UPDATE (4/19/10): The blog is cleaned up now. If you spot anything that is a misstatement, please feel free to comment below and we’ll fix it. Also, if you feel there is a big omission from the log, let us know. Video documentation will be up soon. Also, read Jacob’s summation of the event here.
Join us at 4PM Central for a liveblog of PlaceMatters’ underground session at the APA National Conference in New Orleans. Please excuse grammar and spelling errors during the event.
5ish minutes until the Salon in the Saloon where we consider the broad question “Is Planning Dead?.” Join us here in Wolfe’s at the Marriot across the street from the convention center for some dynamic conversation.
Stella Chao, Director, Seattle Dept. of Neighborhoods
Mary Means, Director of Community Initiatives at Goody Clancy
Ken Snyder, CEO/President PlaceMatters
Rob Goodspeed, PhD student at MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Michael Lauer, Principal at Planning Works
Moderators: Jacob Smith and Jocelyn Hittle from PlaceMatters
Great group of people showed up so far, room for some more. Gonna get started soon with the main event.
Jacob Smith introduces the Salon
Is planning dead? No, I’m not dead yet!
Michael considers what is planning and how do we frame it. Planners act like rabbinical scholars and “hand down” a plan and declare this is what it is. Planners need to be less removed from the public and form three important roles:
Inform options, reflect community values, and pacify.
Planning is not dead, it is evolving. It has to change with what we’re learning about the climate and other new information. Planning must be dynamic, responsive. New Orleans reminds us of disasters that we have to be able to respond to. The demographics are changing (immigrants and refugees). These people will be the basis for the future of the economy, so how are we evolving their involvement and engagement in society and if we ignore them we will not build the best society.
In Seattle, the growth targets for 2040 have been exceeded and they are using the opportunity to overlay sustainability and inclusiveness in the neighborhood plans.
Mary Means: is planning going to evolve fast enough? The real issues the trouble me a lot: planning is understood by planners and not other people. We have not done a good job of building understanding of what planning does among electeds and decision makers and the public.
We need to think of civic engagement as getting buy-in and not just a regulatory process. There is an enormous civic education component that goes along with planning. Our public schools are not teach civics anymore. So somehow we need to reach people in a way that is meaningful to their lives. Very few planners are trained to understand the civic engagement process.
Proposes two contradictory statements about planning:
1. Needs to be a return to the creative power of the private city. Need to pull back on our regulations.
2. A reassertion of the power of government. (i.e. participatory budgeting)
Jane Jacobs should inspire us how to create the conditions for creating the city they want.
Three provocative statements
1. What if we got rid of the comprehensive plan?
2. What if we get rid of public meetings?
3. What if we required planning agencies to have people not trained as planners?
Need to create a living document that can change. We need better information in our decision making process. Needs to penetrate other activities that government does. How can the planning that we do become a guide rail for other decision makers.
Sustainable development should be a process of continuous improvement.
Open Discussion Begins
Ron Thomas: Reposes the question as: is democracy dead? We have lost the sense of the commons. And planning cannot exist without the social contract. Very discouraged by planners not thinking about a good democratic process. If one (democracy) goes the other (planning) goes… Our professional obligation is to support democratic process. Only 5 people at a network of participatory planning people. These are dangerous times for planning and democracy.
Karen Phoung (Student of UBC): Studying planning and undergrad in communications. I think it is good to see the theme of civic engagement echoed throughout the room. Karen is interested in the engagement of underrepresented groups. The plan doesn’t matter as much as the process of planning as part of social learning.
Michael: I’m a community group therapist. Public meetings should be turned into public discussions, not just hearings (responding to Ken’s comment regarding getting rid of public meetings).
Ken: We need to figure out how to get people involved early on. Does not want to get rid of all public meetings. Just the traditional public hearings.
Michael: (to Stella) How do you get underrepresented groups engaged in planning?
Stella: uses the trusted advocates model. Brought the model into the government having come from a community organizing background. One of the challenges is to change the culture of how to approach communities government.
Seattle has over 135 different languages in their public schools. Created planning outreach laisons who were trusted community leaders in those ethnic groups. Approached community leaders to get them to understand what Seattle was trying to get out of the process. We went to where the community was. For example: went to the Ethiopian coffee group, Philipino choir group, etc. Instead of bringing people
Wendy Muller (private practitioner): Wendy thinks the role of the plan as a tool has declined. We need a better way of illustrating the plan in a way that resonates with the people and use the illustration and vision instead of heavy regulation.
Rob responds: at the Peka Kucha session, there was one poster for St. Louis. Rob appreciates the approach of rethinking the plan and its representation. Urban growth is just as unpredictable as climate change. Maybe we need to think the same way about these complex issues.
Editor of Next American City: thinks we should look at ways to incentivize good planning and transportation. The incentives approach could help create better plans and outcomes.
Chris: mentions how planners are seen as an impediment. Are planners too heavy handed? How do we create the conditions to let cities flourish without getting in the way?
Stella: entrepreneurship is a good approach to help communities make changes. Example: mountain bike park developed under a highway that had been a dead space for 30 40 years. Now it is a mountain bike training park with sweat equity and hard work. They made the government work together to accomplish this change.
Mary: something basic is happening that we are losing handle of institutions. The anti-government climate is leaving us without public resources to engage in civic sorts of things. We need to redefine the dialog and put the conversation in the hands of the communities.
Ken: planning really isn’t dead, but it is very important that we are engaged and the role of the planner has actually increased.
Mary: it really is about the new skills that plans need.
Michael: Planners are rewarded for making sure bad things don’t happen instead of innovating
Participant says, that no matter how good the skills are of your planners, if the leaders don’t enable the best use of their skills, good planning will not happen.
- 75% of America’s cities in 1975 said they didn’t have time to plan because they were underfunded.
- 25% said they did plans but did not use vision driven planning
Planning schools still do not teach strategic planning. The business schools do, but not planning schools.
Wendy disagrees: At the University of Cincinnati, Wendy felt she was taught
Mary Means: statistically, they ran the Meyers Briggs, most planners were introverted and analytical and not extroverted and emotional. Ron Thomas did the same thing with the Houston planning department and 21 out of 24 were introverted and analytical as well. The 3 people that were feeling, intuitives were not allowed to go out into the neighborhoods until the results of the survey were revealed and policies changed.
Stella: it goes further than that, the Department of Neighborhoods, is mostly the intuitive, feeling group. What about inspiring the community? AICP does not cover credits for the feelers.
Mary: many of us believe that early engagement and tracking are important in the process. The only plans, Mary has done are the clients that are engaged and don’t view consultants as vendors, but partners.
Ron: The planning profession has not documented our successes well and analyzed what works. We do not have a memory as a planning profession of what we are building on. Ron used to teach graduate students, and many of them didn’t know who Jane Jacobs was.
Karen: CollabForge did a planning process through a wiki that was a parallel process to the plan. Hopefully, we can use tools to extend our collective memory and make planning living and breathing. The legal framework may actually hurt our ability to develop good “carrots and sticks”
Matthew (from ESRI): planning died when the first car rolled off the line in Detroit. We plan around the car and not around people. Planning needs to be people-centered or it’s not relevant.
Mary: demographics are changing so that people are going to start demanding density and healthy living. We need to engage people to get the funding to change the infastructure priorities.
Unknown participant: We are in between paradigms. People still looking One of the purposes of taxes is to extract value and spend it in public improvements. If you can create a time and space where people don’t have to use their cars. We need explain the benefits of living in more dense neighborhoods. The costs may be similar between living in the burbs (transp + housing) as it is in the core, but it will increase the quality of life and we need to explain that to people.
If it weren’t for the immigrant population, the 25 to 30 cohort would not have grown.
The official conversation is over, but side conversations continue! Keep the conversation alive in the comments below…