Date of Award

Fall 1-1-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy Degree


Urban Studies

First Advisor

Tighe, Rosie

Second Advisor

Meghan Rubado

Third Advisor

Ashley Nickels


This three-paper dissertation seeks to understand the factors that drive social sustainability in local contexts, giving attention to institutional efforts of local governments and nonprofit agencies as well as the interdependence between the built environment and collective action efforts. It marries two separate literatures, in public affairs and urban studies, by conceptualizing the relationships between the way spaces have been planned and designed to function and they ways they are lived in and governed. The first paper measures the relationship between modes of housing settlement within a city and the number of social sustainability policies a city adopts, finding a positive and statistically significant relationship between the dominance of single-family detached housing and the adoption of fewer policies. Paper two is a process tracing effort to understand the ways that a city that was historically designed to be dominated by single-family detached homes and automotive access can promote social sustainability through restorative justice efforts. Lastly, the third paper seeks to understand how members of a progressive nonprofit group who live in a region dominated by low-density housing and lack of public transit continue to engage in interactive, community building efforts. v Overall, this dissertation speaks to the existing literature on the relationship between spatial and social aspects of urban areas and adds to our understanding of how the production of social sustainability is tied to the physical landscape of an area.