The Three Factions of Contemporary Planning and Urbanism

This post is sure to inspire debate. The hope, however, is that it will inspire coordination.

2 minute read

July 9, 2017, 5:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

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art_inthecity / flickr

"Every profession has its factions," writes Pete Saunders, and planning and urbanism are no different. 

But, writes Saunders, "with the way urban planning is taught and understood by laypeople today, it's hard to get an understanding of where exactly people fit in policy debates and when making policy recommendations."

So Saunders describes the lay off the land, after dispensing with the notion that the two factions organizing under the terms New Urbanism and Smart Growth are sufficient to describing the policy landscape. Instead, Saunders groups factions in the following catagories:

  • Community and economic development advocates, or CEDers, which "came from the aftermath of the urban unrest of the '60s" and "emphasized the use of federal dollars to aid the residents of distressed communities."
  • Suburbanists are "still the largest and most influential faction of the profession," writes Saunders, excelling at "codifying and approving suburban development through zoning and subdivision review."
  • YIMBYs (Yes In My Back Yard), which Saunders says grew from New Urbanism, with the "back-to-the-city movement that's driven city revitalization" at its core.

After defining these factions, Saunders wonders if any of them are prepared to deal with the ways the built environment is changing now and how it will change in the future. Instead of focusing too much on their specific causes, "It's really about how they work together," writes Saunders, who provides insights into how these factions might benefit each other to conclude the article.

[Editor's note: this article is from February, but we missed it at the time, and it's of obvious relevance in July 2017, as it will also likely be in December 2017.]

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