There Are Planners, And There Are Politicians

Put the chief planners of seven of North America's most progressive cities in a room and ask about their challenges, they inevitably point to the overriding role of the political leaders they serve. Expanding public open space also was raised.

During Urban Land Institute's annual expo (Nov. 3-6) in San Francisco, the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association hosted a discussion in City Hall with the planning heads from SF, New York, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Minneapolis and San Diego.

"Because of the failure of the planning profession in the past, we've gotten quiet, we've gotten a little too meek," said Brent Toderian, Vancouver's planning director. "We serve at the will of politicians, and are often unwilling to speak truth to power loudly and persuasively and in public. I think that's really been an absolving of our leadership responsibilities in the profession.

New York's planning director, Amanda Burden, also argued strongly for expanding open spaces. "Great public open spaces - and that means public open spaces that are used intensively and are magnets for people - are the great mixing chambers of cities," said Burden. "It's where all classes, all ethnicities, all economic strata, come together and really create energy that makes the cities we want to be in."

"When you have a small amount of public resources, put them in great public open spaces, because they will trigger private investment."

Thanks to Streetsblog San Francisco‏

Full Story: Planning Chiefs: Urban Planning Still Hindered by Politics, Past Mistakes



Minneapolis is not a progressive city

Don't confuse Minneapolis' progressive political climate with its archaic and byzantine planning. The development review process and zoning code are so sloppy and inept that the city recently lost one lawsuit and is facing another. Density limits are lower than in the 1970s; in most of the city you can't build a building over two stories. The Public Works Department's Design Guidelines for Streets and Sidewalks (adopted in 2008!) spends a lot of time defending on-street parking and demonizing bicycle and pedestrian facilities as expensive and unnecessary.

Minneapolis is just another car-choked, asphalt-glazed American city. It is baffling to characterize it as 'progressive.'

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