Symposium Abstracts

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Session 1


Climate Change, Carbon Emissions and Air Quality

“Protecting Atlanta’s Billion($) Dollar Urban Forest,” Wayne Shannon, Georgia Institute of Technology, International Society of Arboriculture, Georgia Arborist Association

This paper considers various approaches to the valuation of trees within an urban center, using Atlanta, Georgia as a context for analysis. Actual cases are considered, and the ordinance governing tree protection within and around the city is reviewed for potential modifications. Particular interest is given to tree valuations, penalties, and fees constructed within the tree ordinance.

“The Turn-Off/Tune-Out Trigger: How to Communicate about Climate Adaptation Beyond ‘Climate Change’,” Brittany Walker, University of Georgia

The term “climate change” inevitably comes laden with fraught political, cultural, and social connotations. Because of this reality, Atlanta’s efforts to adapt to climate change will not only face technological and practical challenges — there will also be major communication challenges that we must consider. The mere mention of the term climate change can trigger a reaction where many are instantaneously either turned off to the idea of climate action, or tune out the message and direct their attention elsewhere. Thus, we must ask: How do we communicate to Atlanta and Georgia citizens about necessary climate adaptation measures without triggering the turn-off/tune-out response? First, we must think very carefully about our choice of lingo beyond the term “climate change” when advocating for adaptation measures. Secondly, we must turn the focus to the additional benefits of climate adaptation for Atlanta beyond those directly related to climate change, including increased quality of life, economic benefits, and more. This paper seeks to explore these considerations, provide examples that are specific to Atlanta and the surrounding region, and provide clear recommendations on how adaptation measures can be communicated in the social and cultural landscape of Atlanta, Georgia, and the Southeast more broadly.

“Atlanta’s Air Quality: Mission Accomplished?” Michael Chang, Georgia Institute of Technology, Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems

Atlanta’s air quality first failed to attain federal clean air standards in the late 1970s. The problem worsened over the next two decades and peaked in the late 1990s. After another 20 years, Atlanta is now on the cusp of meeting all federal clean air standards for the first time in two generations. The stories of Atlanta’s polluted air were once rampant, but its story of redemption and clean air has not yet been told. How did it happen? How did home-grown scientific research transform policy? How did regionalism prevail over home-rule? Are there lessons that could apply to water or climate? 40 years in the making, the Battle of Atlanta’s air quality is one the South’s greatest environmental victories, and one that transformed how air quality is managed around the world.

“Science-Based Reduction Targets as a Mechanism to Track Atlanta’s Carbon Emissions” Jairo Garcia, Georgia Institute of Technology

The Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) is an initiative lead by CDP, UN Global Compact, WRI, and WWF, which is defined as carbon reductions in line with the level of decarbonization required to keep a global temperature increase below 2C, compared to pre-industrial temperatures, as described in the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC AR5). Although SBTi was developed for organizations, the initiative is interested in engaging cities or local governments, and they welcome these sectors as they play a crucial role in ensuring a transition towards a low-carbon economy. This discussion intents to address the use of SBTi at city level and how the City of Atlanta can benefit from this mechanism to meets its climate commitment and to became a leader in climate action.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]

“Lightning Strikes: An examination of a vanished Atlanta community”

One of Atlanta’s earliest communities, Lightning was host to church revivals in the 30s and moonshine alleys in the ‘40s; an industrial boom in the ‘50s and the civil rights movement in the ‘60s. Despite being surrounded by Atlanta’s most valuable institutions, from Georgia Tech to the AUC, outsiders frequently associated Lightning with the least of Atlanta, in part because it was among the city’s last communities to get paved roads and powered homes. Following a slow decline, fueled by the disinvestment and destruction wrought by Urban Renewal, the state of Georgia targeted the land on which Lightning stood. Over a quarter century, 37 million people flocked to the Georgia Dome for Falcons games, two Super Bowls, and the Atlanta Summer Olympics. A third Super Bowl, hosted in a new $1.5 billion stadium, will be played on the same land this February. The people of Lightning, residents and reverends, mothers who ran households and fathers who punched the clock at factory jobs, have disappeared from the story of Atlanta’s west side. Tiny traces of Lightning can be found in articles, letters, and documents inside archives. But this black community has been all but erased from Atlanta’s collective history. This panel discussion‚ prompted by an oral history project from journalists Max Blau and Dustin Chambers, will revisit Lightning’s past in conversation with a former resident, activist, and a scholar whose work focused on black Atlanta neighborhoods lost in the name of progress

  • Max Blau, Freelance Journalist
  • Dustin Chambers, Freelance Photojournalist
  • Michael Julian Bond, Atlanta City Council
  • Rosalyn Dupree-Tullis, Former Lightning Resident



“Black and White: Race and Homebuying in Metropolitan Atlanta,” Dan Immergluck, Urban Studies Institute, Georgia State University – Andrew Young School of Policy Studies

Atlanta has traditionally been a bulwark of Black homeownership. In the wake of the 2000s mortgage crisis, however, Blacks in the region were hit hard by foreclosures and declining home values. Tightened mortgage markets, scarred credit histories, unemployment, and competition with investors reduced black homebuying following the crisis. As markets began to recover after 2011, Black homebuying lagged yet low-home values provided ample opportunities for other buyers to purchase homes and experience substantial economic gains. This paper will explore the prospects of those Black households that were able to purchase homes in the Atlanta area in 2012 at the beginning of the recovery, and how their home values fared compared to white and Latino buyers. It will also examine the geography of Black homebuying throughout the region.

“Gentrification as a Sustainability Issue,” Mine Hashas-Degertekin, Kennesaw State University

Land vacated by Fort McPherson Military base was bought by Tyler Perry studios in Oakland City, Atlanta. After a year or so, Atlanta BeltLine has reached the north of Oakland City and south of West End Neighborhoods. By the two events, there is an influx of new people moving into the two historic neighborhoods, where a dominant and visible African-American culture with low income people exist. Students in the KSU Architecture Department’s Urban Studio have worked in these neighborhoods and developed urban design solutions with social, economic and environmental strategies to sustain the current residents in the neighborhood while welcoming the new ones. Land uses for each economic level integrated with community services, environmental solutions for the flooding in the neighborhood and heat-island conditions, providing conditions for local economy as well as socially and physically connecting disjointed factories to the neighborhood, surrounding dominant infrastructural elements by public domain, providing public spaces for social interaction and preserving the social and physical community character were some of the strategies used. These illustrated strategies have been shared with public and private partnerships, organizations and governmental entities working in the area via Instructors committee duties with the hopes of creating a positive impact on the neighborhoods’ physical and social future.

“Airing Out the Dirty Laundry: The Resurrection of New Deal Slum Imagery to Promote the Neoliberal Remaking of Public Housing,” Katie Marages Schank, Independent Scholar 

In a September 19, 1980 Atlanta Journal article, journalist Jeff Denberg declared: “Today Techwood Homes is a sleazy, stinking slum.”  While it had once been viewed as a model for the national public housing program, forty-five years after it was built, Techwood Homes was now equated with the slums it had replaced. Soon, calls to demolish Techwood and Atlanta’s other public housing projects would be made. Scholars have argued that by the 1980s the liberal vision of the New Deal era — the belief that government should serve as the arbiter of economic prosperity and income redistribution — had lost its hold amongst the majority of Americans. Yet, this argument promotes a sense of passiveness. Instead, I would like to assert that New Deal liberalism did not simply lose its hold, but liberalism and New Deal programs such as public housing were actively presented and promoted as failures. In this paper, I will argue that slum images – particularly images of clotheslines – were imbued with particular meaning during the Progressive and New Deal Eras and established a foundation from which an argument could be made for the Neoliberal reimagining of the public housing program. In Atlanta, the revival of slum rhetoric, specifically visual rhetoric, that had once been employed to gain support for slum demolition presented demolition of public housing as a viable solution to solve the city’s public housing problems.

“Planting Roots? Asian and Latino Homeownership in the Atlanta Metropolitan Area,” Allen Hyde, Georgia Institute of Technology

Homeownership is often touted a major part of the American Dream: a goal that if achieved that brings individual benefits in terms of home equity and access to other resources, as well as community benefits in political and community involvement. While these assertions have been debated, the connection between homeownership and wealth has been well established, and there is large variation in homeownership for racial and ethnic groups in the United States, which have contributed to the racial wealth gap, particularly between white and black Americans. In this paper, we explore two groups that have received less attention, Asians and Latinos. In Atlanta, Asians and Latinos are two of the fastest growing racial and ethnic groups, particularly driven by immigration to the suburbs. Using data from Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) and the American Community Survey (ACS) for 2012 to 2016, we explore the geographic variation, based on Public Use Microdata Areas (PUMA) location, in Latino and Asian homeownership compared to whites, as well as the demographic characteristics each of these groups of homeowners. We are especially interested in the racial, ethnic, and economic characteristics of the communities where these homeowners live. Despite limitations in the geographic precision of the IPUMS data (census tracts would be preferable to PUMAs), we show significant differences in the types of communities that these homeowners live, which can ultimately shape their well-being and life chances. (Coauthor: Ariella Ventura, Georgia Institute of Technology)

“Sustainable Shelter: How Climate Change Affects Atlanta’s Displaced Population” Snotti St. Cyr, Georgia State University

Climate change and its impact on Atlanta’s displaced/homeless population will be the focus of my article(s) and presentation. Rising sea levels and reduced acreage for farming may exacerbate the problems of affordable housing, sickness, and food supply, forcing Atlanta residents to make more difficult decisions about their living arrangements and remaining in–or re-entering–the workforce. Numerous behavioral health models will be employed to explain the effects climate change has or may have on Atlanta’s displaced/homeless population because climate change, along with public transportation, could be the key to reducing income inequality. More members of this population will be self-sufficient and engaged in their communities with a comprehensive, multi-disciplined approach.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]

Engaging the Public through Archival Access: A New Look at Ivan Allen’s Mayoralty

As Atlanta’s mayor during the 1960s, Ivan Allen Jr. oversaw a transformative period widely identified with economic dynamism but which also saw protracted challenges to both the racial status quo and the particular development strategies his administration pursued.  Arguably, Allen might be identified as the figure who did the most to birth the modern metropolis as we know it today, perhaps even more than his predecessor, career politician William Hartsfield who also worked assiduously to raise the city’s profile. Rising from the business community, Allen worked tirelessly to attract professional sports teams to Atlanta and build the facilities to house them. He oversaw much of the city’s urban renewal program as Atlanta became the first to participate in the Model Cities program. Perhaps most importantly, Allen shepherded the city through its final desegregation push, and has the distinction of having been the only southern mayor to testify in favor of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. At the same time, racial inequities remained intense during Allen’s tenure, as anger over a redevelopment project broke out into rioting in the Summerhill neighborhood in 1966. Even earlier, in 1962, Allen had stumbled in approving a barricade intended to hinder African American access to an all-white neighborhood in West Atlanta. Despite these momentous events, Allen’s legacy remains understudied because his mayoral papers were unavailable until 2010. A project at Georgia Tech, the Ivan Allen, Jr. Digital Archive, is working to change that by increasing access to these records by scholars and the public alike.

Jacqueline Jones Royster, Georgia Institute of Technology

Since 1990, the Ivan Allen College (IAC) of Liberal Arts at Georgia Tech has served as trustee of the legacies of its namesake, Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen Jr., engaging in various Legacy Initiatives that are evolving in vision, mission, and purpose. The Ivan Allen Jr. Digital Archives Project constitutes a critical anchor for our efforts. Centering on Mayor Allen’s tenure, the Project partners with the Atlanta History Center (AHC) — who holds both the Allen Family Papers and Allen’s mayoral papers — to curate an accessible body of documents narrating the story of Atlanta in the Modern Civil Rights Era. Utilizing the College’s technological strengths and our existing digital assets (that were already highlighting Allen’s visionary leadership), IAC and AHC worked together to digitize the mayoral records. In addition, through IAC’s Mellon-funded Digital Integrative Liberal Arts Center (DILAC), we have developed a digital portal that expands access to these documents for researchers, educators, students, and community stakeholders. Recognizing the critical advantages of the Allen Digital Archives and other archival initiatives in IAC, such as the Building Memories Project, we seek to foreground the importance of this era in Atlanta’s development as an international city.  These projects reprioritize local history, providing a balanced, nuanced, and inclusive perspective that broadens our historical understanding. This panel will discuss our work with these important materials, and will gauge interest in a future workshop that provides opportunities for others to explore the Allen Digital Archives as a critical urban resource.

Ronald Bayor, Georgia Institute of Technology

Ivan Allen Jr. oversaw a crucial phase of Atlanta’s development, serving two mayoral terms from 1962-1970; however, his administration’s records have only relatively recently become available, and so there remains much to be learned about matters that did not make it into public view, or about how internal decisions were made.  For example, we could certainly benefit from deeper insights into what informed Allen’s approach to integrating the fire department or desegregating public facilities, his role in attracting professional sports teams to the city, and how aware he and other officials were of the destructive effects accompanying the construction of stadiums and freeways. Triumphant moments such as Allen’s testimony in support of federal civil rights legislation in 1963, as well as his administration’s low point in 1962 when he authorized the construction of a barricade across Peyton Road, to hinder African American purchases in the surrounding area, deserve closer scrutiny and the information contained in these practically unexamined papers could provide the grounds for new and more nuanced interpretations. Through a partnership between Georgia Tech’s Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts and the Atlanta History Center, a substantial portion of the Ivan Allen Jr. Mayoral Records are now digitized and accessible using an innovative custom-designed portal that allows for the mapping of textual connections between the documents.  Keyword searchability readily reveals relevant materials located in unexpected folders within the collection.  Viewers can explore an Omeka-based, virtual ‘exhibit’ on the Peyton Road controversy to get some sense of the potential here.

Todd Michney, Georgia Institute of Technology

Through the Ivan Allen, Jr. Digital Archive project at Georgia Tech, we are working to dramatically expand access to one city’s recent past, and thereby open new collaborative and interpretive spaces. Having digitized some 30,000 pages from Allen’s mayoral papers in 2016-17, we now envision a collaborative public archive on the web, incorporating an advanced set of visualization and data-linking tools that can reveal connections and potentially relevant dimensions that would remain obscured in a simple, serialized collection of digitized documents. Ultimately the project’s interface will enable the convening of virtual user communities who could collectively pool their expertise to analyze and interpret the material synergistically, alleviating the need for intermediary scholar-experts who have traditionally played this role.  In addition, professional historians could benefit from the interface’s digitally-connective tools, for example by being able to pursue otherwise impractical research strategies. On several occasions we have wondered what insights might emerge from recreating ‘a day in the life of the Ivan Allen Jr. Mayoral Administration,’ that is, if we were able to disaggregate and recombine documents filed in disparate physical folders but which simultaneously occupied the attention of Allen’s staff in the moment. Such an approach would allow for historical reconstruction on a level of specificity not currently possible, and potentially shed new insights regarding causation that historians can often only speculate about. This presentation will demonstrate some of the interface’s capabilities and assess interest in a planned future workshop allowing community members to explore the archive.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation=”” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]

Session 2


Energy Efficiency

“The Oldest Net Zero House in the US,” Sara Harwood, Georgia State University

A community in Metro Atlanta is striving to prove that retrofitting historic houses with alternative energy is a viable means of meeting the energy needs of 21st-century consumers while minimizing pollution and sustaining architectural preservation. Currently, the oldest electrified house in the United States to produce as much energy as it consumes is the 1500-square-foot Mission Zero House (1901) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was retrofitted with a solar energy system in 2015. Now, a similar project on a much larger scale is taking place in Fulton County, which has one of the worst air quality ratings in the United States. The City of Roswell is working with a local nonprofit to install a solar energy system in Mimosa Hall (c. 1841), a 6300-square-foot Greek Revival mansion. Featuring thin-film photovoltaic panels that are soldered to the standing-seam metal shingles, the roof will provide 100% of the building’s electricity and hot water, effectively removing 61 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year. Only visible from a birds-eye view, this solar energy system will have minimal impact on the historic fabric of the antebellum house, particularly when compared to the alterations made when the house was fitted for electricity and indoor plumbing a century ago. Using Mimosa Hall as an example, this paper will examine how environmental awareness can produce a fresh perspective on responsible preservation in Atlanta.

“Energy Burdened Households in Atlanta,” Samantha McDonald, The Greenlink Group

An energy burdened household is one in which residents pay a significant proportion of their income to their utility providers for services, such as heating or cooling their homes. Households struggling with high energy burdens may experience reduced economic opportunities, higher risk to health, and increased mental stress. A majority of highly-burdened households are low-income, people of color, may be renters, and have difficulty breaking out of this burdened cycle.  Although income is a determinant of high energy burdens, poor housing stock conditions, low-performance equipment, utility rate structures, and low levels of financial support for utility bills may also contribute significantly to the disproportionate energy costs within communities. Building upon prior work to identify median burdens in major cities, including Atlanta, this research examines how the presence of regulatory policies, energy efficiency programs, income and race influence energy burdens using multivariate regression analysis. A discussion of the findings’ implications for Atlanta’s citizens follows, both for today and in a climate-stressed future.

“The use of orthogonalization, machine learning and variable selection methodologies for residential energy estimation with social and economic indicators” Abi Lawal, Georgia Institute of Technology

Compared to other energy end uses such as industrial and commercial, post-design residential energy use is least understood because it is highly dependent upon many social and economic factors which vary widely. These varying factors, along with rising costs and population dynamics complicate energy estimations therefore, exploring their impact as a major component in energy models is rarely done despite their large influence on energy use. With world projections of population growth expected to increase substantially, residential energy modeling is needed to understand the critical factors that drive energy use. In this study, we explore the impact of data transformation in developing residential energy models using social economic indicators at the zip code level in Atlanta, GA. Orthogonalization algorithms, machine learning methodologies, variable selection techniques and OLS methods were used to generate these models. Training data results for log transformed yearly electricity estimation with orthogonalization yielded the best estimates (R2=0.80, NRMSE=0.33, parameters=15) and results for natural gas estimate were better. However, despite the electricity’s model accounting for 80% of electricity variation, the NRMSE was still moderately high. When electricity use was separated into two clusters (high and low), the high use clusters appeared to match the interstate infrastructure morphology which enclosed most of the high clusters while the model predictors did not as much. Insights from this result show that some aspects of city infrastructure, layout and urban heat island effects could possibly be significant factors in urban electricity use and might need to be considered to improve model accuracy.

“Energy in Atlanta: Regional Priorities and Governance,” Emily Grubert, Georgia Institute of Technology

The energy system is changing. Climate change, conventional air, water, and land pollution, equity issues, and other concerns all contribute to a major anticipated shift in the way that we source and use energy. Atlanta is surrounded by large energy infrastructure, including some of the country’s biggest fossil-fired power plants. Much of this infrastructure is beyond the city’s direct control. As the energy transition begins, evidence of interest in more local control of energy systems is emerging. For example, Atlanta’s recent residential Solarize campaign, which recruited individual homeowners to sign up for home solar panels as a group to take advantage of bulk pricing, reached its most aggressive goal tier. As a city, Atlanta has pledged to pursue 100% clean energy policies. Meanwhile, Georgia itself does not have an official Renewable Portfolio Standard, though the state does have some programs that encourage clean energy. Utilities remain powerful actors in determining the direction of Georgia’s, and Atlanta’s, electricity supply. This important role is visible in actions like Georgia Power’s early 2019 release of an Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) that includes procurement of 1 GW of additional renewable power resources, while simultaneously planning the completion of the US’ only under-construction nuclear units, the retirement of nearly 1 GW of coal capacity, and pursuit of demand-side management programs. This talk addresses some of the major challenges and priorities for energy systems in and around Atlanta, focusing on major regional decision making structures and what might be expected for the future.

“Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge: An 8 Year Retrospect,” Audrey Leous, Central Atlanta Progress

Since its inception in 2011, the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge (ABBC) has catalyzed and sustained positive impact on our city. The objectives of ABBC were simple: reduce energy and water consumption in our buildings by 20 percent by 2020. After eight successful years, the impact beyond just energy and water savings has been a key pillar in ensuring a more sustainable future for Atlanta and beyond. Savings generated by ABBC participants advance our economy, improve the health of our residents through pollutant reductions and contribute to reducing the demand on our waterways.

ABBC is a national success story of what can be accomplished when the public and private sectors join forces to work toward a common goal. What started out as a program to promote energy and water efficiency, has created jobs, improved public health and is paving the way for Atlanta to become a national leader in building efficiency. Since the inception of the ABBC, the City of Atlanta has continued to move the needle forward in sustainable building design, energy and water efficiency and clean energy transition. Join us to learn more about the ABBC program, the participants who have been making strides in energy and water efficiency, and the future of energy and water efficiency in the City of Atlanta.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]

Blue and Green Infrastructure

“New Framework to Model and Assess the Performance of Critical Infrastructure Systems,” Iris Tien, Georgia Institute of Technology

In this work, we describe a new framework to model and assess the performance of critical infrastructure systems. These systems include water, power, gas, and transportation networks that are critical to the health, safety, security, and growth of communities and municipalities. In the framework that we propose, compared to previous methods, we explicitly and quantitatively include the interdependencies that exist between systems in the analysis. This enables us to more comprehensively assess the risk and resilience of critical infrastructure systems, including capturing the potential for cascading effects across networks during disruptions or natural disasters. Three generalized types of infrastructure interdependencies are described and captured within the framework. The framework is probabilistic, such that we can account for uncertainty at multiple scales in the problem, including in individual component-level performance, system-level effects, and potential disruption scenarios of interest. We discuss ongoing collaborations with the City of Atlanta in this work, including analysis of the water distribution network and its dependencies with power systems. The first step of this work is to identify and map the points of contact between the infrastructure systems. Next, a full network model is constructed. Varying scenario analyses can then be run over the network to assess the impacts of varying hazards or system management decisions on overall network performance. How the outcomes from the framework can be used to inform investments to increase infrastructure resilience are also discussed. The framework provides a way to quantitively assess the performance of interdependent critical infrastructure systems to increase resilience.

“Challenges in Atlanta’s water management and implications of decentralized water infrastructures,” Heonyeong Lee,  Georgia Institute of Technology and Nancey Green Leigh, Georgia Institute of Technology

The purpose of this study is to evaluate environmental, societal, and financial impacts of decentralized water infrastructures, a clustered-scale rainwater and gray water systems, on a growing urban neighborhood. Our case study area is a low-income neighborhood in Atlanta, where growing water demand and a lack of water affordability pose a critical problem. We develop system dynamics model to evaluate long-term effects of decentralized water infrastructures that interplay with changes in land use, household structure, and fixture retrofitting. Three neighborhood growth scenarios, slow, projected, and rapid growth scenarios, are developed and tested. We found that decentralized water infrastructures have potential to reduce potable water demand up to 44 percent and alleviate household water bill burdens. Significantly, our simulation indicates a shared system can be operated without harming the financial health of urban water system despite the reduction in revenue from water bills. Our findings show that rainwater and gray water systems can be sustainable and economically viable solutions to meet increasing water demand in a growing urban neighborhood.

“Effects of Urbanization and Precipitation Extremes on Urban Watersheds,” Tamia Middleton, Spelman College

There are several creeks and natural waterbodies in the Atlanta area that many people in the Atlanta University Center are unaware of. These water bodies include but are not limited to Proctor Creek and Utoy Creek. However, due to pollution, the water at many of the sites does not meet the quality standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. The objective of this research project is to analyze how rainfall affects the amount of E. Coli, Turbidity, and Conductivity of water at these sites. To determine how individual areas of certain creeks are impacted, spatial visualization will be used to analyze which parts of the creeks are of the highest and lowest quality. By using software such as ArcGIS to visualize and statistical tools such as Excel and R, the impaired areas of the creeks will be determined. This research will help us understand the effects of urbanization and precipitation extremes on urban watersheds.

“Exploring extreme precipitation trends and local stakeholder perceptions: A case study for the state of Georgia in the United States,” Nirajan Dhakal, Spelman College

In this study, we analyzed both magnitude and seasonality of extreme precipitation events, as well as recent changes for 21 stations in the state of Georgia, United States from 1951 to 2010. Trend analysis based on Mann-Kendall non-parametric test shows that majority of stations exhibited increasing trends with significant trends mainly concentrated in the southern region of the study area. Seasonality assessment based on non-parametric circular density approach during two 30-yr sub-periods (1951 – 1980 and 1981 – 2010) shows that significant modes were concentrated from Winter season to Fall season for majority of the stations for the earlier period; while for the recent period emergence of significant modes were observed during Fall season and (early) Winter season. We also explored the local municipal officer’s perceptions of extreme weather events based on survey data collected from stakeholders to identify the connection between climate change science and management alternatives to reduce climate risks.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]

Digital History of Atlanta

“The Social Geographic Landscape of the Dungeon Family: What Their Hangout Spots Tell Us About the Atlanta Rap Scene in the 90s,” Claire Barnes, Emory University

In the midst of growing tensions between East and West coast rappers in the 1990s, the South emerged as a new contender in the cultural and political economy of rap when Outkast member Andrè 3000 famously put Atlanta on the rap map. At the Source Awards in 1995, Outkast accepted the award for New Artist of the Year with the prophecy: “the South’s got somethin’ to say. . .and that’s all I have to say.” Outkast and Goodie Mob, among other influential southern artists, were members of a group called the Dungeon Family. The lyrical flows of the Dungeon Family mapped the history of Atlanta’s race relations, contested the image of the Black Mecca that flowed through the city as it emerged as the site of the 1996 Olympics, and highlighted the simple hangout spots of their local production company, Organized Noize. At this session, I will present an interactive social geographic map of the Dungeon Family’s Atlanta. The project is housed on Esri Story Maps and highlights key locations from the Dungeon Family’s history and lyrics. The mapping project explores how the Dungeon Family perceived and influenced politics, art, and the city of Atlanta. Through geographic locations, rap lyrics, and archival data, I explore how eight locations in the city influenced the aesthetics of Atlanta rap in the 1990s. Uniquely, the map not only addresses how places in Atlanta appeared in the lyrics of the Dungeon Family but how the physical spaces changed the Dungeon Family’s sound.

“Dwelling,” Nancy Boyd, Freedom Park Conservancy

Dwelling was born from a seed of curiosity about the architectural remnants in Freedom Park. Abandoned stoops, foundations, and sidewalks invited us to reflect on the history of the park. These physical remains witnessed the condemnation of buildings, the seizure of property through eminent domain, and the demolition of over 600 structures to build the major freeways. Using this palimpsest for orientation, Michael Page, a geographer from the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship, along with artists Mark Wentzel and Robert Henry, reimagined a selection of the homes foundational footprints using low-VOC athletic field paint. Throughout the installation it will be documented by drone photography, capturing the changing image over time as grass grows and lines become worn and eventually disappear. A digital interface, by way of a web-based app called Open Tour Builder developed by Emory’s Center for Digital Scholarship, provides the framework for delivery of historic content through visitors’ mobile devices, uniquely expanding the user experience at each of the 5 stops within the installation. Dwelling will explore the personal stories within the context of a larger, complex narrative of civic activism, political maneuvering, and urban planning. By redrawing demolished buildings in situ, we are recognizing their historic and cultural significance in the formation of Freedom Park and the City of Atlanta. Dwelling will offer fresh narratives that bridge the past, present, and future of Freedom Park and the City of Atlanta in a moment of new planning and development, intending to open dialogue among a diverse audience.

“Digital Preservation of Kell Hall” Spencer Roberts, Pitts Theology Library

Located in the heart of downtown Atlanta, the polyonymous (“many-named”) Kell Hall is significant for its own history and for the role it played in the development of the city in the early 20th century. Constructed as a parking garage in 1925, the Bolling Jones Building served a functional purpose, but also helped shape the physical and cognitive space of the emerging automobile city. Once purchased by the University System of Georgia in 1945, the converted garage became the center of a growing urban college that served a population of young professionals working in the city. For nearly 75 years, the building was modified and renovated to suit the rapidly changing educational mission of the school. Despite its odd history, maze-like layout, and frustrating limitations, Kell Hall served as a focal point for student and scholarly life. In the year leading up to the demolition of Kell Hall in 2019, Georgia State University Library and the Student Innovation Fellowship partnered with Beam Imagination to capture its internal spaces. We also explored the building’s physical history and located documents about its many-faced life. All of these features are combined in a unique interactive project that overlays past and present, myth and history, awkwardness and grace. As Kell Hall makes way for a green-space through campus, our project captures its legacy and reflects on the nature of this repurposed building and its contributions, good and bad, to Atlanta’s urban atmosphere both past and present.

“Digitizing Atlanta: A Preview of Projects Utilizing Technology to Preserve Atlanta’s history”

Join students, staff, and professors from Georgia State University and Emory University who are utilizing cutting edge technology to preserve Atlanta’s site. Four projects include: 1) Oakland Cemetery Mapping is an interdisciplinary and multi-institutional endeavor to document the historic Atlanta site of Oakland Cemetery. 2) The Unpacking Manuel’s project uses gigapan technology to capture high-resolution photos of the tavern walls, cataloguing by extension both the subtle and dramatic shifts in Atlanta’s history. 3) Open World Atlanta recreates the blocks of 1928 Atlanta that surround present-day Georgia State buildings in a virtual, interactive environment. 4) Atlanta Street Car and Auburn Avenue Mapping projects which shares information about the stops on the Atlanta Street Car and local sites, restaurants, and historic sites of Atlanta. These projects are affiliated with the the Student Innovation Fellowship Program – a program which supports complex technology projects that require skills and collaborations beyond traditional research practices.

  • George Greenidge, Jr., Graduate Student, Sociology, Georgia State University
  • Rebecca Page, Student, Anthropology, Georgia State University
  • Chanan Myers, Student, Department of Fine Arts & Studio/Printmaking, Georgia State University

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Session 3


Health and the Environment

“Greening Racial Justice: Lessons from a Century-Long Struggle over Atlanta’s Proctor Creek,” William D. Bryan, Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance

In 1901 eighteen black residents of Vine City and English Avenue filed one of the nation’s first environmental justice lawsuits. The suit was an attempt to halt industrial pollution and refuse that had been flowing into nearby Proctor Creek for over a year, creating dangerous health conditions. Coming five years before white mobs massacred black Atlantans in one of the worst outbreaks of violence in the Jim Crow era, Proctor Creek residents faced down violence and intimidation in order to show that nature was a central component of achieving racial justice in Atlanta. Their lawsuit kicked off more than a century of community-driven activism that put Proctor Creek at the center of the nation’s first efforts to make environmental quality central to racial justice. Eight decades before scholars framed this as ‘environmental justice’, black Atlantans explicitly made the connection between environmental quality, public health, and racial justice. By tracing a century of community activism in Proctor Creek, this paper expands how we conceptualize the roots of environmental justice and places Atlanta at the center of this movement. Recent efforts to clean up Proctor Creek have been made more difficult by the dramatic effects of a changing climate, and this paper also provides community-driven lessons on coping with climate change. This paper ultimately provides a timely reminder that it is critical for Atlanta officials to listen to and engage with community members if they are going to find ways to effectively mitigate the effects of the region’s changing climate.

“Exploring the Association between Health Disparities and Neighborhood Characteristics: The Case of Diabetes Incidences in Dekalb and Fulton Counties, Georgia,” Deden Rukmana, Alabama A&M University

Health disparities lead to poor health which will cause higher medical expenditures and perpetuate the cycle of poverty. There are significant levels for health disparities including diabetes in Dekalb and Fulton Counties, Georgia. This study uses exploratory data analysis of Geography Information System (GIS) and spatial statistical analysis to examine the spatial distribution of diabetes incidences in both counties from 2013 to 2017 and identify the association between socioeconomic and environmental factors of neighborhoods and the distribution of diabetes incidences. The data for this study include the data of diabetes incidences and the demographic and socioeconomic data of neighborhoods in Dekalb and Fulton Counties. The data of diabetes incidences were collected from the database maintained by the Georgia Division of Public Health Office of Health Information and Policy. The study also produces maps that visually present the areas with highly concentrated diabetes incidences. Such maps will be useful for directing prevention measures of diabetes incidence including effective outreach and screening programs. The findings allow researchers, policy makers, and practitioners to target scarce resources to areas of highest need for future outreach, screening, and prevention programs.

“Demographic Inequities in Health Outcomes and Air Pollution Exposure in the Atlanta Area and its Relationship to Urban Infrastructure,” Abi Lawal, Georgia Institute of Technology

Air pollution exposure has been shown to be associated with various cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, with higher pollution exposure typically associated with areas that have greater proportions of low-income residents and racial minorities. This study aims to examine inequities in the prevalence of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases as they relate to air pollution exposure, demographics, and characteristics of the built environment in the Atlanta metropolitan region. Air pollution data included average levels of particulate matter and nitrogen oxide from the Georgia Institute of Technology; health prevalence data for asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), coronary heart disease (CHD), and stroke from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and demographics from the US Census which were collected between 2010 and 2016 at the census tract level. Ecological data for built environment characteristics (intersection density, green space access, tree canopy cover) were also collected at the same resolution and timeframe from multiple sources. Results showed that high African American population tracts were strong predictors of greater prevalence of each health outcome and higher pollution exposure. Higher green space access and tree canopy cover were associated with higher prevalence of COPD, CHD, and stroke and greater particulate matter exposure, indicating that green infrastructure on its own may not be an effective intervention for reducing negative health outcomes or air pollution exposure. Majority African American tracts, health outcomes and pollutant exposure showed evidence of co-spatial clustering. These results characterize existing inequities and motivate further work to investigate the etiologies between all factors effectively.

“Seasonal Influenza and Climate Change,” Alexis Cherry, Spelman College

Seasonal influenza is an annual public health problem worldwide, as it is one of the deadliest airborne and upper-respiratory infections. On average, 22,000 deaths and over 3 million hospitalizations in U.S are attributed to influenza each year. In the United States, influenza activity began increasing in the beginning of November of 2017, with Influenza A being the most commonly identified virus. Consequently, the 2017-2018 flu season has seen a significant increase in hospitalizations due to influenza-like illness. Despite many studies, the role of weather on influenza spread is not yet fully understood. In the present study, we investigate the association between peak flu activity and climatic factors such as precipitation and temperature in the states of Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama and Virginia. In addition, we also explore the relationship between El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the seasonality, timing of peak, and severity of influenza for the study region. Flu Outpatient Illness data will be plotted against El Niño Southern Oscillation indexes to determine whether there is a correlation between the two study parameters.

“Heatwaves and Pregnancy Outcomes,” Frances Neal, Spelman College

Over the past few years, the frequency of the heat waves in the metropolitan area of Atlanta, Georgia has been steadily increasing. Previous studies have indicated Atlanta has been experiencing more heat waves due to the climate change and city heat island. The increasing extreme heat waves are significant treats to people living in Atlanta GA, especially for sensitive ones including pregnant women. As the 10th largest Metropolitan area in USA, Atlanta has rapidly increased new born babies yearly. However, with this high number of annual births and the increase in heat waves more babies may be susceptible to birth complications and more developmental disease. The purpose of this research project is to investigate the relationship between the increase in heat waves in the metro Atlanta area and pregnancy outcomes. Specifically, the pregnancy outcomes that will be investigated are birth weight and preterm birth rates. The data that will be used for this research project will be gathered from different governmental agencies such as the National Weather Service, the Atlanta Airport in conjunction with the Federal Aviation Administration, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Georgia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With this array of governmental agencies, we will be able to gather data pertaining to our investigation on heat and pregnancy outcomes in Atlanta. In order to ensure that the data is representative of the climate change that has occurred through the years and the effects that it has had over time, the research will be looking at data from 2005-2015.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]

Teaching Atlanta Music and Culture: Implementing Just Sustainabilities in a Changing City

This roundtable discussion will articulate how teaching Atlanta music, art, and culture is critical to achieving just sustainability in the making of a resilient and resourceful regional future. Critical urban planning scholar Julian Agyeman’s concept of ‘just sustainability’ (2012) foregrounds the importance of equitability in improving quality of life within the limits of changing ecosystems. For Atlanta planners, seeking just sustainability means centering justice and equity in recognizing the challenges posed by climate and environmental changes in this coal energy, car, and airplane dependent region. Atlanta’s persistent economic inequality and racial segregation, and long history of environmental racism, illustrate the importance of justice in devising processes, procedures, and desired outcomes of regional solutions for sustainability. As Atlanta’s leadership revises the city’s civil rights and social justice history, Atlanta’s arts and culture scene, paired with its educational and entrepreneurial legacy, can be understood as a community-centered performance of environmental resilience. Creative expression has served as a key forum for Atlanta’s black underclass, immigrant populations, and disinvested communities to highlight and contest enduring inequality. From early twentieth century blues-women on Decatur Street to the rise of Dirty South hip-hop and trap in post-Civil Rights Era Atlanta, music and cultural expression have conveyed the stakes of inequity, helping imagine alternative futures. Teaching and archiving histories of creative expression in Atlanta places just sustainability and cultural rootedness of obstacles to equity in the consciousness of policy makers and others undertaking work to render Atlanta resilient in the face of a changing planet.

  • Jesse P. Karlsberg, Emory University
  • Joycelyn Wilson, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Maurice Hobson, Georgia State University
  • Scott Heath, Georgia State University
  • Clinton Fluker, AUC Woodruff Library
  • Regina Bradley, Kennesaw State University


Transit and Critical Infrastructure

“The Heterogeneous Atlanta Transit Landscape,” Christopher K. Wyczalkowski, Georgia State University and Timothy Welch, Georgia Institute of Technology

The primary modes of intra-urban public transportation are trains and buses. In dense urban areas public investment supports significantly more rail than bus transit, but nationwide, bus systems ferry more passengers and travel more miles. In the United States, the number of bus systems outnumbers the rail systems almost 20 to 1. However, rail transit is the overwhelming focus of the socioeconomic neighborhood change literature. Although both modes of transit provide mobility, rail systems provide considerably more investment to be capitalized into land values. Therefore, for low-income populations bus service may provide access to employment and other economic benefits, but without increasing land prices, which a key component of gentrification. We utilize ten years of General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) and American Community Survey data to develop a comprehensive accessibility measure and FE models. We take advantage of the variation in bus accessibility over two-time periods to examine the relationship between bus access and a variety of socioeconomic variables, with a focus on neighborhood race and income heterogeneity. Atlanta, GA is a good case study because of a significant low-income and minority population, segregated from more affluent, high percentage white populations, allowing us to examine transit access by socioeconomic group. The findings will inform social equity and development policy related to housing and transportation planning.

“Visions of Transit: Challenging and Reproducing Atlanta’s Transportation Crisis,” Marcus Mohall, Department of Social and Economic Geography, Uppsala University

The ability of urban residents to cover their everyday mobility needs, to have (at least to some extent) a ‘right to mobility’, is often an integral part of the politics of how public transit systems are organized. This paper is concerned with Atlanta’s long-running transportation crisis, which is characterized by highly racialized issues for residents to access sufficient transportation options and massive traffic congestion resulting from a built environment thoroughly shaped by sprawl. Drawing primarily on interviews with public transit planners, I examine how public transit agencies seek to address the crisis in general and the issues transportation disadvantaged residents face in accessing adequate transportation options in particular. In doing so, I seek to highlight the dynamics of how, at a time when support for improving transit and transforming Atlanta’s mobility culture is growing, transit agencies are actually able to make (radical) changes happen.The paper demonstrates that while the agencies undertake significant efforts to improve the level of access for disadvantaged residents, a wide range of processes within and beyond public transit planning such as the lack of stable and sufficient funding, falling transit ridership, the long legacy of racist attitudes towards transit, and the displacement of residents to transit-lacking suburbs severely constrain their capacity for action. Taken together, the paper suggests that there is a dialectical relationship between the relatively widespread public demand to address the crisis and the politics of securing sufficient funding and political support to realize the transformations that these demands call for.

“Zero-Emission Bus Deployment Best Practices,” Steve Clermont, Center for Transportation and the Environment

The Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE) (based in Atlanta) and its members work together to improve transportation technologies and fuels while reducing their environmental impacts. CTE’s Executive Director, Dan Raudebaugh, will lead a session discussing zero-emission bus (ZEB) deployment best practices. CTE has assisted more than 60 transit agencies that have either deployed, or will soon deploy, more than 265 ZEBs. The cornerstone of CTE’s approach is to ensure the fleet operator matches the most appropriate propulsion technology to the intended use, operational strategy, and deployment situation. CTE understands the technical challenges regarding ZEB technology and the administrative challenges associated with the procurement, deployment, and operation of ZEBs. CTE will highlight examples of ZEB deployments from around the country as well as interest locally. In addition, CTE will share its experience from other current and completed local projects aimed at promoting clean energy. CTE supported a project to expand the supply of alternative fuels by implementing a facility to convert landfill gas to compressed natural gas at a local landfill as well increasing the availability of alternative fuels in the metropolitan Atlanta region and deployment of alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs). CTE is leading the Southeast Alternative Fuel Deployment Program that supports deployment of a mix of commercially available AFVs in the southeast, including locally. The project will accelerate the growth in these niche AFV fleet markets by championing the efforts of fleets already committed to AFVs in their daily operations as well as fleets new to the industry.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]

Equity, Governance and Planning

“The Cyclical and Abusive Use of Eminent Domain in Atlanta’s NPUV,” Gabriel Eisen, Emory University

In the Peoplestown neighborhood of Atlanta, residents are engaged in a now six-year long legal battle with the city, challenging its attempt to take a block of 26 homes using eminent domain to build a water retention park. This paper puts this recent case in its historical context, revealing the cyclical use of eminent eminent domain in Peoplestown and its surrounding neighborhoods dating back to the 1950s. Indeed, since that time Adair Park, Mechanicsville, Peoplestown, Pittsburgh, and Summerhill, have collectively seen six large scale redevelopment projects that relied on eminent domain to take and demolish private businesses and homes. Though at nearly every turn residents voiced opposition, their dissent largely fell on deaf ears. The resultant developments not only displaced many residents, but ultimately contributed to large scale shifts in neighborhoods demographics; what was a racially diverse and mixed income area in the 1940s became largely poor and black by the 1980s. In light of this historical survey, there is some reason to be critical of the city’s most recent attempt to use eminent domain to build the water retention pond. Again the city claims to act in the interests of the public, but again residents voice opposition, arguing that their input is being neglected.

“Who Should Govern ATL? How a State Authority would likely impact the Quality of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport Jobs and Governance,” Fred Brooks, Atlanta North Georgia Labor Council Airport Roundtable

On December 27, 2018 Georgia State Senate Study Committee 882 issued its final report recommending a takeover of governance of Atlanta’s airport from the city to a state appointed authority. This presentation explores the potential impact this change might have on both airport governance and the 60,000 jobs at the airport (henceforth ATL). With an estimated $70 billion annual impact, ATL is the largest economic juggernaut in the south. What is less well known is that over 20,000 airport jobs pay less than a living wage of $15 an hour. A variety of labor unions in Atlanta are in the middle of major organizing drives to insure that every job at ATL pays a living wage. This paper makes predictions drawing on the following sources of data: empirical literature on airport governance structures; employment practices and macroeconomic trends such as deregulation and outsourcing; hearings held by Senate Study Committee 882; newspaper articles and press on corruption and cronyism at both ATL and other state authorities; empirical studies of Georgia State labor laws and policies; interviews with airport workers, union organizers, and labor leaders; and empirical studies of best practices and organizing campaigns that have raised wages and improved working conditions at other airports around the country. While the author would love to be wrong, he predicts a state authority governance structure would likely make union organizing of airport workers more difficult and would not improve the quality of jobs for the average airport worker.

“Expanding Equity in Sustainability Projects through Community Engagement: Can Organizations Adapt?” Nick Johnson, Georgia Institute of Technology

Inequitable distribution of greenspace, including public parks and trails, is of increasing concern to city planners and residents in major cities across the United States. The Atlanta BeltLine, an urban greenspace and economic development project currently underway, seeks to unite diverse and disparate neighborhoods across the City of Atlanta by providing safe access to greenspace and active transportation infrastructure. Citizens, journalists, and scholars have both lauded and criticized the BeltLine’s efforts in many areas; two of the criticisms include the project’s effects on displacement of marginalized communities and a lack of meaningful community engagement. Using the Atlanta BeltLine as a case study, this paper investigates how community engagement actions and strategy can expand equity in large-scale sustainability projects. Specifically, this paper measures the ability of organizations like the BeltLine, many of which reach across governmental departments and jurisdictions, to adapt over time in the hopes of achieving their equitable objectives and vision. Using an ethnographic approach, the paper compiles various histories (including news articles, interviews, and official BeltLine publications) of the BeltLine’s founding, progress, and community engagement. These data sources highlight important trends that emerge from interactions with residents, which planners must heed when designing community engagement frameworks. These trends include divergent conceptions of what equity means, residents’ lack of familiarity with the development process, and the effect of leadership on organizational values. Planners embarking on large-scale sustainability infrastructure projects will find these trends helpful for future community engagement endeavors.

“Plan for Westside Atlanta” Dhiru Thadani, Thadani Architects + Urbanists

The session will focus on the 2015 -2017 plan and continuing efforts to regenerate 1,700 acres of blighted historic urban fabric less than one mile to the west of downtown Atlanta. Westside includes Washington Park and Ashview Heights neighborhoods which developed in the 1920s and were the first subdivision where African Americans could legally purchase and own property in the State of Georgia. By the 1950s Westside consisted of several thriving neighborhoods, and was home to many of Atlanta’s African American leaders.  Vine City was the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement, with residents that included Martin Luther King Jr., Maynard Jackson, Julian Bond, and many others. King was born on the east side and chose to move to Vine City in the 60s. Five Historic Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) have campuses in the Westside, and have graduated prominent artists, professionals, and politicians. The demise of these neighborhoods was engineered and systematic. The city chose to expand north toward Buckhead, creating Midtown. Today the expansion is to the south toward the airport, which further congests the highways that bifurcate the city. Interstate-75 through the city alienated the east side. To alienate the Westside’s connection to downtown several city blocks were amalgamating and east-west streets closed. Consequently, these once thriving neighborhoods have been reduced to 600 owner-occupied households with approximately 1,300 residents, and sub-standard rental units with approximately 6,000 residents. The team interacted with in excess of 1,000 stakeholders during workshops and neighborhood meeting, and met with residents to develop a set of actionable items that would instigate regeneration of these blighted neighborhoods.

“Community Engagement in Resilience and Equity Planning” David Nifong, Emory University

Recognizing developments like the Atlanta BeltLine and the city’s plan for 100% renewable energy usage, significant opportunities exist for the city of Atlanta to create a sustainable and equitable future for its citizens. To support this work, I will briefly present and provide a toolkit detailing how to design and implement engagement strategies in the city as they relate to the following policy areas:

    • Affordable Housing and Displacement Prevention
    • Greenspace Siting and Environmental Justice
    • Climate Resilience

To provide an example, I will detail how community mapping (and GIS technologies) and resident story-telling can support community agency while highlighting specific community needs in affordable housing policy. Overall, attendees will gain an understanding of the importance of community engagement in their work and how to best conduct that engagement at the individual, neighborhood, and city levels. This knowledge will prepare current and future leaders to take effective action in making the city of Atlanta a better place to live.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row]