Methods for Integrating Spatial Analysis in Assessment of Community Sustainability
Faced with a large amount of data, obtaining useful information and providing effective support for urban planning is a new and increasingly difficult challenge. The effectiveness of planning decisions can be greatly enhanced by providing planning professionals, policy makers, and other stakeholders with methods and tools to evaluate the different impacts of proposed planning decisions on urban sustainability at the neighborhood, city and regional scales. These methods and tools should rely on quantifiable metrics and indicators that can be easily measured and tracked over time. Incorporating interactive forms of decision making in planning processes using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is an approach that provides an effective means to address this challenge, and GIS applications are increasingly being used to develop such metrics and systems. Existing capabilities of GIS systems can provide effective strategic decision support to planners and private and public organizations and assist them in enhancing their information infrastructure. This paper provides a review of two recently completed studies utilizing GIS applications and related tools in assessing different aspects of community sustainability in the City of San Antonio and the South Texas region. The two case studies, conducted by the authors, are used to illustrate the capabilities of spatial analysis using GIS applications at the neighborhood and regional scales respectively. The paper presents and analyzes the methodologies used in the two case studies as a means of illustrating different approaches in utilizing GIS capabilities in the assessment of urban and community sustainability. Policy implications for local governments and recommendations for future utilization of the models and metrics developed in both studies are also identified and discussed.