In response to: Planners do it all: variety vs. quantity posted by Dan on July 11, 1998 at 22:52:58:
When people define their jobs (or their job's goals and objective) along a narrow set of parameters,In a lot of ways, different specialties in planning work to improve the built environment in different ways. If something is "wrong" with a city, I'll recommend architectural design standards, strict sign and landscaping regulations, regulations to create neighborhoods to promote New Urbanist ideals. A transportation planner could care less about pretty looking neighborhoods and billboards - just getting people from point A to point B in a efficient, cost-effective, safe manner. The economic development planner could care less about pretty buildings or "level of service" - just increasing the tax base and employmenbt opportunities. I won't begin to get into other planning specialties. As you can see, the goals and objectives of these different sub-professions can conflict with each other - the urban designer fighting big box retail because the proposed building doesn't relate well to the surrounding visual environment and neighborhood character, the economic development planner supporting it because of the added jobs and tex revenue it will bring the community.
conflicts are naturally inevitable. But that shouldn't be the case.
Lewis Mumford epitomizes-- to me at any rate-- the planning ideal: the synthesis of multiple
disciplines: economics, architecture, history, human behavior, geography, science (as in the environment). Anyone who unilaterally excludes any of these from consideration, in my view, isn't really a "planner." That's the challenge and the purpose: how to make it all work together.
Dean Macris (the architect of San Francisco's Downtown Plan) once said that planners are the referees
in the on-going tug of war over public space. To be a good referee (ie: a good planner), it seems to me, you have to have an open mind and must consider every point of view.
Most importantly, you have to be willing to compromise. This is the essential character of democracy. Since most planning takes place within a democratic (small "d") political context, it is also the essential fact and necessity for successful planning.
Either/or choices between good urban design or economic development are false choices. Those that promote such choices are more cheerleaders or salesmen than planners and represent what I consider to be a kind of intellectual laziness.
Making good plans is hard. It ought to be hard. As Ted Williams said about hitting a baseball, if it wasn't hard,anybody could do it. Well, everybody can't hit .400 and everybody can't be a planner. If anybody and everybody could be a "planner," then what fun would it be?