2020-2021 Thesis/Dissertation Abstracts

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MCPs: Xiomara Alvarez Nathan Arnosti Bridget Burns Patricia Cafferky Bahij Chancey Daniela Chong Lugon Daniela Cocco Beltrame Winn Costantini Elizabeth Farr Ruth Gourevitch Sofia Gulaid Chelsea Hodgkins Lenna Johnsen Griffin Kantz Devin Kelly Amber Kim Zade Koch Samra Lakew Geunhee Lee

Yanchao Li Rachel Luo David Maina Nina Mascarenhas Tess McCann Sarabrent McCoy Noah McDaniel Drew Morrison Michelle Mueller Chenab Navalkha Ziyu Ran Ruichen Ni Sarah Rege Emma Roberts Yu Shao Tanvi Sharma Kristopher Steele Gary Tran Darryle Ulama

Benjamin Walker Yuehan Wang Seth Wight Gabriela Zayas del Rio Yunhan Zheng Meesh Zucker

MCP-MSTs: Rachel Luo Ruben Morgan Yunhan Zheng

PhDs: Chaewon Ahn Mark Brennan Madeleine Daepp Priyanka deSouza Cauam Ferreira Cardoso

Yonah Freemark Nicholas Kelly Shin Bin Tan Daniel Traficonte

UGs: Meghan Davis Alexander Guo Tracy Sorto Avital Vainberg Miriam Wahid


Chaewon Ahn Dissertation Advisors: Sarah Williams, Justin Steil, Elisabeth Reynolds

Manufacturing Social Capital: Social Networks through Civic Innovation Initiatives The gentrification of industrial land in post-industrial cities has been a driving force to displace urban manufacturing firms from city centers. Entering the 2010s, manufacturing clusters in post-industrial societies started to be rebranded as innovation districts to connect manufacturers to entrepreneurs, designers and makers to research, design and produce products with a renewed attention of the rapid and flexible prototyping capabilities. This research takes the Sewoon area in the center of Seoul, South Korea as a case to evaluate the efficacy of the civic engagement innovation initiatives. I question whether and how artificially created new networks can enhance the firms’ innovative capacity and also strengthen the community power and agency in the planning process to challenge state-sanctioned industrial gentrification.


Combining social network analysis, interviews and ethnographic field work on the ‘Remake Sewoon’ project, I first investigate how the innovation projects, planned and implemented by governance actors foster collaborative relationships with firms that are structurally and culturally embedded in the local economy; second, whether actors with strong innovative potential that occupy structural holes in their newly created social networks also bridge heterogeneous industries and promote inclusiveness; and finally, how the governance actors utilized these bridging and linking networks in the negotiation of a controversial zoning rule. With the dissertation, I clarify the challenges that the network building innovation programs face when they aim to create opportunities of innovative R&D where a strong structure and culture of firm embeddedness pre-exists. I find that the superimposed network structure gives certain industries greater innovative opportunities, which after all threatens the legitimacy when the same community sets out to organize against crisis. Finally, I argue that even though governance networks create and maintain connections to the community and institutional power, they still face significant constraints when they are embedded within a hierarchical planning process.

Xiomara Alvarez Thesis Advisors: Lawrence Vale, Miho Mazereeuw

The Housefu(l)lness of Public Space Domestic life - the programs and functions most closely associated with housing and home - has been largely programmed out of the public spaces of cities in order to make them inhospitable to unhoused residents and the urban poor more broadly. Most visible in the form of so-called hostile architecture, these anti-domestic practices result in public spaces that discourage lingering or gathering, in which it is difficult to spend time. In doing so, they center a long-lasting definition of the socio-political project of “the public’’ which defines membership through one’s proximity and access to property. Public spaces of the city are then further policed in order to discourage uses and occupations that are discordant with the recreational, ordered dominant use case. Domestic life - the programs and functions most closely associated with housing and home - has been largely programmed out of the public spaces of cities in order to make them inhospitable to unhoused residents and the urban poor more broadly. Most visible in the form of so-called hostile architecture, these anti-domestic practices result in public spaces that discourage lingering or gathering, in which it is

difficult to spend time. This thesis takes up the role of architects and urban designers in houselessness, not through our positions on affordable housing, but by considering the ways that we play a part in perpetuating the privatization of domesticity. In doing so, we center a long-lasting definition of the socio-political project of “the public’’ which defines membership through one’s proximity and access to property. Public spaces of the city are then further policed in order to discourage uses and occupations that are discordant with the recreational, ordered dominant use case. Despite this, the public spaces of cities are made house-full by unhoused residents. Lacking access to the programs packaged in housing, unhoused residents piece together different rooms and play out different routines of necessity and joy throughout the city. Attempts to design unhoused people out of public space have resulted in a universally hostile public realm whose impacts are unevenly felt. Unhoused people are closest to this problem and bear the brunt of its violence. In this thesis I consider what public space begins to look like when those of us that design it critically change our agenda. What could the public realm look like if we expanded its domestic possibilities rather than restricting them, and how can we center the domesticities of unhoused residents in that expansion? What happens when public space is seen as housefull?


Nathan Arnosti Thesis Advisor: Ceasar McDowell

A moral document? Expanding conversations about public safety budgets in Minnesota in the wake of George Floyd’s murder

of existing public safety resources across the state, identifying what can be considered the upper limit of public safety reinvestment for communities in a firstof-its-kind analysis (Section II). Third, I find that current conversations around public safety budgets are complicated by the different visions, tactics, and roles that community leaders take on, and suggest that conversations around public safety budgets need to be responsive to this variation (Section III).

This thesis builds on these perspectives by looking at public safety budgets, specifically, across the state of Minnesota. I make a case for expanding and refining current conversations about public safety budgets in several ways.

I conclude by identifying questions that can guide further conversations about public safety budgets, examining relevant efforts to reimagine public safety systems in Austin, Los Angeles County, and Oregon, and outlining actions that Minnesotans can take to initiate conversations in their community (Section IV).

First, I see existing conversations in Minnesota – centered around reimagining police budgets in major cities like Minneapolis and Saint Paul – as insufficiently narrow. I contend that police departments belong to a broader system of public safety services whose role in society needs to be re-examined, including sheriffs, highway patrols, and correctional agencies. Given that the harms associated with existing systems of public safety, including police killings, serious crime, and incarceration are present statewide – as are residents of color, who are most likely to suffer harms from these systems – I argue that conversations to reimagine public safety must also take place in communities across the state (Section I). Second, I explore the availability


Patricia Cafferky Thesis Advisor: Jeff Levine

Planning for Anti-Displacement Development: An Affordable Housing Study in Central Falls The City of Central Falls is experiencing a degree of development and real estate speculation that it has not seen since the Industrial Revolution. At only 1.2 square miles and with a population of over 19,000, Central Falls is the smallest municipality in Rhode Island and the third densest municipality in New England. It is also a housing insecure, high-need community, with a 30% poverty rate and an owner-occupied housing rate of only 16%. The city was a center for industry in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and has been a home to immigrants throughout its history. As manufacturing declined in the US, Central Falls was greatly impacted and many of the mills which had once employed the community were left vacant or underutilized. Today, the city is seeing huge public and private investment. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation is opening a new MBTA commuter rail station and bus hub in the city in 2022, which will connect to Boston and Providence. Simultaneously, the city’s Conant Thread Mill District and Roosevelt Historic Mill District have dozens of old textile and manufacturing mills which are experiencing rising speculative interest from both private investors and

public entities. These two forces – improved public transportation and an undervalued building stock ripe for redevelopment – have the potential to bring new sources of economic growth to a city which sorely needs it, to catalyze gentrification, and, by extension, to cause cultural and residential displacement. In light of this, the city Mayor has decided to prioritize affordable housing creation and preservation with the intention to develop a city housing plan. Central Falls will also be developing a comprehensive plan for state approval in the near-term. This thesis aims to contribute to these ongoing efforts, and so conducted an affordable housing study as a client-based project for the Central Falls Office of Planning and Economic Development. Through evaluating the present state of affordable housing in the city the thesis attempts to answer both if Central Falls is at risk of gentrifying and what measures should be taken to shore up and improve the municipality’s stock of affordable housing. An affordability analysis, zoning analysis, policies and programs analysis, and site opportunities analysis, as well as 14 semi-structured interviews make up the basis of the research for the study. The culmination of the thesis is a set of recommendations for the city consider as it moves forward.


Daniela Chong Thesis Advisor: Lawrence Vale

Dispossessing the Public: Privatization of Open Public Spaces in Lima, Peru The Metropolitan Area of Lima has on average 3.6m2 of green area per person, for a total of 10 million inhabitants. Although this is not the most accurate metric, it is the most available proxy to measure open public spaces in the city. In addition, it is not equitably distributed: districts with higher socioeconomic levels and larger municipal budgets have greater area and higher quality public spaces. In this context, one of the biggest threats that public spaces face is their privatization, a process in which they are dispossessed from the public and transformed for a private or restricted use. In recent years, streets, parks, and plazas, beaches, coastal lomas and others have become shopping centers, private clubs, formal and informal housing, amusement parks, synthetic grass courts, and other infrastructure that has altered its openness, ownership, accessibility, and function. This shift from public to private spaces ultimately reduces the opportunity of all citizens to have available open public spaces, increases social fragmentation, and ultimately deepens issues of spatial injustice.


In such a scenario, this thesis examines the conditions under which open public spaces are privatized and identifies the mechanisms. Through different case studies and interviews, I create three types — Concession for Development, Appropriation for Livelihood, and Enclosure for Control — that attempt to explain the different forms in which privatization develops to expose the motivations behind it, the processes and actors involved, and its manifestations in the built environment. I analyze and expose the structural governance conditions and flaws in current planning processes that lead to privatization in order to help create awareness about how and why this invisible phenomenon takes place and who is most affected by it. Finally, this thesis proposes recommendations that can help Lima and other Peruvian cities promote the protection and preservation of public spaces and also encourage a more equitable distribution.

Daniela Cocco Beltrame Thesis Advisors: Gabriella Carolini, Ceasar McDowell

Subaltern City-Making: A Portrait from Harare, Zimbabwe Conventional narratives of the urban poor are often problematic, portraying them in stereotyped or reductionist ways. This often hinders their efforts to put forward their own ways of knowing and doing. However prevalent mainstream perspectives may be, urban poor communities still display agency to question hegemonic narratives through their thought production and daily practice. Building on the concept of border thinking (Walter Mignolo), understood as epistemology from a subaltern perspective, and that of conflicting rationalities (Vanessa Watson), defined as a framework to better understand difference and inform practice, this thesis aims at creating space for alternative forms of city-making. Leveraging the portraiture method (Sarah Lawrence-Lightfoot), it explores the model developed by Slum Dwellers International (SDI), as practiced by its affiliates in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Following women members’ everyday experiences of the organization’s practices, this work contributes towards a narrative that sits in direct contrast with portrayals of urban poor communities by mainstream perspectives. It presents three moments of agency and consciousness-raising that stem from the SDI model. Building on this model, this thesis offers a reflection on the locus of agency in the planning field to fundamentally transform itself, highlighting three potential paths: 1) unlearning colonial approaches to planning by treating the majority world as the center of planning theory and practice, starting from radical change in planning curricula across the globe; 2) redefining planning interactions to foster transcalar and transectorial organizing; 3) contesting the way city development is conceptualized, measured and evaluated.


Winn Costantini Thesis Advisor: Gabriella Carolini

Integrating Climate, Economic, and Racial Justice Through a Boston FutureCorps Amidst a rapidly evolving political landscape, with the 2021 Boston Mayoral Election, recently passed Massachusetts State climate policy, and President Biden’s Executive Order to create a Civilian Climate Corps, the City of Boston has the opportunity to integrate its response to climate change, economic inequity, and racial injustice through the creation of, what I have titled, the Boston FutureCorps. Following Councilor Michelle Wu’s call for an Urban Climate Corps and Councilor Kenzie Bok’s proposal for a Boston Conservation Corps, the City Council is now in the process of developing a new corps that will join the City’s existing network of green workforce development infrastructure. In order to strengthen, rather than duplicate, this existing infrastructure, this thesis examines the complex cross-section of current public, private and non-profit efforts to both create and prepare Boston residents for green jobs, address racial inequity in green sectors, and contribute to Boston’s collective response to the climate crisis.


I participated in two Boston City Council meetings, convened a focus group, and conducted 46 semi-structured interviews with stakeholders — including existing Boston workforce development programs, as well as environmental, community, and labor organizations — and visualized the current organizational landscape in Boston through a series of ecosystem maps. These maps relay the existing relationships among stakeholders, potential green career pathways, and external factors necessary for an equitable and just corps. Critically, this thesis also explores stakeholders’ perceptions of this current ecosystem, the concept of “green jobs”, and the potential design and impacts of a Boston FutureCorps. Stakeholders stressed the need for a participatory program design process and partnerships with community organizations, long-term and reliable funding sources, and the need for the corps to connect participants to meaningful jobs with living wages. In conclusion, I consider how such perspectives can inform the institutionalization of this effort, and recommend a series of values-based indicators that decision-makers can use to ensure that policy efforts to introduce a Boston FutureCorps are rooted in climate, economic, and racial justice, both in theory and practice.

Madeleine I. G. Daepp Dissertation Advisor: Mariana Arcaya

Three Essays on Residential Mobility, Housing, and Health Over 700,000 people moved for health reasons in the last year, and many more moved for reasons in which health was implicated, such as to escape climate hazards. Changes in the extent to which a residence promotes health should change housing prices--an important health and social exposure in its own right, as well as a mechanism through which numerous other features of a place are reshaped--yet the relationships between residential mobility, health, and housing markets remain poorly understood. This dissertation comprises three papers on the association of residential mobility with health and housing. In the first paper, I evaluate the effect of a localized change in healthcare access--the 2006 Massachusetts Healthcare Reform--on housing prices and interstate migration along the state border. I find an increase in the prices of affordable housing that is offset by a commensurate decrease in the price of luxury housing; I also observe a small increase in migration into Massachusetts versus into neighboring states.

My second paper seeks to better understand the effects of climate migration on housing markets. Examining the impacts of displacement due to Hurricane Katrina, I show that housing prices decreased in destination neighborhoods that received the largest numbers of movers, relative to neighborhoods that did not receive large inflows. My third paper describes a collaboration with the Healthy Neighborhoods Study Consortium, for whom I constructed a data set of estimated moving flows between Massachusetts neighborhoods. I then created a web-based app to make the resulting estimates accessible to planners, community organizations, and residents. An overarching theme of this work is the recognition that communities share housing and health challenges with the places to which former residents move and the places from which new residents arrive.


Priyanka deSouza Dissertation Advisor: Janelle Knox-Hayes

Making Air Quality Count: LowCost Sensors, Public Health and Urban Planning Ambient air pollution is responsible for ~ 4.2 million premature deaths every year making it the world’s single largest environmental health risk. Although 90% of this burden is borne by countries in the Global South, effective air pollution governance and monitoring in many of these countries is lacking. As of 2019, 57 countries had no air quality standards and 108 countries did not have air pollution data in any form. This dissertation attempts to understand and address some of the factors that have resulted in these gaps in data and governance. Specifically, this work makes two main interventions: 1) Low-cost sensors and satellite instruments have immense potential to further our understanding of air pollution, especially in the Global South where little data is available. This thesis develops new methods to derive useful insights about air pollution levels and sources from these technologies. Throughout, it highlights inequalities in production and access to data and these technologies that need to be addressed. 2) Air pollution monitoring practices and governance are intertwined with data infrastructures, political economy conditions, and anticipations


of political engagement. This thesis studies the gaps in the data infrastructures and political economy conditions that prevent air pollution science and data from leading to effective regulatory action in the Global South. It uses Kenya as a case study for this work.

Elizabeth Farr Thesis Advisor: Jinhua Zhao

Parking Policy as a Mechanism to Reduce Car Ownership and Use The vast majority of Americans own a car, despite its high cost and low utilization rate. Through a stated preference survey in Washington D.C., Chicago, Dallas, and Seattle metro areas, I find that people value their car at $11,197, and the majority of that value comes from owning the car, rather than from using it. The ownership value comes in part from the “option value,” that the car is sitting in a parking spot, waiting to be used whenever and however the owner wishes. Parking enables this value. In the next set of results, I find that parking-related variables, like the built environment and employer-provided parking benefits, also impact car use. Though these findings point to the potential for policymakers to use parking policy to reduce car ownership and use, American cities are notorious for having an oversupply of underpriced parking.

To investigate why parking policies may be underutilized, I interview and survey parking officials. I find that officials are not trying to use parking policy to reduce car ownership or to disincentivize cars. Officials face strong resistance to such policies by businesses and residents that live near to where they will be implemented. I conclude with several policy recommendations aimed at enabling policymakers to better utilize parking policy to reduce car ownership and use, including policies relating to reframed goals and metrics and shifting power to balance localized stakeholder needs better with recipients of larger scale benefits. Lastly, in order for parking policy to be truly effective in reducing car use and ownership, I recognize that land use policy and mobility system improvements must be deployed to provide truly viable non-private car alternatives that replicate the option value of car ownership.


Sofia Gulaid Thesis Advisor: Catherine D’Ignazio

Mandela, Massachusetts: Design Futures for a Proposed City In 1986 and 1988 there was an unsuccessful referendum for majority Black neighborhoods across Boston to incorporate and form an independent city called Mandela. The referendum, motivated by widespread dissatisfaction with Boston’s treatment of Black neighborhoods, and a community desire for land control and self-determination, has been all but forgotten at present, despite its motivations being as salient as ever. The following thesis presents my ongoing art project Mandela, Massachusetts: Design Futures for a Proposed City, which asks the question: “How might we use design to spark conversation about the hidden history and potential design of Mandela?”. During Spring 2021, I designed realistic posters, postcards and stickers about Mandela, and disseminated them in public spaces across Greater Roxbury. All pieces have a QR code linked to a visioning survey that gives participants the opportunity to imagine what Mandela could be.


The thesis starts by exploring the background of Mandela, Massachusetts, including the proposal, its architects, various Black Power precedents, outcomes, and legacy, drawing upon the previous research of Zebulon Miletsky and Tomas Gonzalez. Then the public art project is explained including the materials, design process, project precedents from Monument Lab, Paper Monuments, and various Black and Indigenous women artists, and explore use of the materials in-situ. The final section then reflects on the implications of public art projects, evaluating the methodology of an ephemeral art installation like Mandela, and providing recommendations on how to ground this work in the built environment and continue these conversations.

Chelsea Hodgkins Thesis Advisor: Lawrence Susskind

A Just Energy Transition? Lessons Learned from Mexico In 2013, Mexico undertook a series of national energy reforms that made viable renewable energy development. These reforms largely promoted large-scale projects that were funded, operated and owned by private, foreign companies. Human rights and environmental organizations in Mexico have heavily criticized this very model of development promoted by the reforms. The Interamerican Association for the Defense of the Environment has said that such a model has “made it impossible to overcome the wide gaps in exclusion for socio-economic and territorial reasons” and generated new “socio-economic conflicts.” Data on large wind parks developed in communities and on indigenous lands substantiates that inequality, attacks against human rights defenders, and human rights abuses have increased.

My thesis explores three primary questions: 1) why the preferred model of development is large-scale, private, foreign-funded projects; 2) what legal and regulatory structures set up by the reforms enable the violence and conflict that is present in the renewable energy sector and prevents a just energy transition; 3) what lessons can the global community learn from Mexico’s model and experience?


Devin Kelly Thesis Advisor: Devin Michelle Bunten

‘A Bridge Over the Chasm’: Rhetoric and Reflexivity in Housing Advocacy As we cast housing in the language of crisis, development, shortage, and units, we lose sight of its value in the context of social relations and human wellbeing. The rhetoric that has evolved to explain gaps in housing access intersects powerfully with homelessness policy and advocacy, and ideas about leadership and solutions. In a case study of a housing advocacy subculture in Anchorage, Alaska, I ask whether naming, and critically examining, one’s own experiences of being housed can disrupt habitual ways of acting and leading and create more informed, collaborative, compassionate, and transformational approaches to change in the housing and homelessness arena.


Through a lens of critical reflexivity, I identify four interlocking structural conditions, or “blueprints,” that constitute housed rhetoric and relations: expectation, advantage, vulnerability and connectivity. I propose adapting a series of existing action-based tools to unpack these blueprints and support inclusive, collaborative housing policy work across difference.

Nicholas Kelly Dissertation Advisors: Lawrence Vale, Justin Steil, Ingrid Gould Ellen, Katherine Einstein

Can Housing Policy Address Spatial Inequality? Innovations in Policy and Politics to Expand Access to Opportunity Neighborhoods While research has demonstrated that low-poverty neighborhoods can improve economic outcomes for low-income children, policymakers have few scalable solutions to help families access those areas. In this dissertation, I present three innovations in policy and politics aimed at improving access to opportunity neighborhoods. First, with Ingrid Gould Ellen, I argue for a streamlined measure of neighborhood opportunity we call the School-Violence-Poverty (SVP) Index based on the three metrics that are most strongly associated with positive outcomes among children. We combine it with data on rental prices in New York City and Greater Boston to identify “opportunity bargain” areas that have lower rents than expected given their high ratings on measures of school quality, low levels of violent crime, and low poverty rates.

Second, I evaluate the impact of three policy changes on increasing access to opportunity: rental subsidies set at the ZIP Code level, a randomized controlled trial of a housing mobility counseling program, and a randomized controlled trial of a housing search tool that provides customized neighborhood recommendations based on public transit access, school quality and public safety preferences. I find that rental subsidy changes were associated with higher numbers of moves to areas with better schools, the housing mobility counseling program increased access to areas with lower violent crime rates, and the housing search tool helped those in the treatment group already interested in moving to high-opportunity areas move to significantly higher opportunity neighborhoods. Third, I ask: how do city agencies implement regional policies? I propose a theory of urban bureaucratic policy implementation that argues that city agencies are an important vehicle for the implementation of regional policies due to their bureaucratic autonomy. I focus on two strategies these agencies use to facilitate implementation: reframing regional policy to align with the city’s interest, and redesigning policy to reduce political opposition. I test the theory by examining the implementation of “housing mobility” programs that help low-income families move to areas of opportunity in the United States, finding that reframing housing mobility from a desegregation policy to an upward economic mobility strategy facilitated implementation of regional policies by recasting it in the city’s interest.


Amber Kim Thesis Advisor: David Hsu

The Challenges and Opportunities to Achieving Equitable Residential Building Electrification in Chicago In this thesis, I answer the question: what are the challenges and opportunities to achieving a just and equitable residential building electrification strategy in Chicago? The focus on equitable residential building electrification is motivated by 1) Chicago’s need to tackle residential building gas emissions in order to meet its decarbonization goals, and 2) the use of an energy justice framework. I pursue my research question through a mixed-method approach of stakeholder interviews, mapping, and statistical analysis. Stakeholder interviews paint the picture of a politically challenging landscape with a few key opportunities to advance equitable residential building electrification. The mapping and statistical analysis identify socio-demographic patterns that pose equity challenges for residential electrification.


Based on these findings, I conclude with recommendations for Chicago planners, policymakers, and stakeholders to work towards a just and equitable residential building electrification strategy.

Zade Koch Thesis Advisor: Jinhua Zhao

Nationwide Pedestrian Safety Analysis Using Crash and Survey Data Pedestrian safety is studied using two approaches: injury severity modeling using NHTSA’s Crash Report Sampling System crash data and administering a nationwide survey on roadway safety topics. The crash data models identified seven significant independent variables which relate to severe pedestrian injuries: weather, lighting condition, speed limit, speeding violation, vehicle body type, driver impairment, and pedestrian age. When crashes at intersections and non-intersections were compared, the effects of these variables did not significantly vary. The nationwide survey concentrated on topics unavailable or incompletely described in the crash data, including pedestrian safety perceptions and four unsafe behaviors: intoxicated driving, cell phone use while driving, intoxicated walking, and cell phone use while walking. Public beliefs about dangerous pedestrian scenarios largely agreed with findings from the crash data. The Theory of Planned Behavior was applied to the unsafe behaviors, leading to distinct suggestions for public awareness messaging for each of the behaviors.


Geunhee Lee Thesis Advisors: Sarah Williams, Catherine D’Ignazio

Civic Hacking for the Right to Know and the Right to Privacy The involvement of civic hackers in national and international crisis mitigation efforts as digital first responders has been widely discussed (Palen et al., 2010). Crisis events often cause civic hackers to break ethical boundaries and governance structures during crisis events as they attempt to communicate essential information to the public (Crawford and Finn, 2015), raising questions regarding ethical concerns, sustainability of their projects, and power dynamics with other entities. Interestingly, this is often at odds with their ethical standards which advocate for the right to privacy against government oversharing of data. Thus, in order to develop better standards of practice for civic hackers in crisis mitigation, it is important to understand the ethical dilemmas that they face.


This research focuses on South Korean civic hacking activities during the crisis of COVID-19. Two groups of civic hackers were interviewed and surveyed; 1) those mapping government data and 2) those advocating for improvement in the delivery and dissemination of government data. Through interviews of these two groups, this research study found that although civic hackers struggled to determine ethical data practices, the limited efficacy of their projects due to technical difficulties and lack of community power discouraged them to further sustain the civic hacking projects, which limited the social impact of their work. The study provides an insiders’ view of civic hacking for crisis mitigation that can help inform policy for ethical practices in the delivery and use of data during a crisis event.

Yanchao Li, Ziyu Ran Thesis Advisor: Sarah Williams

Understanding Mobility in Sierra Leone During COVID-19 Using Call Detail Records Call Details Records (CDR) can provide an essential resource for understanding mobility patterns in data-poor environments, although CDR is often applied towards transportation applications. This thesis seeks to use CDR to understand the impact of government policies during fast-moving public health threats. To test the usefulness of CDR data, we apply it towards two different research questions: (1) How did human mobility patterns change after travel restriction policies during COVID-19, and how was that related to their socioeconomic status? (2) How did travel policies and socioeconomic status impact mobile users’ accessibility to services during COVID-19? A big data analysis pipeline was developed to answer these two questions. For the analysis of mobility patterns changes, a series of mobility metrics were generated, including radius of gyration, the purpose of trips, regularity of movement, and motif types. Then the mobile users were clustered into four typologies based on the metrics to determine how different groups of people changed their travel behavior during COVID-19. For measurement of impacts of travel policies and socioeconomic status on mobile users’ accessibility to services (i.e., food and healthcare), accessibility metrics

including travel distance, the rate of discretionary trips, the entropy of trip duration, and the cumulative number of food/healthcare services were derived. Then the types of users’ accessibility behaviors were classified as four distinct types to inform more target and effective policies. From our analysis, we find 1) the travel activities decreased hugely during the lockdown period and rebounded back partly during the travel restriction period. 2) Users living in more impoverished areas generally needed to travel long before the COVID-19 but decreased their travel behaviors hugely during the lockdown. 3) Users of higher socioeconomic status are less likely to be influenced by travel restrictions to obtain food/ healthcare resources, while travel policies easily influence users of lower socioeconomic status. This thesis interprets Sierra Leone’s accessibility and mobility via multiple perspectives, providing analysis to support the local government in coping with the pandemic. The big data analysis pipeline created in the thesis can also be applied to future research in other data-poor countries. Besides, the research can be integrated with other research fields such as epidemiology, sociology, and economics to provide more information to inform policy decision-making.


Rachel Luo Thesis Advisors: Jinhua Zhao, Jim Aloisi

Data-Driven Customer Segmentation: Assessing Disparities in COVID Impact on Public Transit User Groups and Recovery COVID-19 triggered an unprecedented global lockdown and severely dampened public transit ridership, which was down 62% year-on-year across the U.S. through Q4 2020. Beyond these stark headline figures, more granular views of whose transit ridership patterns changed and how are needed to aid cash-strapped transit agencies in understanding both the operational and equity impacts of COVID-19 and assessing possible recovery strategies. This thesis examines these questions in the Metro Boston region by applying k-means clustering to smart card data from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA).We empirically determine customer segments based on passenger-level pre-pandemic transit ridership patterns during January 13 - February 16, 2020, using data from 22.6 million trips by 1.5 million passengers. We then trace how COVID-19 produced differential churn rates and travel behaviour modifications among these distinct


passenger groups. We find that COVID-19 induced churn among rail commuter segments key for supporting MBTA fare revenues, while bus riders and those who frequently rode rail off-peak—groups that covered the majority of reduced fare and vulnerable passengers—were most likely to continue using the system. Our findings suggest that in the near term, the MBTA can support a ridership and revenue rebound by working closely with large employers involved in the MBTA “”Perq”” corporate pass program to plan for reopening. This can also position the MBTA to better gauge the need to redesign or reprice Perq to offer greater flexibility for workers who may be adopting remote work longer term and therefore commuting less frequently to the office. Further, our analysis reveals consistency in ridership patterns among bus passengers even during crisis times. In the medium term as the MBTA considers network redesigns to meet post-pandemic travel needs, existing plans for bus upgrades do not necessarily need heavy modification because COVID-19 did not completely redefine these passengers’ transit usage patterns. This gives a base level of certainty for the MBTA’s planning process, as it seeks to track and shape the uncertainty that COVID-19 has brought to demand on the rail side of its network.

Nina Mascarenhas Thesis Advisor: Karilyn Crockett

Collaborative Governance in Regional Climate Reslience Planning: A Case Study of the Resilient Mystic Collaborative The effectiveness of societal responses to a changing climate is strongly driven by the ability of institutions, particularly those of public governance, to adapt to change. This thesis focuses on the governance context of the United states where municipal fragmentation is a key institutional challenge to planning at the regional scale. As an issue that manifests across jurisdictional boundaries, climate change adaptation is increasingly being addressed through collaborative governance. Through a case study of the Resilient Mystic Collaborative (RMC) in the Greater Boston area of Massachusetts, this thesis explores the following question - in the context of municipal fragmentation in the United States, what are the strengths and limitations of voluntary collaborative regional governance in achieving climate change adaptation?

required to achieve climate adaptation. The pace and scale of climate change calls for societies to make transformational changes in the ways they function, and it is crucial to adapt existing institutions to guide these changes. The Resilient Mystic Collaborative is the first collaborative of municipalities working towards climate adaptation at the watershed scale in Massachusetts. As other watershed-based collaboratives coalesce around this model of inter-municipal collaboration, they are likely to encounter similar challenges to those faced by the RMC. This thesis aims to prompt discussion on how to address these challenges with a recommendation for voluntary regional collaboratives to direct their efforts towards building public and legislative support for institutionalized regional climate adaptation.

I find that voluntary regional collaboratives are likely to be successful in building relationships, trust and shared understanding of climate risks and solutions. However, collaborative governance is limited in its potential to implement these measures at the scale


Tess McCann Thesis Advisors: Eric Robsky Huntley, Marie Law Adams

More Complex than Wasteland: Reparative Site History along the Boston-Revere Border In this project, I seek a way to establish a site without emptying a place. I examine the way that project proponents talk about the Suffolk Downs development, Boston’s largest-ever development project along the town border with Revere, and argue that they empty the site through the use of spatial and temporal metaphor. The emptiness of the site allows for, even requires, large-scale interventions that “solve” the “problem” posed by emptiness. I read these interventions in the context of solutionism, a framework that inherits Enlightenment-era ideas of human dominance over the non-human world. I turn to the history of Suffolk Downs and show that there has been a cycle of emptying and improving on this land over the past 300 years of settler presence on it.


Previous generations of developers have similarly emptied this place by relying on the rhetorical trope of wasteland, which allowed for human technocratic intervention in the landscape. These interventions, I argue, tended to fail, creating new wastelands that needed improvement. By telling a history of Suffolk Downs, I suggest that, despite the prevailing development rhetoric, the place’s past is not singular and the space is not simply a container for development activity. I explore “repair” as a development paradigm that resists emptying at the oil storage facility owned by Irving Oil and Global Partners, which is adjacent to Suffolk Downs. Within the logic of repair, sites can be constructed not by emptying them, but rather by embracing what’s already there and what’s been there. At the oil farm site, storage, itself a condition of emptiness, is the stuff of the site, and can be used as the basis for design interventions. More broadly, repair allows for an interdisciplinary approach to site design and discourse and has the potential to include more voices in development processes. Repair is not a silver-bullet solution to development—and that’s largely the point. Because it resists emptying, repair can be radical; and history, because it clearly states “there’s something here,” can be reparative.

Noah McDaniel Thesis Advisor: Justin Steil In this thesis I explore the empirical effects of TELs, particularly limitations on property taxes, on fiscal risk metrics. The study is motivated by the increased financialization of the public sector, and concordant growth in risk in municipal government. How has the state-local relationship contributed to local risk? Using a panel regression with fixed effects on data from all 50 states 1967-2004, I find that TELs have significant effects on municipal risk. Property tax rate limits in particular increase risk, suggesting that some TELs may not constrain the size of local governments, but induce substitution towards higher-risk fiscal practices.

Power, Risk, and Democratic Control in State-Local Finance: The Effect of State Tax and Expenditure Limits on Municipal Debt and Risk Municipal finance is important, if opaque, to the daily lives of people across the United States. Cities and towns provide essential services which are often financed through debt. Over the course of the 20th century, the use of debt in municipalities and the state-local relationship has transformed dramatically. While debt historically was used for infrastructure projects supported with tax revenue, its use expanded in the postwar era into private purposes and non-capital expenditures. Revenue bonds in particular, a form of non-guaranteed debt, are a popular mechanism to finance local services. States have also increasingly exercised control over municipal finance. Particularly in latter half of the last century, states passed tax and expenditure limits, or TELs, to regulate municipal governments.







Mean Risk Ratios Over Time, All U.S.



1990 Year

Total Debt : Revenue NG Debt : Total Debt



NG Debt : Revenue

Weighted by population


Michelle Mueller Gámez Thesis Advisors: Devin Michelle Bunten

Salt Flats, Finger Islands, and Ponds Reading the Landscape through Infrastructure in Tampa, Florida We are moving through strange times with the environment. In the greater Tampa Bay area, people commute to the Everglades to hunt pythons, iguanas fall from the sky, and planners build desalination plants to turn saltwater into freshwater. This thesis is an inquiry into the beliefs and ideas that have led to these environmental happenings. It looks at racial capitalism, the teleology of progress, the frontier, and ideas about nature; all which people have used to create a material infrastructure of residential development in the landscape.


Through a historical and cultural analysis, this thesis looks at how tourists, homeowners, critters, planners, environmentalists, engineers, activists, and regular people operate within the bounds of these ideas. Some of their actions and imaginations are limited by what they know and believe, some people work with the natural world to operate and survive in the 21st century, and others take actions to formulate new ways of life. The infrastructures of our times are a product of history and dominant ways of knowing, this thesis seeks to trouble western knowledge that has foreclosed other ways of knowing the natural world.

Ruichen Ni Thesis Advisor: Brent D. Ryan

A Venture for Art + Development: Examining The Symbiosis Relationship Between China’s Art Market and Real Estate Industries In the past two decades, in China, integrating art components, cultural institutions, and various artistic scenes in commercial real estate has become popular development and management practices in first- and second-tier cities. The capital flow between the two industries has become increasingly frequent. Real estate companies have evolved from space providers for arts to a more influential stakeholder in the local art ecosystem, facilitating the growth of art industries. Through collaborations with real estate projects, artists find alternative ways to sustain art production as well as a widened and closer connection to the general public. Successes in both ends have encouraged the joint venture on art + real estate to continue.

This thesis critically investigates forms of symbiosis between art and real estate industries in China. The research aims to reveal and reflect on the two industries’ interdependency with a close examination of the artist communities’ historical evolution in cities and new endeavors combined art and real estate. It focuses on the following questions: how do real estate and art professionals collaborate and benefit from the joint venture? What are the motivation, idea, and vision? Are the strategies effective? Are there issues under the flourishing market? Who are the winners and losers? Through site visits, interviews with selected real estate and art professionals, artists, and a gathering of secondary sources, the research categorizes and analyzes art + development collaborations into two primary forms: art districts and art placement. It zooms into two representative case studies that are publicly regarded to be successful and innovative: Aranya and K11. The thesis’s objective is to remind real estate about the value and power of art in urban developments beyond its function as a commercialized product, suggesting more ethical business thinking and recommendations to create a favorable art ecosystem around real estate projects.


Sarah Rege Thesis Advisor: Gabriella Carolini

Cultivating Creative Learning in Community — An Iterative Design Process Creativity is an inherent part of human development, it is the progress of thought; a natural inclination to innovate, invent, and create. Simply put, we have the ability to process, analyze and imagine future outcomes of everyday situations. Evidence suggests that creative education can support cognitive development and enhance our ability to problem-solve. In the past decade, curriculum reform in Kenya has shifted from teacher-based approaches to learner-centered approaches (with the introduction of Competency-Based Curriculum). While this may support the next generation of creative thinkers, the lack of funding to support creative education on a national level and the insufficient supply of free resources to most public schools pose a challenge to educators. Despite the appeal of the new curriculum, requirements for parents to be more involved in their children’s learning further pronounce wealth and education gaps amongst students, further impeding the child’s success.


This design thesis presents the iterative process behind the ongoing development process of Somoto, a creative learning service established through the DesignX accelerator at MIT. Through community collaboration, Somoto aims to establish a network of creative learning spaces in Nairobi, Kenya. Drawing from a place-based community development approach, the design proposal identifies community assets and existing resources such as community libraries and cyber cafes to enhance creative education programming within low-income communities in Nairobi.

Emma González Roberts Thesis Advisors: Karilyn Crockett, Jeff Levine

Understanding Paseo Boricua: Why the Preservation of Chicago’s Puerto Rican Enclave Matters Paseo Boricua, which loosely translates to “Puerto Rican Promenade,” is the center of Puerto Rican culture, business, and politics in Chicago. Since 2000, the rate of gentrification on Chicago’s northwest side, where Paseo Boricua is located, has increased significantly. Community leaders and residents have worked fervently for decades to maintain Paseo Boricua and the surrounding area as a Puerto Rican space by protecting and expanding affordable housing, investing in arts and culture, and supporting Puerto Rican-owned businesses.

In the context of a place at risk of losing its population and character, this thesis asks: Why does the preservation of Paseo Boricua as a Puerto Rican cultural enclave matter? Through interviews with twenty-one community leaders and residents, historical research, and a review of public media, I present three themes that illuminate the significance of Paseo Boricua. First, the district represents Puerto Rican self-determination—a reality that is not possible on the island due to its continued colonial status. Second, the place honors and teaches Puerto Rican identity, history, and culture. As Puerto Ricans have faced centuries of colonization, exploitation, and oppression, Paseo Boricua provides space for Puerto Rican people to celebrate their resiliency and joy. Third, the distinctive food, music, art, culture, and leadership of Paseo Boricua contribute uniquely to the vibrancy and diversity of Chicago. I conclude by arguing that the city of Chicago must preserve Paseo Boricua—the only officially designated Puerto Rican cultural district in the United States—through concerted policy and planning efforts in partnership with local community leaders. This thesis seeks to contribute to the ongoing conversation and strategy regarding how to preserve Puerto Rican culture on Paseo Boricua and why it matters.


Tanvi Sharma Thesis Advisor: Gabriella Carolini

Future Flood Mitigation in Charlotte-Mecklenburg This case study examines the successes of flood mitigation planning in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, beginning with their locally created future conditions flood risk maps, and followed by complementary risk reduction strategies informed by these maps. CharlotteMecklenburg’s future conditions maps, known locally as Community Maps, were created in 2000, because after repeated flood losses in the region, residents and local officials realized the need for better data to help “stop the bleeding.” This thesis takes a critical look at existing national level flood mitigation mapping and regulations, and compares them with Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s local strategies. It also looks at what ingredients have allowed CharlotteMecklenburg Storm Water Services to achieve this success and where there is still room for improvement. Finally, this paper offers lessons and recommendations for national policy as well as other local communities to help improve flood management across different levels of government.


Shin Bin Tan Dissertation Advisor: Mariana Arcaya

Three Essays Examining Social Vulnerability and Place-Based Determinants of Health This three-essay dissertation examines how different environmental characteristics might support better health and economic outcomes of socially vulnerable individuals, with a focus on the role policy and planning can play. The first essay focuses on community resilience -the capability that helps communities resist, absorb and recover from disasters and traumas. I empirically examine how well a community resilience assessment tool developed by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) predicts post-disaster, county and individual-level health outcomes and find concerning shortfalls. Using FEMA’s tool as an illustrative case, I highlight limitations of current efforts to quantify community resilience via indicator-based assessment tools, and propose possible improvements to policy-based community assessment tools.

The second essay examines whether disaster-induced residential relocation to `higher economic opportunity’ areas might support better post-disaster outcomes. Using a mixed-methods approach to analyze repeated survey data and interviews of low-income mothers hit by the 2005 Hurricane Katrina, this study found a unit increase in year-weighted county opportunity predicted a doubling of incomes approximately 12 years after the hurricane, but only if participants remained in higher opportunity counties beyond 9 to 21 months. Living in higher opportunity areas however was not associated with better long-term health, potentially because of the challenges integrating into a new area post-disaster, which suggests the need for additional support to help disaster survivors sustain residence in higher opportunity areas. The third essay examines how accumulated exposures to obesogenic neighbourhood environments affect children and mothers’ BMI, and how socioeconomic status might modify such neighbourhood effects. Drawing from a mother-child birth cohort study based in Singapore, this study found that socioeconomic vulnerability modified the relationship between exposure to specific obesogenic neighborhood characteristics and BMI-related outcomes, such that increased access to bus-stops and park connectors predicted a drop in BMI outcomes for higher SES children and mothers respectively, but an increase for lower SES individuals. Study results emphasize the importance of considering how urban interventions might have heterogenous effects by SES.


Darryle Ulama Thesis Advisor: Jason Jackson

Black Public Works: The Political Economy of Race and New Deal Infrastructure This thesis examines how New Deal public works intersected with race during a critical juncture in American political development and spatial rationalization. The narrative of the New Deal has often underestimated the infrastructure building that became the nucleus of the Roosevelt Administration’s relief and reform policies as well as the ways in which race and racism structured all levels of New Deal operations. This research highlights the promises and limitations of the “public works revolution” that the New Deal set in motion by exploring the extent to which New Deal infrastructure programs were redistributive along racial lines. Using archival records and agency reports, I offer programmatic histories of seven major public works programs and highlight the types of projects that were built in Black communities. I show how New Deal infrastructure building was layered with contradictions and punctuated with moments of progress as well as lost opportunities for redress. I then analyze public works spending in counties that had sizeable African American populations


in the 1930s, including the Black Belt, Gulf Coast, and the metro areas of New York City, Chicago, and Philadelphia to show how state and local politics and the urban-rural line shaped infrastructure outcomes. Lastly, I apply mapping and spatial statistics to identify geographic patterns of public works expenditures across the country, which reveal that low per capita spending tended to cluster in regions with significant Black populations. By focusing on the racialized dimensions of New Deal infrastructure building, this research challenges the logics that have been offered to explain public works in the fields of American political development, economic history, and fiscal federalism. This thesis also problematizes the redistributive impact of infrastructure on material and fiscal grounds by emphasizing how the policymaking and institutional legacies of New Deal public works are as consequential as their physical achievements. As the U.S. pursues ambitious infrastructure buildout in response to overlapping and unprecedented crises, new approaches to infrastructure policy are needed to fully realize their potential.

Seth Wight Thesis Advisor: Jeff Levine

Aligning Policy Goals with Planning Outcomes: A ClientBased Thesis in Portland, Maine In 2018, Portland, Maine began the process of rewriting its Land Use Code for the first time in over fifty years. A primary motivation for the ReCode effort was the opportunity to align the code with Portland’s Plan 2030, the city’s comprehensive plan adopted in 2017. With the initial phase of the ReCode complete, streamlining and simplifying the existing code, subsequent phases will evaluate existing zones and regulations for consistency with the comprehensive plan’s goals.

This thesis complements that work through the analysis and envisioning of two sites in the city facing development pressure. It asks: how can zoning facilitate development aligned with broader planning goals, and what factors influence the likelihood of that development? First, I situate the sites in their present and historical contexts. Existing planning relevant to each site is then considered both for its broader themes and future implications. An economic assessment reveals the market factors and local/regional dynamics that influence development in the area. I then present plausible development scenarios for each site, and utilize case studies to illustrate alternative scenarios. I conclude with recommendations for the city to consider throughout its ReCode process.


Gabriela B. Zayas del Rio Thesis Advisor: Delia Wendel

‘Autogestión’: Communityled Squatting as a Means of Transformative Revitalization of Abandoned Spaces in Puerto Rico This thesis documents and reflects on the emergence of a new form of squatting led by collectives in urban communities across Puerto Rico. This new form of squatting is using squatting beyond a means of survival and more substantively as a planning practice. This thesis relies on a mix of ethnographic methods (semi-structured interviews, participant observation, and policy analysis) to understand the context in which these collectives emerge, how one collective is doing such work, and what recommendations could transform planning practice to better support this work. The first part of this thesis sets the context and argues that these collectives emerge to respond to a polycrisis that has produced abandoned spaces resulting from economic development and planning approaches (incentive-based models and imported development models such as suburbanization and urban renewal) that are extractive, colonizing, and devoid of Puerto Rican voices.


The thesis then follows a case study of one collective, Urbe Apié, in Caguas, Puerto Rico. Urbe Apié is a horizontal and decentralized organization that uses a planning area, not just a building, to turn squatting into a comprehensive form of community-led revitalization. Its approach to spatial planning is flexible, embracing uses that shift with time and with changing community needs and aspirations. Most importantly, it repurposes abandoned spaces to materialize collective ownership of the decision-making process of city-making, ultimately subverting orthodox notions of private property rights and top-down planning. Its planning approaches have proven to be better equipped for planning in crisis, as they foment deep democracy and multiple sovereignties that empower communities to exercise their self-determination and ensure their permanency in urban centers despite the polycrisis and an increasingly absent government. The thesis concludes with a set of recommendations for planning to adopt more liberatory practices that support and legitimize these collectives’ work. These include examples on how to decolonize planning tools, such as eminent domain and for-profit revitalization, to remove legal barriers and provide formal avenues for collectives to do this work, which is finally reflecting Puerto Rican voices and not outside and fleeting interests.

Yunhan Zheng Thesis Advisor: Jinhua Zhao

Equality of opportunity in travel behavior prediction with deep neural networks and discrete choice models Although researchers increasingly adopt machine learning to model travel behavior, they predominantly focus on prediction accuracy, while largely ignore the ethical challenges and the adverse social impacts embedded in the machine learning algorithms.

can outperform DCM in prediction disparities because of DNN’s smaller misspecification error. To mitigate prediction disparities, this study introduces an absolute correlation regularization method, which is evaluated with the synthetic and the real-world data. The results demonstrate the prevalence of prediction disparity in travel behavior modeling, which can exacerbate social inequity if the prediction results without fairness adjustment are used for transportation policy making. As such, the author advocates for careful considerations of the fairness problem in travel behavior modeling, and the use of bias mitigation algorithms for fair transport decisions.

This study introduces the important missing dimension - computational fairness - to travel behavioral analysis. It highlights the accuracy-fairness tradeoff instead of the single dimensional focus on prediction accuracy in the contexts of deep neural network (DNN) and discrete choice models (DCM). The author firstly operationalizes computational fairness by “equality of opportunity”, then differentiates between the bias inherent in data and the bias introduced by modeling. The models inheriting the inherent biases can risk perpetuating the existing inequality in the data structure, and the biases in modeling can further exacerbate it. The author then demonstrates the prediction disparities in travel behavioral modeling using the National Household Travel Survey 2017. Empirically, DNN and DCM reveal consistent prediction disparities across multiple social groups, although DNN