Degree Name

MA in Sustainable Development

First Advisor

Nikoi Kote-Nikoi


The 21st Century has been described as the urban century. Since 2008, over half of the world's population lives in urban areas. Urban population growth and settlement concentration is expected to continue expanding during this century. In the United States, approximately 84% of the population resides in one of 366 Metropolitan regions. The proliferation of this urban 'city of cities' or 'city-region' model dramatically influences how resources are shared, distributed, and protected across neighborhood, county, urban, and rural boundaries within the region. Cities are becoming increasingly socio-culturally diverse and diffuse, as well as economically and environmentally interconnected. Urban regions that are able to preserve and maximize their shared natural, economic, social, and cultural capital are the cities that will thrive in the 21st century. Current metropolitan policies and planning practices impede the development of these diverse forms of capital due to fragmented municipal collaboration and an uneven distribution of fiscal, infrastructural, and socio-cultural resources A growing movement composed of diverse stakeholders is building in the United States for regional equity as related to sustainability. The primary tenets of regional equity are: increased regional collaboration, broad inclusiveness in decision-making processes, and equitable asset sharing between neighborhoods, cities, and counties. Equity as related to sustainability has been inadequately addressed, but is imperative for the realization of economic or environmental sustainability. This new movement toward equity demonstrates a dramatic divergence from the modernist developmental configuration that has shaped urban centers since the late 19th century. It is grounded in a pluralistic collective vision of resource sharing and investment, decentralized governance, systems-based planning, and participatory democracy. This movement and an examination of the role of equity in sustainable development is explored through a case study of a policy-advocacy campaign led by a broad-based Coalition in Portland, Oregon. This group of over 100 diverse community groups, public agencies, and community members created a Regional Equity Atlas Campaign to address how the burdens and benefits of development are dispersed across the Portland-Vancouver Metropolitan landscape. Their campaign addresses equity through three phases: research, education/outreach, and collaborative action. Their participatory, place-based, approach has created the scaffolding necessary to create the broad ownership and accountability needed for a development paradigm shift of sharing benefits and burdens of growth. While current development of neighborhood, city, county, and regional government plans indicate a prioritization of equity issues in the region, it is unclear how these will be actively achieved in the Portland-Vancouver Metropolitan landscape. Thus, even though fiscal, spatial, and socio-cultural equity have been identified as desirable and important goals for the development of the region, their operationalization has thus far been uneven. However, with the emergence of the regional equity movement and the recent initiation of the Regional Equity Atlas Campaign, positive results have been given a better chance of emerging soon.


Civic and Community Engagement | Urban Studies and Planning


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