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A Critical Take on Public Engagement

Zelda Bronstein makes plenty of points likely to inspire disagreement among planners in this argument calling for a better form of public engagement—one that's substantive and integral, not an afterthought.
April 14, 2016, 11am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Zelda Bronstein expresses frustration with the public outreach process of the San Francisco Planning Department as it considers the Railyard Alternatives and I-280 Feasibility Study. The feasibility study is examining "a proposal to take down I-280 and re-route the former freeway traffic on a boulevard through the neighborhoods, are massive and controversial."

Bronstein acknowledges the controversy inherent in such a drastic proposal, but focuses most intently on the Planning Department's outreach efforts to far, two years into the $1.7 million study. According to Bronstein, a February 23 event "was the first time the community had a chance to weigh in on the project—and the chance it had was paltry."

Bronstein proceeds to describe the format of the presentation as a "Science Fair," by which city planners "mute the public's say in public policy—all while purporting to enhance civic engagement." These practices are not unique to San Francisco or this plan, argues Bronstein, but a symptom, as the headline of the article reads, of planners treating "us like infants."

As an alternative to the "Science Fair" format, and to the pop-up format described in this Planetizen blog post by Dave Briggs (addressed specifically in Bronstein's article), Bronstein suggests that members of the public should be treated equally as the planning officials and other dignitaries working behind closed doors.

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Published on Tuesday, March 29, 2016 in 48 hills
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