Racialized Suitability: Green Infrastructure Site Selection

Authors: Miriam Solis*, UT Austin
Topics: Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: green infrastructure, race, environmental justice
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Jefferson, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper asks, how do green infrastructure site selection procedures contribute to racial formation? When deciding where to site green infrastructure, planners implement screening procedures that consider suitability characteristics such as elevation, infiltration capacity, and soil quality. The topography of cities, however, is racially inscribed. Communities of color tend to live in areas with lower elevations and poorer environmental conditions due to discriminatory housing and land use policy (Ueland and Warf 2006; Maantay and Maroko 2009; Morello-Frosch and Shenassa 2006). This paper employs content analysis methods to examine the green infrastructure selection criteria of the cities of San Francisco and Austin. In line with the literature, it finds that suitability analyses render low-income communities of color unsuitable for green infrastructure placement. It also finds, however, that this analysis is at odds with the intent to use green infrastructure as part of public reinvestment goals (Anguelovski 2016), as well as with external and internal pressure to adhere to social equity. Planners’ adjustments to the site selection process and the final sites are examined to generate insight on these tensions and green infrastructure consequences.

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