The condition-care scale: A practical approach to monitoring progress in vacant lot stewardship programs

Paul H. Gobster, Alessandro Rigolon, Sara Hadavi, William P. Stewart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Condition and care are key expressions of landscape stewardship and are especially important in managing vacant urban lands. In this context, visible signs of stewardship have been associated with increased neighborhood sense of place whereas signs of physical disorder reflect perceived and actual crime. To date, assessments of condition/care and disorder using neighborhood audits have shown good reliability in field and virtual assessments but are often labor-intensive, particularly when repeated over time or applied across multiple study areas. Integrating the research traditions of neighborhood audits and visual landscape quality assessment, we propose an alternative approach, the “condition-care scale,” and pilot test this seven-point rating scale to assess longitudinal and cross-sectional patterns of stewardship in response to a vacant land reuse program. Lots purchased by nearby residents through the Chicago Large Lot Program were rated on the scale using Google Street View imagery, field photography, and field visits in 2014 (before purchase), 2015, 2016, and 2018 (1–4 years after purchase). Lab and field assessments showed strong intra- and inter-rater scale reliability, and independent measures of lot condition and care from parallel visual and social assessments support the scale's validity. Longitudinal analyses showed that the greatest improvements were made in the first year after purchase but that improvement levels increased steadily over five years. Cross-sectional comparisons showed significant differences between some community areas. We discuss the utility of our approach for evaluating progress in vacant land reuse programs and its generalizability to other needs of urban greening professionals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103885
JournalLandscape and Urban Planning
StatePublished - Nov 2020


  • Cross-sectional analysis
  • Cues to care
  • Longitudinal analysis
  • Program monitoring and evaluation
  • Reliability and validity
  • Urban vacancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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