Master’s Project Abstracts: Planning Tools and Equity

The Department of City and Regional Planning’s graduating class of 2019 completed their Master’s Projects on a vast array of topics, all demonstrating independent, original work on students’ areas of interest. This series shares the abstracts of projects that focus on similar topics. Here, we look at planning tools and equity covering areas ranging from temporary urbanism to natural hazard mitigation.


Formalization of Temporary Urbanism in Local Government
Emma Blondin

Temporary urbanism is becoming a new tool for local governments to take advantage of. It provides flexibility aligned with the needs of a contemporary city. The role of urban planning is to provide regulations where the market fails, and temporary urbanism does just that through temporarily activating underutilized spaces. Local governments have seen an increase in privately-owned and underutilized lands in their urban cores due to land speculation, larger-scale development, and lengthening development processes. Temporary urbanism reactivates these spaces, even for a short period of time, providing space for new users and ideas within a city. The temporary intervention in a site can show local decision-makers what their residents want, allowing them to redefine the city they live in. As a tool, temporary urbanism has gained popularity with citizens and local governments. This represents a need for alternative planning methods due to many reasons including: dissatisfaction with traditional long-rang planning methods; a need for more participatory practices; an increased need for public-private partnerships; but mostly the ability to redistribute public spaces (Temel & Haydn 19). This paper outlines the why local governments should implement temporary urbanism through a framework shown below, and examines different development management techniques for implementation through a series of case studies to understand how municipalities should formalize temporary urbanism.

Dorothea Dix Park Equity Plan Framework
Nick Smith

This document was created to serve as a framing document for the development of an Equity Plan for Dorothea Dix Park. The call for an Equity Plan originated from the Master Planning Advisory Committee as a next steps action item following the adoption of the Dix Park Master Plan. To aid in the development of this Equity Plan, this framework will serve multiple purposes. First, a brief summary of the site’s history will be given, with additional focus on landscape uses and sensitive themes that have resulted from the site’s development. Second, a summary of the planning process to date will be given, with a focus on community outreach and engagement efforts. Third, a review of relevant literature will answer the following questions: 1) What is an equity plan?; 2) What is the Park Equity Movement?; 3) What are some comparable plans that can inform the creation of the Dix Park Equity Plan. Fourth and finally, project details that will aid in crafting the Equity Plan will be provided, including recommendations in the areas of process, potential partner organizations, and equity dimensions. These sections combine to provide a base of knowledge that will aid in the speed and thoroughness of the creation of the Dix Park Equity Plan.

Five years in: Assessing the impacts of Chicago’s Large Lots Program 
Matt Stern

Since 2014, the City of Chicago has sold more than 1,200 city-owned vacant properties to same-block landowners in the South and West sides for $1 each. This “Large Lots Program” is part of a national trend in which cities encourage productive reuse of vacant land by heavily discounting the sale of empty lots in distressed neighborhoods to local buyers. These experimental programs present opportunities for marginalized communities such as wealth-building, crime reduction, and increased control of neighborhood change processes. They also present risks and opportunity costs. Despite these trade-offs, vacant land disposition programs have been understudied and no published literature evaluates whether programs actually achieve their stated goals. Using data from a variety of public and private data sources I evaluate the impact of Chicago’s Large Lots program in three economically distressed neighborhoods. I investigate who is buying Large Lots, how many parcels they are buying, and how far they live from the parcels they are purchasing. Additionally, I perform a block-level difference-in-differences analysis to explore whether the program reduces crime. Finally, I examine the potential wealth generation affects for residents of low-income communities using a parcel-based projection of land value changes.

Assessing Green Infrastructure Implementation in Washington, D.C. to Promote Equity and Climate Change Resilience
Audrey Vogel

The use of green infrastructure has been widely recognized as an effective adaptation practice that can be used to help build resilience in urban areas by reducing the severity of certain climate impacts, such as flooding and heat stress. In the absence of strategic and participatory planning, green infrastructure can potentially exacerbate social-spatial inequalities in urban areas. Environmental justice literature has demonstrated that the communities that have the highest potential benefit from green infrastructure often have the least access to it. A case study of Washington, DC examines this complicated and potentially problematic relationship between green infrastructure and social equity. In this project, I provide an overview of green infrastructure planning in the context of social equity and climate change resilience, examine green infrastructure implementation in Washington DC, analyze the relationships between socioeconomic and environmental variables that could potentially influence the spatial distribution of green infrastructure, and provide recommendations based upon my analysis. The results of this research provides insight into important factors to consider when implementing green infrastructure programs, not only for the District of Columbia, but for other communities undertaking similar efforts.

Hazard Mitigation Strategy Application: An Evaluation of the Town of Princeville’s Future Mitigation Strategies
Alexis Veerland

This study looked at possible hazard mitigation options that can be implemented in Princeville, North Carolina. Having faced numerous extreme flooding events in the past few decades, the town is currently susceptible to further damage. The town flooded for various reasons, including the lack of proper structural mitigation measures currently in place. Based on the recommended mitigation measures brought forth by the North Carolina Emergency Management, this study evaluated three of their approaches using case studies: 1) Buyouts, 2) Town Relocation, and 3) Structural Elevation. The case study towns had previously implemented these mitigation practices post-disasters, and they were evaluated on their applicability to Princeville. To determine the best fit mitigation strategy for Princeville, a policy evaluation framework was used. The evaluation criterion has 5 parts: 1) Effectiveness, 2) Efficiency, 3) Flexibility, 4) Equity, and 5) feasibility. This study found that the best mitigation strategy to be applied to Princeville is a combination of buyouts and town relocation that will focus on the most flood-prone areas first. These strategies will also be used to preserve the cultural and historical history of Princeville.


For more information on Master’s Project process, see the DCRP page.

Featured Image: “PARK(ing) Day ATX 2017” by Austin Transportation. Creative Commons from Flickr.