In many ways, the Great Recession has been a frightening time for planners. As development slowed, the flow of applications submitted for new development slowed from its torrent at the height of the housing boom to the trickle it is today. With the decline in applications came a decline in workload for public-sector planners working in current planning roles and a decline in revenue for the jurisdictions that employed them. The end result was hundreds of planners being laid off, and private-sector planning firms competing with one another for ever-decreasing shares of work from public- and private-sector clients.
It is conventional wisdom in some circles that “comprehensive planning” and sprawl are polar opposites- that planning is the enemy of sprawl.
But in fact, a comprehensive plan is almost as likely as a zoning code to be pro-sprawl. Many of the land use policies that make suburbs automobile-dependent (such as wide roads, long blocks, low density, single-use zoning, etc.) can just as easily be found in a comprehensive plan.
The Philadelphia City Planning Commission adopted the Citywide Vision portion of a new comprehensive plan - the first such venture in five decades.
During my term of office as president of the American Planning Association, I made my theme “telling the planning story.” My point then – and today – is that we need to do a better job of explaining to our many publics what it is that planners do and why it makes a difference.