Planning Directors Commit to Change on Racial Inequities

Planning directors around the country have acknowledged the historic role of the planning profession in furthering the causes of racial discrimination and have publicly committed to change that history.

October 13, 2021, 5:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


A Black LIves Matter Protest, with a protestor holding up a sign that reads "Open Your Eyes: Systemic Racism Is Real"

William Gottemoller / Shutterstock

Twenty-one planning directors across the United States have signed a "Commitment to Change" that will refocus the profession of planning on equity. After acknowledging the historic role of the field of planning in contributing to racial inequity and discrimination, the statement commits to a number of actions, such as:

  • Creating communities that are culturally diverse, livable, and accessible.
  • Preserving, strengthening, and celebrating the culture, assets, institutions, and businesses of BIPOC communities.
  • Promoting the health, economic, social, and cultural resilience of BIPOC communities.
  • Championing housing choice and economic diversity.
  • Addressing environmental injustice.
  • Removing biases from their organizations.

An article by Oscar Perry Abello shares news of the commitment's publication, first acknowledging the discriminatory history of planning. "Today’s city planners, whether they realize it or not, have inherited zoning ordinances and comprehensive plans and building codes and built environments that generations of predecessors have infused with implicit and sometimes very explicit racism," writes Abello.

Abello centers the article on Eleanor Sharp, adjunct professor for planning and community development at Temple University and executive director of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, one of the 21 planning directors around the country to sign the joint statement, which also invited their peers around the country to join them in the effort.

As noted in the article, some institutions of the planning profession have already expressed solidarity in working toward equity. "The American Planning Association spent a few years convening its Planning for Equity Policy Guide Working Group, co-chaired by planners Lynn Ross and Susan Wood. (Ross is also a Next City board member). That working group produced the Planning for Equity Policy Guidebook, ratified by the association’s board in 2019," explains Abello.

Other planning directors cited for soundbites in the article are Laura Aldrete, executive director of Denver Community Planning and Development; Emily Liu, director of Louisville Metro Planning and Design Services; and Peer Chacko, chief planning officer and director of the Dallas Planning and Urban Design Department. The complete list of signatories, as of the commitment's publication on October 5, is as follows:

  • Tim Keane, Commissioner, City Planning, Atlanta, GA
  • Chris Ryer, Director, Planning, Baltimore, MD
  • Brian Golden,Director of Planning, Planning and Development, Boston, MA
  • Taiwo Jaiyeoba, Assistant City Manager and Director, Planning, Design and Development, Charlotte, NC
  • Peer Chacko, Chief Planning Officer and Director, Planning and Urban Design, Dallas, TX
  • Laura Aldrete, Executive Director, Community Planning and Development, Denver, CO
  • Alex Hoffman, Assistant Director, CID Planning,  El Paso, TX
  • Margaret Wallace Brown, Director, Planning and Development, Houston, TX
  • Vince Bertoni, Director, City Planning, Los Angeles, CA
  • Emily Liu, Director, Metro Planning and Design Services, Louisville, KY
  • John Zeanah, Director, Division of Planning and Development, Memphis, TN
  • Lucy A. Kempf, Executive Director, Planning, Nashville/Davidson County, TN
  • Anita Laremont, Executive Director, City Planning, New York, NY
  • Eleanor Sharpe, Executive Director, City Planning Commission, Philadelphia, PA
  • Andrea Durbin, Director, Planning and Sustainability, Portland, OR
  • Bridgett White, Planning Director, Planning and Community Development, San Antonio, TX
  • Mike Hansen, Director, Planning, San Diego, CA
  • Rich Hillis, Director, Planning, San Francisco, CA
  • Rico Quirindongo, Interim Director, Planning and Community Development, Seattle, WA
  • Donald Roe, Executive Director, Planning and Urban Design, St. Louis, MO
  • Andrew Trueblood, Director, Planning, Washington, DC

Monday, October 11, 2021 in Next City

A image of the World's Columbian Exposition overlayed with a picture of Keanu Reeves in the rain from the movie Point Break.

Keanu Reeves Set to Play Daniel Burnham in ‘The Devil in the White City’

Planning is going to get a new level of star power as a limited series adaptation of The Devil in the White City gets ready for television screens in 2024.

August 8, 2022 - Reel Chicago

Kids

Opinion: Aging Population, Declining Fertility Requires Long-Term Investments

Faced with the dire consequences of a one-two punch of aging populations and declining birthrates, one writer has suggestions for how policy can help ensure a better future.

August 9, 2022 - Financial Times

View from middle of street in downtown Telluride, Colorado with mountains in background

Marrying Urban Identity and Economic Prosperity

A new book posits that truly successful communities have a strong economic base and a firmly rooted sense of place.

August 5, 2022 - Governing

Parking area in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Parking Fees Approved for Great Smokey Mountains National Park

Visitors to the nation’s busiest national park will soon have to pay to park under a plan announced today by park officials.

1 minute ago - ABC 13 News

Walkable, mixed-use neighborhood in Barcelona, Spain

Could Los Angeles Emulate Barcelona’s ‘Superblocks’?

A proposal in the city council could bring the ‘superblock’ model to Los Angeles, opening up neighborhood streets to more biking, walking, and public amenities.

1 hour ago - The Real Deal

Aerial view of downtown San Antonio with Tower Life Building in foreground

San Antonio Office Tower To Become Residential

With the building more than half vacant, the new owners of the Tower Life Building plan to convert the historic tower into residences that could include affordable housing.

2 hours ago - San Antonio Report

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.