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Planning, development pressure, and change in green infrastructure quantity and configuration in coastal Texas

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Abstract

Land-use change is a lead driver of ecological degradation in coastal regions. By guiding where development and open space are located, local land use plans are theorized to be an important tool to protect green infrastructure in coastal areas and their related services. Higher quality plans are expected to lead to greater protection of green infrastructure (GI). Using multiple linear regression, we test whether the presence and quality of comprehensive plans are related to change in GI landscape configuration between 2000 and 2016 in cities along Texas’ coast. We find that comprehensive planning and plan quality are negatively associated with change in GI quantity and landscape pattern. Our results suggest that, in Texas, planning is mostly reactive; development pressure and environmental degradation likely lead to both loss of green infrastructure and city adoption of comprehensive plans.

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... In this respect, the answer is definitely negative, which reveals a failure to recognize the role of GI in current planning. The result of the present analysis is similar to a study conducted in regard to coastal areas in Texas [85]. GI as a support in planning has also been pointed out by Laforteza et al. [74]. ...
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Economic losses from floods along the Gulf of Mexico have triggered much debate on different strategies to reduce risk and future adverse impacts from storm events. While much of the discussion has focused on structural engineering approaches to flood mitigation, increasing emphasis is being placed on avoidance strategies, such as the protection of undeveloped open spaces. This study leverage previous work to examine undeveloped lands across approximately 2600 watersheds along the Gulf of Mexico. Different types and spatial configurations of naturally-occurring open spaces are statistically evaluated across landscapes for their effects on reducing observed flood losses (economic damage to building and/or contents) under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) occurring from 2008 through 2014. Statistical models isolate the influence of natural open spaces, while controlling for multiple socioeconomic, environmental, and development-based local conditions. Results estimate the dollar-savings in flood losses by maintaining open spaces over time. This study provides quantitative guidance on which types and spatial characteristics of open spaces are most effective in reducing the adverse impacts from floods. Findings indicate that large, expansive, and continuous patches of naturally-occurring open spaces most effectively reduce losses from flood events.
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Cities are expanding green infrastructure to enhance resilience and ecosystem services. Although green infrastructure is promoted for its multifunctionality, projects are typically sited based on a particular benefit, such as stormwater abatement, rather than a suite of socio-economic and environmental benefits. This stems in part from the lack of stakeholder-informed, city-scale approaches to systematically identify ecosystem service tradeoffs, synergies, and ‘hotspots’ associated with green infrastructure and its siting. To address this gap, we introduce the Green Infrastructure Spatial Planning (GISP) model, a GIS-based multi-criteria approach that integrates six benefits: 1) stormwater management; 2) social vulnerability; 3) green space; 4) air quality; 5) urban heat island amelioration; and 6) landscape connectivity. Stakeholders then weight priorities to identify hotspots where green infrastructure benefits are needed most. Applying the GISP model to Detroit, we compared the results with the locations of current green infrastructure projects. The analysis provides initial evidence that green infrastructure is not being sited in high priority areas for stormwater abatement, let alone for ameliorating urban heat island effects, improving air quality, or increasing habitat connectivity. However, as the Detroit GISP model reveals, it could be developed in locations that simultaneously abate stormwater, urban heat island, and air pollution. Tradeoffs exist between siting to maximize stormwater management versus landscape connectivity. The GISP model provides an inclusive, replicable approach for planning future green infrastructure so that it maximizes social and ecological resilience. More broadly, it represents a spatial planning approach for evaluating competing and complementary ecosystem service priorities for a particular landscape.
Article
Adaptation planning offers a promising approach for identifying and devising solutions to address local climate change impacts. Yet there is little empirical understanding of the content and quality of these plans. We use content analysis to evaluate 44 local adaptation plans in the United States and multivariate regression to examine how plan quality varies across communities. We find that plans draw on multiple data sources to analyse future climate impacts and include a breadth of strategies. Most plans, however, fail to prioritize impacts and strategies or provide detailed implementation processes, raising concerns about whether adaptation plans will translate into on-the-ground reductions in vulnerability. Our analysis also finds that plans authored by the planning department and those that engaged elected officials in the planning process were of higher quality. The results provide important insights for practitioners, policymakers and scientists wanting to improve local climate adaptation planning and action.
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This report promotes an interdisciplinary approach to wildlife habitat protection, presenting a framework for thinking about wildlife that integrates sound science, planning, and legal considerations. It establishes a set of biological principles that define a new way of thinking about wildlife habitat protection during local planning and development review, and presents a compendium of protection approaches, in addition to a legal analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, and constitutional limitations of different habitat protection techniques and strategies. Finally, the report acts as a resource book regarding innovative habitat protection programs throughout the US.
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Attention to if and how plans are implemented is increasing. Among the conceptions of plan implementation used by scholars, plan conformance and plan performance are most prominent, though rarely have both been assessed in a single study. We assess plan conformance and a modified version of performance, which we call influence, for a sample of more than 100 local hazard mitigation plans developed in response to a national planning requirement in the United States. Our findings indicate that progress on implementation of the policies included in the plans (plan conformance) is moderate, but that the rate of progress varies widely by the type of policy and the state in which the local jurisdiction is located. The findings also indicate that coordination of hazard mitigation plans (plan influence) is strongest with other emergency management agency-led planning initiatives and weaker with planning initiatives led by other agencies. National officials interested in advancing local implementation of national goals need to consider the degree to which state and local governments are given autonomy to select and prioritize local policies included in plans, as well as constraints on coordination across planning initiatives.
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This study assesses the process and outcomes of landscape-scale green infrastructure planning as a strategy for supporting biodiversity and ecosystem services. The research examines how nine county planning agencies carry out green infrastructure planning and the effectiveness of those strategies in retaining, preserving, and connecting green space over time. The study develops and applies a new framework for green infrastructure planning and uses remote sensing, land conversion analysis, and a landscape ecology–oriented spatial analysis program (FRAGSTATS) to assess on-the-ground change. Results confirm the relationship between green infrastructure planning and green space outcomes, question conventional metrics, and highlight the importance of strategies that support connectivity and manage growth.
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The State of California requires local governments to pay attention to seismic safety in formulating general plans for urban development and in permitting and inspecting new construction and remodeled existing structures. The Northridge earthquake provided an opportunity to determine whether these provisions, which have been mandatory for more than two decades, actually result in lower property damages. Using data on the number of structures damaged in the Northridge event, we show that, for suburban jurisdictions, damages were lower when local governments formulated broader goals for seismic safety, developed policies to make the public more aware of seismic risks, and expended more resources on enforcing the seismic provisions of building codes. Thus, seismic safety mandates on local governments can lead to lower property damages, and these benefits are enhanced when local governments expend more effort on their implementation.
Article
The planning profession has developed relatively few criteria for evaluating the quality of general plans. Evaluation criteria have become more important with the increasing number of states that mandate general plans. Several kinds of plan evaluation exist, and these are distinguished and described before a review of different concepts of plans as a source of the appropriate criteria to evaluate them. A list of suggested criteria for plan evaluation during plan preparation is then presented, to be used to make the plan better. Appropriate criteria for a plan are not easy to devise, and the postmodern critique of planning makes this task more difficult still. These issues are explored as well.
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Traditionally, responsibility for land planning in the United States lies with local governments. However, a growing number of states over the past several decades have attempted to exert more influence on how local governments plan for development. This paper uses empirical data from natural hazard elements of 139 community plans in five states to assess whether such state mandates actually result in better local plans. We find that a state mandate not only achieves plans from communities that otherwise would not make a plan, but in addition those plans are of higher quality than plans made voluntarily in communities not under a mandate to plan. W e find that a state mandate substitutes for the absence of any positive political forces for planning and overcomes local political, economic and physical obstacles to planning. Further, the form of the mandate and the state level implementation effort makes a difference, so that some states' mandates achieve local plans of higher quality than those created in other mandating states. Because the data on which these conclusions are based are limited to natural hazards elements of general plans, we feel most confident about their generalization to all elements of local plans.
Article
This report describes a program, FRAGSTATS, developed to quantify landscape structure. Two separate versions of FRAGSTATS exist: one for vector images and one for raster images. In this report, each metric calculated by GRAGSTATS is described in terms of its ecological application and limitations. Example landscapes are included, and a discussion is provided of each metric as it relates to the sample landscapes. -from Authors
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This research explores three methods of measuring access to greenspace in Philadelphia and their implications for assessing equity in access based on race and socioeconomic status. These three methods are then used to assess the impacts of a vacant land greening program which turns vacant lots into temporary greenspaces. This research explores the differences between findings when access to greenspace is measured based on distance to any greenspace, total amount of greenspace to which residents have access, or a hybrid measure in which access is determined based on proximity to a threshold amount of greenspace. Not only do assessments of equity differ between the three approaches, but so do determinations of the impact of greening vacant land. Blacks, Hispanics and renters are more likely to live close to a public greenspace than whites or homeowners, but live in proximity to smaller overall amounts of greenspace. Greening vacant land increases the proportion of all residents who live within walking distance of a greenspace and lessens but does not eliminate differences in total greenspace access. The greatest effects of greening vacant land are seen in addressing differences in relative likelihood of having access to a threshold amount of greenspace.
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This article addresses this understudied aspect of development patterns and community resiliency by examining a five-year record of insured flood loss claims across 144 counties and parishes fringing the Gulf of Mexico. Linear regression models are employed to isolate the effects of five different development patterns on observed flood losses from 2001 to 2005 while controlling for multiple contextual variables. A novel approach is taken to measuring development form by using a series of landscape metrics usually reserved for ecological analysis. These measures enable the assessment of the form of the regional built environment with more specificity than has been possible in previous studies. Results indicate that more connected and concentrated development patterns lead to a reduction in the amount of observed flood losses. These findings illustrate the importance of regional planning and design for fostering flood-resilient communities.
Article
If planning is to matter for urban development and policy, it is not sufficient for plans to be implemented. Plans and planning must also have a causal role — they must lead to outcomes that would not be realized otherwise. In case studies of municipal climate action planning in California, I find little evidence for any causal impacts. Instead, cities are using climate plans to codify policies that were likely to happen anyway. The results call for a more nuanced view of when it makes sense to plan, what types of plans are most useful, and how to evaluate their effects.
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Plans that are, as the cliche goes, "dead on arrival" and languish on local government shelves long have contributed to skepticism about the value of comprehensive plans. In this article, I show that if plans are to matter and have an impact, on local government, actions, planners must involve a wider array of stakeholders in plan making than is usually the case. Evidence from,60 plan-making processes in the states of Florida and Washington indicates that with greater stakeholder involvement, comprehensive plans are stronger, and proposals made in. plans are more likely to be implemented. Planners can stimulate broader involvement by stakeholders by directly inviting more groups to take art in the planning. p I process and by providing opportunities for dialogue in. which planners both inform citizens about planning issues and listen to citizen concerns.
Article
Planners have long believed as an article of faith that land use planning can reduce damage from natural hazards. After evaluating the relationship between the seismic safety elements of comprehensive plans prepared in the Los Angeles region of California and damage caused by the 1994 Northridge earthquake, we provide evidence that this faith is not misplaced. The State of California requires every local government to include a seismic safety element in its comprehensive land use plan. The 1994 Northridge earthquake provided an opportunity to evaluate the extent to which the quality of state-mandated, locally prepared seismic safety elements reduce earthquake damage. We found that fewer homes were damaged when local governments had developed high-quality factual bases, formulated goals for improving seismic safety, crafted regulatory policies to manage development in hazardous areas, and advanced policies that made the public aware of seismic risks. We conclude that including a high-quality seismic safety element in land use plans can reduce property damage associated with seismic events. Our work has broad implications for land use planning.
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This article examines the relationship between state requirements for preparation of local government comprehensive plans and claims paid by property insurance companies for losses due to weather-related natural disasters between 1994 and 2000. During the period studied, insurance companies paid out more than $26 billion (in constant 2000 dollars) for disaster-related claims arising from losses to residential property. Although a majority of states do not require local governments to prepare comprehensive plans, 24 states do require plans, and 10 states specifically require that mandated plans pay attention to natural hazards. Multivariate analyses indicate that insured losses to residential property over the period studied could have been reduced by 0.52% if all states had required local comprehensive plans and by a further 0.47% if, in addition, they had required consideration of natural hazards in local plans. Over the period studied, if all states had required comprehensive plans with hazard mitigation elements, the toll in insured losses to residential property from natural disasters would have been reduced by approximately $213 million in constant 2000 dollars (±$98 million at the 95% level of confidence).