From 2007-2013, I studied urban planning at the University of Southern California, with a focus on sustainable cities and affordable housing. My dissertation, "Do Sustainability Plans Affect Urban Sustainability Outcomes in Santa Monica, San Francisco, and San Jose?" focused on urban sustainability plans and outcomes in three first-mover cities in California. Using a mostly qualitative approach, I personally interviewed key stakeholders in each city, and the story of each plan emerged through three case studies.
I found that, yes, urban sustainability plans do indeed affect outcomes, in some interesting and surprising ways.
In every city, concrete changes were measured with the use of sustainability metrics, such as amount of waste diverted from landfills, or amount of water saved through conservation methods. While causal linkages between individual indicators varied and were sometimes fuzzy, the overall picture does reveal some significant effects of the existence of these plans and measurement indicators. Perhaps more interestingly, the process of creating the plans actually affected the internal structure of the city government in Santa Monica and in San Francisco. Creation of a department focused on sustainability, with staff dedicated to moving indicators, actually changed the way these cities function in perpetuity. I found that the creation of an urban sustainability plan serves as a powerful process of intention setting within the city, and that the effects of having such a plan are positive, real, and important.
The Three P’s: people, programs, and purpose
The Three E’s: environment, equity, and economy
The three key lessons that I found are: 1) What makes a sustainability plan strong is “The Three P’s:” people, programs, and purpose, 2) Operationalizing “The Three E’s” of environment, equity, and economy is crucial, and while all three take effort, equity is significantly the most difficult, 3) Urban Planning as a field and professional practice has been glaringly absent in the story of the development of these urban sustainability plans. For plan to be a living document, rather than something that sits on the shelf, it requires people to bring it to life, programs and policy to move toward stated goals, and a sense of intention that runs through the execution of the plan. With regard to "The Three E's" of sustainability, social equity is the most difficult to measure, the most politically difficult, and the most difficult to see concrete change. Finally, I found that Urban Planning practitioners were largely missing in the development of these early urban sustainability plans, and I explore possible reasons and solutions to this important problem.
This study focuses on whether sustainability plans, through their creation and implementation, affect urban sustainability outcomes in three Californian cities: Santa Monica, San Francisco, and San Jose. These early adopter cities address core tensions in planning theory and practice between environment, equity, and economy. I utilize cross-case synthesis techniques to examine the linkages between plans, implementation and outcomes in the three cities explored. To frame and guide these case studies, I consider findings from planning theory, policy implementation, and newer community organizing literature. Through the case studies, I identify the following key lessons: 1) What makes a sustainability plan strong is “The Three P’s:” people, programs, and purpose, 2) Operationalizing “The Three E’s” of environment, equity, and economy is crucial, and while all three take effort, equity is significantly the most difficult, 3) Urban Planning as a field and professional practice has been glaringly absent in the story of the development of these urban sustainability plans.
Planning Theory. Statistics and Arguing from Data. Globalization and the Urban Context. Knowledge and Practice in Social Systems. Governance, Place and the Public Sphere. Core Laboratory/Workshop. Intersectoral Leadership Economics for Policy, Planning, and Development. Teaching Seminar. Advanced Planning Theory. Comparative International Development. Smart Growth and Urban Sprawl. Teaching Seminar. Paradigms of Research and the Design of Inquiry. Sustainability in the Environment: Infrastructures, Urban Landscapes, and Buildings. Sustainable Cities. Urban Demography and Growth. Environmental and Regulatory Compliance. Urban Planning and Social Policy. Coastal Policy and Planning.
Oakley Dissertation Fellowship Fall 2012 – Spring 2013 Awarded by The Graduate School, University of Southern California
School of Policy, Planning, and Development Graduate Assistantship Fall 2009 – Spring 2011 Awarded by the School of Policy, Planning, and Development, University of Southern California
Provost’s Ph.D. Fellowship Fall 2007 – Spring 2009 Awarded by The Graduate School, University of Southern California
POLICY REPORTS AND APPLIED RESEARCH
Dissertation: Erin McMorrow. 2013. "Do Sustainability Plans Affect Urban Sustainability Outcomes in Santa Monica, San Francisco, and San Jose?." ProQuest Dissertations & Theses.
Manuel Pastor and Erin McMorrow. 2010. “Looking Forward: Sustainability and the Future of Los Angeles.” Los Angeles: State of the City 2010. Los Angeles: The Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute of Public Affairs.