Urban Planning After Pandemic (AP)

My Planning Perspective

Urban planning has been my life’s work, with a Master’s Degree, followed by a career, split between local, regional and state government planning agencies and the remaining in the private sector, with several planning/engineering firms.

This experience has provided a broad perspective, but the pandemic has impacted me, questioning my education and experience. Could I have done things differently? What can I do now?

What’s Next

Two recent posts on Planetizen ( “The independent resource for people passionate about planning and related fields.” ) provide different perspectives for needed chances to the planning profession post COVID-19, while giving me opportunities to support and spread the news about these changes This is my motivation for the PLACESENSE blog.

Violence Against Black Americans a Moment of Reckoning for the Planning Profession, James Brasuell, June 1, 2020

Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

This commentary provides a variety of sources how the planning profession must change to address racial injustice in the wake of the George Floyd murder. This includes the hard reality that planning has contributed to systemic racial and economic segregation and now is the moment for active and sustained engagement for change.

This needed change cuts across the full spectrum of planning – housing diversity, open streets/open space to name a few and now is …….“an opportunity to enter a new era: one that centers racial, social, and environmental justice in every act.

“Ensuring a new normal of social and racial equity will require a deep reckoning with the ways that planning innovations perpetuate systematic inequality, even among the most innovative and ostensibly progressive planning practices. It might be hard to hear, but advocates are underlining and insisting on this point, and no matter how difficult it is to confront, the field of planning is faced with an opportunity to enter a new era: one that centers racial, social, and environmental justice in every act.”

4 Predictions for Urban Planning Post-Coronavirus, Kayla Matthews, May 27, 2020

American Planning Association, 2018

The predictions are a mixed bag for me. Here is my take.

City Planning Will More Frequently Address the Need for Transportation Independence

While true, additional thought and details are needed. Integration with land use policies and zoning codes needs to be part of any transportation discussion to make any meaningful changes. But the current impetus of open streets is a refreshing start for all communities. The hope is this will be sustained.

Design Decisions for Public Urban Spaces Will Become More Proactive Rather Than Reactive

Generally true, but again needs additional details and must relate to local conditions and needs. One size does not fit all. There is no question that more public spaces are needed, but must be located across a community, available to all, not only just higher income areas. It must be equitable and should also be integrated with public health needs.

Urban Planners Will Become Even More Reliant on City-Level, Granular Data

Total agreement with this. While the technology is there, it needs to be more accessible and affordable, including training to those communities who cannot afford it or perhaps not a technologically savvy as others. The pandemic map example cited here is an excellent and practical application needed by communities to make fact based decisions.

City Planners Will Become Champions of Their Work and Speak More Assertively to Local Authorities

Total agreement that COVID-19 is an opportunity and “a call to arms” for planners. This is not easy, as we will be at odds with our elected leaders (public sector) or our clients (private sector). I know this, having experienced this myself.

Planners will likely deal with challenges including changing transportation patterns, development approvals moving to the digital realm, and fiscal austerity at the local government level leading to layoffs and reduced capacity to maintain services and implement new projects.

The quick shift has made people eagerly discuss the future of urban planning after COVID-19. Failing to shift to the new normal created by the coronavirus would mean a missed opportunity for city planners.

Reflection

European Union External Action March 23, 2020

Planning is still my passion, but it’s not my intent to pat myself on the back or suggest I have all the answers. COVID-19 will have a long term impact on our places. Listening to podcasts, following planning and related blogs and news has only reinforced this and the for the need for real and sustained change. This inspires me to speak out, and perhaps to atone for my complicity in bad planning policies and inequities now so evident.

We will all experience what happens next and hopefully there is a new sense of urgency.

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