Michael Wilson

Department of Urban Studies and Planning

Mapping under Uncertainty: Spatial Politics, Urban Development, and the Future of Coastal Flood Risk

Flooding is the most common and single largest source of disaster-caused property damage in America. Given changing coastal flooding and sea level rise, how can risk mapping inform and improve future urban development? The dissertation: (1) considers the context of urban risk computation; (2) analyzes the nationwide map adoption process; (3) uses spatial analysis and semi-structured interviews to document changing flood risk information in two coastal communities; (4) compiles a survey of recent development decision-making in Boston, and (5) pilots an indicator that models project-level flood risk. Given the differences in location, wealth, and race between counties with recent flood map adoption processes, I argue that coastal communities with sociopolitical clout can bend the risk assessment process. These maps, however, are an insufficient signal to change developer behavior. Therefore, I pioneer a decision support tool for developers to understand long-term flood risk and planners to ascertain resilience policy impacts.

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