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Cultures, Communities and Design

Greened Out: Exploring the understanding and effects of green infrastructure on the District of Columbia's residents
E. Gearin et al.
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm


As more and more people live in densely built urban areas away from rural hinterlands, cities are increasingly employing green infrastructure to promote resiliency and provide clean air, flood protection, and erosion control. The literature shows a link between these efforts and gentrification, and, in some cities including the District of Columbia, displacement. This history of greening and subsequent displacement can hinder successful green infrastructure implementation given that the geographical areas with the greatest need for these amenities and other resilience strategies are often the same areas with high concentrations of low-income, racial minorities who have traditionally been disenfranchised from local planning and development processes. In these areas the perception of green infrastructure is that of something planned by others, for others, with little direct benefit to the community. This research includes a series of listening sessions designed to balance the quantitative data linking green infrastructure with potential displacement with less readily available qualitative data regarding resident understanding of these amenities from their design and purpose to their implementation and maintenance.
How do residents perceive and understand local green infrastructure? What are the key potential issues on gentrification and displacement? Where are opportunities to improve the process that would increase resident understanding of green infrastructure as well as mitigate against gentrification and displacement? In our paper and presentation we share our methodology, which was designed to incorporate and amplify the voices of previously unheard stakeholders to the planning process; as well as the findings from our listening sessions and stakeholder interviews including key themes raised by residents in communities experiencing green infrastructure, areas in which we as policymakers and planners can intervene to mitigate unintended consequences to communities with vulnerable populations, and best practices to address questions of green infrastructure design, implementation and maintenance.


Elizabeth Gearin – is an Urban Planning Project Specialist in the University of the District of Columbia’s College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences, and serves as a commissioner on the Arlington County Planning Commission. Her work and research interests focus on equitable urban planning and community development, including inclusive community engagement and community-initiated research. Elizabeth has worked as a planning and policy consultant, a community development planner in the San Francisco Bay Area, and a community organizer in Chicago. She received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Michigan, a Master of City and Regional Planning (MCRP) from the California Polytechnic State University San Louis Obispo, and a doctorate (PhD) in Public Policy and City and Regional Planning from the University of Southern California (USC). Elizabeth is a member in good standing of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). She grew up overseas and lives with her family and dogs in Virginia.

Konyka Dunson – a doctoral student at the University of the District of Columbia in Urban Leadership and Entrepreneurship, is pursuing research in stakeholder communications and the impact of intergroup dialogue on the practice of public leadership. Her career has spanned teaching, higher education administration, and leading training initiatives in leadership, conflict, and communication. She holds a Master of Arts in the Social Foundations of Education from the University of Maryland. As a facilitator, trainer, and media producer, Konyka draws heavily on those skills to facilitate community engagements and qualitative inquiry.

Midas Hampton – is a PhD student in Urban Leadership and Entrepreneurship in the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences at the University of The District of Columbia. His research agenda includes the process of neighborhood change, equitable development, gentrification, and community empowerment. He also studies housing and the implications of growing income inequality and racial diversity on urban communities. He is the research and program analyst at a DC based non-profit focused on economic equity. Midas received his Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from the University of South Carolina-Upstate and his Master of Public Administration with an emphasis in Government from Seattle University. He enjoys spending his free time with his wife, daughter, and dog.