The 2016 citywide Green Zones Workgroup was charged with developing designation criteria – how the boundaries of the Green Zones would be decided. The Workgroup developed a set of baseline data to measure existing conditions based on the goal areas and priority issues. To support the Green Zones Workgroup's data-driven decision-making, a Minneapolis Population Characteristics, and Environmental Indicators Map was created. The tool shows data by Census Tract for each of the priority issues selected by the Green Zones Workgroup: 1) equity, 2) displacement, 3) air quality, 4) brownfields and soil contamination, 5) housing, 6) green jobs, 7) food access and 8) greening. Multiple data sets may be turned on at once to show cumulative burden.
The air quality, brownfields and soil contamination, and even housing data, to a small degree, demonstrate the pollution sources impacting Green Zone residents. The air pollution sources include busy roadways and highways, area sources (such as autobody shops, gas stations, etc.), and point sources (industry). Additional air quality concerns include poor indoor air quality, caused by mold, radon, pests, etc. Brownfield and soil contamination data were identified through the state's list of facilities with operating permits for air, hazardous waste, and water withdrawals, as well as voluntary clean-up sites. The City does not have data for all potential contamination, only that which has been tested and discovered.
The data were used to identify communities that faced cumulative impacts of higher levels of environmental contamination exposure and higher rates of poor socioeconomic and health outcomes. Different combinations of data resulted in slightly different areas of the City having the greatest impact. A few options were analyzed, including weighting all the factors equally, weighting each category of factors equally (categories defined by goal areas), or weighting equity factors equally with the combination of all environmental factors. Ultimately, the equally combined equity and environmental data became the recommendations for Green Zone designation criteria, and the highest-impact communities became the first two designated Green Zones .
The corner of Seward that is included in the Southside Green Zone incorporates a community that shares the characteristics of the whole of the Southside Green Zone: residents of color with lower incomes, small local businesses, industrial uses, and freeway/vehicle traffic that contribute to disconnection, air pollution, less greenery, etc.