First Advisor

Paula C. Carder

Date of Publication

Spring 5-28-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Urban Studies and Planning


Urban Studies and Planning




City planning -- Social aspects -- Oregon -- Portland -- Case studies, City planning -- Social aspects -- Denmark -- Copenhagen -- Case studies, City planning -- Social aspects -- Japan -- Nagoya-shi -- Case studies, Equality -- Social aspects -- Oregon -- Portland -- Case studies, Equality -- Social aspects -- Denmark -- Copenhagen -- Case studies, Equality -- Social aspects -- Japan -- Nagoya-shi -- Case studies, Sustainability -- Social aspects -- Oregon -- Portland -- Case studies, Sustainability -- Social aspects -- Denmark -- Copenhagen -- Case studies, Sustainability -- Social aspects -- Japan -- Nagoya-shi -- Case studies



Physical Description

1 online resource (vi, 139 pages)


In response to growing social inequality, environmental crises, and economic instability, sustainability discourse has become the dominant "master signifier" for many fields, particularly the field of urban planning. However, in practice many sustainability methods overemphasize technological and economic growth-oriented solutions while underemphasizing the social dimension. The social dimension of sustainability remains a "concept in chaos" drawing little agreement on definitions, domains, and indicators for addressing the social challenges of urban life. In contrast, while the field of public health, with its emphasis on social justice principles, has made significant strides in framing and developing interventions to target the social determinants of health (SDH), this work has yet to be integrated into sustainability practice as a tool for framing the social dimension. Meanwhile, as municipalities move forward with these lopsided efforts at approaching sustainability practice, cities continue to experience gentrification, increasing homelessness, health disparities, and many other concerns related to social inequity, environmental injustice, and marginalization. This research involves multi-site, comparative case studies of neighborhood-scale sustainability planning projects in Portland, U.S.; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Nagoya, Japan to bring to light an understanding of how the social dimension is conceptualized and translated to practice in different contexts, as well as the challenges planners, citizen participants, and other stakeholders encounter in attempting to do so. These case studies find that these neighborhood-scale planning efforts are essentially framing the social dimension in terms of principles of SDH. Significant challenges encountered at the neighborhood-scale relate to political economic context and trade-offs between ideals of social sustainability, such as social inclusion and nurturing a sense of belonging when confronted with diverse neighborhood actors, such as sexually oriented businesses and recent immigrants. This research contributes to urban social sustainability literature and sustainability planning practice by interrogating these contested notions and beginning to create a pathway for integration of SDH principles into conceptualizations of social sustainability.


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