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Thread: How do you measure good planning?

  1. #1

    How do you measure good planning?

    Hi: I've searched the forum threads and cannot find this topic so if it's here already, I apologize (and please redirect me!). Having recently worked for a municipality heavily enamored with business planning performance measures, it was an ongoing struggle to try to 'measure' planning. I am not talking about performance based zoning; rather, how do you know if your comprehensive plan is good? doing what was envisioned? What units of measurement do you use?

    Now the typical answer is "# of development applications processed" or "number of participants at public meetings" etc. I kept getting chastised for "counting widgets" rather than "measuring outcomes." One of the things we did try was a survey of past participants in planning processes. Questions included: did you feel valued as a participant? Do you think the plan will actually be implemented by the municipality?

    Anybody else dealing with this? Any good resources out there? As local governments are feeling the push to become more accountable to the public, how are we as planners dealing with it?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    Sounds like you are measuring good public service and not necessarily good planning. Good planning would usually result in applicants feeling P.O.ed, cause the city looked at their plans too critically. To me, measures of good planning would be low unemployment rates, low traffic accidents, high number of alternative transportation modes being utilized, healthy home vacancy rates, high satisfaction of community services and facilities, attractive public spaces full of happy people, lots of preservation of environmental areas, etc... and probably foremost, a city budget surplus.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Jess's avatar
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    Good planning if not implemented is still a good plan. But BEST plan is the one implemented according to the parameters defined in the planning process.

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    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    I agree with cch in that these are often key measures of the "health" of a city. Additionally, it seems that you must have some sort of comprehensive plan which, I hope, outlines specific goals for the immediate and more distant future. The degree to which your planning tools are achieving these stated goals (whhich in turn came out of a public process, the success of which was probably measured by number/type of participants) should be what you are trying to measure. I would imagine the key catagories are more or less what cch mentioned: jobs, housing, infrastructure, community services, etc. What the plan calls for within each of these is the key question. If the plan is really good, it will be very specific on these measurements (achieve/maintain X percent unemplyement, add new housing at X rate).

    In my mind, and coming from many years in the non-proffit sector (actually, I am still there, only in a different capacity), the Comp. Plan serves as the city's Strategic Plan. When you get lost, you whip it out, look at the stated goals, and refocus your work. It also becomes your justification and defense against criticisms of your actions - that is to say, turning down certain types of applications, investing in certain infrastructure improvements, etc. are undertaken because it is (ideally) what the community-at-large has stated they want the place to become. This vision is expressed by the plan.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  5. #5
    BANNED
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    Business "Planning"

    Quote Originally posted by MSP_planner View post
    Hi: I've searched the forum threads and cannot find this topic so if it's here already, I apologize (and please redirect me!). Having recently worked for a municipality heavily enamored with business planning performance measures, it was an ongoing struggle to try to 'measure' planning. I am not talking about performance based zoning; rather, how do you know if your comprehensive plan is good? doing what was envisioned? What units of measurement do you use?

    Now the typical answer is "# of development applications processed" or "number of participants at public meetings" etc. I kept getting chastised for "counting widgets" rather than "measuring outcomes." One of the things we did try was a survey of past participants in planning processes. Questions included: did you feel valued as a participant? Do you think the plan will actually be implemented by the municipality?

    Anybody else dealing with this? Any good resources out there? As local governments are feeling the push to become more accountable to the public, how are we as planners dealing with it?

    Thanks!
    The notion of Business “Planning” does tend to confuse the issue of City Planning; I think it is a misnomer – what they are talking about is Management which includes planning, directing, coordinating, budgeting and assessing. The word “Plan” originated in the word plane which was an Architect's two dimensional schematic drawing of a horizontal flat plane section of a building commonly called the “floor plan”. This was extended to mean all of the drawings of a building which evolved into the “blueprints” which were reproductions of the original drawings that were given to the building contractors for use in the cost estimation and construction of the building. City Planning involves making of an architectural ground plan of a city or subdivision of a city. I think what Management wants from us is a good plan; that would make their task simple and easy.

    A good plan must follow the principles of good design; but this proved to be an impossible task in the design of cities. Therefore the City Plan or "official map" has become a projection of past and present growth into the unknown future which amounts to an educated guess or a carefully considered fake plan – this then becomes the comprehensive plan for residential and commercial subdivisions or the PUD. Good design is taught to students of Architecture as a matter of course. When I was first confronted by the problem of City Planning, someone said the only way to do it was to fake it. I was unable to accept that. It took me twenty years but I did find a way to design a city and have been trying to explain that on my website and in my postings here on this forum. What I have is in accord with Dillon’s Rule; the alternative calls for “Home Rule” as an extension of the fake master plan methodology also called “Regionalism” or “The Metropolis” or “New Urbanism” being an attempt to control damage and salvage what is being done and has already been done in the helter-skelter haphazard process of building cities - which represents the status quo in City Planning.
    Last edited by bud; 01 Nov 2006 at 12:58 PM. Reason: elucidate

  6. #6
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    Measuring good planning: Ask the public.

    I would believe indicators have to be whetted by the public if they were to have an impact. Even the measures themselves are percieved differently when implemented. Since the measures are dynamic in themselves it would be an on-going process; Well I would believe if you have a good process which engages a healthy discussion on whats going on and results in outcomes the public likes or atleast would like to debate about; You know you are in a good direction.

    Regards,
    AR

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