Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Environmental Analysis

Reader 1

Teresa Spezio

Reader 2

Char Miller

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© 2019 Jordan Grimaldi


In a world that is quickly urbanizing with a climate that is rapidly changing, the International Living Future Institute’s (ILFI) Living Community Challenge (LCC) offers a whimsical yet highly relevant model for sustainable development—creating cities that are as connected and beautiful as forests. As no certified Living Community exists yet, this thesis serves as an “uncase study” of North Rainier, a neighborhood in Seattle that has registered for the Challenge. In an effort to assess the LCC’s perceived effectiveness as a model for sustainable development, this thesis first summarizes nearly 400 centuries of U.S. developmental history to give greater context to the current moment and how we can quickly, effectively, and fundamentally transform the built environment to support a more sustainable future. A comparative analysis with EcoDistricts and LEED for Neighborhood Development revealed strengths (i.e., advocacy and capacity building) and weaknesses (i.e., equity and stasis) of predominant urban assessment tools in the U.S. The case study then uses a combination of GIS analysis, community surveys, and semi-structured interviews with members of the neighborhood association overseeing the pursuit of the LCC in North Rainier as well as with staff members at ILFI to assess the LCC’s effectiveness. Environmental health disparities in North Rainier found within the GIS analysis were echoed in the surveys and interviews, which indicated feelings of neglect from the city of Seattle who is occupied with record-setting growth, demonstrates how the LCC can be considered as an “act of optimism” and as a rejection of historically imposed top-down planning. Overall, in theory, several of the LCC’s Petals address many of the systemic issues facing the built environment (i.e., sprawl and dependence on automobiles and fossil fuels). However, despite its vision for a socially just and culturally rich future, the LCC—specifically the Equity Petal—does not offer a guarantee that displacement of low-income and communities of color and/or environmental injustices will not be perpetuated.