First Advisor

Heejun Chang

Term of Graduation

Summer 2023

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Earth, Environment, & Society


Earth, Environment, & Society




gis, portland, social-ecological-technological systems, stakeholders, urban sustainability, usa



Physical Description

1 online resource (vi, 170 pages)


This dissertation presents three individual studies that collectively explore the concept of urban sustainability. The research is grounded in the recognition that many cities worldwide are striving to achieve sustainable development, yet existing sustainability frameworks often lack comprehensive definition and consideration. Moreover, the existing sustainability frameworks and methods are often not clearly structured to allow for their replication and adaptation to meet the unique needs of diverse local settings. To address this gap, the dissertation utilizes the Social-Ecological-Technological Framework, with particular emphasis on equity, to investigate key issues in urban sustainability, such as indicators, stakeholder engagement, tradeoffs, and assessment. The case study of Portland, Oregon, is used to illustrate how diverse stakeholders can collaborate to develop relevant SETS indicators at the neighborhood and parcel scales, using geospatial methods to visualize social, ecological, and technological sustainability layers. Chapter 1's findings underscore the significant challenges faced by urban sustainability in terms of space, scale, stakeholder, and dimension. Notably, the study revealed that technological indicators tend to be associated with spatial issues, ecological indicators with scale issues, and social indicators with stakeholder issues. Chapter 2 demonstrates the process of engaging the stakeholders in identifying urban sustainability indicators. It reveals that stakeholders recognize the significance of addressing urban sustainability issues through an integrated approach. However, there is greater divergence in priorities for social and technological indicators, compared to ecological indicators. Chapter 3 demonstrates a GIS analysis of urban sustainability status of Portland's neighborhoods using a set of 14 indicators. The findings show that the social and technological domains have greater intersections, while ecological sustainability is concentrated in wealthier neighborhoods at the expense of social and technological sustainability. Additionally, the results indicate the status of different neighborhoods based on their high quartile individual and/or combined sustainability status (e.g., S, S-T, ET, S-E-T), which will help local planning and policymaking efforts in more efficient allocation of resources. These studies collectively highlight the need for an inclusive and collaborative approach to urban sustainability that addresses the unique challenges facing local communities.


©2023 Arun Kumar Pallathadka

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