legally binding affordable housing mandates within the BeltLine corridor. Additionally, to avoid creating only marginal ecological benefits, the BeltLine is guided by policies targeting stormwater mitigation, tree canopy cover, and sustainable development. Despite being anchored in mitigative policies, the BeltLine has spurred several adverse outcomes. The BeltLine has been criticized for creating runaway gentrification and displacement in the city. Further, private development has flocked to the BeltLine corridor, resulting in a net loss of urban tree cover and local increases in imperviousness, complicating stormwater mitigation efforts. Exemplifying a paradox of urban greening, the BeltLine has exacerbated many of the negative social and ecological outcomes it’s guiding policies were designed to avoid. This paper analyzes how and why these policies fell short, and will offer a way forward by outlining alternative solutions and policy recommendations that can be used to create more equitable socio-ecological outcomes.

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