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Kathleen R. O’Brien

UEP 232:  GIS for Urban and Environmental Analysis

Spring 2014

Final Paper

Due May 7, 2014

 

Project description and goals

 

This project explores the possibility of expanding urban agriculture in Everett, MA, by analyzing suitability of potential sites for three types of urban agriculture:  community gardens, large community gardens (market gardens), and urban farms.  This project creates a baseline inventory of potential sites, which will inform a more extensive urban land inventory and assessment that will be conducted through thesis research focused on community participation this summer.  The goal of this project is to support the expansion of urban agriculture in the City of Everett through planning and policymaking.  The impetus for this project stems from community members’ desire to access more land for personal and community food growing, as well as land for commercial food growing.  It also stems from the local, regional and national movements for more sustainable food production in and around cities. 

 

Urban agriculture has recently attracted increased attention from diverse groups across the nation, which promote it as a strategy for stimulating economic development, increasing food security, sovereignty and access, and combatting obesity and diabetes, among other goals.  Developing effective policies and programs at the city or neighborhood level suggests as a first step the accurate mapping of potential urban agriculture sites, and many suggest using the inventory process itself as a way to increase institutional awareness and political support for urban agriculture.

 

Relevant Literature

 

  1. Mendes, W., Balmer, K., Kaethler, T., & Rhoads, A.  2008.  Using land inventories to plan for urban agriculture: experiences from Portland and Vancouver .  Journal of the American Planning Association , 74:4, 435-449.

 

This article was written with the aim of learning how to use land inventories to identify city land with the potential for urban agriculture in order to plan for more sustainable communities.  The two research questions they posed were:  Do land inventories enable integration of urban agriculture into planning and policymaking? Do land inventories advance both ecological and social dimensions of local sustainability agendas? They conducted case studies of two Pacific Northwest cities (Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver, British Columbia), comparing the municipal land inventories they undertook to identify public lands with potential for urban agriculture.  While it did not give detailed GIS processes involved in each inventory, it gives a lot of information on how each inventory was initiated and carried out, as well as their respective scopes, scales, and outcomes. It also referenced each individual assessment, so I could refer to those for more detailed information if I needed to.  It is helpful to have this amount of detailed background on issues such as local political context and how the inventories played into larger municipal goals and objectives, as I hope to be able to work this project and my thesis into the City of Everett’s current sustainability and community development goals and objectives.  As with my project, the Portland land inventory used GIS to categorize sites for different urban agricultural uses - community gardens (at least 7,500 sq. ft.), small scale growing operations (less than ¼ acre) large scale growing operations (greater than ¼ acre), and growing on impervious surfaces or poor soil (at least 5,000 sq. ft.).  Also helpful is their “Takeaway for practice: Other local governments considering the use of a land inventory should contemplate: (a) using the inventory process itself as a way to increase institutional awareness and political support for urban agriculture; (b) aligning urban agriculture with related sustainability goals; (c) ensuring public involvement by creating participatory mechanisms in the design and implementation of the inventory; (d) drawing on the expertise of institutional partners including universities” (from abstract).

 

 

  1. Horst, Megan. 2011.  A review of suitable urban agriculture land inventories. American Planning Association . http://www.planning.org/resources/ontheradar/food/pdf/horstpaper.pdf.

A graduate student at the University of Washington in Seattle wrote this piece, and it earned an Honorable Mention in the APA’s 2011 Food System Writing Competition .  It is a literature review of 10 land assessment inventories, and it provides guidance on what measures to take to replicate a successful land assessment, depending on the specific objectives of the assessment.  Some assessments were aimed at assessing site suitability, while others were aimed at measuring food production potential.  It includes a step-by-step framework that generalizes the process used by the 10 inventories, which includes identifying vacant land by ownership type, creating urban agriculture suitability criteria (physical and socioeconomic), assigning ranking or scoring systems for criteria and presenting study results as publicly- available reports.  This framework was extremely helpful in organizing this project, as well as thinking about the future steps I should consider when bringing this project to the public.  Another especially helpful piece of this article is a summary of inventories in table format.  This is something I will show to community stakeholders wanting to get involved in furthering the land inventory process in Everett. 

 

 

  1. McClintock, N., Cooper, J. and Khandeshi, S. (2013).  Assessing the potential contribution of vacant land to urban vegetable production and consumption in Oakland, CA .  Landscape and Urban Planning 111 , 46-58. doi: 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2012.12.009.

 

This article presents the results of a vacant land inventory conducted in collaboration with the HOPE Collaborative, a multi-stakeholder, community-based initiative in Oakland.  They identified vacant lots, open space, and underutilized parks with agricultural potential using GIS, then calculated the potential contribution of these sites to the city's current and recommended vegetable needs.  While my project isn’t looking into calculating consumption potential of urban agricultural sites, this article went into brief detail on the GIS tools used to narrow down vacant sites such as clipping, digital elevation models and overlay tools.  It is helpful to have this article on hand to know how to operationalize consumption criteria if necessary in the future. 

 

 

  1. Walter and Dressler, 2013.  Where to Grow? Identifying Suitable Locations for Urban Agriculture in Federal Way, Washington.  Forterra.  http://www.waurisa.org/conferences/2013/presentations/23%20Where%20to%20Grow%20%20Identifying%20Suitable%20Locations%20for%20Urban%20Agriculture%20in%20Federal%20Way%20Washington.pdf

 

This report is a Powerpoint presentation put together by a consulting firm who worked with the City of Federal Way, Urban Food Link and community leaders to draft a new vision for food access in Federal Way.  The urban agriculture land assessment contributed to a larger project to support policies for residents to grow food to feed their families as well as sell food to supplement incomes, which is exactly how I envisioned my project and thesis.  The assessment details the criteria used, as well as the specific GIS tools used to analyze the data.  Their detailed analysis methodology has been especially helpful in operationalizing criteria, as they give a detailed list of criteria they used and what data correlated with it. They include both physical and social criteria, paying close attention to equity measures, by using food equity metrics such as proximity to public transit, poverty and income, residential density, and race and ethnicity.  This resource has been very helpful in my project and my thesis, as it is the only one I have found that has operationalized equity data in its analysis. 

 

Spatial Questions

 

Through a preliminary literature review and anecdotal evidence from current and potential food-growers in Everett, I have compiled the following spatial questions to answer through this project:

 

1)      What public or private land parcels in Everett are vacant or underutilized, and could be used for urban agriculture?

 

2)      Which of these parcels have current land uses and sizes suitable for urban agriculture?

 

3)      Of this land, which sites are accessible for lower-income populations?  Specifically, which sites are within ¼ mile of a bus stop, which are located in areas with a high percentage of renters, and which are located in areas with environmental justice (EJ) populations?

 

 

GIS Datalayers

 

Dataset

Description

Source

Key Attributes

Preprocessing

Everett Parcels ( M093_TaxPar)

This layer contains all tax parcels within the City of Everett

MassGIS (2013)

Tax parcel boundaries, area and land use

None

Everett Assessor’s Data and Use Code look up table

(M093_Assess; M093_UC_LUT_

This data table contains assessors data from the City of Everett

Mass GIS (2013)

Land use descriptions and parcel ownership

None

MBTA Bus Routes and Stops (MBTABUSROUTES_ARC; MBTABUSSTOPS_PT)

This layer contains all of the bus routes and stops (represented as points) within the MBTA’s service area. Data was compiled from CTPS.

Mass GIS (2007)

Bus stop points

Clip to Everett

MA Open Space

This layer contains the polygons and boundaries of all protected and recreational areas within MA. This layer will provide context.

Mass GIS (2013)

Locations of protected and recreational areas

None

MA Hydrography 25K

This layer contains the polygons and boundaries of all water related features within MA. This layer was compiled from USGS. This layer will provide context.

Mass GIS (2010)

Location of water features

Clip to Everett

MassDOT Roads (eotroads_93; EOTMAJROADS_ARC)

These layers includes all public roads within MA and divides them into six classes.

Mass GIS (2012)

Class (1-6), Street Name

None

Everett Building Structures (structures_poly_93)

This layer contains all building footprints in the City of Everett.  It was created using ortho imagery, and consists of 2-dimentional roof outlines for all buildings larger then 150 square feet.

MassGIS (2012)

Building footprints

None

MA Environmental Justice Populations (by Block Group)

This layer contains criteria classifying EJ communities, including minority status, income, and English language isolation, in addition to other descriptive statistics, such as population, area, and town boundary. Data was compiled from Census 2010 and ACS 2006-2010 estimates.

Mass GIS (2010)

Total Pop of Block Group; English Language Isolation; Low Income; % Minority Population; Town Boundary and ID

 

Clip to Everett

Housing Tenure by Census Block

This data set contains housing tenure information for all housing units per census block

American Fact Finder, Census 2010

Percentage of renters per census block

Clip to Everett

 

 

Criteria

 

Land Use

While urban agriculture has been developed on many types of land in the U.S., this project selected land uses that would facilitate the development of sites within the near future.  Also, many published urban agriculture land inventories focus on city-owned land (either institutional or other tax-exempt land uses), but since there is very little undeveloped public space in Everett, this project looks at any vacant or underutilized space in the city, regardless of its ownership.  Therefore, the land uses selected for this project are: developable residential, developable commercial, and institutional/exempt parcels with complimentary uses (i.e. parks with unused open space). 

 

Size

  • Community gardens:  2,500 – 5,000 sq. ft.
  • Market gardens: 5,000 – 10,800 sq. ft.
  • Urban farms:  10,800 sq. ft. or larger

 

Equity

It is important that potential urban agriculture sites are accessible for lower-income residents.  These criteria are especially important for community garden and market garden sites, as their primary purpose is to provide food-growing space for folks who do not currently have access to healthy affordable food.   Urban farm sites will have less stringent criteria, as their purposes are more multi-faceted, and often include job training, job creation, and food production for retail purposes. The following equity criteria were applied to give preference to community and market garden sites that are located within:

  • ¼ mile of a bus stop
  • Census block groups deemed as Environmental Justice (EJ) populations:  Block groups that meet EJ criteria: 
    • Income – 25% or more of households earn 65% or less than the MA median household income
    • Minority Population – 25% or more of residents identify as a race other than white
    • English language isolation – 25% or more of households have no one over the age of 14 who speaks English only or very well
  • Census block groups with a high percentage (greater than 40%) of renters

 

Methodology

 

Identify parcels with more than 2,500 sq. feet of vacant or underutilized land

Began with all tax parcels in City of Everett, then used erase tool to erase out all buildings.  Then recalculated area without buildings and selected out those with 2500 sq. ft. or greater.  This brought the number of parcels to 5,759. 

 

Select parcels with suitable land uses

Parcels were first categorized as “not suitable,” “suitable,” or “potentially suitable” based on current land uses.  The obvious “not suitable” parcels (cemeteries, developed residential, undevelopable residential, developed commercial, undevelopable commercial, and all industrial) were selected out.  This brought the number of parcels down to 345.  Then the “potentially suitable” parcels were scrutinized further, and due to the large number of sites, the decision was made to only include developable (vacant) residential, developable (vacant) commercial or institutional/exempt parcels, as it is believed that these sites have the greatest potential for being developed in the near future.  This brought the number of potential sites down to 168. 

 

Aerial verification

Using a combination of ESRI aerial imagery and Google Maps, the 168 parcels were looked at to see if the size, shape and current use of the vacant/underutilized parcel was suitable.  Any parcels that had a current use that was believed to be difficult to mitigate in the near future (i.e. a parking lot, numerous trees, etc.), or if the “underutilized land” was being used for another purpose (parking for a building, playing fields in a park, etc.), or if Google Maps showed that a site had already been developed (since parcel data from Assessor’s Office is from 2013, according to MassGIS site), those parcels were removed.  The parcels that scored a “yes” for size and shape and a “yes” for current use” were kept, and the others were excluded using the select by attribute tool.  This brought the potential number of sites to 53.  

 

Categorize by size

The 53 remaining sites were then categorized by urban agriculture type according to the size criteria listed above, using select by attribute and creating a new field in the attribute table named “Ag_cat”, with 1 = community garden, 2 = market garden, and 3 = urban farm.  The 24 urban farm sites were verified using aerial imagery again, and underutilized land was measured to confirm the total amount of available space for urban agriculture on the site.  X sites were put into other categories due to there not being enough space in the parcel after other site uses were taken into consideration.  For example, the total area of a park may be 20,000 sq. feet, but once basketball courts and playgrounds are taken into account, there may only be 5,000 square feet available for urban agriculture. 

 

Application of equity data

Bus access:   the select by location tool was used to find parcels within ¼ mile (400 meters) of a bus stop, then a new field was added to the attribute table and sites were categorized by a “1” (within ¼ mile of a bus stop) or “0” (not within ¼ mile of a bus stop).  Select by attribute was then used to select out the sites not meeting this criteria.  However, all but two sites fit this criteria, and they were not excluded because one is adjacent to a hospital and the expected users of that site are within walking distance, and the other is a potential urban farm site, located on a multi-use trail and just over ¼ mile from a bus stop (see image below – a rough measurement from the second mentioned site to the nearest bus stop is approx. 540 meters).  

 

The green circles above indicate the two sites that were NOT within ¼ mile of a bus stop. 

 

The red arrow above indicates the rough measurement of 542 meters taken from one of the sites NOT within ¼ mile of a bus stop (the potential urban farm on a multi-use trail)

 

EJ populations:   To find which sites were within areas of EJ populations, the select by location tool was used, selecting for all UA sites that “have their centroid in the source layer feature.”  Consequently, all block groups in Everett meet at least 1 of the 3 EJ criteria (minority, income, and English isolation), so no sites were excluded using this criteria.

Select by location used to select for sites within block groups with EJ populations, but all are selected so none are removed. 

 

Over 40% renters :  To find sites within block groups consisting of more than 40% renters, some preprocessing of the data was necessary.  First a table join was done with the Census geography layer for Middlesex County block groups and the Housing Tenure decennial Census data from American Fact Finder.  Once those tables were joined I clipped it to Everett and created a new shapefile, “block_groups_greater_than_40_percent_renter”.  Then I created a new field (“Renters”) in that attribute table, and used the Field Calculator to calculate the percentage of renters.  Next I used the select by location tool to select all UA sites that “have their centroid in the source layer feature” (“blockgroups_greater_than_40_percent_renters”).  Only one site was not selected, and it was not excluded because it is a potential urban farm site and within ¼ mile of a bus stop. 

The red box is around the one site not selected when block groups with greater than 40% renters was selected for. 

 

Results

 

After applying the aforementioned criteria through a combination of spatial analysis and aerial verification, 53 potential parcels were found to be potentially suitable for urban agriculture in Everett.  The tables below summarize these findings, and a more detailed list of site characteristics is available on pages 11-16. 

 

Current Land Use of Potential UA Sites

Count of Sites

Total Area of Sites (in Acres)

Developable Residential

10

1.22

Developable Commercial

1

0.15

Institutional/Exempt

42

78.94

Totals

53

80.31

 

Agriculture Site Categories

Count of Sites

Total Area of Sites (in Acres)

Community Garden

10

.85

Market Garden

36

51.10

Urban Farm

7

28.36

Totals

53

80.31

 

 

Difficulties and Limitations

 

The biggest difficulty I encountered was thinking that I could take what others have done in terms of urban land inventories, and do the exact (or very similar) processes.  However, I found that each community has different sources of data (and different degrees of quality of data) available, and at the beginning it was tough for me to figure out which sources of data for Everett were best to use.  In terms of parcel data, I ended up going with MassGIS’s Parcel and Assessor’s 2013 data, thinking it would be as up-to-date as I could get, but then when I was doing aerial verification of sites, a lot of sites listed as vacant in the Assessor’s data was actually built upon already.  So the aerial verification definitely took longer than I thought it would, because I also utilized Google Maps, but it was worth it to be able to actually see the parcels aerially before planning the groundtruthing.  Another limitation with the Assessor’s data was that some fields in the table were not filled in. 

 

Conclusions and Next Steps

 

The application of the above criteria determined 53 potential sites for urban agriculture in Everett.  One of the most interesting pieces I learned through this process was that my focus on equity data didn’t yield much different results than if I hadn’t applied it.  However, I think that using it makes a much more compelling argument for the need for more food growing spaces in the city, all over the city.  I would like to go back to my original idea of also applying rates of SNAP usage as a criterion, as I didn’t get to it this round due to time constraints.  As this is an exploratory study to be continued through my thesis research focused on brining community participation into the land inventory process, it is expected that more or less sites may be determined in the coming months, using different or more specific criteria.  The next steps for this project is to “ground truth” (physically visit and analyze) the 53 sites with residents, and develop a revised list and maps of potential sites.  The process of creating this urban land inventory and assessment will inform recommendations for an urban agriculture ordinance in the City of Everett.  The ultimate desire for this project is that it will encourage and create spaces of empowerment for community members to engage in the processes of land use acquisition and policy development in their city.  While the traditional goal of urban agriculture is to increase access to health affordable food in cities, the additional process of creating a community-led urban land inventory also increases civic engagement, which leads to a more informed and aware public, which is exactly what Everett needs! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table of final sites suitable for urban agriculture in Everett, based on criteria listed above. 

*Land Use Categories:  I/E = Institutional/Exempt; DR = Developable Residential; DC = Developable Commercial

**UA Category:  CG = Community Garden (2,500 – 5,000 sq. ft.); MG = Market Garden (5,000 – 10,800 sq. ft.); UF = Urban Farm (greater than 10,800 sq. ft)

Parcel ID

Site Address

Ownership Specific

Ownership General

Land Use Category*

Vacant Land (sq. ft.)

UA Category**

1

0  ELM ST

MASS BAY TRANSPORTATION

Mass Bay Transportation

I/E

3929.43

CG

2

0  FERRY ST

NICHOLS, LLC

Private

DR

3693.00

CG

3

0  FERRY ST

SHEEHAN RICHARD B

Private

DR

4526.98

CG

4

0  HARLEY AV

PICARDI RAFFAELE

Private

DR

4104.08

CG

5

0  MADISON AV

ALLEN BARRY L

Private

DR

4120.21

CG

6

0  MADISON AV

ALLEN BARRY L

Private

DR

4035.24

CG

7

0  MT WASHINGTON ST

EVERETT CITY OF

City of Everett

I/E

3325.14

CG

8

0  WEST ST

EVERETT CITY OF

City of Everett

I/E

2541.10

CG

9

15  ARGYLE ST

PANNULLO CONSTANTINO, ANNA D T RS

Private

DR

3867.97

CG

10

27  SPAULDING ST

SIGNORINO SANTO G TR

Private

DR

2731.55

CG

11

0  APPLETON ST

EVERETT CITY OF

City of Everett

I/E

14023.62

MG

12

0  BALDWIN AV

EVERETT CITY OF

City of Everett

I/E

49411.31

MG

13

0  BUCKNAM ST

EVERETT CITY OF

City of Everett

I/E

10013.91

MG

14

0  CABOT ST

EVERETT CITY OF

City of Everett

I/E

242970.13

MG

15

0  CHERRY ST

EVERETT HOUSING AUTHORITY

Everett Housing Authority

I/E

5836.01

MG

16

0  DUNCAN RD

EVERETT HOUSING AUTHORITY

Everett Housing Authority

I/E

135262.32

MG

17

0  FLORENCE ST

EVERETT CITY OF

City of Everett

I/E

198714.29

MG

18

0  GLEDHILL AV

EVERETT CITY OF

City of Everett

I/E

82943.41

MG

19

0  KELVIN ST

GOLINI ELENA

Private

DR

5308.53

MG

20

0  NICHOLS ST

EVERETT CITY OF

Private

DR

7426.86

MG

21

0  NICHOLS ST

NICHOLS LLC

City of Everett

I/E

30267.78

MG

22

0  ROAD A

EVERETT HOUSING AUTHORITY

Everett Housing Authority

I/E

6886.78

MG

23

0  ROAD A

EVERETT HOUSING AUTHORITY

Everett Housing Authority

I/E

7144.47

MG

24

0  ROAD B

EVERETT HOUSING AUTHORITY

Everett Housing Authority

I/E

9997.54

MG

25

0  ROAD B

EVERETT HOUSING AUTHORITY

Everett Housing Authority

I/E

5843.76

MG

26

0  ROAD B

EVERETT HOUSING AUTHORITY

Everett Housing Authority

I/E

4755.31

MG

27

0  ROAD B

EVERETT HOUSING AUTHORITY

Everett Housing Authority

I/E

7793.91

MG

28

0  ROAD B

EVERETT HOUSING AUTHORITY

Everett Housing Authority

I/E

13391.68

MG

29

0  ROAD B

EVERETT HOUSING AUTHORITY

Everett Housing Authority

I/E

10086.17

MG

30

0  ROAD B

EVERETT HOUSING AUTHORITY

Everett Housing Authority

I/E

6764.71

MG

31

0  ROAD B

EVERETT HOUSING AUTHORITY

Everett Housing Authority

I/E

5152.03

MG

32

0  ROAD B

EVERETT HOUSING AUTHORITY

Everett Housing Authority

I/E

10745.27

MG

33

0  RUSSELL ST

EVERETT CITY OF

City of Everett

I/E

216549.98

MG

34

0  RUSSELL ST

EVERETT CITY OF

City of Everett

I/E

34610.19

MG

35

0  RUSSELL ST

EVERETT CITY OF

City of Everett

I/E

135329.79

MG

36

0  SANTILLI HW

EVERETT CITY OF

City of Everett

I/E

121046.59

MG

37

0  SWAN ST

EVERETT CITY OF

City of Everett

I/E

113730.91

MG

38

0  TREMONT ST

EVERETT CITY OF

City of Everett

I/E

8095.70

MG

39

0  TREMONT ST

EVERETT CITY OF

City of Everett

I/E

187742.74

MG

40

0  TUFTS AV

EVERETT CITY OF

City of Everett

I/E

93909.24

MG

41

0  VETERANS AV

EVERETT CITY OF

City of Everett

I/E

180065.22

MG

42

0  VETERANS AV

EVERETT CITY OF

City of Everett

I/E

49078.65

MG

43

20  NICHOLS ST

EVERETT CITY OF

City of Everett

I/E

84335.82

MG

44

538  BROADWAY

EVERETT CITY OF

City of Everett

I/E

63899.58

MG

45

68  MAIN ST

ODEH   ZIAD

Private

DC

6563.22

MG

46

87  GARLAND ST

WHIDDEN MEMORIAL HOSPITAL, INC

Whidden Memorial Hospital, Inc.

I/E

60337.49

MG

47

0  BOW ST

EVERETT CITY OF

City of Everett

I/E

13384.10

UF

48

0  BROADWAY

EVERETT CITY OF

City of Everett

I/E

35532.25

UF

49

0  SANTILLI HW

EVERETT CITY OF

City of Everett

I/E

708408.49

UF

50

0  THORNDIKE ST

CAHILL DENNIS, ROSANNA

Private

DR

13427.67

UF

51

0  TREMONT ST

EVERETT CITY OF

City of Everett

I/E

263999.12

UF

52

0  TREMONT ST

EVERETT CITY OF

City of Everett

I/E

151606.02

UF

53

76  GLENDALE ST

EVERETT CITY OF

City of Everett

I/E

49119.41

UF