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How Planners Can Help Cities Thrive

For planners, the key to moving a city’s vision for development forward is to value public as well as private investment in projects, according to urban planner and author Howard M. Blackson III.
October 4, 2014, 7am PDT | melaniecj
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Mosman Council

The road to new development is one fraught with obstacles for planners seeking to make changes to the landscape of the communities they serve, but finding new, updated planning practices could help carry the profession forward.

Howard M. Blackson III, urban planner and author, discusses what cities need to do to move ahead with development at a time when public trust is low.

“We have all experienced the difficulties with building new developments in Southern California. It is either too difficult to build something great or too easy to build something terrible. Most city planning departments have to overcome a past of allowing for deplorable new buildings that challenged the character of beloved older communities.”

A city’s planning staff faces public opposition to projects, specifically private-owner-driven ones, largely because of misconceptions about the duties of planning staff, according to Blackson.

“Most folks do not understand that private landowners have the right to make a proposal and that city planning staff must respond and process it. Add in the city’s convoluted planning processes, and too many folks end up not trusting any planning efforts, projects, and proposals. Opposing new projects is now sport, with cheerleaders, players, and scorecards.”

What has been lost in planning is the ability to match short-term private development proposals with long-term public efforts to reach a city’s goals and shape its policy, Blackson writes.

“The great recession revealed how many cities dismissed the value and role of planning in generating economic development. They formed blue ribbon committees to cut red tape and scale back policies, regulations, and staff, deemed to be in the way of new investment. While these cities held private investment in a higher regard than public investment, good city planning practices teaches that both are necessary for a city to thrive.

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Published on Thursday, October 2, 2014 in UrbDeZine
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