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Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award

Spring 2016

Document Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Paci-Green, Rebekah

Second Advisor

Neff, Mark W.

Third Advisor

Mitchell, Robert J. (Geologist)


This thesis investigates the ways in which scientific and technical information are used to challenge policies regarding development in landslide-prone areas in Seattle, Washington. It examines the values that underlie actor arguments within those challenges, using the theoretical lens of Science, Technology, and Society. Twelve case studies are selected from a set of 90 permitting appeals, court cases, and growth management hearings board appeals between the years of 1990 and 2015, and analyzed to identify the complex ways in which scientific information is used to further actor positions. A narrative analysis approach is used to analyze the case studies, archived news coverage, and interviews with geologists and planners in order to identify actor values and narratives. The results of this project suggest that, despite the science-centered arguments of developers and government, actor decisions are highly influenced by values. Neighbors who oppose development draw their arguments from aesthetic values; developers draw their arguments from values that center on property rights and right to accept risk; and all actors, including government, base arguments on potential economic gains or losses. What can be concluded is that despite hillside development policy being based upon science and technical knowledge, actor arguments and concerns are often based upon values, which cannot be articulated through science and technical information. Though well-resourced actors can influence policy through the leveraging of science and technical information, the prominence of values in debates about landslide regulation indicate that science-based policy approaches that do not consider values may encounter more challenges from the public.





Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Landslide hazard analysis--Washington (State)--Seattle--Case studies; Landslide hazard analysis--Legal status, laws, etc.--Washington (State)--Seattle--Case studies; Land use----Washington (State)--Seattle--Decision making--Case studies; Land use--Economic aspects--Washington (State)--Seattle--Case studies; Land use--Social aspects--Washington (State)--Seattle--Case studies

Geographic Coverage

Seattle (Wash.)




masters theses




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