When I began the capstone process I was enamored by the question of equity. Throughout the past four years wealth inequality, resource exploitation, and houselessness have been at the forefront of my mind as I became more aware of my own privilege, the faults of capitalism, and the reality of the place I now call home. However, until my capstone I was caught up in the big questions, how did the system get this way?, what role do we play?, will I be the change I want to see? My capstone would ask me to think smaller in order to think harder.
It was difficult for me to boil down my anger and curiosity about the reality of inequity into an answerable question. Before we began our actual capstone course when we still were working with the theory behind our proposed topics I held to the idea of equitable urban development because it was a concrete aspect of my widespread concern for the history and trajectory of inequality in our world today (Figure 1). This was the groundwork for my framing question how can a city develop equitably? However, I still did not know what the specifics of equitable development would look like. Our capstone seminar would soon force me to learn those specifics.
In our capstone seminar, I could no longer hide behind buzzwords and my questioning of those buzzwords with more niche buzzwords. I can only imagine how tired my classmates were of the phrase “Smart Growth”. I was forced to look at a measure of equity in development, and a policy meant to bring equity in those terms, and a location in order to use the sinched middle of the hourglass to make a statement on equitable urban development in a situated context. Things fell into place from here.
Choosing housing affordability as my measure, East Portland, OR as my situated context, and Portland’s residential infill project as my policy I was able to communicate the goal of my study more thoughtfully. Before choosing my situated context I was intimidated by the actual assessment of equity in any location. I felt the idea was too complex for me to understand beyond general ideas of gentrification. However, things fell into place by following the hourglass model and I know I can speak (and write) about what equitable urban development actually means, at least in the case of housing affordability in East Portland. As you can see, it takes a lot of baby steps to take a baby step.