skip to main content

Title: Ambiguity and clarity in residential yard ordinances across metropolitan areas in the United States
Despite the social and ecological importance of residential spaces across the country, scant research examines urban yard management policies in the U.S. Governance scholarship points to the implementation challenges of navigating policy language. Our research provides an exploration of yard ordinance language, with implications for communities across the U.S. Specifically, we sought to determine whether—and in what instances—vegetation- and groundcover-related yard ordinances in the U.S. are ambiguous or clear. Our findings suggest that ordinances are often ambiguous when referring to the state or quality of the constituent parts that make up the residential yard (e.g., “neat” or “orderly”). Yet they are clear when providing guidance about what plant species are or are not allowed, or when articulating specific requirements regarding the size or dimensions of impervious surfaces and plants. We discuss the policy implications of these findings, especially in the context of how such policies may invite the subjective judgment by enforcers, leaving open the potential for discriminatory enforcement, especially with regard to marginalized communities where different cultural values and esthetics may be expressed in yards.
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
1637661 1855277 1638648 1638676
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Journal of Urban Affairs
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
1 to 18
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Introduction Integrated social and ecological processes shape urban plant communities, but the temporal dynamics and potential for change in these managed communities have rarely been explored. In residential yards, which cover about 40% of urban land area, individuals make decisions that control vegetation outcomes. These decisions may lead to relatively static plant composition and structure, as residents seek to expend little effort to maintain stable landscapes. Alternatively, residents may actively modify plant communities to meet their preferences or address perceived problems, or they may passively allow them to change. In this research, we ask, how and to what extent does residential yard vegetation change over time? Methods We conducted co-located ecological surveys of yards (in 2008, 2018, and 2019) and social surveys of residents (in 2018) in four diverse neighborhoods of Phoenix, Arizona. Results 94% of residents had made some changes to their front or back yards since moving in. On average, about 60% of woody vegetation per yard changed between 2008 and 2018, though the number of species present did not differ significantly. In comparison, about 30% of woody vegetation changed in native Sonoran Desert reference areas over 10 years. In yards, about 15% of woody vegetation changed on averagemore »in a single year, with up to 90% change in some yards. Greater turnover was observed for homes that were sold, indicating a “pulse” of management. Additionally, we observed greater vegetation turnover in the two older, lawn-dominated neighborhoods surveyed despite differences in neighborhood socioeconomic factors. Discussion These results indicate that residential plant communities are dynamic over time. Neighborhood age and other characteristics may be important drivers of change, while socioeconomic status neither promotes nor inhibits change at the neighborhood scale. Our findings highlight an opportunity for management interventions, wherein residents may be open to making conservation-friendly changes if they are already altering the composition of their yards.« less
  2. We examine the uneven social and spatial distributions of COVID-19 and their relationships with indicators of social vulnerability in the U.S. epicenter, New York City (NYC). As of July 17th, 2020, NYC, despite having only 2.5% of the U.S. population, has [Formula: see text]6% of all confirmed cases, and [Formula: see text]16% of all deaths, making it a key learning ground for the social dynamics of the disease. Our analysis focuses on the multiple potential social, economic, and demographic drivers of disproportionate impacts in COVID-19 cases and deaths, as well as population rates of testing. Findings show that immediate impacts of COVID-19 largely fall along lines of race and class. Indicators of poverty, race, disability, language isolation, rent burden, unemployment, lack of health insurance, and housing crowding all significantly drive spatial patterns in prevalence of COVID-19 testing, confirmed cases, death rates, and severity. Income in particular has a consistent negative relationship with rates of death and disease severity. The largest differences in social vulnerability indicators are also driven by populations of people of color, poverty, housing crowding, and rates of disability. Results highlight the need for targeted responses to address injustice of COVID-19 cases and deaths, importance of recovery strategiesmore »that account for differential vulnerability, and provide an analytical approach for advancing research to examine potential similar injustice of COVID-19 in other U.S. cities. Significance Statement Communities around the world have variable success in mitigating the social impacts of COVID-19, with many urban areas being hit particularly hard. Analysis of social vulnerability to COVID-19 in the NYC, the U.S. national epicenter, shows strongly disproportionate impacts of the pandemic on low income populations and communities of color. Results highlight the class and racial inequities of the coronavirus pandemic in NYC, and the need to unpack the drivers of social vulnerability. To that aim, we provide a replicable framework for examining patterns of uneven social vulnerability to COVID-19- using publicly available data which can be readily applied in other study regions, especially within the U.S.A. This study is important to inform public and policy debate over strategies for short- and long-term responses that address the injustice of disproportionate impacts of COVID-19. Although similar studies examining social vulnerability and equity dimensions of the COVID-19 outbreak in cities across the U.S. have been conducted (Cordes and Castro 2020, Kim and Bostwick 2002, Gaynor and Wilson 2020; Wang et al. 2020; Choi and Unwin 2020), this study provides a more comprehensive analysis in NYC that extends previous contributions to use the highest resolution spatial units for data aggregation (ZCTAs). We also include mortality and severity rates as key indicators and provide a replicable framework that draws from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Social Vulnerability indicators for communities in NYC.« less
  3. Abstract Pilot projects have emerged in cities globally as a way to experiment with the utilization of a suite of smart mobility and emerging transportation technologies. Automated vehicles (AVs) have become central tools for such projects as city governments and industry explore the use and impact of this emerging technology. This paper presents a large-scale assessment of AV pilot projects in U.S. cities to understand how pilot projects are being used to examine the risks and benefits of AVs, how cities integrate these potentially transformative technologies into conventional policy and planning, and how and what they are learning about this technology and its future opportunities and risks. Through interviews with planning practitioners and document analysis, we demonstrate that the approaches cities take for AVs differ significantly, and often lack coherent policy goals. Key findings from this research include: (1) a disconnect between the goals of the pilot projects and a city’s transportation goals; (2) cities generally lack a long-term vision for how AVs fit into future mobility systems and how they might help address transportation goals; (3) an overemphasis of non-transportation benefits of AV pilots projects; (4) AV pilot projects exhibit a lack of policy learning and iteration; and (5)more »cities are not leveraging pilot projects for public benefits. Overall, urban and transportation planners and decision makers show a clear interest to discover how AVs can be used to address transportation challenges in their communities, but our research shows that while AV pilot projects purport to do this, while having numerous outcomes, they have limited value for informing transportation policy and planning questions around AVs. We also find that AV pilot projects, as presently structured, may constrain planners’ ability to re-think transportation systems within the context of rapid technological change.« less
  4. Cloud Legal documents, like Privacy Policies and Terms of Services (ToS), include key terms and rules that enable consumers to continuously monitor the performance of the cloud services used in their organization. To ensure high consumer confidence in the cloud service, it is necessary that these documents are clear and comprehensible to the average consumer. However, in practice, service providers often use legalese and ambiguous language in cloud legal documents resulting in consumers consenting or rejecting the terms without understanding the details. A measure capturing ambiguity in the texts of cloud service documents will enable consumers to decide if they understand what they are agreeing to, and deciding whether that service will meet their organizational requirements. It will also allow them to compare the service policies across various vendors. We have developed a novel model, ViCLOUD, that defines a scoring method based on linguistic cues to measure ambiguity in cloud legal documents and compare them to other peer websites. In this paper, we describe the ViCLOUD model in detail along with the validation results when applying it to 112 privacy policies and 108 Terms of Service documents of 115 cloud service vendors. The score distribution gives us a landscape ofmore »current trends in cloud services and a scale of comparison for new documentation. Our model will be very useful to organizations in making judicious decisions when selecting their cloud service.« less
  5. Abstract

    As urgency grows to address global warming, younger generations can play a strategic role in mobilizing communities that have generally been more opposed to climate action and policy, such as political and religious conservatives in the United States. American evangelical Protestants—and white evangelicals in particular—are the largest religious group in the U.S. and also the most skeptical of climate science. There is growing interest, however, around whether evangelicals are becoming ‘greener,’ and whether climate attitudes among younger generations are diverging from their elders. We analyze empirical evidence for such generational divides by comparing data from two Climate Change in the American Mind surveys (n= 2332) with a national survey of Generation Z evangelicals (n= 1063). Our results show that young evangelicals are highly likely to say that global warming is happening (89%) and anthropogenic (75%), with approximately a third of young evangelicals doing so despite perceptions that their parents disagree. They are also consistently more likely than older evangelicals to express pro-climate positions on a range of belief and attitudinal measures. The results are more mixed when young evangelicals are compared more broadly with the general American public as well as with Generation Z Americans. Notably, however, young evangelicalsmore »are more supportive of climate policies, such as funding renewable energy research, than Americans overall, even though they are also more politically conservative and Republican. These results suggest that a generational ‘greening’ of American evangelicals may indeed be taking place, potentially along with some decoupling of climate attitudes from political identity. This may have major implications for the future of climate action and policy in the United States and beyond.

    « less