Institute of Ecosystem Studies

2007 BES Annual Meeting Presentation and Poster Abstracts

Local Zoning Law and the Distribution of Environmental Disamenities in Baltimore: 1880 to the Present
Lord, Charlie
Co-Authors: Charlie Lord Keaton Norquist
Abstract: Environmental justice theory demonstrates that disadvantaged groups, especially low-income and racial/ethnic minorities, bear a disproportionate burden of environmental disamenities, enjoy fewer environmental amenities than advantaged populations, and are often excluded or marginalized from decisions that generate such patterns. Most environmental justice studies focus on outcome equity with only a cursory treatment of the processes that create those patterns. The Boston College team is working on a process equity analysis of zoning and nuisance law for the period 1880 to the present. We are assessing whether zoning and nuisance decisions illustrate a pattern over time of approving or allowing certain noxious uses in certain neighborhoods as compared to others and whether the approval patterns correlate to race or income. This project provides a ground breaking method for illustrating the role of legal and political systems in creating the present day distribution of environmental disamenities. We hypothesize that neighborhoods dominated by African-Americans, recent immigrants, and low-income groups have been more negatively affected by zoning decisions and nuisance law than the white majority. The project is a component of a longitudinal analysis of the patterns of environmental inequity (outcome equity) and the processes that lead to those patterns (process equity) from 1880 to the present. A systematic examination of equity patterns and processes will provide a robust, documented, and accessible dataset that illuminates the relationships between population characteristics and amenities/disamenities. The team will present its innovative method for analyzing and evaluating zoning variances over time and preliminary results of data collection and review.