Just Sustainability Solutions
New York City high school students learn how to survey park users as part of a Woodland Ecology Research Mentorship. Photo by Nancy Sonti, USDA Forest Service
The High Line park in New York City
Image from Rupprecht 2017
From the Urban Omnibus
Davie Street community garden in Vancouver, BC. Community gardens can help "green" a neighborhood, but can also make it prone to gentrification. By partnering with community land trusts, communitty gardens can be off-limits to develompent in perpetuity. Photo by Geoff Peters.
According to Agyeman, sustainability practices should embrace justice and social equity. Without them, any environmental victories we achieve may not be shared by all.
City sustainability and planning departments should undertake a top-to-bottom analysis of their policies and practices to ensure social equity are baked into them.
Ecosystem Service Valuations by Local Residents
Urban planning and park allocation has traditionally been the perview of city planning and parks departments. Historically very little community input has gone into the planning process, and cities across the U.S. are suffering the consequences of this top-down approach. A bottom-up approach is needed.
Ecosystem service valuation is the process whereby beneficiaries of the natural environment value their benefits. Workshops can be held with local residents to determine what services they value most and what their preferences are for parks. Many studies have shown that dialogue with local participants can further conservation goals while empowering communities.
The Green Line
Many cities suffer from unequal park distribution, and "park deserts" - negatively impacting low-income neighborhoods. One solution may be a regional bus line that runs from park to park throughout a city. The line could even make runs to regional and national parks, thus connecting people to the outdoors.
A creative example is The ParkBus, a shuttle service operating in Canada since 2010. Parkbus connects city dwellers with nature through accessible transportation options. They operate bus services to National and Provincial Parks from major cities across Canada.
Just Green Enough Development
Sustainability theorists and practitioners have proposed a new way to plan urban development. "Just green enough” development. It’s the notion of making a neighborhood more livable without triggering gentrification.
- Community activism and coalition building
- Democratic process
- "Planners must be willing to design projects determined by specific community needs and preferences."
- "…prioritize small and scattered parks and community gardens, which can distribute access throughout a neighborhood, rather than flashy, large-scale projects of the type that tend to attract attention and real estate speculation." (Wolch et al. 2014)
- Small scale, scattered site interventions
- Informal green space
- Afordability protections for residents
- Financial incentives for home ownership
- Creative City Ordinances
Example: In efforts to impede gentrification in Chicago, Chicago’s City Council has proposed an ordinance that would increase the demolition fee for residential properties and charge a conversion fee when multiple-unit buildings are turned into single-family homes. The aldermen aim at preserving the existing housing stock and affordable housing in areas near The 606, a popular bike and pedestrian trail built on an old elevated railroad line.
Community Land Trusts
Community Land trusts are nonprofit, community-run organizations that steward land to provide housing or community resources that are affordable in perpetuity.They help facilitate community-driven planning to address the community's needs.
A CLT typically acquires land through purchase, foreclosure, or donation from a private individual or local government. The trust separates ownership of the land from ownership of the property on top of it. The community-controlled corporation owns the land, and leases out parcels to private persons or businesses, typically for a term of 99 years. The lessees own whatever is on top of the land, but the property has certain restrictions to keep it affordable and responsive to community needs, such as income eligibility and resale stipulations.
More information can be found at the Urban Omnibus website - https://urbanomnibus.net/2018/01/community-land-trusts/