Why go green? Comparing rationales and planning criteria for green infrastructure in U.S. city plans


Green infrastructure is an increasingly popular urban sustainability strategy, widely promoted for its ability to provide multiple benefits. We examined 120 planning documents from 19 U.S. cities to identify if and how the stated benefits that cities use within their rationales for green infrastructure programs (rationale statements) align with the criteria used to site green infrastructure at the neighborhood scale (siting statements). Our findings suggest that many of the desired benefits stated in the rationales for green infrastructure lack corresponding and specific siting criteria. This was particularly evident for rationale statements concerning social and cultural ecosystem services, seemingly because certain benefits, especially those related to stormwater management, are prioritized over other green infrastructure services. While multiple benefits remain a dominant rationale for green infrastructure in the cities analyzed, including stormwater management, social cohesion, and biodiversity benefits, siting criteria were dominated by stormwater management, available locations, and other logistical considerations. These findings indicate a large-scale misalignment between the multifunctional ideal of urban green infrastructure and the procedures used to implement green infrastructure programs. We conclude with a discussion of how siting criteria and processes can be elaborated to deliver the desired benefits of green infrastructure.

Publication Type
Journal Article
Sara Meerow
Emma Coleman
Zbigniew Grabowski
Timon McPhearson, The New School
Landscape and Urban Planning