Seeking Equity in Industrial Wastelands: Evaluating Environmental Justice in Residential Neighborhoods
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Brownfields are most often located adjacent to disadvantaged communities. While toxicity is a primary concern surrounding brownfields there has been very little study on the social impact of these parks. This Master’s Project adds to the specialized body of brownfield literature within the field of Landscape Architecture by aiding stakeholders in understanding the risks, benefits and effects of urban brownfield parks on surrounding neighborhoods, through the lens of environmental justice, using case study analysis and post-occupancy evaluations. The goal for this project is to create a framework by which to evaluate the environmental justice of existing and future brownfield parks. Literature review of Brownfields, Environmental Justice and Urban Redevelopment propose three categories of evaluative criteria: Financial, Health and Quality of Life. Using the case study sites of Gas Works and Warren G Magnuson Parks, in Seattle, WA, five tractable metrics are defined as proxies for the many metrics identified for those criteria. Using this evaluative method, stakeholders can identify park impacts on the local community and whether environmental justice has been achieved through brownfield remediation. The outcome of this project is an evaluative tool for gauging the environmental justice achieved by neighborhoods affected by brownfield parks. Due to data constraints stemming from the time frame chosen for this project (1970-2010), the inquiry was limited in its application for the selected case studies. Many of the study metrics were unavaiable for decades prior to 2000. Other brownfield park neighborhoods, with alternate viable metrics, could show different results using the evaluative method proposed here. The two case study sites in Seattle reveal brownfield parks provide mixed benefits. Neighborhood financial and health metrics reveal positive (decreased unemployment), negative (increased vacancy rates, decreased age diversity) and ambiguous (consistent poverty) impacts while quality of life metric results are contradictory (vegetative cover). This Master’s Project reveals that while urban brownfield parks improve some metrics of environmental justice, they are not always beneficial for surrounding residents and at times represent an environmental injustice.