Street Trees and Equity: Evaluating the Spatial Distribution of an Urban Amenity

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While urban disamenities and pollution sources have received considerable attention in environmental justice research, few studies have examined sociospatial inequities associated with the distribution of desirable land uses. In this paper we focus on addressing this limitation by investigating the environmental equity implications of street trees—an important publicly financed amenity that provides several direct and indirect benefits to urban residents. The specific objective was to determine if the spatial distribution of public right-of-way trees is equitable with respect to race and ethnicity, income, and housing tenure in the city of Tampa, Florida, USA. We seek to extend research on equity analysis of urban amenities through several methodological innovations, including: (a) accounting for the heterogeneity of urban land use; (b) utilizing high-resolution remote sensing techniques to quantify parcel-specific tree cover; and (c) using multivariate regression models that control for spatial dependence within the data. The results support the inequity hypothesis by indicating a significantly lower proportion of tree cover on public right-of-way in neighborhoods containing a higher proportion of African-Americans, low-income residents, and renters. These findings have important implications for local public investment and policy strategies.

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Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, v. 41, issue 11, p. 2651-2670